Tech – for Everyone

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

Restricting Roommates Internet Use – Continued.

Reader Asks What He Can Do To Prevent His Roommate’s Internet Use From Slowing His Down To Useless.

Q:Hi paul,
After reading your post on limiting your roommates’ bandwidth,
(How To Limit Your Roommate’s Bandwidth – And Keep More For Yourself.) I tried to do this in my dorm. Considering that lag is sometimes so extensive that it ruins my games and browsing. However I have a Thomson TG712 router, and from what I could discover online, it is quite hard to limit the bandwidth usage. So I would really appreciate if you could write a guide for that, or explain me how to do it.
Sincerely,
(name withheld)”

A: Dear Reader,
Let me start my answer by saying yours is a very “frequently asked” question. And, as your searching online has revealed, there’s no easy answer. I am going to ask that you return to the article, and look to the conversations in the Comments section – particularly, those with “Ash”.

(For example, in my reply to moble, I said, “But no.. there really is no way that I am aware of to choke down their kbps to a certain number. Hardware is designed to deliver maximum performance.“)

As far as I know, with our “consumer”-grade routers (and Wireless Access Points) about all you can do is:

• set your roommate’s machine to receive a “Low” QoS “priority”, and yours a “High” (as per the article’s How To) if your make/model router has the feature (most do).
[note: refer to your make/model router’s documentation for the exact steps/menu choices — these are often listed on the side of your router’s control panel, or can be found on the manufacturer’s website.]

• use Content Filtering/Access Control to completely block your roommate’s machine from accessing certain websites, using certain (high volume) protocols, and/or use at certain times of day.

• get your roomie to agree to install a program on their machine which will limit its Internet access.

• Pay your ISP for a higher level of (aka “upgrade”) of bits-per-second, so that you both get enough bandwidth. (Hopefully, your roommate will pay the difference..)

Also: I noticed your router’s wireless is a 54 Mbps “Wireless G” model. If you both are accessing the ‘net wirelessly, adding (or replacing the old with) a newer Wireless N router may give you both a better experience.

So, I remind you that I asked you to return to the article, (How To Limit Your Roommate’s Bandwidth – And Keep More For Yourself.) and look to the conversations in the Comments section – particularly, those with “Ash” (where dd-wrt is discussed…)

Today’s quote: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”  ~ Thomas Edison

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


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May 17, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, hardware, how to, Internet, networking, routers, routers and WAPs | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is a “Virtual Machine”?*

Yesterday’s article brought up the topic of VM’s (virtual machines). The following article was one of my early Tech – for Everyone efforts, and while it references XP frequently (the main OS of the day), required only slight updating. I hope you will enjoy it.

One of the hot topics in the IT industry is virtualization ¹. Basically what this is, is software that creates an environment — on an existing PC — into which you can install (and run) another operating system [OS]; in short, running a PC on top of your PC.. which gives you two PCs. This “on top of” machine is called a “virtual machine“.

Tip of the day: Get more out of your PC by using a virtual environment.
(I must take a moment to state that it is the power of the newer generations of PCs that allow us to take advantage of machine virtualization. VM “shares” resources (CPU, RAM) with the existing install… so if you’re barely clunking along as it is, forget about VMs and click here to read my article(s) on when it’s time for a new machine.)

How can this benefit you? One of the main advantages is when you are thinking about a dual-boot install, or would like to do away with an existing dual-boot set up — say, for security reasons. Instead of partitioning your hard drive, and using FAT32 to run (boot to) either Windows 98 or XP, format your drive in NTFS, install XP/Vista/Win7, and run 98 inside the virtual environment. (I am using Windows 98 as an example. You may want to run a Linux distro, and learn about Open Source. The fact is you can run any OS that you have a license for [I believe. I have not tried to load every OS personally…])
If you do this, and create a shared folder for the VM on your ‘base OS’, you will be able to switch back and forth between the two and share files with both OS’s.

Another advantage of using a VM is, it loads much like “mounting” a disk image. You can make multiple ’snapshots’ of your VM, and load the one of your choosing. This is an absolutely fantastic method for dealing with security issues. I know several geeks who run an XP VM on their XP machine– they use the VM version for their daily surfing and usage, and as a “sandbox” for testing downloaded programs and patches/Updates. At the end of the day, they just close the VM, and when they open it again (unless they take a ’snapshot’ and Save those changes to the VM) their pristine VM loads: no browsing history, no spyware, no trace of yesterday’s activity… just a brand-new XP machine.
By keeping a copy of the VM snapshot in another location, they always have a full system backup on hand. (And all my readers know about the importance of recovery backups!)

These are just two uses and applications for virtual machines (VMs). You may be able to think of others. You are not just limited to one VM, either — but each VM (unless it is an Open Source OS, like Linux) does require a valid Product Key/license. This is not a way to cheat.

Today’s free download(s): The most popular virtual machine software is put out by VMware. The free offerings are VMware Server (don’t worry about the use of the word “server”) and VMware Player (which is a web browsing sandbox). Not only is this a flexible (highly compatible with your particular hardware) program, but VMware offers several pre-configured Open Source ’snapshots’, called “appliances”, that you can download and run without going through an OS install process.

Microsoft also offers free virtual machine software, that some people argue works better with Microsoft OS’s. From website: “Virtual PC 2007 is a powerful software virtualization solution that allows you to run multiple PC-based operating systems simultaneously on one workstation.”

Reader recommended VirtualBox is also free, and a possible alternative to Virtual PC and VMWare. Their homepage is here, http://www.virtualbox.org/.

Either way you decide, you are not making fundamental changes to your hard drive or currently installed operating system. This is just a program, like Excel or Word is a program. Simply uninstall it if you find you don’t like or need it.. but I doubt very much that you ever will– it’s just too useful and safe.

¹ (For IT types) Virtualization in the Data Center has (under the banner of the “green movement” – and because it saves money) been for several years now, an area of study and certification not to be overlooked.

* Orig post: 9/8/07

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


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January 27, 2011 Posted by | computers | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Ink. Nozzles. Cartridges.

Razors and razor blades..

Today I want to talk about printers. I have some recent experiences to share, and.. a question to ask.

ink I have said for a long time the tech industry’s business model for printers is the old “razors and razor blades” game. They practically give away the printer, and make their money selling ink (cartridges) refills.

Because ink refills are um.. well, not cheap, a whole industry has developed, and workaround techniques used, to try to undercut the manufacturer’s ink price, and earn your business.

There are ‘kits’ you can buy which contain a syringe and a bottle of ink. There are “generic” cartridges. There are “ink recycling/refill” services offered by retail Doodad & Gizmo stores. There are online “discount ink” websites and “wholesalers”. Etc., etc. (Enter “ink refills” into your favorite search engine, and take a quick look at the millions of results.) I think you know what I am talking about.

My reco for ink refill: (Mind you, I am not talking about laser printers here.)
Unless your printer is old, basic, and you are thinking about replacing it anyway, buy the manufacturer’s recommended replacement cartridge. If money is a real factor, keep an eye out for sales and specials (the manufacturer’s themselves often offer sale prices for online orders) and stock up when you find them. I further suggest, that if your printer accepts both normal and “extended” (larger) cartridges, and you print pretty much everyday, get the larger. If you print only occasionally, don’t. Ink can dry up.

Pretty simple, right? And, also, probably not what you wanted to hear.

But the truth is – and have have witnessed scores of examples of this (3 already this January) – sooner or later, a syringed/generic/recycled ink cartridge will either:
* not print worth a *darn*
* clog your “print head” ‘nozzles’ (aka “jets”)

When it’s the latter, you can try to clean the ‘nozzles’/print head. Which sometimes works (let the print head soak overnight in a bowl of Windex, rinse and let dry thoroughly (overnight is good), and then run the printer’s “deep clean” utility a few times). But more often then not, in my experience, a clog means a new printer.
(Or a new print head.. which often costs as much as a new printer.)

If you spent good money to get a good printer, and you like it and want to keep it around for a while, play it safe — don’t gum it up by trying to save $10 — buy a manufacturer’s replacement cartridge. There are solid, sound, technical [physical] reasons for this, which I won’t bother you with. But think about it.. don’t you think using exactly what the printer’s designer designed it to use would produce the best results?

There is my 2¢.

My question for you, Dear Reader, is: have you ever had to replace a printer because you used cheap ink?

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


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January 14, 2011 Posted by | advice, hardware, printers, tech, troubleshooting | , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Tutorial: Using CCleaner

I wouldn’t go anywhere without CCleaner

CCleaner (the “C” stands for ‘crap’) is a free system optimization, privacy and cleaning tool. It removes unused files from your system – allowing Windows to run faster and freeing up hard disk space. It also protects your privacy by cleaning (erasing) traces of your online activities such as cookies, and your Internet history. Additionally it contains a safe, fully featured registry cleaner.

Cnet_CClnr_rtng

click to read CNet's review/download

I have reco’d CCleaner many times here, and if you surf other geeky sites, you will surely see it mentioned (no doubt, recommended) if you haven’t already. If I could only download 10 tools, one of them would be CCleaner. (If memory serves, it was the first item I recommended here on T4E..) “CCleaner is the number-one tool for cleaning your Windows PC. Keep your privacy safe online, and make your computer faster and more secure. Over 500 million downloads.

Recently, Piriform released CCleaner 3.0, and I have been using this new version for a while. Today I am going to show you how I use it.

How I use CCleaner: If you have not done so already, download and install CCleaner 3.0. Note: during the install process, you will be asked to let CCleaner scan for “good cookies” (good cookies are, like, your email login) – let it (aka answer “OK”).

1) Launch (aka “Open”, aka “Run”) CCleaner.

2) By default, it opens to the crap cleaning tool (the paintbrush), and the “Windows” tab. Here is where you make selections for the “system”, and Internet. My preferences are shown, but you might want to include browsing histories.. (No one else has access to my machines, and use History as a timesaver, to return to previously visited sites, etc.)

Before you begin: Click “Options“, then “Advanced“, and uncheck the “Only delete temp files older than 24 hours” checkbox.

options

We can now go back to the paintbrush.. Note my choices.

settings for cleaner tool

3) Now click the “Applications” tab.

Notice how every “application is checked?

4) Click the “Analyze” button. This will start the cleaning scanner, and generate a report on the items CCleaner will remove. Check this, and make sure nothing you want is accidentally included, then..

5) Click “Run Cleaner”.

Some people do this every night before shutting down. Others, after every “browsing” session. I do it a little more casually than that — I run CCleaner at least once a week, as GP. But I make a point of running it after each time I visit a new website for the first time (which I do several times a day) with a special emphasis on Internet “temp” files. (Those files contain a Trojan.downloader more often than you might think!)
Why not? Running CCleaner’s cleaner tool takes about 30 seconds.. or less.

Now let’s look at the Registry tool: It is very important you understand – so important, in fact, I wrote: Top Tech Tip #2: Leave Registry Cleaners Alone – that one does not fiddle lightly with the Windows Registry. I cannot tell you how many times someone has come to me with messed up systems because they downloaded some “optimizer” hoping for faster Internet, or because their ancient machine crawls along like a turtle. (I reco you take a look at the article now.. it will open in a separate place.)
Registry defraggers/optimizers/”tune ups”/etc. is one of the bigger scams going. And everyone has one for sale. Why? Because the “average computer user” is ignorant of the facts. It’s that simple.

CCleaner is one of the (few) exceptions. And there are certain times when Registry cleaning is advisable (as the article above mentions).

1) Click on the “Registry” icon on the left. Again, note my selections.

—> —> ANSWER “YES”. MAKE A BACKUP!!! <— <—
(I Save directly to C:\, and name the file “regbackup”. To make it easy to find in an emergency.)

Someone will look at this and want to comment on why I have un-checked the first two. Let me answer that now. You do not have to follow my practice. You have made a backup, after all.
But, I do not trust anyone but myself to decide which dynamic link libraries (DLL‘s) I might need; and just because I haven’t used a file extension yet, doesn’t necessarily mean I want to remove a Registry pointer. (And.. I do not think of Help files as “space wasters”.) Yes, CCleaner’s Reg tool is safe, but messing with the Registry can introduce as many ‘glitches’ as it cures, and this habit of mine reduces the chance of that.. IMHO.

My Registry scan shows no “errors”. But yours – most likely – will. Maybe several hundred of them. Go ahead and ‘fix’ them. (I repeat: ANSWER “YES”. MAKE A BACKUP!!!)

2) Run the scanner again. (You do not need to save backups during these additional sweeps, but if you do, label them regbackup2, regbackup3, etc.)

3) Run it again, and again if you have to… until it reports “no errors found.”

This will not turn your turtle into thoroughbred race horse. But it may very well cure those strange “computer oddities” (aka ‘glitches’).

I encourage you to explore CCleaner’s Toolbox as well. I use use the Startup tool instead of msconfig, for example. If you are not already a CCleaner fan, click on the CNet image (top of article): read Seth’s review: download.

I have been using CCleaner for a lot of years, and this new version is everything I’ve come to expect, and more. (I especially like the improved 64-bit support.. one of those invisible “under the hood” items..)
And yes. I meant what I said about ‘go anywhere’. I copy CCleaner from my Program Files folder onto the thumbdrive that is my keychain’s fob.

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


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November 17, 2010 Posted by | computers, file system, free software, how to, Internet, PC, performance, privacy, security, software, tech, tweaks | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Using Task Manager – Windows 7 Style

An Overview and Tutorial on the Windows Task Manager

There are several ways that you can access the Task Manager in Windows, and that’s still true in Windows 7. One method is to right-click on a blank section of the Taskbar, and select Task Manager from the context menu. Or you can press Ctrl+Shift+Esc. Or you can click the Start button, type “taskmgr” (no quotes) into the Search box, and press Enter. Or you can press Ctrl+Alt+Delete, (the good old “three-fingered salute”) you’ll see a full screen menu and can click Start Task Manager.

The “tabs”: the 6 tabs in Task Manager are Applications, Processes, Services, Performance, Networking, and Users.

Applications tab operates exactly the same as it does in XP and Vista. It allows you to determine the status of a task (you might see a program “not responding”) as well as end, switch, or create a new task. The former is the use for Task Manager that most people are familiar with: when you have a “frozen” (aka “not responding”) program, you click on it in, and then click the End Task button, which hopefully closes it down. (If it doesn’t, reboot.) But there is more to Task Manager than just this use! And these are found on the other tabs.

Processes tab provides you with very detailed information about the programs and Services (aka “processes”) currently running on your system, which is useful to experienced users (and techs) for troubleshooting.
* The “Image Name” column identifies the executable file. (Note: this is not always a “user friendly” name, and when you see these weird-looking spellings, Google is your friend. Do not assume that if you don’t understand it, it must be bad: wuauclt.exe is your friend, for one example, even if it is weird-looking [it’s Windows Update].)
* The “Description” column identifies each process in a more “user friendly” way. Don’t panic if a process’s description is blank; some basic Windows Services and “background” functions are generic and/or not described.
* The “CPU” and “Memory” columns tell you how much resources a process is using. A really high CPU number, or staying at 100%, can be an indicator of a problem.

Now for the fun: right – click.

ProcTab

Useful information about a process can be accessed by right-clicking on it and selecting the “Open File Location” or “Properties” options – when you select the Open File Location, Windows Explorer opens the folder containing the file; and selecting Properties, opens the file’s standard Properties dialog box.

The “Set Affinity ability is useful for getting old programs to run properly on the new multi-core PC’s. See Multicore Computers and Old Programs* for more on that topic.

Services tab provides you with a convenient way to quickly view the Services that are running while you’re troubleshooting. Right-clicking allows you to Stop the Service.

Performance tab (my fave) If you’re coming to Win7 from XP, this is where you’ll find the biggest changes to Task Manager. This window shows you actual system load, and ‘plots’ it over time. But I want a more detailed look, usually, so I go straight to the Resource Monitor button (Resource Monitor is a whole ‘nother article..).

Networking tab is essentially the same as in Windows XP. On the Networking tab you can view network status and see how your network is functioning.

Users tab is also essentially the same as in Windows XP. You can see who is logged on to the system, and Users can be disconnected or logged off.

