Tech – for Everyone

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

No Tricks (and at least one Treat!)

First up, let me wish you a Happy Halloween!

• Are you interested in making your computer run as fast as it did when it was new?

Okay.. I admit, that was kind of a ‘trick question’. It seems every single human on the planet is looking for some magic answer to the at fact that their computer has gotten slower and slower. (Maybe.. taking all morning just to start up.)

I have said here many times that the reason your computer was as “fast” as it was when it was new is because there was basically nothing on it. (It was “lean and mean”) Now you have installed anywhere from 27 to 270 programs; 1,214 “updates”; amassed 500 songs and movies.. have Skype running.. online backup..
Of course it’s slower: it has more to do and keep track of.

Fortunately there are things you can do and steps you can take to improve your computer’s performance. (We Über Geeks call this “maintenance”.) Some are easy, some are free, and some are free and easy — keep reading! (yes.. there’s a treat coming..)

Step 1 is to open your Control Panel, go to Programs and Features, and uninstall every program you recognize and realize you never use anymore (if you do not recognize it, leave it be .. or research it).

That’s the most important thing to do, but there’s more – much more you can do.

Free: Windows comes with the tools (we Über Geeks call these “utilities”) you need (Windows 7 users have many of these enabled already [by default]). Please see, Revitalize Your PC With Windows’ Utilities

Free And Easier: I have found that a few people prefer to download some “optimizer” and do all their “maintenance” with a single click. Fortunately for these folks, there’s a gazillion of these out there. But of these, I recommend the (free) Glary Utilities, or the (free) Advanced SystemCare.

Easiest: The easiest method for keeping your computer “running like new” is a paid, “always running” tune up program — and again, there’s a gazillion of these out there. These programs run in the background, and do all your maintenance work for you. Surprise! I have a reco on this type as well!

Some time ago now, I reviewed (and had a very popular license giveaway) TuneUp Utilities 2010, an award winning tune up program (see my review, here). I have had this running on one of my machines ever since.

Now there’s the brand-new TuneUp Utilities™ 2012! Which includes two new features.

The Most Powerful TuneUp Utilities of All Time!

  • Boosts PC speed by up to 50%, all thanks to Program Deactivator 2012
  • Extends battery life with an all-new TuneUp Economy Mode
  • Saves power by up to 30% and upgrades PCs with an enhanced power management
  • over 30 tools in 1: more speed, better stability, less problems

I received a copy and have been running TU2012 for about a week now, and I have to say I agree with this reviewer’s article, which includes screenshots (and referring you is easier than typing!). And again, my original review is here. TU2012 retails for $50, and a license can be used on 3 machines.

Finally! A Treat! I happen to have an extra license (thank you, TuneUp Utilities!) which I am going to give away to a lucky reader, this week, by means of a random drawing. Residents of the US and Canada only may enter the contest drawing by simply by leaving a comment – click on “comment” (below), and enter a name and a valid e-mail (so I can send you the license key) in the form. Actually commenting is optional. And, I shouldn’t have to say this, but multiple entries will result in disqualification.
Again, the license can be used on up to three PC’s.

Also again, I thank the folks at TuneUp Utilities for making this giveaway possible. A 15-day free trial of TuneUp Utilities can be downloaded here. Try it out yourself. (And then leave a comment. You may just win an activation key..)

*** More Treats ***

BDLot is having a Halloween Sale on their DVD Clone Ultimate and DVD Ripper titles. Act now and save, details here.

• Remember my review of Genie Timeline? You can take advantage of a special 50% off savings here (and, if you like, my review is here).

Today’s quote: “When witches go riding,
and black cats are seen,
the moon laughs and whispers,
‘tis near Halloween.
~ Unknown

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

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October 31, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, performance | , , , , , , , | 53 Comments

Sunday Beauty #64

Another pretty picture for your Sunday..

Click on image to see more by this artist (reco'd)

For a cactus fans and lovers :)” by Tatters:), courtesy of Flickr Commons

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

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October 30, 2011 Posted by | Digital Images | 11 Comments

Which Portable For My Daughter?

A Reader Writes In With A good Question..

Q: hi, I am trying to buy a tablet/ipod/multimedia machine for my daughter for christmas.  She is 7, so usage will be music, games a little surfing on utube and various online games! I am getting such mixed reviews and when i go into a store they are all trying to sell me a note book – this i do not want! (we have laptops etc) So which should I go for? the Samsung galaxy s multimedia player 8g or a ipod touch or a budget tablet such as Arnova10 G2?? Please help! i am not techy and need some advice from someone in the know!
Many Thanks, L

A: L,
All three would work.

That isn’t what you wanted to hear, I am wagering.. so let me opine a bit.

I think of those 3 choices, the first and last are more “likely” – as the iTouch screen is a bit on the small side, and so use for it is more like the hand-held gaming consoles (PSP, Gameboy) and music players (iPod), and less for Netflix and YouTube watching.

I think all you need is what is sometimes called an “Internet tablet”.
I think you would prefer a 7″ screen, as the 10″ are big enough to be awkward and .. well, less ‘portable’.
You would want Flash (for YouTube).
And Wi-Fi.
8 GB’s holds lots of songs.. but not too many movies.. probably 8 is “big enough”.

So.. something like your 3rd would be my inclination – and I like the idea of cheaper, as your daughter is still rather young and things happen.. less of a loss. But that’s just me. My “logic”.

Unfortunately/Fortunately, almost everybody and their brother is producing a “budget” (or.. “basic”) 7″ tablet, so you’ve many to choose from. Sony has one. Acer. Samsung. Etc., etc..
As to which of  those to choose, my own personal drothers is the one that’s on sale. But other people have other criteria.. maybe one has a pink case? (Just a “what if”. I am not presuming your daughter likes pink.)

Perhaps this web page will help: at least maybe in a “comparison” way. But if the unit has those things I mentioned: Wi Fi, Flash Player, 8 GB’s it should cover the bill.

Also.. If you are trying to decide between two basically identical units .. I would go with the one that has the recognizable name brand.. or, more RAM.

Hope I helped somewhat. Perhaps folks who have recently made such a decision as the one you are facing will Comment (below) and help out, so check back here..

Today’s free download: PDFCreator

“PDFCreator easily creates PDFs from any Windows program. Use it like a printer in Word, StarCalc or any other Windows application.”

Today’s quote:Most people know more about their congressmen via smear campaigns than they know about their own neighbor via conversations, and a lot of people know more about Britney Spears via tabloids than they know about their own congressmen via voting booklets. Does anyone else see the problem here?” ~ Brock Fiant

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

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October 29, 2011 Posted by | advice, Android, computers, gadgets, hardware, Internet, iPhone, mobile, Portable Computing, shopping for | , , | 10 Comments

Some Tips for Online Shopping* | Friday Fun

Busy! So, I am re – 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! Keep reading!

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!

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

Friday Fun (video):

Today’s quote:The world is governed more by appearance than realities so that it is fully as necessary to seem to know something as to know it.” ~ Daniel Webster (1782 – 1852)

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

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October 28, 2011 Posted by | advice, Internet, security | , , , , | 10 Comments

Where Did That File Go?

How To Find Your Misplaced Downloads and Files

Recent conversations have me believing that some of you are still occasionally “losing” documents, and wondering where that download you just downloaded went to. You are sure you “Saved” your work.. but now that work is “gone”.
I won’t comment on that (it is almost 2012) … but the following can help you “find” your stuff.

Downloads/”Online”: First thing to know is that your computer, when dealing with “online” material (like webpages and email) by default puts the various elements into several “temp” folders¹ (as it doesn’t know if you are just visiting, or trying to copy).

  • If you – chose “Open” (or, Run) at the download prompt, the file remains in that “temp” folder¹.
  • If you – chose “Save“, by default the file will go to your Downloads folder – which in XP is in your My Documents folder; and in Vista/Win7, is in your User folder.

So start by looking in those places¹.

Where your browser saves downloads to is a Setting you can adjust (if you should like someplace other than the Downloads folder). Go to the Tools menu and click Options (or Internet Options).

I have set my browser (Firefox) to always put my downloads on my Desktop. There I can easily find them, and then “drag ‘n drop” them to where I want them to permanently reside. You can “browse” to a folder of your own choosing; or set it to always ask you where the download should go. (Click OK to make your changes ‘stick’.)

¹ Yes. But which “temp” folder? Read on..

Files on your hard drive: It is a little different when you know the file you are looking for has been Save-ed to your computer, but now – when you need it again – you find it is not where you expected it to be.
perhaps you weren’t paying careful attention.. or just clicked Save, instead of Save as.. or, a lot of time has passed.. or..

The tool for locating files on your computer is a “Search tool” (sometimes called a “desktop search”) — which comes built-in with Windows. Or you can download and install a more powerful “desktop search”.. but start with what you have.

If you remember the name, or part of the name of the file, enter it in the Search pane, and press Enter. This should produce a list of all the files on your hard drive that contain the same letters as what you entered, and hopefully locate your ‘missing’ file. If not, you will need to apply some ‘more advanced’ Search tricks (um, er, I mean, techniques). My How To for that is here: Where Did My File Go?

Bonus: If you are unsure of the difference between Save and Save as please read this.image

Today’s reco: WOW! Free Software for Video Editing, Audio Converting, eBook Converting, Burning Discs, Archiving and to Keep You From Getting Pregnant

“What do you get when you take a hamster and mix it with FREE software?  You get HAMSTERsoft : ) ” Read more..

Today’s quote:Failure seems to be regarded as the one unpardonable crime, success as the all-redeeming virtue, the acquisition of wealth as the single worthy aim of life. The hair-raising revelations of skullduggery and grand-scale thievery merely incite others to surpass by yet bolder outrages and more corrupt combinations.” ~ Charles Francis Adams

(Love that word.. “skulduggery“.)

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

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October 27, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, Microsoft, PC, tech, Vista, Windows, Windows 7, XP | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Stanford Courses – Free, and for Everyone | More

I apologize, Dear Reader, for the lack of a post yesterday. (I’ll make today’s a little longer to make up for it.)

First item: Recently, an alert reader (you know who you are) brought to my attention the fact that Stanford University’s Engineering department had made available – to everyone – some online classes. And three of them are free.
These courses can be taken on two ‘levels’, which I think of as “very casual” and “has homework”.

• Stanford Engineering Everywhere

For the first time in its history, Stanford is offering some of its most popular engineering classes free of charge to students and educators around the world. Stanford Engineering Everywhere (SEE) expands the Stanford experience to students and educators online. A computer and an Internet connection are all you need. View lecture videos, access reading lists and other course handouts, take quizzes and tests, and communicate with other SEE students, all at your convenience.

SEE programming includes one of Stanford’s most popular sequences: the three-course Introduction to Computer Science taken by the majority of Stanford’s undergraduates and seven more advanced courses in artificial intelligence and electrical engineering.

Stanford Engineering Everywhere offers:

  • Anytime and anywhere access to complete lecture videos via streaming or downloaded media.
  • Full course materials including syllabi, handouts, homework, and exams.
  • Online social networking with fellow SEE students.
  • Support for PCs, Macs and mobile computing devices.

Find out more here.

Next up; New tech could – one day – let you see through walls..

MIT Develops New Radar Technology: Military Could See Through Walls

“Looking through walls is no longer something we read about in comic books or watch in Superman movies. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory has presented new radar technology (link to video) that would allow humans to see through a solid wall.Read more..

And, what the hey..

For consumers, finding competent PC support is a challenge

What happens if something goes wrong with a Windows PC? Good luck finding honest and competent help. Right now, somewhere in the world, an incompetent support professional is performing “repairs” that make things worse and suggesting useless “upgrades” that line their pockets and slow down PCs.” Read more..

[shameless plug: or, they could just call me.]

Netflix’s big collapse: Do you believe in streaming, international expansion?

In the long run, Netflix’s focus on streaming and international expansion makes sense. Today, those decisions are causing a world of hurt.Read more..

For some reason, I am finding it hard to believe it’s Wednesday already..

Today’s quote:Depressed? Of course we’re all depressed. We’ve been so quickly, violently, and irreconcilably plucked from nature, from physical labor, from kinship and village mentality, from every natural and primordial anti-depressant. The further society “progresses,” the grander the scale of imbalance. Just as fluoride is put in water to prevent dental caries, we’ll soon find government mandating Prozac in our water to prevent mental caries.” ~ M. Robin D’Antan (I think it should be “cavities”..?)

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

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October 26, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, Internet | , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

How To Keep Your Images In A Specific Order

Reader Asks A Good Question..

Q:I have a folder with 200 pictures which I have arranged in a very specific order. I want to burn them to a CD, but when I try to burn them in Roxio they burn to a cd but not in the order that they are in the folder. Any help is appreciated. ”

A: The trick for resolving this puzzle is to understand that computers will do their own arranging (and assigning), using a pre-configured, rigid, logic — generally alphabetical order. So even though you have carefully nudged the icons representing (for human viewing) your photos (actually JPEG files) around into an arranged order of your liking, the machine will still think of the files in terms of IMG0001.JPG, followed by the “greater than” IMG0002.JPG (2 is “greater than” 1) which will be followed by the “greater than” IMG0003.JPG.

So the answer is to rename the files , and do so in an order that matches your order.

If you had just a few files, you could manually rename the first image by giving it a name and adding a one. Repeating for the second image, but adding a 2. And, repeating for the third image, but adding a 3. As I did for this collection of screenshots that were going to be a slideshow (and needed a certain ‘order’)

But since you have so many, you need an easier way – what is called a “batch rename” by us Über Geeks.

1) Arrange the photos into the order you like.

2) Click on one of the images to turn it blue (aka “select it”)

3) Hold down the Ctrl key and press the “A” key (or Edit > Select All). This will turn all the images blue (all are now ‘selected’).

4) Right-click on the first image, and choose Rename from the context menu (the name of small side window that pops open).
Your cursor will now be blinking inside the file name ‘box’.

5) Type in a ‘name’ — preferably something related to your project, or the subject matter.
(This one might be “fishtrip”, for example.)

IMPORTANT  Do NOT add a number — this is done automatically during the rename process

Press Enter.

Note: If for some reason you are unhappy with the result.. say you made a mistake, you can Undo the rename you just did by pressing Ctrl+Z (or going to the Edit menu and choosing the top choice – “Undo rename”. (I love Ctrl + Z!)

Now that you have put your ordering in terms a computer cannot argue with, your CD burning software, or “import”-ing into PowerPoint, or whatnot, will respect and follow your arrangement.
Because “fishtrip (4).jpg” is ‘greater than’ (aka “alphabetical”) “fishtrip (3).jpg” … right? Right.

Remember folks, machines are kinda dumb: they can only “think” in binary (a 1 or a 0)(aka “true or false”, “on or off”). They cannot “see” your photo – they see C:\User Name\Pictures\IMAG0001.JPG.

Sorta related: Make Your Photos and Videos Automatically Fly From Your Camera to Your Computer

I spend much of my obsession for technology, by looking for the latest technology in computers and computer accessories on Amazon .. Today, I came across a technology that I did not know about that is just downright impressive.” Read more..

Today’s quote:A little learning is a dangerous thing, but a lot of ignorance is just as bad.” ~ Bob Edwards

(There’s something about this quote.. something.. “off”, I think)

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

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October 24, 2011 Posted by | computers | , , , , , , , , , | 40 Comments