Tech – for Everyone

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

Laptops And "Docking Stations"

Docking stations (aka “port replicators”) provides a simplified way of “plugging-in” a portable computer to common computer peripherals — such as a monitor and full-size keyboard. The use of a docking station quickly enables a laptop computer to become a substitute for a desktop computer, without sacrificing the mobile computing functionality of the machine – just lift, and go.

laptop-docking-station Most full-size laptops today come with enough ports so that you don’t really need these things, but if you are buying a very small, ultra-portable laptop, you may want to consider such devices. The main advantage is, if you have a desk at the office or your home office with a second monitor, one of these “docks” will be handy as you can connect your desk keyboard, mouse, monitor, power and speakers to the docking station, and then can just pop the laptop in and out as needed instead of hooking up a bunch of connections each time you ‘go mobile’ and each time you get home again.

Some of these “docks” also have “coolers” built in, which quite often is a real boon. Heat is a killer in the digital hardware world, and some laptops run quite hot. If your laptop gets hot to the touch, you may very well want to get a cooler, and if you can get a cooler with all the ports on the back, why not? For more on the different kinds of “docks”, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Docking_station

Today’s free links: Folks, there are two articles today that I think are “must reads” if you surf the Internet.
* Want to be a Successful Cyber Crook – Here’s a Tip!
* Paranoia on the Internet Pays Off

Today’s free download: ZoneAlarm 8
An effective and easy-to-use firewall program, ZoneAlarm does a great job of keeping your PC safe from a variety of threats. ZoneAlarm uses a simple wizard to make configuring a firewall, which seems like a daunting task to many computer users, incredibly easy.

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

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August 28, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, Portable Computing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

How To Add A Second Monitor

Get A Real Boost Using “Multi-Monitor”

One of the best ways to improve your productivity is to double your desktop workspace by adding a second monitor to your computer. Using multiple monitors makes many computing tasks easier by allowing you to keep more windows visible. And, it’s “kewel” too.

There are many ways to add a second monitor to your PC.
* Laptops [typically] have a graphics port, allowing you to use the screen and a monitor. dongle
* Most graphics cards have two ports (often, one is a VGA and the other is a DVI, so you may need an adaptor). If yours doesn’t, you can buy a “dongle” and ‘split’ the signal– as shown.
* You can add a graphics card to your machine. This is a little more advanced but quite do-able. I posted a tutorial on adding “expansion cards”, but it was on adding a Firewire card. No matter. The methodology is the same. See, Add Firewire 800 To Your PC– Fast Video Transfer

Tip of the day: Plug in a second monitor and turn on Dualview

1. Right-click the desktop, and then click Properties.

Desktop Options menu with Properties selected

2. In the Display Properties dialog box, click the Settings tab.

3. Click the Display list and select your external monitor. If you do not see multiple monitors listed, your computer hardware may not support Dualview. Contact your computer manufacturer for more information.

Display list on the Settings tab in Display Properties dialog box

4. Select the Extend my Windows desktop onto this monitor check box.

Settings tab with Extend my Windows desktop onto this monitor check box selected

5. Click Identify. Windows XP displays large numbers to identify your monitors. Drag and drop the monitor icons to match the physical arrangement of your monitors.

Settings tab with example of how to drag and drop the monitor icons

6. Click OK.

Settings tab in Display Properties dialog box with OK button selected

With Dualview enabled, you can drag windows between monitors as if the two monitors are connected. When you maximize a window, it will expand to fill the current monitor.

Today’s free link: Judge orders Microsoft to stop selling Word

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

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August 13, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

GMA — Let’s Talk About Sexting

Good Morning America tackled an important topic — of particular concern to parents. I am posting this video in case you missed it.. or would like to forward it to your friends.
Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Good Morning America on ABC News – AB…“, posted with vodpod

[note: if the player doesn’t work, please click here.]

Today’s free link:Parental Monitoring And Cellular Phones If your child has a cell phone, this article provides you with some tools and information.

Today’s free download: K9 Web Protection is a  free Internet filtering and control solution for the home. K9 puts YOU in control of the Internet so you can protect your kids.

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

April 15, 2009 Posted by | advice, cellular, computers, Digital Images, Internet, iPhone, kids and the Internet, privacy, security, tech, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Quick tweaks improve your monitor, speed

In just a few clicks, you can improve the appearance of items on your screen, make things easier for your eyes, and get peppier performance out of your PC.

Making adjustments to settings, and turning various things on or off, is known as “tweaking”, and sometimes “optimizing”. And being a Geek, I love to tweak my machines until they’re running like a Indy 500 car. Today’s quick tip will take you all of 45 seconds to do, and it will give you noticeable results.

Tip of the Day: Turn on font smoothing, and turn off special effects.
The settings we’re going to tweak are all found on the Appearance tab of your Display Properties: right-click on a blank area of your Desktop and select “Properties”
DispProp 
On the “Appearance” tab, click on the “Effects” button.
CltType

Here we’re going to turn one item on, and three off, by placing or removing checkmarks.
1) Turn on the ClearType font smoothing feature by placing a check in its checkbox, and using the drop-down arrow to set it to ClearType. This will make reading easier, and reduce headache-causing eye strain.
2) Turn off the “bells-and-whistles” special effects that, while ‘modern’ and ‘cool’, really only slow things down quite unnecessarily. (aka “waste system resources”)
* uncheck “transition effects”
* uncheck “shadows”
* uncheck “show windows contents while dragging”
3) Click OK, and OK again.

That’s it. You’re done. Easy, right? Right. Should you change your mind someday, undoing these changes is just as easy.. just place a check again. (But I very much doubt you will!)

Today’s free link: Loyal fans of this series know that I am obsessed with advising folks to make backup copies of their computer files in case of a failure; and that I wrote that one option was to use a “online” storage solution (as one of your two locations)(read Online Storage for Data Backup).
There’s a new service out called BackBlaze that is worth checking out. Click here to read a review of the “World’s easiest online backup” (and download link).

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

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July 23, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, performance, tech, tweaks, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What your car is saying about you*

The auto manufactures are competing to put the most computer into your car. The merging of digital devices and personal transportation is progressing with alacrity. We know this. The fact that there has been “chips” in our cars for a decade or so is also well known. OnStar™ GPS tracking of our movements has been successfully marketed as a benefit to us, and we pay extra for the privilege. And our car has a microphone, to listen for ‘our calls for help’ (but, only when we push the button… Right??).

I read that the Vehicle Infrastructure Integration Consortium, a government “safety and efficiency” program, (there is a detailed description on Wikipedia, I suggest you scroll down to the paragraph titled “public concerns”) has developed a prototype for an on-board vehicle computer designed to interact with the Internet that will use Linux. (These are the folks who want to put radars in cars, “to detect proximity to the vehicle ahead and automatically apply the brakes to avoid rear-end collisions”) And they want to use the Web so the cars can, “provide a direct link between a vehicle on the road and all vehicles within a defined vicinity. The vehicles would be able to communicate with each other (and the cops), exchanging data on speed, orientation, perhaps even on driver awareness and intent.” This, to “improve traffic flow.”
Hmmm…. Driver intent?!?

Of course, this is being touted as a boon to us dumb citizens. We are told, “this will improve the driving experience” (not to mention, make us safer). How could our car accessing the Web be a benefit? The VII-C says, “by alerting cars about approaching emergency vehicles, collecting data to map weather patterns with high precision, and allowing for ‘over the air’ upgrades of vehicle firmware.”

Hmmm… Let me think about that…
1) Don’t approaching emergency vehicles have flashing lights and loud sirens?
2) Weather??? Like, I’m not going to go where I need to go because there’s a cold front developing..?
3) Automatic updates (aka “patches”)? What does this imply? That there’s concern about viruses and hackers, maybe? (You bet there’s concern!)

Of course the key words here are ‘traffic flow’, and ‘transmit its location’. By publishing its onboard data via the Web, some person in some government office will be able to see where every car is, its speed and direction of travel, and by activating the microphone, will be able to listen to the conversations taking place inside.
Think about that. Frankly, it scares the pants off of me.

I want you readers to know that the government already has this ability to some extent. We are rapidly approaching the point where every car being produced has some type of GPS built into it. They track us through the cellular phone signals (but these are “unreliable”). To “get better gas mileage”, we have all kinds of mini-computers on board that record our speed and braking, and store that info for later perusal — this aids in “accident reconstruction”. But these are not enough. They want more and better tracking technology installed. They don’t want “recorded”, they want “reported”.

Do NOT violate the speed limit in a rental car. The onboard computers will snitch, and when you go to return it, you will be hit with a stiff fine. I kid you not. Joyriding is out, too: excessive acceleration, hard braking, and high lateral G’s are recorded and reported too, even if you never top out above 65. Yes, your car is a snitch. Divorce attorneys and Law Enforcement love the GPS recorder.

Let’s tout the boon to mankind: parents can benefit from these automatic recorders too. Want to know how your kid treated the family car? Where they went? If they braked too hard or accelerated too hard? If they parked at Lover’s Lookout? Just buy an adapter and plug in your laptop. You can play Big Brother and see everything the car did. (I’m still working on how you can send the signal that activates the car’s microphone, and listen in on your kid… That will be a money-maker!)

The miracle of technology is in our cars. We are being told it’s for our benefit and we believe it. OnStar is something we all think is great, and we’re convinced it’s a status symbol (remember when only top-end cars offered it?). Sometimes, I think our desire for security makes us kinda dumb, and I think dummies get what  dummies deserve.

I, for one, don’t want a single recorder, chip, microphone, GPS locator, or transmitter on my person or on my car. It’s nobody’s business where I am, where I’ve been, or… my speed and direction of travel. (Did you miss my article, “It’s time to write your Representative”? Click here.)
They are going to do this, folks, and they’re not giving us citizens much say (“not much” = none).

Tip of the day: Use a soft, lint-free cloth, very slightly dampened with plain water to clean your monitor screen. You do not really need fancy, or expensive products to do this.

Today’s free link: Today I’m putting out the call for your input in this section. Is there a free program or tool that you think is fantastic, but you haven’t seen me post it here? Send me your recommendation — the name, not the link — and I’ll run it through my testing. Those that pass will appear here, with accreditation.

For those of you who aren’t at all bothered by this, and have quite the opposite view; in that you want access to this info (perhaps you are the parents of a beginning driver), devices are available now. If your vehicle is newer and GPS equipped, all you need is a special plug (adapter), if your vehicle [or, the one you’re letting the kid drive] is older, you may want to take a look at this Wall Street Journal article: http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB110911718132361463.html

Folks– there’s only a few days left. Tell me if you prefer this site’s new look by taking this 1-question survey Click Here to take survey

* Original posting– 8/17/07

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

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May 14, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, privacy, security, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

More tweaks for weak eyes/readability

Yesterday I demonstrated a quick adjustment to your screen settings that will enlarge your screen’s objects (icons, windows, fonts, etc.) and make things easier to read. (If it does not appear directly below this article, click here.) Today I am going to describe additional steps that can assist those of you who need even more help, or/and suffer from such maladies as color blindness.

Tip of the day: Use Windows’ Accessibility options to make your screen easier to read. Start by accessing your Control Panel: Start >Settings >Control Panel, or Start >Control Panel.
cp1.jpg
Now click on “Accessibility Options”, which will open one of the more important Windows Properties windows: one that I consider to be the most overlooked.
accessopts.jpg
Since we are discussing vision today, we’re going to work with the “Display” tab; but I want to point out that you can make adjustments here that will assist if you have some hearing loss, have trouble typing due to arthritis, and such.
For today, we are going to enlarge things for easier reading so put a check in the checkbox marked “Use High Contrast” and then click the “Advanced” button.
hcsettings.jpg
Click on the drop-down arrow to see all the High Contrast “color schemes”. If color blindness is not an issue for you, you will be interested in the normal Windows themes at the bottom of the list. The Windows “Standard” is the XP or Vista theme (depending), and the “Classic” is the look of Windows 2000 and older.
Choose “Large”, or “Extra large”, and then click “Apply” and “OK”. The screenshot below shows how the choice “Standard, Extra large” looks when applied to an XP machine.
highcontrast.jpg
I have also made two adjustments to the cursor which will help you keep your eye on its location; increasing the “blink rate” to the maximum, and thickened its width.

If you have some difficulty differentiating shades of color, or perhaps have true color blindness, refer back to the list of of High Contrast themes — you may have to try a few until you find just the right one to remedy your particular difficulty, but there is quite a few options.. one should be right for you. Below, I have applied an extremely high contrast theme, which would take some getting used to…but is easy to read.
hc.jpg
If you have applied any of these settings and do not like the results, unchecking the “Use High Contrast” checkbox will restore your settings to where you were before.

Today’s free link: Today I’m going to re-post a tool I just don’t think enough people know about. CCleaner (“crap” cleaner) not only increases your privacy and security by removing Histories, cookies, and “temp” Internet files, but it includes a Registry cleaner/repair and a Startup manager and Uninstall tool as well.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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October 23, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, PC, tech, Uncategorized, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , | 3 Comments