Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Upgrading to Windows Vista

Thanks to an extensive advertising campaign, the majority of you have heard of the relatively new Microsoft Windows operating system named “Vista”©. Some of you may already be using Vista, particularly those of you who have purchased a computer recently. There has been much hype surrounding Vista, and one is sometimes induced into feeling that Vista will ‘revolutionize’ my computing experience…

I have been using Vista since a relatively early beta (as one of Microsoft’s volunteer guinea pigs/”testers”), and am writing this post on a machine running a retail version of Vista Home Premium. I like Vista…though I expect I will receive comments from some who will think I am nuts for running a first-release OS. I like its look and feel (quite similar to Mac OS X). As a computing consultant, I like the improvements in security ([advisory: Vista frequently stops you in what you’re doing with a pop-up warning dialogue that asks you, “are you sure you want to continue?” This is because you are essentially running as a “user” and not an “Administrator”, which greatly increases your security. If this is the kind of “feature” that will irritate and annoy you to the point of great distress…stick with XP]). I admit it is an individual preference/”taste” kind of thing…but I do like, and recommend, Vista. Should you decide to climb aboard the Vista bandwagon, the question becomes: upgrading your existing OS, or formatting the hard drive and installing ‘clean’?

Tip of the day: There is a real advantage in doing an “in place upgrade”: namely, you will not have to locate the CDs and re-install all of your programs and applications and games; and, your preferences and settings, files, music, and photos folders will still be there–without copying them back to your machine from a backup [you do make regular backups of your system…don’t you???]. Before you consider an inplace upgrade please, please, please run the Vista Upgrade Advisor tool (click here to get the tool) and carefully heed what it says. It will scan your system and check your hardware (devices and memory) and your programs for “compatibility”. Consider carefully the results.
[update 09/08/07: Due to the fact that nobody’s used this tool, and upgraded heedless of all the advice in this column (and elsewhere), my article on “can I undo my upgrade?” is my most Google’d and my most read posting.]

Those of you considering Vista should also be aware that it has rather stringent hardware requirements (for a listing, please click here) and realize that if your machine is getting along in years you will be better served by buying a new machine–with Vista pre-installed–and using the Easy Data Migration tool to copy over your files and settings.

If your machine is of a fairly recent vintage, has plenty of memory and a decent graphics adapter, and passes the Upgrade Advisor tool’s scan, then go ahead and upgrade. If you barely meet the minimum requirements, and there are several compatibility issues noted by the Advisor’s scan, please don’t cause yourself any grief–skip Vista for now. Start saving your pennies for a brand-new, loaded with the latest technology, machine. That’s my advice.

Today’s free link: Speakeasy’s Internet speed test. Find out what your Internet connection’s speed really is–both downloading and uploading–and see how it compares with other people’s. Are you getting what your ISP says you’re getting? (what you’re paying for!) Find out with this fast, easy to use test.

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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June 8, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, PC, shopping for, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The first Tech Paul Post: secure your web connection

I want to start by welcoming all you readers to this shiny new blog–and invite you to take a peek at the About page.

This blog is different from other technically oriented blogs in that it is NOT a tech-news page, nor a place for me to drop names, nor is it an ego-site. The purpose of this blog is to answer questions about the day-to-day usage of PC’s, offer advice for getting full use out of your system, and offer insights into how today’s  tech really works. You can post questions here (in the comment box) and get answers, too. Whether you’re a “techie”, or a novice, it is my hope that you will find the information presented here to be usefull and helpfull.

Tip of the day: In this area I will place a tip, hint, shortcut, “tweak”, or how-to. It will depend on your previous experience using computers (and other gadgets and gizmos) whether or not you already know the topic. I will try my best not to confuse and alienate those of you who actually have a life outside of computing, while not boring and/or insulting the technically inclined.

Increase the security of your Internet connection for less than $50. For those of you using a DSL or cable connection to surf the Web, you should be aware that your connection is “always on”. That means your computer is able to go online and get security updates and other useful items without your being present, or even aware of the activity. This is a mixed blessing, as it can also do other–less wonderful–things without your knowledge. Prevent being visible to miscreants out there on the Web by hiding your computer’s IP address (a set of unique numbers used to locate and identify machines on the Internet) behind a router which is capable of NAT–as almost all current makes and models are–such as those sold by Linksys, Netgear, and D-Link. You can research models on the Web, and then find the best prices on such shopping sites as and Shopzilla. If your router allows for MAC address filtering, turn it on! Use a browser to log onto the router’s administrator’s control panel as per its instuction booklet (often it’s and click on “enable MAC filtering”. This will prevent other computers from using your network and your Internet connection. If you have never logged onto your router and set a password, and your manual is lost forever, instructions can be found at the manufacturer’s website. Putting a router between your modem and computer will also allow you to share your Web connection with multiple computers. Most routers have Ethernet ports for four of your computers.

***Note***If you purchase a router that includes a wireless access point, there are some measures you should take to secure the wireless transmitter/receiver as well. First, turn on and configure encryption of at least WPA as per the instruction booklet, and 2) disable the SSID broadcast. These two steps will prevent intruders from “seeing” your access point, and encryption will prevent a snoop from capturing and reading your traffic.

MY GUARANTY TO YOU: I am a fanatic of getting stuff for free, and the Internet has a wealth of free-for-the-download resources. I will frequently post links to free stuff for you to take advantage of yourselves. But! I will only post links to software that is free from spyware, and to websites that ARE NOT BOOBYTRAPPED. I will endeavour to post a new link at the bottom of each new posting.

Today’s free link: Game Give Away Of The Day–this website offers a different free game each day. These games range from children’s games to fairly intense 3-D action games. These are complete games, and not just small “demo” versions. I visit this site every day to see what’s being offered, and have already downloaded quite a few fun timewasters. Here’s their blurb:

 Game Giveaway of the Day

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.


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June 8, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, encrypting files, firewall, hardware, how to, networking, PC, privacy, routers, routers and WAPs, security, tech, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments