Sunday, January 25, 2009

How to Remove "AntiVirus 2009"

There is an infectious agent — known as AntiVirus 2009 (and variants of that name) — that is taking over computers around the world. It constantly displays warnings about infections on the computer — and offers the opportunity for you to save your computer. All you have to do is to give a criminal your credit card number and and authorization to steal money using it.

The only thing that is really wrong on your computer is that "... AntiVirus 2009..." is nagging you. If you allow the criminal to rip you off, he will stop the nagging.
The are several variants of the name of this malware. It calls itself
  • XP Antivirus
  • Antivirus 2009
  • Antivirus 2010
  • Internet Antivirus Pro
and probably a few other names.
For a while, we computer pros knew only one way to fix the problem: reformat the computer's hard drive and re-install Windows. While it might be possible to save the data on the hard drive, the process is expensive and annoying.

However, the fine folks at have developed a tool that does most of the work involved in cleaning up the computer. They also provide excellent instructions.

I have used the tool from BleepingComputer and it works well. The downside is that I can't charge as much to repair the damage. Duh-oh! (earlier versions)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Microsoft Office: Select Text Using Your Mouse

Eveyone knows how to do that, right? You highlight text by dragging the cursor over it.

But wait! There's a better way! In fact, there are at least 5 better ways to select text using your mouse. That's right. Five – count 'em – Five!!
  1. Select a word: double-click that word.
  2. Select a single line of text:left-click in the left margin next to the line.
  3. Select a sentence:
    1. Hold down   
    2. Left-click anywhere in the sentence.
  4. Select a paragraph:
    • left-click three times in the paragraph
    • left-click twice in the left margin next to the paragraph
  5. To select the entire document: click three times in the left margin.
Now that you know, you can impress your friends and family.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Improve Your Tech Support Experience

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Run Windows And Linux On The Same Computer

OK, you're stuck with Windows, but you'd like to try Linux. There are many ways to accomplish this. However, the easiest is to use a feature built into the installation CD for Ubuntu (Ubuntu is by far the best of the Linux choices). The process is simple. For complete instructions, see Ubuntu 8.10: Easily Install Inside Windows for Dual Booting

Once you can run Linux, you'll be amazed at the variety and quality of the FREE software that come with the FREE Ubuntu Linux. And you can feel like a rebel as you thumb your nose at Microsoft. Eventually, you might realize that you can do without Windows on your computer.

As the song goes "Anything Windows can do Ubuntu can do better." [ Apologies to the creators, performers, and fans of Annie, Get Your Gun ]

Monday, October 20, 2008

Windows Vista Error: User Profile Cannot Be Loaded

Windows Vista has an anomaly (that's marketing-speak for bug) that prevents users from logging in. One day you attempt to log in, and Vista responds with 'The user profile service failed the log on. User profile cannot be loaded.'

Here's how to fix it:
  • Work in Windows Safe Mode
    1. reboot the computer
    2. during the boot process - at exactly the right moment before Windows opens - press
      • the way to get the 'right moment' is to tap once each second until the Safe Mode screen appears - it is a screen with a black background and a lot of white text
      • if Windows delivers a standard Windows login screen , you missed the moment in which you can start Safe Mode
      • if so, reboot and try again (and again and again) until you enter the Safe Mode screen
    3. when in the Safe Mode screen, left-click on Safe Mode (it is usually at the top of the screen); you will jump to the Safe Mode desktop, which looks like a very plain Windows desktop
  • Perform a System Restore
    1. left-click on
    2. left-click on Accessories
    3. left-click on System Tools
    4. left-click on System Restore; you will jump to a screen that resembles a calendar and lists several Restore Points
    5. select the most recent Restore Point
    6. follow the on-screen instructions to restore your computer's system to the last known good configuration
    7. do not interfere with the process - allow it to complete and to automatically reboot;
  • After the reboot, Windows will (or at least, should) let you log in.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

How To Make Windows Vista Look Like Windows XP

How To Make Windows Vista Look Like Windows XP

The problem:

I have friends who complain that they don't like the look-and-feel of Windows Vista. They want to get rid of all the Vista visual elements such as the round Start button and replace them with the XP visuals.

vista desktopdesktop for windows xp
Windows Vista DesktopWindows XP Desktop

You can make Vista look-and-feel like the more familiar XP.

The following procedure will produce a Vista computer with an XP look-and-feel. It's quick, it's easy, and it's almost fool-proof.
  1. Left-click on  
  2. In the Start menu,
    • Right click Computer
    • Select Properties
    • Left-click on Control Panel
    • Left-click on System
  3. In the left-hand Tasks pane, left-click Advanced System Settings
  4. In the UAC dialog box
    • left-click on  
    • enter the name and password for the machine's administrator
  5. On the Advanced tab, left-click Performance
  6. On the Performance tab, left-click on  
  7. Left-click "Adjust for Best Performance"
Be aware:
Changing the above, and then resetting back to the original, might alter some of your toolbars and desktop icons. That's the "almost" part of "almost foolproof."

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Some Children Left Behind

From A School Secretary:

I am trying to e-mail a parent that never answers the phone because they are on the internet. Here is the message I received in response:
Delivery has failed to these recipients or distribution lists:

An error occurred while trying to deliver this message to the recipient's e-mail address.

Microsoft Exchange will not try to redeliver this message for you. Please try resending this message, or provide the following diagnostic text to your system administrator.

The following organization rejected your message:
Do you have any suggestions?


The problem is one of the following:
  1. the e-mail address is invalid
  2. there is a problem with AOL mail server
  3. the parent has been too busy on-line to pay the AOL bill
  4. AOL's mail server thinks you're a spammer (your domain has been treated as a spammer in the past)
  5. AOL's mail server's filter is rejecting your e-mail because of something in your e-mail's content
Your mail server is sending your message, receiving the reply, and placing the reply in your Inbox - just as it is supposed to do.

#1 is most likely.

Remedial action:

  1. Hand-write or compose & print the message
  2. Call the child into the office
  3. Pin or glue the message to whatever part of the child (or clothes) is most likely to get the parent's attention. I can guarantee that attaching the note to the kid's hair, using chewing gum, will work.

Teach the child how to unplug the computer, thus freeing up both the parent and the phone line.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Sometimes New Versions Just Plain Suck Part II

Speaking of newer versions, what ever happened to McCain v.2000? THAT was a great version. 

Even McCain v.2006 was OK.

McCain 2008 is like Windows Vista: it sucks, sucks, sucks, especially when compared to the alternatives. Its add-on module is even worse.

I recommend sticking with the ones with the African-sounding names: Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Obama.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Sometimes New Versions Just Plain Suck Part I

The suckiest of new versions? Vista. I have a customer who would return the computer, if she could (she threw out the boxes & using UPS packaging would be frightfully expensive). HP won't help with drivers for XP so that we can safely downgrade. Actually, XP is an upgrade> from Vista, but I digress.

Meanwhile, Ubuntu just keeps getting better. If you are a Windows user and want to try Ubuntu, I recommend its brother, Kubuntu or its extra light/extra fast little sister, Xubuntu.

The downside to the Ubuntu family is that compared to Windows 
  • they are faster
  • they can run well on older, less powerful computers
  • they are more secure
  • they run thousands of programs - including Windows programs (even Windows Vista has problems running Windows software);
  • most software for Ubuntu is free, while most software for Windows is quite expensive
  • they (the Ubuntu family of computer operating systems) are free 
    • Windows' latest version - Vista - has several versions; the  cheapest version retails for $199.99 at Target
    • Vista's most expensive version is priced at for $399.99

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Crashed Computer

I can't do anything today.

Something crashed on my computer.... and my mouse is missing.

kitten crashed out on computer

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How and Why (first reason) to use Safe Mode

News Flash! Sometimes things go wrong with computers. Yesterday we discussed how to invoke Windows' Safe Mode. Safe Mode is one of the tools you can use to diagnose and repair Windows' problems. Our first problem (and its fix)is things going wrong after you added / changed hardware or changed a "driver." Note: you'll have to print these instructions because they will not be available on-screen while you perform these steps.
  1. How: There are two ways to get where you need to be for out first possible fix:
    • If you have NOT added the safe boot option to your startup menu
      • At the right moment, press the F8 key. Be alert: your window of opportunity is small
      • If you miss that opportunity, Windows will start normally.
      • You should let Windows finish its startup process.
      • Then re-boot and try again.
      • Keep trying until you get it right.
      • Now you know why I recommend adding the Safe Mode option to Windows.
    • If you have added the safe boot option to your startup menu
      • Start the computer.
      • When the Options menu appears,rather than selecting an operating system, press the F8 key

    • Either method will open the Safe Mode Options Menu.

      The first thing to try when using Safe Mode to recover from a system problem is invoking the Last Known Good Configuration option.At the Safe Mode Options Menu,

    • Use the arrow keys to highlight Last Known Good Configuration
    • press the ENTER key. NOTE: NUM LOCK must be off before the arrow keys on the numeric keypad will function.
    • Follow the screen prompts. When instructed,
    • reboot the system
    • test to see if the original problem is fixed.

  2. WHY: Choosing Last Known Good Configuration provides a way to recover from problems such as a newly added driver that may be incorrect for your hardware. It does not solve problems caused by corrupted or missing drivers or files.

    You should use the Last Known Good Configuration as soon as you discover a problem which occurred right after you changed a driver or added/changed hardware.

Tomorrow: More ways to use Safe Mode.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Recover From Windows Problems (Add Safe Mode To The Boot Menu)

News Flash! Sometimes things go wrong with computers. One of the tools you can use to diagnose and repair some problems is Windows' Safe Mode. To use Safe Mode, restart the computer. During the start up you have a brief moment in which you can press the F8 key. Pressing F8 allows you to use Safe Mode. Catching the correct moment is a challenge. However, you can force Windows to present a menu from which you can select Safe Mode. Hint: print these instructions - they are not available while you are performing the listed tasks.
  1. Right-click My Computer
  2. Left-click Properties.
  3. Left-click the Advanced tab.
    Under Startup and Recovery,
  4. Left-click the Settings button.
  5. Left-click Edit.
    The boot.ini file will open in Notepad. In the boot.ini file,
  6. Copy the line that reads as follows:
    multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS=”Microsoft Windows XP Professional” /fastdetect.
  7. Paste the line you just copied after the original one.
  8. Change the second line - the one you just pasted -
    from “Microsoft Windows XP Professional
    to “Windows XP Safe Mode” or something similar (the exact text of this step is not important).
  9. At the end of this line add the following: /safeboot:minimal /sos /bootlog.
  10. Save the boot.ini file
    • Left-click File.
    • Left-click Save.
    • Left-click OK.
    • Left-click OK.
  11. Restart your computer.
Safe Mode should be available at the boot menu.

Tomorrow: How and Why to use Safe Mode

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Speed Up Windows XP (more)

There are thousands of little ways to make your computer run slower than it could. Microsoft manages to make all the wrong choices on those. Fortunately, guys like I can help correct Microsoft's bungles. That's why you pay us the big bucks.

Hard drive technology is constantly evolving. One of the areas where improvements have been made is in how the hard drive (and DVD/CD drive) transfer data from the drive to memory, and back from memory to the drive.

Way back when, we stopped using hamsters to power PCs. That's when 'bugs' were insects that crawled inside the machine and shorted circuits. Back then data transfer used a technology called PIO.

Nowadays the standard data transfer method - much, much faster than PIO - is DMA. Don't worry about the terminology. I'm just throwing around tech-talk to impress you.

Sometimes your hard drives and DVD/CD drives are set to use PIO instead of DMA. Here's how to check and correct (if needed) that error.
  1. Find the icon called My Computer
  2. Right-click My Computer
  3. Left-click Properties
  4. Left-click the 'Hardware' tab
  5. Left-click the 'Device Manager' button
  6. Halfway down the list of devices is "IDE ATA\ATAPI Controllers"
  7. If "IDE ATA\ATAPI controllers" is not listed, you don't have a PIO/DMA problem. You can close down the Device Manager
  8. If 'IDE ATA\ATAPI controllers' IS listed,
  9. Left-click the adjacent 'plus sign'
  10. Right-click 'Primary IDE Channel'
  11. Left-click 'Properties'
  12. Left-click the 'Advanced Settings' tab
  13. 'Transfer Mode' should be set to 'DMA if available.' If it isn't, it will say 'PIO Only'
  14. If needed, left-click the arrow to the right of 'PIO Only'
  15. Select 'DMA if available'
  16. If the program lists a 'Secondary IDE Channel,' repeat the above steps for the secondary IDE channel.
  17. That's all; close all 'Properties' windows
  18. Close 'Device Manager.'
Any speed improvement gained will show up after you re-start the computer

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Speed Up Windows XP

Windows has lots of goodies built-in. Many of them are not important for the average user. Microsoft delivers products set up badly in many ways. Especially true is Microsoft's practice of turning on, by default, stuff you don't need. Each extra unneeded function causes a deterioration in system performance.

A good example is - ironically - the system performance monitor. Few people - save for some deviant techie-types - use that. Turn off performance monitoring, and you'll get a small speed improvement.

Turning of the performance monitor is easy and nearly fool-proof. Here's how:
  1. Left-click the START Button
  2. Left-click "Run"
  3. In the Text Entry Box type 'diskperf -N'
  4. Left-click the OK Button
That's all.


Friday, August 15, 2008

MicroSoft Vista, Part 2

Microsoft Vista is an operating system for personal computers. It usually is found installed on new personal computers.

For openers, let's discuss the concept of an "operating system." Simply put, the operating system is your computer's traffic cop. It directs all of the odds and ends that go on inside your computer.

All computers have an operating system - even your cell phones, your car's computer, your high-tech "IP" telephones, your "TIVO" (a TV's Video Recorder - VCR - on steroids).

If the operating system (OS) is good, you never know that it is there. It just does its job quietly, while it turns your keystrokes and mouse clicks into documents, screen images, internet 'activity', music, and the like. Good operating systems include
  • Apple's Macintosh
  • newer versions of Linux
  • Windows XP, although it took a couple of years of patching before XP became a fairly good OS.
Windows Vista is still rough around the edges - and all the way through. Many industry pundits (and I) doubt that it will ever become a polished, well-running, unintrusive OS.

Technically speaking, Microsoft has stopped selling Windows XP and requires that all new PCs built by Microsoft Partners have MS Vista pre-installed. Oddly, even though XP is not longer being sold for installation on new computers, XP still outsells Vista. Go figure.

Why is that?
  • Performance. Vista is overweight. It's bloated. It uses much more memory than XP or Linux. It requires a faster processor than those OSs.
  • Quality. Vista is buggy.
  • Usability. There are some computer components that will not work with Vista. There are MANY programs that will not work with Vista.
Some of those vendors - MicroSoft Partners - will thumb their noses at MicroSoft and will build you a less-expensive (but equally good or even better) PC with XP installed or with Linux installed.

They can 'install' XP because the Vista license allows you to 'downgrade' to XP. I challenge the use of the term 'downgrade,' but that's my personal problem. In any case, if you follow my advice, you'll insist that any new computer that you buy will have Windows XP - or Linux - or both - installed.

As PC operating systems go, Windows XP is a good choice. Most of the bugs have been worked out, and there is considerable available hardware and software that play nicely with XP.

It's a good time to consider Linux as an OS on any computer, new or used. Granted, Linux is not Windows, and not all Windows software will run on a Linux computer. But
  1. Most Linux installations include software called "Wine". Wine is a product that is designed to enable you to run Windows software in a Linux environment. Not all WIndows programs will run under Linux/Wine, but 6500 Windows programs do....
  2. Every day new Linux programs are released... programs that perform the same functions as MicroSoft-compatible programs - and usually faster than MicroSoft-compatible software,
  3. These days, most people use computers for Internet browsing, e-mail, simple text operations such as writing letters (you know, those old-fashioned documents that required envelopes and stamps - and used complete words and complete sentences), preparing term papers, playing music, playing videos, and homework. Linux excels at all of those tasks.
Another option for running alternative operating systems is the "virtual machine." To use a virtual machine
  1. take any computer running any of the Big 4 OSs: Vista, XP. Mac, Linux
  2. install virtual machine software (all 4 have free VM software available)
  3. use the VM software to create and install "Virtual XP", or "Virtual Vista", or "Virtual Linux" (Mac OS is different)
The virtual OS becomes a second operating system that can run simultaneously with the original OS and can share the computer's hardware resources: memory, disk drives, network, audio/video circuitry, and so on. You can switch between those 2 (or more) OSs on-the-fly without losing any data - or even with out 'losing your place' in what you were doing before the switch.

The point of all of this is that you don't have to buy a computer with an expensive, poorly written operating system (that would be Vista). You have alternatives.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

MicroSoft Vista, Part 1


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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words (more)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

These web sites are guaranteed to drive your doctor nuts

Read up on all of your symptoms and diagnose yourself, then go visit the Dr. S/he will love you for it.

General Health Knowledge
Specialized Health Topics
  • Drugs. Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Prescription Drugs, OTC Drugs, and Natural Products
  • Pill Identifier What's that weird-looking pill you stole from your neighbor's medicine cabinet?
  • Medco good health information AND excellent source for mail-order prescriptions
Mental Health
Slightly more off-beat:

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Monday, August 11, 2008

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Nowadays, you can substitute the word "Vista" for XP".

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Can You Afford To Travel?

This site is like MapQuest or Google Maps, with an interesting wrinkle: it computes your gasoline cost for a trip.
Enter your
  1. Starting Point
  2. Destination
  3. Gasoline price
  4. Fuel ConsumptionRate (Miles Per Gallon) computes how hard the oil companies are going to slam you to make the trip.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The MicroSoft Way

Somewhere I read this:
...Then Microsoft earned much of its dominance of the office market the old-fashioned way: By building better software."

My response:

MicroSoft has NEVER built better software. MicroSoft has ALWAYS relied on better marketing and better bullying. "If you can't beat 'em, buy 'em out or stomp on 'em and take their ideas."

The history of personal computing is littered with the corpses of dead MicroSoft competitors and products that were superior to MicroSoft's.

Also littering that history are the piles and piles of MicroSoft's really stupid 'me-too' ideas. Any one of those failures would have bankrupted most businesses. With its massive war chest, MicroSoft has weathered every blunder with barely a blip on the bottom line.

Innovation? Innovation, my a**. MicroSoft's idea of innovation is innovative sales techniques and innovative ways to crush and buy/scuttle the really good companies and the really good ideas.

And since I'm griping, I have always resented being used as a paying Gamma and Delta tester - Redmond never gets any product or service close to being right until Epsilon (and sometimes not until Theta).

-- Microsoft user since '83,
Microsoft critic since '85, Microsoft share holder since'97, ex-Softie since '01,

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Open HTML Email Safely

Many people send e-mails that are written using HTML. You might be, and not even know it. To send e-mails with images that display in the open e-mail, you have to use HTML. The same goes for e-mails that include music, dancing bears, and other cutesy non-essentials. I'm as guilty as the next person on that.

Most HTML e-mails are attractive (that's the reason for HTML e-mail). However, HTML e-mail has a sinister side: it can hide malicious scripts which execute when you open the e-mail.

There are several things you can do to protect your computer from naughty HTML e-mail.
  • Don't open e-mail from anyone whom you don't know. Of course, this assumes that your acquaintences would neither send nor forward a bad e-mail. The latter is a big assumption; how many of your friends would know that an e-mail is 'infected?'

  • Do NOT use the "Preview Pane" feature of any e-mail program (including Outlook and Outlook Express). If you use Preview Pane, then when you 'close" an e-mail, the next e-mail in the list automatically opens in the Preview Pane. If the 'next' e-mail contains malware, your computer will be infected or otherwise compromised. Sadly, Microsoft has "Preview Pane" set as the default. If you don't actively turn it off, then it is ON. And people wonder why I criticize MicroSoft so often....
Bonus for Outlook Users who want to Open HTML e-mail Safely
  • Use PocketKnifePeek, a free Outlook add-in that allows you to preview your HTML email as text... thus nullifying the effects of scripts hidden in messages. Peek requires Windows and MicroSoft Outlook (NOT Outlook Express). It a small program that downloads and installs quickly: 480KB

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Tech Talk

Today's site is a large collection of stories and anecdotes about computer users. how is it that someone who might in other circumstances be considered smart and wise, can sit down in front of a computer screen and instantly lose every last shred of common sense he ever possessed? Complicate this phenomenon with a case of "computerphobia," and you end up with tech support personnel having phone conversations that are funny in retrospect but seem like perfectly valid motives for wild machine gun shooting sprees at the time.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008


"Amateurs built the ark ...professionals built the Titanic.
Now let's talk about Linux and Windows."

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Men and Boys, The Price of Their Toys

I'm not big on gadgets. Some people might think that UltraMobile PCs (UMPC) are gadgets. I'm here to tell you that's not so. But even if it is a gadget, it's the gadget for me.

Notebook (laptop) computers make it easy to travel with a computer. A UMPC makes it almost effortless. A UMPC is the size of a hard-bound book. It's like a notebook computer run through the wash on "HOT". UMPCs are much more durable than most laptops - they are the prototype of the "One Laptop Per Child" computers that are taking computers into remote places all around the world. Note: the hard drive is virtually indestructible; it has no moving parts!

I have the pleasure of testing an Asus EeePC. Our local school district needs inexpensive, highly portable, network/internet-ready computers for the elementary school students. Guess whom they asked to put these lil' puppies through their paces?

This little gem (2.03 pounds, 0.92 kg) comes ready-to-go with software for work and for fun. It includes the ability to connect to a network, whether it's hard-wired or wireless. That networking capability includes Internet access.

Built-ins include e-Mail, eBooks, instant messaging, world-wide-web, internet radio, skype (internet phone service), music, video, graphics (photos, etc.), word processing, spreadsheets, presentations (think PowerPoint), recording video and audio, webcam, educational programs - and more, much more.

I took this sweetheart with me on a trip. Among my daily tasks - besides e-Mail and web-surfing is administering a 2000-computer network. EeePC enabled me to do that administration from 1500 miles away. The Eee-PC did all I asked it to do. It's a small computer with big performance.

On the road, this computer can be safe from theft: it has built-in capability for Kensington locks for portable computers

The downside: you can't cram a lot of keyboard and screen into a 9" x 6 1/2" computer. You can cram in enough to suit me, given all the advantages.

The upside to the downside: when not on the road, you can use a UMPC as a home computer! Just
  1. close the lid
  2. plug in any standard monitor
  3. plug in any USB keyboard/mouse (most are USB)
  4. plug in, as needed, the included power supply/charger

    you can easily add - just plug in (there are lots of USB ports)

  5. a USB flash drive (thumb drive)
  6. a network cable [ or connect to a wireless network ]
  7. CD/DVD player/recorder
  8. USB portable drive
  9. MMC/SD 'card' (from a digital camera)
  10. modem (modems are so '80s and '90s)
  11. headphones (there are speakers built in)
  12. microphone (there is a 'mike' built in)
If you want to use the built-in webcam, you'll have to leave the lid open.

For details about

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Sunday, July 06, 2008


Is your computer showing its age? Has its get-up-and-go gotten-up-and-gone?

PCPitStop has some tips on how to revive it.

Top 25 XP Super Tweaks. Anyone who can follow instructions can perform all of the 'tweaks.' However, anyone intimidated by computers will shy away from some of the tips. No problem: just do the ones with which you feel comfortable.

Or package it up and send it to me. For $65 per hour + shipping, I'll do these things for you.

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

No Thanks, I'm Just Browsing

Web Browser:   the program that serves as your front end to the World Wide Web on the Internet.

In order to view a page - web site - you type its address (URL) into the [web]browser's Location field - or you click on a link that is embedded in another web site. Either of those feats accomplished, a page of that sought-after web site is downloaded to your browser. Then you can view that site and use its content as you wish.

You can read, view pictures, click on links to 'go to' other web sites, copy material for your next term paper, download music and movies (YouTube!), download software, research information (Google!), and much more. Your web browser can be addictive, because it is always ready to serve as your library, movie theater, music store, 'stereo', shopping mall, 'party line' (a geezer term for old telephone systems), bank teller, and much, much more.

Windows computers have the Internet Explorer web browser built-in. Macintosh OS-X includes the Safari browser. However, you aren't stuck with those 'default' choices. Depending on how you use the Internet, any of several other browsers (over 100!) might be a better choice for you.

Avant Browser is a Web browser based on Internet Explorer. It provides fast, tabbed browsing and offers many features NOT available in Internet Explorer. Need for speed? Avant might be want you want. Did I mention that it's free?

Some more free Web Browsers for Windows:
  • FireFox is #1 in my book. It's feature-rich and can be made even more so with the hundreds of extensions that can be added to FireFox. FireFox 3 is much faster than earlier versions. 75 million people have downloaded and used FireFox. Best. Browser. Ever. So far.....

  • Safari. Safari is excellent! It is the web browser built in to Macintosh OS-X, ported to Windows. It's my 2nd favorite.
  • Another that I use is K-Meleon it's fast and jam-packed with features missing from the boring, everyday Internet Explorer
  • Apocalypse Browser (zip) Apocalypse. Now.
Even more free browsers are available at ZD-Net (publisher of several computer-oriented magazines):
MicroSoft's Internet Explorer 7.x is, well, it's OK - especially if you install the free IE7Pro add-in

Did I mention that ALL of the above are free? Gratis. No charge. Yours for the asking.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

What Were They Thinking?

Anyone can register a URL. Here's proof:
  • Where would one go to get gifts for his/her favorite streetwalker?

  • Experts Exchange, advice for the computer-unsavvy: They had the good sense to get a new address, hyphenating the URL making it

  • Need writing implements? Or implants?

  • After visiting a person just might need, um....., therapy.

  • Mole Station Native Nursery, based in New South Wales, used to have their web site at "". They changed the URL to, which didn't really help much. On the other hand, in that community, wouldn't any sign, web site, chamber of commerce brochure have the same problem?

  • Heating with propane, natural gas, or butane might be less expensive than heating with electricity. Find out at OK, that one is a bit obscure, and definitely obscene.

  • Italians who need electricity could check in at
What surprises me is that most of those web sites still exist, with web addresses unchanged.

Ripped off from webmasters-who-didnt-think-when-they - who didn't mention the 70 or so other web sites with the same list. At least I had the courtesy to mention my source.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Photographs and Memories is a search engine for photos licensed under Creative Commons. currently indexes 271,323 photos. They "aim to be a community for designers, developers, photographers and other media publishers who want better, easier access to license-specific media on the web."

CC "adds value by providing a single integrated search, allowing users to bookmark their photos with private and public tags." They will be "offering advanced searching options, rating systems and other tools."

Creative Commons is a method of licensing creative works. You could say that Creative Commons competes with Copyrights as a method of protecting authors, artists, etc. while encouraging creative use of the protected works.

"Creative Commons licenses provide a flexible range of protections and freedoms for authors, artists, and educators. We have built upon the "all rights reserved" concept of traditional copyright to offer a voluntary "some rights reserved" approach. We're a nonprofit organization. All of our tools are free."

Did I mention that you can use the photos for free - subject to the terms of the applicable Creative Commons licenses.

What did we learn today?
  1. One web site gives you access to ¼ of a million photos
  2. You can use those photos at no charge (as long as you comply with the photographer's terms)
  3. There's more than one way to protect creators' rights and encourage use of the creations.
  4. is easier to use than a Google Images search.
OK, we didn't learn #4 today. However, if you apply Lesson #1, then #4 will be serendipituous.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Another Good Use For The Internet

Now you can find the remaining few people on earth who think that Mullets make a positive fashion statement. If you're inclined to watch Mulletheads in their natural environment, try tractor pulls, trailer parks (with or without a tornado approaching), or Wal-Mart.

While we're at it, The term Mullet(context: hair) traces back to the 1967 prison film Cool Hand Luke, starring Paul Newman and George Kennedy. Kennedy's character refers to Southern men with long hair as "Mullet Heads."

Now that we've wandered off to "Cool Hand Luke".... That movie deserves Oscars in three categories not usually covered by the Academy:
1. Most Quotable1
2. Best Scene Involving Hard-Boiled Eggs
3. Sweatiest.

1"Now, I can be a good guy, or I can be one real mean sum-bitch" - the guy with the shotgun, supervising the road-gang
"Sometimes nothing can be a pretty cool hand." -- Luke, in a high-stakes poker match
"Why you got to go and say fifty eggs for? Why not thirty-five or thirty-nine?--Luke's prison associate
"I thought it was a nice round number." -- Luke

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wisdom from Mr. Spock (Star Trek).

When you connect to that page, a tidbit of Mr. Spock's genius will be revealed.

After you read one of Mr. Spocks's pearls of wisdom, press the F5 key. The screen will present you with another quote (complete with the name of the episode in which he said what he said).

Aren't you glad to know this?

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Controlling Width of E-mails and Web Pages When Printing

To make emails and web pages print - and fit left to right on the page
  1. Highlight what you want to print (text and images).
  2. Left-click on File
  3. Left-click on Print
  4. From the print menu, choose "selection"
  5. Left-click on Print

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Unannoying e-Mail Attachments

Many people send e-Mails with attached documents. The problem is that too many senders assume that all the recipients will see the attached document exactly as the sender intended. I get lots of those, and it is very annoying, because reading what the sender wants me to read can be quite a chore.

Here's what happens: the sender creates a document using certain software, and that software is configured in the way to sender likes the software set up. For all recipients to see the attached document exactly as the sender intended, the following must occur:
1. all of the recipients use the same software as the sender
2. those recipients who use the same software as the sender must have their software configured similar to the sender's software configuration
3. the sender must use fonts that ALL recipients have installed on their computers

Those are some very big assumptions. For instance, attached documents sent from a PC using Microsoft Word might be unreadable for several reasons:
  • on a Macintosh computer, because MacIntosh users tend to prefer software other than MS Word
  • not all PCs have the same word processing software installed
  • PCs and Macs do not use all of the same fonts
  • Not all PCs and Macs have Microsoft Word installed
Then there is the issue of malware(especially viruses). The most common method of transmitting malware is to attach viruses to documents (especially MS Word documents) - and then sending those infected files via e-mail.

The list of problems goes on and on.

There is a solution. The sender should send documents in a 'universal' format, and the recipients' computers should have the ability to read documents sent in a universal format.

That part is easy. There are three widely-used universal document formats. Most (as in 99.9999999% or more) PCs and Macs have software for reading both of those universal formats.

The formats are

  • plain text - text with no formatting (think of a typewriter) no special fonts, no embedded images, etc
  • HTML - the lingua franca of the Internet
  • PDF - Portable Document Format

Yes, I know there is RichText Format - RTF - a glorified plain text (allows centering, font effects such as bold and italic). RTF is NOT universal for the same reasons that MS Word is not universal.

There are many free, easily used programs that will create universal files - text, HTML. and PDF from scratch or from existing files. The easiest to create is PDF. Here's how to do it on ANY PC:

  1. Download and install Primo PDF.
  2. Create & Save a document using ANY Word processor.
  3. Primo PDF installs itself as a printer (stay with me...).
  4. Print the document, but instead of printing to your usual printer, select PrimoPDF from the list of available printers.
  5. Primo will ask you to name the new file and to tell Primo where it can put the new file. Tell Primo what it needs to know.
  6. The document thus created will be a universal PDF file that virtually anyone with any computer can read. Primo will maintain your document's format - including fonts. Your file will appear the same on any computer.

Rather than attach the original - most likely not a 'universal' - file, attach the 'universal' PDF file that Primo created for you.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

How To Get A Nice, Clean Keyboard

Methods you can use at work to get a nice, clean keyboard:

  • My preferred method is to look around until I find a clean keyboard, and then swap mine for the clean one.
  • Blow out nooks and crannies with a can of compressed air; wipe down all surfaces with alcohol-based wipes (not 'baby wipes' that contain aloe or such stuff)

Methods you can use at home to get a nice, clean keyboard:

  • I'm not kidding: you can do a great cleanup using a dishwasher (appliance, not family member). Here's a how-to
  1. unplug the keyboard from the computer before trying this - or at least turn off the computer
  2. do not use any detergent - just plain water
  3. do not use a hot dry cycle - air dry or hair-drier + air dry only
  4. after the wash/rinse have taken place, remove the keyboard from the dishwasher
  5. turn upside down (that is, turn the keyboard upside down) and shake to remove excess water
  6. pour "rubbing alcohol" in openings to get alcohol to mix with residual water
  7. turn upside down and shake to remove excess water/alcohol
  8. let it air dry for at least a day in hot, dry weather or two days in cooler, damper weather; turn upside down and shake occassionally (the keyboard, not you); any moisture left inside will destroy the keyboard when you plug it in.
  9. throw it out and buy a new one at the office supply store ($8 - $50)
  • Search on the Internet for other ideas: try "keyboard clean" or "clean keyboard" on google (ignore the part about removing the keycaps)
  • See "... preferred method ... " above

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Scientists stumbled upon a common item with a surprising attribute. This ubiquitous thing has

  • five times as much bacteria as a toilet seat
  • food poisoning bugs such as
    • e.coli
    • coliforms
    • staphylococcus auereus
    • enterobacteria

Excessive contact with this device exposes one to

  • 150 times the acceptable limit of bacteria
  • 4 of the pathogens are considered to be are 'potential' health hazards
  • 1 of those bacteria was 'condemned' [ I have no idea what that means ]

Scientists stated that users are 'at high risk of becoming ill from contact.' The least dangerous of the resulting illnesses is lovingly referred to as "QWERTY Tummy.' What is this evil thing? It's right there at your fingertips: your computer's keyboard. Keyboards are infested because

  • we eat over them, with food deposits encouraging the growth of millions of bacteria
  • we don't wash our hands before using our keyboards
  • during cold and allergy season we, well, you know....
  • some of us never clean those keyboards

I guess it's some kind of computer virus." [ Sorry, I couldn't resist ]

More things you shouldn't touch . File them under "ew-wwww"

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Walk Like An Egyptian, Talk Like An Economist

Amaze your friends. Become more desirable to your favorite gender. Become An Expert At Something (anything!).

Remember, fame is fleeting. Don't give up your day job.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Those Who Can, Do. Those Who Can't, Teach.

If you can't do either, at least you can sound like an educator.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cleaning LCD Monitors

Improper cleaning methods, solutions, and materials could cause the surface of the screen to yellow and/or make the screen brittle and eventually cause cracking on the screen surface.
  • Method:
    1. Select a cleaning solution from the list below
    2. Select a soft cloth or screen wipe as described below
    3. Apply the cleaning solution to your cloth. Do not apply any liquids on the LCD screen directly.
    4. Stroke the cloth across the display in one direction, moving from the top of the display to the bottom. Do not rub or polish.

  • Cleaning Solutions:
    These are OK:
    • Water
    • Vinegar (mixed with water)
    • Isopropyl Alcohol
    • Petroleum Benzene
    Avoid the following:
    • Acetone
    • Ethyl alcohol
    • Ethyl acid
    • Ammonia
    • Methyl chloride
    • Alcohol or ammonia - based cleaners

  • Cleaning materials:
    These are OK:
    • soft cotton cloth
    • Computer wipes - if the package specifically states that the wipes are for LCD laptop screens.
    Avoid these:
    • Rags (unless they are cotton and soft)
    • Paper towels

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Computers For The Complete Bubba

Computers For Bubbas

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hi, Honey. I'm Home (Part IV)

The hiatus is over. Black Box and all of its invaluable tips, tricks, and traps will be back soon.

Until then, here is another quick tip:

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hi, Honey. I'm Home (Part III)

The hiatus is over. Black Box and all of its invaluable tips, tricks, and traps will be back soon.

Until then, here is another quick tip:

You don't have to put up with Windows at all. You don't have to endure Microsoft's exorbitant prices and shoddy quality.

There are alternatives.
  1. Apple's Macintosh computers are one alternative. It's a pricey alternative, but the quality is there.
  2. Linux, specifically Ubuntu Linux (oo-boon-too) is a great alternative. More specifically Kubuntu - which is Ubuntu's non-identical twin. They are the same on the inside, but look different to the user.
15-18 years ago, Linux was clunky and not very reliable. Over the years, Linux has improved dramatically. Ubuntu (and all of its siblings) are my operating system of choice: they are simple to use and much more reliable and safe.

There is very little that you can do with Windows that you can't do as well - or better - with Ubuntu.
  1. Ubuntu can run several thousand Windows programs.
  2. Ubuntu (and all versions of Linux) have thousands and thousands of alternative software that is better than, comparable to, or at least very similar to the Windows offerings. Ubuntu has approximately 1000 programs built in, plus a universe of good, free software just a download away.
Ubuntu and its FREE software excel at all of most people's computer tasks:
  • searching and reading the World Wide Web (Internet)
  • using e-mail
  • creating documents (especially homework, letters, and spreadsheets)
  • keeping track of family finances
  • saving, editing, sharing photos
  • Internet chat
  • playing games
  • listening to music
  • creating music CDs
  • designing and building web sites
  • blogging
There are some drawbacks to Ubuntu:
  1. Ubuntu (and family and friends) is FREE! It costs ZERO. Zip. NADA. Nothing. Keep your money (to spend on gasoline).
  2. Downside #2 is that almost all software for Ubuntu is also free (zero, zip, zed, etc.)
  3. Ubuntu, &c, perform faster than a comparable computer that is running Windows.
  4. Sadly, Ubuntu doesn't crash as often as does Windows. Darn! I just love getting Windows' Blue Screen of Death and losing time and data.
  5. Linux/Ubuntu's internet work (and fun) and e-Mail are nearly risk-free. Microsoft Windows, by design, always has been - and always will be - inherently insecure and vulnerable to attacks from outside (and inside).
  6. Documents created using Linux-based products can be shared back-and-forth (usually) with Windows documents and Macintosh documents.
Last, but not least, in Ubuntu Linux's dark side: every time someone switches from Microsoft products to Ubuntu/Linux, it devalues my Microsoft stock. It also hurts Bill Gates' shares of Microsoft stock. Now I know how it feels to own General Motors stock and watch its value evaporate every time I see a Prius go by. Woe is I.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hi, Honey. I'm Home (Part II)

The hiatus is over. Black Box and all of its invaluable tips, tricks, and traps will be back soon.

Until then, here is another quick tip:

You CAN get away from that awful Microsoft Vista. Getting a good operating system - Windows XP, as one example - is not a cakewalk, but it's not hard, either.

You might need professional help (but don't we all, from time-to-time). You definitely need
  1. a license for Windows XP
  2. the XP installation disks and the Windows XP installation key.
If you don't have the XP disks and key, consider these possiblilites:
  • if you have an older computer, you might have an XP license available
  • have a computer store or qualified technician install XP for you
  • by one on e-Bay - from a reputable e-Bay vendor
The easiest way to set up XP on your Vista computer is to use what's called a "dual boot." The idea is that when you try to install XP on a computer that already has an operating system, the XP installation process will offer the opportunity to wipe out the old operating system (in this case, Vista) or to set up a "dual boot." Choose "dual boot."

When your computer has Vista and XP and a successful dual boot option, and when you start your computer, you'll be presented with a choice: Windows XP or Windows Vista. When you choose one of those, the computer will start the operating system that you chose. You can choose either each time you start your computer.

Be aware: if you use a dual-boot system,
  1. the first installation will keep all of the existing software installed on it
  2. the second installation will NOT have any of the after-market software that you installed; you will have to install any software that you want to use and the second installation (XP)
  3. both installations will have access to the data that you created and saved using the first ) installation (Vista) - if you use the standard 'file system' on both. Chance s are that you will use the standard file system - the one called"NTFS."
If Vista is giving you a lot of grief - that seems to be Standard Operating Procedure for Vista - you can improve your situation.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Hi, Honey, I'm Home

Coming soon, to a monitor near you.

The hiatus is over. Black Box and all of its invaluable tips, tricks, and traps will be back soon.

Until then, Here are some quick tips:

Vista? No. Hell, no. Wait for Windows 7, sometime next year. Windows 7 couldn't possibly be worse than Windows Vista.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Blind Leading The Blind?

Answerbag is a community of people helping others.

Have a question? Ask it here!
Know something? (Everyone knows something!) Help someone out!

We're here to help you connect with others and to find and share knowledge about topics ranging from celebrity trivia and home cleaning tips to Russian name origins and particle physics. Any topic you can dream of, you can ask it here!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Bad News

You've probably never heard this before....

Not all web sites and not all web users are trustworthy.

Are you shocked? OK, when you are over the shock, here are some examples of websites that don't necessarily provide what you would expect:The above information was provided by Freeware Wiki

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Speed Up Windows XP

Windows XP is currently the crown jewel of the Microsoft collection. It has lots of flash and glitter, plenty of bells and whistles. Its designers are so proud of all those gee-whiz features... so proud that they have Windows load all those features, whether or not you want them, whether or not you need them.

Many of those features are (in my humble opinion) pointless. If you turn off some of those features, XP will operate faster, and - trust me on this - you won't miss them. Here's how to turn off unneeded visual effects - and get the resulting performance boosts:
  • Right click My Computer
  • Select Properties
  • Select the Advanced tab
  • In the Performance area, select Settings
  • Select the Visual Effects tab
  • Click on Custom
  • Uncheck all of the Visual Effects except the last 2.
    note: some people like to check the 3rd effect from the bottom (Use Common Tasks In Folders)
  • Click Apply
  • Click OK
  • Click OK again
  • Right click your Windows Desktop
  • Click on Properties
  • Click on the Appearance tab
  • Click on the Effects button
  • Unclick the first two boxes.
    note: the next three Effects may improve the appearance so that they improve readability. Let's think of those as optional. The last Effect is also optional - I prefer to have that one turned on
  • Click OK
  • Click OK on the next screen
You should notice a significant speed increase on your PC. If you want even more speed, consider repeating the process above, and uncheck even more of the effects.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Another Internet Cheat

We've all had this happen:

You're reading an article on the internet. That article has a link to something that seems interesting. When you click on the link, you're greeted, not by the article you wanted to see, but by a "members only." screen. Becoming a 'member' usually involves no more than 'registering', i.e., filling out a form, and giving some personal information (such as an e-mail address).

Studies have shown that way more than 90% of internet users will not fill in the form. I assume that they don't want access to the information behind the registration form - at least they don't want it enough to register. Now, you can be among the elite few who can easily get to the restricted article without registering.

How can that be, you ask. You can do it if you use the free, anonymous service at You can choose a 'members only' site from Bugmenot's menu, or you can type in the name of the site you want to visit. If Bugmenot has a user id and password for that publication, it will disclose those, and you can use the id and password to log on to the 'members only' site.

That said, you might want to consider the ethical implications of bypassing a web site's registration requirement.
  1. The web page publisher might be using those registrations for marketing purposes (including selling e-mail lists).
  2. The publisher might charge 'members' to use some or all of the website.
In situation #1, the e-mailing lists would not be worth what the publisher is charging if several people use the same user id. That means lost revenue to the publisher, and possible overpayments by the list buyer.

In situation #2, is participating in the theft of services. If you use Bugmenot to get into restricted, paid-access-only parts of a website, then you, too, are part of the theft problem.

That said, it's too bad that Rush Limbaugh's website has blocked bugmenot referrals. I would like to see the innards of his site (which is very successful, financially). However, I don't want badly enough to pay for access. I refuse to shovel $50 per year over to that drug-trafficking, addicted gasbag.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Keep Track of Those Rebates

It was a great price on that product.... after you received the mail-in rebate. I confess: I'm the world's worst at this. A good friend tracks and collects those rebates religiously. I should hire him to track mine - and give him a piece of the action.

Every year, millions of people worldwide make purchases enticed by "price after rebate" promotions. Surprisingly, very few of those rebates are actually mailed in (less than 5%, in fact!). Then, weeks pass and the consumer receives either a check or a rejection notice (or no notice at all!). By the time the rebate check is due, most people have either forgotten about the purchase altogether or have lost track of the relevant contact information and have no way to follow up. Literally, millions of dollars remain unclaimed each year!

Welcome to

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

It's Better To Be Safe Than Sorry

Sometimes you need to start up Windows in what is known as "Safe Mode".

Safe Mode is the best way to use Windows' built-in disk defragmenter. It's also useful for performing some types of diagnostics. Sometime Windows insists that you use Safe Mode because of some problem that Windows has detected.

Whatever the case, to start in Safe Mode voluntarily, conventional wisdom tells us that the usual routine is to tap the F8 repeatedly during startup. If you do that correctly - and at the right time - Windows will display the Safe Mode Menu.

Or you could do what I do.....
  1. Click the Start button
  2. Right-click on My Computer
  3. Select Properties
  4. Click on the Advanced tab
  5. In the Startup and Recovery section, Select Settings
  6. In the dialog window, click on Edit
    That will open the computer's BOOT.INI file in Notepad
In the BOOT.INI file [Operating Systems] section, there will be a line of text that resembles this:
  • multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home " /fastdetect
  1. copy that entire line
    • With your mouse, or with keyboard strokes, highlight the entire line
    • Hold down the CTRL key, tap the "c" key, and release both keys
    • At the end of the line that you just copied, hit the ENTER key one time
  2. At the beginning of the space opened up by hitting the ENTER key, paste the copied line
    • Hold down the CTRL key, tap the "v" key, and release both keys

  3. At this point you should have 2 copies of the same line.The [Operating Systems] section of BOOT.INI file should resemble this:

    • multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home " /fastdetect

    • multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home " /fastdetect

  4. Add the following to the end of this newly pasted line:

    /safeboot:network (if you need networking ability while in Safe Mode)
    /safeboot:minimal (if you don't need networking ability while in Safe Mode)

  5. Now BOOT.INI should have the following lines:

    • multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home " /fastdetect

    • multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home " /fastdetect /safeboot:minimal

    • multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home " /fastdetect

    • multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home " /fastdetect /safeboot:network

  6. In the line just modified, change the phrase Microsoft Windows XP Home to the phrase Windows XP Safe Mode

    Now BOOT.INI should have the following lines:
    • multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home " /fastdetect

    • multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Windows XP Safe Mode" /fastdetect  /safeboot:minimal

    • multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home " /fastdetect

    • multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Windows XP Safe Mode" /fastdetect /safeboot:network

    That's it! Save the BOOT.INI file and close Notepad
    • Click OK in the Startup and Recovery window
    • Click OK in the System Properties window
The next time you boot the computer, you should see a window that displays one of the following pairs of lines:
  • multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home " /fastdetect

  • multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Windows XP Safe Mode" /fastdetect  /safeboot:minimal

  • or
  • multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Microsoft Windows XP Home " /fastdetect

  • multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(2)\WINDOWS="Windows XP Safe Mode" /fastdetect /safeboot:network
Note: if you use Windows XP Professional instead of Windows XP Home , then in the instructions above, substitute the word Professional for the word Home.

If you do nothing, in a few seconds Windows will start normally. If you select Safe Mode, then Windows will start in Safe Mode.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

I Know That!

Online Multimedia Educational Games for Kids in Preschool, Kindergarten, and Elementary Grades:

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Express Your Creativity

Those fine folks at the network now bring us another time-waster. At Add Captions you get to fill in the empty signs, thought bubbles, trophies, business cards, etc.


Public Signs

Business Cards



It's more fun if you think of it as grafitti.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Warning: It IS Addictive

Addictive Typing Lessons

Not everybody that has a computer is a good typer. I remember, I used to type like an untrained monkey when I got my first personal computer. After time, I learned and now I type faster than I can write. How can you speed the process along for yourself? Try out the Addictive Typing Lessons extension for Firefox.

Are your fingers ready for a workout? Here is what the extension developer has to say.

Learn touch typing, or improve your typing. Each of the 23 lessons generates an endless number of one-line drills.

A timer starts at the first letter typed and stops at the end of a line. Your wpm(words per minute) and errors count are shown after each drill. Saves your best-ever scores and your 20 most recent scores for each lesson. You'’ll keep coming back to beat your previous scores. To open the program, click the keyboard icon in the status bar.

With a name like that, how can you turn it down? If you need a better idea of what you are getting yourself into, check out the screenshots.

This Firefox extension is for versions 1.5 and up of the browser. If you want to download it and try it out for yourself, you can do so at the Mozilla Update Web site.

The above was stolen from Lockergnome. Lockergnome has been my favorite source of computer tips and news for so long, I've lost count (I'm thinking 1996 or 1997....)

If you've been looking for a good reason to try FireFox as a replacement for Microsoft's Internet Explorer, here's a good reason. Tip: here are several hundred goods reasons behind that one.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Mail Stripper

StripMail is a free progam that fixes one of life's big aggravations. Consider this:
  1. Your friend sends you an e-mail
  2. that e-mail has been forwarded from one person to the next, and to the next, and so on, quite a few times
  3. the e-mail is almost unreadable because of all of the forwarding marks ( >>>>  )that forwarded e-mails tend to have
  4. note: most e-mail clients add that crap to help the next reader to distinguish what is your original content and what is the content that you forwarded
  5. prissy elitists such as I do not like to forward junky stuff to our friends, so we (I) clean up all of the forwarding marks and reformat the paragraphs so the the e-mail looks as it did when it was new.
  6. Even small e-mails can take 5-10 minutes to clean up (and don't stand in the way when an obsessive-compulsive is determined...)
StripMail does all of that cleanup for you with a couple of mouseclicks. Now I have to go find something useful to do with all of the time that StripMail frees up.

StripMail is a FREEWARE utility that:
  • Strips the characters ">" and "|" from forwarded e-mails
  • Formats the text into paragraphs, making it easier to read
  • Changes the text's margins by indenting
  • Can be used with any e-mail client
Download StripMail at the StripMail website. Did I mention that it's free?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Meet Your Soon-To-Be Best Friend

DoubleDriver is a freeware program that will save your life someday (OK, that's hyperbole). Double Driver
  1. scans the system for the drivers installed on your computer
  2. creates a list
  3. makes copies of the drivers
  4. places copied files in folders with recognizable names
Trust me:
  • you need this software
  • after DoubleDriver does its magic, make a backup copy of the folders that DoubleDriver created
  • protect that backup copy
If your system ever crashes (and it will, someday), you'll be glad you took my advice on this.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Just Another Labor-Saving Device

If there is one thing that we type in more than our names and passwords, it is our E-mail address. The thing we need is a tool that would just remember out E-mail address and paste it in where we wanted it and when we wanted it. Oh, you mean there is such a thing? The Paste E-mail Firefox extension does just that.

Here is what the developer of the extension has to say about it.

Paste your email address into text fields. If you’re like me, you visit many webpages that prompt you for your email address to access the page or to sign up. My email address is particularly long (32 characters) and I’m no speed typist.

I’ve often wished that there was a function key I could press that would paste my email address wherever I needed it. But since there isn’t, I did the next best thing and wrote this simple extension.

Now how do you use it? With this extension, you don’t need to second guess by starting to type in your E-mail address and see if Firefox will recognize it. Just place the cursor in the field and click the “Paste Email” icon. There will be no worrying about if you can figure out this extension or not, it is pretty straight forward.

This Firefox extension is for versions 1.5 and up of the browser. If you want to download it and try it out for yourself, you can do so at the Mozilla Update Web site.

Purloined, shamelessly, from the web's most interesting source of news & know-how when it comes to computers. Lockergnome has over 20 free online newsletters, every one the tops in its field. So why haven't you subscribed yet? Eddie would.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Not that Any Of You Would Cheat... is a search engine that helps you squeeze that extra bit of gameplay from your games! We search the web for game cheats so that you dont have to.

To find the latest cheat codes for PC, Playstation, Playstation 2, X-Box, Game Boy, Gamecube, and now Sony PSP and Nintendo DS, simply enter the game name in the search box. You can also specify which platform but this is optional. When you have completed the boxes then simply press 'Search' and you will be greeted with your cheat results!"

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Is Target A Target For Tech Shopping?

PC Magazine has, in the current issue, (August 8, 2006) and online, a somewhat extensive article about shopping for tech gear. It's interesting reading, and worth the effort. Below are a few of the highlights.

"High-fashion design has jumped from clothing and appliances to technology at the big-box stores, and now people are one-stop shopping at Target, Wal-Mart, and Kmart for a touch of cool in both household items and tech gear. But do these jazzed-up ­department stores really give Best Buy and Circuit City a run for their money? Or are they stocked with what amounts to funky junk? I put on my shopping shoes and warmed up my credit card to find out, hitting the big boxes with cart-driving fury."

Big Box Retail Tech at a Glance

Summary: Nice design. Wide variety.
What to shop for: Off-the-shelf gadgets.

Summary: Functional.
What to shop for: Inexpensive staples.

Summary: Useless.
What to shop for: Nothing.

Friday, July 21, 2006

KO Approach

Approach is a desktop utility application designed to speed up file navigation in Windows Explorer. Unlike the traditional way of accessing files where a window needs to be opened to reveal a folder's content, Approach offers a convenient and easy to navigate set of hierachical menus.

KO Approach is an extention to the Operating System; it runs on the background and does not need to be open at all times. In fact, unless you need to change some of its settings, you may never know Approach is there at all!

Just click on any folder in Windows Explorer, hold down the mouse key and a menu will appear, displaying the contents of the selected folder as a list of items. Highlight folder icons to expand sub-menus and move further down your directory structure, or select a file to open it in the same the way you do it from the Start menu. It's that simple.

Caution: in the first 3 minutes or so, I was unimpressed. Once I got the hang of it, I'm blown away by the functionality this program adds. I especially like the ability to hear sound files and to view previews of images, in each case, by hovering over a file name. Those previews are big enough to see clearly (as opposed to teeny-tiny thumbnails).

With KO Approach, even the most deeply buried file can be located in a matter of seconds!

You can also preview pictures instantly. The supplied plug-in can display thumbnails of most common graphics formats, right from KO Approach menus. And there's even more...
KO Approach

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Web Browser Market Share

Web Browser Market Share
Internet Explorer83%
Safari (Apple)1.8%

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Rip Me A New One

RipIt4Me is a freeware utility that helps you backup your copy protected DVDs.

Recently released DVDs are now very often equipped with stronger copy protections - such as ARccOS™ and RipGuard DVD. Programs like DVD Shrink or DVD Decrypter cannot handle these types of discs.

With the help of RipIt4Me, ripping these DVDs will be a very easy task. The program is fully automated and the wizard will guide you through all the necessary steps involved. If you prefer, there is also a true "1-Click" mode that will perform all the involved steps automatically for you.

Please refer to the official RipIt4Me Guide for more information on how to use this program.

As always, please do not use this for illegal purposes.

Download RipIt4Me

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Add Comments to Microsoft Office Documents

You can add comments to your Office Documents using the same programs with which you create those documents:
  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • Access
There are two types of comments:
  • Written comments, which are invisible to the end user of the document
  • Voice comments
To add written comments
  • Place the cursor at the point in your document where the comment will be inserted
  • Enable the Reviewing Toolbar: View --> Toolbars --> Reviewing
  • On the down arrow next to New Comment, select Written Comment
  • Type the comment to be inserted
  • Click away from the comment bubble to close
  • Note: you can remove a written comment by clicking on the Delete Comment button.
To add voice comments to your documents, your computer must have
  • a sound card
  • a microphone
Then you can add your own recorded audio to Microsoft Office Documents. To add a voice comment
  • Place the cursor at the point in your document where the comment will be inserted
  • Enable the Reviewing Toolbar: View --> Toolbars --> Reviewing
  • On the down arrow next to New Comment, Select Voice Comment
  • When the sound object screen appears, click on the Record button
  • Speak
  • Click on the Stop button to end the recording process
  • Once the sound has been recorded, a sound icon will appear within the text
  • To hear the comment, click on the Play button or double click on the sound icon
  • To delete the sound comment, click on the sound icon and press the delete key on the keyboard
  • To hear an inserted comment, you'll need speakers or a headset
  • You can insert both written and voice comments into just about any office document
  • Not all versions of all Office programs will use the above steps exactly as they are stated above. You may need to adapt these instructions slightly
  • You can also add pre-recorded sounds to Office documents. We'll cover that at another time.

Monday, July 17, 2006

For Google Addicts

From the site's author:
"After creating Montage-a-google, several people wrote to me suggesting I make a game based on the same technology. Montage-a-google is a simple web app that uses Google's image search to generate a large gridded montage of images based on keywords (search terms) entered by the user. Guess-the-google reverses this process by picking the keywords for you, the player must then guess what keyword made up the image - it's surprisingly addictive."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

All We Are Is Dust On The Window

We've all seen it: the dusty car window or the back of the truck where someone has written in the dust. "Kilroy was here", "Wash me", "Dirt tracking test in progress", and so on... The back window on my truck says "Plow me"

Not many artists consider dusty windows to be a good medium for artwork.

Scott Wade does. You have to see it to believe it. It loads slowly.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Blocking Ads On The Web, Revisited

Yesterday's episode showed a method for blocking web ads. If you ask me, it was a darned good idea. Or so I thought - until Steve from Iowa wrote to say "I already have MVPS hosts file. Is Mike's better? How?"

The advice that I gave had you using Mike Skall's HOSTS-hack. Steve is using the HOST-hack from MVPS.

Both perform the same task: blocking ads from your browser.

So I compared the hacks:
Mike's file contains 1237 URL entries, of which 13 are duplicates.
MVPS file contains 11208 URL entries with no duplicates.

If I were going to choose between Mike's hack and MVPS' hack, I'd choose MVPS in a heartbeat (or less). But, I went one better:

I merged the files.
The merged file has 12432 URL entries for blocking sites. Stopping 12432 is better than stopping 11208 or 1237 ad servers.

How to get the best HOSTS file:
- In the following instructions, you will use the notepad program.
- If you make a mistake in Notepad, click Edit --> Undo
- If you have a problem, send me an e-mail.
- Combine the following 3 lines of gibberish into one line, and paste it into the TO: field of your e-mail program


Make sure you include your e-mail address so that I can get back to you
  • Download the file from HOST-hack from MVPS.
  • Save it to %SystemRoot%\system32\drivers\etc
    with the name hosts.mvps
  • Download the file from HOST-hack from Mike Skall.
  • Save it to %SystemRoot%\system32\drivers\etc
    with the name hosts.mike
  • save a copy of the "old" hosts file with this command:
    Start --> Run %SystemRoot%\system32\drivers\etc\hosts     %SystemRoot%\system32\drivers\etc\hosts.old
  • Create a new, empty hosts file
    • Start --> Run notepad %SystemRoot%\system32\drivers\etc\hosts
    • when prompted, click yes to create a new file
  • Put the contents of hosts.mvps into system memory
    • Start --> Run notepad %SystemRoot%\system32\drivers\etc\hosts.msvp
      You should have 2 instances of notepad running, one with an empty file and one with the hosts.mvps file
    • in the hosts.mspv file, hold down the CTRL key; tap the "a" key; release both keys; all of the text should be highlighted
    • in the hosts.mspv file, hold down the CTRL key; tap the "c" key; release both keys; all of the text should remain highlighted
      the contents of hosts.mvps are now in system memory
  • Paste the contents of hosts.mvps from system memory into the new, empty hosts file
    • left-click anywhere on the new, empty hosts file
    • hold down the CTRL key; tap the "v" key; release both keys; all of the hosts.mvps file should now be in the no-longer-empty hosts file

    • You should have 2 instances of notepad running, each with the contents of the hosts.mvps file
  • Save the hosts file and leave the file open
    • File --> Save
  • Close the hosts.mvps file
    In the hosts.mvps file, click File --> Exit --> Yes
  • Put the contents of hosts.mike into system memory
    • Start --> Run notepad    %SystemRoot%\system32\drivers\etc\hosts.mike
      You should have 2 instances of notepad running, one with a copy of the hosts.mvps file, and one with the hosts.mike file
    • in the newly-opened hosts.mike file
      hold down the CTRL key; tap the "a" key; release both keys; all of the text should be highlighted
    • in the same file, hold down the CTRL key; tap the "c" key; release both keys; all of the text should remain highlighted
  • Paste the contents of hosts.mike from system memory to the bottom of the existing hosts file
    • left-click below the existing text in the hosts file
    • hold down the CTRL key; tap the "v" key; release both keys; all of the hosts.mvps file should now be appended to what was previously a partial hosts file

    • You should have 2 instances of notepad running
      • one with the hosts.mvps file
      • one with the contents of hosts.mvps at the top and the contents of hosts.mike at the bottom
  • Close the hosts.mike file
    • File --> Exit
  • Save the newly-finished hosts file
    • File --> Save
Your finished hosts file should look like the one at

Please resist the temptation to copy the example file just cited. You should get the latest versions of each of the two component files and use the instructions above to merge the files. Note that MVPS's version can be freely copied and redistributed, but Mike Skall's file is not licensed for redistribution or for commercial useage. You can copy it and use it for personal and non-profit purposes.

The license to use my version inherits Mike's restriction. As a result, is For educational purposes only. Please do not copy, redistribute, or use.

If you simply copy mine, you're participating in 2 license violations (and dragging me into one, as well) - and you might not get the most current version or the most accurate version. Just do it right and get Mike Skall's HOSTS-hack and MVPS's HOSTS-hack. 10-4?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Blocking Ads On The Web

Most commercial web sites have ads (duh!). Those commercial sites don't usually have the ad content on their own web servers. Instead, they use a service provided by companies that maintain the ad content, and deliver the ads to your browser when you load the web page. As you've no doubt observed, sometimes it takes longer for the ads to load than for the content of the web page.

Built into nearly all computers is a file called HOSTS. You can use the HOSTS file to outsmart the ad servers. The bad news is that to do so, you'd have to track down the URLs (web site addresses) for all those ad servers. Or you could download this free program which already knows those ad server addresses, and sets up your HOSTS file to do re-route ads into the big bit bucket in the sky.

How effective is this program? At it was one of the most often downloaded. Until, that is, the folks at Downloads figured out that people who had installed this program where no longer seeing all the ads at, um, So dropped Mike's program from's listings.

Mike's Ad Blocker

Did I mention that it's free?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Microsoft In The News (Again)

The European Union voted last Monday that Microsoft can be fined over two million dollars a day for violating an anti-trust decision.

They don't really want the cash. They're just trying to gain enough leverage to get a little technical support.
-- Argus Hamilton

Friday, July 07, 2006

Fonts Are Cool, But...

Anyone who uses e-mail or a Word Processor has played around with fonts. Most of us, no doubt, have gone looking for the perfect font for [ insert project name here ]. There are thousands of good-looking free fonts and thousands more which aren't free. That's the good news. The bad news is that if you find a treasure trove of fonts, and install them, you discover that each additional font exacts a toll in the form of lost system speed.

Everyone could benefit from a serious pruning of installed fonts. The Opcion Font Viewer is an excellent - and free - solution. Opcion displays all the fonts on your system - whether the fonts are installed or not installed. Opcion also enables installing or uninstalling fonts.

Opcion runs in a Java environment. That means that in addition to your operating system (Windows, Linux, Mac, OS/X, FreeBSD, Unix, etc.), you must also run Java (it's free). When you attempt to run Opcion, the program will check to see if you have Java installed; if not, it will help you obtain and install Java.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Bad Fads Museum

Browse through the fun and fascinating fashion, collectible, activity and event fads of the last 100 years.
Bad Fads Museum!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Another Web Site For Statistics Junkies

What makes Worldometers unique is that the statistics are updated in real time. You can watch the numbers for births, deaths, etc. increment before your eyes.

Statistics involve population, food production, energy production and consumption, all the cheerful stuff. For example, as I write this, the number of people who died from hunger today is
19185 19186 19187 19188 19189 19190

Monday, July 03, 2006

There Are Passwords, and Then There Are Passwords

Your online accounts, computer files, and personal information are more secure when you use strong passwords to help protect them.

Microsoft's web site has a tool that helps you test the strength of your passwords: Enter a password in the text box to have Password Checker help determine its strength as you type.

Do you use strong passwords?
A strong password should appear to be a random string of characters to an attacker. It should be 14 characters or longer, (eight characters or longer at a minimum). It should include a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.

Microsoft's site also has tips on how to create passwords and pass phrases that are easy for you to remember but difficult for others to guess. For a strong password checklist, and more, read Strong Passwords: How to Create and Use Them.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

You Go, Google

Search engines in general, and Google, in particular, have impacted life far beyond what the top visionaries could have imagined 10 years ago.

The point was driven home a few weeks ago when I walked past 2 gentleman. From their appearance and their location, it would be easy to assume that these fellows were homeless: onwashed and unshaven, dirty clothes, sitting in the doorway of a run-down building in a run-down part of town, and the obligatory bottle of cheap wine.

As I approached I could tell that they were having an animated discussion. The part that I caught was "...if you google that, you'll see..."

I've had similar experiences with people who, 2 or 3 years ago, would refuse to have anything to do with computers. I nominate "google" as the most-often used verbified noun.

Just about every bit of knowledge is at one's fingertips - if one is willing to google. That's the upside.

The downside is that Mcafee Corporation has found certain search terms can put your PC at great risk. Among the most dangerous:
1. free screensavers
2. download music
3. free games
4. singers
5. bearshare
6. kazaa

In many of these cases, up to 72 percent of the results returned by search engines contained web sites linking directly to malware (Spyware) downloads and put users at great risk for identity theft. (Source:

The study also suggested that sponsored search engine results are more likely to contain problem websites than non-sponsored results.

What can you do to Protect Yourself?

The best line of defense against risky web sites is to update your computer regularly by visiting the Windows Update Website, by using up-to-date firewall, antivirus and antispyware software.

Only practice Safe Googling or Safe Yahooing.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Wikipedia vs. Britannica

Wikipedia is an international Web-based free-content encyclopedia. It exists as a wiki, a website that allows visitors to edit its content. The word 'wikipedia' is a portmanteau of 'wiki' ("fast" in Hawaiian) and 'encyclopedia'. Wikipedia is written collaboratively by volunteers, allowing articles to be changed by anyone with access to the website.

The project began on January 29, 2001 as a complement to the expert-written (and now defunct) Nupedia, and is now operated by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Wikipedia has more than 4,600,000 articles in many languages, including more than 1,200,000 in the English-language version. There are over 200 language editions of Wikipedia, fourteen of which have more than 50,000 articles each. The German-language edition has been distributed on DVD-ROM, and there are also proposals for an English DVD or paper edition. Since its inception, Wikipedia has steadily risen in popularity,[1] and has spawned several sister projects. Wikipedia is ranked in the top 20 most visited websites.

Being written collaboratively by volunteers, and allowing articles to be changed by anyone with access, raises questions about the accuracy of the content. There have been some high-profile inaccuracies - especially some that bordered on libel. This begs the question, should a reader believe content found in Wikipedia?

Nature magazine recently conducted a head-to-head competition between Wikipedia and Britannica, having experts compare some science-related articles. The reviewers were asked to check for errors, but were not told about the source of the information.

"Only eight serious errors, such as misinterpretations of important concepts, were detected in the pairs of articles reviewed, four from each encyclopedia," reported Nature.

"But reviewers also found many factual errors, omissions or misleading statements: 162 and 123 in Wikipedia and Britannica, respectively."

The result was that Wikipedia had about 4 errors per article, while Britannica had about 3. However, some critics point out that error rate should be calculated on word count, rather than article count. Articles are not all the same length. Toward that end, a pair of Wikipedians dug a little deeper and discovered that the Wikipedia articles in the sample were, on average, 2.6 times longer than Britannica's - meaning Wikipedia has an error rate far less than Britannica's." I'll do the math for you: Wikipedia's error rate was 0.062 per 1000 words; Britannica's error rate was double that of Wikipedia - 0.123 per 1000 words.

As one would expect, Encyclopedia Britannica responded with a lengthy rebuttal. After all, Britannica's stock in trade is not its content, but rather its reliability. If its reliability is held in low regard, then there is no market for what is on the shelves. Because Wikipedia's inventory is free to all, its commitment to reliability is not market-driven. Some of the finest works of art are not for sale at any price. Many superior ideas, and even superior 'products' can be used without cash or other remunerative items being exchanged.
    An example of that is
  • Microsoft's software products, including its shining star, Windows. Step outside of the Microsoft campus, and you won't find an honest person who will credit Microsoft with any semblance of quality. Microsoft's products are always the most expensive in their market, and Microsoft manages to acheive phenomenal profits regularly. Yet it is known for a legendary lack of real commitment to quality.
  • Compare that with
  • Open Source Software, which is usually (but not always) free, in terms of currency. Open Source operating systems - such as LINUX - for server computers long ago grabbed parts of the market share primacy from Microsoft. LINUX's quality is superior in terms of being bug-free and secure (not vulnerable to Internet attacks). And, of course, LINUX is free.
  • Beyond the operating systems, and into the world that is real to the everyday computer user, the thousands of Open Source (software) programs are largely free AND high-quality. Every Microsoft product has several free, high quality 'competitors"
My point? Microsoft's products are the grandest example of products which seem to be market-driven. Open Source products depend on the goals of the authors and on peer review. Few Open Source products are written with an expectation of 'market acceptance' and financial reward. Therefore market forces do not apply when comparing quality in the world of information.

That puts Britannica in a tough spot. It has to appear extremely accurate AND it has to portray Wikipedia as extremely unaccurate. Every time someone uses Wikipedia and is satisifed, it's a blow to Britannica's future. The only way to rescue its image is to throw rocks at the little guys. That's a very risky gamble.

'Tis quite a tempest in that mere teapot.

My personal preference: I root for underdogs, as long as the underdogs are worthy. At this point, I'll put my trust in Wikipedia as a starting point in research. However, as Ronald Reagan said: "Trust, but verify." So Wikipedia has a way to go before it rises to the level of being my end-point in research. Meanwhile, Britannica lost me years ago.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

What's Inside This Darned Computer, Anyway?

    One of Windows XP's most underused features is the System Information tool found in Windows XP's Help and Support Center. To use this gem,
  1. Start -> Help And Support
  2. Pick A Task -> Use Tools To View Your Computer Information And Diagnose Problems
  3. Tools -> My Computer Information
  4. My Computer Information -> select any of the links to view a graphical report of your system.
    • View general system information about this computer
    • View the status of my system hardware and software
    • Find information about the hardware installed on this computer
    • View a list of Microsoft software installed on this computer
    The original system information view is available, too
  1. Start -> Run -> [type] MSInfo32.exe and [tap][ENTER]
  2. OR
    • [hold down] the Windows Key]
    • [tap] the "R" key
    • [type] MSInfo32.exe
    • [release] both keys
    • [tap] [ENTER]

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Be Like Me!

I have many GBs of data that I have grabbed from the internet and saved to my knowledge base. A lot of what I share with you folks comes from that. Now you can be like me!

WebGrab! is a tool that allows you to quickly and easily download Web page elements such as images, html pages, Java applets, Shockwave or Director animation, and more.

Unlike traditional Web browsing, WebGrab! "crawls" Web pages or FTP sites to find all downloadable files for download. Download images, audio, video, and pictures for your desktop background, or build your collection of clip art/fonts. WebGrab! helps you save time and energy.

    Main Features:
  • Easily download all the content you want from a page
  • Displays element info. from page such as size
  • Filter by file extension (definable)
  • Download elements or the entire Web page to disk
  • Easily save e-mail addresses from a page
  • Indexes FTP sites - simply enter an FTP address and WebGrab! will list the entire contents of the FTP site for you

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Free Computer Books

This is great collection collection of links to free computer books.

You'll find tutorials (free), lecture notes (free), and free e-books. A lot of the content is quite current.

And.... there are books on topics besides computers. It's well worth a look. I spent an hour or so perusing and downloading.

Did I mention that they are all free?

We Love The Web, Anyway

Doing research on the Web is like using a library assembled piecemeal by pack rats and vandalized nightly.
- Roger Ebert

Monday, June 26, 2006

Lots of Free, High-Quality Software

A comprehensive listing of free Open Source software, by category.

Did I mention that they are all free?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Keyboards Are Disgusting

A normal PC keyboard is infected by more bacteria than a normal toilet seat. More specificly, keyboards in tests contained 33000 bacteria per square centimeter, compared to 130 on a ordinary toilet seat. The tests also showed occurrence of up to 3100 fungi per square centimeter.

Just thinking... maybe that explains why so many people write crap.

My source.
Original article (in the Swedish magazine PC För alla)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Shop For Credit Card and CD Deals

CardWeb features information pertaining to the best card deals by rates, fees, limits or perks. The listed annual percentage rates are accompanied by footnotes that explain, for example, whether a rate is promotional or fixed.

If you need more help, there is a glossary of terms such as revolving credit, indexed rate or qualifying ratios.

Check out CardWeb's free e-newsletters: CardTrak, CardBuzz, and CardFacts

To compare more credit card offers:

To compare yields on CDs:

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

How Are You?

That's normally a question for which no answer is needed (or wanted). If your shrink asks, then the question does warrant an honest and complete answer.

But what if you don't remember how you were last Friday? Or what if you (or your shrink) would like to see if there's a trend since you changed your dosages, or if your kid has moved back "home," thus de-emptying the empty next - and has brought a lot of baggage. You get the idea.

Moodstats is an application that allows you to quickly record & rate how your day has been in six different categories.

You can also attach comments to these values to further illustrate why your moods are the way they are. After you've entered at least three days of data into the program, Moodstats springs into action and begins to generate multi-colored graphs & statistics showing you exactly how your moods have been over the last week, month, two months, six months or year.

Try to think of it as a personal diary or journal, with an added bonus of being able to synchronize your data with the global Moodstats server (and thereby invite others to see how your moods have been).

You can also pull down data from other Moodstats users and compare yourself with the mood of your friends, lovers or complete strangers. It's a voyeur's dream come true!

(Privacy freaks, however, will be happy to hear that you can choose exactly how much data you want to share with others).

Other extra-bonus features include a handy printing function so you can document your emotional ups & downs to your shrink, keyboard shortcuts for faster usage, a built-in diary suited for the hidden Kirk Cameron in all of us, and a slew of customization options.

Unlike most of the software that I discuss, Moodstats is not free. However, $15 US won't break the bank for most people. And it's not like buying a pig in a poke, because the unpaid version is almost fully-funtional. Try before you buy.

But, even at $15 US it might be a good way to journal your head trips. Anyone with a mood disorder (to say it politely) knows what I mean. Salud y pesetas....

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

¼ of a Million Photos You Can Use is a search engine for photos licensed under Creative Commons. currently indexes 271,323 photos. They "aim to be a community for designers, developers, photographers and other media publishers who want better, easier access to license-specific media on the web."

CC "adds value by providing a single integrated search, allowing users to bookmark their photos with private and public tags." They will be "offering advanced searching options, rating systems and other tools."

Creative Commons is a method of licensing creative works. You could say that Creative Commons competes with Copyrights as a method of protecting authors, artists, etc. while encouraging creative use of the protected works.

"Creative Commons licenses provide a flexible range of protections and freedoms for authors, artists, and educators. We have built upon the "all rights reserved" concept of traditional copyright to offer a voluntary "some rights reserved" approach. We're a nonprofit organization. All of our tools are free."

Did I mention that you can use the photos for free - subject to the terms of the applicable Creative Commons licenses.

What did we learn today?
  1. One web site gives you access to ¼ of a million photos
  2. You can use those photos at no charge (as long as you comply with the photographer's terms)
  3. There's more than one way to protect creators' rights and encourage use of the creations.
  4. is easier to use than a Google Images search.
OK, we didn't learn #4 today. However, if you apply Lesson #1, then #4 will be serendipituous.

Friday, June 16, 2006


About Bandwidth

Ripped off from

Internet bandwidth is, in simple terms, the transmission speed or throughput of your connection to the Internet. However, measuring bandwidth can be tricky, since the lowest bandwidth point between your computer and the site you're looking at determines the effective transmission speed at any moment.

Three factors outside of your computer control how quickly you can view Web pages:

1. The Internet bandwidth between your computer and the site you're viewing.
2. The round-trip time between your computer and the site you're viewing.
3. The response time of the site you're viewing.

The tests referenced on this page address the first issue, and measure the Internet bandwidth between your computer and PC Pitstop's servers. We also have tests that can measure the round-trip time between your computer and seven different sites on the Internet, here. Of course, the response time of our site will always be wonderful...:) (If not, we'll tell you on the home page.)
Tests: Download vs. Upload

The differences between our Download and Upload tests aren't as obvious as they may initially seem. Yes, the basic difference is the direction of the data transfer: Simply put, the Download test measures your connection speed for viewing Web pages; the upload test measures the speed for maintaining them--or sending data over your connection.

However, the rated upload and download speeds may not be the same for your connection. Some connections, such as 33K and lower, are "symmetric," meaning the rated upload and download times should be the same. Other connections, such as cable modems and ADSL, are "asymmetric" (the "A" in ADSL stands for asymmetric). This means the upload and download times won't necessarily be the same; upload times are generally not as fast as download times. For instance, the rated speeds for ADSL are 1.4Mbps down, and 400Kbps up. Cable modems are typically rated at 1.5 to 3Mbps down, and 400 to 600Kbps up.

Occasionally, you may even see opposite results, especially on cable modems during the evening hours. If your connection has a heavy user load, the download times may suffer, while the upload times remain unchanged. This is because the majority of Internet users download data instead of uploading it.

In addition, the ways we actually conduct the tests aren't quite comparable. Our Download test uses the http protocol and grabs one big stream of data. Our upload test uses the ftp protocol, which involves a lot of handshaking across Internet servers. As a result, the test is more susceptible to interruptions because of bad ping times on a server or servers.
Bottom line: You should regularly run both tests to make sure you're getting the rated upload and download speeds from your connection.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Software for Writers

RoughDraft is a freeware word processor for Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000 and XP. Although suitable for general use, it has features specifically designed for creative writing: novels, short stories, articles, plays and screenplays. It's designed to be as practical as possible, offering all the features you need, but without being complicated or awkward to use.

Did I mention that it's free?

More information and download.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Network/Internet Glossary

Internet and Network Glossary
This was shamelessly boosted, in its entirety, from PC Pitstop

Bandwidth: The transmission speed or throughput of your connection to the Internet. Measured in Kbps or Mbps (56Kbps, 1.4Mbps for instance). For a detailed discussion of bandwidth, see About Bandwidth.

DHCP server: (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol). A server in a network or Internet service that assigns IP addresses to the multiple stations on the network.

DNS: (Domain Name System) A DNS server lets you locate computers on a network or the Internet (TCP/IP network) by domain name. The DNS server maintains a database of domain names (host names) and their corresponding IP addresses. PC Pitstop's IP address,, corresponds to the DNS name

Hop: The link between two network/Internet nodes or network devices. Typically, an IP packet travelling from coast to coast via the Internet can "hop" through more than a dozen routers.

IP address: (Internet Protocol address) The address of a computer attached to a TCP/IP network. Every client and server station must have a unique IP address. Client workstations have either a permanent address or one that is dynamically assigned to them each dial-up session. IP addresses are written as four sets of numbers separated by periods; for example, (PC Pitstop's address).

Latency: The time between initiating a request for data and the beginning of the actual data transfer.

Ping: A common Internet utility used to determine whether a particular IP address is online by sending out a packet (block of data) and waiting for a response.

Router: A device that forwards data packets from one local area network (LAN) or wide area network (WAN) to another. A router sends the packets based on the most expedient route (traffic load, line costs, speed, bad lines, etc.).

Traceroute: An Internet utility that traces the route from the client machine to the remote host being contacted. It reports the IP addresses of all the routers in between.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

OK, Officer. How fast WAS I going?

Bandwidth testing sites


DataDr(scroll down to get results)


2wires (use the little "speed meter" button near the top of the page)

Don't be shocked if different tests at different websites give you different results.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Internet Connection Speed

Let's talk about throughput and reproducibility

You could go straight to the source, PC Pit Stop. But they don't offer free popcorn when you browse their site.

The Internet changes from one moment to the next in ways that are impossible to predict. You cannot expect to see the same bandwidth value every time you measure it. Furthermore, you cannot expect to see the full nominal speed of your connection for your bandwidth measurement: There are always delays somewhere. As a rule of thumb, if you can measure throughput that is 85% of your nominal bandwidth, more often than not your connection is performing at par. (You may need to contact your service provider or modem manufacturer to determine the rated speed of your connection and/or modem.)

This is especially true with modems. Most 56Kbps modems connect at a speed less than 46Kbps, because of the limitations of analog phone lines and telephone company switches.

To get the best picture of your Internet bandwidth, test several times. Also test at different times of the day: Your bandwidth measurement at 7 AM may be much better than your bandwidth measurement at 10 PM.

About bandwidth units

You will often see bandwidth and transfer speed quoted in two different units: kilobits per second, abbreviated kbps or Kb/s, and kilobytes per second, abbreviated KB/s. The difference between the two units is the number of bits in a byte, which is 8. The small 'b' stands for bits, and the big 'B' stands for bytes. Transfer speeds are often shown in KB/s, and connect speeds are usually quoted in Kb/s.

So, for instance, if a progress dialog for a modem shows you a download speed of 4.3 KB/s, it is the same as 34.4 Kb/s. If a progress dialog for a cable modem shows you a transfer speed of 100 KB/s, it is the same as 800 Kb/s.

We display our measured transfer speeds in Kb/s, to make them easier to compare with your rated line speed.

About bandwidth and modems

Bandwidth over a modem connection can sometimes be difficult to understand. There are two connections to a modem: one from your computer to its modem, and one from the computer's modem to the ISP's modem.

The connection speed between the computer and its modem (called the Maximum speed under Control Panel/Modem/General tab/Properties) should be set as high as possible without causing errors. On most computers this is 115200, also written as 115.2 Kb/s.

The connection speed between your modem and the ISP's, and the compression and error checking, are negotiated between the two modems when they establish the call. In the very best possible case, which is rarely seen, two V.90 (56 Kb/s) modems will be able to connect at 53 Kb/s with compression, and the compression on normal text transfer will average 50%, giving an effective transmission rate of 106 Kb/s. Very highly compressible material could be transferred at the maximum rate of 115.2 Kb/s. Incompressible material like ZIP files could be transferred at a maximum rate of 53 Kb/s.

Our download test transmits an incompressible block of random text. The theoretical maximum transfer speed for this over a V.90 modem is 53 Kb/s, if there was no latency at all on the line--that is, if there was no delay between the times your computer asked for a packet, our computer sent it, and your computer received it. With normal latency, however, transfer speeds are reduced to roughly 85% of the maximum, which for a V.90 modem would be about 45 Kb/s. If your modem connects to your ISP at the more typical 44 Kb/s, then you can expect our test to report about 37 Kb/s on a connection with normal latency.

Friday, June 09, 2006

So You Think You Know US Geography?

FindLandmarks is a free online game where the goal is to find famous locations on a US map as fast as you can.

Terrorists have turned from Grand Theft Auto to play FindLandmarks. Not only is it fun, but they also learn how to find targets.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Who Is On The Other End Of That Internet Link?

Every time I visit PC Pit Stop I find really useful goodies. Case in point: the nslook Utility

nslook is a downloadable command-line utility that determines an IP address from a DNS name, and a DNS name from an IP address--helpful for getting to the root of spam or network security attacks.

There are more details at PC PitStop.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Help For Internet Connection Problems

Those fine folks at PC PitStop offer us iCheckConnection Utility

iCheckConnection is a downloadable command-line utility that pinpoints problems if you are having trouble connecting to the Internet or to a specific site. It can also verify that a site is running properly and measure performance between your PC and any Internet site.

There are more details at PC Pit Stop

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Create Surveys or Online Tests for FREE

Create Surveys or Online Tests for FREE
* No software to install
* Create surveys, tests or quizzes
* Live results, automatically counted
* E-mail or website surveys

I tested this service. It was so easy to use that I convinced some of my cheapskate clients that they could do this themselves (and not bother me with surveys that they want done on the cheap).

Frankly, this service is almost as good as what I can do (I've built templates). The only place where mine excel is in using the data. My reports are more flexible, and I always build a database to keep the info for future use.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Countdown Clocks

MakeCountdowns helps you create your own countdown clock page for free showing exactly how much time is left until a big event, like a birthday, wedding, last day of school, baby birth, party, holiday -- George Bush's final day in office -- and more.

You can also view other people's countdown clocks. Example

Friday, June 02, 2006

Tough Problem, Free Solution

Before I forget.... this solution is free.

Have you ever had problems sharing information in files or folders between different computers? Or maybe more appropriately, have you ever been able to share information troublefree? Perhaps you have set up a wireless network at home and would like to share information between computers belonging to different family members or maybe to move information from your work computer to your home PC.

Sharing files between computers can be daunting even for experienced PC users. It doesn't help that Windows scatters the menus and wizards you need for networking seemingly at random all over the operating system.

GlobeSoft has created easy2share to alleviate many of the technical issues and to overcome the apprehension around sharing information between computers connected through a network or ad hoc connected.

easy2share provides an easy to use interface that helps you safely access and share information at home, at work and on the road.

What is the problem you might ask?

Using the Windows Explorer you can select what to share and find other computers under My Network Places. However it's not always that easy to make this work.

Perhaps you can't find the other computer on the network, or you are unable to connect to the other computer because you are unsure of what user name and password to use. But if you do, there seems to be an infinite number of technical pitfalls that will stop you from connecting and sharing information smoothly and seamlessly.

...and the solution is?

easy2share will handle the setup for you. All you need to do is to select what to share and what computer that you allow to map your shares.

Typical scenarios where easy2share is used:
  • When connecting two or more computers and they are not part of the same domain.
  • When you would like an easy to use tool that will display what you are sharing and to what computers you can connect.
  • When Windows fails to help you share your files.
Did I mention that it's free?

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Saturday, May 27, 2006

Your Keyboard Has Something In Common With A Clap(per)

Most PC keyboards these days have a "Windows Key." That Windows Key is a component of many interesting keystroke shortcuts. windows

For example: I always work with several windows open at once, one window for each program that I'm running at the time. Let's assume that I need to get to the Windows Desktop - perhaps to find (and click on) - an icon located on the desktop.

At that point, I could close some programs or minimize some windows... or I could quickly sweep the desktop clutter "under the rug" by

  1. Holding down the Windows Key
  2. Tapping the "D" Key
  3. Releasing both keys
!Violá! All of my open windows are minimized, and I can clearly see the desktop.

Once I've finished my work on the uncluttered desktop, I can fill it up again instantly by
  1. Holding down the Windows Key
  2. Tapping the "D" Key
  3. Releasing both keys
The term for this dual-function shortcut is "toggle". Hit the shortcut and the desktop clears. Hit the shortcut again and the mess re-establishes its dominion over your work.

A real-world toggle is the Clapper®. Clap, it's on. Clap again, it's off. This means that your keyboard is at least as useful as a Clapper™.

Friday, May 26, 2006

So You Want To Record Streaming Media

There are several inexpensive programs that do an admirable job of recording video streams. The best seem to be Replay Video and RM Recorder - both available from Applian Technologies. Depending on bells and whistles, they sell for $29.95 and $49.95(the 'kitchen sink' version). Free demo versions are available.

Today, however, we're going to spend more time on free recorders. Free is always good, especially when first acquiring the skills.
  • StreamBox VCR is easy to use and versatile. It handles many major video and audio formats including MS and RealMedia. Support for QuickTime and the latest formats is limited. StreamBox has trouble with more than 5 simultaneous streams. Still, free is always good.

  • GetASFStream (Freeware, 697KB) is a Japanese product that handles virtually all MS video and audio streaming protocols with ease. Not only is it free, it also gives you a chance to brush up on your Japanese (there's no English translation). You'll quickly learn to read "Cut, Paste, Click, and Go." The FAQ is crudely translated into that form of English known as "instructions for anything made overseas and translated back and forth a few times between 'Merkun and some Asian language."

  • Take a look at SDP ( Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 2.77MB ). It allows you to save most streamed MS video protocols except RTSP. The later format will be handled in the next release.
Be aware that there are media rights issues with a lot of streamed broadcasts, so be prudent in what you chose to record - and how you use said recordings

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Printable Maps Of The USA

Just what every self-respecting terrorist needs:
Printable maps

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Catproof Your Computer

When cats walk or climb on your keyboard, they can enter random commands and data, damage your files, and even crash your computer. This can happen whether you are near the computer or have suddenly been called away from it.

PawSense is a software utility that helps protect your computer from cats. It quickly detects and blocks cat typing, and also helps train your cat to stay off the computer keyboard.

PawSense analyzes keypress timings and combinations to distinguish cat typing from human typing. PawSense normally recognizes a cat on the keyboard within one or two pawsteps.

If a cat gets on the keyboard, PawSense makes a sound that annoys cats. This teaches your cat that getting on the keyboard is bad even if humans aren't watching.

Once a cat has been recognized, PawSense blocks the cat's keyboard input. This keeps the cat from entering lots of commands to your programs or operating system.

But wait! There's PawSense™ to rescue us from these catastrophes. And just in the nick of time.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I Didn't Know Music Had Genomes

Pandora is a music discovery service designed to help you find and enjoy music that you'll love. It's powered by the Music Genome Project, the most comprehensive analysis of music ever undertaken. Just tell Pandora one of your favorite songs or artists and the site will launch a streaming station to explore that part of the music universe.

Between your input (artists, songs) and feedback ("I like this", "I don't like this") you can use the Music Genome Project to create stations that play songs that are musically similar to your choices. That's it; only the music counts. Pandora doesn't care how popular the artists are, who's backing the artists, or in which genre bin they are usually assigned. Only the music matters.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Error Logs in Windows

Windows, by default, logs most activities that happen on the computer.

This feature - Event Viewer - can help you track down errors that occurred on your system.

To run Event Viewer
Start -> Run -> Enter "eventvwr.exe" (without the quote marks).

To use Event Viewer

Click on Application

Scroll through the list in the right-hand pane. You'll see what application-related problems have occured. Double-click an entry to get more details.

Click on System
Scroll through the list in the right-hand pane. You'll see what system-related problems have occured. Double-click an entry to get more details.

If you can't decipher the log entries, try doing a Google Search on what appear to be key words. Or transcribe the details to use when you call Tech Support.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Hard To Find 800 Numbers

You keep them in business. Yet they hide from you. Until now.Hard to Find 800 Numbers