Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Free ebook: Introducing Windows 8: An Overview for IT Professionals

Microsoft is offering a free book called "Introducing Windows 8: An Overview for IT Professionals (Final Edition)".  Below is excerpt from the web site describing the book: "Is this book for you? Get a headstart evaluating Window 8—guided by a Windows expert who’s worked extensively with the software since the preview releases. Based on final, release-to-manufacturing (RTM) software, this book introduces new features and capabilities, with scenario-based insights demonstrating how to plan for, implement, and maintain Windows 8 in an enterprise environment. Get the high-level information you need to begin preparing your deployment now." (read more on the website)

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Video: Windows PowerShell v3 Crash Course

Video description from the site: "Windows PowerShell v3 is here, and it is delivering on Microsoft's promise to make nearly everything in Windows manageable from the command-line. Are you finally going to learn the shell, or learn to say, "would you like fries with that?" instead? Join PowerShell author, columnist, trainer, and MVP Don Jones (one of the world's most well-known PowerShell experts) in a crash course that shows you how to use the shell's key features. No scripting experience needed—you'll use the shell as it as meant to be used to accomplish real administrative tasks with just a few commands. Also, learn how the shell can teach you how to use itself, setting you up for success with the new wave of Microsoft and third-party enterprise products."

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Article: Netflix Alternatives (Streaming Movie Sites)

Below is a excerpt from an article on a web site called The Jason Chronicles called "Netflix Alternatives (Streaming Movie Sites)": "Like many people, I have ditched my TV several years ago and get most of my video entertainment from sites like Hulu and Netflix. I have been a huge fan of Netflix for years, I thought they provided a great deal for what you got. Although, after their rate hikes in 2011, I have been contemplating alternatives to their service.

It is worth noting that most of these services are not subscription based like Netflix, they're fee based so you pay for every movie you watch. This is great for people who only watch movies once in a while, but if you like to watch a lot of streaming movies or TV shows this can get expensive.

The service offerings of these websites change all the time by adding new features, services and prices so the list of providers below are only pointers." (read the rest of the article)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Software: Password Management Applications (Updated)

About a year ago I wrote the original article which this one is based on, but I recently decided it was and important subject and it needed to be expanded with more information.

The problems is that most of us are swimming in passwords, and we have a hard time remembering all of them.  To deal with the password overload, people will use different unsecured methods like writing them down store them in obvious places on a post-it note under a keyboards, a phone, a mouse pad, even under or in a desk drawer.  Others write them on notes and leave them on their monitors or computers.

You could created encrypted document of some type (e.g. text, Word, Excel, etc.) to store them.  There are also several password management applications available for you to download, some are free and others cost money.

Although before you pay for anything or try other programs.  Check out a program called KeePass.  This is a multiple platform, open-source password management application.  There are also 3rd party ports of the application that work on popular mobile platforms (e.g. iPhone, Android, etc.).

KeyPass will store your private data in an encrypted file, so even if someone steals it they can't read it unless they know the master password.  Check out the web site for more information.

Note: KeyPass needs its data file to be shared with a file-based sync solution such as Dropbox to be utilized among multiple devices (e.g. PCs, Macs, iDevices, and Android Devices).
If you want something that offers more features then KeyPass, checkout some of the commercial password management solutions like:
  • 1Password
    • Stores your private information (e.g. passwords, credit cards, etc.) in a locally encrypted file and can automatically log you into your favorite website and fill-in web form fields.  See the site for more information.
    • Note: 1Password needs its data file to be shared with a file-based sync solution such as Dropbox to be utilized among multiple devices (e.g. PCs, Macs, iDevices, and Android Devices).
  • LastPass
    • Like 1Password this application stores your private information (e.g. passwords, credit cards, etc.) in an encrypted web service that can automatically log you into your favorite website and fill-in web form information.  
    • There is a free and premium version of the service.  The major difference between the two versions of the services is that the premium subscription includes ability access to your data from a mobile device (several different platforms are supported).  See the site for more information.
    • Note: LastPass is a cloud based solution, which syncs your passwords with its servers.  If the companies servers are down, you will not have access to your passwords.  So you might want to make sure that you have an encrypted local backup of your password data file.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Special Offer: Carbonite Update and $20 Amazon Gift Card for Signing Up

I have talked about the Carbonite cloud based backup service in the past, see the excerpt below from an article that I wrote back in July.  

Recently I found out two new things about the Carbonite service, and I wanted to share it.  First, they extended their service to include protection of your Android based cellphone. They currently offer backup, location, and remote lock and wipe (if your phone is stolen) service.  Apple already offers most of these feature through their iCloud service for the iPhone.  Second, they're also offering a $20 Amazon gift card if you use this link to purchase this service (note: I am not sure how long this offer will last).

Read the pro and cons of "Local Hard Drive Backup vs Cloud Backup" options below and make your own decision that works best for you.

Article Excerpt
Below is a list of some advantages to using a cloud based backup service provider vs. using an external hard drive:
  • All your backups are stored off-site automatically.
  • Some backup solutions offer services that run in the background on your computer that automatically compresses your unbacked up files, encrypts them, then forward them on to the service provider you selected.
  • You almost never have to worry about running out of capacity as long as you have a budget for the storage that you're using.

There are several service providers available that offer some type of cloud based backup services.  Some are free, while others cost money.  The hard part will be finding one that you like, and that has the features that you want.
There are also some disadvantages to using these services, such as: 
  • Depending on how much data you have, these services can initially use a lot of bandwidth to upload all your data.  Depending on your ISP there may be a cap on the amount of data that you can utilize each month.
  • If you have to recover your whole hard drive from your service provider it can be challenging and expensive depending on the solutions that they offer.

Below is a list of features and other considerations when looking for a company to host your backups:

  • Has a good reputation for providing a reliable backup solution.
  • Offers easy to use software that automatically backs up your files and uses strong encryption.
  • Offers affordable pricing for storage and recovery services.
  • Offers storage capacity options that meets your needs and budget

Check out a site called Carbonite, they provide affordable Internet backup solutions for privately owned personal computers and small businesses.  Check out the site to see a current list of features and prices. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hardware: Introduction to RAID Arrays

Did you know if you have multiple drives on your computer, and your hard drive controller supports RAID you can make them appear as one drive? RAID is an acronym for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks. Some motherboard and hard drive controllers support the ability to create a RAID array out of two or more disks.

You might wonder what are some of the advantages to RAID arrays? The first thing you need to know about this technology, there are several different types of RAID, each one has its own advantages and disadvantages. The second thing you need to know, all versions of RAID make multiple hard drives look like one drive to the operating system.

Some types of RAID arrays offer fault protection, for example if a hard drives in the array fails. Other types of RAID arrays offer speed advantages, for example your computer can read and write data to multiple drive at the same time (this is called striping).

Below is a list that explains the different types of RAID arrays that are available:
  • RAID 0 (Stripping): Data is striped across two (or more) drives, this maximizes read and write performance. There is no redundancy in this configuration, if one hard drive fails in the array you will lose all your data.
    • Note: This array configuration requires at least two drives.
  • RAID 1 (Mirroring): When data is written to one drive, it's also written to an identical drive. This process is known as disk mirroring. If one drive fails, the backup drive takes over. When the failed drive has been replaced, the data will be mirrored to the new drive.
    • Note: In this array configuration, you can experience slower writes, and even though you have two drives you only get the storage capacity of one of the drives (the second drive is being used to backup the main drive).
  • RAID 5 (Parity): In this configuration, data is striped across all the drives (like RAID 0), with some additional parity data. The parity data is used to rebuild the data on a new drive that has been replaced after the old one failed. A RAID 5 array can only survive one drive failing at a time, at least until the replacement drive has been rebuilt (note: this process can take several hours depending on the size of the drives).
    • Notes:
      • In this array configuration, you need at least three drives at a minimum. This RAID configuration has read and write performance faster than RAID 1, but can be little slower than RAID 0.
      • In this array configuration, you're going to lose about 25% of your drive space to parity information. For example, if you had four 250GB drives in theory you should be able to make them look like one 1TB (Terabyte = 1000 Gigabytes) drive. Although, after you RAID them you might only have about 750GB storage from all the drives.
  • RAID 10 or RAID 0+1 (Stripping + Mirror): Uses a combination of RAID 0 and 1, it gives you increased performance by striping the volumes, but it also mirrors the volumes. This configuration requires a minimum of four drives.
      • Notes: In this array configuration, you would yield about 500GB of capacity from four 250GB hard drives. This is because two disk are used for stripping and two disks are used for mirroring.
Note: In the RAID 1, 5, 10 array configurations you're only protected against one hard drive failing. These array configurations don't protect you against file damage or lose caused by a virus, user error, or other types failure. So make sure you backup your data on a regular basis.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Article: If Windows 8 baffles you, here's some free training

 CNET Reviews reports: "People new to Windows 8 can get a helping hand via a special course from the online training site Dubbed Windows 8 Essential Training, the four-hour course is available for free to the public until November 23." (read the rest of the article)

Bringing 'Minority Report' touchless gestures to Windows 8

CNET News reports: "Elliptic Labs wants to bring the touchless gesture controls seen in the science-fiction film "Minority Report" to everyday consumer electronic devices, starting with Windows 8." (read the rest of the article)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Windows 8: Windows Key Keyboard Shortcuts

With every new version of it operating system, Microsoft updates the keyboard shortcuts.  Sometimes it changes the functionality of older shortcuts, and it also adds new shortcuts as appropriate.

The Windows Key (WinKey) keyboard shortcuts below are for Windows 8

Key Strokes Description
WinKey Displays the Start screen.
WinKey + Pause/Break Displays System Properties page.
WinKey + D Displays the Desktop from the Start screen.
WinKey + E Displays Windows Explorer.
WinKey + F Displays Search for files and folder.
WinKey + F1 Displays Help and Support Center.
WinKey + L Lock the workstation.
WinKey + M  Minimizes all of the windows on the desktop*.
WinKey + R Displays Run dialog box.
WinKey + Tab  Lists the currently running applications.
WinKey+ PrtScrn
Takes a screenshot and saves it in the Screenshots folder under the Pictures folder. Note: On a Windows 8 tablet to take a screenshot, press the Windows button and the volume-down button simultaneously on the tablet chassis.
WinKey + Q
Displays the Global Search menu.
WinKey + W
Displays the System Settings menu.    
WinKey + , (comma)Makes all windows transparent.
WinKey + . (period)Toggles the current window to the right or left side.
WinKey + XDisplays the Quick Access menu. Note: Similar to right-clicking on the bottom right corner of the screen to view the Quick Access Menu.
WinKey + IDisplays the Settings menu.
WinKey + OLocks the orientation for devices with an accelerometer.

To find more application shortcut keys for Windows, Internet Explorer, Remote Desktop and several more, check out my Application Keyboard Shortcuts page.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Windows 8

Most people already know that Windows 8 has been released, and those that installed it on they're systems are experiencing Microsoft's new "Modern UI".  Personally I like the new OS, it modernizes the Windows user interface which really has not changed since 1995 with the introduction of Windows 95.

The Windows Modern UI incorporates some new user interface metaphors that were designed to allow the OS to be controlled by a touch screen.  Although, the OS still  supports being controlled with a traditional keyboard and mouse gestures, but may take sometime before they become totally natural (or comfortable).

Another new feature of the Windows Modern UI that you will notice right away is the use of "Live Tiles".  These are basically large application icons that can be updated with real-time information by the associated application.

Windows 8 Versions
There are a lot of things that I think Microsoft really did well when they released this OS.  First there are not six different versions of the OS (like Windows 7), now there is only two.  The Windows 8 version for home users and the Windows 8 Professional version for business users.
Note: there are technically two other versions, Windows 8 Enterprise (which is intended for large organizations).  There is also Windows 8 RT which only available pre-installed on tablets and laptop from the manufacture.
Over the next few weeks I plan on covering some basic tips and tricks that will help you to fully utilize the new features of the operating system.

Tip: Using Windows 8 Charms
One of the first things I believe you need to know about Windows 8 is how to use the "Charms" sidebar interface (which includes the Search, Share, Start, Devices and Setting menus).  This is a set of five icons that will pop-up on the right side of the screen from the Start screen or from within any application.

To bring up the Charms sidebar, hover your mouse over the upper or lower right-hand corner of the screen, or press the Windows + C keys on your keyboard, or on a  touchscreens by swiping your finger down from the right edge of the screen toward the center.

Video: The Live Tile Experiment
Below is a video called the "The Live Tile Experiment" by Microsoft.  One of my favorite features of Windows Modern UI are the "Live Tiles".

In the video (which takes place in Germany) they created a real life "live tile" and put it on the street.  When the tile is clicked the wall falls down and something wonderful happens.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Security: PwnedList: Find Out If Your Accounts Could Have Been Comprimised

There is a site called PwnedList that can check if your email address is contained in public data that has been taken from computers and web sites that have been compromised by hackers.  The site started out as a research project to find out how many compromised accounts could be harvested programatically in just a couple of hours.

To use the site all you have to do is put in your email address and it will check it against its database.  If it finds a match in the database it will let you know.

First I need to say I am not a legal expert, so you will have make your own decisions on what is best for you. If I found there are any results returned from this site, here is some basic few things that I would do to protect myself.