In review; with Windows Task Manager is the “troubleshooting” tool for identifying and examining what is running on your computer; looking for ‘problem’ applications (and if necessary, force them to close with “End Task”) and Services; monitor how your processor and RAM is being used; and access system-level process settings.

Please allow me to remind you of my general advice for beginners: If you do not KNOW, do not touch… or, I should say, “don’t touch until you’ve researched it thoroughly.” You can really mess up your computer (as in “render useless”) by changing settings you don’t fully understand. Remember, too, there’s no shame in seeking the council of a professional… such as myself!

Entries must be received before midnight (Pacific) tonight (Thurs. May 27th) so act now!


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


The folks at Genie-soft have generously donated five licenses for Genie Timeline Professional 2.0 to me, to award to my readers. So I am going to do a random drawing contest from folks who “enter”.Genie Timeline is a program that creates “backup copies” of the files and settings on your computer. With Timeline, you do not have to be “computer savvy”, and you can set-it-and-forget-it. Timeline constantly monitors your file system, automatically, for you.To enter the drawing, please see: Software License Giveaway: Genie Timeline Professional

Entries must be received before midnight (Pacific) tonight (Thurs. May 27th) so act now!

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


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June 10, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, performance, tech, Windows, Windows 7 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How To Restore "Classic View" To Windows 7 Control Panel

When I first got a Vista machine, one of the first thing I did was switch the Control Panel from categorized tasks to the more detailed and familiar “Classic View”. Which was easy, as there was a click-able option there in the upper left.

Windows 7 also comes with the Control Panel preset to a categorized tasks, and I still want the more detailed and familiar “Classic View”, but there is no click-able option to use. In Windows 7, you have to use a different approach to revert, and switch back to Classic View.

1) Open the Control Panel (Start button > Control Panel)
2) Look to the upper right, and click on the drop-down arrow by View by: and change it to “Small icons”.

Win7_CP

That’s it. You’re done. Your Control Panel will now be much more familiar looking if you’ve been using Windows for a while (more “XP like”) as well as providing a more comprehensive list of the Control Panel’s options.

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


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March 31, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, tech, tweaks, Windows 7 | , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

How To Install a New Font

Sometimes, our creative side demands that we use a special, uncommon font– a fancy and festive font perhaps. Fortunately, there are many fonts (and font “families”) available for downloading and adding to your computer’s repertoire.

Last year around this time, I published the article Add color to your documents, and I demonstrated a few word processor tricks to brighten up your Holiday letters of Season’s Greeting. This year, I’m going to suggest you enter “download fonts” in a search engine, and explore the world of typefaces. (Or.. see today’s free link below.)

When you have found one you like, and have downloaded it..
To install a font, follow these steps:

  1. Click Start, and then click Run.
  2. Type the following command, “%windir%fonts” (no quotes) and then click OK:
  3. On the File menu, click Install New Font. (Vista users: right-click in a blank area of the fonts folder, and select from the context menu.)
  4. In the Drives box, click the drive that contains the font that you want to add, (usually C:) and turn it blue.
    Note The floppy disk drive is typically drive A. The CD drive is typically drive D.
  5. In the Folders box, click the folder that contains the font that you want to add, and then click OK. (Desktop is found in your User folder. C:UsersusernameDesktop)
  6. In the List of fonts box, click the font that you want to add. To select more than one font at a time, press and hold the CTRL key while you select each font.
  7. Click to select the Copy Fonts To Fonts Folder check box. The new font is saved in the WindowsFonts folder.
  8. Click OK.

install_fonts

Windows supports TrueType fonts, or fonts that are designed especially for Windows which can be purchased and/or downloaded separately. Some programs also include special fonts (which are installed as part of the program installation). Additionally, TrueType or special Windows fonts are frequently included with printers.

Today’s free link: An excellent resource for fonts is 1001 Free Fonts. Each font is available in both a PC (Windows) and a Mac version, so be sure to click the right button.

I’m not sure why.. but this one grabs my attention..
capture3
.. but it’s not what I would use in a Holiday Greeting letter. Hmmm… maybe calligraphy?

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

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November 26, 2008 Posted by | advice, Apple, computers, how to, MS Word, PC, software, tech, tweaks, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments