Computer Maintenance & Upkeep

"Ensuring Computer Security, Stability & Speed"

The Thinkening Blog

Articles about computers and other things.

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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



Google Talk


Sidebar Gadgets (Comes with Win7)

Bitmeter 2

As mentioned before, here are the system specs:

Acer Aspire Desktop

AMD Athlon 64 x2 3600+ 2Ghz


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.

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Windows 7 Upgrade Complete!

Posted on October 28, 2009 at 5:59 PM

Well, the time has come to upgrade! I recieved my copy of Windows 7 Home Premium the other day from, and I wasted no time in getting the thing installed. Here is my experience with upgrading to the much-praised Microsoft Windows 7.

Computer Specs

First, some details: The computer I'm using is an Acer Aspire desktop with an AMD Athlon 64 x2 3600+ 2Ghz, so it's not exactly a powerhouse. It has 4GB of DDR2 RAM. The main hard drive is a 250GB Hitachi SATA drive and is partitioned into the C: drive (113GB) and the E: drive (112GB). Video is handled by a GeForce 7300 GT card. I use a wired (ethernet) Internet connection with 8Mbps cable Internet from Comcast.

My computer's specs.

The Installation

Now on to the fun stuff: I chose to do a clean install and went with the 64-bit version of Win7. Since I was running Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit previously, I could have done the in-place upgrade with the 32-bit installation DVD that was included. Instead, I chose to do a clean install with the 64-bit DVD so I could get a feel for how it works as a fresh setup, and dive into the whole 64-bit experience as well.

The actual installation steps were pretty straightforward. Choose your time zone, name the computer, wait, wait a little bit more, then wait again. It actually didn't take very long when compared to installing Windows Vista. I started the install process at 6PM, and my desktop was up and usable at 6:34PM. Windows 7 then downloaded 14 updates for itself, which took another six minutes. I was now free to give it a try.

The Results

So far, so good! No crashes, very fast response times for pretty much every system operation, and that new taskbar is so much better than previous incarnations! I spent the next hour reinstalling my programs and trying out the new features like Desktop Peek, slideshow wallpaper and all the little tricks you can do with the taskbar icons.

Win7's taskbar.

After an hour break, I continued installing all my software, and by 9pm, I was pretty much done with that part of it. There are still a few little settings to change in some programs, but the system is effectively set up the way I want it now. I have noticed a slight speed increase with most of the programs I installed, but it's the sytem tasks like Windows Explorer and system settings menus that really show the most improvement.

My installed programs.

Now that all the programs are installed, when I press the power button to turn the computer on, it takes 60 seconds for the desktop to show up, and about 37 seconds beyond that before the system is reasonably usable. This is maybe 10 or 15 seconds faster than I experienced with Vista. Shutting the computer down, though, is much faster. After telling it start shutting down, it only takes about 15 seconds before the power is completely off. With Vista, the shut-down process took about a minute or so.

Just for fun, I started every program on my computer at the same time and then tried using it to perform normal operations to see how well it ran. In case you can't read the CPU meter on the picture below, it's at a 53% load while the RAM is at 73%. Things ran a little jerkily at that point, but it was still as usable as ever. Not bad, Win7, not bad at all!

Glitches and Issues

Of course, changing to a new operating system, and going from 32-bit to 64 is bound to cause some problems. My printer drivers weren't 64-bit-compatible, as was true of a number of other programs. Except for my 8-year-old webcam, this was all solved by going to the manufacturer's websites and downloading the x64 versions of their drivers and software. Most of my old software works just fine in x86 mode, though I'm definitely going to be using the x64 versions of those as soon as they become available.

The main glitch affects Windows Media Player, which has always been my default media player. The one that came with Win7, WMP12, appears to be broken. Although I've pointed it to my music folders, it seems to be unable to load the library and display all my songs. I do have a playlist with all my music in it and this works fine, and my video library loaded correctly, but no music is showing in the music library. Of course, this same issue affects the new Media Center too. I'm sure some future update will solve this, but for now I will keep searching for a fix or an alternative.

*Update, 11/15/09 All of a sudden today, my Windows Media Player library contains all my music. I guess that update finally came along and did the trick!


Overall, I'm quite happy with the process of upgrading and the improvements made by the Microsoft team in this new version of Windows. It's faster than Vista by a noticeable amount. It's more user-friendly and attractive than Vista and definitely holds a huge advantage over XP in this regard. Windows 7 appears to me to be much more 'public-ready' than Vista was at its launch, which really helps to restore Microsoft's credibility to a large degree. Although I was never a Vista-hater, its shortcomings were readily apparent.

If you're thinking about taking the plunge with Windows 7, there are a lot of factors to consider, but you shouldn't be disappointed if you decide to go through with it.

Your Handwriting, Now In Font Form

Posted on October 26, 2009 at 12:39 PM

Every once in a while, you see something that makes you wonder, "Why isn't everyone doing this?" It might be something that simplifies life in an obvious way or it might be something that just makes sense.

In this case, enables you to do something that just makes sense and it does it well. Here are the steps:

1. The good folks at provide a printable template which you fill out in your own handwriting.

2. Once that's done, you scan the template back to your computer and upload it to their website during the easy step-by-step font creation process.

3. Finally, after a very short wait, they give you a preview of your new font and provide a download link to get the new font on your computer. All this is done for free!


Here is a sample of my finished font:


I can see many uses for a personalized handwriting font. For example, those of us who prefer to write letters on the computer and print them out to mail should find this to be very handy. It makes sense to use this kind of font if you keep some kind of daily journal or diary on the computer.

Keep in mind that this won't transfer well to other computers unless your handwriting font is installed there first, but for personalized printed items like letters and cards, this should do nicely.

Head on over to and give it a try. It only takes a few minutes, and the end product is a high-quality font done in your own handwriting for free!


How To Clean Your Keyboard Using the Dishwasher

Posted on October 26, 2009 at 3:15 AM

From time to time, I notice my keyboard. Now, of course I am aware of my keyboard and use it regularly while at the computer, but noticing the keyboard is different from day-to-day use. It's sort of like how you drive to work each day, but how much do you really look at, or 'notice', the buildings and sights along the route on the way to work?

So, from time to time, I notice my keyboard. Specifically, I notice the state of cleanliness, or lack thereof, that my keyboard displays. The tops of the keys develop a film of finger-junk over time. The spaces between the keys fill up with a weird, fuzzy matter that defies explanation. In short, the thing gets pretty dirty and kind of gross after a few months of use.

I had heard that one way to fix that is to put the thing in the dishwasher, and that is exactly what I did. Since the keyboard has delicate electronics inside it though, it does take a little bit of preparation to make the dishwasher method work:

Step 1: Take a nice, clear photo of the keyboard using the macro function on your digital camera. This will aid in putting the thing back together later, especially if your keyboard has a lot of extra function buttons.

Step 2: Use a plastic knife to gently pop off all the buttons, and place them into a net bag, like the type used to wash delicate clothing in the washing machine. Some of the buttons, like the spacebar and the shift keys, have little metal brackets inside that fit into clips, so be careful not to break them. On my keyboard (Microsoft Digital Media Pro), it has a few extra function buttons that don't come off, and a rocker switch that stays in place as well. These are fine to go into the dishwasher, since there are no electronics inside them.

Step 3: Flip the keyboard over and remove the screws that keep it all together. Remove the top plastic piece and rinse off the junk that's on it. This part will go in the dishwasher.

Step 4: Gently remove the rubber membrane from the tray and shake it out. This can go into the dishwasher or be washed by hand. I put this on the top rack in the dishwasher and leave it at that. It may be a little too delicate for high-powered jet sprays though, so know your dishwasher.

Step 5: Place the large upper plastic piece into the space in your dishwasher where plates normally go. Put the net bag with the keyboard keys and the rubber membrane on the top rack. Use just a very small amount of soap, and set the dishwasher to use the light load cycle, and turn the thing on!

Step 6: I've found that it's best to NOT use the dishwasher's dryer, as the heat can warp the plastic. After the wash cycle is over, lay out some paper towels and arrange the keys facing up so the water falls out of the bottom of them. The large plastic piece of the keyboard can be stood on its side and it should dry fairly quickly like that. I use a paper towel to dry the rubber membrane off, then lay it out flat on the counter until everything else is dry.

Step 7: Give the keys a few hours to air dry, and then put the membrane back on the keyboard, screw the large plastic piece back into place, and use the photo you took of your keyboard to help you put it all back together.

Doing this every few months will keep your keyboard looking like new and make it less gross for those times when you 'notice' your keyboard.

The Hairy Toothbrush

Posted on June 12, 2008 at 1:21 PM
How do you react when you find a foreign object, like a hair or bit of packaging, in your food at a restaurant? It's pretty disturbing and gross, but it's understandable, as we all know that the food was just prepared by a real person and brought to you in a live environment.

I had an experience today that was a little different from that. My toothbrush  needed to be replaced, so I pulled a new one out from the cupboard and started
using it yesterday. It wasn't until today, however, that I noticed that something was a little... different... with my new toothbrush.

As I was blissfully brushing away this morning, I saw something out of the corner of my eye, moving as
I moved the toothbrush. Looking down, I saw that there was a hair stuck to the handle of the toothbrush.

"No problem", thought I. "I'll just reach over here and remove that offending hair."

That hair, however, wouldn't move. It was really stuck on there. Upon closer inspection, I

Well, it might not have needed such emphatic capital letters, but it was pretty funny. And
gross. This dollar store-variety toothbrush had a one-and-a-half-inch  long human hair embedded into the rubber from when it was made at the factory in China.

What a discovery! There's not a whole lot more to say about it, so following are clickable
thumbnail photos of the toothbrush and closeups of the hair.


Make Your Own Free Ringtones For Verizon LG VX8300 and LG VX5400

Posted on June 1, 2008 at 11:43 PM

New cell phones don't have good ringtones. It's a sad fact of life for those of us who like to personalize our ringers, and a clever sales tactic on the part of the cell phone manufacturers and service providers who offer these phones. If the ringtones that come with your new phone are obnoxious and annoying, they figure, we'll rush out as soon as possible to buy other ringtones at ridiculous rates ($2.99 for a 30-second clip of a song we could buy in full for $.99?!).

Happily, I found a way to create custom ringtones on the computer and send them to a Verizon LG VX8300 or LG VX5400 phone. The process is slightly technical, but anyone with a good basic understanding of Windows software should be able to do it.

This project requires:

1. The free audio editor program Audacity, which can be downloaded here.

2. Any audio file you'd like to turn into a ringtone, whether it be a song, sound bite or sound effect.

3. You'll need a copy of LAME.dll for encoding MP3 files, which can be downloaded here.

Before You Begin

The ringtones you create should be no longer than 30 seconds. With Verizon's default settings, incoming calls will ring for about that long before going to voice mail, so anything past the 30 second mark will never be heard. Additionally, in order to get the new ringtone onto your phone, you will email it as a picture message. The maximum file size that Verizon allows for the LG VX8300 seems to be limited to 250KB, and 500KB for the VX5400, so keeping your ringtone short will aid in meeting that size requirement.

The Process

To create the ringtone, open the audio file of your choice with Audacity.


Find a 25- or 30-second clip within the audio file that you think would make a good ringtone. Make note of the start and end times of that clip. Using the cursor, click at the beginning of the audio file and drag the mouse to the beginning of your selected clip. Press 'Delete' to remove the highlighted part. Click at the end of your selected clip and drag the mouse to the end of the audio file, and delete that section too.


You should now see only the 30-second piece that will become your ringtone.


To give the song a nice finish, highlight the last three seconds or so and choose the 'Effect' menu and click the 'Fade Out' effect.


If you are using a short sound effect rather than a song clip, you can add a few seconds of silence after the sound effect so that it doesn't play rapid-fire on your phone. To do this, put your cursor at the end of the sound effect. Open the 'Generate' menu and choose 'Silence', and set it for one or two seconds.

Now that you have isolated the part of the audio file you want to use, save it as an MP3 file. Open the 'File' menu, and choose 'Export as Mp3' or 'Export as WAV'. Choose a place to put the ringtone and save it there with a unique name.

Notes For Exporting as MP3 Files

Before exporting your ringtone, you should set the bit rate for MP3 files at 48kbps. While this will reduce the quality of the sound, it will make the file small enough to fit into the specified size limit. The ringer speakers on these phones aren't very high fidelity, so you shouldn't really notice the lower sound quality.

In order to change the MP3 bit rate setting, open the 'Edit' menu and click on 'Preferences'.


Choose the 'File Format' tab.


Under 'MP3 Export Setup', change the 'Bit Rate' field to 48, then click 'OK'.


When you choose 'Export as MP3' for the first time, you will be asked to locate the LAME.dll file through the navigation menu. Audacity will remember the location of that file, so make sure it's in a safe place.

Notes For Exporting as WAV Files

WAV Files are uncompressed, making them generally much larger than MP3 files, so it's a bit of a challenge keeping within the 500KB size limit. You'll have to play around with the length of your ringtones and the encoding properties to get it to work.

Continuing On...

Verify that the MP3 file you've just created is less than 250KB or 500KB. If it's larger than that, go back to Audacity, trim it a little bit and try again, until you get it below the size limit.


Get That Song Onto Your Phone

Now that you've created your ringtone, it's time to send it to your phone.

Compose a new email, and use your picture messaging address in the 'To:' field. Your picture messaging address is So if your phone number is 111-555-3333, your address should be

Attach the ringtone you've just created to the email and send it. Once it is delivered to your phone, open the message and play it. If it sounds good, use the 'Options' menu to 'Save As ringtone'. The wording in your menu might differ slightly.

Fine-Tuning Your New Ringtone

If the sound clip plays too quietly or loudly, you can adjust the volume in Audacity. Looking at the 'Audio Track' options next to the area where you edited the audio file originally, you should see two sliders. The top one is for volume level. Adjust it up or down to a level you think would work better, export it and email it to your phone again.


Once you like the way it sounds, save it as a ringtone and there you have it! Free ringtones!

The Video

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

Ringtones I've Made

The Beatles: Hello, Goodbye- 22 Second WAV Sound

Bjork: 99 Red Ballons- 20 Second WAV Sound

Jim Brickman: Devotion- 27 Second WAV Sound

Jurassic Park Theme Song- 10 Second WAV Sound

The Office Theme Song- 17 Second WAV Sound

Lux Aeterna: Requiem For a Dream- 17 Second WAV Sound

Star Trek Doorbell & Communicator Sound Effects- 1 Second MP3 Sounds

Skype Ringtone- 3 Second MP3 Sound

Macguyver Theme Song- 27 Second MP3 Sound

Extra Details:

The instructions presented in this article are from my own personal experience. I know they work on my phones, but I cannot guarantee they will work on anyone else's phone. If you have Verizon service and use either of these phones, please let me know your results.

I pay for a text/picture messaging package, so I am not charged for sending the ringtones to my phone. You may or may not have the same type of deal, so don't blame me if you get charged for messages or data rates after following these instructions. You oughta know what you're paying for with your phone service.

It's quite possible that these instructions will work for other Verizon cell phones as well. Also other service providers besides Verizon may allow you to email ringtones to yourself. Give it a try and let me know!

Keep in mind that some phones may use MP3 formatted ringtones (such as the LG VX8300) and some may use MP3 or WAV files (such as the LG VX5400) or some other format. If you send a ringtone to yourself and it doesn't play, try converting the file to another audio format. If it works, let me know!

*As always, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that may occur to your computer system or cell phone because of the use of this or any other programs mentioned on this website. Make sure you know what you're doing BEFORE you make any changes or use any other programs on your computer or cell phone.

Customer Service Call With Circuit City

Posted on May 1, 2008 at 11:05 PM

As a long-time customer service representative, I am always alert to the customer service shortcomings of the companies I deal with. The following is a particularly bad experience that made me decide not to deal with the provider of this terrible service ever again.

The Story

In June of 2006, I ordered a computer monitor on the Circuit City website. There was a $50 mail-in rebate associated with this monitor on the website.

When the monitor arrived, I looked over the paperwork that came with it, and noticed that the $50 rebate offered by HP did not apply to the monitor I purchased. It was clear that someone at Circuit City had incorrectly associated the HP rebate to the monitor I bought.

Since Circuit City made the mistake, I called their customer service line to get the error resolved. The first hour and a half was spent talking to Circuit City people who variously denied that there was an error, insisted that HP would honor the rebate anyway, blamed me for not reading the rebate material in advance, and simply stonewalling, saying that yes there was an error but no nothing could be done.

I decided to start recording the call after about 90 minutes of this nonsense. There was still 40 minutes left before I got any results. I managed to edit out the hold times and lengthy pauses to get the recording down below 10 minutes.

This was such a clear example of (1) a corporation refusing to admit wrongdoing, (2) trying to make the little guy pay for its mistake, and (3) that 'We don't really care about our customers' attitude that we all get from time to time from these mega-corporations, that I decided to make a video of this and send it public. This is that video. (There's a slideshow as the recording plays for something to look at. The slideshow is composed of photos from different parts of the Pike's Peak region in Colorado.)


Update: I did receive the gift card a week later. At the local store, I bought a few items with it, and have never set foot in a Circuit City since.

How to Turn Spybot S&D Into An Auto-Bot (Using Auto-Update, Immunize and Scan)

Posted on April 26, 2008 at 1:41 AM
Spybot Search and Destroy is a powerful tool in the fight against spyware and adware. It has a highly effective scanning method and finds threats that other tools might miss. It's free, receives regular updates, and has so many features you might not know what to do with them all.

Some features that I find especially useful are the ones that allow Spybot to be turned into an automatic program. These settings will make Spybot automatically do the following:

  1. Update itself when started (for always-on Internet connections only!)

  2. Immunize your system against threats on program startup

  3. Scan daily, weekly or monthly and remove threats without any user interaction

The following step-by-step instructions will guide you through the process to turn your Spybot into an Auto-Bot!

Run Spybot S&D. Choose the 'Mode' menu title, and click the option for 'Advanced Mode'. Click through the confirmation dialog box.

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Now you should see some extra tabs along the left-hand side of the program. Click the one that says 'Settings'.

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In the menu that comes up, choose 'Settings' again.

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Scroll down to the entry titled 'Program Start' and put check marks in the boxes entitled:

  • 'Immunize on program start if program has been updated' and

  • 'Don't ask for fixing confirmation'

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Now scroll down to the entry titled 'Web update' and put check marks in the boxes entitled:
  • 'Search the web for new versions at each program start.' (Only if you have an always-on Internet connection!) and

  • 'Download updated include files if available online.'

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Next, click on the entry in the left-hand pane called 'Scheduler'. Click the 'Add' button, then click the 'Edit' button next to 'Add'.

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Once the 'Schedule Task' window pops up, choose the 'Schedule' tab to set the time you want Spybot to scan for problems and the frequency of those scans.

Choose your frequency for scans (mine is weekly) and the time and weekday (mine is Monday at 7:00 PM). Click 'OK' to save your settings and exit the scheduling window.

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On the Spybot 'Scheduler' window you are now seeing, put check marks in the boxes entitled:

  • 'Fix problems after scheduled scan.' and

  • 'Close program after finishing schedule.'

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That's it! Here is a short Youtube video showing the whole process all at once.

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

You may close the program now and restart it. Spybot should take a little longer to open from here on out, as it automatically checks on startup for updates, downloads new definitions it may find, and immunizes your computer if it updated earlier.

With Spybot being completely automated, you don't have to worry about remembering to manually update, immunize and scan with this program. Set it and forget it! Spybot is now an Auto-Bot!

* Please note that the video and screenshots were done with Windows Vista. There may be slight differences in the above process on other OS's, but most of it should be pretty much the same.

* As always, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that may occur to your system because of the use of this or any other programs mentioned on this website. Make sure you know what you're doing BEFORE you make any changes or use any other programs on your computer.

Automatic Wallpaper Changer Livens Up Your Windows Desktop

Posted on April 20, 2008 at 9:36 PM

While it won't necessarily contribute to your computer's security or stability, Automatic Wallpaper Changer (AWC) by Steve Murphy definitely will add some personality to your computing environment.

I have used AWC for about three years. It was installed on my old eMachines running Windows XP and it now runs on my Acer Aspire running Windows Vista. I installed it on my work laptop, a Toshiba Satellite running Vista, and I also put it on a few friends' computers, some of which were eMachines and some of which were Dells or HP's running XP, and no one has ever reported issues with the program. In all cases, AWC has proven to be very stable and is widely regarded as an improvement over the default static desktop wallpaper that Windows offers.

You can find the download locations for AWC on Steve Murphy's website.

Once you download the program, you'll see the main window. Some of the options on this window are:

  • Choose the directory where the photos you want to use for the wallpaper are stored.

  • Choose the length of time you want each picture to be shown. I have mine set at 30 minutes.
  • Choose the position for the photo on the desktop.
The Main Window and its Options

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More advanced options can be found in the File menu under the Preferences option. This menu offers all kinds of neat options, such as:

  • Choose what happens when you click on the tray icon.

  • Reset the list of wallpaper photos once it cycles through all the ones you have.
  • No repeats as it cycles through your photos.
  • Lots more! There are actually three tabs in the preferences menu which you can use to get the program to behave in almost any way you'd like.
The File Menu and its Options
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The General Menu and its Options
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The Image Processing Menu and its Options
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The Filtering/Tiling Menu and its Options
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To choose the folder holding the photos you want to use for wallpaper, click the button with three dots on the main screen.

Click the Button With Three Dots to Choose Your Photo Folder

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Use the directory tree to navigate to the location of your photo folder, click to highlight it, and click 'OK' to choose it.

The Directory Tree

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On the main screen, check the box titled 'Display Files in Subdirectories Too', if you want the program to use photos inside any sub-folders in the folder you chose.

Choose This Option to Use Photos in Subdirectories

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AWC will display an icon in your system tray that you can double-click to bring up the main screen, change the wallpaper, open it for editing and several other options. I have mine set to change the wallpaper.

The Tray Icon

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Finally, by right-clicking the tray icon, you will be given a context menu that will allow you to choose a number of useful actions as seen below.

The Tray Icon's Context Menu

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Here is a short video showing the wallpaper being changed when I double-click the tray icon.

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

There are many more options and features that weren't discussed in this article. Feel free to explore the settings that are available once you've downloaded and installed the program. There is a full explanation of AWC's features on Steve Murphy's website.

I have found AWC by Steve Murphy to be a welcome addition to my list of essential software. It helps to give my computer a personalized feel and keeps things interesting on my desktop. People often comment on my beautiful wallpapers (you're on your own when it comes to photo selection), and my 19-inch widescreen LCD monitor really brings my selection of photos to life, with the help of this program.

AWC uses very few system resources, so in my experience, it doesn't hurt to have this program running even on slower computers. For computer personality and desktop variety, Automatic Wallpaper Changer by Steve Murphy is my choice!

*As always, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that may occur to your system because of the use of this or any other programs mentioned on this website. Make sure you know what you're doing BEFORE you make any changes or use any other programs on your computer.

Turn Off Annoying UAC (User Account Control) Pop-Ups in Windows Vista

Posted on April 18, 2008 at 12:52 AM
If you are using Windows Vista, you may have noticed some 'enhancements' to the operating system that just aren't that welcome. One of the most obvious changes is the behavior of the UAC, or User Account Control, service.

The way it works is this: Nearly every time you try to change a Windows setting or install a new program, you see a pop-up or two asking if Windows should allow the current operation to continue. You are completely prevented from using your computer 
until you choose one of the options offered by that pop-up. Not cool!

These pop-ups are from the UAC service trying to protect your computer from potentially dangerous changes, such as those made by a virus or other malware.

If you're fairly confident in your computer security, you may want to turn off UAC so your Vista user experience is a bit smoother. The following simple directions are a very quick way to turn that feature off and allow you to do what you like with your system without Windows checking to make sure you know what you're doing.

1. Open theStart Menu and choose 'Control Panel'. Verify that you're not using the 'Classic View' option.


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2. In the search box at the upper right-hand corner of the Control Panel, type in 'UAC'.

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3. The search should return the result shown below. Click the link titled 'Turn User Account Control (UAC) on or off'.

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4. Uncheck the box next to 'Use User Account Control'. Click the 'OK' button and you will be prompter to restart your computer.

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Once you restart, UAC will no longer be active and you will stop getting those annoying pop-ups asking if you're sure you want to take the action you just chose to take.

* As always, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that may occur to your system because of the use of this or any other programs mentioned on this website. Make sure you know what you're doing BEFORE you make any changes or use any other programs on your computer.

Speed Up Your Computer With CCleaner

Posted on March 23, 2008 at 10:44 AM

CCleaner is a powerful FREE program I use weekly to help keep my computer up to speed. It has all kinds of great features that make it very useful to me. If you find that your computer is slowing down, one of the easiest ways to help speed it back up again is to delete all the temporary and junk files that are left on your hard drive as you use programs and browse the Internet. These junk files can be in your temporary Internet folders, bits of data that programs use while operating then discard when they're done, or even parts of your computer registry. CCleaner helps out in all these areas, as you'll see below.

You can download CCleaner for FREE by clicking HERE.

Following is a short rundown of some of the things that CCleaner can do for you.

From CCleaner's "Cleaner" Page (pictured below):

  • Clean Out Temporary Internet Files In Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer and Opera

  • Empty the Recycle Bin and Windows Temporary Files

  • Delete Chckdsk File Fragments, Windows Log Files and Clipboard Contents

  • It Can Even Remove Junk Files Left Over From the Use of All Kinds of Common Programs

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The "Registry" page (pictured below) is a registry cleaner tool. It can remove unused and broken registry keys.

This can help speed up your computer's performance.

The registry cleaner tool can also backup your registry, in case you need to undo any changes.

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The "Tools" page (pictured below) has two different options.

The 'Uninstall' button provides an easy way to let you uninstall programs quickly, without having to go through the Windows Control Panel.

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You can also use the 'Startup' tool on the "Tools" page to prevent programs from starting with your computer. This can help speed up your computer's startup time.

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The "Options" page (pictured below) is full of options that you can use to manually adjust the program settings to your own preferences.

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* As always, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that may occur to your system because of the use of this or any other programs mentioned on this website. Make sure you know what you're doing BEFORE you make any changes or use any other programs on your computer.

My Experience With Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1)

Posted on March 23, 2008 at 12:05 AM

On Tuesday, March 18th, Microsoft released Vista SP1. This service pack consisted of hundreds of updates to Microsoft's newest operating system, Windows Vista. I decided to go ahead and download the whole 434 megabyte install package and give it a go.

I had some warning ahead of time of what to expect of my Vista SP1 experience. I had been reading articles for months about people who were using the test (beta) or leaked versions and had been having problems all across the board, ranging from misplaced hardware drivers to programs being disabled or seriously hobbled to the dreaded Blue Screen of Death.


In the short time that Vista SP1 has officially been available, a multitude of articles have appeared all over the Internet with complaints about even more of the same problems. The rage and venomous hatred is practically palpable! This service pack is ruining everyone's computers! UPenn gave Vista SP1 a failing grade. Average users the world over are furious about their bad experience with the OS update.

In short, I knew what I was getting into with my decision to download and install Microsoft Windows Vista Service Pack 1. Any of the inevitable problems that were sure to arise were to be expected. I could not blame the coming headaches on anyone or anything but my own curiosity.

So I began. With my cable Internet connection, the download took about ten minutes or so. The installation instructions explained that the whole process would take about an hour. I started the process, watched it for a few minutes, then went and got a sandwich and watched some Star Trek Voyager out in the living room. I checked in every 15 minutes or so just to be sure things were moving along smoothly, and to see if there were any boxes I had to check to tell the thing to continue.

An hour and ten minutes later, the computer restarted and that was that! Pretty painless so far. I was now ready for the torture to begin.

I went back to using my computer as usual, with my website-managing, my Craigslist ad-posting, my daily online news-and-comics-intaking, so on and so forth. The imminent shadow of disaster loomed over my electronic goings-on like I had never before experienced. And guess what? No sooner had I returned to my routine of computer projects and miscellany when suddenly...

Well, actually, nothing happened. Or, to be more precise, nothing bad happened. To the contrary, my computer seemed to be running a little faster, a little more solid-feeling, a little, dare I say it... better. No problems. No blue screens of death. Not even one single solitary misplaced icon or tiny little Vista-related graphics hiccup. It just... worked.

Really, except for the first few weeks of my experience with Vista, back in May of 2007, that has been pretty typical of my experience with Microsoft programs. Windows XP just... works. Windows Movie Maker, Media Player, Microsoft Money, Live Messenger, Works and Word, even the much-maligned Windows Vista; they all just work. Vista SP1 did no damage to anything on my computer. It didn't slow me down in the slightest or cause me to lose any of my work or anything. It just... worked.

You would think, from the vast selection of articles out there claiming that Vista SP1 was a failure, that Vista SP1 was a failure. Well, not on my turf. It worked fine. Better than fine, in fact; it actually improved things for me. Thanks, Microsoft! And No Thanks, people who wrote all those articles, once again taking advantage of the opportunity to slam Microsoft, and you other people who wrote articles quoting the articles that were written by people taking the opportunity to slam Microsoft, making it seem as if the whole world was anti-Microsoft and anti-Vista SP1. No Thanks at all.

Vista SP1 worked for me!

* As always, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that may occur to your system because of the use of this or any other programs mentioned on this website. Make sure you know what you're doing BEFORE you make any changes or use any other programs on your computer.

About Me

Posted on March 13, 2008 at 2:13 AM

I am in my late 20's.

I've been working with computers for over 10 years.

My skills come from personal experience.

Every program I install for you (some of which I've been using for several years) is a program I have used on my own computers.

I am completely confident in the security programs I install.

There has never been a security breach or breakdown on my computers that I haven't been able to fix.

I can count on one hand the number of security breaches I've had in the last 10 years, and that's despite regular computer usage and an always-on Internet connection.

It always makes me happy when I'm able to help someone.

Sometimes I feel like moving to a log cabin in the woods and living off the land.

Then I realize it would be hard to use StumbleUpon from a log cabin in the woods.

Also here's my business card.



Auslogics Disk Defrag

Posted on March 12, 2008 at 12:55 AM

This article is basically a slightly modified version of the script for my short video tutorial demonstrating the FREE program, Auslogics Disk Defrag. That video can be viewed at the end of this article.

As you use your computer, bits and pieces of your programs get moved around on the hard drive. This process is called fragmentation. Using a utility called a disk defragmenter will put those pieces of your programs back where they belong, so

your computer can find them faster. This will increase your computer's operating speed.

Windows already comes with a utility for defragmenting the hard drive, but it's slow compared to other defragmenters. Auslogics Disk Defrag, which I use on my own computer, is much faster and seems to me to do the job better. Also, in Windows Vista, the graphical interface was removed, so using Auslogics Disk Defrag lets me see what's going on while running the defrag process.

You can download the program here.

Installing the program is a pretty straightforward process. Just follow the steps onscreen, and the program will be installed in less than a minute.

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Once the program is installed, you'll notice that the interface is pretty simple and easy to understand. In the settings menu, on the defragmentation tab, check the boxes next to the two options that are available. I always leave the cpu usage option at the 'Normal' setting. Restart the program if prompted.

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On the main program window, you'll see a drop-down box that lists the drives that can be defragmented. I usually start with the C: drive, as this is where the majority of programs are installed, so defragmenting this drive will provide the best performance boost.

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Once you're ready to start, click next and the defragmentation process will begin.

There is a graphical representation of the files on the hard drive and they are color-coded to show their current state. The most important thing to notice here is the red and blue files. Red ones are fragmented, blue ones are defragmented, or optimized. You can watch as the program scans all your files, identifies the fragmented ones, and moves them to right place on the hard drive.

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If you haven't defragmented your hard drive in a while, the first time you run this program, the process may take some time. If you get into the habit of defragmenting regularly, like once a week or so, you'll find that the process is quite a bit faster than the initial run through.

Once the defrag process is complete, you'll have a read-out showing the number of scanned files, how many were fragmented and how many the program was able to defrag, and what percentage of scanned files were fragmented. The lower the percentage, the better shape everything is in.

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Doing this on a regular basis is one thing you can do to help keep your computer running at top speed.

Here is the short video tutorial about how to use Auslogics Disk Defrag.

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

*As always, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that may occur to your system because of the use of this or any other programs mentioned on this website. Make sure you know what you're doing BEFORE you make any changes or use any other programs on your computer.

My First Blog Entry

Posted on March 12, 2008 at 12:08 AM
So here it is: my first blog! Yay! Now I can say stuff like, "In my last post..." and, "After the jump...." Great. I have arrived!

You'll probably see things like reviews of programs, plans for world domination, stuff like that. Maybe links to other articles here or there. Or you may see this first entry sit here and gather dust all by itself forever, languishing in the dark back-corners of the Interwebs and wishing it had more stuff after the jump.

In any event, enjoy life and have a nice day. That is all.

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