Friday, March 30, 2007

CNET tax guide 2007

It use to be that the only way you could submit your taxes was via paper forms that a tax preparer or yourself filed. As you know that has changed, in fact last year 73 million Americans filed their taxes online with the IRS.

Today you can still do your taxes yourself, or you can hire someone to do it for you. Although the main difference is the software that you have access to, and your ability to file it online.

So if you're looking for some advice for doing your taxes, check out CNet's '2007 Tax Guide'. Learn about the different features of the popular financial and tax software that is available today. reports: "We've reviewed desktop and online applications that walk you through calculating and submitting a return without having to crunch numbers on confusing IRS forms. Each service helps with the latest credits for long-distance telephone tax, buying a hybrid car, and making a home more energy-efficient. Keep in mind that if you gross less than $52,000 or serve in the military, you can file electronically for free. The IRS has extended the deadline for submitting 2006 returns to April 17, but if that's too soon, tax applications also help you file for an extension."

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Internet Explorer 7: Keyboard Shortcuts

Do you like using keyboard shortcuts? Here is a list of shortcuts for Internet Explorer 7:
  • ALT+LEFT: Go backward a page
  • ALT+RIGHT: Go forward a page
  • ALT+HOME: Got to the home page
  • F5: Refresh the current page
    • CTRL+F5: Forces the page to reload
  • CTRL+B: Organize Favorites
  • CTRL+D: Adds the current page to the Favorites
  • CTRL+E: Takes you to the quick search field.
    • CTRL+Down Arrow: Shows the search providers.
  • CTRL+F: Find a word or phrase on the page
  • CTRL+N: Opens the current Web page in a new window
  • CTRL+O: Open a dialog to open a web page.
  • CTRL+P: Print the current page
  • CTRL+T: Opens a new tab.
  • CTRL+Q: Displays Quick Tabs
  • CTRL+W: Close the current window or tab.
  • F4: Displays a list of addresses you typed in the URL field.
  • F11: Full screen mode
  • CTRL+Shift+I: Opens the Favorites toolbar
    • CTRL+I: Temporarily opens the Favorites toolbar
  • CTRL+Shift+H: Opens the History toolbar
    • CTRL+H: Temporarily opens the History toolbar
  • CTRL+Shift+J: Opens the Feeds toolbar
    • CTRL+J: Temporarily opens the Feeds toolbar

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Firefox: Make Firefox Run Better

Firefox is a great browser, but its a memory hog. Here are a few tips to help you make Firefox use less memory and run more efficiently.
  • Uninstall any extensions that you're not using.
  • Disable the 'Page Saving' feature. This feature saves a copy of every page you visit in memory. It help the browser to load pages that you already visited faster, but it can use a lot of memory.
    • In the URL field type "about:config"
    • In the filter field type, "browser.sessionhistory.max_total_viewers"
    • Change the value to "0"
  • If you have several downloads listed in the Download area clear them out.
    • From the Tool menu, select Downloads
    • Press the 'Clean Up' button
  • If you're having problems with Firefox starting correctly, try starting it in 'Safe Mode'. This mode prevents any extensions or themes from loading.
    • From the Run... command, type "firefox.exe -safe-mode"

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Firefox: ABOUT:CONFIG (Advanced)

Note: This is an advanced tip for the Firefox browser, and should only be performed by people who understand what they're doing. My modifying the wrong value you can prevent your browser from working until you restore it to the proper value.
If you really want to customize Firefox then you need to learn about its low-level configuration area known as ABOUT:CONFIG. This configuration area is the equivalent of the Windows Registry, it can be used for changing or fine-tuning different areas of the browser (such as the: user interface, network setting, or other aspects of the browser's behavior).

To access the ABOUT:CONFIG area:
  • Open the Firefox browser.
  • In the URL field, type "ABOUT:CONFIG" and press the Enter key.
Firefox will display a long list of preference settings sorted alphabetically. Each setting controls a different aspect of the browser's behavior. To change a setting's value double-click on it. If it's a boolean value then it will be toggled, otherwise a dialog will pop-up asking you to enter the appropriate information. Each setting can contain a value type of: integer, string, or boolean.

There is a great reference for all these preference settings, see the ABOUT:CONFIG FAQ.
Note: ABOUT:CONFIG uses data from the PREFS.JS file in your Firefox profile folder. You should backup this file before making any changes to the ABOUT:CONFIG area.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Windows XP: Clear Your Paging File at Shutdown

Note: This is an advanced tip, and should only be preformed by those familiar with the process of modifying the Windows registry. Remember to backup your registry database and your data before performing any registry modification. Also as always perform this modification as your own risk.
Did you know that the contents of your computers RAM is constantly being written to the hard drive. This is because the Windows Virtual Memory feature (VM) uses a file called PAGEFILE.SYS to hold the contents of RAM.

The reason for this is that all operating systems that have a VM feature use the hard drive as a temporary storage medium for the contents of the RAM. This allows the OS make your applications think they have more physical RAM then they really do.

If you're concerned about people reading the contents of the PAGEFILE.SYS file on your computer, for privacy or security reasons you can have Windows delete this file when your computer shuts down. This will prevent someone from being able to easily access its contents.
Note: By having the PAGEFILE.SYS file cleared when turning off your computer will significantly slowdown the shutdown and boot-up process. The reason is file has to be deleted and created during each of these processes.
To enable this feature:
  • Open the Registry Editor
  • Navigate to the following location: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management
  • Change the value of ClearPageFileAtShutdown to 1.
  • Close the Registry Editor and restart your computer.

Internet Explorer 7: Security Zones

Internet Explorer 7 allows you to adjust its security settings so that you can make the browser more or less secure. If you enforce more restrictive settings then the default configuration you can could break the functionality of certain web sites. Although, if you reduce the security settings you can make your browser less secure and vulnerable to attack.

By default, the security levels in Internet Explorer are okay for most types of browsing, they should not break most web site but it's possible that it can. There are four zones (Internet, Local intranet, Trusted sites, and Restricted sites), each zone has it own security level that you can assign to it. For example, the Internet zone has a security level of Medium-High, which prompts you for download and blocks unsigned ActiveX controls.

To adjust IE's security levels, follow the instruction below:
  • Launch Internet Explorer.
  • From the Tools menu select 'Internet Options'
  • Click the Security tab.
  • Select the zone you want to change.
  • Then adjust the security level by moving the slider up (for more restrictive) or down (for less restrictive) .
  • Press the OK button
If you have certain web site that you trust on the Internet, you can grant them access to the "Trusted sites" zone, which allows you give them more privileges.
  • Click on the 'Trusted sites' zone icon, and then press the Sites button.
  • Type the domain name (such as of the trusted site then press the Add button. (Note: You may need to uncheck the box the 'Require server verification (https:) for all sites in this zone' checkbox).
  • Press the OK button.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Windows Vista: Snipping Tool

Its amazing how sometimes the littlest features of an operating system, can be very useful. The Snipping Tool is an incredibly useful tool if you only need to capture part of the image on your computer's screen instead of the whole thing.

Most of the time if you want to capture part of the image on your computer's screen you have to use the 'PRT SCN' key, or the Alt+'PRT SCN' key to capture the active window. Then you have to paste the picture in to an image editor to extract the part of the image that you want to use.

When you launch the Snipping Tool the screen will become partially white, with a red cross-hair. All you have to do is click and drag the red square over the area that you want to capture.

The image will then be transfered in to the Snipping Tool application window automatically. Where the image can be copied, marked up, or sent via email to someone. You can also save the image in one of the following image formats: JPG, GIF, PNG or MHT (single HTML file).

To access the Snipping Tool, from the Start menu go under 'All Programs' then Accessories'. From there you should see program in the menu.

Windows Vista: Adding the Run... command to the Start Menu

By default Windows Vista does not include the Run... command in the Start menu. If this was a favorite (or commonly used) feature for you of Windows XP, follow the steps below to re-enable it in the Start Menu:
  • Right-click the Taskbar in an empty area, and select Properties.
  • Click the 'Start Menu' tab
  • Press the Customize... button.
  • In the list box scroll down until you find the 'Run command' checkbox and then check it.
  • Press the OK button when done.
The Run command should now appear on the Start menu.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Windows Vista: Restoring the Recycle Bin Icon on the Desktop

Have you deleted the Recycle Bin icon off your desktop in Windows Vista (on accident or purpose)? There is a way to put the icon back on your desktop, just follow the steps below:
  • Right-click an empty area on the desktop and select Personalize.
  • In the left pane of the Personalization window, click 'Change desktop icons'.
  • In the dialog box that display, check 'Recycle Bin' icon checkbox.
  • Press the OK button.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Maintenance: Cleaning Your Computer (Video)

With Spring coming, its that time of the year where you have to clean things up. Most people know how to clean their house's, but do you know who to clean the different parts of your computer?

In fact modern computers can be adversely effected by the dust that can build up in them. Dust can prevent fans from working properly, block air vents or air flow. The dirtier the environment where the computer is located, the more important it is to clean it on a regular basis.

Yesterday I posted a video on how to clean your keyboard from all the crude that can build up in it. Today I am posting a video on how to clean your computer.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Maintenance: How to Clean Your Keyboard

Over the last few years I have read a few articles that talked about how keyboard have become so dirty that they're just breeding grounds for germs. After reading a few of these articles you may wonder how to clean your keyboard and the keys. This video demonstrates the basic techniques required to take apart your keyboard and clean it.

Note/Warning: The techniques demonstrated in this video only provide a general reference, the actual methods to take your keyboard apart will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Use this information at your own risk.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Windows Vista: Understanding the Windows Experience Index

When I first install Windows Vista on a computer one of the first things that I like to check is the 'Windows Experience Index' (WEI) score. This feature gives me a good idea of how well the computer will perform with the new operating system.

To understand the WEI score, you may want to read the following article from Microsoft. Here is an excerpt: "When presenting at a user group meeting last week, someone asked me if a low Windows Experience Index (WEI) score of 1 or 2 means that he should not use Windows Vista on that computer. The answer is 'not at all.'

One of my favorite capabilities of Windows Vista is that it scales itself to fit your computer to help give you the best possible performance. For example, if your computer doesn't have the graphics capability to effectively display the new Windows Aero visual effects, Windows Vista won't enable those effects on your computer."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Internet Explorer 7: Change the Default Email Program

Do you want to change the default e-mail program that Internet Explorer launches when you click on a email link or send a web page to someone. To change the default e-mail program follow the instructions below:
  • Open Internet Explorer
  • From the Tools menu select 'Internet Options'.
  • Click the Programs tab.
  • In the E-mail drop-down menu to select the program you want Internet Explorer to use.
  • Press the OK button.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Article: Security Super Guide

PC Magazine reports: "Let's face the facts here, people, the world has become a pretty scary place. In the salad days of your youth, all you had to worry about was the health and well-being of your family and locking your doors at night. Not anymore. Today, you need to worry about security in a whole different arena: your PC. Spyware, adware, viruses and Trojans are lurking online, waiting to infest your computer. All could easily cripple your PC if you're not careful. Worse yet, hackers could steal important personal information. If that's not enough to send you hiding under the covers, you also have to find a way to keeps your kids safe online. Scary? You bet. Unmanageable? Not at all. Pull the covers off you head and listen to us. Our super security guide will help you wise up and stay safe."

Its a good article and worth reading especially if you don't stay up-to-date on computer security and the associated risks.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Article: What's in your Windows Vista?

Several people have expressed concern about not knowing which version of Windows Vista to buy. Personally I run Windows Vista Ultimate edition, because I wanted to be able to use everything that the new OS had to offer (whether I use these features or not).

So if you want to know which features are included (or not included) with the different versions of Vista, check out this table on the CNET web site.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Windows XP: Make Folders Private

If you're on a computer that is shared among a few people, you may want to make your 'My Document' folder private so that others can't view its contents.

To protect your private files, follow the instructions below:
  • Right-click your 'My Documents' folder and then select Properties.
  • Click the Sharing tab
  • Check the 'Do not share this folder' checkbox, and then press OK button.
You can also apply these permissions to individual folders if you don't want to protect your whole 'My Documents' folder. Just follow the same steps above, but select the folder that you want to protect.

Notes: In order for this to work everyone on the computer must have their own password protected accounts including yourself. Although, any user with administrator access on your computer can override this protection.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Software: Corel WordPerfect Lightning (Beta)

There recently was a lot of hype about Corel 'WordPerfect Lightning' that is currently in beta. The program is a type of hybrid word processing application that you download and install on your local computer with online features that includes collaboration.

The program includes: word processing features, document viewer, and file organizer. It also includes a free online account with 200 MB storage for documents, and other information. For more information, check out this slideshow.

Note: The download is 20MB in size and requires user registration.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Software: UDPixel (Fix Dead Pixels)

Do you have dead pixels on your LCD monitor, well they may really only be stuck. Download and run UDPixel to un-stick them.

This program has two main components. The first component that helps you to reveal the bad pixels by changing the color of the screen. The second components tries to fix the pixels by energizing them over and over again. (Hint: drag the flashing squares under the dead pixels)

Does this program really fix dead pixel? I can't say for sure. All my monitors are new, so I couldn't find any dead pixels to fix. Although, I did find lots of dust. You might notice what I am talking about after you run the program.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Article: Intuit Makes TurboTax Available for Free

PC Magazine reports: "Intuit has made a version of its TurboTax tax-preparation software free to use online for a limited time. ... In 2006, the company charged users to file their federal taxes electronically; this year, the company has also removed that fee, allowing users to file a 1040EZ federal tax return with no fees whatsoever using the TurboTax Free Edition."

There are some catches, there is a fee for filing your state return, including e-filing. It also see limited to people who can file the 1040EZ form.