Saturday, 27 December 2008

The 12th Carnival of Computer Help and Advice

Seasonal greetings and welcome to the twelfth monthly Carnival of Computer Help and Advice. Another digest of blog articles that help you to avoid problems with and to get the most out of your PCs.

Dan Coveney of Print n Post offers advice to anyone thinking of Buying a laptop in the January sales. On the subject of mobile computing Nim at dixlinx reviews Logmein - “the best free remote access available" - in the article, Logmein - excellent web-based remote access to your computer.

If you want to see those Xmas TV shows that you missed streamed over the Internet on your television then fear not, ramaraobobby has written a tutorial explaining How-To Connect your Computer to your TV over at Wonderful tech. stuff.

For converts to Firefox, carol smith present a post explaining how to configure Firefox opening screen at Friendly Computer Training.

Last but not least we have two posts from regular carnival contributor, Andrew Edgington, from his Learn Photoshop Now blog: Steps In Restoring and Repairing Your Photos and Turning Your Photographs into a Work of Art. Ideal for getting the most out of those holiday snaps.

If you have a blog with posts about computer issues and would like to host the next carnival then please leave a comment on this post or use the contact form over at our Blog Carnival page, where you can also submit your blog posts for inclusion in a future carnival.

If you would like to host a future carnival but don't wish to have the responsibility for selecting articles or writing the carnival post, don't worry I can do that for you.

See you all for the next carnival in the new year...

Friday, 12 December 2008

Windows Hopping reprise

Hopping Between Windows
Have you ever needed to swap windows while you are using the keyboard? Have you needed to jump quickly from that email you are composing to the report you are supposed to be writing? Then try holding down Alt key and pressing the Tab key. Select the window you want and release the Alt key to bring that one to the front. A little dialog box will open that looks like this in Windows XP or 2000:


And looks like this in Windows Vista:


There is also an alternate way of hopping between windows that does not show this box. Simply hold down the Alt key and press the Escape key (marked Esc) to hop between windows in the order that you opened them. If you hop using this method Windows will leave any minimised windows in that state, it will not restore them like the Alt+Tab method does.

Hopping Within Windows
While we are on the subject of the Tab key, whenever you are filling in a form in a Windows program, the Tab key will generally move the cursor to the next field or button.

To move the cursor back to the previous field hold down the Shift key and press the Tab key.

Filling in a whole form from the keyboard means you get the job done more quickly and more easily, leaving more time available to 'Alt-Tab' back to that blog you were reading.

Try these shortcuts out on the following form. Click on the first field to select it, then tab between fields to your heart's content.

Field1:
Field2:
Field3:
To change the value of this press the space-bar when selected:
To change the value here use the up and down cursor keys:

[This post is an edited version of two that I originally posted on 22 August 2007 & 24 September 2008... I have been very busy writing up an assignment lately, but rest assured there will be more original material here soon]

Thursday, 27 November 2008

The 11th Carnival of Computer Help and Advice

Welcome to the eleventh monthly Carnival of Computer Help and Advice. Another collection of blog articles to help you avoid problems and get the most out of your PCs.

We start this month's carnival with a heads-up for WordPress bloggers. Madeleine Begun Kane extolls the virtues the Life-Saving, Spam-Fighting WordPress Plugin at Mad Kane's Humor Blog.

Kenneth Reitz compares Windows vs. OSX vs. Linux in a light-hearted article on KennethReitz.com. On the subject of OSX, Tim Biden shares his solution to the problem of Small Printing in Apple Mail on his Biden PC's Quick Notes page.

A number of people are having a problem connecting to the Internet after installing Service Pack 3 on Windows XP. The author of the Glowicki ProBlogger site offers a solution to the problem in The procedure entry point apsGetInterfaceCount could not be located in the dynamic link library wlanapi.dll.

BookFundas.com have sent as an article that links to a free eBook copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to PCs, 8th Edition. BookFundas told this carnival that "[t]his book takes the novice by the hand for a very ambitious tour of the world of possibilities available to the PC user. After a section of basic training for those who’ve flipped the “On” switch for the first time, the book surveys the world of software and hardware opportunities." Any freebie are appreciated in a time of economic uncertainty. As Momma notes in the first of a series of posts: Save money and tune up your PC: PART ONE: Software posted at Engineer a debt free life.

Regular contributor, Andrew Edgington, presents an article Beginner Photoshop Tricks at his Learn Photoshop Now blog. Andrew offers "Simple Photoshop Video Tutorials that will help you conquer Photoshop in no time at all. Take a look at their blog for a free sample video."

If you have a blog with posts about computer issues and would like to host the next carnival then please leave a comment on this post or use the contact form over at our Blog Carnival page, where you can also submit your blog posts for inclusion in a future carnival.

If you would like to host a future carnival but don't wish to have the responsibility for selecting articles or writing the carnival post, don't worry I can do that for you.

See you all after what will hopefully be an enjoyable Christmas.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Jargon Busting: Anatomy of a window (Part 2)

A number of weeks ago I posted an article naming the various elements that you will find in in Windows programs. This is the second part of that series. Unfortunately, whereas in the last post the displayed elements were interactive, in this post they will only be images.

Scroll Bar
A control for shifting the contents of a window left and right on horizontal scroll bars or up and down on vertical ones.


Slider
This control can be used to adjust a value within a limited range. Sometimes the value chosen with the slider will be displayed. On some sliders there will be only a few values that can be chosen, as with the screen resolution selector.


Spinner
The spinner is a combination of a numeric input box and two small buttons with which you can increase and decrease its value.

Tree View
Tree views appear in a variety of forms, but share the same basic characteristics: items containing sub-items containing sub-items and so on. On some tree views each item will have an associated tick boxes. Click on the + symbol next to an item to see the sub-items it contains. The symbol will then change to a -, which you can click to hide the sub-items.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Digital Cribs Competition

Cisco are running a competition called Digital Cribs: Heaven or Hell? To enter you have to submit a video that either demonstrates your technological heaven or your consumer electronic hell. There are grand prizes of $10,000 for both categories, as well as ten $500 gift cards for the other finalists (five for the 'heaven' videos and five for 'hell').

The competition closes on November 26, 2008. Those videos that are most viewed and highest rated will be more likely to win, as these two criteria will make up 66% of the submitted video's final score. So even if you don't want to submit a video yourself, you can see other people's digital experiences, both good and bad, and rate them accordingly. Good luck.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Five free file conversion sites

There is already a bewildering selection of different files types and this will only get more confusing as more innovative file formats become available. You may be able to install conversion utilities for some applications such as Microsoft Word and you can download various freeware file conversion tools, but there is a third option: web-based file conversion services.


Media Convert - I have mentioned this site before on this blog. It can cope with a greater variety of file types than the other sites listed here, but the amount of advertising makes the interface rather ugly and far from intuitive. The maximum file size is 150Mb, although, the larger the file the more likely that there will be a conversion error. You can download the converted file directly from the website.

YouConvertIt - This site supports nearly as many file formats as Media Convert, but it is till in Beta testing. It has a clean and intuitive interface and - like most of the other pages in this list - it enables you to download video files from sites like YouTube. File conversions are received by email, so check the maximum email size that you can receive.

Media Converter - This service also has an easy-to-use interface and it supports many popular file types and on-line video sources. It also offers a Firefox add-on to simplify the process of downloading and converting videos from sites like YouTube, MetaCafe, etc. For the free service the maximum file size is 100Mb and each user is limited to ten conversions per day.

Zamzar - Zamzar is probably the most well known of the file conversion sites. Again it supports the most popular file types and video sites, but the maximum file size that can be converted for free is 100Mb. File conversions are received by email, so check the maximum email size you can receive.


Primo Online - This is a specialist file conversion site that offers a pdf creation service. It enables you to create a pdf document from over 300 different file types as long as they are no bigger than 5Mb. You receive the converted pdf file via email.


All-in-all the variety of supported file types and the convenience of being able to download the converted file mean that my file conversion site of choice is still Media Convert.

Monday, 27 October 2008

The 10th Carnival of Computer Help and Advice

Welcome to the tenth monthly Carnival of Computer Help and Advice. Another collection of blog articles to help you avoid problems and get the most out of your PCs.

We start this month's carnival with Michael guide to Whats inside a computer? from Too Easy Tech.

Next up is, Money 2000 to Money Plus: Will It Convert? posted at About.com Financial Software. The author of the article, Shelley Elmblad, says, "This post answers a question about running older versions of Microsoft Money on Windows Vista, and tells you how to get older MS Money data to convert for use with Microsoft Money Plus."

Four more posts about software: Jules of PCauthorities.com explains How to Uninstall IE8 Beta 2; the writers at ErrorSmart present instructions for Fixing Rundll32.exe; Satbir Singh lists 10 Essential Portable Applications for your USB Drive at Technotraits.com; bobby instructs us hwo to Login with multiple Ids at the same time in yahoo messenger with a Registry hack at Wonderful tech. stuff.

This carnival would not be complete without a post from Andrew Edgington. This month he presents 20 Photoshop on-line Video Tutorials at Learn Photoshop Smart, and his Quick Fix Tips at Learn Adobe Elements.

Thanks to everyone who contributed this month. As ever limits in space mean that not all submissions appear in the final carnival.

If you have an IT themed blog and would like to host the next carnival leave a comment on this post or use the contact form over at our Blog Carnival page where you can also submit your blog posts for inclusion. If don't wish to have the responsibility for selecting articles or writing the carnival post, don't worry I can do that for you.

More in the November edition.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

How to run a program every time Windows starts

In a previous post I explained how to stop programs running when Windows starts up, but in this post I will explain how to make one run every time you boot up. There are a variety of ways of telling Windows to run a program when it starts, but using the 'Startup' folder on the Start menu is probably the simplest. For the purposes of this tutorial we will set Windows to run Firefox automatically.

Click on the Start menu and browse to the appropriate sub-menu. Right-click on the icon for the program you want to start automatically, and click 'Copy'.

Now find the 'Startup' folder on the Start menu, right-click on it and click 'Open'.

This will open a new window showing some of the programs that run whenever you start Windows.

Right-click on some empty space in that window and click paste.

If you cannot find the icon for the program you want in the Start menu, but you have it on your desktop then you can copy that one into the 'Startup' folder. You can repeat this process for all the programs you wish to start automatically; however, be warned that the more programs you have running the slower Windows will work.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Jargon Busting: Anatomy of a window (Part 1)

All the various controls on a Windows program have names that are not always intuitive. In this post I will identify the most common controls and list the various names that they are known by. I will not bother with buttons or menus as everyone should know what they are. All the controls on this post are interactive, rather than just being images.





Text box, Text field, Text Entry, Input Box
A control into which you can type text. It can be a single line as above, or multiple lines as below.

Radio button, Option button
This control enables you to select one of a number of choices.


Male
Female
Check box, Tick box
These either appear singly offering an on/off or yes/no choice, or they offer a chance to select a multitude of options.




What do you own?
Desktop PC:
Laptop
PDA
List box
This control enables you to select one or more items from a list. To select more than one item hold down the Ctrl key while clicking.



Drop-down list
This element allows you to select an item from a list

In the next post in this series I will look at other program controls, such as sliders, spinners, trees and grids.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

The 9th Carnival of Computer Help and Advice

Welcome to the ninth monthly Carnival of Computer Help and Advice - a digest of recent blog articles about making interaction with computers safer and easier.

Starting this month, the Carnival will now include hints and tips for bloggers. The article explains how to Auto Create Navigation Tabs for New WordPress Pages. The author WordPress Hacker says: "In this article I explain how you can setup your blog to automatically create main navigation links/tabs when new pages are published by using custom fields to mark those pages you want to appear in the navigation menu."

In a post on Burogu Blog, Hera passes on a number of tips to Speed up your Computer and Internet. Speaking of the Intenet, regular contributor Paul Wilcox gives advice on How You Can Protect Kids From Online Dangers at his Security Manor blog. Finally on the subject of all things Internet, Iain Adams of Iain's TechWorld presents his an "initial look at beta browsers from Google and Microsoft" in Beta Beta! The Browser Wars cont'd.

For those of you who look after a large network is a "step by step pictorial guide to make your own network cables" - How To Crimp UTP cable to RJ45 Connector by Andhika Krishananda of Networking Newbie - Learn Networking and Cisco.

As our next contributor, Sonny Felker, says - "Hopefully you will never need the services of hard drive data recovery experts. However, many computer users do at some point." See his Hard Drive Recovery post at Data Recovery to learn more.

We have a couple of image editing posts to end this month's carnival. Rodney Smith tells us How to resize images using GIMP (a free image editor) on the Hippo Web Solutions page, and no Carnival of Computer Help and Advice would be complete without a contribution from our Photoshop expert, Andrew Edgington. This month he explains Masking on his Learn Photoshop Now blog.

Many thanks to everyone who contributed. If you would like to host the next carnival leave a comment on this post or use the contact form over at our Blog Carnival page where you can also submit your blog posts for inclusion. If you do wish to host the carnival but don't wish to have the responsibility for selecting articles or writing the carnival post, don't worry I can do that for you.

If you wish to help promote the Carnival, you can add a widget to your blog - click here for the code.

See you in October.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Keyboard shortcut of the week: Alternative windows hopping

In a previous post I mentioned that you can hop between open windows by holding down the Alt key and pressing the Tab key repeatedly. A little dialog box will open that in Windows XP or 2000 looks like this:


And in Windows Vista looks like this:


There is an alternate way of hopping between windows that does not show this box. Simply hold down the Alt key and press the Escape key (marked Esc) to hop between windows in the order that you opened them. If you hop using this method Windows will leave any minimised windows in that state, it will not restore them like the Alt+Tab method does.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

How to format a drive

External hard drives and USB memory sticks (aka pen drives) have become more popular in recent years as people want to be able to store all their media files and easily move them from computer to computer. Most of these devices will be bought already formatted. This means that they are ready for files to be stored on them; however, occasionally you will still need to format a drive. This may be because it has not already been done or because there is a serious problem with a device.

Before we go any further a word of warning: fully reformatting a drive will effectively delete all your files from it. So before formatting a drive, make sure you have made a copy of any file you want to keep.

To format a drive, open 'My Computer' (on Vista open 'Computer' from the Start menu) and right click on 'Format...' This will open up a dialog box like the one shown here.


The capacity value should be set to the maximum available space already. There are two options under file system: FAT32 or NTFS. Generally it is best to set this to FAT32. While NTFS will give you a few extra security and compression options you will not be able to write to a drive formatted in that system if you connect the drive to a Mac running OSX or other non-Windows machine.

If you select 'Quick Format' the drive will not be fully formatted, rather Windows will merely remove the table which tells it where files are stored on the drive and not delete the files themselves. It is generally better not to select 'Quick Format'.

When you have selected the options you want click on the 'Start' button. You will then be warned that the format process will delete any files on the drive. If you are sure that you wish to continue click 'OK', otherwise click 'Cancel'. Depending on the capacity of the drive the format may take some time.

There is a way of creating various logical drives on one physical drive, i.e. you may have a new eighty gigabyte hard-drive that you want to divide into two forty gigabyte drives. This is called partitioning and I will explain this in a future post.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Keyboard shortcut of the week: Chrome

Regular readers will know that I have recently started falling out of love with Mozilla Firefox (but not enough to switch back to Internet Explorer). The latest version does not seem to have addressed any of my gripes, and actually appears to have made many of matters worse. Not only is Firefox's memory handling still very poor but it can hog the CPU and frequently locks up for seconds at a time. I have also had problems with staying logged in to Netvibes and other password protected sites.

Consequently, I was excited by the news that Google had released their own browser, called Chrome. It is still in beta testing at the moment and is somewhat lacking in features but it appears to be quicker and more efficient than Firefox and IE, although this may be because of the aforementioned lack of features. Chrome does include an 'incognito' function that allows you to browse pages without your actions being recorded by the browser.


Time will tell if it will be a serious challenge to Firefox and IE. There are a number of reviews of Chrome on various blogs, and I have no wish to add another one. Instead, I have found a list of the keyboard shortcuts work on Chrome.

As you will see, these shortcuts match those that already work on Firefox and IE, but I did notice that this page does not mention the following:-

Increase text size: Ctrl & roll mouse wheel up
Decrease text size: Ctrl & roll mouse wheel down
Open link in new tab and maintain focus on current tab: Click with middle mouse button

If you have reviewed Chrome on your blog, feel free to leave a comment with a link to the appropriate post(s).

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Problems running old games

Whether due to dissatisfaction with modern games or wishing to recapture one's youth, retro-gaming is becoming increasingly popular. However, you may have problems running games designed for DOS or earlier versions of Windows. One possible solution is to make Windows run the program as if it were an earlier version of the operating system.

In order to do this, you need to make sure that you have a short-cut on the Desktop for the game. Most games will give you this option. If not, you can find the short-cut for the game on the Start menu; right-click on it; select 'Copy'; right-click on some space on your Desktop; and, click 'Paste.'

Right-click on the short-cut on the Desktop; select 'Properties'; and, go to the 'Computability' tab. To make Windows emulate an earlier version, tick 'Run this program in compatability mode for:' and select an appropriate version on Windows. The CD-ROM for the game should mention which version of Windows it was designed for.


If it is an old MS-DOS game, select Windows 95. You may also have to tick the three boxes in the 'Display settings' section. Try different combinations to see what works.

If your game still won't run, you may have to install a patch. Check the game producers website to see if they still support their product. Also, some popular games will have a fan community and an on-line presence. Try searching on the name of the game and the word 'fan'.

Have fun playing those classic games.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

The 8th Carnival of Computer Help and Advice

Welcome to the eighth monthly Carnival of Computer Help and Advice. Another collection of blog articles to help you avoid problems and get the most out of your PCs. I would like to thank everyone who contributed. If you would like to host the next carnival leave a comment on this post or use the contact form over at our Blog Carnival page where you can also submit your blog posts for inclusion. If you do wish to host the carnival but don't wish to have the responsibility for selecting articles or writing the carnival post, don't worry I can do that for you.

The first three featured articles this month all share a theme, backing up and restoring data.

Sonny Felker posted Computer Data Recovery Procedures May be Avoided at Find Free Articles - ArticlesBase. In Sonny's own words:
A good disaster recovery plan involves more than just backing up your information, although that is a very critical part of the process, and a great place to start. But simply putting your critical business data on a CD or USB flash drive is not a strong backup process. I could not sleep well at night knowing that the information I use to run my business on, earn money from and feed and support my family with is riding on that very unreliable medium. Once again, something is better than nothing; however, there are certainly better options available.

PreparedPC develops this theme in Backup Your Hard drive Now; While You Still Have Time. Admin writes:
One of the best favors you can do for your computer is to back up the entire hard drive just in case something goes wrong. The software is free, and for the cost of an external hard drive and a couple hours of your time, you can be ready for a hard drive crash.

Jules of PCauthorities.com gives advice on How to Restore Files from a Damaged CD or DVD:
You did everything right. You made regular CD or DVD copies of your files, kept them at a safe place, and now you can not read the disk anymore! Unfortunately even CD’s and DVD’s can be damaged and deteriorate over time. But that does not mean all is lost, use a simple data recovery program to recover files from damaged CD’s and DVD’s.

Apple Macs now use the same processors as PCs, which means that it is possible to run OSX on PCs. For those of you who don't want to actually change operating systems but want to have the look of OSX, Gravity Blue presents Turn Your Windows XP into Mac OSX.

No matter what your operating system looks like, eye strain is a problem for anyone using their computer for extended periods. Do your eyes a favour and read EyeCare Tips for Computer Users posted by mayursears at The Mega Sears for EveryOne !.

On the subject of eyes, regular contributer, Andrew Edgington, explains Fixing Pet Eye on his site, Edit Your Digital Photos. While most image editing programs have a facility for dealing with red-eye in pictures of people this doesn't work with the variety of colours reflected in the eyes of animals when you take pictures of them using the flash.

In order to make sure that nobody is leaching your Internet bandwidth brennan gives advice on how to Secure Your Wireless Network at HMTech.ca. Paul Wilcox of Security Manor helps us with another Internet issue with his article, 4 Tips For Avoiding E-mail Spam, and for online gamers, Adam gives a tutorial on Connecting Xbox 360 to Xbox Live Via Vista Using ICS at Computer Tutorials.

Again, I would like to thank all our contributers and remind anyone with an IT themed blog that the carnival needs other hosts. This would not only create a sense of community but also to drive a little more traffic to your site.

More next month.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Keyboard shortcut of the week: a view of Word

There are a number of ways in which you can view a document in MS Word. You can switch between these different layouts by selecting them from the 'View' menu, or you can use keyboard shortcuts to quickly switch between them.

My preferred choice is 'Print layout', which can be selected by holding down the Ctrl and Alt keys and pressing P.

To select the 'Normal layout' hold down the Ctrl and Alt keys and press N.

To see the 'Overview layout' hold down Ctrl and Alt and press O.

Or if you prefer to see more than one page at a time, go to the 'Reading view' by holding down the Alt key and pressing R.

Finally, although it is not strictly a layout, you can switch the 'Print preview' on and off by holding down Ctrl and Alt keys and pressing I.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Bloody Computer! One Year Old

'Bloody Computer!' reaches its one year anniversary today. So, as I have done for other landmarks, I present another set of 'top 3' lists as well as other facts to go with those marking fifty and one-hundred posts.

In the last year this blog has achieved a Google PageRank of 4; a Technorati ranking of 61; its most recent Alexa traffic rank is 105,543; the blog has had 43,540 visits with 50,661 pageviews from 141 countries; and it now has 82 subscribers.

Thank you all for supporting 'Bloody Computer!' over the past twelve months.

Top 3 Most Read Posts
1. Free Lightweight Alternatives to Bloatware: 1,113 views
2. How to reboot Windows using the keyboard: 881 views
3. Windows Task Manager Explained: Part 1: 700 views
Data from the excellent Google Analytics

Top 3 Most Commented on Posts
1. Keyboard shortcut of the week: Quickly Open Link in New Tab: 17 comments
2. Keyboard shortcut of the week: a few for Firefox: 13 comments
3. Three tips for buying a new printer: 9 comments
Thank you for all your feedback

Top 3 Most Dugg Posts
=1. Tweak UI: free MS Power Toy for Windows XP: 12 diggs
=1. Keyboard shortcut of the week: New, Open, and Save: 12 diggs
2. Bring files back from the dead: 11 diggs
3. Keyboard shortcut of the week: a few for Firefox: 10 diggs
Data from Digg (the whole countdown is here)

Top Five Commenters
1. Drunken Dragon (7)
2. Eerik (5)
=3. jamie (3)
=3. Search engine positioning (3)
=3. jsanderz (3)
Data from the fancy widget by Blogger Buster (now in the left hand column)

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Another three top freeware applications

It has been a while since I suggested any freeware, but I have recently had need to find a decent video converter, a good FTP client, and some way to back-up my blog.

The free version of Any Video Converter is the best tool that I have found for converting between a variety of video formats including MPEG, Flash, AVI, MP4 and WMV. It even supports capturing video from YouTube and Google video. The interface is friendly and easy to use with a variety of output options.

Although it isn't as popular as it once was FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is still used on the Internet. So you may have need of a decent FTP client. The feature-rich FileZilla FTP Client has an old fashioned two-pane file manager style interface. Various servers can be added to the Site Manager or you can quickly type in the details on the main interface.

If you need to make a copy of an entire website, then you could do a lot worse than use the WinHTTrack Website Copier. Behind the simple wizard-based interface is a very powerful piece of software. Create a project for any site you want to download, select a destination directory and let WinHTTrack create a local copy of the entire site. You can use this program to regularly update the local copy too, ideal if you want to back-up a site without having to copy everything across each time.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Keyboard shortcut of the week: New, Open, and Save

Just about every Windows application works with documents, which you will create, open and save at various stages. These three functions have associated keyboard shortcuts that work with most if not all the applications that you use regularly. I use the word document here to refer to anything that can be created or edited with software, whether that is a piece of music, an image or some other project.

New document
To create a new document (or in the case of web browsers - to open a new window) hold down the Ctrl key and press N. In some programs you may be asked whether you want to save your current work, this is because they only work with one document at a time.

Open document
To toggle the 'Open File' dialogue hold down the Ctrl key and press O. As with creating a new document, you may be asked to save your current work first.

Save document
To save your current document hold down Ctrl and press S. The first time you save your document the application will generally ask you for a file name to save it with, after that it will probably not give you any indication that it has saved your work.

This is probably the most important of the three as anyone who has lost work through Windows crashing, because of a power outage, or through some other calamity will tell you. Save regularly!

Sunday, 27 July 2008

The Seventh Carnival of Computer Help and Advice

Welcome to the seventh monthly Carnival of Computer Help and Advice. Here is another selection of some of the best blog posts offering aid with computer issues published in the last month. I would like to thank everyone who contributed. If you would like to host the next carnival leave a comment on this post or use the contact form over at our Blog Carnival page where you can also submit your blog posts for inclusion.

We shall start with a couple of posts about quality free software. Mastersystem at TipForge provides us with a set of CCleaner Tips to help us remove all those temporary files that gather on our hard-drives. Speaking of hard-drives, Jules lets us know about a Windows Defrag Alternative at PCauthorities.com.

These two bloggers also offer advice about dealing with Windows problems: mastersystem explains Problem Reports and Solutions in Vista; while Jules shows How to Deal with Uninstall Problems in Windows.

First time contributor, Sai of American (Tech) Sai-ko submitted an excellent post, IE Cookies: Yum!, which contains everything you will ever need to know about cookies in Internet Explorer.

We will finish up with a pair of posts from two regular contributors to this carnival. Resident security expert, Paul Wilcox of Security Manor, gives advice on Removing Spyware From Your Computer and described The 3 Forms Of Computer Viruses. Digital imaging expert, Andrew Edgington, presents two more posts about Photoshop. The first explains about Changing Image Dimentions Using Adobe Photohop, and the second introduces Airbrushing.

See you next month.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Speak now or forever hold your peace... well until next month anyway

This is the last chance for somebody to volunteer to host this month's Carnival of Computer Help and Advice. If you would like to play host to this digest of some of the best of this month's blog posts that share their author's sagely wisdom leave a comment on this post, contact me through the carnival's web page, or use the Contactify facility in the left column on this page.

There are three options for hosting: first, I can forward you details of all the submitted articles and you can select around twelve of them and write the carnival post; second, I can select the best dozen or so articles and forward you the details of those; third, I will select the articles and write the host and all you have to do is post it on your blog on the 27th July (short notice, I know).

If nobody is interested in hosting this month's carnival, it will appear here in a couple of days time.

If you wish to host a future carnival then please contact me using one of the aforementioned ways.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Tweak UI: free MS Power Toy for Windows XP

I should start with an apology for not having posted anything here for a while. I have been rather busy for the last few weeks, but I am back now posting more PC help and advice starting with the most powerful of Microsoft's Power Toys for XP: Tweak UI.

You can download the software from here (or here if you have an Itanium™-based system).

Note: this software is designed for Windows XP (and 2003 Server), some users have reported some success with it on 32-bit versions of Vista, but not on Vista64.

Once downloaded and installed, Tweak UI (UI meaning 'user interface') will appear in your Control Panel. If you run it you will be presented with the following:

If you select a category from the tree-list on the left the right panel will show any relevant tweaks that can be made to the Windows interface. For example, Tweak UI offers some extra settings for the mouse. Click on the + next to 'Mouse' in the tree-list, and then click on 'Wheel' to see the following:


As you can see, I have chosen to use mouse wheel for scrolling 3 lines at a time. Notice that there is a description of what the tweak does, and that this change applies only to the user you are logged on with, not every user as some changes will. Browse through all the settings and see the other tweaks that you can make. Click the 'OK' button to apply the changes and close Tweak UI, or just click the 'Apply' button to see your changes in action while keeping Tweak UI open in case you wish to revert to your previous settings.

If you have any problems with or questions about Tweak UI feel free to leave a comment on this post. Happy tweaking!

Friday, 27 June 2008

The Sixth Carnival of Computer Help and Advice

Welcome to the sixth monthly Carnival of Computer Help and Advice. As ever many blog authors contributed their posts and, as always, limitation of space means that some did not make it into the carnival. Many thanks to all those who contributed.

Some troublemakers try to fool the novice with bad advice and rogue software. So first up this month we have a post by nicky at Tips, Trick and Practice on how to identify Rogue Software and Security. In the same vein, Paul Wilcox gives us advice on Spotting A Hoax Virus Warning at Security Manor.

As well as protecting the computer, we should also protect ourselves from the stresses and strains associated with working at computers for any length of time. One man who can help us is regular carnival contributor Jose DeJesus MD at Physician Entrepreneur. See his Computer Vision Syndrome and How to Avoid it post for indispensable guidance.

The nightmare of a broken laptop is not so much having to replace it as losing all one's files. How to recover data from laptop by Gaufire Speaks™ writer Gaurav Sharma describes one way of recovering the files from a laptop hard-drive to a desktop PC.

Free is the best price of all, as such we always welcome links to quality free software on the CoCH&A. So thanks to Terry Dean for a list of 21 Free Software Resources posted at his Integrity Business Blog. Of course, free software may have a few bugs in it, even if it is produced by leading software houses. One such problem is identified and solved by Jules at PCauthorities.com who tells us what to do about Hyperlinks Not Working in Outlook Express. Speaking of which, WM Media at Buy And Sell Websites reviews different ways of producing web-pages in the post How to Build a Website If You Don't Know HTML.

Lastly this month, we have our regular dose of posts from Andrew Edgington. From his Edit Your Digital Photos blog we have Andrew's round-up of Digital Image Photo Software and a tutorial on Touching Up Your Digital Photos.

If you would like to host the next carnival leave a comment on this post or use the contact form over at our Blog Carnival page where you can also submit your blog posts for inclusion.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Keyboard shortcut of the week: a few for Firefox

Here are a few keyboard shortcuts for Firefox to mark the release of version 3 of that browser (which I express my initial opinions about at the bottom of this post). These should all work in Windows and Linux, for Apple Macs simply substitute the Ctrl key with the Cmd key.

Full screen mode
To hide the menus, toolbars and status bar press the F11 key, press it again to go back to windowed mode.

Text Size
To increase the size of text on a page, either hold down the Ctrl and press the + key or, if you have a wheel mouse, hold down Ctrl and roll the wheel upwards. Unsurprisingly, to decrease the size of text on a page, either hold down the Ctrl and press the - key or, if you have a wheel mouse, hold down Ctrl and roll the wheel downwards. To restore the text size to normal hold down Ctrl and press 0 (zero).

Select the search box
To move the cursor to the search box, either the built in one or the first one on a toolbar, hold down Ctrl and press K (I am not sure of the significance of K here - so probably not that easy to remember)

I have already published posts that detailed other keyboard shortcuts for Firefox:

Quickly open link in a new tab - without losing focus on current tab
Opening the Find box - near the bottom of this general post
A previous selection of shortcuts - for navigating between tabs, opening new tabs, closing tabs, opening bookmarks and selecting the address bar.
How to refresh the page

My initial feelings about version 3

I have been using Firefox v3 for a few days now and don't have much to report. It has crashed twice in that time, but the 'Restore last session' feature means that this is not such a disaster. It does not seem particularly quicker and I have yet to find any new features that have excited me. On the downside it still seems to 'Not respond' a little too often and memory management is still far from perfect.

For Entrecard users there is a problem with the way that it handles cookies. If you switch between Entrecard accounts you will keep being told to login again. I have posted a workaround solution on the Entrecard forums here - rest assured the boffins at ecard are working on it.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Firefox 3 Download Day two hours away

We are about two hours away from the start of Firefox Download Day, which is either an attempt to bring people of all (or at least most) nations together in an attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the most downloads in a day, or a shameless promotion of the latest version of Mozilla's web browser. Either way I will be trying to download Firefox 3 over the next twenty-four hours, assuming that their servers don't fail and that the Internet can endure the strain.

So far 1,700,069 people have pledged to download. You can click here to join them, although the web site is already showing signs of pressure.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Command Window Here: Free MS PowerToy for XP

In the last post I have instructions for using the Command Prompt to navigate to a particular folder; however, there is an easier way to do this in Windows XP by installing a PowerToy (this feature is already available in Vista).

To install this feature, look for 'Open Command Window Here' the list of PowerToys on the right hand side of the page and click on CmdHere.exe to download it (or simply click here - if this links stops working please leave a comment). After installing the software, when you right click on a folder icon, or on the empty space within a folder, you will see a new entry in the menu that opens: 'Open Command Window Here'. Click on this to open up a Command Prompt window that will already be focused on the current folder.

There are a number of other PowerToys available, including the excellent Clear Type Tuner, which was the subject of an earlier post. In future posts on this blog, I will look at some of the other tools available to enhance Windows XP.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

How to save a list of files in a folder

There are a number of programs available that will create a text file from a list of files in a folder, but here is a quick and easy way of doing the same using the Command Prompt.

Firstly, open up the Command Prompt (aka the MS-DOS Box). To do this either click on 'Run' in the 'Start' menu, or hold down the Windows key and press R (the Windows key is the one with the Windows logo on). In the box that opens type cmd, and either click the 'OK' button or press the Return key. The Command Prompt application should open, looking something like this.


Secondly, you will need to navigate to the folder which contains the files you wish to list. If it is on a different drive type the drive letter followed by colon (e.g. D:) and hit return. Then type cd (change directory) followed by the path of the folder, for example:

cd c:\documents and settings\owner\my documents


On some versions of Windows you only need to type part of the folder name and then press the Tab key and the Command Prompt will fill in the rest, e.g. type cd c:\docu and press Tab to change the command to cd c:\documents and settings.

If you do not know the full path of the folder, you can set Windows Explorer to show it in the address bar or title bar - one of my earlier posts explains how to do this (I would recommend showing the full bath in the address bar). You can copy the path from the address bar and paste it into the command prompt screen by clicking on its icon in the top left hand corner, which opens a drop down menu as shown below.


Once you have navigated to the right folder you can type the command to create a file list in that folder in the form of a text file that can be opened in notepad or your word processor.

Note: Windows Vista includes a feature where you can hold down the Shift key and right-click on the icon of the folder you wish to list the files contained within and select 'Open Command Window Here' from the menu that opens. I will be publishing a post soon which will provide instructions on how to add this feature to Windows XP.


Directory List Command

To create a list of all the files in the folder type dir /a-d /b > filelist.txt and press Return/Enter.

The command includes two switches, /a-d and /b. The first of these stops the dir command. from listing folders; the second prevents the command from showing the extra information you see if you just type dir and hit Return. If you wish the text file to have a different name change it from 'filelist' but remember to put '.txt' at the end so that Windows knows that it is a text file.

The dir command has a variety of other switches, the following command will list the names of all the mp3 files in the current folder and all the sub-folders that it contains:
dir *.mp3 /a-d /s /b > mp3filelist.txt

The *.mp3 part tells the command to only list files with that extension, and the /s sets it to list the files in sub-folders too. Note that the files in the sub-folders will be listed prefixed by the folder name, e.g. 'D:\soulseek\placebo - covers\01 Running up That Hill.mp3'.

If you have a particular requirement for a file list leave a comment on this post and I will look into it for you. Also, if anyone is interested in learning more about the various commands and programs available in the Command Prompt please leave a comment.

One last point, you can use > filename.txt to send the results of any command to a text file, which can be very useful if you have to pass information on to a technician.

Now you can impress your friends and co-workers with your 'old skool' techie skills.

Monday, 2 June 2008

How to make Windows quicker: lose the fancy look

There is a price to be paid for fancy effects and other visual features in Windows: a reduction in performance. Nevertheless, by switching off the knobs and whistles you can make Windows run that little bit faster.

To choose which visual features to disable, you need to open the 'System Properties' dialogue. To do this either right-click on 'My Computer' on your Desktop and select 'Properties' from the menu that opens, or hold down the Windows key and press the Pause/Break key. Once you have 'System Properties' open, go to the 'Advanced' tab, and click on the 'Settings' button in the 'Performance' section.

This will open up the 'Performance Options' dialogue box. Make sure you have the first tab selected: 'Visual Effects'. On this page you will see a set of four options at the top. By default it is set to 'Let Windows choose what's best for your computer' but you can also choose to have it select settings for 'best appearance' (where all effects switched on) and 'best performance' (where all effects are switched off). The fourth option lets you decide which effects you want to have activated and which ones you do not. You can have a play around switching these off and on and clicking the 'Apply' button to see how they affect Windows. When you are happy click 'OK'

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Keyboard shortcut of the week: align, centre and justify

By default, all text in Microsoft Word is aligned to the left (except if the default language is set to Arabic or another script that reads right to left). You can change the alignment of the current paragraph by clicking on these buttons on the Formatting toolbar.


But as you have probably guesed by now, you can also change the alignment of the current paragraph using keyboard commands. The following shortcuts also apply to PowerPoint (but, as with many of these keyboard shortcuts, not to Excel).

Align Right
To align the text to the right, hold down Ctrl and press R.

Align Left
To align the text back to the left, hold down Ctrl and press L.

Centre Text
To centre the text, hold down Ctrl and press E.

Justify Text
To justify the text (that is, to make it fill a line - as with a newspaper article), hold down Ctrl and press J.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Three tips for buying a new printer

1) Buy what you need, not what the salesperson suggests
It may seem like a good deal to buy an all-in-one printer, scanner, fax and coffee machine, but if you never scan images and don't send faxes you will be buying technology that you will not use. Another problem with these all-in-one devices is that if there is a fault with the scanner you may not be able to print any more. If all you need is a printer, buy a printer.

2) Buy the right type of printer
If you are going to only ever print black and white documents on Letter or A4 sized paper, don't buy a colour printer. Rather, consider buying a B&W laser printer, especially if you are going to do a lot of printing, which makes a laser printer more cost effective. If you need colour prints or are not going to print regularly then an inkjet printer may be preferable, as the initial outlay is less.

If you are only intending to print photographs off from your digital camera look to see if the camera's manufacturer offers a printer designed specifically to work with their range of cameras. This may cost a little more, but the results will generally be better than what you would achieve using a cheaper inkjet on your computer - plus you will probably have the benefit of connecting the printer straight to your camera.

So, think about what type of printing you are actually going to do and buy the best tool for those jobs.

3) Check the price of consumables
Once you have decided what type of printer you want it is time to compare the cost of replacement ink or toner cartridges. Quite often the printer with the lower price will end up costing you more because the ink is more expensive. Remember, you only buy the printer once, you will buy ink or toner again and again.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

The 5th Carnival of Computer Help and Advice

Top commenter and all-round good-egg, Eerik, will be hosting the fifth monthly Carnival of Computer Help and Advice at his Cool Windows XP tricks, tutorials and software reviews blog.

There are a couple of days left for you to submit your blog posts for the next carnival. To do so go to this submission form on the Blog Carnival's site.

Cheers
K

Bloody Computer! reaches the ton

This hundredth post on Bloody Computer! reviews the story so far (as the fiftieth post did at the beginning of this year).

Top 3 Most Read Posts
1. Free Lightweight Alternatives to Bloatware: 805 views
2. Windows Task Manager Explained: Part 1: 466 views
3. Where has all my hard-drive space gone?: 427 views
Data from the excellent Google Analytics

Top 3 Most Commented on Posts
1. Keyboard shortcut of the week: Quickly Open Link in New Tab: 17 comments
2. Keyboard shortcut of the week: The Case of MS Word: 11 comments
3. How to install new fonts: 9 comments
Thank you for all your feedback

Top 3 Most Dugg Posts
1. Bring files back from the dead: 12 diggs
=2. Folder types: Music, Pictures, Videos, Documents, etc: 7 diggs
=2. Keyboard shortcut of the week: Quickly Open Link in New Tab: 7 diggs
=3. Four Hardware Tips: CD/DVD drives and scanning: 6 diggs
=3. Recovering text from Word documents (Part 1): 6 diggs
Data from Digg (the whole countdown is here)

Top Ten Commenters
1. Eerik (3)
=2. MS (2)
=2. Jo3Black (2)
=2. Magdalen Islands (2)
=2. skyllo01 (2)
=2. Ashutosh Mishra (2)
=2. Davidlind (2)
=2. erickia (2)
=2. Laura (2)
=2. Computer and Electronics Hot Deals (2)
Data from the fancy widget by Blogger Buster (now in the left hand column)

Many thanks to all my regular readers, and here's to the next 100 posts.
K