Tech – for Everyone

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

How to install a program on your thumb drive (reposting)

As I am sure you have experienced a time or two yourselves, today is “one of those mornings” and I am impelled to quickly re-post a prior article. This article tells you how to get more use out of your thumb-drive by making it a ‘computer on a stick’. It appeared 12/12/07–

Today I will answer a very good question submitted by a reader.

Q: How do I install a program on my thumb-drive so I can run it from there?
A: One of the handier uses for thumb-drives is to load them with programs and use them as sort of a ‘computer-on-a-stick’. As I mentioned in a prior article, I have a bootable thumb-drive loaded with troubleshooting programs which I use as a portable repair kit. But you don’t need to make a thumb-drive bootable to run programs from it.

The most popular way to put programs on your thumb-drive is to either purchase a (pre-configured) U3 drive, or download and install the suite of portable programs called Portable Apps. Both of these methods will give you a portable word processor, web browser, and other useful tools — and offer other “portable” programs for downloading. (These, btw, are an excellent resource for individual “portable” downloads.)

But let’s say you want to install the very useful troubleshooting tool Process Explorer or some other program that is not specifically a “portable”, or part of the suites mentioned above. If the program is not larger than the available space on your thumb drive — Office 2007 will not fit on a 512MB drive, for example — use the following method to install it. (I am going to install the popular free anti-spyware program AdAware as my demonstration.)
1) download the setup.exe to your computer’s desktop, using the “Save” option (not “Run”).
2) Insert the thumb-drive.
3) Open My Computer, and locate the “Removable Storage” drive letter that is the thumb-drive. In my case, that is “Removable Disk (D:)”, but yours may differ.
mc.jpg
4) Double-click on the downloaded installation setup.exe (on your Desktop), and start the Install process. Here you will agree to the EULA, click Next a few times, and go through an install wizard. Do this process as you normally would except you need to change the install’s Destination.
5) Change the Install Destination Folder to the thumb drive’s drive letter: in my example, that’s D:\. At some point, the Install wizard will ask you to choose a destination or accept the default (the default destination is C:\Program Files\) and here is where we need to make the change. If you go through the wizard without being asked for a Destination, use the the “<Back” button and change the Install Type from “Typical” to “Custom”.

Click on the Browse button and then double-click on the D:\ drive.
mc3.jpg
6) Now let the Install Wizard do its thing. When it has completed installing, click on the “Finish” button.

That’s it. You’re done.
When you “Explore”, or “Open Folder for Viewing”, or otherwise look at your thumb drive’s directory, you will see the AdAware.exe icon. That means the program is available to be run.. just as if you were running it from your computer. Literally, a program-on-a-stick!
Remember, I used AdAware as an example, but you can pretty much do this with any application (“executable”), though — since a thumb drive’s size is somewhat small — I recommend you seek out a “portable” version of your program if one is available.

[Update: Bill Mullins has brought to my attention a program – MojoPac – for running apps on your thumbdrive that seems more flexible than the others I have mentioned. To read his review, click here.]

Today’s free link(s): Well,.. let’s see.. I count four sprinkled through the article..

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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January 23, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, PC, tech, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Preventing password lockout

The world of computers is not immune from Murphy’s Law, and unfortunate things do occur. And people are fallible– as some well-known wit from days gone by said, “to err is human.” We lose things; mishandle things; and forget things. When Murphy strikes or we commit some foible on our computers, we can lose our work… which is frustrating. If we forget our user password, we lock ourselves out of our machine altogether… which causes feelings a little more intense than mere frustration!

Tip of the day: Save your bacon and prevent password lockout by creating a password reset disk — and do it before it’s needed.
The official Microsoft method for dealing with forgotten login passwords (all versions of Windows) is to create a password reset disk, and then use this disk should you ever forget your password and lock yourself out. Creating the reset disk is easy; all you need is a blank floppy disk*.
1) Access the User Accounts applet in your Control Panel by clicking Start >Control Panel >User Accounts.
2) Then click on your user account.
cpua.jpg
3) Click on the “Create a password reset disk” link.
This will open the Prevent Forgotten Passwords Wizard which will ask you to enter your password and then will create the disk. When the wizard finishes, label the floppy, and store it in some place other than right next to your computer… as anyone who has it could use it to access your stuff.
fpwiz.jpg

One “cool” feature of the password reset disk is you only need to make it once. As I have stated in my Top 10 Things You Should Do To Your Computer article, it is very good practice to change your passwords every so often. Doing so will not affect the password reset disk you made — in other words, you do not need to keep making new disks. Make one, and you’re good.

***This is all well and good, and I applaud Microsoft for providing an easy method for the owners of the computer to prevent lockout: However, as some of you may already be saying to yourselves, the floppy disk is a dead technology. It has been dead for years and most modern machines don’t even have one!
Unless you’re still working on a Stone Age-era computer, this article/method is useless to you.

So why is Vista, which practically demands a new machine, which practically guarantees there’ll be no floppy drive, still dependent on this technique for password reset? Can someone at Microsoft kindly explain? Please? Seriously…pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top?
This.. faux pas strikes me as pretty dumb.

Fortunately, if your machine does not have a useless floppy drive (1.4 Megabytes?! Come on.) there are other techniques for getting back in to your machine. Sadly, those methods will (typically) cost you some money, or data; so I strongly advise people to password protect their User Accounts and write down their password/login on a piece of paper (and store it someplace other than right next to your computer).

Today’s free link: Well.. shoot. I’ve worked myself up into such a snit, writing this article, that I just can’t think of one right now… Sorry folks. Tune in again tomorrow, and I promise there’ll be a great one here again.

Copyright © 2007-8. Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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January 22, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, passwords, PC, security, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , | 6 Comments

What is Web 2.0?

It might be hard for you to believe, but there is a great deal of jargon and a large number of buzzwords in the world of computers and “tech”. There’s a mind-numbing assortment of acronyms too; and it is not hard to become FUWA (Fed Up With Acronyms). Today I want to look at an industry buzzword that has been floating around since 2004 — Web 2.0.

Historically speaking, in the world of tech and computing when you see 2.0 (“two point oh”) it means “second generation” (or, “second iteration”). What this is supposed to mean is: “we have totally remade our product, and fixed all that was found wanting in our original release”.
Since acquiring 2.0 will doubtlessly cost the consumer some cash.. a mere fixing of problems is not enough, and so 2.0 almost always means that there will be some new feature (or ability) added.. as a “value bonus”.

With this in mind, the idea of a Web 2.0 sounds pretty-durned good.. doesn’t it? Fix everything that’s wrong with the Internet, and give us new abilities too? Fantastic!!! Sign me up!

I mean… there’s plenty that a ‘2.0’ could fix. Imagine an Internet that was really fast.. for everyone: with zero spam: a limit of two ads per webpage: that simply could not infect your machine with “drive by‘s”: had actual enforcement of Copyright laws (sorry.. a pet peeve): that never crashed or misdirected…

Sadly, when we hear (or read about) “Web 2.0” what we are hearing is marketing hype. Nobody is talking about fixes or improvements to the Internet itself. What they’re talking about, really, is kind of vague, but generally boils down to these two concepts:
1) that consumers can upload to the Internet, as opposed to merely “viewing” or downloading content. This is seen in the “social networking” sites, such as Facebook and MySpace, and the “photo-sharing” sites, such as Flickr and Picasa. It is also referring to the ability to use the Internet to communicate with IM/chat.. or “forums” and “chatrooms” or blogs. (For the younger set, I suppose this trend is a big deal, but to me it’s kind of like letting anyone put anything they want on the shelves of my local library.)
2) that we will come to rely on web-based programs, and eventually do away with installing applications on our own machines. Some are calling these programs “webware”.

It is the second ‘concept’ which is the most significant, and there is already a move in this direction afoot. Imagine that you no longer have a word processor on your machine. When you want to create a document, you open a browser and log onto your WritingStuff.com* account and use the tools there to write. The document you create is stored on some remote server, just like a webpage, so you can access it from any (Internet-connected) machine,.. and make it “viewable” to anyone or everyone. Heck, you can make it so that they can “collaborate” on your document and make edits and other changes to it.
There’s even talk of making your machine’s operating system web-based.. so all your machine needs to do is boot-and-browse.

[update 4/2/08: Tomorrow (April 3rd) on TechWise TV webcast and live Q&A on how web 2.0 applies to contemporary business practices. The show will feature Wikinomics coauthor Don Tapscott, along with Jeremiah Owyang and tech evangelist Robert Scoble. Here is the link: https://event.on24.com/interface/registration/autoreg/index.html?eventid=104693&sessionid=1&key=A4F0A0445A3013006F9A2B102EFFA804&partnerref=4015]

Today’s free link(s): Well, guess what? Web 2.0 is here, and there are several web-based applications already available. Not only are these tools “the wave of the future”, but can be really useful to some folks.. such as a “road warrior”-type businessperson; or for those types of projects that require multiple authors, or contain info from many departments. And, conceivably, these tools can save you money by replacing the programs you have to buy and install.
I don’t have the time to list every online program or tool available today (and more are being developed as we speak) but if you are looking for online versions of the usual “office” types of tools — word processors, spreadsheets, presentation (“slideshows”), calendars, and notetakers — checkout Zoho; or if you have a Google account, Google Docs. These apps claim to be compatible with all major formats, including MS Office and PDF.
If you are looking for photo editors — checkout FotoFlexer, and for video, Jumpcut.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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January 21, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, PC, tech, Windows, word processors | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The week in review

Every now and then I like to sit back and take stock. I find that doing so helps me keep life in perspective.. so that I don’t lose sight of the forest for all the trees, or let too many pressures scream for my attention at all once. Sometimes, it feels like.. in spite of all my activity, I haven’t accomplished what I set out to (or, done anything at all, for that matter) until I make a list of what I actually did get done.

I covered a lot of ground this week here at Tech–for Everyone.  But, due to more than the usual number of distractions, I did have to re-post a prior article twice. I started the week discussing how the “From” (aka “Sender”) in e-mails is easily ‘spoofed’— and that just because it says it came from your good friend Mary (or PayPal) doesn’t mean that it really did. This topic is often used by cyber-criminals in conjunction with yesterday’s article on phishing phraud; which is an official-looking e-mail containing a link to either a poisoned website full of malware, or an official-looking fake “log into your account” page (called “pharming”). So hopefully I have raised your caution level regarding links received in e-mails.

Also, this week I talked about the latest thing in processors, and how we consumers can now buy affordable quad-core-equipped desktop PCs.. and are they worth spending more to have. I omitted one point in that post that I’d like to remind my readers of now: the prices on these CPUs will gradually come down with time.

I wrote an article on a basic principle to keep in mind when troubleshooting bugz and glitches that strike your computer; but more specifically, the steps you should take before you decide your dead computer is really dead.

To switch to something much more fun (and sort of “cool”), I showed you how to change the icons on your machine to ones that you like, or that will help you keep organized. I am a security-conscious guy, but I do have a fun side.

The second re-posting was a very popular article on how putting an inexpensive home router between your modem and your computers will vastly improve the safety of accessing the Internet, and give you control over what can, and cannot, (you can also set the “when”) “dial out”. I would like to say again that doing this is a very good way to hide your machines from hackers. [note: that article was the concluding piece of a four-part series I wrote titled “Steps you can take to protect your kids from the Web“.]

There. See? I really did do a lot this week… despite my “where did the time go?!” feeling.
Have a great weekend… and let’s be safe out there.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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January 19, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, kids and the Internet, PC, routers and WAPs, security, shopping for, tech, Windows | Leave a comment

Phishing phraud

Folks, a short one today. The main point can be found in this report from Gartner– 3,500,000 Americans gave up sensitive information to phishers in 2007, for a total loss of $2.8 billion dollars. We, Dear Reader, are being conned and ripped-off at an alarming rate.

I have talked about phishing here before, and warned you against clicking on the links you receive in e-mails before too. These phishers have become so skillful and crafty that it truly is nearly impossible for the average person to tell a fraudulent phishing website from the real. The phraudsters are also developing techniques that are making the usual defenses (ie, “blacklists”) ineffective. And the number of cyber-criminals, and their phishing sites, is growing.

Tip of the day: Turn on a heuristic phishing filter.
It is more important than ever that you exercise caution and apply safe browsing practices when you go online. (To read my prior articles on phishing and safe browsing, click here.) One of the few tools that can help you when it comes to these bogus websites is a filter which uses heuristics to watch the webpage for activity that indicates hacker techniques.

For those of you using IE 7, make sure this filter is turned on. Click on the “Tools” menu (upper-right corner) and then select “Internet Options”. Then click on the “Advanced” tab.
phishfiltr.jpg
Now scroll down through the list of options until you see the Phishing Filter (as shown) and make sure the “Turn on automatic website checking” radio-button is selected.
Click on “OK”.
Now you will have some protection enabled, and when you go to a website that is not “acting right”, a warning message will pop-open and alert you. When this happens, I suggest you close that window and leave that site quickly.

For those of you using “alternative” browsers; you may find a built-in phishing filter much like IE’s (by exploring the Options) depending on which one you have (some do, some don’t) or you can download an “extension” (aka “plug-in”), such as SiteAdvisor, and today’s free link.

Today’s free link: the free version of LinkScanner allows you to right-click on a hyperlink (in an e-mail you receive, for instance) and determine if it is valid. I can recommend the “Pro” version, as well, as a much more complete tool.

Help protect your privacy and your “identity”, and take these simple steps. And, maybe, send this article to your friends.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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January 18, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, IE 7, PC, Phishing, privacy, security, tech, Windows | , , | 4 Comments

Secure your Internet connection for $50 (updated)

A crazy morning and I don’t have the time to write today, and so I must re-post. The article below was the very first Tech–for Everyone; my debut into the world of journaling. It dates from 6/7/7.

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 site 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 helpful.

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 [addenda: some manufactures call this “with firewall”] — 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 www.buy.com and Shopzilla. I have seen Wireless-G routers for $20.

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 instruction booklet (often it’s http://192.168.1.1) 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. (To read my instruction article covering the steps, click here.)

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 endeavor 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 © 2007-8 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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January 17, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, networking, PC, routers, routers and WAPs, security, shopping for, tech | 1 Comment

Customize your folder icons

Vista has improved the appearance of the folder icon over older versions of Windows. vistafldr.jpg xpfldr.jpg In Vista, the folder icon is now ‘open’, and you can see thumbnail representations of the folder’s contents– which makes finding things inside much easier to accomplish.
But, they’re still the plain-old Manila folder; and if you create a lot of them, it can get difficult differentiating them, and finding which one contains the document you’re seeking.

Tip of the day: Change the icon for your folders and make them more “you”.
Icons are really just little pictures that someone has created. Typically, they are 16 x 16 (or 32 x 32) pixel bitmaps. Those of you with an artistic flair (or have Photoshop skills) can use a graphics program, like MS Paint, to create your own icons. You can download icons from the Internet. Or, you can use the built-in Change Icon tool.

To change a folder’s icon, right-click on it and select “Properties”. Then click on the “Customize” tab. The screenshot is from an XP machine.
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Now click on the “Change Icon” button.
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The window that opens contains the existing collection of folder icons that comes with your version of Windows. Use the scroll bar to search through this collection until you find one that you like.. and that will help remind you of the folder’s contents.
When you do find one that suits, click on it (“select” it) and then click on the “OK” button. The “choose” window will go away: now click on the “Apply” button in the “Properties” window.

For illustration purposes, I have selected the camera icon (lower-left corner), and now my folder looks like this.. modicon.jpg which, combined with the folder’s name (in this instance, I will rename it to “screenshots”), will help me remember its contents and make navigating to my Saved work easier.
And besides, I think it just looks better than that plain manila folder.

Today’s free link: I mentioned that you can download more icons from the Internet, and a search will reveal many sources for free, pre-made icons. One such place is Icon Archive, which claims to have over 16,000 icons to choose from.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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January 16, 2008 Posted by | computers, file system, how to, PC, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , | Leave a comment