Tech – for Everyone

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

Computer Gaming and Me.. and a 12 yr-old.

To actually be in “vacation mode”, I must resist the compulsion to hammer out a new article everyday. And so today I am re-posting an article that I enjoyed writing, some time ago, and I hope you will enjoy reading today.

When I first started writing Tech–for Everyone way back on the 8th of June (56 how-to articles ago)[update: today is #741], I wondered how long I could go before I talked about computer gaming. I think I did fairly well at delaying the inevitable. Two things triggered this post: a user with a pre-teen boy, and my mood. I’ll look at the latter first.

This week I got into a foul mood. I became short-tempered, irritated, antsy. I was definitely ‘out of sorts’. I was not a Happy Camper. Part of this was due to the fact that I had several back-to-back days of too-much-to-do/too-little-time (can anyone relate?). I felt a bit less than “in control”.
I managed to keep up with demands, and my time-spent was successful. I not only kept afloat, but I succeeded. However, this didn’t lighten my mood.
Finally, by staying up a little longer than I should, I was able to take a break and play a conquest map of Age of Empires III, The Warchiefs (naturally, I won). Amazingly, I was calm, refreshed, and happy. I was a Happy Camper again.
Why? I realized that it had been several days since I had played a game, and I had subconsciously “missed it”, like a smoker during a long flight, or a dieter walking past the bakery. And that once I got my “fix”, I was returned to a normal psychological state. This realization has caused me to wonder if I (me! myself!) wasn’t developing a gaming “addiction”. Wow.

There have been several news stories about computer gaming; ranging from the couple who suffered financial ruin by devoting their lives completely to the online game World of Warcraft (a couple of nut-jobs, if you ask me), to the medical ramifications (carpal-tunnel) of too much controller/mouse/keyboard use … especially in children.

There is a real belief in “gaming addiction”, and there’s a doctor who’s gone so far as publicly stating that as much as 40% of all WoW players are clinically addicted to it. (Read the article) Consider that there’s at least six and-a half million people subscribing, and you realize that that’s a LOT of people … and that’s just one game. It is my belief that these news stories will only increase in number; that as our society becomes more and more of a shut-in society, and more of our interactions take place online, topics along this line will only grow. Google “World of Warcraft+divorce” and you’ll see 747,000 results. WoW.
If your friends are telling you you’re an addict, please … don’t take it as a compliment. Take a serious look at yourself, before you lose everything.

That said, I do play computer games; and if you’re curious, I like the WW II FPS titles (Call of Duty, Medal of Honor), air combat simulators (Lock On, Il-2, Microsoft), and civilization games. And good-old Solitaire. I play a couple of games a day, to “unwind”. I think I’m alright… I haven’t, as yet, spent real money on ‘magic armor’.

The second topic I mentioned was the lady with the pre-teen son. She keeps having “weird pop ups”, and her machine is “always so slow.” I had installed a security suite, and the full gamut of protections onto her machine, and yet she keeps having these issues. She asked me, “why does this keep happening?”

I asked her several questions and looked over her logs and histories. She told me she has a 12 year-old son, and that as soon as he gets home from school he goes straight to the computer to “do homework” … that he spends quit a bit of time on the PC. Well! I was once a 12 year-old boy, and I remember well how much time in the afternoon — freshly released from scholarly confinement — I spent on homework. None. Zero. Nada. (At least, not willingly.)

Sure enough, a look at IE’s browsing history (read how to do this here) did not reveal any instances of National Geographic, The History Explorer, Encyclopedia Brittanica, or “math help” (or anything else even vaguely homework-related), but revealed endless explorations of Flash games, online games, and “cheat codes”.

I looked at his download history and found plenty of “demo games”, magic swords and shields, and other “bonuses” he’d earned playing his online games. Could one of those ‘magic swords’ (or demo-games) have contained spyware??? Does spyware slow down your machine? Cause pop ups? Well … (duh) YES!

Tip of the day: Here’s the thing most folks fail to fully grasp — when you let your child run under your User Account, he’s running with full administrator privileges and can install programs unrestricted and when you click on “download this file”, you’re bypassing your protection. (It has to be this way, or you’d never get anything done) You are telling your anti-malware apps, “it’s OK. I know what I’m doing.” A 12 year-old boy, caught up in the excitement at having just “triumphed” and earning himself a +2 Sword of Sharpness, probably doesn’t know what he’s doing, and he will click “download your prize now!”
98% of the time, it’s harmless fun. How can you tell which demo game or ‘magic shield’ is safe, and which one’s contain spyware? You can’t. Sorry. Like I said, 98% of them are safe.

If missed my series on protecting your kids from the Internet, you can learn how to remedy this — creating a Limited User Account, and cranking up IE’s security, etc. — by clicking here.

Today’s free link: Today’s free link is a light-weight (small and efficient) 3-D chess game. It will run easily on older machines. You can adjust the difficulty level from Beginner to Club, and improve your game. Pawn 2

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

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July 15, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, Gaming, Internet | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Free Shocking Downloads Music New

I understand that many of you are looking at today’s title – free shocking downloads music new – and wondering if old techpaul hasn’t gone ’round the bend, jumped the rails, and lost all his marbles. Fear not. I am no crazier today than I was last week; and no, I did not bump my head.

The facts are these:
1) I have a website
2) I want viewers (aka “eyeballs”, “hits”, “pageloads”, “clicks”)
3) Shocking free music downloads – NEW!

Okay. We have the facts, and they’re not unusual. Website owners want clicks — lots of them. There’s nothing shocking or particularly new in this. In the online world, your “success” (aka “ranking”) is based solely on these numbers (which anyone can view for free). Quality of content is irrelevant.

graph Oops! I omitted a fact:
4) Search engines send you the viewers
5) NEW! free shocking downloads music

In the online world, much like in RL, your website’s numbers reflect how popular you are and if you’re a website owner, you want MORE.

So you need to get the search engines (namely Google, though I have heard that there are indeed others) to notice you, and like you, and be your friend.

If you own a website and are serious about this, you will spend mucho dineros and hire an SEO (search engine optimization) expert — who will analyze your website looking for an elusive and very rare creature called “keywords“, which will need “optimizing”.

Some words are “hot” and some are not.

It turns out that “tech”, “tips”, and “advice” — as search engine keywords — are not very.. well, they simply don’t get lots of clicks. (Yes. I have been aware of this for a long time…) Free, music, downloads, and shocking are supposed to be HOT! HOT! HOT!
And the more I use them.. the more eyeballs/views/clicks I will get. Yay!

So now you understand today’s title. I am revamping this site with a new strategy, which should propel me to the top with shocking speed.

If this doesn’t work.. I’m told that “sex” and “video” are good words too…

Today’s free link: If Your Bank Doesn’t Know Your Name – Maybe That’s A Clue The Email Is Fraud – Huh?

Today’s free download: tinySpell is a small utility that allows you to easily and quickly check and correct the spelling in any Windows application. tinySpell can watch your typing on the fly and alert you whenever it detects a misspelled word. It can also check the spelling of text that you copy to the clipboard.

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

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June 13, 2009 Posted by | Internet | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Make XP Look Like Vista or Mac OS X

Free Downloads Transform Your Desktop

In one of my prior articles (see, A Brief Pause/fun with XP Themes) I wrote about using Windows Themes to customize the look and feel of your Desktop, and make it more “you”. I also told you about “wallpaper” and “skins“, which much more radically alter the GUI (“goo-ey”, aka Graphical User Interface), allowing deeper changes.

There is, literally, a whole world of Desktop wallpapers, XP skins, and pre-configured Themes available for you to explore. Do you love kittens? Unicorns? NASCAR? I’m sure there’s a theme/skin for you.
(A couple of quick resources: The official Microsoft XP “Desktop enhancements” webpage, and Witt’sWallpapers.)

It’s a fact — though Microsoft did soften, and modernize the “Windows look” with XP (rounded edges, and a picture background), it looks quite dated to us today.. a bit stodgy and boring. (And to some observers, it kinda says, “we’re too *thrifty* to buy new equipment.”)

Today’s free downloads: By downloading and installing a skin, you can change the face your computer presents to the world, without changing the essential code of the underlying operating system.

So, if you would like the Vista Desktop, Menus, Sidebar widgets and general look and feel, but XP loyalty/Vista hate, program compatibility, etc. means sticking with XP — download the Vista Transformation Pack.
vtp9_desktop

Or, you can really “trip people out” (to use a little California lingo) and put an Apple Mac face on your XP machine with RK Launcher. RK Launcher* gives you a customizable “Dock” to replace the Windows Taskbar.
rk_launcher

Kind of hard to believe that both those screenshots are XP machines.. right?

Today’s free link: Gmail users hit by ViddyHo phishing chat attack
The unsolicited instant messages urge Gmail users to “check out this video” by clicking on a link via the TinyURL service. The link, however, directs users to a website called ViddyHo – which asks surfers to enter their Gmail usernames and passwords.

* My thanks to Deb Shindler for mentioning this program.

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

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February 25, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, software, tech, tweaks, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Microsoft’s Live — A Year Later

Real Life Experience

A year ago: (if the sentences below are familiar, please scroll down to “update”)
In my ongoing, relentless effort to be simply the Best Tech Writer on the Web, big changes are happening. HUGE changes. Ginormous changes. (I mean.. really big.) These changes will alter the way I do everything. I am undergoing a metamorphosis of epic proportions. I am going to have to unlearn the ways I have been doing things for.. well, forever. Which isn’t easy. I’m too old to be learning new tricks without a grumble.

One change is that Tech–for Everyone is now being co-hosted on *another* blogging site. This is due to my research into the GigantiCorp known as Google, and my exploration of their ever-expanding array of services, some of which I have reported here.

When you acquire a ‘G-identity’, you gain access to much more than just a Gmail account (which, IMHO, is the best free Webmail service going right now), and one of those things is access to Blogger. Google is continuing to grow even as we speak… who knows what service they’ll be offering next.

[Addenda: for those of you whose favorite feature of this series is the daily download, you will definitely want to be aware of the “Google Pack” of free downloads — Spyware Doctor being of special note — and you can find out more here https://techpaul.wordpress.com/2007/11/21/googles-pack-is-a-winner/]

What this means for me is, I now have to publish twice (six times a week!) each day– once here, and once there. Yuk. Fortunately for me, I have been doing intensive, in-depth explorations of the other GigantiCorp known as Microsoft.. specifically their competing array of services offered under the title “Windows Live”.

I am now writing this article in a completely different way.. one that makes it easy to write-once, post-twice. I have downloaded and Installed a MS program called “Live Writer“, which is a tool for bloggers. The way I had been doing things (all this time) was through my web browser. I would navigate to here, login, access the WYSIWYG writing tool, and when finished, hit the “Publish” button.

The other Big Change to my routine is caused by “Live Mail“, which is also freshly downloaded and installed. This is a program very much like Outlook Express and Vista’s Mail, only it allows you to access webmail accounts.. such as ‘Live Hotmail’.

It’s about time they did this. My usual routine was to open my web browser and open a tab for each webmail account. It is the way I’ve been doing it for.. well, forever. I have several webmail accounts (as you may have as well) and so this made for several open tabs and much clicking back-and-forth. Live Mail allows me to combine them into one collection of folders.
A big plus– it handles encryption certificates well (see, Simple E-mail Encryption).

If you use, or have ever used, an e-mail client (Thunderbird, Outlook, Outlook Express, etc.), then you will have a zero learning-curve with Live Mail, as it’s basically the same.. with one vital exception: it allows you to access all your mailboxes.

As you can imagine, my web browser had reached the point where I simply had too many tabs open (three Inboxes, WordPress, and now Blogger, plus a few of my favorite blogs..) and so I have “gone Live”. I am breaking my browser habit. I am trying New Things. No longer will I launch Avant and start Ctrl+T-ing. No! From here on out, I’ll launch a “Live” something-or-other.

Update: Loyal friends and true of this series will recognize the words above. They appeared a here a year ago. In that time there have been changes, both in the “Live” approach that Microsoft is implementing, and in how I use them. I will refer you to an excellent review of the individual programs that make up Live, rather than re-invent the wheel. I suggest you take a look at it, because when Windows 7 gets here, that’s how you’ll gain much of the functionality that came with Vista.

In the year that has passed since I downloaded these two “Live” programs–
* I have completely reverted to accessing my webmail accounts via a web browser, and monitoring them with either my IM program (Digsby/Trillian) or a notifier. I never was a fan of e-mail clients (and a big part of my job as a Tech is troubleshooting Outlook.. so I see their ‘dark side’ more than their good).
Please understand that this is not a critique of “Live Mail”. It just wasn’t “me”.

* Inversely, I have come to absolutely rely on Live Writer. It is one of my ‘essential programs’, and I love it. The new beta is — IMHO — fantastic.

The Windows Live programs are — as I’ve written here before — definitely worth looking at.

Today’s free download(s) and link: Well, gee! There’s been 7 download links already sprinkled through out the article.. which lead to, like, 60 programs.. but:
Windows Live Writer 2009 beta

Windows Live Essentials 2009 Review

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

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February 2, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, Microsoft, PC, software, tech, Windows | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tips for better searching in XP*

There have been occasions when I was not paying attention, and I saved (and/or downloaded) a file to some location I didn’t intend. What’s worse, I wasn’t watching closely enough to notice what and where that location was, and the file was effectively gone. Of course, my misplaced file wasn’t really gone … I just had to find it again. That’s when a desktop Search tool comes to my rescue.
Sometimes, though, the search comes up ’empty’, or otherwise produces unhelpful results, and that’s what I want to address today.

Tip of the day: Find that file by using the proper search tool, properly. Windows comes with a built-in search tool, and there are “better” tools available (usually as free downloads) as well. But let’s start with the tool you already have. Windows Search is located in your Start menu (Start >Search) and is the magnifying glass icon. If you cannot see a Search/magnifying glass: right-click on a blank area of your Taskbar and select Properties. Now click the Start Menu tab and click on the “Customize” button and select the Advanced tab. Scroll down and place a check in the box marked “Search”, as shown below.

search.jpg

Launch the Search tool and click on the “All files and folders” option in the “What do you want to search for?” area, and then — and here’s the trick — click on the “more advanced options” down arrow, and place a check in the top three checkboxes.

Adv_Search There are several “hidden” folders in the Windows filing system and it’s possible your file was moved into one of these (particularly downloaded emails) and if that happened, it will not show up in a “normal” search. Selecting the subfolders option ensures that your search is as thorough as possible. Now enter the file name and click the “Search” button and enjoy the cute antics of the animated ‘search puppy’.

Bonus tip of the day: Often, I cannot remember the exact, or complete, name of the file, and that’s when the use of the wildcard symbol becomes very useful. Windows uses the “*” to represent “any”.

Let’s say, for sake of example, that I found a neat picture of a rose on the Internet (not copyrighted, of course!) and downloaded it. The actual file name is “DSCredrose16.jpg”, and being the incredible complex and super-busy human that I am … I download it to someplace other than where I expected. Searching for “rose.jpg”, in this case, produced no results (sometimes it will). If I use wildcards, I don’t have to worry about an exact match. Typing in “*rose*.jpg” (no quotes) will find it, because I told the search to ‘match’ any letters before the characters r-o-s-e and any characters after them as well, and to show me only pictures.
If I’m not certain the picture was a JPEG, and that it might be a GIFF, or a TIFF, or a PNG, or a Photoshop picture (.psd), or a bitmap (.bmp) …I substitute a wildcard for .jpg, like this: “*rose*.*”.
If I type *.* into the search for box, I will get a list of every file on my machine — because I told it to ‘match’ every file name, and every file type.

Today’s free link(s): If you want a faster/better/more capable desktop search tool than the one built into Windows XP (and if you spend a lot of time searching for files on your machines, you may), the top three downloads are Microsoft’s Windows Desktop Search, Google Desktop search, and Copernic. I must warn you that there are some privacy and security issues revolving around Google Desktop that may or may not remain valid — that debate still lingers. I can also tell you that Copernic is the geek’s choice.

* Original post: 7/26/07

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

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August 8, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, how to, PC, searching, tech, wildcards, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Holiday Edition: Google’s “Pack” is a winner

Tech–for Everyone is taking a short break for the Holiday, and I am re-posting a prior article. I chose this one as the free download link may be particularly appropriate for some of you. This post appeared 11/21/07. I sincerely hope you all have a safe and a happy holiday. My online Tech Support business is open as usual.

I am a “downloader”. I get a real kick out of downloading cool and/or useful programs — particularly when they’re free. A lot of you are “downloaders” too, and one of this site’s more popular items is the daily download link I post at the end of each article.
I also like that when I am considering spending money on a program, I can (usually) download a “trial”, which I can use to see if it works as I hope it will before I lay out my hard-earned cash. By taking advantage of these trials, I have avoided spending money on programs which caused instability or bogged down my system or just failed to live up to their promise; and, I have found some great programs (games, mostly, but that’s just me) that I would not have found otherwise.

Today I want to tell you about a “package” of downloads put together by Google. This one download includes some of the programs I have featured in my “Free link of the day”, and a couple that I haven’t (yet). The one (included) program that caused me to write today’s article is Spyware Doctor. Spyware Doctor is a for-pay anti-spyware tool that has consistently ranked number 1, or number 2, on the Best Anti-Spyware lists (currently number one). It is well-worth the $30 price.
The Google Pack includes an effective, though smaller, version of Spyware Doctor, as well as an impressive list of other applications.

gpackopts.jpg

One of the truly great features of the Google Pack is that you can pick-and-choose which of these options to download to your machine. (You could, conceivably, download a “pack” of one.) The default selections are shown here, but I would do a little checking and unchecking before I clicked the “Download” button.

First, uncheck the “make Google my Homepage” as you probably have already set your desired “Home” for your browser.
Also, uncheck the box for Adobe Reader. If you must have a “reader” to open PDF files, use any other free reader (unless you enjoy being hassled while you compute, and prefer a slow boot), such as PrimoPDF (included at the bottom of this article).
Do not check Real Player.

Those of you who are security conscious (hopefully all of you) should keep the checks in Norton Security Inspector (which includes antivirus and anti-spyware) and Spyware Doctor.

I have mentioned the others before, except for Google Talk, which is an IM, and Google Photos Screensaver.. which I can see no use for.

For those of you who want to take advantage of this unique download bundle offered by Google, click here.

Free link of the day: (Yes. Another one!) Those free “trial” programs I mentioned above are not always such a wonderful thing– particularly when they are ‘forced’ upon us against our will. Whenever you buy a new computer, it will come preloaded with all sorts of trialware (as it’s called) that most of us don’t want.
If you have just purchased a new PC (or are about to), download and run the wonderful PC Decrapifier and clean off that stuff.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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December 24, 2007 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, computers, how to, PC, tech, Windows | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Google’s “Pack” is a winner

I am a “downloader”. I get a real kick out of downloading cool and/or useful programs — particularly when they’re free. A lot of you are “downloaders” too, and one of this site’s more popular items is the daily download link I post at the end of each article.
I also like that when I am considering spending money on a program, I can (usually) download a “trial”, which I can use to see if it works as I hope it will before I lay out my hard-earned cash. By taking advantage of these trials, I have avoided spending money on programs which caused instability or bogged down my system or just failed to live up to their promise; and, I have found some great programs (games, mostly, but that’s just me) that I would not have found otherwise.

Today I want to tell you about a “package” of downloads put together by Google. This one download includes some of the programs I have featured in my “Free link of the day”, and a couple that I haven’t (yet). The one (included) program that caused me to write today’s article is Spyware Doctor. Spyware Doctor is a for-pay anti-spyware tool that has consistently ranked number 1, or number 2, on the Best Anti-Spyware lists (currently number one). It is well-worth the $30 price.
The Google Pack includes an effective, though smaller, version of Spyware Doctor, as well as an impressive list of other applications.

gpackopts.jpg

One of the truly great features of the Google Pack is that you can pick-and-choose which of these options to download to your machine. (You could, conceivably, download a “pack” of one.) The default selections are shown here, but I would do a little checking and unchecking before I clicked the “Download” button.

First, uncheck the “make Google my Homepage” as you probably have already set your desired “Home” for your browser.
Also, uncheck the box for Adobe Reader. If you must have a “reader” to open PDF files, use any other free reader (unless you enjoy being hassled while you compute, and prefer a slow boot), such as PrimoPDF (included at the bottom of this article).
Do not check Real Player.

Those of you who are security conscious (hopefully all of you) should keep the checks in Norton Security Inspector (which includes antivirus and anti-spyware) and Spyware Doctor.

I have mentioned the others before, except for Google Talk, which is an IM, and Google Photos Screensaver.. which I can see no use for.

For those of you who want to take advantage of this unique download bundle offered by Google, click here.

Free link of the day: (Yes. Another one!) Those free “trial” programs I mentioned above are not always such a wonderful thing– particularly when they are ‘forced’ upon us against our will. Whenever you buy a new computer, it will come preloaded with all sorts of trialware (as it’s called) that most of us don’t want.
If you have just purchased a new PC (or are about to), download and run the wonderful PC Decrapifier and clean off that stuff.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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November 21, 2007 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, antivirus, computers, how to, PC, security, tech, Windows | , , , | Leave a comment