Bargain Hunting…

November 30, 2008

A friend of mine sent me several great bargain hunting sites for posting on the blog to share with you:

Dealigg – a social bargain hunting web site.  Pay special attention to the “freebies” section on the site.  Enjoy free after mail-in rebate deals and freebies (usually with free shipping).  A link to the Dealigg freebies has been posted on the “freebies” page of this blog.

Dealigg – Do you receive sales circulars each week with your Sunday newspaper?  Here is a web site devoted to posting nationwide links to the sales circulars by Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA, Kmart, Office Depot, Office Max, Radio Shack, Sears, Staples, Target, Wal-Mart and select local retailers..

PriceWatch – If you are into buying computer components, then this site is for you…  Finding merchants with low prices on computer components is PriceWatch’s specialty.  From video cards and sound cards to processors and memory, you can find great prices on just about every type of PC card or computer add-on component from a large number of vendors, each competing for your business on price.



Online Fraud – How to avoid being a participant…

November 29, 2008

FRAUD – deceiving another in order to damage them (for personal gain).  Fraud is a crime of deception where you decide to be a participant or not.  Online fraud comes in many flavors; from deceiving emails to deceiving software.

Are you a participant? 

In order for fraud to take place, the perpetrator must attract the participation of the victim.  This is usually done through trickery; ultimately for financial gain.  Computers and the internet have made it very easy for fraud to take place.  It is not limited to just our national borders, but is an international (worldwide) problem of great magnitude. You never see the perpetrator in cyberspace. They are invisible to us, and as a result, recouping your identity or any financial losses can be next to impossible.

Several examples:

  1. To provide a powerful example of how fraud can lead to identity theft, I encourage you to preview this video clip, “An Interview With An ID Thief”,  at Tech-for everyone [click here].
  2. One of the most common fraudulent methods out there right now are the rogue security applications that trick you into buying security software.  As an example, see this article [click here] ,composed by Bill Mullins-Tech Thoughts, on a rogue security application called “Personal Defender 2009”.
  3. Other fraudulent methods are through email.  As an example, a very seasoned computer friend of mine recently received the following email with the subject line: “Beloved (In Good Faith)” – (click graphic below for screenshot).  You would not believe how many people fall for this type of email.


Click to Enlarge

Fraud Email - Click to Enlarge

How not to participate…

If it is something that shows up on that computer monitor screen unsolicited (that you did not ask for), be very, very skeptical…  I know our computers prompt us for updates, etc…  but, if you are not sure of what you are doing, DO NOT PARTICIPATE.  If you are skeptical about an email you received and there is instructions or pleading for you to provide information, DO NOT PARTICIPATE.  If you are solicited in any manner, where money or account information is being requested, DO NOT PARTICIPATE

Tips from the FBI – Cyber Investigations Unit

Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.

Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as officials soliciting via e-mail for donations.

Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.

Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.

To ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make contributions directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.

Validate the legitimacy of the organization by directly accessing the recognized charity or aid organization’s website rather than following an alleged link to the site.

Attempt to verify the legitimacy of the non-profit status of the organization by using various Internet-based resources, which also may assist in confirming the actual existence of the organization.

Do not provide personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions: providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.

Where to report…

United States Processing ServiceLocal Level – I always tell people to start at their local level (i.e. State Police). Reason for this is that you can actually talk to a human being face-to-face, in a quick manner, to tell your story. If anything, psychologically, it will help.  For example, I had a friend that purchased a diamond ring on ebay for several thousand dollars and they received a “bolt”…  We contacted the State Police and believe it or not, the perpetrator was tracked down and charged; however, my friend ate the loss.



Internet Crime Complaint CenterInternet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) – Their mission is to serve as a vehicle to receive, develop, and refer criminal complaints regarding the rapidly expanding arena of cyber crime.  IC3 is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).




United State Postal Inspection ServiceUnited States Postal Inspection Service – To file a complaint with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service if you suspect you are a victim of mail fraud.  If you have been victimized online, by fraudulent means, there may be instances where it could involve the actual mailing of money, checks, documents, etc… via “snail mail”.





Federal Trade CommissionFederal Trade Commission –   To file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission if you suspect you are a victim of fraud.







When it comes to computers and the internet;

“Believe Nothing and Verify Everything”


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Touch up those photos…

November 29, 2008

If you are into digital photography, I am sure there has been those occasions where you wished you could edit or change the effects of your photos.  Most image editing software packages that ship with the digital cameras, in my opinion, are easy to get lost in and the user loses interest very quickly. 


Look no further…  A program that I have used for several years, that is FREE; that keeps getting better; that has an easy learning curve; AND has features that rival some of the commerical packages, is called PhotoFiltre. This program should be in everyone’s image editing toolbox.   

PhotoFiltre has a wide array of editing and imaging features that you nomally find in commercial software.  PhotoFiltre comes with a modern, well designed interface and is well suited for everything from simple resizing to advanced photo editing. The neat thing I have found about it is that it has been a learning tool for me as well.  I have never been able to take a program like Adobe Photoshop and learn it, due I can not focus long enough to learn about it.  I’m one of these IT guys that has  “brain train” and learns on the fly.  With PhotoFiltre, you can, on the fly, start out by learning simple adjustments (such as sharpening or resizing an image) and progress to more advanced adjustments (such as applying photo masks and applying filters). I use this program a lot for designing and editing projections slides at my Church and for touching up the digital photographs that I take.

There are actually 2-(two) editions of PhotoFiltre:

PhotoFiltre (Free Version)

PhotoFiltre Studio (Commercial Version) – which supports Layer management, animated GIF, automatic insertion of copyright,  and supports 8BF filters.

[CLICK HERE] to Google for PhotoFiltre Reviews… It is a highly rated program that I feel does not get the recognition that it truly deserves.




Two alternative photo / image editing programs that I recommend are:

Photobie – image editing software that combines features amateurs can use with advanced tools professionals will appreciate. Photobie is free for personal use with no Pro upgrade to pay for — all features are free. 

ArtWeaver – program for creative painting, i.e. Artweaver offers you all artistic effects which you need for your work.



Our keys are not even safe…

November 27, 2008

keyYou will often see articles on the blog, or references to other sites, about software vulnerabilities, internet security issues, information and privacy concerns; BUT I never dreamed I would be writing about your keys and how vulnerable they could be, if left out in open view.  Yes, I am referring to your house keys, car keys, office keys, etc…  Did you know that computer scientist have developed software that can perform duplications of a key (like your house key) without ever gaining physical access to the key?  Ok, I know this is not making any sense, but here is how this works.  By using a photograph of a key (from nearly any angle and distance), the software can measure and string together the depth of each cut (to get a keys bitting code); and together with the basic information on the brand & type of key, an exact duplication can be made.  Ok, you are probably at the point that you feel the need to look this up on (to confirm whether this is a hoax or not).  Well it is not a hoax (see source below) and what concerns me is that this is now public information and will seed the minds of those who live on the underbelly of the internet (if it has not already happened).  The counter defense for this is that companies are actively developing and marketing new locking systems that encode electromagnetic secrets as well as a physical code.  Basically the computer scientist’s involved wanted to demonstrate that this could be done by simply acquiring a photograph of a key.

To read more about this, click here to visit





Cleaning your LCD Monitor…

November 27, 2008

Today, for whatever reason, I noticed that my flat-panel LCD monitor (LCD – Liquid Crystal Display) had a smudge on it and was yelling “Clean Me”…

Most of the time when we decide to clean the monitor it is at a time when we are not really prepared to do it.  We’re sitting there and it is something obvious (like a smudge, a fingerprint, a bug etc.) that catches our attention and motivates us to to perform a cleaning.  As a result of this, we end up using glass cleaner and paper towels, which is a big “NO, NO”…  Paper towels or any paper product for that matter contains micro-particles that can scratch the monitor; AND glass cleaners contain chemicals that can damage the optical coating.

5 Step Process:

  1. Turn “OFF” the monitor (actually turn “off” everything including the computer, etc. OR better yet unplug the monitor from its’ power source).
  2. If available, use a can of compressed air to remove any dust particles.  Believe it or not, dust particles can causing scratches.
  3. Use a lint free soft cloth, dampen it with “water”, and gently wipe the screen off.  Do Not Spray liquid directly on the screen.
  4. Use a lint free “dry” soft cloth to finish the job.
  5. Post a sign, “Touch my screen and you’re a goner!”  For some reason, some people have to be all “touchy feely” with monitors.  LCD screens are not designed to be touched.

If your LCD monitor is really dirty, there are commercial LCD monitor cleaning solutions and micro-fiber cloths available at most office supply stores.



Free Shipping…

November 26, 2008

You can really get great deals by using the power of the internet.  One thing that I look for when making price comparisons is whether there is free shipping.  A site that I visit as a shopping launching point is called “FREESHIPPING.ORG”.  It is a collection of coupons and coupon code offerings (for FREE shipping) to over 850 stores.  With Christmas right around the corner, this site may come in handy.

Note:  This site and logo has been added to the “Freebies” section of the blog for future reference.





What digital camera should you buy?

November 25, 2008

I came across an article today, “General Advice for Purchasing a Digital Camera” (by TechPaul – Tech-for Everyone) that caught my attention.  I love digital cameras; however, I am an amateur photographer at heart.   I have owned quite a few cameras over the years and I have found that they keep getting better and cheaper. 

Digital camera purchases for Christmas is one of the hottest items out there. So, what digital camera should you buy?  I really can not tell you the exact one to purchase, but if you follow the the (2)-two steps outlined below, it will get you started in the right direction.

  1. Get the basics down…  I encourage you to review “TechPaul’s” advice [click here] on purchasing a digital camera to get some of the terminology down. Once you have a good idea about optical vs. digital zoom, image stabilization, megapixels, LCD viewfinder, etc. proceed to step 2.  TechPaul provides an excellent description of the key elements you need to know in a way that is understandable.  Thank you TechPaul…
  2. Start shopping…  Digital cameras are hot sellers, have come a long way in a short span of time, and are available everywhere.  The problem is that there are so many of them that it creates a dilemma.  Usually when I shop for a digital camera, it is either a camera that has caught my eye OR I’m just starting out, not knowing what I really am looking for.  Either way, the solution that I keep going back to is “Steve’s Digicam’s”. Steve’s Digicam’s web site is touted as “The consumer’s best source of digital camera information and news”. The reviews and information which is provided is phenomenal.  Since Christmas is coming, and a camera may be on your wishlist, I suggest you visit the site and click on “Holiday Wishlist”, which will walk you through the process of finding a camera that they have reviewed and rated. It is also an awesome site to teach you about digital photography.


Steve's Digicams


Secunia – Personal Software Inspector (protect your PC from software vulnerabilites)…

November 24, 2008

Maintaining updates to software on your computer is critical to the overall health of your system and for your protection.  The people who dwell on the “underbelly of the internet” devote their efforts to finding vulnerabilities in software to use against you (i.e. identity theft to automatic installation of viruses, trojans, keyloggers, or other code).  Granted, in all appearances, the popular software programs are the primary targets; however, do not let this make you complacent. A vulnerability can be found in any software that will allow a criminal hacker to use it against you to penetrate your system. I know it is very frustrating that every time you turn around you have to update something, but the software vendors take great effort in identifying the vulnerabilities and providing the updates to protect you.   

I recently did a post titled, “Too many software updates?”, which featured software (UpdateStar) that was geared toward performing an analysis (scan) of your computer and listing those software packages on your system that needed updating.  Today, by chance, I came across another software update scanner, called Secunia PSI (Personal Software Inspector) that is different in the aspect that it is a “security tool” with the sole purpose of helping you secure your computer from software vulnerabilities. 


Securnia PSI is not a tool designed to tell you when your system has already been compromised.  It is a prevention tool that can monitor your system for insecure software installations, notify you when an insecure application is installed, and even provide you with detailed instructions for updating the application when available.  Secunia PSI is software in development and is currently being published as a “release candidate” (Version Release Candidate 4 – RC4, 13th November 2008).

The first time you perform a scan with Secunia PSI, it will take approximately a minute to complete the scan and produce results that will list the insecure program(s), a threat rating and the solution (which is the actual download link for the program update).  Another feature is that there are 2-(two) GUI (graphical user interfaces) to select from. By default, the program starts in a “Basic” interface mode.  You can enter the “Advanced” interface mode, by clicking on the “Advanced” link at the top right corner of the application window.  The “Advanced” mode provides a whole range  of information (see list below).


Basic Interface Mode
Scan In Progress
(click to enlarge)



Advanced Interface Mode
(click to enlarge) 

Secunia PSI


The “Advanced” mode tabs provides the following information:

Overview Tab – provides a summary of the scan to include a system score, last full system scan, state of all of the programs, and a pie-chart program overview.

Insecure Tab – displays programs that the Secunia PSI has detected on your computer for which there are known security updates available.

End-of-Life Tab – displays programs that the Secunia PSI has detected on your computer, which the vendor no longer supports.

Patched Programs Tab – displays programs that the Secunia PSI has detected on your computer for which there are no known security updates available.

Scan Tab – detects programs installed on your computer and determine whether any of them are missing any security related updates (Insecure), or whether the vendor has stopped supporting the product (End-of-Life).

Settings Tab – provided options to change the behaviour of the Secunia PSI using the PSI Settings. NOTE:  You have an option to “Start Secunia PSI on boot” and to “Enable Program Monitoring”.  Both of these setting I unchecked and have opted to perform manual scanning.

Secunia Profile Tab – form is provided to allow you to create and update an online Secunia profile.

Feedback & Support – form is provided to let Secunia know what you think about the Secunia PSI

I found Secunia to be quite good in identifying the software on my system (including external drives).  It should also be noted that Secunia also provides a FREE online version of the scanner called Secunia OSI (Online Software Inspector) and a commercial version of the scanner called Secunia NSI (Network Software Inspector).


UPDATE 11/25/2008

The Secunia PSI has gone Final.  Following this post, Secunia contacted me and advised that Secunia PSI has come out of testing.  Version 1.0 has been officially released.  You can get the new version by clicking on “Get It Here”

  Secunia PSI



Using a “Virtual PDF Printer” to save paper and ink…

November 23, 2008

Did you know there is a way to print information you see on your computer screen without using paper and ink? The technology uses software that you install on your computer that creates a virtual “PDF” printer that will subsequently convert what you desire to print into an electronic PDF file (Portable Document Format); which can be read by a PDF reader such as Adobe Acrobat. The PDF file format, is an open standard (publicly available), that was originally created by Adobe Systems. Instead of printing what you desire to physical sheets of paper, you print in essence to a file that can be saved or archived on your computer. I personally have found unlimited uses of this technology from printing online purchase receipts, lengthy web pages, emails, etc. without ever having to turn on my printer. I forgot to mention, with a virtual “PDF” printer there are no paper jams.

There are quite a few PDF Printer software packages available; however, many of them are not free. What’s on my PC? I currently use a “FREE” open source package called PDFCreator. I have found PDFCreator it to be comparable or better than most of the commercial paid versions that I have experienced.

Key Features (as indicated on the website):

  • Create PDFs from any program that is able to print
  • Security: Encrypt PDFs and protect them from being opened, printed etc.
  • Send generated files via eMail
  • Create more than just PDFs: PNG, JPG, TIFF, BMP, PCX, PS, EPS
  • AutoSave files to folders and filenames based on Tags like Username, Computername, Date, Time etc.
  • Merge multiple files into one PDF
  • Easy Install: Just say what you want and everything is installed
  • Terminal Server: PDFCreator also runs on Terminal Servers without problems
  • And the best: PDFCreator is free, even for commercial use! It is Open Source and released under the Terms of the GNU General Public License.

The only negative thing that I could find, is that during the installation process you will be opted with installing a toolbar in Internet Explorer or Firefox, which will allow you to conveniently print from those browsers. Personally, I install “no” toolbars in my browsers.

Once you have PDFCreator installed, the PDFCreator printer will show up in your normal listing of printers. When you go to do a print job, all you have to do is select the PDFCreator printer, a dialog box will appear which will give you options to name the file, at which point you click “Save”, select the destination folder, click “OK” and the virtual “pdf” print job will be processed and subsequently will load into your default PDF reader (i.e. Adobe Acrobat, Foxit, etc.) for your review.



Live Mesh…

November 22, 2008

As an addendum to the recent blog post on Windows Live, there is another “Windows Live” service, that is in “beta” like many of the others; BUT is not widely known.  It is called “Live Mesh”

Live Mesh

Best description of what “Live Mesh” is, I quoted from the web site:

“With Live Mesh, you can synchronize files with all of your devices, so you always have the latest versions handy. Access your files from any device or from the web, easily share them with others, and get notified whenever someone changes a file.”

To take advantage of Live Mesh, you must have a Windows Live account (which is FREE).  If you already have a Hotmail or Messenger account, you are good to go.  Go to the Live Mesh site [Click Here] and initially setup your Live Mesh desktop and the devices you want to sync with (i.e. your home computer, your notebook computer, your mobile devices, your online Mesh desktop, etc.).  During this process you will be prompted to download the Mesh (synchronization) software. Following the installation of the software, you can right click on any folder in Windows explorer and make the folder you selected a Live Mesh folder.  Once the folder is selected, you can change the synchronization options.  Basically what happens at this point is that any file you place in the Live Mesh folder will sync with the online folder OR any changes you make to the online folder will sync with the local folder (depending on the sync options you selected).  I actually took this one step folder and created a shortcut to my Live Mesh folder and placed the shortcut in my “Send To” folder so that all I would have to do is right click on a file I may be working on, send it to my Live Mesh folder, and it automatically would be uploaded to my online folder (as a quick backup option).  I later found that Live Mesh created a menu option to allow you to save a file to the folder.  Learning as I go with this; but, is looking pretty impressive.  Live Mesh currently provides users with 5 GB’s of space.  I do question or wonder why the Live Mesh’s storage space does not tie into SkyDrive, another Window’s Live (online) file storage option???

Live Mesh also provides the ability to share folders with other Windows Live users and the ability to perform remote sessions into your PC.  As I earlier indicated, Live Mesh is in beta and as with any beta software, changes come and changes go.  I will continue to monitor this and the other Windows Live components.


GET IT HERE - Live Mesh



“WOT” is NEW…

November 21, 2008

Recently I posted an article “WOT to trust; WOT not to trust…” which highlighted the “FREE” internet security addon for your browser called WOT (Web of Trust).  WOT is a FREE downloadable browser add-on for Internet Explorer and Firefox that will warn you when you are about to interact with a risky web site.  If you desire to see how WOT works, [Click Here] to see a demo.

WOT - Web of Trust

Today I received exciting news from WOT headquarters that a new feature has been added:

WOT has added the top three web-based email services – Google Gmail, Windows Live Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail, to its free security protection. WOT checks links embedded in email and warns users of dangerous websites to help them avoid spyware, spam, phishing, identity theft and other Internet scams, before they risk clicking.  A demo is provided below to show you how WOT can protect you in Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail:


[Click Here to see the PRESS RELEASE]


If you have not done so, I strongly urge you to take advantage of the WOT addon and the protection it provides.

  • WOT has been downloaded by over 1.8 million users
  • Information on over 20.7 million websites
  • Based on WOT statistics, 1 out of 20 sites is dangerous
  • WOT users can contribute by rating and commenting on websites
  • WOT partners with a number of trusted sources, such as PhishTank, TRUSTe, hpHosts, DNS-BH Malware Domain list and Artists Against 419




Windows Live…

November 20, 2008

I’ve recently did a post about “Blogging with Microsoft Word 2007…” Following that post, a fellow blogger whom I’ve come to know at “Tech-for Everyone” told me to give Window’s Live Writer a try to edit and post my blog articles…  I did and there has been no going back.  The Window’s Live Writer (by Microsoft) is one of the best “FREE” blogging tools I have since experienced.  If you currently have a Windows Live ID or Windows Live Hotmail or Windows Messenger account, then you are already setup to take advantage of Live Writer and a whole gamut of other “FREE” services (and software) which Microsoft has cooked up…  If you don’t have an account, you can easily setup an account by clicking on the “Get Windows Live” button at the end of this post. 

Following the advice I received from “Tech-for Everyone”, I noticed he posted a great article about Windows Live Writer and Window’s Live Mail.  I encourage you to read the post titled “The Live Line” [Click Here].

After reading the “Tech-for Everyone” article, I started exploring deeper into some of the Window’s Live Services such as Live Mail (email client) and Window’s SkyDrive (online storage).  I have found both to be awesome and likely will be mainstays on my computer…  I also learned that SkyDrive currently provide 5 GB’s of online storage and will be expanding that to 25 GB’s in the near future (click here to read that announcement).

I really think Microsoft is heading in a good direction with the Window’s Live Services.  Reflected below is a screenshot from the Windows Live website which depicts the services currently available.  You can click on “Get Windows Live” to visit Microsoft’s Windows Live site.

Windows Live


Too many software updates???

November 20, 2008

Maintaining software updates can be a cumbersome task that I find most users do not do.  There is a solution available that can assist you with this task.


It is a “FREE” program called UpdateStar that lets you stay up-to-date and secure with the personal software installations on your computer.  According to the web site, UpdateStar covers all of your freeware, shareware, demos, commercial software, and includes special offers.  If this program pans out, I plan to include this in my monthly maintenance routine (i.e. defrag, scans, etc.) of my computer.

My first run with UpdateStar immediately caught my attention.  The user interface is very appealing and modern looking.  To get started, I clicked on “Search for Updates” and the program generated a listing of software that it found; the versions I had installed; emboldened what software titles that were in need of updates; and also provided a rating for each software package it found.  UpdateStar also provided a “download” button for each title found, that when clicked, redirected me to their website for details on the software.  At this point I was provided with an option to download the updated software. Personally, I will probably scrutinize what UpdateStar finds, then go directly to the software site to get my update.  I also noticed that UpdateStar includes an uninstaller to remove any software that is no longer being used.

From what I could see, UpdateStar finances their efforts by providing competitive licensing options for software that you may be interested in.  As I mentioned, I am testing this and will probably take advantage of the UpdateStar scanner to give me an overall picture of what software on my PC needs updated.  I like the concept behind UpdateStar and will continue to test and monitor its’ progress.


Click Below for Screenshots








Threat Analysis of Security Related Risks…

November 19, 2008

Have you ever wondered where the security threats (such as viruses, worms, trojans, adware, spyware, etc.), we are exposed to, are being generated from?  I recently visited a site called ThreatExpert that specializes in the analysis of computer security related risks and how those threats are distirbuted; and from what origin (Country).  As of the date of this post, the percentage of threats captured for analysis came from the following Countries:


China – 31.6%
Russian Federation – 23.77%
United States – 7.79%
Brazil – 6.77%
United Kingdom – 5.53%
Ukraine – 5.02%
Spain – 4.02%

Threat Expert

ThreatExpert (patent pending) is an advanced automated threat analysis system (ATAS) designed to analyze and report the behavior of computer viruses, worms, trojans, adware, spyware, and other security-related risks in a fully automated mode.


USB Extension Cable…

November 19, 2008

If you are someone that uses a USB flash drive on a regular basis, like I do, I highly recommend that you purchase a USB extension cable.  The extension cable makes it much easier to plug in your flash drive; plus, it prevents wear and tear on your computer’s USB port(s).  I have the “male” end of my extension cable plugged into one of the ports at the rear of my PC (which is on the floor) and the “female” end of the cable lying on top of my desk.  Unlike USB desktop hubs, where again you have to fumble around and search for and plug in the flash drive, I simply lift the female end of the cable and plug in the drive.  It is the ultimate way to make using your flash drive an enjoyable experience.  I also use it to plug in a digital camera to download my pics from the camera to the PC.

What type of cable to look for…

You can get these at just about any electronics store  (Belkin, USB Gear, Circuit City, Radio Shack, Best Buy, etc…) and in various lengths.  Keep in mind, the USB standard limits the length of a USB cable to 5 meters (about 16.5 ft.).  You want Hi-Speed USB Revision 2.0 Shielded, USB Extension Cable USB Connector Type A Male to Type A Female. Don’t spend more than $20 bucks for one of these.

Example of a 3 ft. “USB Extension Cable”

USB Extension Cable
It’s the simple things that can make your computing life enjoyable!