Tech – for Everyone

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

The First Steps Of Any Tech Troubleshooting

My loyal readers should know the Troubleshooting Basics (the first things you do) for when your device, gadget, computer, program, or doodad is misbehaving.

The first thing you check is: Is it plugged in? Turned on/getting power?

Never assume that just because you didn’t disconnect the printer (aka “pull the cord out”) that the cord/cable is connected. Eyeball your connections to confirm. Why spend hours installing device drivers, or reconfiguring your network,  only to discover that the cat (or vacuum cleaner) has loosened a cord?

(Cordless mice and keyboards need batteries.. when was the last time you changed yours?)

The second thing to do/try is always: Close it, then “launch” it again. (You may need to use Task Manager to “End” the “Task” to get the malfunction program to close.)

If that fails, the third step is ALWAYS: reboot. (aka “restart”, aka “turn it off then turn it on again”.)

Only after you have done those three fundamental steps is it okay to think about calling tech support.

Why do I say that? Because those three things solve 99% (or so) of all “glitches”. And it is the first things your tech is going to ask you to do.
It really doesn’t matter what tech problem you are experiencing, nor on what device, nor who made it. A Samsung Wireless Internet Blu Ray player, or Sony camera, or Gateway laptop.

These are the ABC’s.

It’s 2012. We should all know these by heart. (Because even though they market us these doodads (and services) as mature and “easy to use”, truth is, they aren’t quite ready for Prime Time.)

Today’s reading reco: Tone The Brightness of Your Monitor Down With PangoBright

The illumination factor of the LCD and LED monitors of today, can be quite bright. To manage the illumination on my monitor, I use an automated utility called F.lux to manage the brightness of my monitor to match the indoor lighting.  It has been a keeper on my main PC for the past couple of” […] Read more..

Today’s quote: Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” ~ George Orwell

Copyright 2007-2012 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

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All we really have, in the end, are our stories.
Make yours great ones. Ones to be proud of.

July 17, 2012 Posted by | advice, consumer electronics, how to, tech, troubleshooting | , , , , | 2 Comments

Life Teaches Me Another Lesson

Let me share with you an experience I had the other day. As you probably know, I am an independent Support and Repair technician.. or what you might think of as a “Help Desk” type (but, no, I don’t wear thick-framed dork glasses). And, I have been helping people with their computers for a long time. Since the Early Days, really.

I mention that last part, because I want you to understand that I thought I had come to meet, over the years, pretty much every type of “end user” (aka, you people) there was: from the true beginner, to those who thought they knew their stuff because someone had shown them Ctrl+Alt+Del, to those who really did know enough to make them dangerous, and all the way up to top-tier IT Pro’s.

Anywho, back to my story: the other day I get this call on the phone asking for help getting an update to Flash Player to install. (the installer would download and run, but fail with no error message.) The person’s wording describing the problem, their ability to answer my questions, etc., made me think they were an “average” user type. Due to the fact that it was late, and they wanted me to also look at “other things”, we scheduled a home visit.

So this tale doesn’t go too long.. I’ll try to be brief. I get to the home and we go to their computer, and I ask them to sit at their machine and recreate for me the steps they had used. I look at the client’s screen, and saw a problem right away.

They said, “Okay. Let me get this out of the way..” And they clicked the red X (Close and Exit) button.

Underneath was a huge Word document filling the screen. I watched as they File > Save-ed, and clicked the red X (Close and Exit) button.

Underneath Word was Outlook, opened to their Inbox.
Filling the whole screen.
They clicked the red X (Close and Exit) button.

Underneath Outlook was an Excel spreadsheet.
Filling the whole screen.
I watched as they File > Save-ed, and clicked the red X (Close and Exit) button.

Finally, we were at the Desktop. “Okay. It happened when I went on YouTube“, they said. And they clicked on Internet Explorer’s blue “e” icon. Which Open-ed. Filling the whole screen.

I asked the client to hold up a minute. And I said, “please don’t be offended at such a personal question.. but do you have to wear glasses? Or have trouble seeing smaller things?

No. I have excellent 20/20 vision.

I asked, and received permission, to “try something”. I sat down and right -clicked on a blank area of the Taskbar, and clicked Properties.


And placed one check, in one checkbox, “Keep the Taskbar on top of other windows”.

And changed their world. I gave a tutorial on Taskbar tabs, and switching back and forth between open programs (without have to Exit and re-launch them each time) and told my client they only need to  ‘red X’ a program when they were all finished with it… My client was so delighted at this “miracle”, I went further, and demonstrated ‘windowed mode’, and how they could have Internet Explorer and Word (or two different Word doc’s) open side-by-side. This tickled my client pink, and they grasped right away how that would make Copy > Pasting between applications 100x’s easier.

.. I uninstalled the previous version of Flash Player, rebooted, and this time, the installer worked, and they could watch their YouTubes. And I fixed a few other small things. I left a delighted client.

They were quite surprised when I rang their doorbell a short while later.. and even more surprised when I handed them this..


Don’t be fooled by the title,” I said. “This book is the same as taking a computer class; better, you can learn at your own pace. Think of it as your very own personal tutor.

I think they should be required by Law to issue it with all new computers, because there are so many things about computers we are simply expected to know.. but nobody shows us or tells us.”

I smiled at them and said, “knowledge is power, and the knowledge is in there. I would recommend reading one section a day, skipping the things you know.. they’re little, take 5 minutes. Or using the Index to look up answers as the questions come to you. Enjoy!” …

This person had adapted their computer use to what they believed was how that machine operated.. because it had somehow been set that way. (I was reminded of an article I wrote some time ago now, My Number One Piece Of Tech Advice*.)

I wrote today’s article because maybe I have just described you. And I think you would really benefit from either purchasing such a book, (about $20) or going to your local public library and checking it out. Maybe I’m not describing you — maybe I described one of your family members.. or friends. Maybe this would make a good Holiday gift?
You know.. so they can stop calling you with novice questions, and just look it up themselves?

Related; Quick Tip: How To Change Window Size.

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

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December 2, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, tech | , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

How To Copy From (Or Save) A Web Page

Working With Web Pages

Whether you want to share information you have found on the web with others, or keep a copy for reference at a later date, knowing how to “work with webpages” and copy online text and images are handy skills.

The first thing to understand is that “online” material – such as webpages – are stored elsewhere, and “served” to your computer, where they are assembled and “viewed” by your web browser — through the use of HTTP and HTML ‘coding’ (which is not visible to you).

The typical webpage will have many sources for what you “see”: the HTML code, and the page’s text are probably on one “web server”, the logos and other images may come from another “server”, or servers, and the advertisements from yet other servers. These various items can be “dynamic” (changing), so that a farmer in Minnesota won’t see the exact same web page as Florida retiree (at least, not the same ads..).

Short version: a webpage is not a simple file you can Save, Edit, or Delete, like Word document or Excel spreadsheet you have created “locally” on your own machine.

Sharing Web pages with others:
The easiest way to share a web page with others is to simply send them the URL. A “URL” is the “; (found in the “address bar”) and the easiest way to send it is to Copy > Paste.

The easiest way to Copy a URL is to click – once – anywhere on the web page, and then click – once – inside the address bar. That will ‘highlight’ (turn blue.. aka “select”) the whole, entire URL.
* Click on Edit > Copy, or press the Ctrl + C keys, to copy the selection.

* You can now move to Email “compose” window, or Chat “send message” window, and click on Edit > Paste, or press Ctrl + V, which will paste the URL in, and you can…

* Now Send the recipient(s) the exact web page URL you want them to see. (Mind you, web pages are often dynamic, and your recipient might not see exactly what you see..)

Another easy method will fix the “dynamic” webpage, and turn it into a simple file (which you will have stored “locally”, aka “onboard”) which you can then “attach” to an e-mail and send – as you would a Word document or Excel spreadsheet – only it will be a PDF file, and the images will be “embedded” for you.

Fellow tech blogger Rick Robinette wrote a nice article on this method here, Easily Convert Web Pages to a PDF File, so I will let you read that instead of re-inventing the wheel. Trust me, it’s something you’ll want to know about. (And you may find out why his site is one of my daily reads.
[update: Rick posted a review today of a free program you can install for turning web pages into PDF’s. Please see Nitro – A PDF Reader that is a Whole Lot More.]

Extracting selected web page items:
Sometimes all you want from a web page is just a small section of text, or a single picture — perhaps as reference material, or just a really quotable Quotable Quote. Or a recipe.

For pictures and images, all you need to do is right– click on the image, and select Save image as. ¹ This will ‘download’ a copy of the image file to your PC, which you can then “attach” to an e-mail and send. (That wasn’t so hard, was it?) Text is a little trickier.

Q: How do I copy the text on a webpage into my document?

“There are actually a couple of different ways to do this, including the old “print-to-file” method that DOS users remember. The trick is to get just the text and information you want, and not all the advertising and hyperlinks and graphics/logos that most webpages incorporate…”

As the blurb states, there are a few methods, and I am running long. Good thing I wrote out the How To steps a while back and posted them in this article, How To Extract Text From Web Pages*!

So there you have it. Some basics, and two additional How To’s. Have a great weekend, folks.

¹ Addenda: Readers have chimed in with more tips; please see comments below.

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

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June 4, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Internet, MS Word | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Brief Lesson In Networking: Gigabit Ethernet*

Reader asks why upgrading to Gigabit Ethernet didn’t improve their Web surfing speed.

(Folks, I am networking a new office today and do not have time to write a new article. This article demonstrates some fundamental concepts of “networking” computers together, as well as “Internet speed”.)

Q:I recently purchased a Linksys WRT 310 wireless router that has four Gigabit ports. My Dell desktop is a XPS which I was told was “Top of the Line” has a built-in gigabit port. I even purchased new cables to make sure my network was going to be “gigabit”. I hooked it all up and I don’t see any improvement in my internet. The salesman told me that “gigabit” was the fastest.. so how come I’m not surfing faster? Did I do something wrong or do I need to buy a different brand? Thanx.”

A: No, you (most likely) didn’t do anything “wrong”, and you don’t need to buy a different router.

Let me, first of all, cover a few “basics” (see also, Wired or Wireless?*)
Kilo = 1,000 = thousand
Mega = 1,000,000 = million
Giga = 1,000,000,000 = billion

And then let me ask you to look at a simple network diagram.

In this diagram, the Internet is represented by the “cloud” (thus.. “cloud computing”) and I made it appropriately dark and stormy. The Internet connection is represented as the yellow zigzag — this can be a phone line (dial-up, DSL, IDSN) or cable, or satellite, or WiFi.
The blue arrows are the Ethernet cabling of your network (aka “LAN”) which is now Gigabit.

For sake of argument, I made the Internet connection a cable High-speed connection, and I made the download speed a Premium-grade 12 Mbps .. 12 “megabits” per second. Note that I said “download speed”. Unless you order a special line into your home/office, your “Internet speed” is always your download speed. And, your “upload” speeds are always significantly slower.. as represented by the 486 kilobits per second.

The lines (cables) you changed are the blue arrow lines. And so, yes, you have billion-bit lines there (Gigabit). You have multiplied by a thousand the theoretical rate at which computers A, B, and C can “talk” to the router and to each other. You did not change how the modem and the cloud are talking. That is still 12 Megabits down/point 486 (.486) Megabytes up.

Your Internet speed is controlled by two things: one, your service “level” (3 Mbps is more expensive than 1.5, and 6 Mbps is even more expensive, etc.) and two, the technology that can come into your home — dial-up, DSL, ISDN, Satellite, cable, wireless, and fibre-optic.

Because your desktop can “talk” to the router at a higher rate of bits, you might notice a very slight improvement in surfing speed.. but, if you want faster Internet, you have to upgrade either your service level, or/and the method it comes in on (change the yellow zigzag) .. For example, upgrading from dial-up to cable.

The advantage to Gigabit Ethernet comes in when transferring data across the LAN.. say, from computer A to computer B. Such as if you are backing up the files on A over to B, or “streaming” videos from C to A and B.

The Linksys is a good router (though I read that it runs hot, so you want to keep it in an open, well-ventilated area) and all-Gigabit on your LAN is a “good thing”.
I think you were simply expecting the wrong results from your upgrade.

Today’s free link: Curious as to what speed your ISP is really providing? Click here, and pick the “server location” nearest to you. You’ll see both your upload and download speeds. Flash required.

Orig post: 3/8/09

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To enter the drawing, please see: Software License Giveaway: NOD32 Antivirus 4 Enter my current giveaway and (possibly) win!

2) For those of you who missed out on winning a business-use license for LAlarm, you have another chance as Gizmos For Geeks is currently running a drawing contest for 30 licenses (yes, 30!). To go there and enter, click here. (The site is certainly worth a visit even if you aren’t interested in this contest, so check it out.)

3) PC World’s $25K Dream Come True Sweepstakes. (prizes awarded daily)

Copyright 2007-2010 © Tech Paul. All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.

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May 26, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, Internet, networking | , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Home Networking: Wires vs Wireless

This networking question was submitted by a reader recently, and I think it may be of interest to “everyone” and provides a good opportunity to discuss some computing fundamentals.

Q: Paul, I am hoping for some guidance. I will soon be moving, and will have to set up a new network. I have three computers, a laser jet printer and a photo printer. My old network was wired and homenetworking worked well, but I have heard that the new wireless is faster.

Which is better these days, wired or wireless?

A: I hate ambiguous answers, but in this situation I really must answer, “that depends”. And I must also say that it really isn’t a case of one being “better” than the other.
In my experience, a “blended” network (both wired and wireless) is the most common.

Consideration #1: Mega-bits-per-second (Mbps)
1) Wire “speed” is typically either 10/100, or 1,000(Gigabit).
2) Wireless “speed” is either 54 (g) or 270 (n).
… and your Internet is coming into your home at.. 1.5? 3? 6 Mbps?
(My point here is that, as far as sharing your Internet is concerned, even a very old 10 Mbps network is “fast” enough.)

Consideration #2: Stringing cable:
Most newer homes are built with Ethernet wiring, and so your network is already there (to a large degree), but for older homes a very real concern — should you choose to go Gigabit wired — is WirelessHomeNetwork where will the wires go? How will you get them upstairs?

This is not an insurmountable issue (and, you could hire a professional) but it may be that wireless is the best for you.

General advice:
* Networking gear defaults to the speed of the slowest component.
What that means is, let’s say you go and buy a brand-new Wireless -N router (technically, a “WAP”) that runs at 270 Mbps, and the adaptor on your 2 year-old laptop is a “G”, your connection will be at 54 Mbps.
And if the port on your Desktop is Gigabit, and your cable is Cat 5e or better (Gigabit capable), but there’s no Gigabit port on your router.. your LAN is running at 100 Mbps.

The trick is to make sure everything ‘matches’. For instance, in the first example (laptop), buying a Wireless-N PCMCIA card, or USB dongle, will now give you the 270 you bought the fast router for. And for the Gigabit example, a new router that has Gigabit ports will make things ‘match’ and give you a Gigabit LAN.

Last bit of advice: Buy the fastest gear you can afford. You may not get full advantage of it today, but it won’t be a bottleneck tomorrow.

Today’s free link: In today’s article I mentioned that there are alternatives to drilling holes in your wall/floor/ceiling, and one method is EoP (Ethernet over Power lines [aka “powerline networking”]). This uses the electrical wires already in your home to send your 1’s and 0’s from device to device. It is often rated at 200 Mbps.
Better Together: Wi-Fi and Powerline Networking – PC World

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

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October 16, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, networking, PC | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment