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.