Tech – for Everyone

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

My Power Is OUT

Folks, yesterday we had a wind storm and our electricity went out. It is still out. I had to go mobile to do today’s publishing. So I will let this event serve as a reminder to me to remind you that power outages happen and you can mitigate their effects on your digital devices– I am reposting:

A Power Outage Wake-up Call

This morning I experienced something that I haven’t had happen to me in a very long time — a total electricity outage that lasted for more than an hour. I do not want you to think I’m a complete wimp (in the days of my youth, “brownouts” and “blackouts” were fairly common and frequent), but it did serve to give me a reminder of just how electricity-dependent I am… the fact that I had a page of un-Saved work suddenly and irrevocably lost was my ‘bad’.

Tip of the day: Give yourself time to save your work, invest in a UPS.
I was made aware of my suddenly electricity-less state by a funny sound, and my screen shrinking to a single white dot… followed by black. This was all the evidence I needed: the house had no juice. (…no phone, no light, no motor-car. Not a single luxury… Ahem. Sorry.)

This told me two things; I have gotten lazy with my preventative, regular Save-ing (and Save As Draft-ing), and I need to get my sister an Uninteruptable Power Supply, or “UPS”.
I used to be as regular as clockwork. Start a new document and “Save As” it and give it a name/location. Every paragraph, a “Ctrl+S” (Save). This was a routine I developed not so much because of daily brownouts, but because in Windows 95 (through 98 SE) you simply never knew when the next BSOD would strike. Losing your work was a much more common frustration.

And if there had been a UPS between the wall outlet and my sister’s PC and the modem and the monitor, I would have had ten to fifteen minutes to complete and save my work, and get it published on the Web. That would’ve been nice. Would have saved me an “aaarrgg!!” Even nicer would have been an industrial strength portable generator, tied into the house’s grid… but those ain’t cheap.

A UPS is, essentially, a battery. It draws current to charge itself  from the line, and then just sits there in case of an outage. When a major dip in the current, or complete failure occurs on the main line, the UPS switches to the charge it has stored in its battery. Because of this fact, a lot of people call a UPS a “battery backup”.  Dependant on the size (which affects the price) of the battery is how long a time you have to run before it runs out of juice. Typically, this is 10 minutes or so.

When you are shopping for a UPS, it is preferable to get one that is “line interactive” (also called “line conditioning”), as opposed to an “offline” type. This is because they will “even out” the ’spikes’ and ‘dips’ which you get from municiple utilities.

There are several reputable UPS manufacturers, and some are even based here in the good ‘old US of A, APC and Tripplite being the best known, but there are others. You can get a very good unit for about a hundred dollars. If you work out of your home as a “telecommuter”, you seriously should have one (or more) of these devices.

Today’s free link:Today another file recovery program. This one works on both FAT32 and NTFS files. Recover Files 2.0. From site: “Recover Files is a small, fast, useful, practical and powerful. It has a clean, simple interface. Recover Files will work with Windows 95, 98, Me, NT, 2000, XP, 2003, Vista operating systems.“

September 30, 2009 Posted by | computers, tech | 4 Comments

Getting The Best From Your HDTV

Bringing home your shiny new HDTV is just the beginning

A very smart man once told me, “Paul, don’t re-invent the wheel”. He wasn’t being derisive or mean, he was simply reminding me of a basic tenet that I sometimes forget. I was reminded of it today when considering how to write today’s HDTV article, and in my research came across a series written by Becky Waring for PC World magazine. It says it all, and does so far better than I could, so I am simply going to point you to it! She covers all the bases, and if you own (or are about to own) a HDTV, I’m sure you’ll find it well worth your time.

“Bringing home your shiny new HDTV is just the beginning of your home theater adventure. But don’t settle, as many HDTV buyers do, for just plugging your new set into your existing setup. The next steps you need to take after bringing your HDTV home are crucial to both your enjoyment of the set and getting the most out of your investment…”
Please see How to Install Your HDTV

Other titles in the series are:
How to Get the Best Video Signal for Your HDTV

How to Improve the Picture and Sound on Your HDTV

How to Connect Your New HDTV Properly

Stream HD Video From Your PC and Other Devices

[a brief aside: I seem to be coming across articles by Ms Waring more frequently of late, and I’m glad of it. She is top-drawer.]

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

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September 29, 2009 Posted by | advice, dtv, hardware, HDTV, how to, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Picture From India

Non-standard cabling?

One of my clients sent me this picture, and I had to look twice at it before I really understood what I was looking at. It is a utility pole (electricity/phone) sure enough, but that is not confetti left over after some Mardi Gras type celebration… or debris blown there by a tornado.. that is cabling!


After that realization, my regard for our power company, and yes, even AT&T  went up a notch or two…

Crazy busy Monday here, so…

September 28, 2009 Posted by | tech | 9 Comments

Troubleshooting Thumbdrives*

Functional Flash Drive Doesn’t Work At The Office

A reader e-mailed me a question I believe will be of interest to other readers of this series. He wants to use a thumb drive to transfer files between his computer at his work and his home computer, but the work computer will not recognize the thumb drive. He wanted advice on how to fix this.

Q: My thumb drive works great at home, but when I took it into work to try and copy some files so I could work at home, I plug it in and the little window never opens so I cannot use it. What am I doing wrong?
A: There are several possible reasons for this, and here’s a few things to try:
* One may be that Windows is “recognizing” the device, but isn’t displaying the little “Found new hardware” balloon for some reason (such as a Service isn’t running). Open My Computer, Start >My Computer, (just “Computer” in Vista) and look for the drive there. If it’s there, great, just double-click it, but if it’s not…

* Try plugging the drive into a different USB port. It is possible that the one you tried has “gone bad”. (It helps if you use an open port on the machine, and not use a hub.) If that isn’t it…

* Ask your company’s IT department if USB volumes have been disabled. Many companies are turning off USB access to iPods/Media Players and thumb drives (storage devices) in an effort to prevent “data leakage”.. which is a fancy way of saying, preventing the employees from walking out the door with the Company Secrets. If this is indeed the case, you can ask that an exception be made in your case. If your request is granted, they will re-”enable” USB storage devices on your machine.
But if that isn’t it…

* It is possible that the drive letter your thumb drive is pre-disposed to being assigned (say, “E:” or “F:”), is being used by another device or “share” on the company network, and so it isn’t being seen as a volume (aka “drive”).. you’ll have a volume, but without a drive letter, Windows won’t “see” it and you can’t use it.
1) Right-click on My Computer and select “Manage” from the context menu.
2) click the “+” sign next to “Storage” to expand the tree, and then click on “Disk Management”.
You will now see all the volumes on your computer..

This screenshot  shows that I have two volumes/drives, and that they both have been assigned drive letters [(C:) and (D:)] — this means they’re “recognized” and fully functional. What we’re looking for in our thumb drive issue is a volume that does not have a letter.

3) If you see one (that will be the troublesome thumb drive), right-click on it and select “Change Drive Letter and Paths…” from the context menu. A small window will open.
4) click on the “Add” button, and another small window will open. Use the drop-down arrow next to “Assign the following drive letter” and choose one of the letters (those shown will be “available” letters on the company network). It really doesn’t matter which letter you choose. Then click “OK”, and “OK” again.

You should now be back in business, and you can use the thumb drive as you’re used to. Open My Computer again and you’ll see the thumb drive and double-clicking it will open it up.

* If these steps fail to allow Windows to see the USB thumb drive, submit a trouble ticket to your company’s IT department.

Today’s free download: Once upon a time, the visionaries of IT thought that the answer to creating a “paperless society”, and getting all the disparate machine types talking to each other, was the PDF (portable document format). The PDF was to be create-able by anyone and readable by anyone, but Adobe didn’t see much profit in that… If you find that you need to create a PDF, but don’t have Acrobat or Word 2007, you can do so by downloading PrimoPDF, which can convert over 300 formats into .pdf’s.

Orig post: 4/7/08

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

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September 26, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, gadgets, hardware, how to, Microsoft, PC, Plug and Play, Portable Computing, tech, thumb drives, troubleshooting, Windows | , , , | 3 Comments

Life Online

Today someone posted a comment on my site that just made me say “wow” (with a little “w”). What I meant to say is – somebody programmed a script to use infected PC’s (yours?) to robotically go out and submit this comment to blog after blog after blog…

“Hello everyone!
I would like to burn a theme at here. There is such a nicey, called HYIP, or High Yield Investment Program. It reminds of ponzy-like structure, but in rare cases one may happen to meet a company that really pays up to 2% daily not on invested money, but from real profits.

For several years , I earn money with the help of these programs. I’m with no money problems now, but there are heights that must be conquered . I get now up to 2G a day , and I started with funny 500 bucks.
Right now, I managed to catch a guaranteed variant to make a sharp rise . Turn to my web site to get additional info.

So we have several problems here. We have the people who think it’s OK to do this “fleecing of the stupid”; we have an unpoliced Internet built on insecure technology; we have all the morons who click the links; and we have all these botted PC’s because people won’t secure their (usually obsolete) machines; and we have poor spellers.

I am not sure what the cure is for many of these issues, but I do know the cure for one.. Please see Our Modern Nightmare – Zombie Attack. And, have a good weekend.

September 25, 2009 Posted by | Internet | 4 Comments

iTunes Album Art

I was helping a young man with his computer this morning, and he wanted to show me something he thought was “kewel” and that he was obviously proud of. So I said, “OK. Show me.itunes screenshot

It turned out that what he wanted to ‘Show & Tell’ was his iTunes, and how he had managed to acquire the “album art” for (practically) every entry in his very extensive music collection.

Now, I have to tell you that old Tech Paul is not “into” music enough these days to clutter up my hard drive with songs (and I won’t install iTunes on my PC’s for security reasons) but in my younger years I was very into my audio.. so I could understand this fella’s enthusiasm.

He explained that iTunes is only “so so” at getting album art, and he talked about his efforts he had gone through to find the art for the more esoteric titles in his collection. I told him that sounded like a lot of work..

He confirmed that it was. And then he told me about how he had paid $30 for a “lifetime” tool that did the work for him, and did an “excellent” job. He was quite enthusiastic, so I’ll pass along his reco’ — it’s called TuneUp. You can click here to visit the website and watch the Flash video demonstration, and/or download.
There is a free version, but it is limited.

TuneUp does more than just find album art, it cleans up your tags, and works to fix your “Unknown Artists”, “Track 01s”, or the same artist labeled multiple different ways.

Today’s free download: I also found AlbumArtFinder for iTunes, which I haven’t tested out.
AlbumArtFinder for iTunes – images for all the songs in an iTunes library show up on iPod Photo. Uses the web service to automatically search for the largest image for any given album. Option to use smaller versions of images.

Perhaps my more savvy readers will share some iTunes tips in my Comments… as this is really “not my cup of tea”.

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

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September 24, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, iPhone, PC, software, tech | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Technical Training In Tough Times

Your Ticket To A Happy Life?

Perhaps you’ve seen those commercials on TV that encourage you to “get out of your dead-end job” and get yourself a wonderful life. All you need is some (expensive) “technical training”. Well, if it’s on TV, it must be true. Right? And.. computers are everywhere.. Right?

About a year ago, I was asked if I wouldn’t be willing to promote IT training. More specifically — IT training from a certain online “university”. I replied, “Certainly! I am a proud graduate of XYZ Online University! And I would be delighted to give my old school a plug!”

Actually, I’m sure the Promotions man was hoping to hear something along those lines .. but instead he got, “Dear Promotions Person,
1) I am not about to promote something I’ve never even heard of, and 2) I would advise the young people today to learn a traditional Trade — something not IT. Haven’t you heard of outsourcing? Or H1B visas? Orcloud computing“? IT jobs are going away. I mean, Microsoft just laid off 5,000. Microsoft!”
So.. he offered me $10 per link to the school. (Hmmm… 1 link a day.. for a year.. Shoot!)

In the last week, Tech Republic (an IT-centric site) sent me newsletters with these article titles in them:

* A 40-hour week? Not in IT
IT has always been known for its long hours, but according to a new survey by the IT Job Board, the situation is getting worse..

* Workplace suicide rate up dramatically
There was a 28 percent increase in the number of suicides committed in the workplace last year over the prior year. What’s behind this disturbing trend?

* Five job search tips for discouraged job seekers ¹
Authors of a new book encourage job seekers to never give up. Here are five of their tips for job search survival.
(¹ This was also sent out with the title, “Five Job Search Tips For The Hopeless.”)

Hmmm… Why does Tech Republic think IT types will look at those? Maybe because there’s lots of massively experienced and skilled IT people looking for work, and have been for a long time now. They’re now putting up fliers saying “will fix your PC”. I know this because I saw some right next to my old flier.
(I think, but couldn’t prove, that the more experienced and more skilled are being laid off first — because their salaries were higher.)

I personally know several great IT folks who have been looking for work in their field for over a year. And I know a few who have survived the rounds of layoffs — this time. And I know many who are back in the classroom hoping that a different Certification – such as Server Virtualization – will keep them working a while longer. (Which Certificate is “hot” is a big, big topic. Because it does make a difference, as “tech” is always changing {ask a Novell Administrator}).

I’m not saying that IT Training is useless; nor that there aren’t IT jobs. And I’m not any kind of analyst or expert². And I am not telling you how to live your life. But I am saying perception isn’t always reality, and that if you’re thinking about starting a new career in Tech there’s something to consider: in tough economic times, the IT budget is (usually) the first to get cut. And please click those links up there.. and learn about outsourcing. That won’t go away even in a boom time. I am suggesting please do some research. Maybe.. start here.

And, please, be very leery of online universities.

Today’s free links: (for job seekers)
* Online job listing an ID theft scam:
‘Background check’ used to steal full slate of personal info…
* Keep Your Dreams Alive*

Today’s free download: Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator 1.4
Ever wanted to quickly and easily define your own keyboard layout for a language Microsoft doesn’t support? Or define your own keyboard layout so you can quickly and easily enter your favorite symbols with a simple keystroke? Well, want no more: the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator is here!

² I wouldn’t mind getting feedback from those more in the know. Or, who are hiring…

[update: Best U.S. cities to find tech jobs]

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

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September 23, 2009 Posted by | tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments