Tuesday, 27 January 2009

The 13th Carnival of Computer Help and Advice

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

We start this month with a free e-book at BookFundas.com entitled Microsoft Windows XP Registry Guide: "This title for power users and IT professionals is the authoritative source for information on the Windows XP registry and how to modify it to suit your administrative and personal needs. The Windows registry contains profiles for each user of a computer plus information about system hardware, installed programs, property settings, and more."

With Windows XP approaching the end of its production life, Pass The Boll presents a review of Windows 7 - A Promising OS From Microsoft. While we are on the subject of operating systems, The Software Junkie has written a blog post for those of you who have tried the Ubunti 8.10 Intrepid Live CD only to find that OSX will not boot correctly: Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Live CD - Mac Boot Error Fix.

"My blog covers computer-related repetitive stress injuries, ergonomics, software, and peripherals. I put this list together for folks who might be thinking of buying voice recognition software." So writes Lindsay B about the 7 Signs It's Time to Try Voice Recognition Software post at Ergoblog.

Malicious attempts to capture our secured information on the web are on the increase. To help us protect ourselves Richard of Geek-News.Net offers his Tips To Avoid Twitter Phishing.

While Twitter's popularity is increasing as a means to communicate with each other, Jam Ward looks at a swiss army penknife of an application that enables us to communicate via a plethora of systems in The Best Pidgin Hacks & Mods at Jam's Ubuntu Linux Blog.

Finally this month, a welcome return of Andrew Edgington with A Preview of Photoshop Elements 7 Part 1 posted at Learn Adobe Elements.

If you 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. Don't worry, if you don't want to write the Carnival post I can do it for you.

More next month.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Faster word processing revisited

Do you wish to be able to use your word processor more efficiently? Would you like to be able to edit a piece of text without having to reach for the mouse every few seconds? If your answer is 'yes' then this selection of time-saving keyboard shortcuts are for you. They should work in any text editor on Windows (and possibly on other operating systems too), whether you are using a word processor or a comments box on a web page.

I have included a text box as part of this article so you can play around with the various key combinations. For those interested, the text in the box is the opening paragraph of Candide by Voltaire.

We will start with quick navigation links.

  • The Home key will move the cursor to the beginning of the line (on most keyboards this key is in a collection of 6 keys located above the cursor keys).
  • The End key will, unsurprisingly, move the cursor to the end of the line.
  • If you hold down Ctrl and press Home, the cursor will move to the beginning of the document. Ctrl and End will take the cursor to the end of the document.
  • The Page Up and Page Down keys do 'exactly what it says on the tin'; they move the cursor one page up or one page down.

You probably already use the cursor keys (the ones with arrows on) to navigate around your compositions, moving one character at a time. If you hold Ctrl and press the left or right cursor keys you can jump one word at a time, left or right.

You should now be able to whiz around your documents; but what about keyboard shortcuts for selecting bits of the text? To select, simply hold down the Shift key as well as the key combinations I have already mentioned.

  • Holding down Shift and pressing a cursor key will select one character to the left or right, dependent on which cursor key you press.
  • Hold Shift and press Home to select the text from the cursor position to the beginning of a line. Shift and End selects the text from cursor to end of line. Thus, a quick way to select a line of text is to press Home, hold down Shift and press End.
  • Holding down Shift and Ctrl together and pressing Home will select all the text between the cursor position and the start of the document. Holding down Shift and Ctrl while pressing End selects all the text between cursor and end of document.
  • To select the whole document you could hold down Ctrl and press Home to take you to the top; then Shift, Ctrl and End to select to end; however, it is much easier to use the keyboard combination for selecting the whole of a text: Ctrl and A.
  • Holding down Shift and Ctrl and pressing a cursor key will select one word left or right, dependent on which cursor key you press.

So, you can whiz through your document selecting chunks of text as you go. The last selection of key combinations in this article enable you to do stuff to the text.

  • Hold down Ctrl and press C to copy the selected text.
  • Hold down Ctrl and press X to cut the selected text - that is to copy it and delete it.
  • Hold down Ctrl and press V to paste the copied text where the cursor is located.

Whereas, it is easy to remember the key combination for copy (Ctrl+C) the combinations for cut and paste are not so intuitive. When I first started using these particular keyboard shortcuts I remembered the cut combination because the X looks like a pair of scissors, and the V looks a little like an upturned glue pot (a little imagination is required I know).

Play around with all these key combinations in this text box.


Some text boxes allow you to use 'rich text'; that is, text that has extra formatting options such as bold, italic or underline.

  • Hold down Ctrl and press B to make the selected text bold.
  • Hold down Ctrl and press I to make the selected text italic.
  • Ctrl and U will underline the selected text.

Thankfully all three of these are intuitive, so no need for imaginative mnemonics to remember them.

To further increase your productivity while using a word processor you can use your keyboard to access the application's menus too as detailed in this tutorial.

This is an edited version of a post that I originally posted on September 5, 2007.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Jargon Busting: Networking - Part 1

Computer networking is a jungle of acronyms. In this article, which will be the first in an occasional series, I will briefly explain some of the most common of these so that you will be able to impress friends, families and colleagues with your knowledge of the dark art which is networking.

TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol): This refers to a set of rules and standards by which computers can communicate with each other over the Internet and in Local Area Networks (LANs).

IP Address: Every device using TCP/IP has a unique number within its network, not unlike a telephone number. This takes the form of four numbers, each of which has a value between 0 and 255, for example 72.14.221.104, which is the IP address of the google.co.uk web server. Because there are more networked devices with access to the Internet than there are available addresses, there are a various ranges of addresses to be used on private networks. Of these the most commonly used are 172.16.x.x thru 172.31.x.x and 192.168.x.x. Each PC with a private IP address will then access the Internet through a device which will have a public address just as a company may have a private telephone network and a receptionist who redirects calls from outside to the appropriate telephone extension.

DHCP: This is a system that gives a networked device an IP address when it accesses the network, rather than setting the address on each device indivually. This helps prevent two different PCs having the same address on the network and, by extension, it saves the network administrators from having to keep records of what device has been allocated each address. Quite often DHCP systems are set up to give the same address to the same machine for an extended period of time.

URL (Uniform Resource Locator): This is the technical name for a web address or any other address where you tell an application the location of what you want to see and the manner in which it should access it.

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol): You have probably typed this many times at the beginning of URLs. It tells the browser to display whatever it finds at the address as a web page.

Domain name: Consider the follwing URL - http://bloodycomputer.blogspot.com/2009/01/two-applications-for-safer-computing.html. The domain name for my blog is bloodycomputer.blogspot.com. This is part of the larger blogger domain: blogspot.com, which is in turn part of the top-level domain .com used for commercial sites. Thus bloodycomputer.blogspot.com is known as a subdomain of blogspot.com. So basically the domain name is everything that appears after "http://" or "http://www." and before the third "/" in a URL.

DNS (Domain Name Server): This is a computer that translates a URL into an IP Address, so it is something like an automated telephone directory enquiries.

I think that is more than enough for now. Check back for more arcane networking terminology over the coming weeks.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Two applications for safer computing

I recently suffered from the DNSChanger trojan. This particularly nasty piece of malware changes the DNS settings on the infected PC to a server which then redirects the web browser either to advertising or more maliciously to phishing sites. Unfortunately the virus checking software that I was using at the time - AVG Free - failed to pick up the trojan.

This failure along with a number of other gripes that I had with AVG resulted in me looking for a new free anti-virus package. In the end I decided on Avira AntiVir Personal, after having read good things about it on a number of forums. The only issue that I have with this software is that it pops-up an advertisement every time that it updates, but this is a small price to pay. Avira has something of a reputation for finding a lot of false positive, which is when a safe file is mistakenly identified as a virus; however, this is preferable to the opposite problem, when the software fails to identify an infected file.

I finally managed to remove the trojan from my PC using the excellent Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware. A version of this software is available for free that allows you to scan your drives for any infections. You can pay for another version that offers real-time protection from malware.