Tech – for Everyone

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

7 features to boost your productivity in Windows 7

Windows 7 has many new features that can speed up your work. Some are obvious, but others are more like ‘hidden jewels’. Tony Bradley’s article over on ComputerWorld is a great place for you to find out about 7 of these new efficiency-boosters and learn good advice for best using them.

Here is the direct link: Windows 7 efficiency tips “Master these features to boost your productivity in Windows 7.”

Or.. you can click on the sections of interest..

  1. Get the most out of Jump Lists
  2. Beef up context menus
  3. Enable AHCI
  4. Navigate with the Aero interface
  5. Organize your files with libraries
  6. Use keyboard shortcuts
  7. Windows search trumps all

Raise your Geek Quotient, click a link or two!

Related: And for those of you who aren’t interested in these – because you are still using Windows XP – see, It is time to face facts and finally dump Windows XP

I have been saying this for a while now; but, sometimes people want to know what other professionals are saying..

Unrelated: (But hopefully fun) I have been meaning to mention this for some time now, and perhaps it is no longer relevant, but I have been hearing from many, many places that it has been hot and humid and insufferable. Quite different from here, where we have had days that did not break 70° (though today is nice and warm) and I thought I was going to get jobbed out of summer…

Today’s quote:If it weren’t for the fact that the TV set and the refrigerator are so far apart, some of us wouldn’t get any exercise at all.”  ~ Joey Adams

Have a great weekend, everybody!

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

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July 30, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, tech, Windows 7 | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Apple’s New “Lion”, and More for Your Monday

Apple announced that it had 1 million downloads of its newest operating system, OS X 10.7 codename “Lion”, on its first day of availability. Available through the Mac App Store for $29.99, Apple says people are buying Lion faster than any other OS release in Apple’s history.

Microsoft could take a lesson from this (IMHO). Not from adding a feature or two and a dozen tweaks and calling it a new version (with a new name), but to get a clue about their archaic pricing structure. If I could get Windows 7 Home upgrade licenses for $30 – $40, I would buy a dozen of them today.

I am not an iFanatic, and do not know any more about Apple machines than what I have to as a Technician living in Appleland (aka ‘silicon valley’) — yes, I fix Macs. But I don’t use them. I haven’t powered up my “Tiger” machine in.. oh, let’s call it 2 years. And, so far, I do not own any iGadgets either.

With that said, I have looked at various “reviews” and it seems to me that the main thing Lion gives you (new) is direct integration with the iStore, and touchscreen ‘gestures’.
Hmmm… I don’t want either of those things.
It kind of looks to me like Apple is “blending” their operating systems for their gadgets into their desktop OS. (People are accusing Windows 8 of this same kind of thing..)

It also has something called “natural scrolling”, which apparently nobody likes.

I will say, it is kind of hard finding less-than-enthusiastic reviews.. ahem. Such as this one: Here Are 12 Amazing Hidden Features In Mac OS X Lion

Lion touts more than 250 new features, but Apple only advertises a few of them. We picked out some of the best tips for customizing and making the most of Lion. Read more..

I dare you to look at those, and then I ask you think about the definition of the word “amazing”, and then find any correlation. (And note that one of the ‘tips’ is how to turn off natural scrolling..)
I was kind of surprised that some of the ‘features’ are only now available…

I had questions if improved 64-bit capability would make Lion “faster” than Snow Leopard, so I found this article interesting (though, it is way too early to really tell): Snow Leopard vs. Lion: Performance head-to-head

Since we had the 27-inch iMac on hand, we thought we’d see if OS X Lion introduced any performance changes. Read more..

(And for those considering “upgrading” to Lion, I would suggest reading the comments, too.)

As I said earlier, I am not an “Apple guy”, and I do not have any ‘hands on’ experience with Lion. So I am not going to presume to advise you Apple users on whether to upgrade to Lion or not. I will only offer (repeat, really) my ‘general policy’ which goes — yes, you want to keep all your software up to date with the newest versions; but, you do not want version 1.0 of anything.
A seeming contradiction.

I – myself – would wait a bit on Lion. Until the first patches have been released. Then I would upgrade. And learn the new “productivity enhancements” like “spaces”. Maybe (probably) even buy a “gestures” mouse.

If you are at all curious about Apple’s new operating system, (“The World’s Most Advanced Operating System”) the place to start is to take a look at the official Apple page, here.

Today’s reading reco: Four Things Google Plus Could Do To Fix Google Plus
(There are “big” issues here.. I urge a read.)

Saturday’s Google Plus user account deletion purge plunged the new social network into a crisis of user trust: the community wants it fixed. Read more..

“Google+ is not warning users before deleting user accounts, and some people have reported being locked out of all Google services, including docs and Gmail.”


Today’s quote:Joy is a flower that blooms when you do.”  ~ Unknown

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

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July 25, 2011 Posted by | advice, Apple, computers, News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Android Adventures – Part 3

Welcome to part 3 of my Android series. (Previously, My First Look At Android, part 1 and Playing with an Android – Part 2.) Yesterday, in part2, I ran long listing the features of my new Android smart phone I am finding most neat-o and useful. So let me continue…

7) “Hands free”/voice search/”Genius button”: Along with my phone, I got one of those Lt. Uhura ear doodads (Bluetooth headset), as Kallyfornyah has a much-ignored “Hands-free” Law. With it (or the ‘genius button’) I can tap a button, and say, “call, Joe Smith, mobile” and – like magic – a woman’s voice confirms that I am calling Joe’s cell. Or, I can say “find pizza” and – like magic – my phone will display results, and a map. I mentioned before that I am a dinosaur: so, I am a bit “weirded out” by voice recognition, but the more I use it the more I like it. I have to confess, too, it’s cool.
(The “genius button” is a dedicated “voice recognition” activator. Those w/o such a shortcut might prefer Vlingo.. from what I understand, it has fewer errors than Google’s app.)

8) “Swype”: Being the old dinosaur that I am, I completely missed the the whole ‘texting’ thing, and never learned to “thumb type” on those little-bitty buttons. While I find “touchscreen” keyboards doable, I also find myself using the backspace button almost every other letter. That is why I LOVE “Swype”, and consider it a must have. Here’s a video demonstration..

9) Clock/timer: I am somewhat like the “absent-minded professor” and get caught up in what I’m doing; which makes me a wee bit forgetful, and the ability to quickly set a timer to chime and remind me that it’s time to move the hose, or check the oven, has proven quite valuable to me.
(I still (usually) wear a wristwatch, but I have set each screen on my phone to have a clock ‘widget’; so a glance there is just as good as a glance at my wrist.. well.. my phone’s clock will tell me the temperature too.)

10) Productivity ‘apps’: I have found that get-myself-organized tools, like To Do Lists and calendared appointments (and reminders) are most useful to me when they are actually in the same place I am: it has proven near useless for me to write myself a note, and then leave that note at my friend’s house, or in my car, or some other location I am not.

It occurred to me that, as a full-blooded Geek, I am never too far away from a computer.. so I decided to start using Google Calendar, Tasks, and Evernote (whose slogan is “Remember everything”). I wanted that same ability on a phone. Android is a Google product, so seamless editing/updating of Calender, Gmail, and Tasks was/is a big “selling point” for me. I really enjoy being able to schedule a follow-up appointment, while I am with my client, by just tapping my phone — and having that appointment appear on my computers at home/office automatically (no ‘multiple entry’).
With Evernote, I can use the phone’s camera to ‘snap’ an image as a note/reminder.. which has come in handy a few times already. And I use it kind of like an ‘everywhere sticky note’.

I am curious what mobile “business productivity” apps folks out there are using, and finding “best”. I hope readers will leave their reco’s as a comment.

11) This last one is just plain .. odd. I downloaded a compass/leveling tool to fiddle with, and dang, if the bubble-leveler didn’t come in handy for some household chores I had to do (picture frame leveling).

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

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March 12, 2011 Posted by | Android, cellular, gadgets, hardware, Internet, iPhone, mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Playing with an Android – Part 2

Not too long ago, I finally joined the 21st Century, and got one of those “smart phones”. It’s one of those fancy new ones; the kind that fetches my slippers  and lights my pipe. (See,  My First Look At Android, part 1.)

Actually, I don’t smoke a pipe. And as far as I have been able to determine, my HTC phone does not have a butane lighter built into it. (None of the current crop of phones does. I asked.)

But it does have some nifty features: too many to list here. So what I thought I would do is tell you about the ones I have found quite useful in the first few weeks of use, as well as how often I’ve used them. I am hoping maybe it will help some of you decide if it’s time for a new phone too. (I hope readers will tell me what features and apps they are finding most useful too.)

More than a phone:

1) MP3 music player/FM radio. I am finding that my smart phone really is proving to be an entertainment device. It came with the ability to act as a FM radio, and I frequently use it to listen to my fave station (107.7 the Bone). It also came with (basic) Slacker, and I downloaded Pandora, “online radio” players.. though, in practice, I haven’t used them. Also, I have loaded a “playlist” of music onto the phone’s 8 GB MicroSD chip, so my favorite songs are just a couple of screen ‘taps’ away.
Short version: my phone is also an ‘iPod’ (type device) — and I use that feature a lot: almost every day, in fact.

2) Turn by turn navigation. Two years or so ago, I gave my father a Garmin GPS device. I never saw use for one myself: I am a pretty good navigator. (And before I leave, I check Google Maps or MapQuest, and maybe write down some notes.) But my phone has GPS and a Navigation app which works just like my father’s Garmin – even “speaking” my directions to me as I drive. [note: I disable GPS on the phone except when I need it, setting it to “911 mode”.]
Short version: my phone is also a Garmin — and though I don’t use that feature but rarely, I find it quite useful when I need it.

3) Watching shows. When I said my smart phone is proving to be an entertainment device, I wasn’t kidding. I didn’t think I would be trying to watch TV on such a small screen, but .. well, darned if I’m not. Occasionally. And I watch YouTube music videos. (This made my recent trip to the dentist’s much more .. tolerable.) I downloaded the app and have used it to watch full episodes of CBS shows (NCIS, mainly) in bed before sleep. I should be able to watch my DVR recordings (AT&T Uverse) at some point too. (I just haven’t had time to fiddle with that yet.)
Short version: my phone is also a TV (sorta) — and though I don’t use that feature but several times a week, I find it quite useful when I want some amusement.
In fact, I am kind of kicking myself for getting an Android and not a iPhone, as Netflix doesn’t have an app yet… (When that arrives, I think maybe my productivity may drop… ahem)

4) I have not found a use for the video camera or camera yet. But I think it’s pretty neat that my phone can send (aka “share”) via email, my media with a couple of screen ‘taps’. I can see many uses for that ability.

5) I would very much like it if the “video chat” feature (in my case Qik) worked like it should.. but I understand Skype has acquired Qik, and hopefully, mobile Skype will go video soon (Verizon only???). And work out the bugs.
My phone has both front and rear-facing cameras.. and a flash.. which can act as a flashlight with the flashlight app. Surprisingly, to me anyway, I have used that feature several times already.

6) Wireless hotspot. The ability to use my phone as an Internet “access point” (for other devices) was a feature I knew I would use, and was actually a big reason I decided to get a smartphone. I thought I would have to use “USB tethering”, and PDAnet software, but, no, I don’t. The phone uses Wi Fi to broadcast, enabling it to act as a wireless router.
Short version: though I consider this really only an “emergency” feature, I also consider a “must have”.

Well, I am running long, and so I see a Part 3 is in order. I will close by saying this: the Top Number 1 Smartphone Feature I use all day everyday is: fully synced integration with Google Calendar and Tasks.

Today’s reading reco: A letter on behalf of the world’s PC fixers

Today’s free link: Eagle cam.
This is a webcam feed that is rather unique.. someone climbed up and pointed a webcam at a bald eagle nest.. there’s 3 eggs in there… (The nest is in Virginia, so you might want to keep Eastern Time in mind.)

update: Part 3 is now available. Android Adventures – Part 3

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

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March 10, 2011 Posted by | advice, Android, cellular, computers, gadgets, Google, IM, iPhone, mobile | , , , , , | 6 Comments

Video Tutorial – 7 Best Windows 7 tips in 7 minutes

This video “demo” describes, and shows “in action”, some of the improvements found in Windows 7.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

See the new Taskbar (“pinned” and “jump lists”), aero feature (“shake” and “snap”), “federated” Search (with preview), network configuration, UAC, and device management.

(“Shake” was a new one to me… )

** A Chance To Win A Valuable Prize! **

Oops!Backup is a ‘time machine’ backup for Windows program that creates “backup revision copies” of the files on your computer.

To enter my license giveaway drawing, please see: Software Giveaway Drawing(s) – Oops!Backup

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

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June 23, 2010 Posted by | computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, software, tech, Windows 7 | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A New Apple

Apple will be releasing their new operating system on Friday. It is OS X version 10.6 and it’s called “Snow Leopard”. Not too surprisingly, one can find many articles regarding this event online. Galen Gruman of InfoWorld’s piece, titled The 7 best features in Mac OS X Snow Leopard is a fairly typical example of them. His words are in quotes and italicized, and mine are not. snow leopard are Snow Leopard’s most immediately beneficial new features and enhancements.”

1. ActiveSync and Exchange 2007 support
“Following in the footsteps of the iPhone, Snow Leopard makes these Microsoft technologies native to the OS. That means Apple’s e-mail, calendar, and contacts apps work just peachy with Exchange 2007 server, giving users the same capabilities as Microsoft Entourage but with the better-designed, less-memory-intensive apps — Mail, iCal, and Address Book — included in OS X.”
Neither I, nor anybody I know, has an Exchange Server 2007 box set up in their home. And no, I don’t think this “enhancement” is going to make Business stop using Windows workstations and replace them all with new Apple machines. (But, I could be wrong.)

2. Exposé integration in the Dock
“The Mac OS X Dock makes it easy to access applications, open documents, and common folders, a concept Windows 7 is stealing in its retooled taskbar. Open documents are even more easily accessed in Snow Leopard, thanks to the integration of Exposé. Now when you click and hold an app icon in the Dock, you get preview windows for each of its open documents, allowing you to switch easily among them or to close them, all without having to clutter your screen with document windows. I never cared much for Exposé in its traditional role (providing hot corners and shortcuts to open application windows), but I love the Dock-integrated Exposé functionality that Snow Leopard adds.”
While nice, I don’t think a computer user will find this a compelling reason to upgrade — Microsoft or Apple user. (And please note, it is he who makes theft accusations.)

3. Automatic location detection
“When you travel, it’s easy to get mixed up as to when your appointments are, since your computer is still in your “home” time zone, and you have to mentally calculate the current time when looking at the calendar or clock. Sure, you can change the time zone in the Date & Time system preference, but it’s easy to forget. So Snow Leopard changes the time zone for you automatically (if you set that as the default behavior), using Wi-Fi mapping to figure out where you are — you will need to be connected to a Wi-Fi access point or router. iCal can also be set to adjust the times to the current time zone automatically, so your calendar always reflects the current times.”
Ummm… really? Well shoot, let’s throw a parade! I cannot tell you how refreshing and welcome this news is — what with how depressing the headlines have been lately.

4. The new Preview is more like Adobe Reader
“I have nothing against Adobe Reader, but I love that Preview now can open multiple PDF documents, display their contents as contact sheets, and show thumbnails of pages in a sidebar for easy navigation. In other words, it works a lot like Adobe Reader. That’s one fewer app to launch — and since Preview loads much faster than Reader, I can get to my PDFs’ contents much faster now.”
Let’s just chalk this one up to the old Grasping At Straws Department. But this guy’s a pretty good writer…I can almost feel his excitement.

5. Movie and screencast recording
“Snow Leopard takes the formerly $35 QuickTime Pro and makes it a standard, free app in Mac OS X. That means you can record movies and — great for many marketing, education, and Web professionals — screencasts from your Mac with no additional software.”
Why is this #5? This one actually makes some sense (for some people) as the Snow Leopard upgrade costs $29*, six dollars less than this stand-alone. However, those who know me know I wouldn’t touch QuickTime with a bargeman’s pole.

6. Systemwide automatic text replacement
“Automatic text substitution as you type is nothing new; Microsoft Word has had it for more than a decade. But Snow Leopard lets you specify such substitutions via the Keyboard system preference, so you have a common set of substitutions available to all applications. Right now, only TextEdit, Mail, and various Apple apps use this common auto-text service, but if other software developers adopt it, you may finally get all your text-oriented apps to autocorrect the same way.”
Wow. Okay…

7. No more gesture segregation
“I have a late-2006 model MacBook Pro at home, and it’s frustrating that its gesture-capable trackpad supports only the first generation of touch gestures (one- and two-finger moves), not the second-generation three- and four-finger options. Snow Leopard fixes that, so gesture-capable trackpads now support all gestures, no matter what Mac model you have. (Of course, your Mac has to have a gesture-capable trackpad, so models before 2006 aren’t helped out by this update.)”
Hmmm. I manage to convey my thoughts pretty well with one-fingered gestures… And since I’m a Kallyfornyan, I sometimes offer up the two-fingered “peace” sign… But I can’t think of any three-fingered…

* Note: The $29 upgrade price is for Leopard users; if you have an older Mac OS X version, it’ll cost you $169 to upgrade. Also, 10.6 will only run on newer, Intel-based machines, and not the PowerPC architecture.

I have to disagree with Mr. Gruman’s choice of these 7 from all the improvements Apple has made to their OS; and from my comments my feeling that much of this (such as every tech site’s listing Exchange compatibility as #1 Neat New Thing) is media hype should be pretty clear. But, hey. He’s entitled to his choices, and it’s his job to write something..

Apple did do (IMHO) several things right; such as pricing it at $29. To see the full list of changes made in OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, see, And then decide if an Upgrade is in your future.

Today’s free link: Snow Leopard upgrade: what’s in it for me?
This ZD/Net article has a neat chart which explains what new features will work on which Apple machines.

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

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August 26, 2009 Posted by | Apple, computers, News, PC, shopping for, tech | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Plug and Play the Windows 7 Way

I have mentioned in my earlier Windows 7 articles that PnP has finally reached the point of being (practically) zero-touch and seems to work the way it was envisioned — you could just plug in your device and it would work.

New to Win 7 is a PnP feature called “Device Stage”, which does far more than recognize (and install drivers) your device and place an icon. This video demonstrates what happens when you plug in a Device Stage Enabled media player, but it’s supposed to work with smart phones, cameras, etc. Check it out.

I saw that, and thought, “that’s how it should be.”  Microsoft is leaving this “open”, and so it will be up to the device manufactures to write the ‘applets’ (and they can make them do whatever they want). I think the makers of smart phones (in particular) could really do a lot with this.

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

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May 31, 2009 Posted by | computers, device drivers, gadgets, hardware, Microsoft, PC, performance, Plug and Play, software, tech, Windows 7 | , , , , | 19 Comments