Tech – for Everyone

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

Quick tweaks improve your monitor, speed

In just a few clicks, you can improve the appearance of items on your screen, make things easier for your eyes, and get peppier performance out of your PC.

Making adjustments to settings, and turning various things on or off, is known as “tweaking”, and sometimes “optimizing”. And being a Geek, I love to tweak my machines until they’re running like a Indy 500 car. Today’s quick tip will take you all of 45 seconds to do, and it will give you noticeable results.

Tip of the Day: Turn on font smoothing, and turn off special effects.
The settings we’re going to tweak are all found on the Appearance tab of your Display Properties: right-click on a blank area of your Desktop and select “Properties”
DispProp 
On the “Appearance” tab, click on the “Effects” button.
CltType

Here we’re going to turn one item on, and three off, by placing or removing checkmarks.
1) Turn on the ClearType font smoothing feature by placing a check in its checkbox, and using the drop-down arrow to set it to ClearType. This will make reading easier, and reduce headache-causing eye strain.
2) Turn off the “bells-and-whistles” special effects that, while ‘modern’ and ‘cool’, really only slow things down quite unnecessarily. (aka “waste system resources”)
* uncheck “transition effects”
* uncheck “shadows”
* uncheck “show windows contents while dragging”
3) Click OK, and OK again.

That’s it. You’re done. Easy, right? Right. Should you change your mind someday, undoing these changes is just as easy.. just place a check again. (But I very much doubt you will!)

Today’s free link: Loyal fans of this series know that I am obsessed with advising folks to make backup copies of their computer files in case of a failure; and that I wrote that one option was to use a “online” storage solution (as one of your two locations)(read Online Storage for Data Backup).
There’s a new service out called BackBlaze that is worth checking out. Click here to read a review of the “World’s easiest online backup” (and download link).

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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July 23, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, performance, tech, tweaks, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Dirty Little Secret

You would know if someone was using your social security number, right? Well, maybe not.. in fact, probably not. The folks who know are probably legally barred from telling you.
No matter what your political leanings, or feelings on the immigration issue are, there’s a dirty little secret I think you ought to be aware of.

Bob Sullivan’s Red Tape Chronicles (“Corporate sneakiness. Government waste. Technology run amok. Outright scams. The Red Tape Chronicles is MSNBC.com’s effort to unmask these 21st Century headaches and offer real solutions that save you time and money.”) wrote an eye-opening article,
HIDDEN COST OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION: ID THEFT

Here’s a link to Bob discussing this issue on camera. (Requires Flash)
Immigration and ID theft
Immigration and ID theft

Today’s free link: and here’s a resource if you are concerned about ID Theft, or need some help because you, or someone you know, are a victim. IDTheftAwareness.com

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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July 22, 2008 Posted by | privacy, security, tech | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Boss Calls You At Disneyland– with an "urgent" task …

HAL is watching It started with pagers. Beep beep beep. It’s your boss calling.

Now we have cellular phones, satellite phones, e-mail, PDA’s, notebooks, and access to the corporate network via VPN.
And iPhones.

We are now “empowered” to accomplish work where ever we are, and at any time of the day or night. We’re “road warriors” and “telecommuters”.
“But sir, it’s Saturday!” doesn’t cut you any slack any more.

Apparently, neither does, “But sir, the family and I are on our approved vacation. We’re on the ‘It’s a Small World’ ride right now.. can’t you hear the singing?”
(Your GPS-enabled phone will back up your claim; you really are at Disneyland.)

In a 2005 study, the Families and Work Institute found that one in every three people had performed job duties outside of regularly scheduled work hours. My guess is that if you did that survey today, you get 66% answering yes (IT types would be at 100%–IMHO).

Yes.
And we got spy cameras watching us now, too– with more and more cities proudly boasting of “100% camera-coverage”. The Chinese are becoming remarkably adept at designing streetlights, mailboxes, fencepost’s, clocks, etc. that really are nothing more than camera concealer’s, and they’re exporting them as fast as they can make them.
We’re onboard Arthur C. Clark’s Discovery, and HAL is watching us. I ain’t joking with you. Some of those “security” cameras have HAL’s facial recognition ability, and some of them read lips (if not now, soon), see in the dark, and look into windows.
Like the man said, if you’re not doing anything wrong, this shouldn’t bother you.

GPS tracking. Security cameras. Can’t escape from work… Hmmm…

Open the pod bay doors, HAL… I wanna get off.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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July 21, 2008 Posted by | computers, privacy, security, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to cancel a print command*

Folks–having a crazy morning, and so I am reposting a prior article, for now. Hopefully I’ll get a new post up a little later on…

Sometimes we tell our machines to do something (let’s, for the sake of example choose, oh, say, print a 10-page document) and then, being human and somewhat fickle, we change our minds.

Perhaps we notice that we selected the wrong document; or, we have a sudden “inspiration” and there’s now a whole new thought we want to insert into it.. or we notice a major typo that we need to fix. Whatever it is, we want the printer to stop printing NOW.

Now what I am going to say next might comes as a surprise and a shock to some of you folks– but, sometimes in life you just have to grab that band-aid by the corner and rip that sucker off.
Here’s the thing, and I ain’t gonna sugarcoat it– computers are dumb machines. (Maybe, instead of “dumb”, I should say “obedient”..)

Computers follow rigid logic to obey the “commands” you “input”, and they really don’t “multitask” very well. They ‘think’ and act sequentially.. and don’t move on to the next input/command until they have completed the first one.
What this means is: they won’t even see the command to stop printing the 10-page document until they have “processed” the Print command you gave earlier.
(The paper and ink that gets wasted this way is truly your fault, and not the computer’s. You told it to Print, and it merely obeys!)

When you hit the power button on the printer (or yank the power cord out of the wall) you haven’t really stopped the Print job. Oh, no. You have only interrupted it. When you turn it back on, or reconnect the USB cord– your machine is going to everything in its power to complete its assigned task.. and it starts printing the 10-pager from right where it left off.

The correct way to stop the print job (you commanded) is to erase it from your PC’s memory. Remember I told you computers were dumb? Well, they can be forgetful too.

1) Go to Printers in your Control Panel (In XP: Start> Settings> Printers and Faxes. In Vista: Start> Control Panel> Hardware and Sounds> Printers.)
2) Double-click on the printer that is still trying to print the 10-page document.

The window that opens will show all the print jobs scheduled to be sent to the printer for completion, and the 10-page document should appear here.

3) Click on “Printer” from the menu bar, and click “Cancel All Documents”. (Answer “Yes” if you’re asked, “are you sure?”)

That’s it. Your computer has now “forgotten” your command to print, and when you turn your printer on again, it will not start printing something you no longer want.

Today’s free link: Taskbar Shuffle Drag and drop your taskbar buttons and system tray icons to instantly reorder them.

Copyright © 2007-8 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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July 21, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, tech, Windows | , , , , , , | 24 Comments

A “must read” for today’s world

Folks, I don’t post on Sunday’s, but my fellow tech blogger, Bill Mullins, has posted an article that I think you (and your friends and loved ones) should read– here’s the link,

Be Paranoid on the Internet – It Pays Off Big-time!

July 20, 2008 Posted by | computers | 1 Comment

Photoshop online– use the Web to edit pictures*

“Made You Look” is the marketing catchphrase for the new online Photoshop Website, and yes– I did take a look. Adobe Photoshop Express (Beta) is a Web 2.0 application for editing and sharing your digital images, and is seen to be a replacement for a program you buy and load onto your computer. It is — at this time, anyway — a free service (and surprisingly, has no ads).

I would be very surprised if you haven’t heard of Photoshop; it has been around so long, it has become a verb in today’s language (meaning “to create a fake image”). Photoshop is the tool which allows you to put your head on someone else’s body.. or make it look like you’re standing on the moon.. or remove your Ex from your old vacation pictures. (With the right starting photos, there’s almost nothing I can’t fake in Photoshop.)

Photoshop has long been considered the premier digital image manipulation program. As I discussed in this article, “Web 2.0” is all about us regular folks being able to ‘upload’ to the Web (and “share”/collaborate) instead of simply viewing (‘downloading’) content. And frankly, Adobe is not the first to the market of online photo sharing Websites, nor sites that let you edit your pictures once you’ve loaded them.. Picassa and Photobucket have been around for a while now (to name a few).

Considering Photoshop’s reputation, I wanted to know if Adobe’s online service had superior editing capabilities. editing To use Express, you must “join” the club, by providing an e-mail address and creating a user account. While you do that, you create a personalized URL (like, http://yourname.photoshop.com) where you can post your pictures in “galleries”, if you want to share them (which is not required). Once you’re a member, you “upload” your pictures, and you can now edit them, and organize them into galleries, e-mail them, or use them as images on (other) Websites.

The screenshot above shows the image editing screen. Those of you who have ever used Photoshop Elements will be very familiar with this interface. The editing options (left column) provide a thumbnail range above your original so you can see, and select from, adjustments. This makes ‘tweaking’ your image quite easy and straight-forward, and allows you to experiment without ruining your original.

Is this for you? Well, as it stands, I find that there are some basic image editing features which are missing (it is possible I just couldn’t find the menu..) such as image resizing and dots-per-inch adjustment. You can crop, but not shrink.. nor adjust file type or size. I am an advanced Photoshop user, and so I find the tools in Photoshop Elements overly simplified, and these even more so– which is precisely what many people want.

While this (at least, in its current state) tool will not let you paste your head onto a super-model’s body, or pose on the moon, it will let you smoothly and easily tweak your images, remove the red-eye effect, and share your pictures with far away friends and relatives. If you are not already using a similar service.. or are not satisfied with the one you’re using.. you should give this a tryout. It is very slick and easy to use. Click the link in the second sentence, and get started.

*Original posting: 4/14/08

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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July 19, 2008 Posted by | computers, Digital Images, how to, Internet, software, tech, Web 2.0 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Rejuvenate your PC

When my computer was fresh-out-of-the-box, and all shiny and new, it was speedier than it is now. It had a spring in its step that seems to be lacking now. Can you relate?

There are reasons for this ‘slowing down’, of course. Some of them are just ‘facts’, and there’s not much we can do about them, and others we can (should) remedy. Today I’ll list and review the basic PC steps, which will optimize your computer’s performance, and provide you with the links to my more detailed How-To’s.

*Your files:
A primary cause for PCs ‘slowing down’ is simply that there is more stuff (files) on your hard-drive now, and the more you put on there, the more there is for your computer to keep track of (index). You have added applications (programs), Updates, and all your files, and the volume on your hard-drive has grown– probably quite a bit! [note: to function properly, you should always have at least 10% “free space” on your drive.]

Clean off the junk. As you use your machine, and browse the Internet, you will pick up scraps of files (temps), and you will put things into the Recycle Bin, etc., and I recommend that once a week you use the Disk Cleanup Tool to “take out the trash”. My article on this tool is here.

Get organized. As you machine writes data to the hard-drive, which it is doing a lot, it places things in the first available block of space to save time. The first available space is not necessarily the best or most logical place, though, and we need to come along after and put things in better order. The tool for this is a “defragmenter”, and it should be run at least once a month. I wrote an article on how to set this tool to run automatically, here.

Make space. You may also want to make more space on your hard-drive, and do some “serious cleaning”, by going into the Add/Remove Programs area of your Control Panel and uninstalling any programs you never use anymore.

Get physical. It may seem a bit un-intuitive, but excess heat can cause your PC to run slower, and so I highly recommend a physical cleaning of your machine as well… particularly removing the dust and lint build-ups around your fan vents (depending on your environment, you may want to do this every couple of days). Every so often, (say, 1/month) open the cover (usually a side panel) and use a can of compressed air to blow out all that dust and dirt and pet hair and…
[note: you want to do this to your printer, too. For more on that, click here.]

Today’s free link: Believe it or not, some people just prefer not to use the tools built into Windows, and insist on using specialized “3rd-party” tools to do the job (imagine that), and a top-rated (free) disk defragmentation tool is the Auslogics Disk Defrag.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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July 18, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, performance, software, tech, tweaks, Windows | , , , , , | 1 Comment