Computer Maintenance & Upkeep

"Ensuring Computer Security, Stability & Speed"

The Thinkening Blog

Articles about computers and other things.

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Time For That Solid State Drive Upgrade!

Posted on November 14, 2016 at 9:55 AM

I'd like to offer you a proposal for an upgrade to your laptop or desktop computer that will maximize its performance and make things run better than new!

 

If we have not already done this for you, or if you have other computers that have not yet been serviced:


We can replace the old hard drive (which stores your files, music, pictures, etc...) in your laptop or desktop computer with a new type of drive called a Solid State Drive (SSD).


Benefits of a new Solid State Drive (SSD): 

  • These SSDs have no moving parts in them, unlike the older tech in hard drives.
  • They use much less power, generate less heat, and run 10-15 times faster than the older hard drive tech.
  • SSDs generally have a much longer lifespan than older-style hard drives
  • The overall performance boost on even an older computer is just incredible!
  • The average boot-up time for a computer with a SSD is about 16 seconds (instead of between 1 minute and a hundred years on older hard drives :).
  • Everything you do on the computer is faster, from boot-up/shutdown, to opening programs, to transferring files, even browsing the Internet can be sped up (since the browser can work faster).

 

Normal price for this package: 

  • New 240GB SSD $70
  • Install Windows 10 or MacOS $120
  • Transfer files from old drive to new SSD $10
  • Install various programs, tweak the operating system, install all updates $FREE!
  • The total cost for this package is $200, which is already less than the cost of a new computer.

 

However, I'd like to offer you a special November/December deal for a $25 discount on this package, which brings the price to $175.

 

The end result is a computer that will run better than it did even when it was brand new. Please let me know if you'd like to take advantage of this upgrade with its special November/December price. This offer expires on January 1st, 2017, so don't miss out!

How Can You Keep Your Computer Safe?

Posted on July 22, 2016 at 3:45 AM

What can you and I do to keep our computers safe from viruses, adware, and spyware? The first thing that comes to many people's mind is a good antivirus.


Sadly, there is no antivirus that can keep out ALL infections. A lot of it has to do with the user's own actions, such as not downloading email attachments, not downloading free software off the Internet, avoiding questionable websites, and other such cautious actions. These actions make up what are known as 'safe browsing habits'.


I've used Microsoft Security Essentials (now called Windows Defender) for years, and due to my safe browsing habits, I have not had a virus on any of my computers for years. This is despite that fact that I regularly download and test various software and visit many more websites than the average computer user, since I make sure my test software is from trusted sources, and I know how to identify websites to avoid. If I get an email that looks even slightly suspicious, I refuse to open it or click on its attachments or links.


I know it's not pleasant to hear, but antivirus really is the second line of online security defense, falling in line after our own awareness of and adherence to good online safety habits.


Here are a few more tips to keep in mind:


-Using webmail instead of Microsoft Outlook or another email client is a good step for security, as it keeps email off your machine, and makes it stay in the cloud where it belongs.


-Using browsers other than Internet Explorer or Microsoft's new Edge browser is also another good step, since Google Chrome, for example, is not built into Windows. These third-party browsers (Chrome or Firefox) get updates way more often than MS's own browsers.


-Use Adblock Plus! (or another good adblocker) A huge source of infections comes from people clicking on ads that are designed to mislead you into thinking your computer is infected and needs to be cleaned. These ads are always false, and always end up actually infecting your computer rather than helping. Adblock Plus prevents all ads from showing, including these terrible, scammy, lying ads that trick people.

Adblock Plus for Chrome: https://goo.gl/Cb85G

Adblock Plus for Firefox: https://goo.gl/0RrQ9


-Be aware of the 'syntax' of fraudulent emails. Even if an email appears to come from someone you know, there are things to look out for. If the email has only a few words of generic greeting and then a link to click, that's a bad sign. If it has an attachement with little to no explanatory text, that's no good. Any claims that your friend is in another country and got mugged or lost and needs you to wire money, that's a no-no. Pretty much anything out of the ordinary can be cleared up with a phone call to the supposed sender first, then delete the email.


-Phone calls claiming to be from Microsoft or a computer security company are ALWAYS scams! WITHOUT EXCEPTION! Do not allow them to access your computer; do not believe their claims that your computer is infected. Read more about these scams here.


CONTACT ME if you'd like to find out more about securing your computer or dealing with problems that have already come up.

Additional Techy-Type Benefits of Google's Project Fi Smartphone Cell Service

Posted on May 4, 2016 at 7:55 PM

Here is more info about the other features and benefits of Google's Project Fi:

 

---Project Fi provides automatic access to a huge number of known, reliable, safe open WiFi networks all around the country. If you go into a Starbucks or an airport for example, your phone will connect to the WiFi on its own. Your Internet usage while you're on that WiFi connection will not count against your paid Project Fi data allowance.

 

In addition, all your smartphone Internet activity while on that WiFi network will be encrypted and routed through a secure Google server, thus eliminating the dangers associated with using a public WiFi hotspot.

 

You will see a little key icon in the notification area at the top of your phone whenever it connects to one of these public hotspots, so you'll always know when that is happening.

 

--- Once your service is active, you can request an additional data-only SIM card for certain tablets, allowing you to use your data on that device as well. There is no extra cost for the additional SIM card.

 

--- If you use your Project Fi phone outside the US (within a list of over 120 countries), data usage will cost the exact same price as it does here.

 

--- Another great benefit is the ability to make and receive calls/texts for free from your computer using Hangouts, which is Google's chat service. Go to https://hangouts.google.com/ to see how that works.

 

--- You can also install the Hangouts chat app and Hangouts dialer app on any smartphone or tablet and make and receive calls/texts on that device as well, even if it has no cell service.

 

--- In addition, you can use the Project Fi app or website to manage your account. It's a quick and easy way to see your call/text history, manage your billing, see your data usage, contact Project Fi Support, and a few other things.

 

--- Finally, you can use the Project Fi app or website to add additional phone numbers that will ring when someone calls your Project Fi number. So you can have your office phone, home phone, and smartphone ring when someone calls, and you decide which phone to answer on.

 

There are more features coming as the Project Fi service matures (it's only 1 year old!), so stay tuned at https://fi.google.com/about/experience/ to keep up!

Save Money With Google's New Smartphone Service

Posted on May 4, 2016 at 7:50 PM

There is a new smartphone cell service called Project Fi. It's an alternative to the overly-expensive, confusing cellphone services that we all know and love. ;) Here's a quick breakdown of how it works:

 

1. Buy one of the Android phones that works with Project Fi from Google, and buy screen protector/case/other accessories on Amazon

 

2. Port your current cell phone number over to the service once the phone is delivered

 

3. Pay $20 plus tax per month for unlimited texting and calling using T-Mobile and Sprint cell phone towers (WiFi calling is included, so you get service everywhere you get WiFi!)

 

4. Pay $10 per month for each gigabyte of data you use

 

5. Receive a credit on your next bill for the amount of each gigabyte you paid for that you did not use

For example, pay $10 for a gigabyte of data, but if you only use half a gigabyte, you get a $5 credit on your next bill!

 

What does this mean for you?

 

Most people pay around $60 to $100 per month per smartphone. With Project Fi, you can cut that price down to $35 or less per line, depending on how much data you use. (My current Project Fi bill is about $23 per month since I'm super careful about how much data I use when I'm not on WiFi)

 

6. That's pretty much it! There are actually several other techy-type benefits that come with the service, let me know if you're interested in finding out more.

 

You can check out all the details yourself at https://fi.google.com

 

I would be happy to help you get set up initially and activate service once the phone is delivered. Contact me if you have questions.

IMPORTANT: Avoid Computer Phone Scams

Posted on October 23, 2015 at 2:50 AM

Many people have recently informed me that they have been contacted over the phone (or on a website popup) by someone claiming to be from Microsoft or a computer security company. If you ever receive this type of call, here is what to look out for:

 

  • The caller uses urgent wording and claims that your computer is infected or some other problem has occurred.
  • The caller asks that you allow them to remote-control your computer, at which point they access certain normal systems in the computer and claim that what you are seeing represents a serious problem that only they can fix.
  • The caller claims to be able to fix your computer, but only if you pay them $$$ or give them your credit card number. 


​There are also websites that will pop up a false warning saying that your computer is infected and that you should call the phone number displayed. The person who answers then proceeds to follow basically the same format as the three points above.

 

​It is very important to note:

 

  • ​​MICROSOFT WILL​ NEVER​ ​CALL​​ YOU WITH THIS TYPE OF MESSAGE
  • ​​NO COMPUTER SECURITY COMPANY WILL​ EVER​ ​CALL​​ YOU WITH THIS TYPE OF MESSAGE​
  • Anyone calling you who claims to be with a company that has detected that your computer is infected is a scammer​.​
  • ​​Any​ pop-ups on your computer that ​ask you to call a phone number to resolve problems with viruses or other security issues are scams.

 

​If you receive one of these calls, do not listen to what the caller has to say, tell them you know what they're up to, and hang up immediately.

 

​​Please spread the word by forwarding this on to others who could benefit from this message.​​

 

​If you have any questions about this issue, please CONTACT ME and we can make sure your computer is secure.

WINDOWS 10 COMES OUT TOMORROW! (July 29th, 2015)

Posted on July 28, 2015 at 3:20 PM

Tomorrow is a big day in the world of computer operating systems (exciting, I know)! Microsoft will release its first-ever FREE upgrade to the newest version of Windows, called Windows 10. This will be available for computers running Windows 7 and 8.1. I have been testing it on various computers since October 2014, and it is pretty nice, with new features that Windows has never had before and excellent performance.

 

If you have already reserved your free Windows 10 upgrade, you will be prompted in the next few days (maybe even tomorrow!) to install the upgrade after it downloads to your computer. You can reserve your free upgrade using the 'Windows 10 Upgrade Reservation Tool' in the notification area of your computer, as seen here:



 

Those who use their computers for work may want to hold off, since the free upgrade will be available for a whole year. That will allow time for Microsoft and program developers to ensure that bugs are fixed and compatibility is maximized.

 

Please let me know if you have questions or if you'd like some help with the upgrade process. Happy computing, and have a great day!


Windows 10 Upgrade Reservation Time!

Posted on July 27, 2015 at 7:55 AM

If you see a little Windows icon show up in your notification area, it is legitimate! Windows 10 WILL BE A FREE UPGRADE!

 

Microsoft added this little "Windows 10 upgrade reservation" tool through a recent Windows update. It will allow you to confirm if you want to download and install Windows 10 when it is released on July 29.

 

If you are not comfortable letting the computer upgrade automatically, you can just ignore it and I'd be happy to help you through the upgrade process. The Windows 10 upgrade will be free for the first year, so we have plenty of time to let them iron out the wrinkles and do the upgrade later.



The Windows 10 Upgrade Reservation utility can be accessed by clicking the Windows 10 icon as seen above.

Increase Your Computer's Operating Speed With One Easy Upgrade!

Posted on July 27, 2015 at 7:50 AM

The hard drive disk (HDD) that stores your programs, documents, music, & photos in your laptop or desktop computer is a mechanical device with many moving parts. Inside your HDD are spinning platters that look like silver CDs, and a little arm that moves back and forth like the arm on a record player. This means that it takes time for the computer to physically look up the millions of bits of data that it needs to run throughout the day.

 

A NEW type of drive called a solid state drive (SSD) has no moving parts at all. SSDs store your data on memory chips, sort of like what are in USB drives or the SD card that goes in a digital camera, so the computer can find the data it needs nearly instantaneously!

 

Replacing your HDD with an SSD can improve your computer's operating speed up to 10 or 15 times! Some computers even qualify for a hard drive 'clone', which means all your programs and data are exactly the same after the upgrade, only everything runs WAY faster!

Windows 8.1 Update, 4/12/14

Posted on April 12, 2014 at 6:45 PM

Windows 8 User?

 

Today's Windows 8.1 Update release brings some nice new features to Windows 8. Here's a list of the update's features along with explanations of how to use them:

 

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/whats-new

 

Windows 8 is becoming more like Windows 7, and that's a good thing! Please CONTACT ME if you have any questions or concerns.

Print From Your Mobile Device To Your Printer!

Posted on September 1, 2013 at 5:40 PM

 

Using Google Cloud Print (http://goo.gl/Mm1eT), it is possible to connect your printer to the Internet and print to it from your smartphone or tablet. This will enable you to print photos or documents FROM anywhere you have an Internet connection TO your home or office printer!

 

To use Google Cloud Print, you will need to have Google Chrome on your home or office computer that is connected to your printer. A few settings tweaks will connect your printer to the Internet: http://goo.gl/Nxazjg

 

You will also need an Android phone or tablet, or an iOS device like an iPhone or iPad. Install the Cloud Print app on your Android device or the PrintCentral Pro app on your iOS device and it will allow you to connect to your printer.

 

You can even print from a remote computer (like at a relative's house) by logging into your Cloud Print account and sending a photo or document to it from anywhere in the world!

 

Please CONTACT ME if you'd like some help getting this set up. It could serve a very useful purpose to those running a business or anyone else who would like to print from their mobile devices!

Advertise In Style! For (Almost) Free!

Posted on July 21, 2013 at 2:05 AM

Today I'd like to let you know about a way to advertise that really works using Craigslist. This is something I've done myself for years, and practically built my whole business from it.

 

Please see the attached photo, showing one of my interactive Craigslist ads next to a typical, plain-text ad (often with typos or poor grammar) from a competitor.

 

Please note: My Craigslist ad looks more like a website than a boring paragraph of text. My ad has buttons that can be clicked on that direct to different pages of my own website. The main portion of the ad is itself a big button leading directly to my website! (See my ads in action by CLICKING HERE)

 

All of this is done using simple HTML, free image hosting, and the Craigslist ad-posting service, which is completely free!

 

If you would like me to help you set up a similar ad for your business, please let me know and we can get that taken care of. It's usually around 2 or 3 hours of setup time ($80- $120), but after that you can post the ad yourself a few times per week from then on for no charge whatsoever.

 

CONTACT ME and let me know what you think. Have a great day, talk to you later!



Windows 7 & Windows XP Alert

Posted on April 15, 2013 at 7:35 AM

This article contains a few different items of importance.


1. In order to increase my availability in case of computer problems, I have made a Skype account that you can use to contact me.

 

If you have Skype already, you can click the 'Add a contact' button and search for me under the username of compmaint.

 

If you do not have Skype, it is available for free from their website HERE. Please let me know if you'd like some help setting it up.

 

2. If your computer has Windows 7 on it:

 

I wanted to make sure you are aware of an upcoming date of note. On April 9, 2013 you must have Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) installed to continue to receive security updates and vital system patches. For more info click HERE.


You can check to see if your system already has SP1 as follows:


   1. Click on the Start orb


   2. Right-click Computer and select Properties




A window will open with details on your computer. Below where it says Windows 7, it should say Service Pack 1.



 

If you don't see the words Service Pack 1 then you need to run Windows Update. There is a link for Windows Update on the lower left of that window to get you started.


3. If you are still running Windows XP, you have just over a year before all support is ended, regardless of the Service Pack the computer has installed. If you would like to see about upgrading to a new computer with a faster, more secure operating system, I'll be glad to discuss upgrade options with you.


As always I am available to help if you run into trouble or if your computer could use a tune up. Please CONTACT ME if you have any questions or if you would like some computer service.

Warning: Avoid Computer-Related Phone Scams

Posted on March 8, 2013 at 3:15 PM

There is an increasing threat in the world of computer scams that all should be aware of: Some individuals have informed me that they have been contacted over the phone by someone claiming to be from Microsoft or a computer security company. If you ever receive this type of call, here is what to look out for:  

  • The caller uses urgent wording and claims that your computer is infected.
  • The caller asks you to allow them to remote-control your computer, at which point they proceed to access your private data or install fake antivirus software (which is itself a virus).
  • The fake software pretends to scan your computer, showing a huge number of false alerts.
  • The caller or the software claims to be able to fix your computer, but only if you pay them $$ or give them your credit card number.
  • Here is a Youtube video with a few more details: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4z6mU-xblE


It is very important to note: 

  • NEITHER MICROSOFT NOR ANY COMPUTER SECURITY COMPANY WILL EVER CALL YOU UNSOLICITED WITH THIS TYPE OF MESSAGE 
  • Anyone calling you who claims to be with a company that has detected that your computer is infected is a scammer.
  • Any programs on your computer, other than your known security software, that claim to have found huge numbers of infections, are scams.


The basic fact of the matter is that no company has any way to monitor what YOUR computer is doing specifically, and anyone claiming otherwise should not be trusted. ANYONE who claims to know what's going on with your computer is not telling the truth.


This is a rising problem in the computer world, but it can be avoided, and any damage caused by these types of scams can be fixed. If you have any questions about this matter, please contact me and we can see about getting your computer secured.

How To Get Free Home Phone Service

Posted on March 6, 2013 at 5:00 PM

As computer technology advances on, the old ways of doing certain things become increasingly inefficient, overly costly, or both. This is especially true of home phone service. With Internet access becoming more ubiquitous, it is possible to have ultra-inexpensive, high-quality home phone service without having to rely on the phone companies.


There is now a way to connect a regular home phone to your Internet router and use it to make free phone calls in the U.S. and Canada over the Internet. This is done using a device (LINK) that connects to a free Google Voice account through your router, and it also connects to a regular home phone in your house.

 

The idea behind this device is similar to Magic Jack (LINK), but in this case, there is no recurring annual fee for now. The device itself is a one-time purchase, cheaper than a Magic Jack, and Google Voice does not charge for its service during 2013. There may be a fee to use Google Voice next year or the year after, but it is almost certain to be far less than what you would pay for a single month of regular land line phone service, and probably will be less than the annual Magic Jack service charge. Like other Internet calling services, this device cannot be relied on to make emergency calls, but if you have a cell phone, you can use that to dial 911.

 

Included with the service: 

  • Caller ID (phone number only)
  • Choose a local number for free, or:
  • Port your cell phone number over for a fee
  • Voicemail
  • Call forwarding
  • Incoming call recording
  • Voicemail transcription
  • Online access to manage your services (both with Google Voice and the Obi device)
  • Both cell phone and home phone can ring at the same time, you decide which one to pick up
  • Google Voice provides unlimited free calling for 2013, possibly beyond
  • The device even allows you to connect a second Google Voice number so that you can receive calls on two different numbers! 

 

I have been using this service with two different home phone systems for a year now, and here is what I have experienced: 

  • Crystal clear call quality
  • Simple setup process
  • Fast shipping of the device itself from Amazon
  • Once set up, it is indistinguishable from regular land line home phone service 

 

If you are interested in this service or if you would like more information, please contact me and we can discuss the options available to you.


Paying for home phone service is soon going to be a thing of the past. Using the method outlined here, you can get a jumpstart on ditching your monthly home phone bill!

Computer Security Issues: Rogue Antivirus

Posted on March 4, 2013 at 2:25 PM

During the past several months, I've encountered a large number of computers that have been infected with a particularly unpleasant type of computer virus. This kind of infection is called a 'rogue anti-virus'. It takes on many forms, and you may have already seen something like this show up on your computer. I'm sending this message to let you know what to look out for and what to do in the event that your computer succumbs to one of these things.

 

These rogue anti-viruses are disguised to look like legitimate security products, sometimes even copying the look of the Windows Security Center. They go by many names, such as 'Antivirus 2013' (or 2012 or 2011 etc...), 'Vista Antivirus', 'MS Removal Tool' and so on. A variation of this displays a message claiming to be from the FBI, and does not let you use your computer at all until it is dealt with.

 

A rogue anti-virus displays one or more windows on your computer. It pretends to scan your system, and it claims to find an alarming number of serious infections. It may stop all your programs from running, claiming each one is a virus and wants to steal your information. These insidious computer infections then offer to fix all the errors they claim to have found, if only you will provide your credit card number (big red flag right there!).

 

For now, rogue anti-viruses don't seem to be programmed to mess up your computer or steal your personal files. They want your credit card number, and if you give it to them, they simply take your money without actually fixing anything. You cannot use your computer until the infection has been removed, but once it is removed, you can continue using your computer as before.

 

Here are some signs to look out for if you think you may be a victim of this type of thing:

 

  • What looks like a security program claims to have found an unusually large number of serious infections
  • Many large bolded words with lots of exclamation points and threatening wording
  • The wording of the text on the program uses poor grammar and seems unprofessional
  • You don't recognize the name of the so-called security program (such as it doesn't match your known anti-virus program like Avira Antivir, Microsoft Security Essentials, etc...)
  • You've never seen this kind of behavior from your computer before
  • You are completely blocked from running programs you are familiar with and have used many times before


If you see something like this show up on your machine, follow these steps for best results:

  • DO NOT under any circumstances give them your credit card number
  • TURN OFF THE COMPUTER IMMEDIATELY
  • Contact me at 719-623-5196 to set up an appointment to get it repaired (the sooner, the better)
  • Relax and do not worry about losing your precious photos and documents (to date, no one I have assisted who has had one of these on their computer has lost any personal data)


These rogue antivirus infections can be dealt with, and they can be repaired. If you see any of the above warning signs, do no panic, contact me and we can get your computer fixed!

E-mail Etiquette: An Essential Guide

Posted on August 29, 2011 at 9:55 PM

What would the Internet be without e-mail? It's a fast, efficient method of communication. It entertains us and helps us keep in touch with family, friends and others. However, when using e-mail to communicate, there are some unofficial etiquette guidelines that can make the experience more pleasant for the ones who read your messages.


These 'guidelines' are unofficial in the sense that e-mail is completely voluntary and there is no way to really enforce them. It is up to each of us to take responsibility for our good manners when using e-mail and other forms of online electronic communication.

___________________________

E-mail Etiquette Guidelines


1. Do not type in all capital letters. This makes your message difficult to read due to the loss of word-shape recognition.


In addition, using all caps is viewed in the online community as the written equivalent of yelling. It can come across as pushy or angry, and dilute the original intent of your e-mail.


2. When sending an e-mail to multiple people, use the Bcc: field. This will keep your recipients from seeing the addresses of the others you sent the message to. This protects the privacy of all involved and also prevents annoying and potentially embarrassing 'Reply to all' incidents.


Along the same lines, when sending a forward, go through the body of the forwarded message and delete out all the header info that shows the e-mail addresses of those who previously received that message.


3. Speaking of forwards, DON'T! Of course, you may have a few friends or family who don't mind forwards, but avoid the habit of sending on messages to everyone in your contact list indiscriminately.


Usually, it is best to ask each person if they want to receive forwards. If someone requests you stop sending them forwards, don't be offended. It's nothing personal. Some people view e-mail as a tool, not a distraction, and don't choose to use their time looking at things that have been forwarded to them.


In addition, many forwards are misleading, factually incorrect, outright scams, or so old that anyone who's had Internet access for more than a year or so has already seen whatever is in that e-mail and most likely no longer finds it amusing.


4. Do not request confirmation of receipt. There are some cases, such as in business, where receipt confirmation may be appropriate, but in such cases, this should be an automatic procedure that is initiated when someone opens your message.


Often though, e-mail is viewed as a quick, informal communication method. Sending a confirmation, even just one word, can be viewed as highly inconvenient. Trust that the e-mail system works, and that your message got through. Besides that, if I confirm receipt of your message, how do I know you got my confirmation, unless you confirm receipt of my confirmation? This is a potentially never-ending annoyance that also has a hint of micro-managing thrown in, so it is best to avoid this little trap.


5. Don't use text-speak. OMG and LOL may debatably have their place in cell phone texting, but that kind of thing really doesn't belong in an e-mail. Not everyone knows what each abbreviation means, and this is further complicated when individuals make up their own little acronyms.


Abbreviating curse words is also no good. It has the same effect as using the actual word, and should be avoided as a general rule. There's already enough coarseness in daily life, why impose more of it on people you are sending e-mails to?


6. It's good to use an e-mail signature, so that all your messages are ended the same way. It saves you time and can impart a bit of professionalism even to your everyday correspondences.


Using crazy fonts, bright colors, animations, or long-winded witticisms in your signature? Not so good. It may feel like a way to express individuality, but the end result is that it makes messages look messy and less professional. Most people selectively ignore such things anyway, so keeping it short and simple usually works to best effect.


7. Literacy is under assault! Don't contribute to the trend by using sloppy grammar, spelling and punctuation. Even if it's not your strong suit, use the spell check, and read over what you type before hitting the Send button. Aim for clarity and readability when writing an e-mail, and your messages will have greater impact.


It might be tempting to come up with your own style (such as using question marks at the end of all sentences, or putting commas in places they don't belong), or type in a way that makes sense to you but isn't technically correct. This can create real difficulties for others trying to read what you type. Stick to the rules you learned in school and your messages will come across as more competent and professional.


8. Do not use the font called Comic Sans. Ever. For anything.

___________________________

These guidelines are just a start to proper e-mail etiquette, but putting these into practice can have a great effect on the quality of your messages. People are more likely to read what you send them if you are known for being a considerate e-mailer. You can even encourage others to do better in these areas when using these tips yourself.


So, enjoy the gift of e-mail. Use it wisely, and will it serve you well.

Some of My Favorite Android Apps

Posted on June 7, 2011 at 11:48 AM

As an Android user, I have been experimenting with different apps to find what works for me and to find new functions I didn't even know I needed. This list highlights some of the apps that I use regularly and find very useful.


Cop Recorder

This app allows you to record the audio around you. When you open it and tap the 'Record Now' button, it closes and simply begins recording. Open the app again to stop recording, and it will save the audio file to your SD card. This comes in handy whenever you'd like to have a record of what was said in any particular situation.




Screen Shot (Requires Root)

I used the 'Shake the phone' feature to screenshot all the apps for this article. Includes some nice options for image quality.




Record My Call

Automatically records outgoing and incoming, then offers you a chance to review the call immediately afterward. You can email the recording or save it for future reference. Great for calls to customer service numbers!




Call Control

Allows you to block all calls from any number, and comes with a pre-set blacklist of known spammers.




SD-Booster

For some reason, the default cache size for SD card read/write is set very low on Andoid phones. This app allows you to up that cache size and dramatically increase the speed with which your device loads images, music, video and apps stored on there.




Wifi Analyzer

Essential for anyone serious about setting up home wifi networks! This one shows you if the channel your router is using is crowded so you can change it and it lets you see how strong the signal is in different parts of the house.




Photobucket

My main use for this app is the auto-upload feature. Take a photo or video, and it's on Photobucket within seconds. Great for saving time, and potentially will work as a security feature if the phone is lost or stolen.




This list represents only a few of the many apps I find useful. Let me know which you like from my list, and which you like that aren't on this list!

Don't Install Toolbar When Updating to Foxit Reader 5

Posted on May 27, 2011 at 4:25 PM

The venerable Foxit PDF Reader has updated to version 5! It sports a new interface and updated looks. Depending on where you download the new version from, it also sports a force-fed toolbar that can be considered intrusive and unneccessary.


If you download the installation package from CNet, as you proceed through the installation process, you come to a window that asks if you'd like to make Ask the default search provider. It also asks if you'd like to set Ask's website as the homepage. These boxes are pre-checked, and this alone is obnoxious enough, but there's more!


The option to install the toolbar isn't actually an option! You're told that if you click the 'Next' button, you agree to install the PDF Creator Toolbar powered by Ask. If you click the 'Cancel' button, it cancels the installation of Foxit Reader altogether. So you either install the toolbar or you don't install anything with this particular software package. Here is what that window looks like:



There is hope though!


Here's how to get the new version of Foxit PDF Reader without the toolbar:


Download the install package from Softpedia instead: CLICK HERE


If the link above doesn't work, you can download the package directly from Dropbox: CLICK HERE


This install package will allow you to upgrade to the Foxit PDF Reader without having to install the toolbar, and without asking to change your search provider and your homepage. This is a much friendlier version of the install package and more respectful of the individual user's wishes.

 

*Note: Downloading and installing the program directly from Foxit's website will give you an installer that has three checkboxes, one of which allows you to opt out of the toolbar: CLICK HERE


As a side note, one reason I choose Foxit PDF Reader over Adobe's reader is because it seems like Adobe likes to update every couple of days. Foxit PDF Reader is set to check for updates once a week by default, but that behavior can be changed.


Simply click the 'Tools' menu, then click 'Preferences'. You'll see a list of options on the left-hand side of the 'Preferences' menu. Click 'Updater' at the bottom of that list, and choose the option that says 'Do not update automatically'. Here is a screen shot showing what that looks like:



The above settings changes should alleviate some of the annoyances with the new version of the excellent alternative PDF reader. Please let me know if you have any questions on any of the above information in the comments, or by contacting me.

Google Desktop Dual Monitor Issue Solved!

Posted on November 26, 2009 at 12:33 AM

One of the great upgrades you can make to your computer system is adding a second monitor.

Having two monitors allows for increased visibility of content and makes using multiple programs

simultaneously a breeze.


I have been using two different monitors for about a year now, and although they are different sizes and use different resolutions, I would never purposely choose to go back to using a single screen. My main monitor is an Acer AL2216W 22” wide-screen, and the secondary one is an HP vs17e 17” full-screen.


This setup is great and has worked well the whole time I've had the second monitor. The only real

issue I've ever encountered involves Google Desktop.


Now, I really like using a sidebar with gadgets, but the built-in Vista sidebar just didn't offer the functionality I was looking for. With Windows 7, the new free-floating gadgets seems to me to be a step backward. They were constantly either hidden behind whatever windows were showing on the secondary screen or blocking content on those same windows whenever I made those gadgets stay on top. Very annoying!


With all my screen real estate, I am happy to dedicate a few inches on the right side of the secondary monitor to display the time, calendar, weather, Gmail inbox and some other instant messenger-related gadgets. The problem I ran into, however, is that the Google Desktop sidebar would disappear whenever I maximized any window on the primary monitor and put the focus on that window. Strangely though, I could restore the window down and resize it a bit, and the Google sidebar would reappear.


I tried searching online for anything to fix this problem, and no one else seemed to have a solution.

There were a few articles about this issue that offered solutions like uninstalling and switching primary monitors, but none of these fixed the problem I was suffering with.


Because of this problem, I had to quit using Google Desktop and use the less-well-endowed Vista

sidebar and then the even-more-less-useful Windows 7 gadgets.


At some point, I realized that whenever I resized the offending window so that it was shorter than the sidebar, the sidebar would reappear. That got me thinking: what if I change the resolution on the primary monitor so that it's shorter than that of the secondary? Even though it's a larger monitor, I would benefit by having everything onscreen enlarged and possibly fix the issue with the Google Desktop sidebar.


I was determined to find out.


Here is what the primary and secondary monitor settings were originally:




Here is what I adjusted the primary monitor to:




After doing this adjustment, I turned off the Windows 7 gadgets and installed Google Desktop. I

pushed it over to the second monitor, maximized my Firefox, and lo and behold! It worked! Now I

could use my preferred sidebar manager and see it at all times, whether I had screens maximized or full-screen videos playing or whatever.


So, if you are experiencing this same issue, try changing your primary monitor so it's shorter than the secondary and see if it fixes the error. You may not be able to see as much on the primary, but being able to use your sidebar program of choice may well be worth it.

Windows 7 Startup & Shutdown Times

Posted on November 5, 2009 at 11:51 PM

It's been a week or so since installing Windows 7 on my desktop computer. I have all the software that I need for now, and have about eight programs starting up with the system. These programs are:


Live Messenger

Avira Antivir

Intellitype

Slickrun

Google Talk

MagicJack

Sidebar Gadgets (Comes with Win7)

Bitmeter 2


As mentioned before, here are the system specs:


Acer Aspire Desktop

AMD Athlon 64 x2 3600+ 2Ghz

4GB of DDR2 RAM

Main Hard Drive= 250GB Hitachi SATA

GeForce 7300 GT Video Card

Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit, Clean Install


When starting the computer, it takes about one minute before the desktop appears, and a few more seconds beyond that for the computer to be usable. Below is a video of the startup and shutdown process.


You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.


 


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