Tech – for Everyone

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

Banned From The Internet For File Sharing?

Internet service providers are cooperating more and more with copyright holders to crack down on illegal downloading and peer-to-peer file-sharing.

Becky Waring published a very interesting ’round-up’ look at the current state of the ‘battle’ between copyright holders (primarily RIAA) and the very popular (yet largely illegal) “Torrent” P2P file-sharing phenomenon on Windows Secrets.

There are some tough new laws recently enacted, or under consideration, in many countries following the recent convictions of the operators of the popular Pirates Bay Torrent search engine in Sweden ... laws that could get people “blacklisted” from the Internet.

Internet Service Providers are coming under increasing pressure to use technology to identify people using Torrent applications and punish them, and Torrent users are using technology to escape detection. This ‘battle’ poses some very serious questions about the issues of privacy and technology.

Ms. Waring has done an excellent job with this article, and I invite my readers to read it. Please click the link below.

ISPs assist in cutting off file-sharing users

Today’s free link: KidZui – Free, Safe Internet Browsing for Kids

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

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May 9, 2009 Posted by | computers, Internet, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 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.

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.

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

Word Trick Makes Letters Merrier

It is the Holiday time of year. (Is it just me, or did 2008 pass-by rather quickly?) Today I’m going to demonstrate some tricks to make your Season’s Greetings letters more joyous, and your docs more visually interesting.

Tip of the day: Add some festivity to your documents with fonts and color. MS Word has a lot of features and options built into it that allows for some very creative elements to be added to your correspondence, and is not at all limited to cold, “professional” documents. I’ll use Word for this demo, but you can do this in most text editors, and e-mail composers.

Today I’m going to use a hypothetical holiday greeting letter to show how to add some fun. By default, Word sets the font to Times New Roman at 12 “points” in height. I have typed in my text, to get things started, and will demonstrate using this letter’s “opener”. As it is a header, I have “centered” the text. 1.jpg As you can see, this font and text does not quite convey the joy and cheer and “best wishes” I am hoping to express. In fact, this may as well say, “Memo from Giganti Corp.” Yawn! So first thing I’m going to do is ‘tweak’ the font style, and make some word bigger (louder), to express a less formal tone. 2.jpg I “highlighted” Season’s Greetings, and used the Font drop-down arrow and selected a cursive font– Lucida Handwriting (explore Words various fonts, and find the one you like best). I set the point size to 36. I repeated the process on the second sentence, but set the type smaller.. only 18. I think you’ll agree, this is much more “friendly” than the default’s look. But this is just not Festive enough! Let’s use some color and improve things some more. 3.jpg I have again “highlighted” season’s greetings to select this font, and then clicked the Font Color button on the Formatting toolbar (If this is not showing, click here to read how to customize your toolbars). I then clicked on the little red box in the color-picker. Now season’s greetings is red. I want to alternate letters in green, so I hold down the Ctrl key and use my mouse to “select” every other letter. 4.jpg I didn’t really like the greens available on the color-picker, so I clicked on “More Colors”…. 5.jpg … and selected a green that contrasted nicely with the red– as the box in the lower right corner shows. This is the result of these steps. 6.jpg Much more jolly! But, something’s missing…”>9.jpg Let’s add one more thing– a picture of a candy cane. I went on the Internet and found a Royalty-free graphic (though a piece of Clip Art would do just as nicely) and…10.jpgVoila!I could ‘go crazy’, and get carried away with adding things here… but I hope you will be able to see by this little demonstration — using only two of Word’s functions — that you are limited only by your own creativity, and that it’s easy to personalize and ‘spice up’ your documents.

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

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December 21, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, MS Word, tech, tweaks, word processors | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fun and games with Windows XP– Themes*

A “heads up” to my loyal readers — as you are aware, today starts a long Holiday weekend to celebrate the founding of the first nation governed not by Monarchy, but By the People. In the spirit of long weekends, I will not be writing new Tech for Everyone posts (after this one) for a few days but I will repost some of the older, more popular past articles which you may have missed. I will be available for tech help and support at Aplus Computer Aid, however.

Tip of the day: Give XP a “makeover”. One of the “coolest” things about Windows Vista®, in my opinion, is it does not look like boring old XP. Instead of the blue desktop, which dates back to Windows 95, Vista has a rather nice nature photo. The “edges” around windows are ‘modernized’ in Vista and have a smoother “feel”, and so on and so forth. The Vista GUI looks a lot like what Apple users have been used to seeing in OS X.

If you, too, are bored and tired with XP’s utilitarian ‘look’ and are not ready (for whatever reason) to dive into a brand-new operating system, you can “tweak” the look of XP in a myriad of ways and make it a much more modern and pleasant-to-look-at computer. There are pre-built ‘packages’ — called “skins” — that you can download. Windows X offers a “Vista Transformation” utility that fairly mimics the Vista shell (look to Today’s free link) on XP machines. And there are display settings, and “themes” that you can simply change from their defaults, which is what I’m going to describe today.

Today we’re going to explore the Display Properties options — get started by right-clicking on any vacant area of your desktop and selecting Properties. This is the same place we used to create our custom screensaver slideshow in an earlier post.
By default, Display Properties opens to the Theme tab. Use the drop-down arrow in the Themes window, and you will see that we’re basically faced with two choices: the getting old XP Theme, and the even older Windows Classic theme. Don’t be discouraged by this. This is where you would make the changes if you had downloaded a “skin” from the Internet. We will be using the other tabs.

Kill the hill. XP by default shows us a desktop that is either a solid color (blue) or a rolling hill, but XP comes with other (better) choices. Click on the Desktop tab. Now explore the possibilities, using the up-down scroll arrows, of the names listed in the Background box — the previews are displayed on the little PC when you single-click on a name.
You may already see the pictures in your My Pictures folder listed here as well. This is because you can use just about any digital image as your desktop, and the “stretch” option helps the image fit the screen. If this little bundle of possible backgrounds doesn’t satisfy, and you have a specific image in mind, use a graphics manipulation tool (like Photoshop) to resize the image to your screen resolution (Found on the Settings tab. My laptop’s resolution is 1024 x 768 pixels at {the standard} 96dpi, for example) and Save it. Now use the …Browse button to find and open it, and viola!

More tweaks: Now let’s explore the Appearance tab, which allows us to modify to some degree the look of the windows we interact with. Again, we really have the two choices of old and older, and again, a “skin” is the way to make drastic changes, but by clicking the Advanced button there is quite a bit we can adjust, as shown below.


You can ‘tweak’ colors and sizes, and in some cases, behaviors. For more color options, click on the down-arrow on Color1, and a small palette will open: for even more color options, click Other.

By experimenting with these options and ‘tweaks’, you can customize the look of XP and make your computer much more personal. Also, Microsoft has a free “PowerToy” called “TweakUI” which can further open up options for adjustments to XP; to read more about/get it, click here, and scroll to the “today’s free link:” area.

For those of you who want the Vista “look”…

Today’s free link: Windows X offers a tool that makes changes to XP which makes it look and operate quite a bit like Vista. Before you use this utility I strongly advise that you have a full system backup, as I demonstrated in yesterday’s post, just “in case” it proves incompatible with a device driver or Windows Update. Also, I must reiterate my disclaimer in regards to this particular reco’ — I have not done this, as I have been running Vista since early betas, and so I cannot attest to its reliability. If you’re brave, and have a full back up, download the Vista Transformation Pack.

Enjoy your holiday!

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

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July 4, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, software, tech, tweaks, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Digital cameras– which one’s for you?

I have been receiving e-mails here at Tech–for Everyone that have been regarding my recent article about the fella who went traveling, and for the first time left his 35mm gear at home. (He only carried a digital camera.)

These e-mails have been asking me which digital camera it was. The reason they wrote is, they want to buy the same one. I had very carefully avoided naming a specific make or model of digital camera, as (believe it or not) I am not in the business of promoting sales.

But 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 can 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 two factors to consider are 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.
* 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”, (You won’t impress anybody with it anyway) and you don’t need 24 “settings” if you’re only going to use one. Right? Right.

Today’s free link: If you are like the fella I mentioned in the original articles, and like to read reviews and technical specs, or if you just want more information about digital photography (maybe it’s your hobby), check out

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

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May 12, 2008 Posted by | advice, Digital camera, Digital Images, how to, shopping for, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments