Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Have Windows 7? Now you need security

As is usually the case with security software and new operating systems, older versions are not likely to work on Windows 7. You'll need to find a new version. Most of the big-name developers, such as Symantec and McAfee, have updated their subscription-based products.

Or, you could reach for the new, free Microsoft Security Essentials, which I reviewed earlier this month (see www.chron.com/mse).

Microsoft insists that Security Essentials isn't designed to replace full-strength suites. MSE lacks many features those products have, including e-mail scan-ning and a software firewall.

The real competition for MSE are other free security programs, led by the wildly popular AVG Free. Now AVG has released a new version. AVG Free 9.0, for Windows 7, Vista, XP and 2000. Like its predecessors, it is licensed for use on only one consumer computer — it's not supposed to be used on a PC on a net-work. Given that 80 million people use AVG Free, I suspect this may be one of the most violated software licenses around.

AVG says 9.0 has improved performance and has less impact on system resources, and I can attest that it's fast and unobtrusive. I've put it on a variety of systems, and so far I don't see any difference in machine boot-up times between AVG Free 9.0 and Microsoft Security Essentials. I also see no discernible performance effect on the PC as it runs in the background.

It isn't as impressive, though, when it comes to scanning. It is considerably slower than Security Essentials. The same drive that MSE took only 55 seconds to scan took about nine minutes to scan with AVG Free 9.0 on the “Fast scan” setting. It's possible, though, that the fast scan is more thorough than MSE's. But still, an eight-minute difference is significant.

The interface for 9.0 is almost identical to the previous version — it's simple and easy to navigate. As AVG Free has evolved, the company has unlocked settings for more features that previously were available only in the paid version. You have a lot more control over the program than in earlier versions.

It has more security features than Microsoft's product, including an e-mail scanner and a module that checks links on Web sites to ensure they're safe. However, this much-improved LinkScanner only works in Internet Explorer or Firefox. Earlier versions of the LinkScanner had users racing to turn it off because it slowed down Web surfing. But this iteration is lightning-fast. When you use a search engine, the scanner checks the resulting links and, if they're deemed safe, places a green icon next to each result. If the scanner suspects something nefar-ious, it will indicate that with more ominous orange and red icons, along with details.

It has more security features than Microsoft's product, including an e-mail scanner and a module that checks links on Web sites to ensure they're safe. However, this much-improved LinkScanner only works in Internet Explorer or Firefox. Earlier versions of the LinkScanner had users racing to turn it off because it slowed down Web surfing. But this iteration is lightning-fast. When you use a search engine, the scanner checks the resulting links and, if they're deemed safe, places a green icon next to each result. If the scanner suspects something nefar-ious, it will indicate that with more ominous orange and red icons, along with details.

How effective is AVG Free 9.0? The program has a good reputation for stopping viruses and spyware, and I may have experienced its capabilities shortly after installing it — although it apparently was a false alarm. I went looking for a program that would enable “hot corners” on the PC, similar to the built-in feature in Mac OS X that lets you move your mouse cursor to a corner of the screen to blank the screen or clear the desktop. I found an open-source program called Hot Corners and downloaded a copy from Softpedia, a reputable site for shareware. However, when I installed it, I got a warning from AVG that one of the Hot Corners files was infected. The suspect file was moved into AVG's Virus Vault, where it could do no harm.

I got another copy from the author's site. This one didn't bring up the AVG alert, but a note on the site indi- cates it has a history of trig-gering false positives. When I installed it on a Windows 7 system running Microsoft Security Essentials, there was no alert.

Former users of AVG Free who may have been unhappy with the performance and obtrusiveness of past vers-ions may want to give this a try. It also will appeal to those who switched to Micro-soft Security Essentials but don't quite feel like they're getting all the features they need to feel safe. AVG Free 9.0 has you covered.



By DWIGHT SILVERMAN Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle

Oct. 26, 2009, 11:42PM

For XP users who wish to upgrade, a few tips

When Windows 7 is released on Thursday, many who’ll rush out to buy it will be users of Windows XP.

Unfortunately, Microsoft has not made it easy for XP users to move to Win7. You won't be able to run the upgrade disk and have the newer operating system install on top of XP, leaving your data and programs in place.

Instead, you have two options:

1. You can do a Clean install, in which you wipe the hard drive clean and install a virgin copy of Windows 7, then reinstall your software and copy your data back to the drive.

2. You can do a Custom install, in which your older setup is squirreled away in a folder called WINDOWS.OLD. This will include your program files, though you won't be able to run your software from there. It will also include data files, but you shouldn't rely on this as your sole backup strategy prior to upgrading.

Because you can't upgrade over XP, there are some steps you'll want to take before you install Windows 7 to make the process easier. This game plan also works if you plan to do a clean or custom install on a Windows Vista system.

• Make an inventory of the software you'll want to reinstall on Windows 7. This may be a good time to do some housecleaning. Identify the programs you really need and plan to keep them, and cast off those you don't.

• Download, install and run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor at www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/get/upgrade-advisor.aspx. This will scan your PC and point out compatibility issues with hardware and software. You may have software that won't run on Windows 7, and you'll need to upgrade to a newer version of that program, or obtain a patch if available.

• Download and save to a CD, DVD or external drive any software patches you'll need. Do the same for any Windows 7 drivers that are available for your key hardware — video and audio adapters, printers, mice, keyboards, scanners, etc.

• Research and identify the security software you'll want to install. Don't expect the antivirus or antispyware programs you bought two years ago to work on Windows 7. Microsoft has a Web page that lists developers with compatible security titles at www.microsoft.com/windows/antivirus-partners/windows-7.aspx.

• Make a backup of your documents, music, videos and photos, to an external drive. Check the help files for your e-mail program to see how to export your mail folders, then save those to the external drive as well. If you're really cautious, make a disk image of your entire system — using software such as Acronis TrueImage, Norton Ghost or Norton Save & Restore — so you can recover your Windows XP setup in case something goes horribly wrong.

• Check the system requirements for Windows 7 to see if your PC is powerful enough. Although Microsoft says 1 GB of RAM will work with the 32-bit version, I'd recommend you have at least double that. Install your RAM — or any hardware upgrades — before you install Windows 7.

• Once you have Windows 7, you can start the installer from within XP. It will do additional compatibility checks, then reboot the system to begin the installation. I'd recommend doing the Custom install, because it does provide a secondary copy of your data files.

• When the installation is complete, install the latest Windows 7 drivers, then the antivirus software you've selected and let it update its malware definitions.

• Manually run Windows Update to check for any patches and fixes.

• Before you install any of your software, live with this installation for a while. Play around with Windows 7, learning its differences before you have to rely on it for real work. Give it a few days before installing your software, and copying data back to the hard drive.

Once your installation is the way you like it, consider using the Backup and Restore function in Windows 7 to make an image of your existing hard drive. You can use this later if you need to start over from scratch — and it will come in handy when Windows 8 rolls around in a few years!



By DWIGHT SILVERMAN Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle

Oct. 19, 2009, 11:08PM

Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor

Friday, September 25, 2009

5 ways to speed up your PC

By following a few simple guidelines, you can maintain your computer and keep it running smoothly. This article discusses how to use the tools available in Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) and Windows Vista to more efficiently maintain your computer and safeguard your privacy when you're online.


Fix common PC problems

Having trouble with your computer? You've come to the right place. Even if you don't know a computer language (or want to), you can solve several common PC problems on your own.

Thanks Microsoft!


Thursday, September 10, 2009

How to Speed Up a Slow Windows Computer for Free

Sunday, June 07, 2009


What is Yawcam?

Yawcam is a shortening for Yet Another WebCAM software, and that's exactly what it is ;-)
More precise Yawcam is a webcam software for windows written in java. The main ideas for Yawcam are to keep it simple and easy to use but to include all the usual features.

Yawcam is completely free to use!

Yawcam features:
.: Video streaming
.: Image snapshots
.: Built-in webserver
.: Motion detection
.: Ftp-upload
.: Text and image overlays
.: Password protection
.: Online announcements for communities
.: Scheduler for online time
.: Multi languages

Sunday, March 29, 2009

10 ways techs can make extra cash

1: Subcontracting

Hire yourself out on a project basis. While full-time jobs may not be plentiful, project work is common. Consulting groups frequently need technicians to deliver qualified service onsite at client locations.

Many small businesses are actually performing well. Headlines incessantly tout draconian layoffs at large enterprises employing tens of thousands of staff, numerous smaller businesses (from gyms to used car dealers to family-focused activity stores) continue marching along, with many experiencing sales increases.

These outlets continue to require computer, networking, and software support. Consulting groups frequently service these organizations’ needs, but smaller IT shops often find it difficult to locate qualified, professional contractors to fulfill those services.

Contact these local IT consultancies if you’re seeking extra income. Rare are the consultancies that don’t appreciate adding qualified names to their Rolodex, and these projects often turn into full-time gigs.

2: National account work

Many national companies serve as subcontractors for large hardware vendors. These companies accept work from the manufacturer and then pass a portion of the payment to the local contractor who actually completes the project.

Consider signing up as an authorized agent for these national providers. While few consultants make a living fulfilling such national account work, resulting projects can help fill scheduling gaps.

911mycomputer, Gurus2Go, and OnForce are three examples of national service providers that send IT consultants small jobs and other projects. All such organizations need techs in the field to complete these projects.

Just be sure you’re working with reputable vendors when you accept assignments. Most national service providers are solvent, but some have experienced trouble paying their subcontractors. Research national providers before signing a contract. If a Google search of a prospective organization reveals payment complaints, avoid establishing a relationship with that partner.

3: Database consulting

How often do you hear about businesses and nonprofits having to “do more with less”? A Google search of that string generates more than a million hits.

Organizations everywhere are trying to master client relationships and communications and squeeze every last bit of revenue from customer and contact lists. Databases, often customized to meet proprietary needs, frequently play a critical role in the process.

Yet many organizations don’t have the budget necessary for maintaining their own database creation and administration skills. The knowledge/needs gap presents opportunities for database programmers and engineers who want to moonlight or provide these services on the side.

4: Teaching

Layoffs across numerous industries are sending many back to school. As government agencies, nonprofits, and other organizations become increasingly dependent upon computers, networks, and systems, it’s a safe bet technical skills will remain in demand. In fact, the 2009 Robert Half International Salary Guide predicts IT will be among the top three fields to yield promising careers in the next year.

Consequently, students will seek the training required to enter the industry. Many schools, training centers, and colleges will need qualified candidates with proven experience to lead technical classes. Since many classes meet after regular business hours, interested IT pros may be able to supplement their day jobs with a teaching role.

5: Software training and instruction

As an independent technology consultant, I’ve been surprised at the number of clients requesting one-on-one software training. Demand exists, particularly among small businesses, for basic training covering such programs as Act, Access, Word, Excel, photo editing applications, and QuickBooks, not to mention Windows.

IT professionals need not be all-knowing gurus to lead training sessions covering these programs. They simply need to be able to review application fundamentals, provide walk-through demonstrations of an application’s features, and answer user questions.

6: The digital living space

Most technology professionals enjoy securing their own wireless networks, solving myriad Windows video codec issues, and memorizing the differences between HDMI, DVI, and VGA technologies. Most homeowners don’t.

So as discretionary income trends toward family-focused or “nesting”-related investments, the need for technology professionals to assist in such projects is increasing. Families spending two or three thousand dollars on a new television, streaming media devices, and/or media center PCs will think nothing of paying another few hundred dollars to a technology professional to ensure the devices are properly equipped, connected, and configured.

7: Telecommunications

I’m one of those “computer” consultants who has resisted providing clients with “phone services.” However, I’m rethinking that strategy.

Why? For one thing, clients are increasingly inquiring about telephone support. And as VoIP gains steam, telecommunications are increasingly crossing over into the network administration arena. Even Dell is now selling phone systems on its Web site.

Considering that organizations of all sizes are flocking to VoIP technologies to reduce costs, there’s ample opportunity for technology professionals to add telephone installation and support services to their skill set. Telecommunications services add an entire new niche to a technology professional’s arsenal that can generate significant new revenue streams.

8: Financial software consulting

The word is getting out. Intuit, which markets the popular QuickBooks line of financial software, is weathering the economic downturn rather well. Demand for its products, from its point-of-sale software to its enterprise financial management platform, is growing.

Again, business owners everywhere are seeking to do more with less. That means most companies are working to obtain the utmost productivity and efficiency from the programs in which they invest.

Intuit’s QuickBooks software provides many opportunities for business owners to do just that. And Intuit’s ProAdvisor certification program presents IT pros with a well-structured program to not only obtain instruction and training but to tap into Intuit’s considerable lead-generation capabilities.

9: Security/DVR integration

Just as telephones used to be differentiated from PCs, servers, and networks, so did security and alarm systems used to be viewed as wholly separate from IT. But that, too, is changing.

Many security systems consist of digital video recorders (DVR). Essentially, these devices are nothing more than Windows XP systems with a special video card installed. Cables run from cameras mounted in various locations to that video card, and the captured images or video is then stored on the system’s massive hard disks. Included software tools make it possible to even access the security footage using a Web interface.

As companies further seek to cut costs, reduce shrinkage, eliminate burglaries, and otherwise secure their operations, security system sales are likely to grow. Adding these services to one’s repertoire offers yet another potent opportunity for generating extra cash. Best of all, most of the technologies involved (desktop systems, Ethernet interfaces, and hard disk data storage) are right in line with the other skills technology professionals typically wield.

10: Online expert

IT consultants seeking additional clients can grow their reputations online. Fixya.com and CrossLoop.com are just two Web sites in a growing category that pay technology experts to either answer users’ questions or provide opportunities to answer user questions and receive advertising space in return. While these projects aren’t likely to generate significant income, combined with other initiatives, becoming an online expert can position a consultant as an expert and help drive new client calls.


Monday, March 09, 2009

24 Killer Portable Apps For Your USB Flash Drive

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gmail offline: A guided tour

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A First Class Commercial Backup Program for Free

from Gizmo's Tech Support Alert

Here's an unsolicited offer for all Tech Support Alert readers that I recently received from Neobyte, the developers of the excellent Titan Backup utility that I featured in my newsletter last year. Almost all the feeback I received at that time about Titan Backup was very positive so I'm happy to pass this offer on to you:

"Hi Gizmo,

I recently read the interview you had with Paul Gillin and saw you were recommending people an old version of Winbackup (the product is no longer developed by Uniblue)

I would like to offer your readers the FULL version of Titan Backup 1.5 (only few months old version), I am confident you'll find it very useful for your audience. You can find here some differences between version 1.5 and 2.5.

Your readers can download Titan Backup 1.5 from here:

Then they'll enter the below serial to activate the full version:

We'll keep the special discount we already offer your readers, in case they want to upgrade to the latest version Titan Backup 2.5.

Looking forward to see your readers benefiting from this offer.

Best regards

Flavius Saracut
Marketing Manager, Neobyte Solutions"

Best Software for a Tough Economy

By Jessica Dolcourt, CNET Downloads

In tough economic times like these, good freeware becomes worth its weight in gold.

Professionals who squeeze every feature out of their top-shelf software will likely appreciate the investment, but those of us with more modest goals can still do just about anything for free. Assuming that you are willing to deal with a few minor character flaws and rough edges, we've got some tools to help you save your hard-earned dough. From graphic-design apps and security software to CD/DVD burners and ringtone makers, there's something available in this collection for most of us cost-conscious downloaders.

(© 2009 CBS Interactive Inc)
Small, amazingly effective and free, 7-Zip compresses files like a pro and unpacks archive formats including RAR, ISO and MSI. It can also pack ZIP, TAR and GZIP files. The latter two are often found on Linux and Unix systems, and are file types that the commercial go-tos can't muster. To shrink its footprint even more, try out 7-Zip's portable version.

(© 2009 CBS Interactive Inc)
Windows Live FolderShare
Lots of paid programs make syncing files among different PCs and the Web simple, but if you're counting pennies, Windows Live's FolderShare offers a more than adequate substitute. FolderShare, too, keeps files synced across Windows and Mac platforms -- so long as they're under 2GB. In addition to the desktop client, you can access and configure FolderShare online. Our biggest gripe is that it won't sync files if a computer is off or hibernating, but with a little planning or help from others when you're away from a logged-off computer, you'll be able to keep information constantly current.

(© 2009 CBS Interactive Inc)
IOBit Smart Defrag
There's no shortage of well-rounded defragmentation applications, but IOBit Smart Defrag runs circles around them. Its built-in tool persistently defragments your most-used files without gumming up your system. Like Diskeeper, you can set it to run during idle moments, and its performance is steady enough to run on older and more resource-scant machines. Smart Defrag's scheduler also lets you plan late-night defragging, and can shut down the computer when it's done.

(© 2009 CBS Interactive Inc)
BurnAware Free and Ashampoo Burning Studio Free
Unless you're editing data, audio, video and burned images a significant portion of your time, a fully caffeinated application such as Nero is probably overkill. If all you want to do is burn some discs, Ashampoo Burning Studio Free and BurnAware Free offer the same basic functions for CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray, without the extra bulk of Nero's video editing and slide show software.

(© 2009 CBS Interactive Inc)
ToneThis ringtone maker isn't especially attractive or advanced, but it is free, devilishly easy to use and can create, edit and receive SMS ringtones and scaled videos and photos from your PC to your phone (see supported models.) It's hobbled by some pesky flaws, but the core features work well enough to recommend the program for those watching their wallets.

(© 2009 CBS Interactive Inc)
Prepare to be impressed with free image-editing tool GIMP. GIMP supports layering and has a good-size tool kit for adjusting colors, curves and balances, and adding blur, zoom and distortion effects. Unlike some freeware photo editors, it has an effective red eye removal filter, and tools for creating paths and quickly changing perspective. Tutorials and an active user base help you work through stickier editing tasks. The plug-in GIMPshop unites GIMP's two panes and renames some functionality to match Photoshop's nomenclature.

(© 2009 CBS Interactive Inc)

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition and Avira AntiVir Personal Free Antivirus
Out of all the freeware antivirus applications, AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition and Avira AntiVir Personal Free Antivirus come closest to the comprehensive coverage of their premium cousins. AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition offers frequent updates, scheduled scans and real-time protection. It also quarantines suspect files and processes, and rates search results for safety.
Avira AntiVir Personal Free Antivirus also scans for definitions, and, unlike most security freeware, sniffs for rootkits. While thorough, Avira's freeware antivirus application tends to lag and is a bit more ad-heavy.

(© 2009 CBS Interactive Inc)
Free screen-recording software CamStudio isn't perfect by a long shot, but if you're scrappy and open to reading tutorials, you'll find a free way to take good-quality AVI and SWF recordings of your screen. The beta build remains somewhat buggy, and CamStudio is lean on options, but if you only need to blast out basic demos and tutorials of your own, CamStudio is a real find.

(© 2009 CBS Interactive Inc)
Gadwin PrintScreen
Spend a few moments configuring Gadwin PrintScreen before capturing your first image and you'll be a fan for life. Trust us, don't skip this step. Gadwin PrintScreen has plenty of customization settings for saving and processing images after you take them. You can save them to the clipboard, print them and automatically name files, for example. Gadwin PrintScreen doesn't have SnagIt 9's advanced editor library, but it will let you automatically open the captured images in any photo-editing application you like.

Gmail grows up with offline e-mail access

Posted by Stephen Shankland

Significantly increasing the utility and competitiveness of its Web-based e-mail service, Google is enabling an experimental ability to read, write, and search Gmail messages even while not connected to the network.

Google believes almost religiously in cloud computing, the idea that computer applications and data live on the Internet rather than on PCs. But there are times when the network is inaccessible, and generally Web-based applications like today's Gmail effectively seize up under those circumstances.

Offline sidesteps that problem, the classic example being a busy executive traveling on a plane. And offline Gmail access begins a new chapter for Google's ambition to appeal to business customers for services such as Google Apps, of which Gmail is a component.

"This is a feature we've heard loud and clear the enterprise wants," said Todd Jackson, Gmail's product manager.

Trying to sign up business customers generally means wooing them away from the dominant e-mail products, Microsoft's Exchange server software and Outlook PC software. Google and Microsoft began in separate spheres, but are ever-closer competitive rivals, each with a strong cash-generating business that can be used to subsidize forays into other markets.

There's more, too. Google Apps customers will get another major offline option "soon," too: Google Calendar access, though not initially the ability to create new entries. If the organization's administrator enables the "New Features" option, each person within that organization will get access to the calendar, Google said.

New features help make Gmail more compelling for business customers, but for many, a bigger problem is the fact that Gmail still sports its beta tag, said Gartner analyst David Smith.

"That's one of the biggest stumbling blocks for businesses," Smith said. "You're hard-pressed to find any businesses who decide to go into production with anything that a vendor calls beta, no matter how good it is." Google promises customers will get 99.9 percent availability through a service level agreement for Google Apps, which includes Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Docs.

Cloud vs. PC
And Microsoft, while not turning on a dime, isn't counting on a future that consists exclusively of PC-based Office. It already has a product, Office Live Workspace that lets users share and view--but not edit--Office documents online, and the next version of Office will run in a browser.

Philosophically, though, Microsoft remains firmly tethered to the PC, while Google wants to move as fast as possible to Web-based applications. "We think the browser is the ideal platform for deploying all kinds of applications. That's where Google is placing its bet," Jackson said. "But people are traditionally limited by the speed and connectivity of the Internet. We want to fill in those gaps."

Google already developed open-source technology called Gears that helps further this cloud computing agenda by storing Web data on PC, and Gmail, used by millions, could help coax more people to install Gears. That, in turn, could help solve the chicken-and-egg problem that currently means it's not worthwhile for most Web application programmers to build in Gears support.

Greater Gears support could help other cloud-computing companies, including Zoho, which already has offline access for its Web-based e-mail application.

It's not as if offline Gmail were completely impossible. People can set up software such as Outlook or Thunderbird to read and write e-mails, for example. But offline Gmail means people won't have to learn a new interface.

Offline Gmail has been in testing for months, though Jackson wouldn't share specifics about exactly how long.

What can offline Gmail do?
"We wanted the user experience to be almost identical to the experience you get when you're online," Jackson said.

Offline Gmail stores a copy of a user's inbox on a personal computer. Most people will have to install it, a process Google walks you through, but it's built into Google's Chrome browser.

Once Gears is installed and offline access is enabled, the software automatically detects when a person's network connection is working. If the network is good, Gmail works as usual. If it's bad, it goes into offline mode, sending unsent messages and retrieving new ones when the connection is restored.

And if the network is dodgy, a person can use the intermediate "flaky connection mode," which for example queues a message to be sent immediately by storing it to the hard drive then actually sends it as soon as it can. Google positions this as useful for coffee shops and poaching a neighbor's weak-signal wireless network, but I think of this as "tech conference mode."

When enabled, offline Gmail begins by downloading, in the background, a copy of a user's archive to the user's personal computer. But the software stores about 10,000 e-mails, so heavy users won't get a complete archive.

Gmail automatically updates the local cache of messages with new and recently read items and with messages associated with a particular label on which a person has clicked, Jackson said.

Not everything works, though.

One big missing piece is the ability to add attachments to new messages, though attachments are visible with existing messages.

Another is the contacts tab, so forget about managing e-mail lists or adding new addresses while offline. The autocomplete option works, though, so there's no need to start remembering e-mail addresses.

English-speaking Gmail users will be able to enable offline access as Google gradually adds the ability over the next "couple" of days, said Gmail engineer Andy Palay in a blog post. "Offline Gmail is still an early experimental feature, so don't be surprised if you run into some kinks that haven't been completely ironed out yet," Palay said.

What kinds of problems occur?

"We've seen issues with the local cache getting out of sync. You have to refresh the browser, and that gets you going again," Jackson said. "In some rare circumstance, it has to be fully flushed, so we ask to disable and re-enable the feature."

But these should be unusual problems, he said: "It's been in testing for awhile on all 20,000 Googlers, so it's gotten some good testing."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


HandBrake is an open-source, GPL-licensed,
multiplatform, multithreaded, DVD to MPEG-4 converter, available for MacOS X, Linux and Windows.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Best of Screensavers

Saturday, June 14, 2008

How to Make Windows XP Look & Behave like Windows Vista for Free

How to Make Windows XP Look & Behave like Windows Vista for Free

STEP THREE: Install the “secret” Microsoft Royal Noir Desktop Theme (no, you will not have translucent title bars - but this official Microsoft theme is "close" to Vista's and is very cool!)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fixing mouse drift on a Dell Latitude C600 with a Sledgehammer

Found on Gimboland , - Andy Gimblett writes "It started small - one day I was typing and the mouse pointer started slowly drifting to the corner of the screen. Odd. I pulled it out, and carried on with my day. Then it started happening more frequently… In my first lecture of the year, it went completely doolally, rushing up into the top-right corner and refusing to come out. Since then, every now and then it’s been doing this intermittently, sometimes just a little, sometimes so much that the pointer is unusable."

Read more here.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Ultimate USB Key

This looks like a good read.

Windows in a Window

Virtual machines let you muck around with older versions of Windows—and even other operating systems—without consequences!

Friends say I'm living in the past, recounting carefree days of wearing leisure suits, dancing the Macarena, and running WordPerfect 5.1. Now I can indulge my pathological nostalgia with a virtual machine.

Virtual machine programs enable multiple operating systems to run simultaneously on a single PC. The two most popular are Microsoft Virtual PC and VMware Player. Microsoft's product both creates and runs virtual machines, while VMware Player plays preconfigured virtual machines only. Creating your own VMware virtual machines requires an upgrade to VMware Workstation 6 for Windows ($189 direct). VMware Workstation offers many more features than Virtual PC does, including system-state snapshots and the ability to create an image of another computer on your network. Either is a good choice to begin exploring virtualization.

Got an installable copy of an OS you'd like to give a whirl? Download a free copy of Virtual PC (www.microsoft.com/ virtualpc) or a 30-day trial version of VMware Workstation (www.vmware.com).

Tasks from the Past

If you're like me—hopelessly immersed in the past—you may be unusually attracted to certain benefits of desktop virtualization. For example, by running multiple OSs simultaneously, you can:

• Overcome Vista's incompatibility with older applications, particularly older games, by running earlier versions of Windows within Vista.

• Run antiquated versions of Internet Explorer to see how your MySpace page, TypePad blog, or business Web-site customization will look in Grandma's IE 4.

• Keep using that trusty custom application that someone wrote for your small business years ago, while for other things you move up to a flashy new OS.

If these prospects seem even more exciting to you than uncovering your old Superman comics up in the attic, you're in for a treat.

How It's Done with Virtual PC

Three essential parts make up a virtual machine: the application itself, a virtual hard drive, and a virtual machine. The virtual hard drive is really just a file on your physical hard drive, and the virtual machine is a file that contains settings used to run the virtual hard disk and emulate the supporting hardware.

To begin, install Virtual PC and fire it up, then click New on the Console screen. You can typically follow the prompts for the default installation. Use the Virtual Disk Wizard to create a new, blank virtual hard drive as well—this will not affect anything else on your hard drive. When you finish the installation you're not really done; the new virtual machine will be listed in the Virtual PC Console screen, but it won't yet have an operating system. Select the new virtual machine and click Start, then choose CD | Use Physical Drive and choose the drive in which you've placed the installation CD for the OS you want to install. Now simply follow the same steps you would to install the OS on a physical machine. To install applications, repeat the process, choosing CD | Use Physical Drive and install from application CDs exactly the same way.

When you start, it helps to have a workable, installable copy of the quaint old OS you've chosen as your guest operating system—not, say, a Windows 98 upgrade disc. Similarly, if you want to create a virtual Windows XP machine to run classic games within Vista, you'll need an actual copy of Windows XP.

Tweaking Settings
Remember, each virtual machine you run claims its own share of RAM and disk space (although Virtual PC takes less than 40MB itself) so you'll have to expect some limits on overall performance.

While you'd probably install the Virtual PC program files on your physical C: drive just as you would any other application, the virtual-machine file and the virtual hard-drive file can be located on an external hard drive just as readily. That way, in a pinch you can even use Virtual PC on a crowded laptop to run space-hogging applications from an external hard drive.

I've also discovered that, even though Microsoft's documentation insists that Virtual PC is supported only as a host on Windows XP Professional and above, I've installed it on Windows XP Home Edition without difficulty. The program bellyaches that it's not running on a "supported" operating system, but it runs nonetheless. How much support does Microsoft give to free applications anyway? Zilch, so it doesn't matter.

How It's Done with VMware

VMware Workstation
Do you crave the thrill of repeatedly installing strange new operating systems? The fastest method is to download preconfigured virtual hard drives, or Virtual Appliances in VMware parlance. There's a whole raft of 'em, configured to run just about every popular open-source OS, as well as several unpopular ones, at www.vmware.com/appliances. It's pretty simple to run a virtual appliance that you've downloaded; just go to the Home screen in VMware Workstation, choose Open Existing VM or Team, and browse to choose your preferred virtual-machine file. The file extension for a VMware virtual machine file is .VMX. Opening an existing VM automatically launches the boot-up sequence for that particular operating system.

Another approach to adding an operating system is to import an image file in the ISO format. Your virtual machine will read from that file as if it were a physical CD-ROM. Choose New Virtual Machine from the VMware home screen and follow the prompts from there to locate your ISO file. You can find ISO files for most open-source OSs on dozens of open-source fan sites. After you've installed a virtual machine with an operating system in VMware, you can go on to install and run applications. After that, you can easily "clone" the entire virtual hard drive. That's fine for open-source operating systems, but touchy for operating systems that require a license (Windows, for example). Technically, it's a no-no to run multiple instances of a copyright-protected application without extra licenses, just as it's a no-no to share your MP3 collection with your friends.

Link here.

Read comments here. Including this one -

"Got an installable copy of an OS you'd like to give a whirl? Download a free copy of Virtual PC (www.microsoft.com/ virtualpc) or a 30-day trial version of VMware Workstation (www.vmware.com). "

I stopped reading after this. Any article that starts by implying that VirtualPC is free whereas after 30 days you have to pay for VMWare can't be based on enough research to suit me.

VMWare offers VMWare Player as well as VMWare Server for free (no trial versions, they really are free as in "free beer"), both of which do an excellent job of virtualization which at least in some ways is better than Microsoft's VirtualPC. For starters, VMWare supports USB devices.

Furthermore, while VMWare Player is useful to run a prebuilt VM (VMWare calls them Virtual Appliances), it cannot create VM's. VMWare Server can.

Besides, there are many other virtualization solutions such as Xen and now Oracle (based on Xen).


(No, I don't work for any of these companies)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Streaming Video for Cheapskates

In our previous Solutions story, "Stream Video to Your Living-Room PC", we covered how to stream movies from services such as Netflix's Watch Now, Vongo, and others to your living-room PC or set-top box for display on your TV. Well, what if you don't have a living-room PC or a set-top box—and don't want one! Maybe it's the price that's holding you back, or the fact that you just don't want yet another box to configure and keep in your entertainment center. Since set-top boxes and media center PCs are still mostly niche products, we're guessing there are a lot of you out there.

But watching a video streamed from your PC to your TV would still be nice, right? You could burn DVDs, but that's time-consuming, and your feng shui proclivities dictate that you avoid having a bunch of DVDs you'll never watch again cluttering up your home. Well, for the penny-pinchers, the minimalists, and those who have older equipment, there are still ways to watch PC video on your TV, many of which cost less than $100. Don't expect HD picture quality—or even DVD quality for that matter—but in most cases the video signal is quite watchable.

Read more here.

Inside Windows Server 2008

Eleven months left in 2008, and the year's recurring tech theme is already resounding loudly: Windows Server 2008. Get used to it, because you'll be hearing it over and over for the foreseeable future. The new server OS promises a load of fresh goodies for Microsoft-platform devotees, with more stuff to follow. Does this really apply to small and midsize businesses? You bet, and as ever, there's good and bad.

Read the rest here.

Connect Linux to a Wireless Network

Improvements in the latest Ubuntu release, version 7.10, include better hardware installation, enhanced desktop search, NTFS -support (which I'll cover in the next month's Linux Solution)—and much better wireless networking. You could certainly connect to a wireless network with earlier versions, but wireless networking just seems to work better with 7.10. In addition, it natively supports Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) security. With that in mind, let's turn now to getting Ubuntu working with an existing wireless Windows network.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Jimmy Ruska's Video Tutorials

Friday, January 25, 2008

Default Logins and Passwords for Networked Devices


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Windows XP Auto Logs Off

I have seen this issue a few times now. Windows XP will load just like normal and then show up on the logon / welcome screen. When you click your user name or type in your user name you see your desktop for a split second and then are sent back to the logon / welcome screen. This occurs if a certain registry value is not pointing to the correct system file. At registry key:


the string "Userinit" should be set to a value of "C:\WINDOWS\system32\userinit.exe,". Do not forget the coma on the end. Also the path is case sensitive and "WINDOWS" should be replaced with your Windows directory. On most Gateway computers the Windows directory is "WINNT".

Ok, so now we know how to fix the problem, but how do I change the value if i can't get into Windows? Well, you have a few options. Option 1 is the one I like best, which is to use a BartPE CD equiped with Regedit For BartPE open the registry and change the value back to normal. Option 2 is to try and guess what the value of the registry key is and then boot into Recovery Console and rename "userinit.exe" to the bogus value. The registry key most likely points to "wsaupdater.exe". Option 3 will only work if you are in a corporate enviroment and your computer was setup for remote registry changes before it crashed. In that case you can log onto the crashed
computer and change the value while it is sitting at the log on screen.

So now that we have fixed the problem what caused the problem? While if you click the link below you will be sent to a Lavasoft forum which has previously discussed this issue. This is the source of most of the info I have here. Apparently some spyware named "BlazeFind" will change the key value to "wsaupdater.exe" for some unknown reason. Undoubtably for some malicious reason. When a spyware or anti-virus program removes BlazeFind it leaves that registry entry pointing to nothing and stops you from logging in.

8/28/04 - I now believe that this problem is caused when Adaware removes a certain spyware and does not correct the registry entry that is mentioned above. I have also found out that Hijackthis will catch this "logon hijack" if ran on an infected system, either when infected or before rebooting after adaware removes the infection.


9/22/04- more info and steps here:

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Stream Video to Your Living-Room PC

Once an exercise in frustration, streaming now actually works.

Set-top boxes were supposed to revolutionize the way we watched video from our computers. That hasn't quite happened and that's an understatement. Early products were difficult to use; they often dropped connections between devices and displayed poor-quality video. They just weren't worth the trouble.

But things are beginning to change. Sophisticated media-center functionality comes with every new Windows Vista PC. Faster, more interference-resistant wireless routers (supporting the 802.11n draft standard) can blast hefty media files back and forth across your network without stuttering. And while the Apple TV hasn't taken the market by storm, it has introduced the idea of streaming video to the average person and it's a good choice if you're a frequent iTunes Store customer.

Now movie-rental sites are getting into the act. Companies such as Netflix and Vongo offer monthly subscription services that send full-length movies over the Internet directly to your living-room PC. Compared with fetching, renting, and returning DVDs, watching downloadable movies is a no-muss, no-fuss affair. It's also price-competitive with traditional rentals; the only downside is the limited selection. Because of the complex agreements that dictate what can be shown where, online sites have barely a fraction perhaps 1,000 to 1,200 titles of the content available for rental on physical DVDs (which exceeds 70,000 titles at Netflix alone).

Note that streaming is not the same as copying: You're not moving actual files around. Instead, you're watching video streamed in real time from another location-the Internet or another PC in your home are two common sources. With streaming video, you can decide right on the spot what you want to see prior to file-management prep work. In this article, I'll show you three ways to stream media from your Windows PC to your comfy living-room entertainment setup without unnecessary technical headaches.

Vongo's downloadable movie service costs $9.99 per month, but there is a free 14-day trial. This way you can check out the available titles and make sure the Vongo service works with your setup before committing your hard-earned cash. Here's how to get started with the trial:

1. Head to www.vongo.com and click the download button on the home page.

2. Enter your e-mail address and save Vongosetup.exe to your desktop.

3. When the download completes, double-click the icon and follow the prompts to install the Vongo client and create an account. You'll need to enter your credit card info for the trial.

4. Double-click the Vongo desktop icon to launch the service. Browse the available movies, choose one, and begin watching.

There's also a pay-per-view option, but the subscription offers a better value if you're going to watch more than one or two movies per month. You can even archive copies of movies for later viewing.

Friday, December 07, 2007


6 GB of storage


5GB of free secure online storage

Streamload MediaMax

Windows Live SkyDrive Beta

Password-protected online file storage. Always available where you need it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Green PC

How to dispose of unwanted tech equipment without hassles, and where to find great new environmentally friendly gear.

How to Clean Your 7 Favorite Gadgets

Clean your computer, TV screen, speakers, printer, cell phone and video camera.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

50 Top Computing Tips Part II

Part II of our Top Tips story includes Vista secrets, better search methods, hardware tweaks, and ways to speed up your network. Here are 50 more of the most popular tips from the past year.

Friday, October 26, 2007

50 Top Computing Tips

Whether you're looking to fix what's broken, speed up what's slow, or just tweak for fun, our PC Magazine Tip of the Day can help. Here are 50 of the most popular tips from the past year.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Online Image Resize

Friday, October 19, 2007

Glary Registry Repair

Clean up and repair your Registry for free.

Use your PC for long enough, and you'll have problems with your Registry. Invalid Registry entries, software that doesn't clean up the Registry after it uninstalls, invalid paths and file associations, obsolete entries, the list of Registry problems can go on for a long time. They slow down your PC, cause system crashes, and generally muck up things.

You'll never be able to track down the problems yourself. So instead get this freebie, which scans the Registry for problems and fixes them fast. You'll also be able to choose which changes to accept, and which to ignore. The program creates an Undo file, so you can revert to your previous version of the Registry if problems occur.

Microsoft Virtual PC 2007

Run virtual PCs in different Windows OSes with this Microsoft program.

Not running Windows Vista Ultimate--and have a program that needs it? With Virtual PC (downloadable), you can run other operating systems as if they were applications within Vista Ultimate. This is useful when you need a program that can't run in your current version of Windows, or when you want to browse safely.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Find the Cookies Folder in Vista

Q: Where can I find the Cookies folder in Windows Vista? When I ran Windows XP, I put a shortcut to the Cookies folder on my desktop. When I went to a Web site, I could quickly see how many cookies a site was putting on my computer and delete them if I wanted to. I've tried searching in Vista but haven't had much luck. Please help!—Walter Nowak

A: To find just about anything in Vista, you simply start typing its name at the Start menu. When you type cookies, it points you to C:\Users\username\cookies—great! Great, that is, until you click on the link and get an "Access Denied" slap in the face. In actual fact, that path is just a kind of pointer. The cookies are stored in a completely different location.

Open Windows Explorer, press F10 to see the menu, and choose Tools | Folder Options. Click the View tab. Find the option to Show hidden files and folders and check it. Find Hide protected operating system files and uncheck it (Vista will gripe). Now you can navigate to the actual location, which is twofold: C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Cookies and C:\Users\username\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Cookies\Low.

If you like, you can put shortcuts to these on the desktop or elsewhere—just right-drag the folder, let go, and choose Create shortcut(s) here. These shortcuts will work even if you change the Windows Explorer options described above back to their default values.

Windows Essentials Codec Pack

Play any media file you can find with this add-in to your media player.

If you've ever come across a media file that wouldn't play in your media player, this freebie is the answer to your needs. It installs the codecs--short for coders-decoders--that your media player needs in order to play back many different kinds of media.

This isn't actually a standalone program. Instead, it gives your media player access to the codecs. So just install it, and you'll be able to view or listen to a wide variety of media files with your existing media player. And if you're not happy with your existing media player, it includes a copy of Media Player Classic, a simple, stripped-down media player that looks and works much like the first versions of Windows Media Player.

For the techies out there, here's the list of what it handles: Audio CDs, DVDs, (S)VCDs and XCDs on the fly, and it adds support for 3GP, AAC, AC3, APE, AVI, DivX, 3ivx, DAT, h.264, x264, AVC, Nero Digital, DTS, FLV, FLAC, HD-MOV, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, M4A, MPC, MP3, MP4, MO3, MOD, MKV/MKA, MTM, OFR, TTA, OGG/OGM, S3M, Vorbis, VOB, WavPack, ATRAC3, XviD, XM, WV, and UMX.

Monday, October 08, 2007


CloneGenius is an advanced disaster recovery and backup solution for your PC. Wizards guide you through creating an exact copy - or backup image - of your hard drive. CloneGenius also makes it easy to copy everything from your hard drive to a new hard drive when you upgrade the hardware in your computer. CloneGenius supports shrink on restore for FAT, FAT32, and NTFS.

And, it's free!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Vista's Flash for the Rest of Us

For eye candy, Vista’s funky Aero interface carries a high cost-hefty hardware requirements, not to mention the cost of the OS-but even XP users can press their faces to the window.

Friday, September 14, 2007

9 Great Downloads from the Editors at MSN Tech & Gadgets

12 Great Do-It-Yourself PC Projects

Fix Mom's PC From Your Home or Office

By Jon L. Jacobi, PC World

Here's how to repair another system using remote control software.

My family, scattered to the four winds, has a dangerous habit of blindly clicking through software installs and downloading all kinds of junk from the Internet. That's why I hear "The PC is acting funny" a lot. Not long ago an effective fix had to wait until my next visit, but now I can repair the damage anytime from my home or office using the free UltraVNC remote control software).

You can install and use UltraVNC in several different ways; in my experience, it's easiest for the person I'm helping if I run the remote viewer on my machine, and then send a simple applet to them via an e-mail attachment that they click to automate the link to my system.

To set up UltraVNC on your PC, install the application and select Run UltraVNC Viewer (Listen Mode) on the program's Start menu. If you have a router, you may have to open a port (the UltraVNC's default is 5500) to redirect traffic to your local computer. The method for doing this varies from router to router, so check your device?s documentation or the vendor Web site.

Locate your IP address

Next, customize the UltraVNC SC (for "single-click") server, which initiates the connection. Go to download custom.zip (look for the link about a third of the way down). Open the zipped file on your PC, and double-click helpdesk.txt to open that file. Replace both IP addresses ( under the [HOST] headings with the address assigned to you by your ISP. Leave everything but those four numbers unchanged. If you're routerless, visit www.whatismyipaddress.com and note the number shown there.

Most home IP addresses change from log-on to log-on (this arrangement is called dynamic IP addressing). If you need to create a static IP address, visit the free DynDNS service. You must run the service's utility to update its redirect table every time your local IP address changes? Without DynDNS, you'd have to re-edit and recompile the helpdesk.txt file every time you reloaded your Net connection.

Send them a panic button

Save the helpdesk.txt file back to the custom.zip archive. Next, browse to UltraVnc SC online creator, enter foo in the Userid field and foobar as the password, and click Browse to navigate to and select the custom.zip file. Click Upload, and it about 5 seconds you'll be told to download the custom.exe file that the remote user must click to connect to your machine. E-mail the custom.exe file (or whatever you rename it) to your family members, or post it on your Web site for them to download. When they follow the simple installation instructions that accompany it, you will see a dialog box on your screen informing you of an incoming connection. Accept it, and their Windows desktop appears in a window on your screen, ready for you to control. UltraVNC is free-but consider donating to help fund enhancements.

Monday, September 10, 2007

20 Open Source Windows Apps For You

Some of the commercial software like Photoshop are so expensive that an average user can not afford to buy it. Lately I am looking for some free or open source alternatives for windows programs and i was amazed with the range of programs available. Here i will list some of the open source or free programs as alternatives to windows commercial programs.

40+ Free Windows Apps For You

This post is the part 2 of my earlier post 20 Open Source Windows Apps For You, i got lot of feedback for that post and my readers suggested some excellent programs to be included in that list. So here i am listing all those programs which i have missed in my earlier post. Do check the earlier post for the complete software list.

The list is in random order. Most of these apps serve as alternatives to commercial windows apps.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Add Linux to Your Windows

If you want to take open source out for a trial run without ousting your current OS, these three steps will help you do just that.

Linux Installation Guide

Installation itself has also become far easier. On standalone systems—that is, those on which you want Linux to be the only OS—the installation process actually resembles that of Windows XP or Windows Vista, save that it's typically about twice as fast (or better).
Who links to me?