Tech – for Everyone

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

Click, click, fixed!

Some time ago now, I told you about Microsoft introducing 1-click “fix it” buttons on some of their support pages, (see, Microsoft “One-click” Fixes) which greatly simplified D-I-Y repair.

Microsoft’s has now released a new program (beta) called Fix It Center, which combines downloaded tools and online “fix its”. This gives those of you running older versions of Windows (XP, Vista) some of the same diagnostic and repair tools found in Windows 7.

Fix it Center finds and fixes many common PC and device problems automatically. Fix it Center helps to consolidate the many steps of diagnosing and repairing a problem into an automated tool that does the work for you.

fxit_welcome

When downloaded and installed, Fix It Center scans your computer, and automatically downloads the appropriate toolset for your setup. Thus, Microsoft Fix it Center personalizes solutions for your device, showing you only what matters to your hardware and software.

FixitCenterAC

These tools not only find and repair ‘glitches’, but help prevent new ones, and best of all, it’s automated. (It’s not automatic, you need to open it and run it occasionally [or set as a Scheduled Task] but it does run several diagnostic routines, and then offers the solutions.)

I have installed it on several machines without issue, and am quite impressed. This tool is a great way to “optimize” your machine, even if it currently has no ‘glitches’.
Automated stuff like this could put us techs out of business… (well, not really, but you should, IMHO, look at this tool.)

Visit Fix It Center Online and find out more.. and maybe download it too!

Today’s recommended reading: A FREE Way to Monitor Your Kids Online Activity
If you are a parent who has children who use the computer to access the internet it is very important that you educate yourself and your child about the dangers of the internet. It is important to have strict guidelines in place on their computer usage and a method to supervise and monitor their online activities.

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


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May 4, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, free software, how to, Microsoft, PC, performance, tech, troubleshooting, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Strange Case of the Missing Icons*

Folks, another crazy day. The following re-posted older article is not relevant to those of you on Vista or Windows 7. (Those folks may want to scroll down to the “today’s free link” section though…)

A rather upset person called my shop complaining that their machine had “a virus”, and they wanted me to “fix it”.

There was nothing terribly unusual about that, but their answer to one of my basic questions was unusual– what is happening that makes you think your machine has been infected?
A: “When I turned on my machine, several of my icons were gone.”

That answer (and a few others) told me that, yes, my client’s machine had been altered, but not by a hacker unusedor spyware or virus infection. Their machine had been altered by a “helpful” Windows XP feature called the Desktop Cleanup Wizard.

The Desktop Cleanup feature keeps track of your usage of the icons on your desktop and periodically (every 60 days) offers to remove the icons you have not recently used. Sometimes it will run when you aren’t looking.. which is what happened to my caller.

The icons are not deleted, they are moved to a folder and you can put them back on the desktop if you want. The folder is C:\Documents and Settings\UserName\Desktop\Unused Desktop Shortcuts.
It will also place a shortcut to that folder on your Desktop, as shown.

Tip of the day: Turn off the automatic aspect of the Disk Cleanup tool, and avoid those pop-up balloons and “missing” icons.
1. Right-click a blank spot on the desktop, and then click Properties to open the Display Properties dialog box, click the Desktop tab.
2. Click Customize desktop to open the Desktop Items dialog box.
3. Click to clear the Run Desktop Cleanup Wizard every 60 days check box.
Click OK twice to close the dialog boxes.
unchk

* To run the Wizard manually, click Clean Desktop Now on the Desktop Items dialog box. You can perform a manual cleanup at any time, even if you have disabled the wizard.

Today’s free link: Rick Robinette over at What’s On My PC.com turned me on to this: Your icons on the computer screen, over the life of the computer, will start to war with each other. Watch what actually can happen – Click here for a video capture of icons who thought their owner wasn’t looking. [The video is in Adobe Flash]

* This question has come up twice this past week, so I decided to repost this article. It first appeared 8/25/08.

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

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January 4, 2010 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Microsoft, PC, tech, tweaks, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How To Add A Custom Font To Your PC

Fonts Add Flair To Your Documents

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. (the Desktop is found in your User folder. C:\Users\username\Desktop)
  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.

Note: Now that your new font(s) are installed, you can use them as you would any other font, and they will appear in your list of font choices. You should be aware, though, that if you intend to send your document to someone else — and they have not installed the same font — they won’t see your fancy font unless you “embed” the font in your saved document. Which is easy. Click here for a quick how to on that.

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?

Related: Want to create documents on your computer that use your own handwriting? See, Creating a personalized font from your own handwriting… for a cool way to turn your writing samples into a custom font.

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

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November 2, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, MS Word, PC, tech, tweaks, Vista, Windows, Windows 7, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Video Tutorial — How To Dual Boot Win7

Want To Try Windows 7 RC? Don’t Delete Your Current OS — Dual Boot

Ever since I posted A Tech’s First Impression of Windows 7 RC, I have been asked questions about deleting the existing operating system to install Windows 7. So I want to be very, very clear — you do NOT want to delete your current, functioning Windows XP or Windows Vista installation, and then put Windows 7 on your machine.

Windows 7 is a beta. And it will “expire”. Those two facts preclude it from being your main operating system.

What you do want to do, is create a new partition and install Windows 7 there, and create a “dual boot” setup. This allows you to keep your old AND try the new. This brief tutorial from C/Net shows you just how to do this.. and how easy it is.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

If after watching this video, you want to do this, Click here to download Windows 7

more about “Video Tutorial — How To Dual Boot Win7“, posted with vodpod

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

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May 19, 2009 Posted by | computers, file system, how to, Microsoft, PC, performance, tech, Vista, Windows, Windows 7, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Transfer OE Address Book To Vista

Reader Asks How To Move Their Address Book To A New Laptop

Q: I purchased a new laptop that has Vista Home Premium. I want to move the addresses stored in Outlook Express on my old machine to the new one, but there isn’t Outlook Express on Vista, there’s something called Mail. How can I move my contacts to the new laptop?

A: Outlook Express is no more. It has been “upgraded” and renamed to “Mail” in Vista, but fear not — it’s still basically the same. What you need to do is make a copy of the .WAB file on you old machine, and then “Import” it on the new machine.

1) In the Search tool (Start >Search) search for “Files and folders”, and enter “*.wab” (no quotes) in the “What to search for” textbox.
(Or, navigate to C:\Documents and Settings\user\Local settings\App Data\Identities\{a string of numbers}\Microsoft\Outlook Express)

2) Drag the .wab file from the results window to your portable media — floppy disc, thumb drive. This will copy the file. (or.. you can attach the file to an e-mail, and e-mail it to yourself.)

3) Take the thumb drive/floppy to your new machine and plug it in.

4) Now launch (fancy talk for “open”) Windows Mail.
Import_AB

Click on “File”, then “Import”, and then “Windows Contacts”.

You will be prompted for what to import, and simply point the wizard to your portable media, and then click on the .wab file.

That’s it. You’re done. Now your old Address Book is installed on your new computer.

Today’s free download: Speakonia is a freeware utility that reads text out loud. Speakonia comes with about 20 voices (all with strong robotic accents) and lets you quickly change the reading speed and pitch. Speakonia can save text in WAV files for playback when you’re driving or jogging, but unfortunately it can’t save sound files in the MP3 format. The program interface is clear and straightforward; you simply select text in any document and press Ctrl C to read it aloud. Decent performance and free price make it a reasonable choice for the vision-impaired or people who’d rather do their reading with their ears than their eyes.

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

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May 18, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, e-mail, how to, software, tech, Vista, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Enable ShadowCopy On Home Editions / XP

From time to time Vista creates ’snapshot’ copies of your files with a service called “Shadow Copy”.  This allows you to retrieve older versions of files you accidentally delete or alter.

To go back to a prior version of your file/document, you simply right-click on the file and select “Restore previous versions”, which can get you out of some nasty jams. (For more on recovering deleted files, click here.)

Shadow Copy is enabled on all versions  of Vista, but Microsoft grants user access to these copies only in the Ultimate, Business, and Enterprise editions. (Clearly as a method to try to sell more copies of the pricier Ultimate Edition.)

Tip of the day: Users of the “Home” editions of Vista can use Shadow Copy too.
The odds are pretty good that if you bought a new computer, and it came with Vista, it came with Vista Home Premium. I say that because if you walk into a store selling computers, I dare you to find the one that has Ultimate Edition on it. It seems to me that they all come with Home Premium!

Remember how I said Shadow Copy was “enabled” on all versions? Yes? Well, for owners of Vista Home Premium and Vista Home Basic, the service is running, but you need a way to “interface” with it (sometimes called a “front end”). To do that, download and install ShadowExplorer, and gain some of Ultimate Edition’s functionality. This cool piece of software is free, but donations are accepted.

Today’s free link: People who are using Windows 2000 or XP can get an almost identical file functionality with FileHamster from Mogware. This program is designed for people whose talents lie in the Creative Arts, so you don’t ave to be a geek to use it. There’s helpful user forums, too.

Please note: This ability is by no means a substitute for regular system backups. This is for small “oopsies”, not recovery/restoration.

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

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December 30, 2008 Posted by | advice, Backups, computers, file system, how to, missing files, PC, performance, software, tech, tweaks, Vista, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It*

There is something wonderful in this simple philosophy. It certainly is an aggravation saver, and I believe it is a good, honest, tip for a happier life. It is applicable in all aspects of our daily lives — including our tech gadgets.

Some people (me), though, have some malformed gene, or mis-wired section in their brain which renders them constitutionally incapable of keeping their mischievous little fingers off of a perfectly functioning device. These people have a strange compulsion to try to “make it better”. They just have to open it up and look at what’s inside…
A highly Scientific Study (that I just made up) has proven that a full 9-out-of-10 of these personality-types not only fail to “improve” the device, they fail to get all the piecesTim the Toolman back inside, much less back in their proper places.

The modern name for these people is “tweaker”. The most ‘famous’ tweaker was probably Tim [“the tool man”] Taylor, a character made famous by Tim Allen on Home Improvement. (I loved it when he “improved” the kitchen garbage disposal by powering it with a chainsaw engine.) His motto: More power!

Yes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a very good Rule. For that 90% of tweakers who only succeed in disassembling the object of their interest, it ought to be a Law. However (you, Dear Reader, were expecting a “however”, right?), tweaking can be a good thing. Tweaking sometimes leads to Invention. Successful and repeatable tweaks are called “optimizing”. And who can argue against optimizing? Not me. A great deal of Tech–for Everyone is about optimizing your PC.. such as today’s tip.

Tip of the day: Optimize your computer with the latest device drivers. Most of my readers should be aware of the existence of the small programs that allow the software on our machines (primarily the OS) to interact with the hardware, which are called “device drivers”. If you’ve ever added a new device, you (typically) had to put in a CD and install the “driver” to get it operational. My readers probably also know that, like other programs, drivers get “updated”, and improved, occasionally. Did you also know that by seeking out, and installing the latest drivers, you can have a faster machine? Or, that your device may suddenly have more “features” and capabilities? Today I’m going to show you a method to use that I consider the first step, and tomorrow I’ll describe the more aggressive and effective approach, as well as how to “undo” a driver update if things should go wrong.

The first step is to create a System Restore point, to give yourself a fallback position. I reco doing this whenever you make significant changes to your machine. (To see my series on the System Restore tool, click here.)

Then you need to access your Device Manager tool. There are a couple of ways to do this, but I use Start >right-click My Computer >Properties >Hardware tab >Device Manager. Now you will see a list of the components on your machine, as shown in the example below.
devmgr.jpg
Some, in fact most, of these items you do not need to worry about updating. The items that typically will give you the most improvement are: graphics, sound, printer, network (or modem) adapter, and (sometimes) monitor.

Begin by selecting the device you want to update the driver for — I am going to use for demonstration the sound on a laptop computer — and ‘expand’ the hardware list by clicking on the “+” sign next to the proper category, in my example that will be the “Sound, video, and game controllers” category.

Next, double-click on the device name to open its Properties dialogue window. In my case that’s “ESS Maestro PCI Audio”, and then click on the Drivers tab, which will now open a window that looks like this.
snddrvr.jpg
Now click on the Update driver button, which launches an automated process called the “Hardware Update Wizard”. Accept the default radio button setting (“Automatically”) and click “next”.

Now Windows will go out and “search” for a “better” driver than the current version, and when it finds one, will help you install it via a couple of “Next” clicks. Do this for all the devices (device types) that I listed above.
Unfortunately, the  most common result of the search returns this window.
cannot.jpg
This is because Microsoft has built into the search parameters a complex formula of what constitutes “better”. To them, better does not just mean “newer” (ie, a more recent version number), but whether or not the driver has been tested and approved in the Microsoft labs (for a fee), and whether or not the driver’s author has shelled out the dough to buy a digital “certificate” (for another fee).
Since this is a simple driver, and not a new miracle accounting program, or other retail piece of code, most authors skip these expensive steps… and so the Update search will disregard these drivers as if they didn’t exist. Tomorrows post will deal with this issue.

But doing this process can and does produce results, and it is the method I reco as the first step in a faster/better PC. New drivers are released all the time, so I do this every so often.

To read Part 2, click here.

Today’s free link: I have reco’d the popular Mozilla Firefox web browser here before, and I think it’s only fair to tell you of another — Avant uses the IE 7 rendering engine, but advertises itself as the “fastest browser on earth”. I like it for its built-in security features, such as tracks erasing, and its rss reader. Take a look at the Avant homepage, and then give it a try.

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

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October 17, 2008 Posted by | add device, advice, computers, device drivers, hardware, how to, PC, performance, Plug and Play, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments