Thursday 27 October 2016

Free PDF Editor/Creator for Linux

Most of us get sent or download PDF's regularly, it's quite common for an organization to send forms for you to fill out in PDF format.

But what if you want to edit a PDF you've been sent? Usually you're looking at having to buy a tool to let you alter a PDF.

If you're running Linux you're in luck.

Master PDF Editor is free for non-commercial use, meaning you can use it for any of your personal requirements.

This great little tool will let you alter PDF's in pretty much any manner you like, including changing text or adding/removing pictures.

The program is easy and intuitive to use, you can be editing PDF documents within minutes of downloading it.

Master PDF Editor is just another example of the large range of free software available to the Linux community.

Happy surfing!

-The Home Geek

Sunday 23 October 2016

Control Your Family's Internet Use Safely

For anyone who has children the internet is a double-edged sword. Kids need it for school, and just to generally learn and explore.

At the same time parents need to shield their kids from the more adult areas of the internet, and control how much online time is consumed.

Add to the mix how addictive the internet can be (ever seen a teenager lose most of a day on Facebook?) and the whole prospect can be overwhelming.

Fortunately there's a simple way to take back control at a granular level.

The Disney Circle is an amazing device you add to your network and suddenly you are in control.

You can set categories of of websites people are allowed to view, which is fairly common, but the Circle does so much more.

Circle will let you set time limits for how long a particular person can use the internet, and let you set a "bedtime" and "wake up time" for individuals.

Between the bedtime and wake-up time their devices can't connect to the internet. No more late-night facetime or gaming.

Individuals can also have an allowance of how much internet time per-day they get. Don't want the kids online for more than 3hrs/day? No problem, set an allowance for them and you're done.

Circle goes beyond just connection time and actually lets you also set time limits for specific applications. Want to limit Facebook to 1hr/day but leave the internet open for 3hrs? No problem. Need to help the kids break a Minecraft addiction? Set Circle to only let them play Minecraft for 30 minutes.

Each person gets a customized Circle page where they can see their time allotments, how much online time they have left, how long until their "bedtime" (if set) and other information about their online habits.

Installation is surprisingly easy and the user interface is simple and intuitive.

As an added bonus Circle provides content from across the Disney family for easy access, including Disney's Instagram account and many other sources. 

People may be surprised to find such a powerful technology product from Disney, but given the family focus of the company it makes sense.

Circle can be found at Best Buy, and retails for about $99 in the USA or $130 in Canada.

Happy surfing!

-The Home Geek

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Use Linux To Scan Your Windows PC

Not long ago I wrote about installing Linux beside Windows, a free and fairly easy way to get a second operating system on your computer.

Linux offers many advantages, including the ability to scan all your Windows files for malware.

This can be exceptionally effective because the Windows malware doesn't know about the Linux install, and is powerless to stop Linux from fixing problems.

Once the process is done, you should be able to boot back in to Windows and work normally.

Personally I'm a fan of Clam AV, an open source antivirus engine for detecting trojans, viruses, malware & other malicious threats.

Clam AV runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux.

For Windows I suggest using Sophos as an anti-malware app, and having Clam available in Linux if you need it.

To install Clam AV on Linux you can download the appropriate installer package from their website. If you are using Ubuntu Linux just enter the following command in a terminal window:

sudo apt install clamav

You'll need to enter your admin password when prompted and after that the install will proceed.

Having a copy of Linux available on your computer is beneficial for many reasons, but helping to recover Windows if you have a problem makes it priceless.

Think of it as car insurance for your computer, you don't need it until you need it, but then it's too late.

Happy surfing!

-The Home Geek

Tuesday 18 October 2016

Make Bootable USB Drives Using Etcher...For Free

Have you ever wanted to make a bootable USB drive? It's fairly common, people want to run an operating system from a USB key for multiple reasons, or use it to install a new operating system.

If you're considering using Linux instead of Windows a bootable USB drive is a great option. It lets you try out Linux without making any changes to your existing computer. If you decide it's not for you just reboot the computer without the USB drive and you're back to normal.

There are many utilities to make bootable USB drives, but one of the easiest also happens to be free.

Etcher by lets you make bootable images without hassle.

Etcher runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux so you can use it on all your devices.

Using Etcher is remarkably simple, you launch the app and press the "select image" button to choose your disk image. Etcher supports iso, dsk, img, rawm and a few other formats.

After you've chosen the image you select the drive to write it to. This is where some of the magic of Etcher kicks in.

Unlike some other utilities, Etcher won't let you select your main hard drive by accident, offering some comfort if you're new to making bootable drives.

Etcher offers validated burning, meaning Etcher checks to ensure the image put on the USB drive isn't corrupted so you know it will work.

Being able to make bootable USB drives is becoming more of a requirement as technology progresses. Etcher can help you do it without having to learn arcane instructions.

Happy surfing!

-The Home Geek

Monday 17 October 2016

Use Onionshare To Securely Share Files Of Any Size...Free

Ever needed to share files with someone that were too big to email? Sometimes they may have even been too big to share through dropbox-style services.

What do you do if you need to share files with someone securely, or anonymously?

This is where OnionShare comes in, a free app that takes care of all these problems.

Onionshare makes sharing large files securely and anonymously (if you choose) a breeze, and it works with Windows, Mac, and Linux,

Before you can start sharing through OnionShare you need to start up a copy of TOR Browser. You don't have to go to any special website, it just has to be running to establish a connection to the TOR network. 

Next open OnionShare and it launches an easy to use graphical interface.

Drag and drop files/folders in to the OnionShare app, or use the "Add file" and "Add folder" buttons.

There is a check-box enabled by default to automatically stop sharing files. Leaving this enabled creates a self-closing door.

With the check box enabled all access to the files vanishes as soon as the recipient has downloaded them. (You will be able to see they downloaded the files and how long the download took.)

OnionShare works by starting a web server on your computer with an impossible to guess URL, and then makes it only accessible through The Onion Router (TOR) network.

Press the "Start Sharing" button once you've tagged all the items you want to share. OnionShare will take a moment to get things set up, you'll see a message saying "Crunching files".

Once everything is running the icon will turn green and there will be a "Stop Sharing" button. Below this is a complex random URL. To make it easy to share the location there is a "Copy URL" button which will copy the URL to your clipboard.

The recipient can only access the URL through TOR browser, so they will need to have it installed.

Entering the URL in TOR browser will bring up a download link to a zip file containing everything you shared, along with a list of it's contents.
If you leave the "Stop sharing automatically" box unchecked the service and files remain open to anyone who has the URL. This can be useful when you want to share the same files or folders with multiple people.

Because all the files/folders are forced through TOR it ensures it can't be intercepted in transit, or traced back to you, providing anonymity if you want it.

The recipient will only know who is providing the files if you've chosen to tell them the URL through a traceable channel, such as your regular email account. If you used an anonymous email account the trail back to you goes away completely.

Why would you want anonymity? Some people use this as part of whistle-blowing to provide evidence without fear of reprisal.

Personally I just find it a really handy way to transfer large volumes of data from one system to another on a different network if I don't happen to have a USB drive, or if I'm working with someone remotely and I need to get them a large amount of data without using a courier.

It's a great way for someone to provide large video files, useful if you have someone doing video editing for you, etc.

Since everything is encrypted through TOR in transit I don't have to worry about the contents being read or tampered with.

OnionShare isn't for everyone, but if you're looking for a way to securely give someone access to a large file or files it's definitely worth considering.

Happy surfing!

-The Home Geek

Friday 14 October 2016

Your Internet Use Is Being Watched - Here's How To Surf Securely And Anonymously

By now most people understand that everything they do on-line at work is logged and analyzed somewhere by default. Did you know it's happening to you at home too?

"Oh Homegeek, no one is looking at what I'm doing, I'm not a spy or anything."

I hear this a lot, but you should realize your Internet Service Provider (ISP) logs all your internet traffic (at least all they can see), and likely examines it for certain things in order to comply with legal requirements, or to adjust your speed based on traffic type.

People can find their speeds dramatically reduced when doing certain things, like downloading torrents, because many ISP's throttle all torrent traffic. ISP's can only do this if they are analyzing your traffic.

Well what if you want to surf the web with more anonymity? It's really not that hard to do.

Use TOR browser. TOR stands for The Onion Router, a service established in the mid 1990's to provide anonymity and privacy to it's users.

The TOR browser funnels all the web surfing you do through the TOR network, vastly increasing your privacy.

You can run TOR browser on Windows, Mac, & Linux, and it's free to use.

Installation instructions for all 3 platforms are found on the TOR browser website below the download links, and they have made them very easy to follow.

So what happens when you use TOR browser? Well it encrypts and bounces your web browsing traffic around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world.

By using TOR browser you prevent somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit.

It also prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location,  meaning you can access sites which are otherwise blocked. Many people use it to circumvent government controls on access to information in dictatorships.

There are some trade-offs for this level of privacy. Most notably Flash and HTML5 content won't work, so it's not for gaming. This is by design to help keep you secure, although you can deliberately allow them. Just be aware that doing so reduces the effectiveness of the TOR browser.

Speed will also suffer a bit. Because your browsing is being bounced all over the place it's not going to be blazingly fast. It shouldn't be terrible though, especially since you're not accessing things like Flash.

Would I use TOR browser for everything? Absolutely not, in most cases it's overkill. But there are times it makes sense; I might be researching a company's website and not want them to see my connections.

TOR browser won't make you James Bond, but it will offer you some privacy for when you want it.

Shouldn't you be able to choose what's private and what isn't?

Happy surfing!

-The Home Geek

Thursday 13 October 2016

Use RealDebrid To Enhance Kodi

For anyone thinking about cutting the cord to their television provider, Kodi is something to strongly consider. It can save you hundreds of dollars a year.

I've been using Kodi on my Amazon FireTV for about a year now and it's incredible. With Kodi I can watch pretty much any television show or movie, usually in 1080p or HD resolution, and without commercials.

But I did notice I sometimes had challenges finding reliable high-quality streams for certain content, so I set about looking for a solution.

In the end I landed on RealDebrid, an unrestricted downloader/streaming service that offers access to many private/paid streaming sources.

I subscribed to the 180-day plan for RealDebrid for about $25 CDN, and haven't regretted it for a moment.

The streams I now have access to are high-quality, fast, and free of buffering problems that sometimes happen when using free streams.

RealDebrid supports many Kodi add-ons including: Exodus, SALTS, iStream, Release Hub, Specto, Entertainment Hub, Ice Films, and 1Channel.

Personally I use Exodus and it works flawlessly. For about $50/year I have access to all the content I could ask for, and none of the frustration.

Definitely worth it in my opinion.

Ready to try RealDebrid? Here's how you can add it to Kodi:

1) Select System
2) Choose Add-ons
3) Choose System
4) Select Dependencies
5) Choose URL Resolver
6) Choose Configure
7) Choose Universal Resolvers
8) Scroll down to Real-Debrid
9) Choose Priority
10) Change the priority to 90 & select Done
11) Choose OK to save your changes
12) Choose Configure again
13) Choose Universal Resolvers
14) Scroll down to Real-Debrid
15) Select (Re)Authorize My Account

At this point you will see a message instructing you to go to the Real Debrid website.

From any browser (computer, tablet, phone) go to and enter the code, then choose Continue

Select Allow

Now we just need to activate Real Debrid inside Exodus. Don't worry, this part is faster.

1) Open Exodus
2) Choose Tools
3) Go to Settings: Accounts
4) Scroll down to RealDebrid and choose Authorization
5) Follow the instructions on the screen by going to from any web browser and enter the code on the screen.
6) If a message asks if you would like to authorize the Lambda add-on choose Allow.

Close and re-open Exodus. Your Real Debrid links should now appear in all your search results.

A nice bonus with Real Debrid is they give you "Fidelity Points" when you subscribe. The longer the subscription period, the more points you get.

Fidelity points can be converted in to additional subscription time for free. 1000 points = 30 days of service.

By using Kodi and a Real Debrid account I was able to completely replace my television service. I can watch all the shows I did before, whenever I want. No need to remember to record a show.

All shows have had the commercials removed, so I can actually watch more content in the same amount of time.

But Homegeek, I want to watch the local news!

No problem, buy a digital antenna and connect it to your TV. Antennas range in price, but a decent one shouldn't cost more that $75 or so. It's a one-time cost, and now you should have access to a bunch of local stations for free.

If you've been thinking about cutting the cord I suggest trying Exodus with a Real Debrid subscription. You can buy a 15 day subscription for under $5 to test it out, and purchase a longer subscription afterwards if you like it.

Happy surfing!

-The Home Geek

Wednesday 12 October 2016

Free Password Manager With Device Sync

The average person has 27 unique web services they use, each of which requires a username and password.

27 is far too many for most people to remember, so human nature is to reuse passwords on multiple sites. It's an easy way to ensure you can get access to all your web services.

The problem comes when one of those passwords gets compromised.

If you have 27 sites and use 3 passwords, by compromising one password an attacker can probably gain access to almost 1/3 of your web services. It happens all the time, and we are seeing more instances where passwords are stolen, but no one realizes it for years.

So what can you do? Use a good password manager to maintain unique passwords for all web service you use, meaning if one web service is breached all your other web services are safe.

There are a lot of password managers out there but I recommend Encryptr by SpiderOak, it's easy to use, secure, powerful, and best of all, it's free. 

Encryptr will suggest strong passwords for each of your sites, it will store them in an encrypted format, and it will synchronize them across all your devices.

 SpiderOak can't read your passwords because only you know the key to decrypt them.

Encryptr works on all major platforms, including Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android, and Linux.

Properly using a good password manager is one of the single most effective steps you can take to protect your online services. More breaches are coming to light regularly.

The most famous case reported (so far) is the recent Yahoo breach, where over half a billion passwords were stolen in 2014, but no one was notified for two years. It's happened to other recognizable names like LinkedIn, MySpace, and Dropbox just to name a few.

Think about how many people might use the same password on their banking site as they did on another web service that may have been compromised. Scary stuff.

Using a password manager to maintain unique passwords for each site reduces the threat drastically.

Encryptr is free and easy to use, so why wouldn't you want to protect yourself?

Happy surfing!

-The Home Geek

Friday 7 October 2016

Use Oversight To Protect Your Mac Camera & Microphone

Remember years ago when Mac users used to proudly say "Mac's don't get viruses!"?  Perhaps you know a few Mac owners who still tout this line.

It wasn't true then, and it isn't true now.

Mac's can get viruses. All computers can get a virus. The number of viruses for a specific platform usually has a correlation to that operating system's market share. Windows owns the majority of desktops, so more Windows viruses are out there than others, but it doesn't eliminate all others.

Malware these days is usually created by criminal enterprises, not a disgruntled teenager wearing a hoodie despite what the media might portray. The crooks go after targets that have a good chance of a payoff. The increase in Mac sales resulted in an increase in Mac malware.

An exploit going around these days will attempt to access your computer's webcam and microphone without your knowledge. It's done to transmit all the audio and video back to systems elsewhere which can then be reviewed for confidential information or compromising audio/video blackmail. This has become so common many stores now sell covers you can slip over your webcam when it's not in use. (nb: a piece of masking tape or post-it note are just as effective and a lot cheaper)

But what else can you do?

Well, if you use a Mac you can install OverSight. This free app will tell you when something attempts to access your Mac webcam or microphone, and gives you the option of allowing or blocking the access.

Oversight was specially developed to help protect Mac users from unauthorized access to their cameras & microphones, a growing threat given many Mac users believe they are not subject the same security concerns as Windows users.

Installing OverSight is simple, download the zip archive containing the application. Manually unzip it if necessary. Double-click on '' and choose 'Install'

Once installed you're done. The app will automatically run every time you log in. There are full step-by-step directions with screenshots available on the OverSight web page.

Unfortunately there isn't a Windows version of OverSight. For Windows users I suggest using a current anti-malware product like Sophos as it's free and effective.

If you happen to be using a Lenovo laptop I have it from an insider at the company their webcams are hard-wired to always turn on the indicator LED when the camera is enabled, so you have some extra reassurance there.

The bad guys are always trying to figure out how to compromise systems in ways that will make them money. Taking basic precautions these days is simply a must. Tools like OverSight can help.

Happy surfing!

-The Home Geek

Thursday 6 October 2016

Another WiFi Mesh Player - It's Google

When setting up WiFi in their home many people buy a router, and then try to deal with poor signal and dead zones in their house.

Often people will try WiFi extenders or powerline adapters to deal with WiFi dead zones, but these solutions have their own problems.

WiFi extenders will increase the range of your WiFi signal, but reduce your speed by around 50% with each extender relaying the signal.

Powerline adapters, which use the power wiring in your home to provide connectivity back to your router, often encounter interference and share the bandwidth across all connected devices.

Mesh networking is different, it provides the signal range extension without compromising the speed that happens using WiFi extenders, and avoids the interference and other challenges of powerline adapters. This is how many businesses provide WiFi to their employees & guests.

The two leaders in the space are Luma and Eero. Both provide easy to set up and use mesh WiFi for your home, similar to what you will find in many offices in terms of coverage and reliability, but without the need for an IT department to maintain it.

Google announced they are getting in to the mesh WiFi space for consumers now with their "Google Wifi" product.

Google Wifi is similar to Luma and Eero in that you can order a single device or a 3-pack. Their pricing model is the most aggressive of the three vendors at $129USD for a single unit or $299USD for a 3 pack.

If the Google holds to these numbers they will be $100 less than Luma and $200 less than Eero for a 3-pack, a move no doubt positioned to help them break in to the home mesh space.

The company says Google Wifi will be available for pre-order some time in November 2016.

Right now some of the technical details aren't clear, and I would need answers before I could suggest this as an option for home users.

My biggest concern surrounds the DNS settings in the Google Wifi solution, and this stems from what Google did with their Chomecast dongle. The chromecast is a great cheap streaming device, but it is hard-coded to use Google's own DNS servers. This presents two problems:

1) Google sees all the streaming requests made using a Chromecast. This may or may not bother you, but as I've written lately Google already has a lot of insight in to your online habits.

2) You can't use a smart DNS service to get around geo-restrictions for content. Your ability to take advantage of products like Getflix are impacted using a Chromecast.

The only way to defeat this hard-coding is to put rules on your router specifically denying access to Google's DNS servers. ( and if you want to try.) Once you do this the Chromecast will fail back to whatever DNS provider your router says to use.

So if Google is now providing the router will I have that ability? Will I start to see an increase in targeted advertising once Google knows what kind of content I access on all my devices? Right now I can't say, which makes me uncomfortable.

It's great to see mesh WiFi becoming so easily set up in the home, but as with everything from Google, how much personal information you surrender to subsidize the cost of the product is a point worth considering.

Personally I'll be sticking with my Luma devices. The product keeps evolving and improving, and my WiFi speeds remain great throughout everywhere in the house.

If you're frustrated with your current WiFi I encourage you to look at a mesh solution. Just maybe not Google's hardware until we know more.

Happy surfing!

-The Home Geek

Wednesday 5 October 2016

Search The Web - Without Telling Google Everything

A little while ago I covered how to see just how much Google is watching what you do and search for. It should come as no surprise that a big part of that information gathering comes from your internet searches.

Google is hardly alone in this space, Microsoft and Yahoo do it as well. Watching and aggregating your search terms is one way they can all sell targeted advertising.

So is there anything you can do if you'd prefer to not have all your search terms indexed and sold?

When people ask me how they can exercise their privacy more but still use the internet I suggest people give a try and see how they like it.

Duckduckgo is a powerful internet search tool that doesn't store your information, doesn't follow you with ads, and doesn't track you.

Another interesting tool duckduckgo offers are called bangs. Not like keeping your hair out of your face bangs, in this case they use the !bang function, a powerful option which can let you search results directly from a specific provider.

To quote the duckduckgo community:

"!Bang commands perform your searches directly on other search engines. Sometimes you know you want to go directly to another site to search, and these commands save you steps in doing so.

For example, suppose you wanted to search for 'bags'. In that case, you could just enter '!a bags' into DuckDuckGo and we'll take you right to the correct search results page on

If you've adjusted your region in the Settings menu, your !bangs will automatically direct you to the site for that region, if available. For example, if Germany is selected in the Settings, then !amazon will go to"

There are literally thousands of !bang options available, you can see a more comprehensive list at

So far I've been pretty impressed with the capabilities of duckduckgo. They have add-ons for your favorite browser to make it your default search engine, and the results probably rival whatever you are using now.

If you want to help reduce your digital footprint this may be a great tool for you. After all, we give away enough of our privacy without realizing it, no need to volunteer more if you don't have to.

Happy surfing!

-The Home Geek