Monday, March 31, 2008

Internet Explorer: IE Add-Ons

Are you looking for browser add-ons for Internet Explorer (IE)? Browser add-ons enhance IE by giving it functionality that it didn't come with my default (such as spell checking, security enhancements, and more).

Windows Marketplace hosts a section on their site dedicated to these add-ons. Each add-on is screened by Microsoft and rated by users. Check out the site to find the best ones for you.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Windows Vista: Add A Second Time Zone

Windows Vista allows you to track multiple time zones (up to two), which comes in handy when you're traveling or talking to friends or family in another country.

To add an additional time zone, follow the steps below:
  • Right click on the time in the notification area (in the bottom right hand corner).
  • Select the 'Adjust Date/Time' option.
  • In the dialog, select the 'Additional Clocks' tab.
  • Check the 'Show this clock ' checkbox, then use the drop down menu to select the time zone you want to display.
  • Press the OK button.
Click on the clock and you will see the additional time zone(s) you added.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Internet: Adobe opens shop on Web-based Photoshop Express

CNET reports: "Adobe Systems opened up Photoshop Express on Thursday, its long-anticipated Web-based image editor aimed at the millions of consumers that want a simple way to touch up, share, and store photos.

Photoshop Express, available for free with 2 gigabytes of storage at, is a significant departure from Adobe's desktop software business and a big bet that it can make money offering Web services directly to consumers."

Read the following article for more information.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Internet Explorer: IE7 Pro

Personally I like the Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) browser, but there are features (such as: spell checking, and inline page search) that I wish it had. I have checked out several of the available IE7 add-ons, but I have found most of them useless. Then I came across one called 'IE7 Pro', that adds several new features to the browser that I wish came with it by default.

Below is a brief list of features the available features:
  • Tabbed Browsing Management
  • Spell Check
  • Inline Search
  • Crash Recovery
  • Proxy Switcher
  • Mouse Gesture
  • Webpage Capturer
  • AD Blocker (w/Flash Block)
  • Greasemonkey like User Scripts platform
  • And more.
Note: When you install the browser it will redirect your web searches to its site (its states this in the install procedure). The IE7Pro search uses Google results. The developer of the IE7Pro add-on makes its money to support itself through your web searches.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Security: February 2008 Security ISO Image

This DVD ISO image (2.2 Gigabytes) contains security updates for all Window OSs released via Windows Update since February 12th, 2008. This image does not contain security updates for any other Microsoft products.

This image is intended for administrators that need to download multiple language versions of each security update. This ISO is also useful for Windows home users who don't have an Internet connection.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Hardware: Notebook SSDs disappoint reports: "The high rate of failure is surprising, since millions of flash chips get wave-soldered on PCBs every day. Likely problem: the flash translation layer chip isn’t fully compatible with notoriously finicky disk drivers.

The lackluster performance problem is well known to regular Storage Bits readers - search on Solid State Disk if you aren’t. I’m still working on unraveling the issues in detail, but the basic problem is that flash was never intended for frequent small random writes."

It looks like the first generation Solid State Disks (SSD) are having some problems. They're also not delivering any real performance advantages over the traditional mechanical hard drives that we use today.

One thing that is not addressed in this article is that you can only write to a flash memory so many times before it fails. Currently, its generally about 100,000 write cycles per cell on the device. Although most devices don't write to the same cell over and over again, instead they spreads out the writes over many different cells.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Windows Vista: SP1 Resources

Windows Vista Service Pack 1 was designed to addresses specific reliability and performance issues, add support for new types of hardware, and some emerging standards. If you want to install the update immediately, it is available now in five languages (English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish) via Window Update or by going directly to the Windows Download Center for standalone updates of both the X86 and X64 versions.

Here are some resources to assist your Windows Vista SP1 upgrade (note: Most of these documents below are targeted at IT professionals who are going to deploy this update across a corporation. So the documents might be very technical, but there's a ton of great information for the person to wants to know more about SP1.):

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

First Look: Internet Explorer 8

See a developer preview of the new Internet Explorer 8. Some of the features that you will see include: 'Activities' and 'Webslices'. IE8 Activities allows you to do contextual search of text you highlighted on a website (for example if you highlight and address you can look it up on a map). IE8 Webslices gives you the ability to track a specific section of a site, similar to custom RSS feed.

IE8 has a few other features that are under the hood (such as greater compliance with web standards). Although they're not as visible the 'Activities' and 'Webslices'. Watch the video below more information.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Windows Vista: Service Pack 1 is now available

Microsoft has released the standalone version of the Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) for 32-bit (434MB) and 64-bit (726MB) systems. Both versions of SP1 contain five languages which are English, German, French, Spanish and Japanese. SP1 is designed to fix a lot of issues, and bugs that were discovered after the release of the OS, no major new features were added.

This version of SP1 is intended for system administrators of companies, organizations, or government IT departments to make available to their users. Microsoft prefers that people download this service pack through the Microsoft Update service. The download is also smaller if you use the online service.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hardware: Beware Laptop Function Keys

Here is a problem that I had to deal with today. I was given a laptop (Toshiba Tecra M5) to repair where the trackpad was not working. If you plugged in a USB mouse the laptop worked fine. Other people tried to diagnose the problem, but they were unable to figure out what was wrong. They tried all the obvious things, like checking the driver.

Just to be absolutely sure, I un-installed and reinstalled the trackpad driver from the manufacturer's site. In most cases this would have corrected the problem if it was not a hardware failure, or some type of resource conflict.

I always try to ask for a history of the problem before I start working on something. Generally you might find the answer by listening. The person who gave me the laptop said they were doing a presentation and people were fiddling with her computer before the problem happened.

Then the answer hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized that some laptops have the ability to disable certain hardware functionality through the function keys (this varies from laptop to laptop). Sure enough that was the problem, all I had to do was hit the right function key.

I am documenting this, because I am hoping it will one-day help someone who is working on a laptop and can't figure out why something is not functioning.


  • Listen before you do anything.
  • Sometimes the unobvious solution is the answer.
And a bonus lesson
  • Always double-check someone else's work, they may not have done it correctly.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Windows Vista: Hiding the Notification Area (aka System Tray)

Are you a desktop minimalist, and want to know if it is possible to hide the Notification Area (aka the System Tray)? The answer is yes, but I don't recommend it because the operating system and applications uses this area to communicate information to you.

Although, if you want to know how to do it, I have included the instructions below.
Warnings: This tip does require modifying your Windows registry, and if you're not comfortable performing this operation then I don't recommend that you do it. Also As always, you should backup your registry before editing it. Finally use this tip at your own risk.
  • Open up the Windows Registry Editor and then navigate to the following key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\Explorer
  • Right-click in an empty area in the right pane and select New>DWORD value.
  • Give the new value the name NoTrayItemsDisplay
  • Double-click it, then assign it a data value of 1 and press the OK button.
  • Close the registry editor
  • Log off your system and then log back in, and your change will take effect.
To revert the changes, follow the instructions above, and change the NoTrayItemsDisplay value back to 0 (zero).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Firefox: 10 Killer Firefox Extensions That You Probably Don’t Know About

WebUpon reports: "This isn't the usual list of extensions that everyone is used to using, but 10 add-ons that many may not know about, but can be very useful for everyday web browsing."

There are literally hundreds of Firefox extensions available for the browser. That is one of my favorite features about it. This article does cover some unusual and hopefully some useful ones for you to use.

Personally I am very, very choosy about which Firefox extensions I use. So be careful not to install too many because they can make your browser slow and unstable.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Microsoft Office Live Small Business

PC Magazine reports: "You get a whole lot for free with this small-business webifier: 500MB of Web storage, one year of domain registration, simple site-building tools, 100 e-mail accounts, and more than 20 integrated business applications, including project and contact management. Microsoft Office Live Small Business gives SMBs the power to start doing business on the Web, yet keeps the process simple."

If you have a small business that want to bring online, check out Microsoft Office Live Small Business.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Windows Vista: Opening .HLP Files

The older style Windows Help documents that have the .HLP file extension are no longer supported in Vista. Windows Help has been included with every version of Windows since Windows 3.1.

Although some applications still use that format for their Help files. Microsoft has made a version of this application available for Vista , that can opens these files for backwards compatibility reasons.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Best Free Software

PC Magazine reports: "We did the math: If you bought popular apps instead of trying their gratis counter-parts, at the manufacturers' list prices you'd be out $5,183 and change! Why spend money when you can get what you need for nothing? Sometimes, you do get what you don't pay for."

Here is a great list of free applications, check out the article.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

TaxAct Ultimate Online 2007 Accounting and finance reviews

CNET reports: "TaxAct 2007 Online Deluxe + State from 2nd Story Software is one of the least expensive online tax-preparation services available. Of its three flavors, the entry-level Standard is free for electronic federal filing. However, state returns cost $14 extra for Standard and $7 for the $10 Deluxe edition. We tested TaxAct Ultimate Online, which costs only $17 and includes e-filing for federal and state returns. This is a steal compared with offers from Intuit TurboTax and H&R Block TaxCut. You'll have to pay extra for the Deluxe edition or higher to import data used in TaxAct from prior years. TaxAct will keep your data on its servers for three years."

Now that we are right in the middle of tax season. I am always looking for reviews of some good tax filing software.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Remembering Windows XP’s early days reports: "I am amused by the current lovefest going on with Windows XP. It’s the greatest operating system ever, in the minds of some, especially compared to the allegedly bloated, slow Windows Vista. In fact, InfoWorld has gone so far as to kick off a “Save XP” petition drive.

Vista bashers really hate it when you point out that the same criticisms being leveled at Vista today were commonly aimed at XP after its launch. Fortunately, I’ve found a near-perfect example of this trend."

For those of you who don't remember the release of Windows XP (about seven years ago), it was criticized as much as Vista is criticized now. I remember one reviewers comment, which criticized it for having a 'PlaySchool' type look to it.

Both Windows XP and Vista were big leaps technologically when compared to previous versions of Windows (i.e. 95, 98, NT, and 2000).