The first thing you should do is change the passwords on the compromised accounts.  The next thing you should is consider your options depending on what information was stolen.  If this was site that could have impact an on you (financial, personal, etc.), contact the company and let them know you found your account was compromised, and ask them if they have any advice.  If the site could have contain any financial or personal data make sure to check and monitor your credit report.

Now for an important question is how do you know that this site is legitimate.  If you're not asking that question, then you should.  Generally before I ever even try a site like this, I will do a search to see what others say about it.  For example, here is a general search, and here is a news search.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

YouTube: Video Discovery Services

YouTube offers two video discovery services that can help you find new music and other types of videos.  The Disco service is for finding, mixing, and watching music.  The Leanback service is for finding new videos that you might enjoy.

Privacyfix - Locking down your privacy settings (Facebook, Google, and More)

Information that you share publicly on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. can sometimes be used against you (such as embarrassing photos, what you think of someone, etc.).  The general rule of thumb is "if its too personal don't post it", but its also good to make sure that only the people you want to see your posts can.

Social networking sites in the past have made it difficult to make your information private, but over the last few years they have gotten better about allowing you to lock down your data.  Although, the problem is that these settings are not always that easy to understand what they do.

There is a new extension that I heard about recently called "Privacyfix", its supposed to help you lock down your privacy setting on Social networking sites like Facebook, Google, and others. So far I have used it to lock down my settings on Facebook, Google, but I have not used it on other sites except to block cookies.

The company claims, "We don't collect any data from your use of Privacyfix, unless you choose to send it to us. We don't store IP addresses and we cannot and do not see or save your web browsing."

Monday, October 15, 2012


End User License Agreements (also known as EULAs) are the bane of most computer users. These EULAs can be several pages long filled with legalese that seems next to impossible to understand unless you're a lawyer, and to make matters worse they put it all into a small window that requires a lot of scrolling.

Most user might skim through them at best, then press will press the accept button to install the application.  Without reading these documents you could possibility signing away certain privacy rights (such as tracking you, how they use your data and more) or something even worse (e.g. such as bundled components that may put advertising on your desktop).

EULAlyzer works by analyzing the text of the EULA, and highlights a detailed listing of potentially interesting words and phrases that you should read.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Protecting Your Digital Presence

Every day we are putting more of our data and connecting our computers and devices to the "cloud" because it offers conveniences and features that are not available by other means. For example, you can have your data automatically backed up to a remote service provider, or access your home or office computer from any location with an internet connection. Although by doing this, we are also making it easier for criminals and hackers to steal our data remotely in ways that were not possible in the past.

For example a tech reporter name Mat Honan had his "digital presence" deleted by a criminal using social engineering. The attacker took over several of Mat's accounts (including Gmail, Amazon and Twitter), and even convinced Apple's iCloud customer support to reset his Apple ID password. Then proceeded to remotely wipe all his devices (e.g. iPhone, iPad, and MacBook). The attacker even used Mat's twitter account to post racist comments.

The summary only offers a very high level overview of what happened, but it does demonstrate some of the dangers of using "cloud" services and what could happen. This article is not intended to warn you against using cloud services, but to offer advice on how you can protect your "digital presence" .

To read the full account of what happened to Mat Honan you can read the following Wired article entitled "How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking".
  • Be careful not to share too much personal information online that can be used against you like your mother's maiden name, your physical or mailing address, personal email address, etc. 
  • Be careful about which online accounts are link together.
    •  For example, if an attacker obtained a person's Facebook account password, they would have access to any site that used that account for authentication. 
  • Use two a factor authentication when offered by different sites, such as: eBay, PayPal, Google, Facebook, etc. Also call your financial institutions to find out what extra security measures they offer to help protect your accounts. 
  • Create a secret (e.g. unknown to others) backup email and voice account and use it for resetting your passwords across your different online profiles. 
  • Strengthen the answers for your "security questions" which are used to reset your password to your online profiles to use information that is not known about you by others or posted on the internet. 
  • Don't share your passwords with anyone; use strong and unique passwords for every site; and use a password manager to track everything. 
  • Keep an up-to-date local and cloud backup of your data, just in case one the backup fails there's an alternative. 
  • Portable devices that support a remote wiping service need to have an up-to-date backup of the data. If an attacker can access the user profile that associated with that feature they can remotely wipe that device. 
  • Make sure to set your desktop computer, laptop, tablet, and smartphone to auto-lock with a PIN or password when they're inactive. Even if they're in your home, and you're the only one using them. What happens when you have company, or if a criminal broke into your home.
More resources:

Troubleshooting: Fixing Shutdown/Hibernation Problems

Are you having problems with the hibernation or shutdown feature on your computer not working?  Sometimes  these issues can be caused by a process or application running in the background.

To help fix this issue from an administrator command prompt, type "POWERCFG -REQUESTS".  The output of this command will show any processes or drivers that are making power requests that could prevent your computer from sleeping or shutting down.
C:\Windows\system32>powercfg -requests 

Monday, October 08, 2012

Software: Cliplets from Microsoft Research (Free)

Product description: "Microsoft Research Cliplets is an interactive app that gives users the power to create "Cliplets" -- a type of imagery that sits between stills and video, including imagery such as video textures and "cinemagraphs". The app provides a simple, yet expressive way to mix static and dynamic elements from a video clip."

The video below is a tutorial on how to use the software:

Monday, October 01, 2012

Windows 7: Create a Flip3D Launch Icon

In Windows Vista they created a more sophisticated version of the Alt+Tab feature and called it "Windows Flip", it supports live previews of the applications.

They also created a more enhanced version called Flip 3D that allows you flip through a stack of your open application windows?  To access it press the WinKey+TAB. (Note: Windows Aero user interface needs to be enabled to use Flip 3D).

You can create a taskbar icon to access the Flip 3D functionality, just follow the instructions below:
  • Right-click an empty area on the desktop and select New > Shortcut
  • In the "Type the location of the item" field, type RunDll32 DwmApi #105, press the Next button.
  • In the "Name" field, type Flip 3D, press the Finish button.
  • Right-click on the new shortcut and select Properties
  • Click the Shortcut tab, then click the Change Icon button
  • In the "Look for icons in this file" field, type or browse to c:\windows\explorer.exe
  • Select the Flip 3D icon (looks like a stack of windows) and click OK
  • Drag the new shortcut onto the taskbar and pin it there. 
Use the arrow keys to move through the application windows.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Internet Explorer: Play Updated Classic Atari Arcade Game (Free)

For Atari's fortieth anniversary, it has released several updated versions of its classic arcade games.
Go to the following site in Internet Explorer to play the games for free.  These games will work in other browsers but they're not going to be ad-free.

Below is a list of all the games:

  • Asteroids
  • Centipede
  • Combat
  • Lunar Lander
  • Missile Command
  • Pong
  • Super Break
  • Yars' Revenge

Thursday, September 06, 2012

50GB of free cloud storage (With a catch)

There are several storage services that will give you a few gigs of free cloud space for your files, such as: SugarSync (w/5GB of free space), SkyDrive (w/7GB of free space) and Dropbox (w/2GB of free space). Although if you need great deal of storage, check out MediaFire it's offering 50GB of free cloud storage (with a catch).

Make sure to read the following chart and see if you can live with the limitations of the free account.  For example, some of the limitations are:
  • No file syncing
  • 200MB largest file size
  • 1 customized folder link
  • and a few more...

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Software: Microsoft Download Manager

Do you need to download several large files (such as: application or multimedia files) from different sites.  You can use your browser's built-in file download feature, or you can check out an application called Microsoft's Download Manager.  It can make downloading large files quick and reliable.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Software: Microsoft Expression Encoder 4 (Free Screen Recorder)

Microsoft Expression Encoder 4 allows you to record your PC’s screen for video training and demos.  This software comes in two editions, a free and pro version.  The main differences is that the free version only lets you record for about 10 minutes, and only supports a limited set of CODECs to export your video.

If you're only going to post your videos to sites like YouTube, most people are limited to 10 minutes uploads. After you finished recording your video the software also includes tools for performing simple edits and overlays.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Software: Eyes on the Solar System

Eyes on the Solar System is a 3-D environment full of real NASA mission data. You can explore the cosmos from your computer, hop on an asteroid, or fly with NASA's Voyager spacecraft. See the whole solar system moving in real time.  Download the software: (requires Java to run)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Internet Explorer: Starting in InPrivate Mode

You can start Internet Explorer in the InPrivate mode which doesn't save your personal information (such as: browser history and cache files for personal privacy reasons). Follow the steps below to create a shortcut that enables this feature when you launch its icon:
  • Right-click an empty space on the desktop and click New, then select Shortcut.
  • Type the following information into the Location field when wizard displays: "%ProgramFiles%\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe" -private
  • Press the Next button, give the shortcut a name (for example "IE InPrivate Mode").
  • Press the Finish button when done.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Article: Microsoft opens $14.99 Windows 8 upgrade registration for purchasers of Windows 7 PCs

Here excerpt from an Engadget article:"Normally the early bird gets the worm, but in the case of Windows 8, purchasers of Windows 7 PCs will have until February 28th, 2013 to snag their promotional upgrade. The Windows Upgrade Offer, which provides upgrades to Windows 8 Pro for a mere $14.99, is now open for registration to all those who purchase a Windows 7 PC between June 2nd, 2012 and January 31st, 2013." (read the rest of the article)

Microsoft SkyDrive Gets an Update, Microsoft's cloud-based storage service got several new features and an updated look recently.  It defaults to a tile-based layout and boasts new features like instant search and a contextual toolbar. was also rolled out recently, which is Microsoft's new cloud-based e-mail service designed to replace

Monday, August 20, 2012

Internet Explorer: Reset Settings

Internet Explorer can be difficult to troubleshoot, partly because of the many settings and modifications that can be made to it. There's a way to undo most of these changes and roll I.E. back to its original "factory" configuration.

Microsoft includes a feature called "Reset Internet Explorer Settings", to utilize it follow the instructions below:

Warning: This feature can't be undone, use it at your own risk.
Note: This operation can also be performed from the Internet Options control panel.

  • Close all instances of  Internet Explorer except one.
  • Open the Tools menu, and select Internet Options.
  • Click the Advanced tab, and press the Reset... button.
  • Only check the Delete personal settings checkbox if you want it to reset personal features.
  • Press the OK button, and it might take a few minutes to completed.
The next time you launch I.E. it should be restored back to the factory defaults.  For more information on this feature on what is and what is not effected check out this video from Microsoft.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Article: Grab Free Desktop Syncing Plus 25GB Storage Space on Box

Here is an excerpt from a LifeHacker article entitled "Grab Free Desktop Syncing Plus 25GB Storage Space on Box": "Box is one of the more generous of the online storage services—especially if you got in on one of the free 50GB deals previously offered. However, syncing wasn't offered for personal users—until, it seems, now. Here's how to get Box syncing without a business account." (Read the rest of the article)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Internet Explorer: Keyboard Shortcuts

With every version of Internet Explorer, Microsoft seems to beef up its selection of keyboard shortcuts. 

Some of the shortcuts are new for this version of I.E., others have been around for a while (but aren’t widely used), and some are classics that every user should be aware of.

See the full list of shortcuts for Internet Explorer 9.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Internet Explorer: Run IE without Add-Ons

To check if Internet Explorer is having a problem that is being caused by an add-on. From the search field under Start menu type: "iexplore.exe -extoff".

If the problem disappears, from the Tools menu (the gear icon in the upper right) select Manage Add-ons, under Add-ons Types, you can enable or disable toolbars and extensions until your find the one that is causing the problem.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Article: Windows Defender Offline vs Microsoft Safety Scanner (Which One should you use?)

Have you ever wonder what the difference is between Windows Defender Offline and the Microsoft Safety Scanner?  There doesn't seem to be a lot of information on this subject so I decided the write the following article.  Here is a excerpt from it: "Both Windows Defender Offline and Microsoft Safety Scanner are not a replacement for using a real-time anti-malware (e.g. viruses, spyware, or other malicious software) program that provides full-time protection for your computer. If you need a real-time malware protection check out Microsoft Security Essentials, or any other anti-malware software suite that is available." (read the rest of the article)

Monday, August 06, 2012

Internet Explorer: Delete Any AutoComplete Items

Internet Explorer's AutoComplete feature allows you to quickly re-enter common information that was previously entered into fields on a Web form. Sometime you may want to remove information from this feature because it incorrect (e.g. old or wrong information) or you may not want others to see it. Put the cursor into the field where you want to delete the form data, use the keyboard down arrow to highlight the item you want to remove and then press the DEL key to remove it.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Internet Explorer: Setting Multiple Home Pages

Since Internet Explorer 7 you have been able to open multiple pages in different tabs when the program launches. For example, if you want Bing and Google to open when you launch I.E., open Bing in one tab and Google in another. 
  • Open a up a different web page in a new tab that you want to open automatically Internet Explorer is launched.
  • From the Settings menu select Internet Options, and press the Use Current button in the Home page section of the dialog.
  • Press the OK button.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Internet Explorer: Alphabetize your Favorites

Want to find your Internet Shortcuts more easily in the Favorites menu? A little known feature of Internet Explorer allows you alphabetize them:
  • Open the Favorites menu (the star in the upper right corner) in I.E. 
  • Right-click any Internet shortcut, and choose Sort by name from the pop-up menu that appears.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Internet Explorer: Backing up/Exporting your Favorites, Feeds and Cookies

Have you ever needed to backup or export your Favorites, Feeds or Cookies from Internet ExplorerThis is kind of a hidden built-in feature in the application that is not too obvious unless you know where to find itfollow the instructions below:
  • Press the ALT key to access the File menu, and choose Import and export...
  • Select Export to a file" press the Next button.
  • Choose what you want to backup (e.g. Favorites, Feeds, and Cookies) press the Next button.
  • Follow the prompts to export the data to a file(s).
You can import this file back into I.E. or Firefox, or browse it like a web page and click on the links.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Windows 7: Creating a password reset disk

If you forget your password to log onto Windows 7, you can change it (without knowing the old one) by using a password reset disk. This is handy tool for accounts that aren't used often.

Note: This recovery disk has be created before you have a problem, it can't be created after you forgot your password.

Follow the instructions below: 
  • Log into the account that you want to make a password reset disk.
  • Insert the media you're going to use, such as a removable flash drive.
  • From the Start menu open the Control Panel, and select User Accounts.
  • In the left pane of the User Accounts window, click Create a Password Reset Disk.
  • In the Forgotten Password Wizard box, follow the instructions to make the disk.

Remember to keep the disk in a safe place, because anyone who has access to this media drive can change the account password on the system or access any of the data within it.

Note: that if your computer belongs to a domain, you cannot create a password reset disk. The domain administrator can reset your password for you.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hardware: Extending a USB Connection

Do you have a USB device such as a printer that is further away from the computer then the cable will reach? The maximum supported length of a USB  cable is 5 meters according to the specification for this technolog.

Below are some products that may be able help you overcome this limitation.

Note: A USB-to-Cat5 cable conversion can go up to about 150 feet (about 50 meters). Longer runs (greater then 150 feet) can cause USB 2.0 (480 Mbps data transfer rate) to throttle down to USB 1.1 (11 Mbps)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Carbonite - Internet Backup Solutions

Backing up data on your computer has always been critical. A long time ago floppies were used to backup your data, later it was CDs and then DVDs. Today there is no affordable external removable media capable of keeping up with modern multi-terabyte drives.
Note: For those that can afford it, tape backup is still an option but it's expensive and slow when compared to an external hard drive.
Even if you have an external drive or NAS (network attached storage), it can be damaged, lost, stolen or suffer data corruption. If you don't have an off-site backup, and your local backups are in-tact they can be damaged by fire, earthquake, or other natural disasters.

If you're looking for a backup solution, there are a few choices:
  • Use an external drive and keep your backup locally and hope that nothing happens to them.
  • Use multiple external drives and keep one of the backup drives offsite, and rotate it out on a regular basis.
  • Use a cloud based backup service provider.

Local Hard Drive Backup vs Cloud Backup
Below is a list of some advantages to using a cloud based backup service provider vs. using an external hard drive:
  • All your backups are stored off-site automatically.
  • Some backup solutions offer services that run in the background on your computer that automatically compresses your unbacked up files, encrypts them, then forward them on to the service provider you selected.
  • You almost never have to worry about running out of capacity as long as you have a budget for the storage that you're using.

There are several service providers available that offer some type of cloud based backup services.  Some are free, while others cost money.  The hard part will be finding one that you like, and that has the features that you want.  

There are also some disadvantages to using these services, such as: 
  • Depending on how much data you have, these services can initially use a lot of bandwidth to upload all your data.  Depending on your ISP there may be a cap on the amount of data that you can utilize each month.
  • If you have to recover your whole hard drive from your service provider it can be challenging and expensive depending on the solutions that they offer.

Below is a list of features and other considerations when looking for a company to host your backups:

  • Has a good reputation for providing a reliable backup solution.
  • Offers easy to use software that automatically backs up your files and uses strong encryption.
  • Offers affordable pricing for storage and recovery services.
  • Offers storage capacity options that meets your needs and budget

Check out a site called Carbonite, they provide affordable Internet backup solutions for privately owned personal computers and small businesses.  Check out the site to see a current list of features and prices. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Article: Upgrading vs. Buying a New Computer

Excerpt from the article: "As computers get older, it becomes more and more difficult to get them to run the latest and greatest hardware and software. The newest games are notoriously bad about not running on older hardware. They generally require the fastest CPU, video card, and a ton of RAM in order just to run properly. 

Sometimes older computers just don't appear to be running as fast as they use to, or they just stop meeting your needs. When this happens you're faced with the choice of upgrading it, or just replacing it all together.

Before replacing your computer with a new one, there might be a few things that you can do to extend the life of the existing hardware. You might be able to optimize your computer to run more efficiently, or replace/add some new components to meet your needs and get a few more years out of it." (read the rest of the article)

Monday, July 09, 2012

Hardware: Diagnosing Noises from your Hard Drive

A few months back I gave my son my previous computer.  It's not that much slower then the newer machine I built to replace it.  Recently all of a sudden it became unusable as far as performance, it was slow to start, basically bogged down when you try to use it.

When I checked into the problem, I noticed that the hard drive was making a clicking noise.  I hate to say it, generally when hard drives start making any noise, other then the typical quiet whine when it spins its bad news.

To see if I can figure out what was going wrong, I checked the SMART (hard drive diagnostic counters, and it was not showing anything wrong).  I also tried booting from a live Linux CD to see what was happening and I was still having problems accessing the data on the drive.

So if your hard drive starts making any noises, the first thing you should do is backup any important data if the device will allow you.  If you can't back it up and there is important data on it that you need, then you will have a send the drive to a data recovery service like DriveSavers.  

Its important to note that any hard drive data recovery services are very expensive, so backing up your important data is basically cheap insurance against data lost.  Any of these recovery services has a take a multi-step approach to pull data off the drive.  

First they may try to use software that is specially designed to extract data from damaged drives. If the software doesn't work, they will try to repair the drive if possible or sometimes they will pull the platters out of the drive and put into another working drive.  

Its also important to understand that this is a great deal more complex and time consuming then I am explain it.

More Information on S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology)

  • CrystalDiskInfo - Can read the  S.M.A.R.T. counters on your hard drive
  • Wikipedia Article - Tells just about everything you need to know to understand the S.M.A.R.T. counters
  • Failing Hard Drive Founds - If you want to possibly try to identify the type of sounds (e.g. heads, spindle, bearings, etc.) your hard drive is making.  Find the drive manufacturer in the list, then press the play button to listen to the sound for that type of problem.  You can also click the link to learn more about the different type of common problems these hard drives can experience.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Software: DNSCrypt for Windows is now Available

OpenDNS created a service called DNSCrypt to address a widely known problem with Internet security and enhanced your privacy. When you use public Wi-Fi that is available in coffee shops, airports, hotels and other places you can be vulnerable to a weaknesses in DNS.

DNS traffic is sent unencrypted, so it can be intercepted by criminals, ISPs, and other organizations. They can potentially see where you're going online, spoof or conduct man-in-the-middle attacks.
Note: The software is currently in Preview Release, which means it still can have bugs in it.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Microsoft Flight (Free Flight Simulator)

Microsoft has a long history of creating flight simulators.  I remember playing the first version of Microsoft Flight Simulator on an Apple II+.  It was crude by today's standards, but it was state of the art back in the 80's.  Flight simulators now seem second only to the real thing.

If you love flight simulators, check out Microsoft Flight.  I need to note that there are two versions.  The  free version includes basic content you need to get started.  There's also a premium version that has expanded content.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

All Hail IPv6 as King, IPv4 is dead...

For decades IPv4 was king because it was the dominate networking protocol for Internet and corporate Intranet communications.  Although its rein has come to an end as the pool of publicly available IPv4 addresses (the numeric addresses assigned to every device on the Internet) was officially depleted as of February, 2011.

Its been known for a long time that the publicly available IPv4 address space would be completely depleted so in 1998 they started drafting a next-generation networking technology known as IPv6 to replace it.

For years several ISPs and Internet companies have been testing and deploying their networks to be able to carry both IPv6 and IPv4 traffic. They have also offer "tunneling services" that allow IPv6 customers to access IPv4 sites. 

June 6, 2012 was designated as "World Launch Day" for IPv6.  Several major ISPs and Internet companies permanently enabled IPv6 on their public Internet sites.

The IPv4 and IPv6 are majorly different network protocol, but have been designed to interoperate with each other so that they can co-exist on the same network.  

One of the first fundamental differences between the two protocols is the size of the address space (e.g. the amount of device that are supported).  The IPv4 protocol supports a maximum number of over 4 billion (4,294,967,296) public IP addresses.   The  IPv6 protocol supports a maximum number of over 340 undecillion (340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456) unique addresses. 

The following Microsoft operating systems include full support for IPv6: Windows Vista, 7, 8 and Windows Server 2008 and above.
Note: Windows XP does have support for IPv6 but its not native to the OS.
Brief Note: IPv6 to IPv4 Tunneling
For older IPv4 networks that don't currently support IPv6, there are a few different protocol transition technologies.  For example, there is "6to4 Tunneling" which is able to encapsulate IPv6 packets within IPv4.  Basically what this technology does is take one type of network data (e.g. IPv6) and translates it into another type (e.g. IPv4) then broadcasts it over the network.

IPv6 Checklist
Below is a checklist of items that you have to have in order to use IPv6 on your computer and network.
  • An operating system and applications can that supports IPv6 (Note: applications have to be specifically updated to support the IPv6 protocol)
    • The most current versions of Windows (Vista and above), Linux or Mac OS X.
  • A router appliance (commercial or consumer) that supports IPv6.
    • Most modern routers  support IPv6, older models may require firmware update if available (check hardware manufacture's web site for more information).
  • An ISP with IPv6 protocol and DNS support.
    • IPv6 readiness will vary between companies.  Contact your ISP to find out the type of IPv6 support they offer.
    • If you're ISP doesn't support IPv6 you can use an IPv6 Tunnel Broker like Hurricane Electric to allow your computer to access the IPv6 Internet.
Testing Your IPv6 Readiness
Want to check out your networks IPv6 readiness?  Run the following test ( from your browser and it will tell you whether its IPv6 network is ready or not. If you  already have an IPv6 network running, this site offers a good way to test if you have any problems or other issues.

Other was to test if IPv6 is working properly on your network, run the following two search queries on Google and they will show you your publicly available IPv4 and IPv6 address.
Learning More
Want to learn more about IPv6, read the following article, "Introduction to IPv6".  Also check out a site called Hurricane Electric (H.E.).  H.E. also offers an unofficial IPv6 certification.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Windows Defender Offline (Offline Virus Scanner)

Everyone should have an up-to-date real-time anti-malware application running on their system at all times.  These programs won't guarantee that you will never get infected by a rouge application (e.g. virus, Trojan-horse, worm, root-kit, etc.), but it provides better protection then not having this software running at all.

If your computer starts acting strangely, you might want a second opinion to see if your system is actually infected.  This is why there are offline virus scanners for checking your system for malicious software.

There are several vendors that offer this type of software, but one of the newest is from Microsoft and called the Windows Defender Offline.  Below is excerpt from the site: "Sometimes, malicious and other potentially unwanted software, including rootkits, try to install themselves on your PC. This can happen when you connect to the Internet or install some programs from a CD, DVD, or other media. Once on your PC, this software might run immediately, or it might run at unexpected times. Windows Defender Offline can help remove such hard to find malicious and potentially unwanted programs using definitions that recognize threats. Definitions are files that provide an encyclopedia of potential software threats. Because new threats appear daily, it's important to always have the most up-to-date definitions installed in Windows Defender Offline. Armed with definition files, Windows Defender Offline can detect malicious and potentially unwanted software, and then notify you of the risks."

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fun With Text

Tired of the boring old simily face emoticon ;-)?  Check out a site called Emojicons, it gives you access to a new batch of emoticons to express your emotions with text. 
Back in the early days of computer before graphics there was ASCII art.  People and programs would convert images into text based images.  A site called will convert your photos or graphics into ASCII.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Software: 0 A.D. - A free, real-time strategy (RTS) game of ancient warfare

Description from the website: "0 A.D. (pronounced "zero ey-dee") is a free, open-source, cross-platform real-time strategy (RTS) game of ancient warfare. In short, it is a historically-based war/economy game that allows players to relive or rewrite the history of Western civilizations, focusing on the years between 500 B.C. and 500 A.D. The project is highly ambitious, involving state-of-the-art 3D graphics, detailed artwork, sound, and a flexible and powerful custom-built game engine." (download the game)

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Video: Updates for Firefox 13

Video Description: "The latest Firefox has some great updates to make getting to your next task faster and easier than ever!

The New Tab page now opens whenever you click on the '+' sign, allowing you to see thumbnails of your most recently and frequently visited sites. You can customize the New Tab page by adding or removing thumbnails based on where you go most.

The Home Page now includes icons at the bottom of the page to give you easy access to bookmarks, history, settings, add-ons, downloads and sync preferences with one-click shortcuts"

Download the latest version of Firefox or get more information.

Monday, June 04, 2012

ASUS Taichi - dual screen Windows 8 notebook - Computex 2012

This is one of the more interesting Ultrabook/tablet hybrid designs that I have seen so far.

Video Description: "At first glance, the Taichi passes for just another ultrabook, but upon closer review, the lid yields a reflective surface, that is in fact, a touchscreen. The touchscreen is a beautiful Full HD IPS display with a 1920x1080 resolution that offers crisp visuals, even from extreme angles, so it's great for sharing with friends."

Not to be outdone, there are also other ultrabook/tablet hybrid designs, which include:

The Asus Tablet 810, demonstrated at Computex in Taipei.

The Acer Iconia W510, demonstrated at Computex in Taipei.

Back at CES 2012 in Las Vegas in January, Lenovo introduced the IdeaPad Yoga.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Privacy: Visually See How You're Tracked When Browsing (Firefox Add-on)

A new Firefox add-on called "Collusion" visually depicts the sites that are tracking your web surfing.  Online behavior profiling is big business, the revenues from the top online tracking companies is over $39 billion.

Collusion displays a dot matrix diagram composed of grey dots (sites you've visited) connected to red dots (sites that your browser passed tracking data that is used to monitor your online browsing).

For more inforemation or to download the add-on, check out the Collusion web site.

TED Video: Gary Kovacs: Tracking the trackers

Video Description: "As you surf the Web, information is being collected about you. Web tracking is not 100% evil -- personal data can make your browsing more efficient; cookies can help your favorite websites stay in business. But, says Gary Kovacs, it's your right to know what data is being collected about you and how it affects your online life. He unveils a Firefox add-on to do just that."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Article: Internet Backup Solutions (An Introduction to Cloud Backup Services)

Here is an excerpt from an article that provides a brief introduction cloud backup services: "Backing up data on your computer has always been critical. A long time ago floppies were used to backup your data, later it was CDs and then DVDs. Today there is no affordable external removable media capable of keeping up with modern multi-terabyte drives.

Even if you have an external drive or NAS (network attached storage), it can be damaged, lost, stolen or suffer data corruption. If you don't have an off-site backup, and your local backups are in-tact they can be damaged by fire, earthquake, or other natural disasters." (read the rest of the article)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Leap - Motion Control Gestures

Leap appears to be a very cool technology that supports accurate motion control that allows you to interact with your computer in three dimensions with natural hand and finger movements.  Its currently only in pre-order availability (US$69), but its supposed to be available in a few month for the Window 7/8, and Mac OS/X.

Setup is supposed to be easy. Just plugin the device to a USB port, load the Leap Motion software, and do a quick wave to calibrate it.

Personally I want to try it with Windows 8, it might be a great alternative to having touchscreens for a mouse for the new OS, for me the technology seems worth trying out.  I will post an update if I like it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Photo tours in Google Maps

Google Maps offers a new feature called "Photo Tours" that allows you to experience landmarks from all around the world in 3D.  This site requires that the MapsGL feature be enabled in your browser.

The latest versions of Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer browsers are supposed to support the MapsGL feature.  I was only able to get it to work properly in Google Chrome after I downloaded the MapsGL extension.

(More information about MapGL)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Article: Living in the Clouds (an Introduction Cloud Services and Storage)

Here is an excerpt from an article that provides a brief introduction cloud services and storage: "The term "cloud" has been over-hyped by many different businesses trying to distinguish their products or services in the market or from their competition. The word Cloud refers to products or services that requires an Internet connection to utilize it, often requiring a web browser." (read the rest of the article)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Windows 7: Creating a Recurring Alarm

You don't need a special program like Microsoft Outlook to have a recurring alarm that reminds you of regular events (such as: exercise, lessons, etc.).  You can create one with the Windows Task Scheduler.

  • Click the Start button in the Search field, type "task scheduler" and press Enter
  • In the right Actions panel, click Create Task...
  • In the General tab, type a name for the task, such as "Reminder: Attend Lecture"
  • Click the Triggers tab, and press the New button
  • In the “Begin the task” dropdown menu select "On a schedule" 
  • Under Settings select the appropriate interval that (e.g. daily, weekly, etc.) that is applicable.  Also select the appropriate Advanced Settings, such as "Repeat task every X hours".  Check the Enabled checkbox, then press the OK button.
  • Click the Actions tab to select what actions you want to happen to alert you (such as: running a program, sending an email or displaying a message on the screen).
  • Press the OK button when done.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Microsoft SkyDrive (Free Cloud Storage, with Local File Access/Syncing)

Microsoft offers a cloud storage service called SkyDrive.  If you already have a SkyDrive account you had 25GB of free storage space, but you better "opt-in" to keep it, otherwise you will lose it.  For new users who didn't already have an account will get 7GB free storage, and can opt to buy more space if needed.

Microsoft recently added a new feature to this service allows you to use Windows Explorer to access the file in your SkyDrive account on your local computer. You need to install the SkyDrive client on your machine and it will create a folder (located in the Users\<your user name>\SkyDrive path) on your PC that is automatically synced with the SkyDrive service in the cloud.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Free Photo Morphing Tool

Looking for a tool that transforms your photos into another one? Check out a tool called Fotomorph.  Make sure view the sample projects to see how it works, just use the play button at the bottom to see the morph in action.  

Here is an except from a CNet review: Digital imaging and graphic design software is often the victim of one of two problems: either it's too advanced for everyone but expert users, or it's too basic to do anything very useful. FotoMorph is one of the rare programs that manage to deliver impressive results with very little know-how. This fun application lets users create animations that morph one photo into another, no experience required."

Monday, April 02, 2012

Software: Skype Auto Recorder

Skype is a great tool for making calls over the Internet, using either computer-to-computer or from PC to mobile phones and landlines. Sometimes you want to have an audio recording of a conversation things for archival reference reasons. Podcasters also sometimes us programs like this to make audio podcasts with remote guests.

Skype Auto Recorder is a free open-source application that allows you to automatic record Skype conversations into MP3 files. It also provides the ability to filter who is recorded and the destination file location based on the contact name, and improve the output sound quality.
NOTE: Make sure to check the laws in your jurisdiction regarding the recording of telephone calls and electronic communications.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Optting Out of Behavioral Advertising

Are you concerned about your privacy in relationship to Internet advertising? The Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) offers a tool that allows you "opt out of behavioral advertising" that is utilized by its members.

This is not all an encompassing tool, there are a lot of caveats, but it does offer some control over your online privacy. It doesn't allow you to opt out of web advertising, it only allows you to "opt out" of the behavioral advertising delivered by its member companies.

Behavioral advertising is used to precisely target Internet advertising at you based on your surfing habits. These companies track you by placing their ads on web sites and using their cookies to track where you're surfing.

To opt out of an NAI member's behavioral advertising program, go to the tool,  check the box that corresponds to the company (or press the button labeled "Select All"), then press the the "Submit" button. The Tool will replace the specified advertising cookie(s) and show your opt-out status.

More information:

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Article: Five Best Tax Preparation Tools

LifeHacker reports: "It's tax time, and here in the United States you're guaranteed a faster refund if you're due one by filing your taxes electronically. The trouble is that there are dozens of tools that can help you e-file. Some of them help you maximize your deductions and make sure nothing's overlooks, and others just make the filing process quick and easy. Here are five of the best tax preparation tools, based on your nominations." (read the rest of the article)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Software: Free BarCode Generator

The Bytescout BarCode Generator is a free program that is able to create and export barcodes into several different image formats (e.g. EMF, PNG, JPG, TIFF, GIF).  The application supports several different 1D and 2D barcode types (e.g. Codabar, Code 39, Interleaved 2 of 5, Code 93, Code 128, EAN-13, EAN-8, JAN-13, Bookland, UPC-A, UPC-E, Postnet, PDF417, Truncated PDF417, DataMatrix, QR Code and others)

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: MS Windows 95/NT/98/Me/2000/XP/Vista/7/x64, Microsoft NET 2.00 or higher installed

Monday, January 23, 2012

Windows 7: Backing up EFS certificates

Do you use the Encrypted File System (EFS) that's built into Windows 7 (which is included in Pro, Enterprise and Ultimate versions of the OS) to protect your data on your local hard drive?  If so you should make sure that you back up the EFS certificate so you can recover your encrypted data if the stored keys on your hard drive get accidentally corrupted or deleted.

To backup the EFS key, use the following procedure:

  • From the Start menu in the Search field, type CERTMGR.MSC, then press the ENTER key to open the Certificate Manager.
  • Expand the Personal node, and click Certificates.
  • Scroll down to find the certificate that shows "Encrypting File System" in the Intended Purposes column, and click it.
  • Click Actions > All Tasks > Export...
  • On the first page of the Export Wizard, press the Next button.
  • Click Yes, export the private key and press the Next button.
  • Click Personal Information Exchange and press the Next button.
  • Create a password to encrypt the private key file, then press the Next button.
  • Enter a file name and location (or press the Browse button to navigate the local drives) to store the certificate.
  • Press the Finish button.

Notes: In the Certificate Manager if there is more than one EFS certificate make sure to back them all up on some type of removable media (such as a USB key or external hard drive). Then store that device in a safe physical location.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Article: AWS offers free Windows on EC2 (kind of)

GIGAOM reports: "Amazon will let customers run free micro-instances of Microsoft Windows 2008 R2 on its EC2 service starting now, according to a new post to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) blog.

Such try-before-you-buy tactics have helped Amazon win converts to its cloud platform by letting them test new or existing applications in its cloud for free. While Amazon offers a choice of operating systems, Microsoft licensing constraints have made running Windows workloads on AWS more expensive than running them on Linux." (read the rest of the article)

If you want to learn more about AWS and EC2, this might be a great opportunity to get started without costing you any money.

Article: Microsoft revives flight sim by giving it away free

The Register reports: "Microsoft has said that it will be reviving its Flight Simulator franchise this spring with a free version of the game entitled simply Flight.

Redmond is making the game available in a private beta at present, but plans to release it as a free download eventually. The game needs a minimum of 10GB of hard drive space, a dual-core 2Ghz processor, Windows XP SP3 and 2GB of RAM, according to the video trailer. Initially Flight will only have one plane – the ICON A5 flying boat - but Windows Live users will get access to extra missions and plane types if they sign in." (read the rest of the article)

Monday, January 16, 2012 (Unicode Character Finder) helps you to find the right Unicode characters.  All you have to do is draw the Unicode character you're looking for, and the site will show you the closest matches in their database. Currently, there are 10877 Unicode character glyphs in their database.

Note: The site currently doesn't support Japanese, Korean and Chinese characters.

If you don't know what Unicode is, per Wikipedia it's "a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems. " (read the rest of the article)

Play Cut the Rope for the your Browser

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer team partnered with ZeptoLab to port their popular game Cut the Rope in to  HTML5 to demonstrate its robustness as a development platform. The game was  primarily designed to demonstrate Internet Explorer 9 capabilities, but it works in other browsers (like Chrome).

Emperor 1510 Workstation from MWE Lab at CES 2011

At CES 2012 MWE Lab introduced the Emperor 1510, which is the ultimate computer workstation chair for around $6000 USD.

Check out the site for more information.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Speed Up Your SSD By Correctly Aligning Your Partitions

If you have a newer SSD drive you have to make sure that the partition alignment is setup correctly. Otherwise, you might be sacrificing some of your performance.

LifeHacker did a great article called "Speed Up Your SSD By Correctly Aligning Your Partitions", here is an excerpt: "To see if your partitions are aligned correctly, hit the Start menu and type in msinfo32. Enter Msinfo32 and go to Components > Storage > Disks. Look for your SSD on the list and find the "Partition Starting Offset" item. If this number is divisible by 4096 (that is, if dividing it by 4096 equals a whole number and not a decimal), your partition is correctly aligned. If not, you need to realign it. " (read the rest of the article here)

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Privacy: Introduction to Publicly Available Information

As the Internet grew over the last few decades, people and companies would make information publicly available without realizing how it can be exploited if used improperly.

Criminals have learned how to take advantage of this information by having computers crawl the public web looking for it.  For example, they first started looking for email addressees for sending SPAM, and later evolved into searching for other types of data.

Have you ever wondered how much can someone find out about you on the Internet?  There is an amazing amount of public information available about most people that they might not realize is there.

Below is a brief description of some of the more popular examples:

  • Do a web search on your whole name or email address and see what you pull up. 
  • There are companies that compile public databases into a central location, and sell that data.  This information is public (e.g. from tax records, DMV, etc.), so in most cases you can't request that you're information be removed.
  • There is also information that we publicly post through social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.), that you might be making publicly available without realizing it.  
  • Go to a site called IPFINGERPRINTS, it will show the geographical location of where it knows IP address is located.  Companies regular use the IP address information to track the location of where visitors are located.  This information is generally used to more accurately target advertising for products and services.
    • Note: Depending on the service provider you're using, the location information may vary.

If you're wondering what you can do to protect yourself:

  • Without the right privacy settings on your personal and friend's accounts on any of the social networking sites, any information that is posted will be indexed and made publicly available.  Most of these sites use "public" as their default privacy settings, which means anyone can view it including the search engines.  If you don't want your data to be publicly available, learn to lock-down your privacy settings.
  • If you find information on a web site that is posted about you, you can contact the web site and ask them to remove it.  You do need to understand that in most cases there is nothing to force any company to remove information (this can vary depending on local or country laws).
  • Use common sense, it doesn't matter how good your privacy settings are, don't post information on any site, including social networking sites that you don't want other people being able to find out about yourself.
  • In general it's a good idea to lock down all your online accounts with strong and unique passwords.  Criminals have recently been targeting people's email and social networking accounts to target their friends, family and business associates with different types of scams.  For example, they pretend to be you and tell everyone you know that you're stuck in a foreign country and you need their help by sending money.