Tech – for Everyone

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

Reflections of

A couple weeks back now, I saw a cardboard box on the side of the road (by somebody’s driveway) upon which someone had scrawled F R E E, in black marker, which had what could only be a keyboard protruding out of it.

Since I was in no real hurry, I decided to pull over, stop, and take a quick look, and see what else was in the box.
(One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure – they say.)

Sure enough: it was a keyboard I’d seen; and the box was full of old computer stuff — a couple more keyboards, a joystick, some floppy discs (still in the cellophane), several mice, and other parts and pieces and doodads. A look at the connecting plugs (and the floppies) told me this stuff dated to the first generation of personal computers — and should have been recycled long ago. Absolutely useless.

I was just about to walk away when I noticed that a bit behind the box was a stack of jewel cases. These jewel cases contained CD’s. The CD’s were install discs for —

  • Star Wars X-Wing Alliance
  • B-17
  • Heroes of Might and Magic III
  • F-22 Lightning 2
  • Comanche 3
  • Operation Flashpoint
  • Homeworld
  • and several other games from that era..

Brings back some memories, doesn’t it? (Well, for some of you, anyway.) These games also date from the first generation — and were written in DOS, if you can believe that.
In spite of the fact that these games are too old to play properly on modern machines, I took some of them. Maybe I could get them to work..

There are methods for getting old games to play on modern machines. My How To for that is here, Windows 7 – Old Games Won’t Play.. Help! (Updated), which sometimes work.

But for several of these titles (um.. most of these titles) they did not, and if I wanted to proceed in my efforts I would have had to start using virtual environments. But instead, I did what I have not done in ages – I went into the T4E Museum Of Computers and pulled down a 1st Generation computer, and “fired it up”.

This bad boy is a Celeron 333 MHz, that has a whopping 64 Megabytes of RAM, a massive 4 Gigabyte hard drive, and runs the smooth and stable Windows 98 Second Edition. (It even has – hold on to your hats, USB ports!)

Ahhh.. the days of AUTOEXEC.BAT. I had almost forgotten..

[a brief aside: Now.. if you have read this far, I feel I have to be a little clearer, and more precise — the actual “first generation of PC’s” — the Pentium 286, 386, and 486 era, did not have “graphical” user interfaces, nor “video games” as we think of them. No “icons”. Instead, you typed in things like “cd c:\programs\lotus\”. What I meant by “1st Gen” was when people started actually buying PC’s to have in their home..]

I had – also – almost forgotten how slow, and incapable these machines, and Windows 98 were/are. And how many hurdles you had to jump through to get a graphics adapter to work. Can you believe there are people out there advocating going back and running Windows 98.. because Microsoft OSes “have become too ‘bloated’, slow, and unresponsive”? And I still see people who take pains to set their machines to have the “classic” look (spartan) shown above.

Sorry.. I am long-winded today. Back to the story. So installed some of these old games (or, tried to) and went through multiple (slow) reboots, a couple of BSOD‘s, etc., and I came away from it all with one word at the forefront of my mind –> LAME.

I hurried back to my 64-bit Win machine, used my wireless mouse to double-click the icon for Call of Duty Black Ops, and chuckled as I realized my machine has twice as much RAM as the the old PC has hard drive. And my game looks like this..

So there you have it: LAME vs less-lame. The old and the new. Night and day.

I really had forgotten Windows 98. I remembered it being better.. somehow. And the games too. I thought they were “cool”… and I suppose they were. In their day. Now? LAME. (I could only stand to play Heroes for a few minutes.. It was a bit like watching Pong.)

Related reading:

* It is time to face facts and finally dump Windows XP.

* A trip back to the land of Mega

Sorry if I angered anyone. That was not my intent. The above is just my “humble opinion”. My point is, we have evolved and advanced — and the past is, frequently, nostalgia at best. (Again, MHO.)

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


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June 16, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, Gaming, how to, Microsoft, PC, tech | , , , , , | 12 Comments

More Tips on E-waste

If you have an Office Depot near you, they have a program I think you should know about.

If you are like most, you have drawers and/or closet shelves piled with old electronic gadgets, doodads, and whatnots, that you know should go to the recyclers. And you’re aware that electronics contain toxic chemicals and stuff, so you know it’ll probably cost you good money to get rid of it.
So that old gear sits and takes up space.

“Electronic waste, commonly known as “E-waste” is one of the fastest growing segments of our nation’s waste stream. Millions of tons of E-waste was dumped in landfills in the U.S., according to the EPA. How can you help? Office Depot launched a Tech Recycling Service in over 1,000 store locations in 2007, which gives customers the opportunity to recycle their old technology right at their local Office Depot store. Simply purchase a Tech Recycling box at your local store for a nominal fee, take it to your home or office and fill it with unlimited pieces of technology. Office Depot then works with a recycling partner to turn E-waste into reusable materials, such as glass, copper, plastic and aluminum.”


3 SIZES AVAILABLE
Small ($5):       8″H x 15″D x 18″W (Max Weight 20lbs.)
Medium ($10): 20″H x 16″D x 16″W (Max Weight 40lbs.)
Large ($15):    24″H x 18″D x 18″W (Max Weight 60lbs.)

ACCEPTABLE
* Monitors (CRTs + LCD)
* Fax Machines
* Desktop PCs
* Laptop PCs
* Printers/All-In-Ones
* Scanners
* Peripherals (e.g. Keyboards, mice, drives, etc.)
* Telephones
* Digital Cameras
* Video Cameras
* VCRs
* DVD Players
* MP3 Players
* Small Televisions
* Cords & Cables
NOT ACCEPTABLE
*  Cracked monitors
*  Electronics covered in
liquids / leaking
*  Refrigerators or other items
containing Freon
*  Appliances such as
toasters or kettles
*  Items containing
radioactive materials
*  Items that have, or may
have been contaminated
with chemicals
*  Liquids

I applaud Office  Depot for providing this service; and, naturally, I encourage folks to dispose of electronics safely and properly. (To take advantage full advantage, I reco buying a big box. $15 will get rid of a lot of that old junk. Sixty pounds worth!)

I also remind you that devices that may have data stored on them (aka “memory”), such as floppies, hard drives, cell phones, should have those memories “shredded” (aka “destroyed”). Please read, Delete does NOT erase your data*– preventing recovery and/or Reader Question Answered: Disposing of Floppies before you recycle (or otherwise dispose of old gear).

For more advice with tips for selling, or disposal, you can read my earlier articles. Just click here.

Bonus: These came in overnight.. what is wrong with people, man?! Is it contagious?

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


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April 11, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, gadgets, hardware, how to, tech | , , , , | 2 Comments

Tips for Selling Your Old Tech Gear

Strategies for Selling Your Old Tech Equipment

Thanks to Moore’s Law, science and technology are advancing at an exponential rate. Yesterday’s gizmos, gadgets, and doodads become outdated (obsolete, even) in just a couple of years. It seems every time I turn around, something new is in the stores — like, 3D TV.

For many of us, that means closets full of old devices.. maybe perfectly functioning equipment. And maybe some of that gear is still wanted by somebody, while others are destined only for the recyclers’ heap. But how do you tell which is which? And.. how do you find a buyer for the ‘good stuff’?

A man I admire reminded me one time of some profound wisdom, which I have taken to heart: he said, “Paul, don’t reinvent the wheel.” So today I am simply going to tell you that this subject is not a “simple answer” topic. (For one thing, the answer is different depending on whether you are talking about laptops, or printers, or cell phones, or a camera. And your options are far greater than “post it on Ebay”.)

I am also going to tell you that I have a comprehensive resource to recommend to you which breaks down the tips and strategies by categories, and provides detailed answers, as well as places to sell you may not know about.

If you are interested in trying to sell your (old) stuff, I highly recommend reading this article: How to Sell Your PC (and Other Gadgets)

Need cash to buy the latest and greatest? Here’s how to turn your drawer full of old smartphones, cameras, and other tech toys into some brand-new gear.

If you don’t plan properly, you could potentially spend so much time selling your old gear that you’d get a better hourly rate of return by spending 30 minutes taking your tech to a recycling center and picking up a side job washing windshields on the expressway.”

Also: Every time I talk about this subject, I feel compelled to remind you that you need to securely delete (see, What You Need To Know About “Delete”*) any device that “stores” information before you dispose of it. (No, “delete” is not the same as “erase forever”) In this day and age of Identity Theft, I should not have to say that… but.

Today’s (other) recommended reading:

* Fact-checking AT&T’s merger claims

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — If you’re skeptical about AT&T’s claims that its purchase of T-Mobile will benefit consumers, you’re not alone.

[see also: AT&T buys T-mobile: The 4G race is on in the US — Deutsche Telekom has agreed to sell T-Mobile USA to AT&T for $39 billion, which will help AT&T create America’s largest mobile phone provider. The real news: The 4G race is about to heat up.]

* Did you know your smartphone photos may be giving away your location?

“If you are in the habit of taking photos with your smartphone and posting them online, you may be giving away your location. Embedded in those photos, not visible to the naked eye, are what are called geotags…”

* Google Says China Is Hindering Gmail

“The company’s decision last year to refuse to censor its search results in China continues to have repercussions…”

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


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March 21, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, tech | , , , , | 2 Comments

Ink. Nozzles. Cartridges.

Razors and razor blades..

Today I want to talk about printers. I have some recent experiences to share, and.. a question to ask.

ink I have said for a long time the tech industry’s business model for printers is the old “razors and razor blades” game. They practically give away the printer, and make their money selling ink (cartridges) refills.

Because ink refills are um.. well, not cheap, a whole industry has developed, and workaround techniques used, to try to undercut the manufacturer’s ink price, and earn your business.

There are ‘kits’ you can buy which contain a syringe and a bottle of ink. There are “generic” cartridges. There are “ink recycling/refill” services offered by retail Doodad & Gizmo stores. There are online “discount ink” websites and “wholesalers”. Etc., etc. (Enter “ink refills” into your favorite search engine, and take a quick look at the millions of results.) I think you know what I am talking about.

My reco for ink refill: (Mind you, I am not talking about laser printers here.)
Unless your printer is old, basic, and you are thinking about replacing it anyway, buy the manufacturer’s recommended replacement cartridge. If money is a real factor, keep an eye out for sales and specials (the manufacturer’s themselves often offer sale prices for online orders) and stock up when you find them. I further suggest, that if your printer accepts both normal and “extended” (larger) cartridges, and you print pretty much everyday, get the larger. If you print only occasionally, don’t. Ink can dry up.

Pretty simple, right? And, also, probably not what you wanted to hear.

But the truth is – and have have witnessed scores of examples of this (3 already this January) – sooner or later, a syringed/generic/recycled ink cartridge will either:
* not print worth a *darn*
* clog your “print head” ‘nozzles’ (aka “jets”)

When it’s the latter, you can try to clean the ‘nozzles’/print head. Which sometimes works (let the print head soak overnight in a bowl of Windex, rinse and let dry thoroughly (overnight is good), and then run the printer’s “deep clean” utility a few times). But more often then not, in my experience, a clog means a new printer.
(Or a new print head.. which often costs as much as a new printer.)

If you spent good money to get a good printer, and you like it and want to keep it around for a while, play it safe — don’t gum it up by trying to save $10 — buy a manufacturer’s replacement cartridge. There are solid, sound, technical [physical] reasons for this, which I won’t bother you with. But think about it.. don’t you think using exactly what the printer’s designer designed it to use would produce the best results?

There is my 2¢.

My question for you, Dear Reader, is: have you ever had to replace a printer because you used cheap ink?

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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January 14, 2011 Posted by | advice, hardware, printers, tech, troubleshooting | , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

What You Need To Know About "Delete"*

Folks, today is a busy day here at Tech–for Everyone Headquarters, and today’s article is a re-posting.

I don’t know how long it was that I worked and played on computers before I truly understood that when I deleted a Word document from my My Documents folder it was not gone forever.

chalkboard_eraser - CopyI believe it was only natural to think it was “deleted”. It was gone, as far as I could tell. It didn’t show up no matter how I searched for it nor how desperately I needed it back. And believe me, there was many a time that I wished I could get a deleted letter or homework assignment back. If I cannot see it…and my machine cannot see it…and my machine says that the space it took up is now ‘free’…it is gone, right? I certainly thought so.

I think it’s rather important that you understand, if you don’t already, that when you drag something into the Recycle Bin, it isn’t really erased. Instead, the name/path entry in the file allocation table (FAT. The directory used to locate and ‘find’ files) is altered in a way that tells Windows to no longer display the file and that this (memory) area is now available for future storage.

The same thing happens when you take the drastic step of formatting your hard drive — it isn’t “wiped” like taking an eraser to a chalkboard: the Master Boot Table and the file directory are similarly altered, and once that occurs the machine can neither find your files nor your operating system — the rest of the 1′s and 0′s are left in place.

It is because of this fact — that files aren’t erased, but their directories and names are altered — that undelete and unformat utilities can perform their miracles. Instead of ignoring or treating these altered entries as writable space, they (attempt to) deliberately seek them out and rename them back to a recognizable formula, which restores the operating system’s (Windows) ability to ‘see’, find, and display them.  (If you need to recover files, please see, How to recover your lost files)

Tip of the day: Never assume that your data has been erased.
In fact, I suggest thinking in an opposite manner: assume that no matter what proactive measures you’ve taken, your data is on that hard drive. Tell yourself that a knowledgeable person with the right tools, if they get their hands on your hard drive, can read it. (There are some people in this industry who insist that your files aren’t really gone until your hard drive has been melted in a blast furnace!) Particularly keep this in mind when the time comes to donate, or otherwise get rid of, your old computer.
[note:
this applies to any device with “memory”, such as a cell phone.]

If you are security-conscious, and you want to ensure that when you erase something it’s really and truly erased (or you are about to donate your old PC) I recommend that, if you don’t already have one, you download a free file shredder utility (I will put one as today’s free link) and to choose one that offers multiple methods of shredding.

What a “shredder” does is it writes new data, and it does it in multiple passes. Typically writing all 1′s on one pass, all zeros on the next pass, and then a completely random pattern of 1′s and 0′s, and so on. It is generally recognized that your shredder should make 6-12 passes.

If you do this, you can donate your old PC comfortable in the knowledge that only a several thousand-dollar restoration, performed in a sterile lab, might render your personal information readable again. (If you are a corporation, and it’s time to throw out your old hard drives, and there’s highly sensitive data on those drives, melt them.)

Today’s free download: Zilla Data Nuker 2 (Please note: this program is an exception to my rule of always having run and tested the programs I suggest. I have not ever needed to download a file shredder as I’ve always had one bundled into the Utility Suites I have on my machines. However, this application is 5-star rated by Cnet, and I was unable to locate it on any “blacklists”. It is the one I would try first.) From Cnet, “This powerful program helps you shred important files & folders so that they cannot be restored & prevent attempts to recover sensitive deleted files from your hard drive by data recovery or forensic software. Shredder allows you to purge, wipe & erase data with methods that far exceed US Department of Defence standards for file deletion (DOD 5220.22). Easily automate the cleaning process with batch files, shortcuts and scheduler. Supports complete folder deletions including subfolders.

*Original post: 6/22/07

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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October 12, 2010 Posted by | computers, file system, how to, PC, privacy, security | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Monday, Monday, Monday

I suppose I should start today’s by telling you that I will not be holding a software license giveaway this week.

Okay. Okay, okay – settle down (and please put down that rotten tomato). I understand your disappointment.

But the fact remains: both of the products I had lined up proved to be in need of some refinement before I will recommend them here. I do try to look out for you guys. So..

I know that many of my readers like my giveaways, so, instead, let me mention that my friend, and fellow tech blogger, Rick Robinette has found a “limited time” giveaway of a fine PC tune up (optimization) program that retails for $50. Not a contest or drawing, but a straight-up giveaway! Don’t delay. I checked just now and it was still up, but I don’t know how long this offer will last. To get yours see, Get WinUtilities Pro for FREE (while it lasts).


Mondays are great, aren’t they? Great things happen on Mondays. So, I can’t offer a contest today. I will “get over it”. Yesterday was my kind of day. It was 100° in the shade. Occasional light breezes. Almost no humidity. The kind of day that makes one think of swimming pools.

And when I think of swimming pools, I am reminded of a story.. which I posted here. It goes…

How To Rescue A Drowned Devicecellphone2

From time to time I do something stupid — like  stub my toe or knock over my coffee mug or blurt out a blaspheme in the general vicinity of women and small children.
On my better days, I sometimes do all three at once.

This Saturday I went swimming, and I had my cell phone in the pocket of my shorts. Like I said, stupid. To my credit, I noticed that sad fact quite quickly. But the damage had been done. The phone had suffered not just a spill, but total immersion–submersion–and it was wet. In my defense, it was over a hundred degrees. In the shade.

It is a simple and a natural fact that electronic devices and water don’t ‘play well together’. It would not in the least be unreasonable to assume that total immersion of an electronic device (such as my phone) would render it – to use a technical term – kaput.

Quick action on my part, good fortune, and the fact that I wasn’t using the phone underwater (it was “off”) combined, in this particular case, for a much happier result, and my phone seems to be no worse for its adventure. (The fact that my make and model phone is very low end probably, to my way of thinking, helped a bit too. It has always struck me that the more costly to replace something is, the more delicate and fragile it is. A cosmic law, perhaps?)

Tip of the day: Rescue your drowned device with quick action.
Should you be suddenly struck with a case of bad luck and/or fumble-fingers, and you spill your drink right onto your keyboard, or you find some other creative way to get liquid onto your digital device, all may not be lost. The quicker, and more effectively you do the following, the better your chances of saving your device from the recycler’s heap.

1) The first and most important thing is to turn it off and remove any power source. Shut it down, yank the cord, remove the battery, isolate the dilithium crystals! And do it fast. Some devices, such as those connected to your PC by USB cables, and keyboards, get some voltage through their connecting cable, so also remove any attached cords or cables. Turning it off is not enough. You need to open the cover and remove any batteries. Remember, it is not the moisture which will ruin your device, it’s “short circuits”, and those are an electrical phenomenon.

2) Get as much of the moisture out as quickly as possible. Pick it up and let gravity drain it as much as possible. You should have the battery cover off already, now open up the device as much as possible. If we’re talking about a laptop, remove any PCMCIA cards (PC cards), release and remove the optical drive, and turn it upside down and with a screwdriver remove any access panels — such as the one covering your RAM chips. If your model allows, release the spring-latches and remove the keypad.

If we’re talking about a cell phone or PDA or MP3 player, try “popping” its case with a flat-head screwdriver or large coin. If the Web is available on another nearby machine, go online and look at the manufacturer’s instructions for opening the device’s case. Now that it is opened as much as possible, gently blot with a paper towel, or whatever absorbent material is handy.

[Note: If the liquid you spilled is the kind that dries sticky, such as a soda, you have more work to do. If it’s available, use rubbing alcohol (the “purer” the better) and cotton swabs to clean it up as much as you can. If rubbing alcohol is not handy, use water. Yes, water. Distilled if possible.]

Removing the moisture is key: drain and blot what liquid you can see. When that’s done, rest assured that there is still more liquid lurking in your device. Now is when absorption and evaporation become our friend. Since it was a hundred degrees outside, I simply left my phone in the sun for several hours. If sunshine is not an option, you can try using a hairdryer set to low (this will take a while), or if you’re brave (and ready to stand by, and keep a close eye), place it in a conventional oven set no higher than 150 degrees (°C), for an hour. In the case of a PDA or phone, you can also carry it, wrapped in tissue or a hanky, close to your body in a pocket. Another trick is to place the device in a sealed plastic bag with a handful of uncooked rice. Replace the rice every couple of hours or so.

3) Regardless of the method used, I strongly advise you to not reassemble and power up your device until the following day. Give evaporation and/or absorption every chance.

If you are lucky, your device will power up and function just fine — good luck and how quickly you removed the power being the key contributors to your success. If, however, you power up and your device functions strangely, or not at all, you may be able to isolate and replace the malfunctioning component (if you’re an experienced troubleshooter type). Or you may want to take it in to your friendly neighborhood repair shop and have them do it.  Sometimes it is more cost-effective to simply replace the device — your particular situation will vary.

jaws movie poster[note: I re-post this article each year, and someone will inevitably write in a comment about the ocean and salt-water; informing me that salt-water is very conductive and this practically guarantees a ruined device. To them I say, “Ocean? Didn’t you see Jaws ?”]

Today’s free download: Super Mario Bros 3 : Mario Forever 4.4
Hearkening back to the heyday of Nintendo, this game faithfully reproduces the classic Super Mario Bros. Although Mario Forever’s graphics and sound aren’t identical to those of the original, they’re so close most users familiar with the game won’t be able to differentiate.

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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June 28, 2010 Posted by | computers | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Another Way To Install A Program On A Netbook

A Thumb Drive Can Be Used In Place Of An External Optical Drive

Light-weight and small size make netbooks very portable. But, to achieve their compact size, certain items are missing from netbooks — most notably perhaps, internal CD/DVD drives.

This “disc deficit” is usually overcome by the purchase of an external (USB cable-connected) optical drive.

Today I want to point out that should you not happen to have an external drive available, frequently you can substitute, and use a “thumb drive” (“memory stick”) instead.. such as using the following method to watch DVD movies — see, Tech Tip for Travelers – Make Your Movies More Portable!

Tip of the day: Use a thumb drive to install programs on to a netbook.
To install a program (you have a CD for) onto a netbook using a thumb drive, you will need two things; one, access to a computer that has a CD/DVD drive and; two, a thumb drive large enough to hold the contents of the Install disc. [note: CD’s are roughly 700 MB’s (.7 GB’s) and DVD’s are typically 4.7 GB’s]

1) Go to the PC with the optical drive and insert the thumb drive. Then insert the Install disc into the drive tray.
Cancel (stop) any setup/install process from starting, should it try to “autostart”.

2) If the AutoPlay window opens, select “Open folder to view files” (which should be the bottom choice).
If you have disabled AutoPlay: Click Start > Double-click Computer (My Computer in XP/older) > right-click on the optical drive (CD-ROM) and choose Explore.

3) Drag the entire contents (all the files) of the CD/DVD to the icon for “removable drive” that is the thumb drive. Take mental note of what the installer executable’s name is – typically, it is setup.exe.

4) Use “Safely remove” and remove the thumb drive, and then insert it into your netbook. If the AutoPlay window opens, select “Open folder to view files” (which should be the bottom choice), if you have disabled AutoPlay: Click Start > Double-click Computer (My Computer in XP/older) > right-click on the removable drive (your thumb drive) and choose Explore. Find and then double-click the setup.exe.

That will “launch” the set up process and install the program on to your netbook, just as if it had been run from a disc.

Bonus tip: When you’re all done, you can drag all those setup files to the Recycle bin.

Copyright 2007-2010 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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January 22, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, Portable Computing, tech, thumb drives, upgrading, USB storage devices | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments