Tech – for Everyone

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

Sunday Beauty 51

A pretty picture for your Sunday..

“Lago Huechulaufquen, Provincia de Neuquén, Patagonia Argentina” by Andrés Sánchez. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Today’s quote:Cheerfulness is what greases the axles of the world.  Don’t go through life creaking.”  ~ H.W. Byles

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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July 24, 2011 Posted by | Digital Images | 6 Comments

How To Free Up Space On Your Computer (and Make It Run ‘Better’)*

And Some Saturday Fun, Too.

The simple and handy Disk Cleanup Tool has been a part of Windows since Windows 95. Today I am going to demonstrate how to use it, and explain why you should.

Tip of the day: Use the Disk Cleanup tool to — in a single step — free up disk space, empty your Recycle bin, “compress” old files, and remove the “temporary” Internet files that your machine picks up while browsing and downloading (improving your privacy/security); and, optionally, remove unused Windows “components” and installed programs.

If that sounds like lot a lot, it is. And it surprises me that Microsoft buries this useful tool under a series of menus — it would make sense to me to have a “one-button clean up” icon in Quick Launch, or on the desktop,.. or in the Start Menu.

As with most Windows items, there’s five or six different methods for getting to the same place, but the route I take is to open My Computer (just “Computer” in Vista/Windows 7) which is usually found by clicking the Start button.

mypc.jpg

Locate, and right-click on your hard drive icon, which typically is labeled “Local Disk (C:)”, and then click on the “Properties” menu selection as shown above.

Now the hard drive’s Properties window will open to the “General” tab, which regular readers of this series will recognize, as shown below.

props.jpg

Click the “Disk Cleanup” button, and a window will open that shows the progress as the tool scans your drive for files that it can safely remove for you…

calc.jpg

When the scan is finished, Disk Cleanup will present you with a list of the results –by category – which will show you the amount of space you can recover. This list of categories is selectable via checkboxes, and some are selected for you by default.

dc_opts.jpg

Accepting the defaults and clicking “OK” is fine, but you can modify it for greater space savings. This list includes all the files Windows says it’s safe to remove, and so, conceivably, you could place a check in all the checkboxes without hurting your machine or deleting important “system” files. But, I recommend that you do not select “Hibernation files” (if it appears on the list) nor “Catalog files for the Content Indexer”, nor Office installer files (“setup log files”).

In the screenshot above, I have clicked on “Offline Webpages” and placed a check in its checkbox, because I don’t use offline Webpages. (Note the “View” button: this allows you to see what is going to be removed.. if you’re the curious sort.)
When you’re finished making your selections (or, going with the defaults), click “OK”.

rusure.jpg

Don’t let this scare you. Click “Yes”. .

prog.jpg

Disk Cleanup will briefly show you that it’s working, and then return you to the hard drive Properties window. In my case, I will have cleaned 117,472 thousand bytes of useless files from my machine. The general rule of thumb is that you run this tool once a week for good hard drive health.

You are now done removing and compressing. But the Disk Cleanup tool allows you to get rid of more stuff you don’t use. There is a second tab, called “More Options”.

moreopts.jpg

Here you can click links (buttons) that will allow you to remove Windows “components” (such as IE, and the fax service), installed programs, and System Restore Points.
My advice on the last — System Restore — is to not save disk space here. Let System Restore itself handle removing the oldest Restore Points, which it does automatically.

The middle button takes you to Add/Remove Programs. The most effective way to give yourself more hard drive space, speed up your PC’s performance, and reduce your machine’s overhead is to uninstall programs that you never use. Forget “optimizer” programs, use this instead.

The Components button takes you to a sub-menu of Add/Remove Programs. Again, you probably don’t need to fool around here… so my General Advice is to ignore the More Options tab; but, it won’t hurt you to look around, and I’ve fulfilled the promise of the title of this article.

* Orig post: 11/7/07

Saturday fun: A reader wrote in and reminded me that, yes, while Mike Meyers is, indeed, “silly”, one should not forget that perhaps there is a “silly”-ier man on the scene: Jim Carrey. Though he has a large body of work, when I think of him, I do so (first) not as a pet detective, but in a skit on SNL.. which started a series of skits.. maybe you remember ..

While someone else wrote in with a vote for Mr. Bean…

Enjoy your weekend, everybody!

And I salute you if you were geeky enough to have noticed that the disk pictured was a 10GB model. Kinda hard to believe there were such things.. my phone has more storage than that! (Here at T4E Headquarters, we use “geek” as a compliment.)

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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July 23, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, Microsoft, PC, performance, software, tech, Vista, Windows, Windows 7, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Friday. Again.

Well folks, it’s Friday again. For a very long while now, Friday’s have always held a special place in my heart. And, it’s on Fridays that I tend to make these Tech – for Everyone articles a bit more on the fun side of things. Take a break from gizmos and gadgets.

I am kinda curious, and I am tempted to take a poll (maybe I will.. hmm.. ) about the following guessing game – how many T4E will recognize the following?

Finished with my woman ’cause she couldn’t help me with my mind
People think I’m insane because I am frowning all the time
All day long I think of things but nothing seems to satisfy
Think I’ll lose my mind if I don’t find something to pacify
Can you help me occupy my brain?

I need someone to show me the things in life that I can’t find
I can’t see the things that make true happiness, I must be blind
Make a joke and I will sigh and you will laugh and I will cry
Happiness I cannot feel and love to me is so unreal
And so as you hear these words telling you now of my state
I tell you to enjoy life I wish I could but it’s too late

Okay. I will take a short survey.

Multiple answers are allowed, but.. let’s treat this poll with seriousness and the respect it deserves. Take your best answer.

I will tell you it is old. Ancient even. It dates back to the year 1970.. over 40 years ago! Long before the Internet was even a twinkle in your old man’s eye (as the saying goes).

Well, I won’t keep you guessing any longer. I will show you —

That is Ozzy Ozbourne. (He looks a bit different now..) Still rockin’ though. Maybe you watched his TV show..

I hope that “beat” will ‘pump you up’ and carry you through your day. The weekend will be here before you know it!

Or.. perhaps maybe you’ll like this better? (It has a “beat” too.)
turn off your mind relax and float downstream

(.. and if you’re wondering: part of this is due to my testing of Spotify..)

More Friday Fun: the Help Desk answer wheel


(This, I discovered [when looking for the source], is all over the web. First time I’ve seen it though. Thank you, Dear Reader, for bringing it to my attention. [you know who you are.])

Today’s quote:The best vitamin to be a happy person is B1.”  ~ Unknown

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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July 22, 2011 Posted by | blogging | 4 Comments

Basic Safety Tips for Online Shopping

It seems we are now entering the ‘Back To School’ shopping season. So, I am posting the following Basic Internet Shopping Tips in the hopes that Tech–for Everyone readers will not join the 12 million Americans who had their identities stolen last year. Please review this short checklist, and be a smarter, safer shopper.

  • Download/Install Software Updates — Regularly!
  • Use Complex Passwords (include numerals and symbols — @#$%^&*[])
  • Use ‘Onetime’ Credit Cards.
  • Verify Secure Connections before entering any info.
    See that little padlock symbol at the bottom of your screen, and in the URL address bar?
  • Check Your Credit report – make it a routine.
  • Enter Your Shopping Site’s Web Address Manually, and double-check your typing (embedded links = no!).
  • Shop From Your Own computer (not a public ‘hotspot’).
  • Enable your browser’s phishing filter, or install an add-on. (such as the super-easy WOT toolbar)
  • Do not Send Credit Card Information Over E-mail. Even if you think it’s secure. Don’t send it over IM either. If you feel uncomfortable about sending personal information online, call up the business.

I would like to direct your attention to the first bulletpoint. The programs on your computer need to be fully “patched” with the latest updates, as exploiting weaknesses is the primary method hackers use to infect your machines. (You visit a website that they’ve ‘poisoned’, and if you have an unpatched ‘hole’ [aka “vulnerability”], bingo – you’re infected.)

How do you know if you have the latest updates? For all your installed programs? Do you think you are patched? Don’t guess. Be sure!

Today’s free download: Secunia offers a tool that I highly recommend. The online scanner (which you should bookmark, btw) will scan your machine for roughly 100 programs and tell you if there is a patch/update you need. If you go this route, I suggest you visit once or twice a week.)
Better yet, they offer a download, a Personal Edition, which will scan your system against a database of over 7,000 programs.
Even better yet, it includes direct download links to the missing patches it finds.

I just ran it and it found an old ActiveX plug in, and told me that my Java Runtime Environment was out of date.. and I didn’t think I had installed JRE on this machine!
vulnerabilities1

Related: Careful online shopping (a repost)

“It appears that we’ve reached a point where more people are doing their gift-buying online than at the mall.  It’s a fact: there are more reasons to do your shopping online this year than there were before ($3.49-per-gallon reasons)”

* Original posting: 12/20/08

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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July 21, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Internet, security, tech | | Leave a comment

Methods For Making Text Larger

A How To for Windows 7, Vista, and XP

Sometimes I find the size of the print on certain websites a bit too small for comfortable reading. When that happens, I simply hold down the Ctrl key, and use the mouse scroll wheel to increase (or decrease) the text size. This “zoom” (or shrink) only affects the current window.

[The “keyboard shortcut” Ctrl + “+” (bigger font size) and Ctrl + “-” (smaller) works the same way.]

If this is a constant problem for you, there are a couple of quick settings adjustments you can make that will make the items on your computer screen bigger, without pushing everything off of the edges.

Microsoft calls these adjustments “Accessibility” settings.. which makes a certain amount of sense, if you think of reading your screen as “accessing” the information.

Tip of the day: Enlarge your fonts and icons for easier reading. The first and easiest way is to change the screen settings to a larger dpi (dots per inch), which, strange as it sounds, is not the same thing as changing your screen’s resolution. Your screen resolution is determined (usually) by your monitor’s size, and should be set to the highest setting your monitor allows. This is the number of ‘lines’ drawn to create your screen image, and the more lines you have the crisper (sharper) your image will be, reducing the blocky effect called “pixilation.
However, increasing you resolution has the consequence of making the items on your screen smaller. But, that is what you want to do anyway; the higher the resolution the better.

To offset the shrinking effects of high resolution, (or simply to aid those with less than terrific vision) you may want to increase the dpi number.

Step 1: Right-click on any blank (non-icon) area of your Desktop. Then, click on the bottom menu choice — “Personalize” in Vista/Win7, and “Properties” in older versions.

I will demonstrate Windows 7 first. For older versions, scroll down:

Windows 7
On the bottom left, click on “Ease of Access Center“. Then click on “Make the computer easier to see“.
EoA

Then click “Change the size of text and icons“.
Win7opts

And, finally, you can use one of three presets, or set a ‘custom’ dpi size.
Win7_1

Click Apply, and you’re done.

Vista
dpi.jpg

Click on the menu link (on the left) “Adjust font size (DPI)”, and then click on the lower radio button and change the number from 96 to 120.
scale.jpg

Click Apply, and you’re done.

Windows XP
In XP (and older), there are a few more steps to get to the right menu. From the Display Properties window, click on the Settings tab. In the lower right is an “Advanced” button, click on it. This opens a new Properties window.
scrnprop.jpg
Here you will use the drop-down arrow under “DPI setting:” which allows you to choose 120, or “Custom”. The Custom offers a sliding scale to set the dpi, and you can fine tune your setting here.. perhaps you prefer 112 dots-per-inch. Make sure the “Apply the new settings without restarting” radio button is selected to avoid a un-needed reboot.

These steps will change the over-all appearance of items on your screen, and everything will be larger and easier to read. And things will not get pushed off the edges, which a magnification, or “zoom” tool can sometimes do. If you try this, and do not like the effect, or look, of 120 dpi, simply repeat these steps and set it back to 96.

• For more vision-related settings adjustments, read this article as well.

[addenda: If you have tried these options, you may want to consider the purchase of a 22 (or larger) inch LCD monitor. Sure they’re more expensive, but It really does make a tremendous difference. I recently did this for my mother, and she can’t stop commenting on the “wonderful” improvement.]

Today’s free link(s):
• Authors, researchers, and teachers know the wonderful depository of information that is the Library of Congress. It is THE place for reference materials, digitized films, and everything ever published in the US. Much of it (if not all) is available online. Check it out, and be amazed.

Five tips for becoming a superstar blogger (humor)

Want to increase traffic to your blog by five thousand percent? These simple tips are guaranteed to work!

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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July 20, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, how to | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Netflix and other news

Kind of a hodgepodge today.. Some interesting topics.

Big news in the tech world. Implications unknown. Some court has found that smart phone maker HTC has infringed on Apple patents, and now not only is the company (and other smart phone makers) in um, er, “a muddle” (without a paddle?) but the future of android is suddenly unclear .. perhaps doomed.

I love the idea of letting clueless (frequently “seasoned citizen”) judges decide the future of tech. I understand a few of them have heard of the “Internet thingy”, so maybe not all their decision will be hopelessly uninformed and short-sighted. Just 99.9% of them to date have been..

Here’s something to read, if you’re interested: Apple deals massive patent blow to HTC, Android in serious trouble

“Late yesterday an ITC judge ruled that smartphone maker HTC has infringed two Apple patents, and it seems likely that every single Android device out there infringes the same patents.” Read more..

~

And I suppose I should say something about Netflix, and their recent price hike. Seems many of you are quite upset. Many think it is pure and simple gouging, and are particularly incensed as they feel Netflix have us by the short and curlies: many are canceling their subscriptions.
Okay. I understand that. (And they certainly could have gone about it better!)

If enough people cancel – it is reasonable to speculate they will rethink.

But I suspect there is more going on here, and it is my hope that this increase in revenue will be reinvested. See.. Netflix needs bigger pipes (more ‘infrastructure’) to keep up with demand. Not only that, but how we view our entertainment is changing. Advertisement-based “network TV” is going the way of the Dodo bird. Netflix is trying to buy the rights to “content” — current shows and movies. The game is changing, and Netflix is trying to come out a winner as a “content provider”.. as NBC and CBS, et al, struggle to stay alive in this age of IPTV, and “streaming media”.
It takes serious money to compete with networks, media ‘moguls’, and Disney.

The Internet is changing the world, don’t you know? The issue is .. complicated. I am not canceling nor squawking — heck, I am so happy to be able to watch ‘on demand’ and commercial free, I might pay triple!
Man, do I hate ads.

~

I do not know how many times in my life, some yahoo has called me “Mr. Spock”. (So many, I have come to embrace, and adopt it.. and frequently use it myself when trying to describe myself to others.) I do not really look like Leonard Nimoy’s character. I get called that because I am seen as “logical” (and not “emotional”). Fortunately, I have discovered why — it turns out I am a “left-brain thinker”. That explains it! It hasn’t been easy…

10 curses of the analytical thinker

Being a left-brain thinker can be an asset in the IT field. But as Alan Norton observes, it’s not without its shortcomings.Read more..

There’s more news in the “world of tech”, but, it’ll have to wait for another day. Because it is sunny and nice and warm here again, (after a “cool” spell) all the way up to 82°, and I do have a small gap in my obligations. I am going to try to get outside and play. Maybe… throw a Frisbee. Haven’t done that in.. oh, 25 years?

Yawl take care now, ‘ya hear?

Today’s quotable:Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important.”  ~ Janet Lane

I got an “invite”: (testing now) Spotify hits U.S. shores, plus browser and uTorrent news

Big news hit U.S. shores this past week in the form of Spotify, the European on-demand music-streaming service. CNET Senior Editor Donal Bell calls it “the best free music option since stealing,” but unfortunately, you may not get to try it for quite some time since as of now, Spotify is invite only.

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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July 19, 2011 Posted by | advice, Android, Apple, computers, digital music, gadgets, Internet, News, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Cure for Windows Update Error 66A

Shutting down for the night, I noticed that my 64-bit Vista machine had “Updates ready to install” for the 3rd night in a row.. which is a pretty good clue that at least one Update was failing to install.

So, I clicked on the Start button > All Programs > Windows Update > “View update history“.

Sure enough, in the “Status” column, I saw a “failed”.. on an Update named “Security Update for Microsoft .NET Framework 4 (KB2160841)” (also applies to KB2446708).

So to find out what the problem was, I right-clicked > “View details”. What I am looking for is the “error code”.

I saw that the code in this case is 66A. Clicking “Get help with this error” led to several ‘solution’ suggestions – too many. So I will tell you the one that works for me.

Step 1) Click Start > Control Panel > Programs and features.

Step 2) Scroll down until you find Microsoft .NET Framework 4 Client Profile, and click on it, once, to “select” it (turn it blue), then click the Uninstall/Change menu button (above list).

Step 3) A new window will open. Make sure the “Repair” radio button is selected, and press “next”. The automatic repair may take a few minutes to complete.

Step 4) Return to Windows Update (as per Step 1) and make sure that only the “Security Update for Microsoft .NET Framework 4 (KB2160841) is checked, and click “Retry” or “Install Updates”. Now the Update should succeed. If it doesn’t, get the “standalone” installer by clicking here and choose either 32 (x86) or 64 bit (x64) to match your system.

If that fails, I suggest calling Microsoft’s support number for free tech support (as this qualifies as a security issue) 1-866-PC-SAFETY.
(That’s right. Free. Microsoft provides free support for any safety/security related problem.)

* Orig post: 4/17/11

Free offer: Folks, I just noticed that on buy.com, you can get a free 6 months of CA’s (Computer Associates) antivirus + anti-spyware.. if you need some protection. Click here for details.

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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July 18, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, security, tech, troubleshooting, Vista, Windows, Windows 7, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment