Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Windows Vista keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are a combination of hot keys, which are a quick substitute to using a mouse. Some Windows Vista keyboard shortcuts are the same as in older versions of Windows:

Alt+Tab = flip through all open program windows on your desktop.

Ctrl+C = copy

Ctrl+V = paste

Ctrl+X = cut

Ctrl+Z = undo previous action

Ctrl+N = open new document

Ctrl+P = print document

For Windows Vista the important key is the "Windows logo" between the Ctrl and Alt eys on the keyboard:

Pressing this Windows key will open the Start Menu. Some other shortcuts with this key:

Windows+D = access the desktop

Windows+E = Windows Explorer

Windows+Pause = display your PC's system configuration

Windows+Tab = flip displayed windows in 3D

Windows+spacebar = display gadgets

Shortcuts for the Windows Photo Gallery:

Ctrl+F = Fix pane

Ctrl+> = rotate a picture clockwise

Ctrl+< = rotate a picture anti-clockwise

- and + = zoom out or zoom into a picture

You can create keysboard shortcuts to other programs. Right-click the program icon and select Properties from the resulting pop-up menu. A properties dialog box will appear, and within the shortcut tab you'll see a text box labelled "Shortcut key." Type in the key combination you would like to use to open that application and click Apply. Do not use a shortcut key combination that's already used by Windows Vista itself.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Windows Vista problems and solutions

If you bought a PC in the last two years, chances are that it came pre-installed with the Windows Vista operating system. Unfortunately it has proved to be a failure, despite all its groovy features, because of many problems. Vista takes up twice the amount of space on the hard disk as XP, about 600 MB. Vista is a strain on a computer's CPU and RAM and, because it is geared towards graphics and video management, it takes a lot of time to load and execute programs.

While Windows Vista has many problems, it doesn't make sense to dump it if you've spent money buying the software and installing it on your computer. There are solutions to Vista problems!

One of the cool features of Windows Vista is the Instant Search function, which helps you find programs and files, and is started directly from the Start Menu (or by hitting the "windows" key, between ctrl and alt, on your keyboard). However the massive index of files that is built up, and which is constantly being updated, is a drain on your computer's resources and slows it down. Therefore speed up your computer by limiting Instant Search to items in the Start Menu: Click on Start and type indexing, select "indexing options" and modify, remove all ticks except "Start Menu and Users". Next click "users" and remove the tick here as well.

Background programs are another drain on Vista's performance. Click Start and type "msconfig", on the "Startup" tab remove any programs that you don't need, like Nero, Acronis, Quicktime, and Windows Defender. The last program is in-built to fight the computer virus menace, but most people prefer to use free regularly updated anti-virus programs like AVG or Avira.

In the same System Configuration utility, remove background services which consume resources from the "Services" tab, like Terminal Services, Remote Registry, Tablet PC Input Service, Windows Error Reporting Service, Network List Service, Offline Files, Print Spooler, Diagnostic Policy Service, Distributed Link Tracking Client, IP Helper, Cryptographic Services, IKE and AuthIP IPsec Keying Modules, IPsec Policy Agent, Network Location Awareness, Program Compatibility Assistant, Shell Hardware Detection, Windows Image Acquisition (WIA), and Windows Time. Click OK and restart.

One of the resource-consuming features is the interface called Aero, which gives the snazzy Flip 3D effect. You can adjust its settings to improve performance, or just turn off the damn thing! Right-click the screen, select "Window color and appearance", select "Windows Vista basic" and click OK.

The "Readyboost" feature in Windows Vista gives you the option of using a flash drive to improve system performance. Insert the flash drive in the USB port and from the options displayed, choose "speed up my system". In the properties box click "use this device" and move the slider to the extreme right.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

VoIP saving money

Web telephony or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a money saving alternative over traditional telephony, and has always been lucrative for Internet surfers. It takes voice signals and packages them into digital parcels, which are sent over the Internet at no extra cost. These packages are then unscrambled in your computer, so what is essentially a data transmission again becomes a voice call. One way of getting VoIP is by using software, which sets up a digital phone on your computer, also called a softphone. Your computer must have a microphone, speakers or a headset, or a USB phone. You can then make free PC-to-PC phone calls using a Internet Telephony provider like Skype in Europe or Vonage in the US. This method of VoIP requires users at both ends to be subscribers to the same provider.

Other VoIP services like VoicePulse provide users with adapters to hook up their phones to their existing broadband connections. They offer unlimited local and long-distance calling for as little as about $16 a month. Naturally the cable and phone companies weren't happy about this and began offering their own digital phone services. The first was AT&T, the largest U.S. long-distance provider, in 2003. About half the USA's 3 million VoIP customers now get their service from cable companies.

The problem with VoIP is there are still some quality issues at peak times, like voice delay. Plus you don't get all of the advantages unless the person you are calling is also using VOIP. Because so few companies and people out there are using the technology, most businesses don't consider it necessary to shift, even though VoIP saves lots of money in the long run.

You don't need a PC to make VoIP calls. Phones like the the Siemens Gigaset S685IP (above) connect directly to the Internet using Wi-Fi and Ethernet. At the back of this wall-mountable box are the power and analogue landline phone connectors, while the Ethernet connector is at the side.

VoIP has been most successful in the mobile phones market. The phones must have a software called Session-Initiated Protocol, which enables the digital exchange of voice data. Unfortunately only a fraction of handsets come with SIP and there is resistance from telecom companies to lettign consumers find alternative money saving ways of making phone calls. Jaxtr has launched the Jaxtr-on-the-go service that lets people make calls from their phones even if it's a mobile without Web browsing or a POTS landline.

Friday, March 27, 2009

TV viewing still number one

Multi-Channel News
Kent Gibbons
A $3.5 million Video Consumer Mapping study, done for the Nielsen-funded Council for Research Excellence, by Ball State University's Center for Media Design and Sequent Partners has found that TV viewing is still the leading media activity among adults 18 and older. Most video viewing is still done on the TV, despite the spread of Web video, video-equipped mobile devices and other media. Adults 18 and older overall watch about 309 minutes of live TV per day, compared with 14.6 minutes of DVR or TiVo playback, 22.9 minutes of DVD or VCR viewing or 6.5 minutes playing console games.

Content was broken into four categories of screens: traditional television (including live TV as well as DVD/VCR and DVR playback); computer (including Web use, e-mail, instant messaging and stored or streaming video); mobile devices such as a BlackBerry or iPhone (including Web use, text messaging and mobile video); and "all other screens" (including display screens in out-of-home environments, in-cinema movies and other messaging and even GPS navigation units).

Using a computer is the second-leading media activity (142.5 minutes per day), surpassing radio, even in major city areas, where commuter times can be long and drive-time radio remains popular. Print media consumption trails TV, computer and radio.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Blogger is number one

Neswire reports that Comscore, a global internet information provider, has released its ranking of the top websites for 2008. Blogger, the Google-owned bloging platform (blogspot.com), continues to hold the number one spot at 221 Million unique visits.

At number two was Facebook with 200 Million unique visits. It was the most popular social networking site with MySpace trailing behind. Similarly Wordpress blogs come behind Blogger.

The split between two blogging platforms and two social networking sites occupying the top slots in these traffic rankings indicates the interest of users who have embraced the new media. It appears that blogging and connecting with friends are the two services in highest demand. The blogging sites serve the needs of creatively-driven people who want to post original content on the web, either in the form of journal-like personal narratives, or in forms of commentary and reporting that some have referred to as "citizen journalism". On the other hand, Facebook and MySpace serve the needs of user who want to form social connections on the web, whether it be around common interests, causes and activism, or real-life, off-line relationships.

Photo-hosting sites like Yahoo-owned Flickr, and sites where users share content like Tagged and Imeem appear further down the list. Link-sharing sites Digg and Reddit do not appear in the top 20.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Blogging Blogger Blogspot

Blog is short for "Web Log", intended originally to be an online diary, but is much more than that today. Anyone can write blogs about anything. Blogging, which is the act of posting a blog, can be done under your real name and identity or annonymously or under an assumed name.

The word blogger, with a small 'b', is the term for a person doing blogging. Blogger with a capital 'B' is the software platform which creates the design, page layout, fonts and colors of your blog. Blogger is free to use by anyone with a Google account, which is also free to obtain. Blogger blogs are hosted by default at Blogspot; your blog will end with the address .blogspot.com or you can buy your own separate domain name and still use Blogger software to create the blog.

Another free blogging platform is Wordpress; unlike Blogger it is downloaded to your computer. You also need to buy a domain name, and a place on the web to host your blog. Wordpress is very popular among professional bloggers for all its tools, plugins, and widgets and it can be downloaded from Wordpress.org. There is a free hosted version called Wordpress.com where you can experience this blogging software but without the many tools that come with the downloadable Wordpress.

Then there are community based blogging platforms and hosts like LiveJournal, Xanga, Blog-city, and Moveable Type. These have free ad-supported version and paid versions. But they do not have the universal popularity of Blogger and Wordpress.

In fact Blogger is the most popular software platform, and Blogspot the easiest to use web space host, for the absolute beginner.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The power of blogging

By Christopher Elliott
Tribune Media Services

When Carl Larson tried to check a regulation-size box on a recent JetBlue flight, an unfriendly ticket agent demanded that he fork over $50 because it contained a folding bike. He insisted on charging the airline's "bike fee" even though it was folded in a regulation-size bag.

So Larson blogged about the experience on the Bicycle Transportation Alliance's site, calling the airline's policy "ridiculous." The story was picked up by another blog, bikeportland.org. Then it made its way onto another site called the Consumerist. It didn't take long for JetBlue to fold. Not only did the airline refund Larson's $50. It changed its rules, too.

"Customers traveling with folding bikes in a bag that fits within the standard checked bag weights and dimensions will not be charged the bike fee and will be treated like any checked bag," a representative told him.

Other industries also feel the heat from the power of blogging:

Debbie Dubrow fired up her laptop after her car rental agency offered her "aged, unclean, and in many cases broken" car seats for her child. The resulting blog post was devastating. "It eventually led ABC News to pick up and investigate the story," she told me. "Its impact reached far beyond a single news broadcast, though." Indeed, the company pledged to clean up its act, and California agreed to revisit its child safety-seat laws.

"Blogging has a sense of authority and authenticity that other media doesn't have," says Rebecca Goldberg, a hotel design expert and editor-in-chief of Boutique Design magazine. She's been tracking the influence of bloggers on the hotel industry, and says it grows with each year.

Other travelers -- particularly those booking their hotels online -- feel that blogs are more believable than what they read in a newspaper or watch on TV. "If I read something in a blog," she says, "it reads more like advice and less like a promotion for the hotel."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cooling a computer

A computer's electronic parts emit heat. The more they are used the greater the heat generated; and the more powerful these parts the more heat they emit. In a computer the CPU heats up the most, followed by the graphics card. Higher-capacity hard disks can also heat up quickly. Excess heat can cause the parts to malfunction, can make the computer hang, and can even permanently shut it down.

Most computers use traditional methods of cooling, like a heat sink to absorb the chip's heat and a noisy fan to dissipate hot air. The computer case should be made of metal instead of plastic, and should have enough room inside so that the air does not heat up too much too quickly.

Liquid cooled computers are popular among high-end users. Some function like car radiators and use water, others use things like industrial coolants and mineral oil (above) in cooling your computer. These cooling systems are still too expensive and not yet available for the ordinary computer user.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

USB port issues

The Universal Serial Bus (USB) ports connect computers and laptops with peripheral devices like flash drives, digital cameras, webcams, iPods, external drives, and mobile phones.

USB ports became standard on most computer since the mid-1990s; they were easier to use than serial ports and parallel ports because you could plug in and unplug devices without restarting your PC. USB ports could also support different devices on the same port at different times, without the computer or laptop needing to be reconfigured. The most important reason for using USB ports were the faster transfer of data they supported.

Since the year 2000 USB 2.0 ports were standard in most computing devices; they allowed for a transfer rate of 480 megabits per second. USB ports are also used to charge devices like mp3 players.

USB port and cable

One of the USB port issues was compatibility; computers fitted with older USB 1.0 or 1.1 ports did not support devices that used the USB 2.0 technology. The other issue with USB ports was driver support.

The new USB 3.0 technology will not have these issues. For one USB 3.0 ports will be backwards compatible; an older port can support a device with USB 3.0 and vice versa. And second USB 3.0 is said to be capable of delivering transfer speeds of 5 Gigabits per second, which is ten times the speed of USB 2.0. This high speed data transfer will make it easier to connect an external SSD drive to your computer or laptop. Transferring high-definition movies to and from your computer will also become easier. The new specification also adds better power-management features for charging devices and saving power.

Products with USB 3.0 support will likely enter the market by 2010.

MySpace photo editing

Social networking site MySpace has introduced web-based image-editing tools so that members can edit their photos even after they have been uploaded to the site. FotoFlexer can perform basic editing tasks (cropping, resizing, flipping, red-eye removal), as well as distortion, color effects, and some decoration and "bling" features (always important).

So far, FotoFlexer on MySpace is available only to U.S. users. The tools will roll out internationally soon, however. This move makes sense for MySpace. Not only does image editing tie in nicely with its longstanding express-yourself, customize-anything vibe, but it's also a way to keep users on the MySpace domain.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

DVD use and repair

Digital Video Disc (DVD) use is now universal for movies, music, and data storage because of their high capacity (more than 4GB). DVD writers are standard in most computers and laptops, or are cheap enough to be installed, and DVD players are standard in home entertainment systems.

Because of their storage capacity DVDs are excellent in backing up data. However like hard disks, DVDs also deteriorate in quality over time and with repeated use. Most DVD manufacturers claim that their discs will last decades, if stored properly. But actual data suggests a much shorter lifespan of between 5-10 years; some discs burned on a home computer begin to deteriorate after only two years of use.

DVDs and CDs sold in the market are mass-produced using expensive publishing machines:
DVD disc publisher

These discs last longer than DVDs that are "burned" using a DVD drive.

There are many ways to repair DVDs, or recover data from DVDs that are damaged or corrupt. The free Unstoppable Copier allows you to copy data from discs that show errors, have bad sectors, or scratches. Another software program, available in free and low-cost versions, is ISOBuster which can recover data from a CD, DVD, or Blu-ray Disc. CDRoller is a more expensive but easy to use program for recovering data from damaged optical media.

Apart from these software programs, there are disc repair machines available for home users that can remove scratches and smudges. There are also more expensive professional DVD disc repair machines available at your local computer hardware store.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

SSD flash drives

Solid State Disk (SSD) drives, are an emerging alternative to the traditional hard disk drives. Compared to the constantly spinning hard disks, SDD drives use flash technology, and are composed of either nonvolatile NAND flash or volatile synchronous DRAM memory. SSD flash drives have no moving parts and can significantly reduce heat, storage device wear and tear, and power consumption.

Computer users have been familiar with simple flash drives, also called USB drives, memory sticks, or thumb drives. These are about 3 inches in size and have a storage capacity of between 1GB and 16GB and are plugged into the computer or laptop's USB port. The modern mp3 players, iPods, mobile phones etc also use flash technology for storage.
SSD flash drive
Solid State Disks have increased in capacity and are available in sizes from 32GB to the newest 256GB; they are built by traditional HDD manufacturers like Samsung (above). The cost of increasing storage capacity in hard disks is non-existent, a 20GB drive costs about the same as a 120GB drive, but this is not so for SSD drives whose price increases exponentially with size. Until recently they were also way more expensive than hard disks, and computers installed with SSD drives added $1000 to the total cost. Samsung predicts that the price will come down in the next few years.

In all other respects SSD flash drives are better than hard disks. They have no mechanical parts and make no noise, they are faster than hard disks, their weight and size is less, and they are believed to last longer than hard disks. But most importantly they consume less electricity and dissipate less heat; adding substantially to the computer user's power savings.

Over the next few years most new laptops, netbooks, and notebooks will come pre-installed with SSD flash drives. Newer models of desktop computers will also make the switch to flash storage once the prices come down.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Deleted files recovery

When you delete a file from your computer, it is taken to the "recycle bin", and to ensure permanent deletion you must empty this recycle bin. After you've emptied the recycle bin there is no way of getting the file back.....or is there?

What happens in reality is that the space occupied by that file is made available for use by Windows, but the file still exists on the hard disk! Unless you're using your computer and downolading or creating new data that file will continue to exist as long as the space is not used. File recovery software can search the hard disk for files that are still present after they were deleted by mistake.

Deleted files and lost data can also be the result of hard disk damage and disrepair which creates "bad sectors". These files and data can also be recovered through file recovery software. Here again the chances of recovery are high as long as the disk has not been used after the data loss. In case of disks with bad sectors, or lost disk partitions, it is also advisable to use file recovery software that comes with its own bootable CD, and is not free.

Free software can still do a good job of recovering lost data and files. PC Inspector File Recovery first scans the hard disk and lists the detected partitions; in the next scan it detects the files that can be recovered. Other free file recovery software are Recuva, Undelete Plus, and SoftPerfect File Recovery. Damaged or corrupt files can be recovered using PC Tools File Recovery or Recover My Files; neither of these is free.

If you have sensitive data, like photos of pretty girls, that you don't want other people to recover from your disks, then use special software to ensure permanent deletion like Eraser.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hard disk care and repair

Hard disk drives, called hard disks or hard drives for short, contain all the important information of our computers. Like the operating system, programs, system files, downloaded files, documents, photos, videos, video games etc. The hard disk becomes overloaded as this information keeps accumulating, which slows down and affects its performance.

Windows XP and Vista have in-built programs like "Disk Cleanup" and "Disk Defragmentation" to tackle this problem. Both of these programs are located at Start>>>>All Programs>>>>Accessories>>>>>System Tools or alternatively you can open the "My Computer" folder, right-click the drive you want checked, and select "properties". Disk Cleanup is located in the "General" tab, while Disk Defragmenter is under "Tools". Disk Cleanup will empty your recycle bin, remove temporary internet files (only from the Internet Explorer browser), downloaded program files, and temporary files; if you are using another browser then empty its cache and cookies separately.

Over time the hard disk slows down because the loads of information is located in different areas. "Disk Defragmenter" collects and places all data in an orderly manner to improve the performance of your hard disk.

Among other problems affecting hard disks are bad sectors; these appear mostly on old drives. If the computer is not shut down properly, or there is a power failure, or a power surge, the disk develops bad sectors. You can use Scan Disk located at Start>>>>All Programs>>>>Accessories>>>>>System Tools or access it under "Tools" by right-clicking the drive in "My Computer" and selecting properties.

Free programs to repair hard disks

Sudden changes in temperature and humidity can damage your hard disk, to the point that it can no longer be repaired. But there is a way to prevent this in the form of expensive software, which detects temperature and fan speed; unfortunately this is not in-built into XP or Vista and has to bought. Luckily for you everything is free on the Internet!

A free program called "SpeedFan" monitors temperatures in both the hard disk and the CPU. It can also cotrol CPU frequency and cooling fan behaviour to moderate temperatures and help you in saving power. Another free program is "SmartDefrag", which is an alternative to Disk Defragmenter, and contains additional options to care for your hard disk.

Finally there is HD Tune. This free software scans the disk for errors, monitors temperature, and lets you review the SMART (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology) properties of your hard drive.

The normal life span of a hard disk is believed to be 5 years or 20,000 working hours, but using in-built programs or free software listed above, this lifespan can be extended and can make your user experience trouble free. SSD flash drives are alternatives to hard disks, but as yet they are too expensive for the general user.

Free version Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office is an essential part of the Windows experience. Unless you bought a computer pre-installed with both XP and Office, you know that these are separate software packages. And you also know how expensive Microsoft Office is....specially if you have paid licensing fees for installing Microsoft Office in your workplace.

A free version of Microsoft Office, called Open Office, exists. It can be downloaded from: Open Office and installed on your computer/computers. It contains every version of the Microsoft Office package:

Writer is the name for the Open Office version of MS Word
Calc helps you create spreadsheets like MS Excel
Impress is just like MS PowerPoint
Base helps in creating database applications in the same way as MS Access
Draw provides basic image creating and editing functions like MS Paint.

The software is easy to understand and get used to because it uses some of the same keyboard shortcuts as in Microsoft Office; like ctrl+v for paste and ctrl+s for save. You can also open your existing Microsoft Office documents and files in the equivalent Open Office program....and vice versa. If you create documents in Open Office Writer and send them by email to a friend, they can open and view those documents in Microsoft Word.

Open Office scores over Microsoft Office in one respect. It lets you create pdf files, without any separate installation of software like Adobe Acrobat. Installing Open Office makes sense for large corporations and government departments that run thousands of computers; they end up saving millions of dollars in licensing fees and maintenance expenses.

It also make sense for you the home user. But if you already have Microsoft Office installed, you can still download and install Open Office just to try it out. Both softwares can exist on the same computer!

Open Office is another example of how everything's free on the Internet.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Finding jobs with YouTube

Ice hockey's Tampa Bay Lightning's marketing director was laid-off but began finding jobs thanks to a video resume posted by his teenage son on YouTube. Within 24 hours, they've already gotten a couple hundred e-mails and a couple of job leads, the father said. 14-year old Ben Gullett says, "I came up with the idea that my dad is a good marketing guy and that I love him and I'm going to be here for him."

In the black-and-white video, the Brandon teen holds up signs that tell viewers about his father. The video goes on to say that Mark Gullett had worked for nine years with the Lightning ice hockey team and was a vice president of marketing.

Standing outside in front of a tree, Ben Gullett holds up signs that read, "Now he needs me and YOU! To help find a job. OK?" He also describes his father as smart, creative and hardworking, "But most importantly he is my Dad. I love you Dad."

YouTube is the online video hosting and sharing service that lets anyone upload videos for a global audience. You need a Google account to upload videos, but anyone can view videos. Among YouTube's massive catalog are music videos, movie clips, TV shows, ads, home movies, audio recordings, etc which have been captured on video or converted to the Flash video format.

Friday, March 13, 2009

iPod Shuffle 3G

Apple's third-generation iPod Shuffle was announced just yesterday with 4GB of storage, a battery the size of a dime, and a total weight of 11 grams. The controls, somewhat controversially, have been moved to the earbud cord, with VoiceOver speech technology for navigation.

The 4GB memory makes the iPod Shuffle 3G, not just a music player, but a storage device for files, pictures, and videos. For this you need to connect the iPod shuffle to your computer using the USB cable that comes with it, and in iTunes select iPod shuffle from the list of devices. Then click the Summary tab and in the Options section, select "Enable disk use" and apply.

By default, iPod shuffle is set to sync all songs and playlists when you connect it to your computer. You can also add and delete songs manually but must remember to firts eject the shuffle from iTunes before disconnecting it from the computer when you're done.

The iPod shuffle 3G music player can also be disassembled with ease. Start by prising open the rear cover by inserting an iPod opening tool into the side crevice. Inside there is only one screw to loosen and the iPod Shuffle comes apart as seen here:

iPod Shuffle 3G

Photo from iFixit. For size comparison they placed the iPod Shuffle parts next to a dime.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Power saving

Power saving features are installed in most operating systems. In the case of Windows XP, right-click on the computer screen and select "properties". Go to "screen saver" and click the power button in the "Monitor Power" section. if you are using a computer for long hours, it's likely that you will take up some time in between for chores, meals, or other activities. In this time you can set the computer to hibernate, or leave it on stand-by, which are power saving features that restart your computer screen just as you left it. "Turn off monitor" and "Turn off hard disks" are other power saving features for the short periods of time you are forced to leave the computer, like attending a phone call or answering the door.

The "screen saver" feature is pointless on modern CRT monitors. However an LCD monitor uses about one-third the power of CRTs. Similarly laptops use less power than desktop computers, and netbooks use less power than laptops.

Power strips, also known as surge protectors, save computers and other electronic devices from power surges and lightning strikes, by blocking or diverting excess current. Even when many of these devices are switched off, they continue drawing power as long as they're plugged in. According to the US Department of Energy this drainage of "vampire power" costs each consumer an average $130 a year, and more than $4 billion a year for America as a whole.

Computer peripherals like laser printers and fax machines use 300 watts when printing, 85 watts when on standby, and 10 watts when idle. Cell phone chargers, DVD players, DVRs, plasma TVs, and UPS (uninterrupted power supply) also use "vampire power" when switched off. All these devices should be unplugged for power saving. Since this is so inconvenient, smart power strips control electricity use and automatically cut power to devices drawing vampire power. Power strips may help in power saving but they also draw power when the connected devices are switched off.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Uses of backlit keyboards

Backlit keyboards are standard in the keypads on mobile phones, but is there any point to backlit keyboards on computers and laptops? In this respect Apple's Mac has been ahead of the PC platform. Though backlit keyboards are manufactured separately for use in PCs.

backlit keyboard by Cyborg

So what are the uses of backlit keyboards?

A backlit keyboard is useful in environments where the lighting is dim, like airplanes, studios or conference halls. It is also useful for those who can't type without looking down at the keyboard. The backlit keys are also fine if you're working late at night and don't wish to disturb others....but the downside of working in the pitch dark and staring at the computer screen and peering down at a bright keyboard is eye strain!

The main disadvantage of a backlit keyboard is that it draws extra power. And besides, if you're an expert at typing on a keyboard, then you won't need the minimal advantage that a backlit keyboard offers in certain limited circumstances.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

TV on a computer

Watching television broadcasts on your computer has been possible for several years. What you need is a TV tuner card inserted in your computer's hardware to receive the TV signals. Then you need software to watch, record, and do other multi-media tasks with the TV broadcasts. In the early days most TV tuner cards were internal, requiring some hardware knowledge to install them. But now there are many external cards, which are simply plugged into one of your computer's USB ports. These cards are more powerful, giving you the ability to zoom or enlarge the TV image, pause and record, display multiple channels at the same time. They also come with remotes.

Whether internal or external, the choice of buying a TV tuner card should be made depending on the kind of TV signals in your area. Whether analog broadcast and cable, or HDTV digital signals. With the transition to digital television after February 2009, you should buy a TV tuner card capable of receiving digital broadcasts.

After you're watching and recording TV shows on your computer consider the legal issues. Internet piracy of TV shows and movies is rampant; once an episode of a popular show is viewed in the US, people record it and upload the video (minus advertising) on torrent sites or video sharing sites. This allows people anywhere in the world to watch that show without waiting for their networks to beam it after months, or even years.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Using a computer for free

As the economy nosedives and people lose jobs, they are turning more and more to using computers for free in local libraries. Using a computer is also free at the workplace and in universities (below photo Atlantatech), but since most people are out of work, and not students, they look to local libraries for free services.

These libraries are open long hours and welcome users of all ages. People use computers for mundane tasks like checking email, browsing, reading newspapers and magazines. With national unemployment touching 8.1 percent in February, many people use library computers to hunt for jobs online, update their resumes, and even increase their education levels.

As a reflection of the economic downturn, libraries throughout the United States are seeing higher numbers of computer users.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

BlackBerry issues

The BlackBerry by RIM Ltd. is a very popular smart phone. But like in all electronic devices there are issues in its usage, which require troubleshooting help. Just like there are reasons a computer hangs, the BlackBerry screen also becomes frozen and does not respond sometimes. To solve this problem of a frozen screen, users either do a soft reset (press ALT + CAP + DELETE) or a hard reset (pressing the "reset" button at the back of the BlackBerry). In those BlackBerrys that do not have a reset button, users simply have to pull out the battery and then put it back in.

Some of the other common BlackBerry issues are problems in browsing the web, problems in sending email or receiving email or both, wireless coverage issues, problems installing apps, battery life, lack of memory and the like. It seems that the "battery pull" method can solve many of these simpler problems. Or freeing up memory, by clearing the Internet cache or deleting media files, does the trick. The BlackBerry Desktop Manager software on a PC allows you to connect with the BlackBerry and free up memory more quickly using your computer. Otherwise there is also the MyBoxTone Expert service for more complex problems.

MyBoxTone has recently introduced a new version of its management, monitoring and reporting software for BlackBerry Enterprise Servers (BES) to help enterprises drive down per-user costs. This will allow BlackBerry users themselves and level 1 helpdesk personnel to clear up nearly all issues. For example the “1-Click Fix-It” enhancement for quickly fixing well-known issues. BoxTone has discerned, for example, that when BlackBerry users receive email but cannot send it, the problem is nearly always with their BlackBerry service books. Support staff simply click one button that resends the service books software to the user.

Downloading BlackBerry Apps

In the case of mobile apps the BlackBerry lags behind Apple's iPhone, mainly due to its limited memory. While the iPhone has always had the Apple's App Store, BlackBerry users had to install third-party applications. By default, RIM blocks the ability to load apps to external memory cards.

But now BlackBerry users can download apps and games from BlackBerry App World. You need a PayPal account to pay for the apps, which cost $2.99 or more. Their most expensive app is for $999 and is meant for corporate users. You can also develop your own apps and have them sold by the BlackBerry App World. Sexy Argentine celebrity Luisana Lopilato is a BlackBerry user:

BlackBerry Storm has a touchscreen and extra memory

Solving many of the BlackBerry issues is the touchscreen phone, named Storm. It is a good looking gadget, with a paino black finish and metallic lining, and matte finish to the cover. The charging port is located on the right, as are the volume control, 3.5 mm jack for stereo, and the camera buttons.

The screen is 3.25" and you can either use the traditional keypad or turn the phone to type on a full QWERTY keyboard. The Storm still has issues unfortunately, mostly due to it slow operating system.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Mobile apps

Cell phone software, also called mobile apps, is a growing business as more people use their mobiles to surf the web and use computer applications.

nude girl painted mobile apps
Despite recent competitors like Google’s Android and Ovi by Nokia, Apple still dominates the mobile application market with its ITunes App Store. While Apple has had the advantage of being the first company to successfully penetrate the market with its AppStore, offering a wide variety of user generated programs for the iPod and iPhone, many mobile companies are introducing their own variations of the concept.

In addition to Google and Nokia, Blackberry is looking to capitalize on its industry-leading Smartphone market share with a storefront introduction expected in March. Palm and Microsoft are also looking to enter the market. No one however can currently compete with the 15,000 applications the Apple AppStore is offering.

The App Store even offers 13 applications that help you save money in this recession!

Apple is also ahead in the mobile gaming market. Apple's App Store offers games for sale, as well as their free limited-use versions. Recently Namco Networks released the first snowboarding and skiing game on iPhone, available at Apple's App Store.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Typing Mistakes

Typing mistakes, or typos, are very common in using a computer because of the way the letter keys are stacked on the keyboard. When you make typos in a program like MS Word, the spellcheck helps you to find out the mistakes. But sometimes the typed word is also correct and does not show up in spellcheck; for example when the word "from" is commonly mistyped as "form".

Typing mistakes while using Google Search are corrected in the search results. For example if instead of "police" you mistakenly type "polcie" Google Search gives the results for "polcie" but also queries, "Did you mean: police" with a link under the word "police" by clicking which you are taken to the results for police.

Typing mistakes directly in the url lead you to different sites. For example wikipedia is mistyped as wikpedia and blogspot as blogpsot in the browser's address bar. Both the mistaken names have been turned into websites, so that whenever a computer user makes the mistake he/she is unwittingly taken to the fake site. For example mistyping blogspot as blopsot takes you to a Christian religious site shown above.

The term for this is "Typosquatting" and it is a big online business. Thousands of such pages filled with ads, propaganda, or malware, exist on the web in the hope that someone will make a typing mistake and reach their page.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Adriana Lima relationship

Adriana Lima has been romantically linked to celebrities, including a rumored engagement with rocker Lenny Kravitz and a relationship with Major League Baseball player Derek Jeter. But Adriana Lima is still a Victoria's Secret virgin.

She was also known to be dating Prince Wenzeslaus of Liechtenstein. This relationship was a relatively "hot" topic for the society spy columns and celebrity watchers, specifically Page 6, New York Post and Hola! online magazine. Adriana Lima has claimed to GQ magazine that she remains a virgin and that potential suitors "have to respect that this is my choice."

Adriana Lima is now dating Memphis Grizzlies star Marko Jaric. Adriana has mixed French, Portuguese, Native-American (Brazilian Indian tribes), and Caribbean ethnicity. Marko Jaric is simply a Serbian.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Top 20 virus programs

We know what is a computer virus and how to protect our machines from such programs. TrendLabs of Trend Micro Inc. listed the top 20 virus programs through the history of using computers:

1. CREEPER (1971) first worm program ran on a DEC 10 computer under the TOPS TEN operating system

2. ELK CLONER (1985) first personal computer virus, on the Apple IIe. This was created by a 9th grader

3. THE INTERNET WORM (1985) written by a person at Cornell University which brought the Internet to a standstill.

4. PAKISTANI BRAIN (1988) first virus to infect the IBM PC, written by two brothers from Pakistan. This was the first virus widely covered by the media, although viruses were already well known in Science Fiction.

5. JERUSALEM FAMILY (1990) About fifty different strains of this virus, believed to have come from the University of Jerusalem

6. STONED (1989) the most widespread virus in the first decade of viruses; stoned was a boot sector/.mbr infector that would count the number of reboots from its original infection and display the phrase "your computer is now stoned"

7. DARK AVENGER MUTATION ENGINE (1990) was actually written in 1988, but was only first used in the early nineties in viruses like POGUE and COFFEESHOP. This Mutation Engine was the first real Polymorphism put into use in the wild, and changed virus work forever.

8. MICHEANGELO (1992) a variant of STONED, with a destructive payload. On March 6th, this virus will erase the first 100 sectors of a hard drive, rendering it useless.

9. WORLD CONCEPT (1995) the first Microsoft Word Macro virus in the wild, Word Concept would enter the phrase, "That's enough to prove my point" This launched the second era of computer viruses, and was important in that it brought computer viruses to a much less skilled level of hacker

10. CIH/CHERNOBYL (1998) The Chernobyl virus was the most destructive virus ever seen, up to it's time. Hitting on the 26th of any month (depending on the version involved), it would both erase the hard drive, and wipe out the flash ROM BIOS of the computer in question.

11. MELISSA (1999) the first major virus to spread via email, and really the beginning of the Internet virus era. Although Melissa was non destructive, it was disruptive in the fact that it would both replicate and fill email boxes wherever it went.

12. LOVEBUG (2001) the most popular email worm ever, driven purely by social engineering

13. Code RED (2001) named for a popular high caffeine soft drink, this network virus spread without either email or webpage. It located vulnerable computers and infected them all on it's own.

14. NIMDA (2001). Dubbed "the Swiss Army Knife" of viruses, it used buffer overflows, email, network shares, and ten other methods to gain entry to a network.

15. BAGEL/NETSKY (2004) were viruses designed to demonstrate a fake competition, or war with each other. With hundreds of versions each, and varying amounts of new technology and success, these two worms stayed in the news virtually the entire year.

16. BOTNETS (2004) these zombie warriors of the internet provide Cybercriminals with an endless collection of infected computers that can be reconfigured in networks to forward spam, infecting new people, stealing data—they allow the bad guys to use.

17. ZOTOB (2005) this worm only affected unpatched windows 2000 systems, but managed to take out several major media sites, including CNN and the New York Times

18. ROOTKITS (2005) they have become one of the most popular stealth tools in the world of malicious code. It is used to make other malware invisible by warping the operating system.
Most virus programs use celebrity or sexy girl photos to entice clicks
19. STORM WORM (2007) the virus went through thousands of iterations, eventually creating the world's largest botnet. At one time it was believed that more than fifteen million machines were infected at the same time, and in the control of the criminal underworld.

20. ITALIAN JOB (2007) rather than a single piece of malware, the Italian Job was a coordinated attack using a prepackaged tool kit known as MPACK. It involved corrupting more than ten thousand websites, causing them to plant modern Data Stealing Malware.

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