Tech – for Everyone

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

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.


>> Folks, don’t miss an article! To get Tech – for Everyone articles delivered to your e-mail Inbox, click here, or to subscribe in your RSS reader, click here. <<


Share this post :

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

General Advice For Purchasing A Digital Camera*

I understand perfectly why people want some advice when it comes to buying a digital camera. There is a whole gaggle of them to choose from – an overwhelming variety – and when you start shopping, it’s easy to become confused by the jargon.

A “mega” pixel is better than an ordinary, everyday “pixel”.. right? (You bet it is. It contains more vitamins and minerals.)

A long, long, time ago I wrote a three-part advice series on buying a new computer, and today I am going to reiterate a bit of advice from there – when buying a digital camera, you have to hold it in your hands. The “right” camera for you will just, well, “feel right”. If you keep accidentally pushing a button, or put your thumb right on the viewer screen.. that’s not good.

Tip of the day: General advice for purchasing a new digital camera.

* Optical zoom is better than digital zoom. Make sure that the “zoom” feature of your camera is handled by a moving lens. Digital zooming is okay in very small amounts, but the way it works will cause funny-looking “pixilation” when really put to work.

* You want image stabilization. Image stabilization is in my opinion simply a “must have”; fortunately, almost every manufacturer provides it. I won’t spend time, here, describing the different types. If you’re curious, click the link.

* The Megapixel. Folks, there is a lot of confusion regarding the camera jargon word “megapixel”. A higher megapixel number does not necessarily equate with “sharper image” or “clearer picture“.. in fact, they usually have nothing to do with each other.

Megapixels refers to the image (data) size and determines how big an enlargement you can make before you start to experience distortions (think of it as being a bit like film sizes). If the largest prints you ever make are 5 x 7, a three-to-four Megapixel camera is all you need. A 10 Megapixel camera is overkill for the vast majority of uses, and it will simply fill your memory card faster, with fewer shots. (But, you could make poster-size prints.)

* LCD “viewfinder”. I think it is important to have a manual viewfinder, as well as the LCD screen.. but that is personal opinion. In terms of LCD, the factors to consider are brightness, placement, and size. It should be big enough that you can see what it is showing when you hold the camera away from your body, and, it should be positioned on the camera in such a way as to not cause you to hold your hand in a funny/odd way so that you can see it. The image should be bright enough to be seen when you are out in the sunlight.
(And I’d like to repeat, your camera should just feel right in your hand.)

* Don’t buy features you won’t use. If you are not a photography buff, and don’t want to memorize a 200-page owners manual, then you don’t want to buy a D-SLR; you want a “point-and-shoot”, and you don’t need 24 “settings” if you’re only going to use one. Right? Right.

Today’s free link: SUPERAntiSpyware Online Safe Scan, a powerful new tool in the fight against the latest and particularly difficult malware infections.

Today’s free download: NetSetMan is a network settings manager which can easily switch between 6 different profiles including IP address, subnet mask, default gateway, DNS server, Win server, computer name, printer, DNS domain, workgroup, and scripts. Great for mobile devices.

Orig Post: 5/12/08

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

Share this post :

September 19, 2009 Posted by | advice, Digital camera, how to, shopping for, tech | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Adobe’s Online Photoshop

When Adobe introduced its new online Photoshop Website, I took a look and posted this review, Adobe Photoshop Express (Beta). Today I went back and looked at it again, as Photoshop.com is no longer a newly hatched beta.

For those who don’t yet know, Photoshop.com is a “Web 2.0” application for editing and sharing your digital images, and is seen to be a replacement for a program you buy and load onto your computer. It is a free service (and surprisingly, has no ads).

I would be very surprised if you haven’t heard of Photoshop; it has been around so long, it has become a verb in today’s language — meaning “to create a fake image”. Photoshop is the tool which allows you to put your head on someone else’s body.. or make it look like you’re standing on the moon.. Photoshop has long been considered the premier digital image manipulation program.

As I discussed in this article, “Web 2.0″ is all about us regular folks being able to ‘upload’ to the Web (and “share”/collaborate) instead of simply viewing (’downloading’) content. And frankly, Adobe is not the first to the market of online photo sharing Websites, nor sites that let you edit your pictures once you’ve loaded them.. Flickr, Picassa and Photobucket have been around for a while now (to name a few).

To use Photoshop online, you must “join” the club, by providing an e-mail address and creating a user account. While you do that, you create a personalized URL (like, http://yourname.photoshop.com) where you can post your pictures in “galleries”, if you want to share them (not required). Once you’re a member, you “upload” your pictures, and you can now edit them, and organize them into galleries, e-mail them, or use them as images on (other) Websites.
You can also easily “import” them from your other online accounts at Facebook as well as the sites named above.

editing_PSonline

The screenshot above shows the image editing screen. Those of you who have ever used Photoshop Elements will be very familiar with this interface. The editing options (left column) provide a thumbnail range above your original so you can see, and select from, adjustments. This makes ‘tweaking’ your image fairly easy and straight-forward, and allows you to experiment without ruining your original.

Is this for you? Well, I am an advanced Photoshop user, and so I find the tools in Photoshop Elements overly simplified – but which is precisely what many people want. While this tool will not let you paste your head onto a super-model’s body, or pose on the moon (you need a more powerful image editing program for that), it will let you smoothly and easily tweak your images, remove the red-eye effect, and share your pictures with far away friends and relatives.
[note: Photoshop.com also allows the uploading of videos, but I did not explore this feature.]

If you are not already using a similar service.. or are not satisfied with the one you’re using.. I suggest that you give this a tryout. I find it to be very slick and easy to use. So, click the link and get started.

Today’s free link: Photoshop.com

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

Share this post :

September 11, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, Digital Images, how to, Internet | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How To Rescue A Drowned Device*

Folks, In spite of the generally coolest year in my memory, where I live we’re actually had a few days of the kind of weather that makes one think about jumping into the pool. This reminded me that the time is right for me to re-publish my How To on what to do when your cell phone or laptop gets wet.

cellphone in toilet bowl From time to time I do something stupid — like  stub my toe or knock my coffee mug over 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 cellphone or PDA or MP3 player, try “popping” its case with a flat-head screwdriver. 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 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 ?”]

Free link of the day: As my faithful readers know, I am a big proponent of combating the modern plague of adware, spyware, and all sorts of malware. I have posted links for the better free versions of anti-spyware applications in the past. Sometimes though, it pays to invest in a “professional strength” application. The subscription-based anti-spyware application I use is the consistently top-rated Webroot Spy Sweeper. I suggest you try-before-you-buy whenever possible, and to do that with Spy Sweeper, click here.
* update: in the years that has elapsed since this was first posted, I have switched to Spyware Doctor. You can download a trial version of the “Full” edition here, or get the “limited” edition free as part of the Google Pack.

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

Share this post :

July 22, 2009 Posted by | advice, cellular, computers, gadgets, how to, Portable Computing, troubleshooting | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

It’s Time We Talked About Netbooks

The word netbook is a portmanteau of the words Internet and notebook.

feature_GetitAll Netbook users typically rely on online applications and services which do not require powerful hardware on the local computer (aka “cloud computing“), such as Google Docs and Calendar.

These are not speed demon gaming rigs, media servers, or even very small laptops — what they are is lightweight and very portable. And they’re cheap (I don’t mean “flimsy” or “poorly made”). Using one, I was reminded of state-of-the-art… in the year Windows XP came out (2001).

Some (most?) netbooks do not have conventional hard, or optical disc drives. Such netbooks use solid-state storage devices instead, as these require less power and are smaller, faster, and lighter. (On machines with no optical disk drive, application software is typically downloaded from the web or read from a USB device.)

All netbooks on the market today support Wi-Fi wireless networking and many can be used on mobile telephone networks with data capability. Mobile data plans are supplied under contract in the same way as cell phones. Most also include Ethernet and/or modem ports for broadband or dial-up Internet access.

I look at netbooks as filling the gap between smart phones/PDA’s and travelbooks/”mini”-laptops, and the pundits are saying netbooks are our future. Google seems to be betting that line, and it’s new Chrome OS is aimed squarely at this segment (see Netbooks: Google’s ace in PC war with Microsoft).

Recently I have been playing with a borrowed 9″ Acer “Aspire One” ZG5 (its main competitors in the low-cost netbook market are the Asus Eee PC and the Dell Inspiron Mini 9) which has the Intel chip and Windows XP. That combo is what I would buy.

I like the screen size and brightness, and I like the light weight, and I like the keyboard (which I would guesstimate to be 3/4’s of a “regular” keyboard) as I am not skilled at typing with my thumbs on tiny QWERTY arrays with miniscule buttons — I need KEYS. The unit feels solid and sturdy. It is too big to fit in any of my pockets, though.

I think these machines do what most people – even business people – use their mobile devices for.. e-mail, browsing the Internet, and working with documents; and by “ripping” a DVD to the drive, they can also be media players too (see, Quick Tip: Movies on the plane). I think they are worth a look-see, if you haven’t “checked it out” yet.
(They might make a perfect ‘first computer’ for a child, too…)

Purchasing: As I always advise, and due to the smaller key arrangements and touchpads, this is something you definitely want to “test drive” before you buy. Make sure it “feels right” before you buy.

The future of computing? I’m not so sure. What do you think?

Today’s free link: Hacker steals Twitter’s confidential documents

Today’s free download: Free YouTube to MP3 Converter Extract sound from videos on YouTube and convert sound tracks into MP3.

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

Share this post :

July 16, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, gadgets, hardware, Internet, PC, Portable Computing, shopping for, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Tech Paul’s One Piece of Advice

A Non-technical Reader Asks For Computer Advice

Q: Tech Paul, about a month ago I found your website by a accidental click of my mouse. Your article made me laugh, and I think I learned something too but I am a older person and computers are not very interesting to me.

I can do the basic things like answer my e-mail and hunt for good deals on the internet. I have Yahoo and my son installed a genealogy program for me which I really enjoy. Most of what you write about I find too complicated but I like your articles on scam email.

My question is what one piece of advice you would give for someone like me who is not very technical?

A: Dear Reader,
Thank you for sending me this challenging question. The question is a challenge to me not because I don’t have Tech advice to give.. but in trying to limit myself to just one answer! And, I’m not sure I can do it…

Hmmm….

Don’t be afraid of, or intimidated by, your computer (or gizmo, or digital doodad). That’s it: my one piece of advice. All else flows from there.

Simply understand that:
* Your computer is NOT “smarter” than you. In fact it’s quite dumb — it can only think in terms of “off” or “on”, “false” or “true” (a zero or a one), and you can do better than that!
* You cannot, typically, damage it so badly as to make it irreparable. Often (like, 90% of the time) all you need to do is power it off and then on again to resolve the problem (called a “reboot”). When that doesn’t work, you may need to look up an answer, or ask for help.. and/or maybe buy a new part, but you might be surprised at what you can fix yourself. (See My favorite Life Saver flavor? System Restore)
* Computers are there to obey YOU, not the other way around. You’re the one with a creative mind. Did you know that almost everything on your computer is customizable? Make things the way YOU want them.

Yes, Dear Reader, I do have a second piece of advice, which I offer up here free of charge: keep coming back and reading my Tips & Tricks articles, and when you see one you like, give it a try.
And who knows? Maybe I’ll make you laugh again too, and in this day and age that’s worth something, right?

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

Share this post :

July 6, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, tech | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Digital Cameras and Fireworks

4th Of JulyThis week nothing is getting done by anyone except clock watching as we prepare for the greatest of all weekends — the 4th of July Holiday. Sure, we’re at work… physically.

So… I did what a lot of people are doing and just surfed the web a bit today.

Looking quite busy, I dropped by a site I have mentioned here before, timmyjohnboy.com, and took note of an article of his, Going On Vacation? Take Your Camera And These Tips!
I thought, well, I think a few Tech–for Everyone readers might be taking a little trip this weekend, and might like to read this collection of tips.

He also recommended a site that teaches digital photography online that I was previously unfamiliar with named Digital Photography School, and they had an article that a lot of people would be interested in: How to Photograph Fireworks Displays.

I mean, who hasn’t tried to take pictures of the fireworks and been disappointed with the result?

So, a big thanks to Timmy John Boy, and the good folks at the Digital Photography School, not only for helping me find this great advice, but for helping me look productive for a while.

Today’s free link: Don’t Sign-in on the Internet Without KeyScrambler.

Today’s free download: Monitor the Weather from your Windows Desktop

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

Share this post :

July 1, 2009 Posted by | advice, Digital camera, Digital Images, how to, Internet | , , , , , , | Leave a comment