Tech – for Everyone

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

GMA — Let’s Talk About Sexting

Good Morning America tackled an important topic — of particular concern to parents. I am posting this video in case you missed it.. or would like to forward it to your friends.
Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Good Morning America on ABC News – AB…“, posted with vodpod

[note: if the player doesn’t work, please click here.]

Today’s free link:Parental Monitoring And Cellular Phones If your child has a cell phone, this article provides you with some tools and information.

Today’s free download: K9 Web Protection is a  free Internet filtering and control solution for the home. K9 puts YOU in control of the Internet so you can protect your kids.

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

April 15, 2009 Posted by | advice, cellular, computers, Digital Images, Internet, iPhone, kids and the Internet, privacy, security, tech, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Every good story needs a villain

This story opens gently enough. It begins with a friendly and helpful Comment posted on a friendly and helpful blog.

Someone had written to share “the results of their work”, which he said “solved his security problems.” He was talking about viruses and spyware, and other malware, and he said his method “covers 99.8%! of all known threats.”
He posted his advice/Comment on an article about How To prevent the dangers posed by spyware (and also warns about “rogue” anti-spyware programs). He signed himself “Spycrasher”.

So far, this all sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? 99.8% effective certainly sounds good.

As you have probably deduced, Dear Reader, the “friendly and helpful blog” in question was this one. Tech–for Everyone, like most blogs, provides readers the opportunity to respond, ask a question, or just “put in their two cents”, simply by clicking on “Comments” at the bottom of the article. And also like most blogs, I have the ability to “moderate” which comments get posted and which don’t– for instance, Comments containing offensive language will not be published.
Spycrasher’s 99.8%- effective security solution will NOT be seen here.

But.. maybe you’re a little curious as to what it was. And.. maybe, why I deleted it. (Take another peek at today’s title..) “Spycrasher’s” comment said to use three particular anti-spyware programs– in tandem– and he provided download links. (This, alone, triggers red flags.) He mentioned two tools I was not familiar with, and one rather well-known program.

* Hyperlinks are always suspicious (and blocked as a matter of policy), and the first thing I checked was, did the links point to legitimate websites..? Or would clicking on them take you to a poisoned webpage (which could infect your machine) or a pharming site.
No problem there. The links he provided did indeed point to real websites.

* The next thing was to check out the unknown programs themselves. No self-respecting and legitimate tech writer will advocate something they have not used, and tested, themselves. Period.
In my initial research of the first program (XoftSpy-SE), I found a wide range of reviews and comments.. from “this is rogue” to “this is the best thing since sliced bread”, and I learned that the program was “for pay”.
I don’t promote “for pay” software here (but do provide a daily free download), nor, even potentially rogue app’s; and so I stopped right there. I would not allow Spycrasher’s Comment.

* Being the gentleman that I am, I decided to write Spycrasher and thank him for his submission, and explain why I had moderated it. But before I did, I wanted to get a feel for where he was coming from.. so I ran a Whois on his IP…

Now, I gotta tell you.. it is very rare for ARIN to come back with a “no match found”. Very, very strange.

So I traced him.
New York >London >Amsterdam >Berlin >Warsaw…
And then he disappears into a virtual private network somewhere in the Ukraine.

* So I used a search engine to find instances of the word “Spycrasher”… and he came up a lot. Spycrasher likes to post in various forums. Quite a few of them, actually. Like, practically all of them.
And he posts a lot of Comments there.
* Guess what? They are all identical to the the one he posted (I should say “pasted”) on mine.. right down to the ‘wink’ smiley ;-).

Very.. odd.

Tip of the day: Be very leery of hyperlinks, folks.. and please understand: not every innocent looking thing you see on the Internet is in fact “friendly and helpful”. There are people whose full-time job it is to try to trick you, and seduce you into doing something you normally wouldn’t.
I am very sad to say.

[note to bloggers/forum moderators/webmasters: you may want to search your published pages for instances of “Spycrasher”, and delete this guy.]

Today’s free link: I am going to repost a program here today, because I have it on every single one of my (Windows) machines, and I think you should too. ThreatFire (originally named “CyberHawk”) is a free, behavior-based anti-malware application. I use it as a supplement to my antivirus and other anti-spyware tools. Heuristic tools like ThreatFire are your only defense against “zero day” exploits.

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

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April 20, 2008 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, blogging, computers, Internet scam, PC, Phishing, phraud, security, spam and junk mail, tech, Uncategorized, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to fix a “lost” Internet connection

Accessing the Internet is has become one of the primary reasons we use our computers today, and losing our connections can be a frustrating disruption to our routine. If you rely on the Internet for conducting business, or “telecommuting” to work, a failed Internet connection can cost you money as well. When your browser displays a “404 Error” (server not found), or a text balloon tells you that you have “Limited or no connectivity”, you have what we Tech Support specialists call a “Internet problem”, and it’s time to do a little troubleshooting.

Troubleshooting your network can be a complex job and you might need the help of an experienced professional (shameless plug: such as myself, at Aplus Computer Aid), but before you give us a call, Windows has a built-in tool you should try. This tool only takes a few minutes and doesn’t require any special training. It is the second thing you should try when disconnected (the first is restart your PC).

Tip of the day: Repair your Internet Connection with the Network Connection Repair tool.
1) If your Network icon is visible in your Notification Area (down by the clock), right-click on it and select “Repair”

* If your Network icon is not displayed in the Notification Area, you need to access Network Connections in your Control Panel. In XP, click Start >Control Panel and under “Pick a category” select “Network and Internet Connections”, then click “Network Connections”.

Right-click on the connection you’re trying to repair (either the “LAN”, or the “Wireless network”) and select “Repair”.
The steps above are pretty much exactly the same in Vista, but with slightly different wording on the menus.

2) Windows will now automatically take several basic steps that will essentially ‘flush’ the current (not working) configuration, and start fresh.. requesting a new IP address from your modem. After a minute or so, you will see…

..and it’s time to test your new connection by opening your browser and trying to surf the Web.

If for some unhappy reason this fails to re-connect you to the Internet, there is (probably) a problem with your network, or ISP, and the next step to take is to reboot your modem. The easy way to do this is to unplug its power, count to 10 slowly, and plug the power back in. You may have to repeat the Repair tool after the modem reboot.

These easy steps will reconnect you to the Internet the vast majority of the time (I would venture to say, 95%) and save you from having to call a Tech Support specialist (and your Geek Quotient has just gone up, too). However, it will not resolve every networking issue, and you may have to give your ISP a call for help. (They may have to reset something at their end, for example.) My experiences with ISP Tech Support have varied, and haven’t always been enjoyable.. but you gotta do what you gotta do.
In today’s world, Internet connectivity is a must.

Note: There are more answers posted as responses in the Comments section (below), should this not resolve your issue.

Today’s free link: If you really want to get into analyzing your Internet connection.. test it’s speed, and maybe “tweak” your settings for maximum performance, the place to start is the Tools page at Broadband Reports (a mirror of DSL Reports). You will find the well-known tweak tool, DrTCP, here, as well as many other tools for finding out if your ISP is really delivering what it promised (and if not, you can find other ISP’s in your area and see how they’re performing).

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.
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April 8, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, networking, tech, troubleshooting, Uncategorized, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , | 67 Comments

A few extra tugs

People used to call it “thirsty work”.
That’s what I had to spend my day off doing yesterday– thirsty work. I had to do it because: A) it is Spring and the ground is thawed, and B) because I carry a curse.

That’s right– I said, I’m cursed. As in hexed, jinxed, and generally “not blessed”. The particular curse I’m referring to is, I believe, inherited… though it’s possible that I just crossed paths with a gremlin, and there’s lots of us out there to whom he’s given it.

I just have the dangdest luck this time of year. It is time (of year) to wheel out the tools that have small gasoline-powered engines, for the first time after they have been sitting all winter (lawn mowers, leaf blowers, rototillers, edgers, etc.). It does not seem to matter a lick that I fully “winterize” these machines before tucking them away, neither.. nor that I’ve insulated and waterproofed my shed.
I consider it a true miracle when the only thing these machines require is a few extra tugs on the pull-starter to get going and.. if one of them ever actually ran properly after starting, I would notify the Vatican.

I don’t care what motor-driven tool you choose, they all do me the same way.
1) They’ll require a few extra tugs. That’s a given.
2) They require a few extra tugs, start, blow blue smoke, and within seconds, die. Repeatable endlessly.
3) They require a few extra tugs, start, blow blue smoke, and run in way that threatens to die any moment, and when you touch the choke/throttle/handle, they do die. Repeatable endlessly.
4) They require a few extra tugs, start, blow blue smoke, and run in way that threatens to die any moment, then even out and run nice and smooth, (giving you happy confidence) and when you touch the choke/throttle/handle, they die. Repeatable, well… you know.
5) [My favorite] They let you yank and yank and yank (and yank) that pull-starter, and don’t even pretend to start.

Oh, yes.. I almost forgot: 6) They’ll run fine and dandy, but never quite develop the gumption to turn the blades worth a hoot. (I think this is the cruelest one of all.)

This curse has been with me my whole adult life, and so I am well-versed in new filters, new gas, additives, fuel line inspection, oil changings, and all the things one does to prevent and cure these symptoms (and.. inventive, heart-felt cursing; I’m well-versed in that, too). None of them seem to matter. The only thing that cures them is a trip to the small-engine man and a “rebuilt carburetor” (at least.. that what they claim they do to it. Probably all they do is have a Holy Roller come in and sprinkle some of his water on it..).

It never fails, and the age of the thing does not seem to matter, nor does manufacturer (I don’t go “thrifty” when it comes to my power-tools), nor if the motor’s 2 or 4-stroke. It’s just.. my curse. (Or.. what they started doing to our gasoline refining processes to appease the tree-huggers??? Nah… It’s me.)

And how many ‘few extra tugs’ do I tug before I decide to quit the struggle? How many tug-related back injuries? Tug-blisters? Generally, my rule of thumb is, six hours. If I can’t yank, fiddle with the choke and throttle; yank, and fiddle with the “mixtures” (etc.), and get it operational in six hours, I concede.
Six hours is a lot of cursing, and my repertoire gets tired.

Of course it happened again this year, and so I spent yesterday clearing the ground and working the soil in preparation for this year’s vegetable garden. And I did it the old-fashioned way– with a rake, shovel, and wheelbarrow –which is thirsty work. I understand that the planting of vegetable gardens is experiencing a surge in popularity recently.. which makes sense to me: I’ve been planting them since I was knee-high to a grasshopper and folks say I have a green thumb. 
Planting a garden is the only way to get a decent tomato.

All of this might explain why I enjoy working with computers so much. I have the exact opposite luck with digital devices, and frequently my just walking near them cures them (as if I have a magical aura). I kid you not. I am a computer whisperer. (And PCs don’t have pull-starters… A big plus!)
I believe there are many similarities to troubleshooting recalcitrant gasoline engines and computers. They both require logic, and practical, methodical approach. Troubleshooting requires some skill and practical experience.. and probably some tools. And, sometimes our best efforts fail and we have to call in a Pro. There’s no shame in this. A Pro has more practical experience and, probably, better tools.

Fortunately for us “home troubleshooters” and D-I-Y Repairpersons, there are many resources available to help guide us; such as Owner’s Manuals, “How To” books, and websites.. it is quite possible you found me by looking for an answer on the Internet. For today’s Tip of the day, I would like to remind you of Windows’ built in resource, the Help and Support tool, and refer you to this prior article of mine on how to use it when you need to do some home PC troubleshooting yourself:

[Apple users: Mac users can find troubleshooting help at]

Today’s free link: Want your webpages to load faster and be free of advertisements? (well.. duh!) If you use IE, you’ll want today’s link for sure. SelectView Filter is a (the?) top-rated ad blocking tool for Internet Explorer. From site: “Ever been annoyed by those ads on the Internet. SelectView Filter intelligently removes those annoying ads from any Website you visit. SelectView Filter blocks In-Page ads, which pop-up blockers can not do. It’s another layer of protection to improve your online experience. Version 2.2 adds more aggressive JavaScript blocking and additional element blocking.”

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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March 17, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, tech, Uncategorized, Windows | , , , , , | Leave a comment

More tweaks for weak eyes/readability

Yesterday I demonstrated a quick adjustment to your screen settings that will enlarge your screen’s objects (icons, windows, fonts, etc.) and make things easier to read. (If it does not appear directly below this article, click here.) Today I am going to describe additional steps that can assist those of you who need even more help, or/and suffer from such maladies as color blindness.

Tip of the day: Use Windows’ Accessibility options to make your screen easier to read. Start by accessing your Control Panel: Start >Settings >Control Panel, or Start >Control Panel.
Now click on “Accessibility Options”, which will open one of the more important Windows Properties windows: one that I consider to be the most overlooked.
Since we are discussing vision today, we’re going to work with the “Display” tab; but I want to point out that you can make adjustments here that will assist if you have some hearing loss, have trouble typing due to arthritis, and such.
For today, we are going to enlarge things for easier reading so put a check in the checkbox marked “Use High Contrast” and then click the “Advanced” button.
Click on the drop-down arrow to see all the High Contrast “color schemes”. If color blindness is not an issue for you, you will be interested in the normal Windows themes at the bottom of the list. The Windows “Standard” is the XP or Vista theme (depending), and the “Classic” is the look of Windows 2000 and older.
Choose “Large”, or “Extra large”, and then click “Apply” and “OK”. The screenshot below shows how the choice “Standard, Extra large” looks when applied to an XP machine.
I have also made two adjustments to the cursor which will help you keep your eye on its location; increasing the “blink rate” to the maximum, and thickened its width.

If you have some difficulty differentiating shades of color, or perhaps have true color blindness, refer back to the list of of High Contrast themes — you may have to try a few until you find just the right one to remedy your particular difficulty, but there is quite a few options.. one should be right for you. Below, I have applied an extremely high contrast theme, which would take some getting used to…but is easy to read.
If you have applied any of these settings and do not like the results, unchecking the “Use High Contrast” checkbox will restore your settings to where you were before.

Today’s free link: Today I’m going to re-post a tool I just don’t think enough people know about. CCleaner (“crap” cleaner) not only increases your privacy and security by removing Histories, cookies, and “temp” Internet files, but it includes a Registry cleaner/repair and a Startup manager and Uninstall tool as well.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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October 23, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, tech, Uncategorized, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , | 3 Comments

Tweak your settings, and make things bigger (updated)

For those of you who find themselves squinting at your screen, or having to lean in real close, just to be able to read that darn small text, there are a couple of quick settings adjustments you can make that will make the items on your 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 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) increase the dpi number. Right-click on any blank area of your desktop. Click on the bottom menu choice — “Personalize” in Vista, and “Properties” in older versions. I will demonstrate Vista first.
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.

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.
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.

[update: a reader comment has prompted me to make it clear that these Options have been a part of Windows all the way back to Windows 95] 

[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: 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.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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October 22, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, tech, Uncategorized, Vista, Windows, XP | 3 Comments

Halo 3 and greed

I play games on my PC. If the statistics are to be believed, you do too. I have an overclocked SLI “rig” for playing my FPSs and Sims. If you understood that sentence, you’re a gamer — if you were impressed, you may be “hard-core”.
I am not a HCG (hard-core gamer), but I keep my eye on things in the world of video games, and so I can say that Microsoft has done an underhanded, greedy, and short-sighted thing with its extremely popular Halo series of games…IMHO.

I don’t play Halo, never once, but my nephew is a big fan. Recently he used his birthday money to buy Halo to put on the PC they got for Christmas last year. He and his friends had played Halo to death, so he really wanted to buy Halo 2. That was his mission: Get Halo 2.
When he got to the store he discovered that Halo 2 is “Vista only” (his PC is XP) and, extremely disappointed, he settled for Halo instead.

I want you to understand something: there is nothing about Halo 2 that requires Vista except greed. No special video requirements. No special scripting. Nothing. Microsoft simply wants to sell more copies of Vista, and so they wrote a call into the install file of Halo 2 that prevents the install unless the response is “=Vista”.
Quite naturally, I received an email from said nephew asking me if I would install Vista on his PC.

This is marketing blackmail, and the fact that Microsoft did it — never mind that I would never recommend installing Vista over a perfectly functioning XP — lowered my opinion of the computing giant greatly. It irked me so deeply, that I considered advising my nephew to run a crack to bypass the install call.
But that goes against my scrupples, and I had to tell my nephew he was out of luck — no Halo 2.

Now amid much fanfare and hoopla, Halo 3 is released. You have probably seen the “news” of this release in the newspaper and on your local news. Halo fans are ecstatic! Halo 3 has been very eagerly awaited. But guess what? Microsoft wants to sell more Xbox 360s.
So guess what? Halo 3 only plays on the Xbox.

My nephew knows what he wants for Christmas this year. But he’s not going to get it. Santa (me, and my family) will never be blackmailed into buying a Xbox. I advise you not to be blackmailed either.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul, All rights reserved

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September 26, 2007 Posted by | computers, Gaming, PC, tech, Uncategorized, Windows | 7 Comments