Tech – for Everyone

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

Spring?

We are having – here in the Silicon Valley – a preview of Spring so convincing that some of my flowers have decided to bloom. (This after a three day bout of rain that dropped 11 inches.) I guess daffodils are easily duped.

dafodils

Last year, I did not write a Spring-related article (see, A few extra tugs) until mid-March.

I like the Springtime. And I love Summer. And the early part of Fall is okay with me too. What I don’t like is cold. And add gray, and add wet..? Well, cold, gray, and wet is not for me. As soon as I’m elected Supreme Benevolent Omnipotent Dictator Of All Things, one of my first acts will be to abolish Winter (everywhere except Alaska, and the Arctic’s.. and Greenland, and maybe, Switzerland. “Snow people” need somewhere they can go ski/snowmobile/etc.)

I understand that many of my readers are in locations where Old Man Winter is still fully in charge. Some of you may still even have (shudder) snow. You have my sympathies, and.. vote for me.

Tip of the day: Springtime means Spring Cleaning (and pruning.. and planting.. and gutter-cleaning..) and so I am going to remind you that your computer needs an occasional cleaning too. (Nice transition, eh?)

Get rid of the dust and lint: Dust and lint can reduce your computer’s performance, cooling efficiency, and even cause ‘fatal’ short-circuits.
* For desktop PCs, unplug your computer’s power cord from the wall and open your computer’s case so you can see all the neato circuitry inside. How, exactly your case opens will vary with make/model, but it is usually a side panel, and the side panel is held in place with two thumb-screws (the manufacturer’s website will have instructions, also).
Once the case is open, use the techniques I described in my printer maintenance article to remove the built-up dust bunnies. Pay special attention to air venting areas (and screens), such as by the power supply. (And, be careful and be gentle.)

* For notebooks, your cleaning is going to be a little different: you will want to get all the debris from out from under your keyboard keys, as I describe in this article. And you’ll want to wipe down your screen with an anti-static cloth (which may may require the slightest [just a drop or two.. in one corner..] moistening with plain water.

Today’s free download: PhotoScape “is an all-in-one style photo editor with fun and ease of use. Major capabilities are: viewer, editor, batch editor, page, combine, animated GIF, print, splitter, screen capture, color picker, rename, raw converter, resizing, brightness/color/white-balance adjustment, backlight correction, frames, balloons, text, drawing pictures, cropping, filters, red eye removal and blooming.”

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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February 21, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, performance | 4 Comments

Speed Up Your PC – Free!

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, as well as some great free tools.

wings

image courtesy of istockphoto.com

Tip of the day: Rejuvenate your PC.
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% keep some “free space” on your drive. Say, about 4 GB’s.]

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.

Today’s free downloads: 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).
* A top-rated (free) cleanup tool is CCleaner.
* A top-rated (free) disk defragmentation tool is the Auslogics Disk Defrag.
* A top-rated (free) program Uninstaller is Revo.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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February 20, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, performance, tech, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

New Rogue Uses Fake PC Magazine Review

Yesterday, the good folks at BleepingComputer posted removal instructions for a rogue antivirus (please see, Internet Plague – Rogue Antivirus) that is demonstrating a new behavior…

Quote: “Anti-virus-1 is a new rogue anti-spyware program from the same family as Antivirus 2010 and Antivirus 360. This program is promoted primarily through two methods. The first is through the use of advertisements that pretend to be online anti-malware scanners. These advertisements go through what appears to be a scan of your machine and then when finished, state that your computer is infected and that you should download Anti-virus-1 to protect yourself.

Remember, though, that this is just an advertisement and it has no way of knowing what is running on your computer. The second method that is used to promote this rogue is through the use of Trojans. When certain Trojans are installed on your computer they will display security alerts stating that your computer is infected or that you have some other security risk. When you click on these alerts, it will download and install Anti-virus-1 onto your computer…”

But that is not the new part, the new behavior adds entries to your HOSTS file so that if you go to any of a number of technology sites, including pcmag.com, you are instead brought to their site and are shown the malware author’s content. This content includes a doctored PCMag review of their fake anti-malware product.

For more on the story, click here.
And for removal instructions, click here.

A big tip of my geek hat to BleepingComputer.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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February 19, 2009 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, antivirus, computers, cyber crime, Internet scam, News, phraud, security, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

[ALERT] Call Immediately for Details, E-Lotto Promotions

For those readers who don’t believe that I win $2.5 million every couple of days…

PRIZE/PROMOTION AWARD DEPT.
LOTTO NL.
CATEGORY “A” WINNER
Ref No: TIS-404/8231
Batch Number: NL 80 OS 94144448
Amount Won: $2,500,000.00
Dear Internet User
We are pleased to inform you of the result of the Lotto NL. Internet Promotional Draws. All email addresses entered for this promotional draws were randomly inputted from an internet resource database using the Synchronized Random Selection System (SRSS).
Your email address was selected in the Category “A” with Reference Number TIS-404/8231, and this qualifies you to be the recipient of the grand prize award sum of $2,500,000 (Two million, five hundred thousand dollars). The payout of this cash prize to you will be subject to the final validations and satisfactory report that you are the bonafide owner of the winning email address.
In line with the governing rules of claim, you are required to establish contact with your designated claims agent via email or telephone with the particulars below:
Name: Mr. David Berman
Phone: +31-647-283-937
Email: da_berman01@live.nl
You are advised to call the Claims agent for confirmation or provide the following information for processing the payment of your cash award.
DATA PROFILE
Names:
Telephone/Fax number:
Nationality:
Age:
Occupation:
Winning Reference Number:
Failure to complete the claims of your cash prize after 14 days of this notice will result in the revision of award. Hence, you should commence your claims process immediately, by contacting the claims agent (Mr. David Berman) who would be guiding you through the Claims process.
Congratulations on your Winning Prize and we look forward to completing your payout soon.
Yours Faithfully,
Emily Jean Barry
Lottery Co-ordinator

… You guys are seeing the pattern here, right?

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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February 19, 2009 Posted by | cyber crime, Internet scam, spam and junk mail | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Restrict Roommates Internet Use

Quick Tip — Use Your Router’s Advanced Features For Best Use Of Shared Connections

If you are in a house with multiple computers, and you want to restrict “the amount of Internet” those other machines use, you can use settings (aka “options”) in your router and give yourself #1 priority.

Today’s topic comes from a question from a (younger) fella who lives with roommates, and they all “share” his connection. Which is fine with him except for when their online activity slows down his surfing or online gaming.
So he wanted to know how to make sure he got “first dibs”. (Though I confess, he called it “more bandwidth”.)

Tip of the day: Use your router’s advanced abilities to limit other computers’ Internet usage.

1) Open your browser and access the router’s Control Panel. (for instructions, see Protecting-your-network – use-your-router-for-access-control)

qos.jpg

2) Find the Advanced Settings tab for “QoS” (Quality of Service).
On a Linksys router, that is under “Applications and Gaming”, but yours may have a different name.

3) Give your PC’s MAC Address a rating of “Highest”
* To get the MAC, open a command prompt (Start >Programs >Accessories) on your machine and enter “ipconfig /all” {no quotes}. Look for “Physical Address”. A MAC address will look like 01-23-45-67-8A-9B.

* Note: You might also want to set other machines to “low”.

4) Enable, Save, and exit.

That’s it, your done. Now your Internet “data packets” will go first, and any other Internet user will have to wait for your request to finish.

[note: there are some other priority tweaks you can make here too. Click on the image to see large version, and note my arrows.]

Today’s free download: EncryptOnClick is a very simple to use program that lets you securely encrypt and decrypt files… basically, with a click.

[addenda: You can further limit the amount of bandwidth your roommates use by setting keyword and website blocking that will cripple their P2P file downloading and video watching — the two biggest bandwidth hogs. The access control article (above) has the How To.]

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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February 18, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, Internet, networking, performance, routers, routers and WAPs, tech, tweaks | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Microsoft “One-click” Fixes

Save Money By D-I-Y

A long time ago now I wrote an article that reminded my readers that Windows comes with built-in methods to help you solve “issues” and fix your own computer — see, Windows’ built-in Help Desk.

The article shows you how to take advantage of that button on your Start menu labeled “Help and Support”.
vistahs

The vast majority of computer users never have clicked on this built-in troubleshooting tool.. or did so back in the Windows 95/98 days, and they didn’t find it very useful.

But I’d like to tell you that Microsoft has been slowly but surely modernizing this tool and I highly advise you to click the link (above) and see my description of it. Many improvements have been made (including integration with online resources) and I can now say that the Help and Support button should be the first thing you click on when you experience a hardware or software “glitch”.

Help and Support walks you through the basic troubleshooting steps (the same preliminaries I would have you try), and if you make it through the wizards without resolving your issue — you have the option to access the “next level”, online knowledge libraries.
MS_H&S

In their effort to make Microsoft Support even more “novice friendly”, there are now several “one click” buttons to be found on the solutions pages.

There is also a Microsoft Fix it Solution Center which presents a method of finding these buttons by category.
Fixit Center

While these improvements do cut into a support tech’s bottom line, I do think you should be aware this valuable resource. I’m still available for the really tricky troubles..  and when you call (if you’ve tried the Help and Support button) you can save money because we won’t have to run through those ABC steps again!

[A note to admins: If you don’t want your users downloading .reg files.. you may want to block this URL..]

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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February 17, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, software, tech, troubleshooting | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Open Source Guru Joins WOT

Michael Widenius, founder of MySQL, invests in Web of Trust

Helsinki, Finland (PRWEB) February 16, 2009

Michael “Monty” Widenius, founder of MySQL and a guru for the global open source movement, has invested in WOT (Web of Trust). WOT is a free, community-driven, security add-on that helps Internet users protect themselves against online threats

When I first learned about WOT, I was intrigued because it answers the common question Internet users have – Can I trust this website? – by uniquely combining a community-driven approach, Internet resources and browser technology. The growth and success of MySQL was in many aspects due to our active user community. WOT’s big and active community shows a similar strength, and I like the fact that through WOT we are helping making the Internet a better and safer place,” said Widenius, who will take a seat on the company’s Board of Directors.

Web of Trust offers Internet users preventive protection against Internet scams, identity theft, spyware, spam and unreliable online shops. The WOT security add-on provides safety ratings to search results when using Google, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Digg and other popular sites, helping users protect their computers and personal information.

WOT’s Website rating information is continuously updated by the user community and from numerous trusted sources, such as listings of malware and phishing sites. The free Internet security add-on works with Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers and can be downloaded at http://www.mywot.com.

More news Dept: Worm Bounty set by Microsoft ($250,000)

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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February 16, 2009 Posted by | Internet, News, security, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments