How To Scan Documents To PDF Using FastStone Image Viewer

I have written about FastStone Image Viewer here on the blog in the past and can attest that it is probably one of the best, if not the best, image viewer out there. As a matter of fact, it carries a 5 star CNet rating. I think if you use it you will find that it is more than just an image viewer

FastStone Image Viewer is a fast, stable, user-friendly image browser, converter and editor. It has a nice array of features that include image viewing, management, comparison, red-eye removal, emailing, resizing, cropping, retouching and color adjustments. Its innovative but intuitive full-screen mode provides quick access to EXIF information, thumbnail browser and major functionalities via hidden toolbars that pop up when your mouse touches the four edges of the screen. Other features include a high quality magnifier and a musical slideshow with 150+ transitional effects, as well as lossless JPEG transitions, drop shadow effects, image annotation, scanner support, histogram and much more. It supports all major graphic formats (BMP, JPEG, JPEG 2000, animated GIF, PNG, PCX, PSD, EPS, TIFF, WMF, ICO and TGA) and popular digital camera RAW formats (CRW, CR2, NEF, PEF, RAF, MRW, ORF, SRF, ARW, SR2, RW2 and DNG).

For example, buried in Fastone Image Viewer is an option where you can scan documents and save them as PDF files. I personally use this all of the time to convert my paper documents to the digital PDF format.

To get to this feature, launch FastStone Image Viewer, click on the File menu, and select Acquire Image From Scanner.

FastStone - Scan to PDF

You will then be taken to the Acquire Image From Scanner workspace where you simply click on the scan button to begin your scans.

Typically, by default, this will launch your scanner software.  You can scan single documents or perform batch scans were you scan one document after another. When done, select save and select the PDF Format option.

FastStone - Scan To PDF

Also, on an added note, you can also save image files in FastStone Image Viewer to the PDF format, as well.  Very powerful image viewer utility that can either be installed or used as a portable app.

Evernote and Google Keep Made Some Nice Upgrades This Past Week

… and, MORE GREAT GEEK SQUEAK STUFF (#2016-017)

Evernote and Google Keep are my two main note keeping applications. Evernote is for the important stuff and Google Keep is for the unimportant stuff.  Both are cloud based and are available on numerous platforms.

Unveiling the new Evernote for Windows

This past week Evernote made some noticeable improvements that made navigation of the sidebar more intuitive, searches are now more refined, and notebooks (and tags) can be color coded.  Read more about the changes to Evernote by CLICKING HERE.

The most noticeable improvement this past week to Google Keep is the NEW Google Keep Chrome extension that gives you the ability to save web pages, images and selected text with ease. To take a look at the Google Keep Chrome extension, CLICK HERE .

Both of these applications are especially helpful in keeping track of the things in our life; whether important and/or unimportant.

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Relive The Sinking Of The Titanic In This Real-Time Animation – If you got 2 hours and 40 minutes to spare, you can relive the final hours of the Titanic. The video has been viewed almost 3 million times on YouTube, with many people commenting that they watched the whole animation.

Sinking Of The Titanic Animation

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  Word Search

Windows 10 Demo

How To Run Applications Without Installing

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Holy Stone U818A HD Plus | Drone with Camera | One Key Return | Low Battery Warning | Headless Mode Function | 2.4GHz 4 Chanel 6-Axis Gyro RC Quadcopter Includes Bonus Battery and Goggles

Drone

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How To Watch YouTube In TV Mode On Your Computer

… and, MORE GREAT GEEK SQUEAK STUFF (#2016-015)

This week’s blog posting on “How To Watch YouTube In TV Mode On Your Computer” is actually a very easy posting for me. To go into the YouTube TV Mode on your computer, simply open your browser and type in the following URL: https://www.youtube.com/tv … That is all there is to it. Once you are there there are three very easy keyboard commands you need to know. By hitting the “G” key on your keyboard, a guide will slide out from the left side of the screen. To perform a YouTube search, simply hit the “S” key on your keyboard. If you need to go back to the Home Screen, simply hit the “ESC” key on your keyboard. You can also easily navigate YouTube.com/TV with your mouse (pay special attention to the sidebar on the left side of the screen).

YouTube TV

YouTube.com/TV is also called YouTube Leanback and can also be launched by entering the URL of https://www.youtube.com/leanback. This mode of watching YouTube, which is commonly not known (or is forgotten about), is especially beneficial for those who have the larger computer monitors or have a media center set up on a large screen TV.

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File Encryption Software That I Was Unaware Of – Have you ever heard of MEO File Encryption Software? I was unaware it existed and glad that I found it. A free version is available for non-commercial use. If you like it, I found that following the install you can copy the folder where MEO File Encryption is installed to your flash drive and turn it into a portable app. Very nice (and easy) file encryption software with the following features (in the FREE version): Easily encrypt files and folders; Decrypt files that have been encrypted; Encrypt emails and send within MEO; and Create self-extracting encrypted files that can be decrypted without encryption software.

MEO File Encryption Software

More MEO Encryption Software Screenshots

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Reddit App ScreenShader

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Learn To Tie Knots Online – Check out Animated Knots by Grog that is described on the site as “TIE KNOTS THE FUN AND EASY WAY – Better to know a knot and not need it, than need a knot and not know it”. There is a desktop and mobile version available.

Animated Knots by Grog

Animated Knots

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Bet You Never Saw This Before – I have been looking around for a bluetooth capable mouse for my Android tablet and came across a mouse with a bluetooth speaker built into it. It is called the Aerb® Wireless Bluetooth Speaking Mouse . I haven’t decided whether to splurge for this (just to have something different); but, I have never seen anything like it.  A mouse with a speaker built into it is a really neat concept; especially, for a tablet or smartphone.

Aerb® Wireless Bluetooth Speaking Mouse

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I Use CCleaner, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, And Bitdefender Antivirus Free To Keep My PC Safe (and Clean)

… and, MORE GREAT GEEK SQUEAK STUFF (#2016-014)

I have been involved with computers for nearly 30 years. I have never installed any “paid” antivirus software products and have solely relied on common sense and the FREE products that are available (and suitable for computers in the home). I have never had a virus on any of my home based computers. As you noticed, I mentioned “common sense” as one of the factors, which may be easier said than done. I do believe that you have to develop that sixth sense (or gut feeling) in knowing when you are entering potentially dangerous territory. On the software side I currently use three products to help keep my computers (at home) safe and clean.

CCleaner – Without a doubt, CCleaner is the number one optimization tool that not only cleans your computer, but also aids in keeping your computer safe. There is a FREE version and a paid version. I have always gotten along just fine with the free version.

Laptop showing the CCleaner interface - 1 billion downloads

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware – Detects and removes malware on an infected computer with industry-leading anti-malware, anti-spyware, and anti-rootkit tech. Scans for the newest and most dangerous threats. Safely removes malware. One thing to point out at the start is that the FREE version of Malwarebytes is only a scanning utility and does not provide real-time protection. You can get the real-time protection by purchasing the commercial version of their software. Don’t let this deter you from downloading the FREE version. I use the FREE version and make a habit to manually download the updates and perform routine scans of my computer. If I was going to purchase protection for my computer, I would definitely go with the “paid” version of this software (so that it runs continuously in the background, stopping infections before they happen. Scans automatically and halts attempted attacks).

Malwarebytyes Anti-Malware

Bitdefender Antivirus FREE Edition – What I like about Bitdefender is that it is “smart and silent”. Once you install the FREE version, you will have to register with an email address; then, after that you will not even know it is on your computer. Bitdefender has a great reputation and has been well reviewed. As a reminder, when installing antivirus software; always remove (uninstall) any other antivirus software you have installed on your computer.

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A NEW Tool For The Tech Toolbox – Saw this on betaNews, “Investigate your PC’s RAM use with ATM“… This tool, called ATM performs an in-depth, low-level look at your PC’s system memory use. If you are a troubleshooter, ATM may be right up your alley. Being an old dumb PC Tech, this one was definitely above my level of comprehension (which isn’t much these days)…

ATM

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Easily Control Automatic and Unwanted Windows 7 & 8.1 Upgrading to Windows 10 – Here is a “How To”  @ Tech-for Everyone on using a utility called Never 10 that will disable the Windows 10 Upgrade (wiith just one click). Many folks are sticking to or reverting back to earlier versions of Windows due to the privacy concerns in Windows 10.

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Windows 10 Secret Apps View Basket

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How To Activate the Floating Assistant Menu On The Samsung Galaxy Tab S

I recently purchased the Samsung Galaxy Tab S (8.4 inch) Android tablet; AND, after having owned several Android tablets, this one is definitely the cream of the crop.

I continue to learn to navigate the tablet and came across a setting that I have found to be very useful that many users most likely will not try (because they do not know it is there or how to turn it “on”). It is called an Assistant Menu, that once activated, creates a small (square) floating icon (that can be moved around the screen) that will give you the ability to launch various actions, such as:

  • Home
  • Back
  • Recently Opened Apps
  • Lock and Turn Off Screen
  • Brightness Adjustment
  • Volume Adjustment
  • Screen Capture
  • Open Notification List
  • Power Off
  • Restart
  • Device Options
  • Settings
  • Cursor
  • More Options
  • Rotate Screen
  • Zoom

SPECIAL NOTE: If you notice on the list above there is one option that will give you the ability to grab screenshots, which is worth its’ weight in gold. I used that option to create the screenshot below.

The neat thing about all of this is that this floating assistant menu can be edited; and, the functions you find that you would use the most, can be reordered. The menu is easy to turn “on” and if you find you do not like it, simply go back and turn it “off”.

To turn this menu “on” and to get you to the place to where you need to be, here is how to turn “on” and edit the menu:

  • On the Apps screen, tap Settings > Device > Accessibility > Dexterity and Interaction
  • Tap the Assistant Menu Switch to toggle the switch to “on”. The Assistant Menu icon will appear at the bottom right of the screen (at which point it can be moved around).
  • To edit the menu, simply tap where it says  Assistant Menu > Edit (see screenshot below). At this point you can drag the icons around and place them in the order you desire. The order you see below is the actual order I set for my menu.  You can also remove various components from the menu.  For example, using the screenshot below, I opted to remove Cursor, More Options, Rotate Screen and Zoom from the menu.

Assistant Menu


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Understanding The Difference Between Refreshing, Resetting Or Restoring Your Windows 8.1 PC

Understanding The Difference Between Refreshing, Resetting Or Restoring Your Windows 8.1 PC– If you are a Windows 8.1 PC user and you are finding that your computer may not be running up to par; you have several options to either refresh, reset or restore your PC. It is very important to understand the difference between the three.  No matter what option you choose, ALWAYS back up your personal files.

  1. Refreshing your PC reinstalls Windows and keeps your personal files and settings. It also keeps the apps that came with your PC and the apps you installed from the Windows Store.
  2. Resetting your PC reinstalls Windows but deletes your files, settings, and apps—except for the apps that came with your PC.
  3. Restoring your PC is a way to undo recent system changes you’ve made.

The RESTORE option is the least aggressive, with the RESET Option being the most aggressive. Just remember, if you do a RESET you will lose your personal files and data.


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Scan Documents To PDF Using FastStone Image Viewer

I have written about FastStone Image Viewer here on the blog in the past and can attest that it is probably one of the best, if not the best, image viewer out there. As a matter of fact, it carries a 5 star CNet rating. I think if you use it you will find that it is more than just an image viewer

FastStone Image Viewer is a fast, stable, user-friendly image browser, converter and editor. It has a nice array of features that include image viewing, management, comparison, red-eye removal, emailing, resizing, cropping, retouching and color adjustments. Its innovative but intuitive full-screen mode provides quick access to EXIF information, thumbnail browser and major functionalities via hidden toolbars that pop up when your mouse touches the four edges of the screen. Other features include a high quality magnifier and a musical slideshow with 150+ transitional effects, as well as lossless JPEG transitions, drop shadow effects, image annotation, scanner support, histogram and much more. It supports all major graphic formats (BMP, JPEG, JPEG 2000, animated GIF, PNG, PCX, PSD, EPS, TIFF, WMF, ICO and TGA) and popular digital camera RAW formats (CRW, CR2, NEF, PEF, RAF, MRW, ORF, SRF, ARW, SR2, RW2 and DNG).

For example, buried in Fastone Image Viewer is an option where you can scan documents and save them as PDF files. I personally use this all of the time to convert my paper documents to the digital PDF format.

To get to this feature, launch FastStone Image Viewer, click on the File menu, and select Acquire Image From Scanner.

FastStone - Scan to PDF

You will then be taken to the Acquire Image From Scanner workspace where you simply click on the scan button to begin your scans.

Typically, by default, this will launch your scanner software.  You can scan single documents or perform batch scans were you scan one document after another. When done, select save and select the PDF Format option.

FastStone - Scan To PDF

Also, on an added note, you can also save image files in FastStone Image Viewer to the PDF format, as well.  Very powerful image viewer utility that can either be installed or used as a portable app.


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Locate All the Computers On Your Wired or Wireless Local Network

If you are into networking, you most likely have heard of Radmin Remote Access Software. To promote Radmin, I noticed that they offer a FREE IP Scanner called Advanced IP Scanner that is helpful in locating and monitoring the devices (wired or wireless) that are connected to your network (home or business).  Scanners such as this is helpful in identifying the IP addresses (which dynamically can change) and MAC Addresses of those devices.  Years ago when I managed a network, I used an IP scanner such as this to make sure all of my network devices and computers were alive and functioning properly.

Advanced IP Scanner is a free, fast and easy-to-use network scanner for Windows. In a matter of seconds, Advanced IP Scanner can locate all the computers on your wired or wireless local network and conduct a scan of their ports. The program provides easy access to various network resources, such as HTTP, HTTPS, FTP and shared folders. It also enables you to detect all the IP addresses on your WiFi network. With Advanced IP Scanner, you can wake up and shut down remote groups of Windows machines. If you use Radmin remote access software, you will also enjoy the improved Radmin Server detection and integration capabilities, which allow you to connect to any scanned machine with Radmin Server.

Advanced IP Scanner

What Advanced IP Scanner does:

  • Scans network in a matter of seconds
  • Detects any network devices
  • Finds HTTP, HTTPS, FTP and shared folders
  • Lets you connect to PCs running Radmin Serverwith one click
  • Allows you to shut down computers remotely
  • Supports Wake-On-Lan
  • Favorites list for easy network management
  • Export to HTML or CSV
  • Easy and user-friendly interface

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Update Microsoft Windows Without An Internet Connection

There are still folks out there that I know personally that are on a dialup internet connection and not by choice. Broadband service just is not there and any mention of using a 3G, 4G or satellite connection is too expensive and besides those services can be sketchy at best, depending on the location and the environment.

What these folks run into, and I’m working with someone on this now, is that due to the dialup speeds in these remote locations not even being up to standard (due to poor telephone lines), downloading the Windows updates that they need for their PC’s ends up being nothing but pure process of drudgery. Think about it, if you are already on a slow dialup connection and you have your updates set to auto update, when those weekly auto updates kick in,  the connection speed slows down that much further. Couple that with other security software updates and general software updates and I think you can see what I mean about a pure process of drudgery.

To workaround this problem and get the Windows updates, I use a program called WSUS Offline Update. You will need to find someone with a broadband connection who is willing to use WSUS Offline Update software on their PC and willing to download the updates for you. You will also need to know what operating system you are using (i.e. Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7).

With WSUS Offline Update there are two components to the software. One is the “Generator” interface that you use to select the what language and Operating system you need the updates for.  You can even tell the “Generator” to copy the updates to a flash drive; which, you can then use to update the target computer.

image

When downloading the updates, a command console window (see below) will appear and you will see the software going to work to pull down the updates. Do not be alarmed if the first time you perform this process that it takes a long time (even on a broadband connection).  A long time can be an hour to several hours, but you have to do what you have to do.

WSUS Windows Update - Console Window

The second component built into WSUS Offline Update is the “Installer” that you use on the target computer.  To start up the installer look for the file “Updateinstaller.exe”, double click on it and the “Installer” interface will initiate with various selections to help you through the update process.

WSUS Windows Update - Installer

There are other options out there to download the Windows Updates; however, I have found the WSUS Offline Update utility to be the winner.


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An Easy Way to Get the Serial Number and Disk Drive Information of Your Computer

The following may or may not work for you; however, I found it to work on Windows XP Pro, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Did you ever run into the situation where you needed the serial number on your computer? The serial number is often required when you contact the vendor for support.  Instead of crawling around on the floor looking for the serial number, try this:

Click on [START] , then [RUN] and type in the box [CMD].  This will take you to what is called the “Command Prompt”.  At the “Command Prompt”, type the following command exactly as it appears:

wmic bios get name,serialnumber,version

You should get a result similar to this that will reflect the bios name, serial number, and a service tag number for your computer:

image

You can also get the name, size and model of your disk drives by going to the “Command Prompt” and typing:

wmic diskdrive get name,size,model

You should get a result similar to this that reflects all the drives connected to your computer:

image

The wmic command-line (Windows Management Instrumentation Command-line) utility is a very powerful tool that is used to gather information from Windows-based systems, both locally and over a network. What I have shown is only a small sampling of the ability of this tool.  If you are interested in digging down further, I encourage you to Google wmic command by clicking [HERE]. Another easy to read resource is the wmic quick start guide that is located at the University of Virginia [CLICK HERE] .


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[Did You Know?] You Can Use TeamViewer Remote Control Software to Manage Your Computer Network at Home

TeamViewer is the critically acclaimed remote control software that you can use to control any computer (anywhere) as if you were sitting right in front of it – even through firewalls.  It is engineered to work across your internet connection to allow you to remote into another PC that is connected to the internet. This type of setup is an excellent (and easy) way to provide support to others (such as friends and family).  The best part about TeamViewer is that it is FREE for non-commercial use.

TeamViewer

Typically, when working with TeamViewer you are working through the TeamViewer’s servers on the internet to make that remote connection happen; BUT, did  you know you can setup TeamViewer to manage your computer network at home (through a direct connection) without having to go through the TeamViewer’s servers? For this purpose, you have to configure TeamViewer to accept incoming LAN connections.

The benefit of this is that after you install the TeamViewer software on all of the computers on your home network, you can remote into each of those computers to perform maintenance, transfer files, multi-task by using more than one computer, etc… Recently I have been using and testing the TeamViewer direct connection on my home network over a wireless connection and have found that it works flawlessly. Connections on your local (home) network are initiated via the IP address (or the computer name).

To set this up, you will need to install TeamViewer on each of the computers that are on your network at home and then follow the instructions below. After setting up your connection, configure TeamViewer to start with Windows. This will allow you to perform an unattended remote session with another PC without having someone being present at the PC.

1. Click on Extras / Options / General.

TeamViewer - Configuration

2. For Incoming LAN connections, select the option accept from the drop-down menu.  Once you select the “accept” option you will be prompted to generate a password.  There may be a slight delay from the time you select “accept” and the prompt to generate a password appears.

TeamViewer - Configuration

How to establish a LAN connection:

1. Start TeamViewer and click on the Remote Control tab.

2. Enter the IP address of the PC you wish to access and click on Connect to Partner.

3.  The TeamViewer Authentication dialog opens.

4. Enter the password of the remote computer and click on Log On.

5. The desktop of the other computer should display.

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Play Mahjong Solitaire All Day Long Online for FREE

Mahjong, an ancient game that originated in China, has long been one of my most favorite games on the computer since the inception of the computer.  I can remember years ago when I first got into computers, finding a good software driven Mahjong game was a big deal.  Especially when the Mahjong tiles became more 3D in appearance.

Recently I went on the hunt on the internet to see if I could find a decent online version of Mahjong.  I hit the jackpot when I found 247 Mahjong [CLICK HERE] .

247 Mahjong

247 Mahjong is an Adobe Flash based game that you can play directly in your web browser (no software install required). 247 Mahjong features sounds, background music, a timer and 8 different tile sets to select from.

To Play Mahjong: Mahjong Solitaire is a tile matching puzzle game. You may click on any “free” tiles (those that are on the edge) to select them, and match them with other free tiles with the same face to eliminate them from the board. Beat Mahjong by eliminating all tiles.


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How to Zoom In and Zoom Out a Browser Window

This is actually a repost; however, it contains a couple of browser tips that you can’t post enough.  If you don’t use it, you will lose it!

Have you ever visited a web site where the text size is to small to read or you are finding that your eyesight (like mine) is going downhill, and reading certain elements varies from page to page?

Here is a “little known and little used” computer tip for you internet users… By holding down the “Ctrl” key and moving your “mouse scroll wheel” you can “zoom in and zoom out” on a web page.  You can also do the same thing, without using the mouse or “Ctrl” key, by hitting the “+” (plus) and “-” (minus) keys on the numeric keypad, located on the right side of your keyboard.  Give it a try! It will not permanently change any default settings. If you find that you need to return to the normal default (original) setting, simply hold down the “CTRL” key and hit “0” (the number zero). This works in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and probably all of the browsers.  Give it a try!

Mouse Wheel to Zoom In and Zoom Out

The “zoom in and zoom out” tip, using the “Ctrl and Mouse Wheel” will also work with other applications as well, with varying results (e.g. Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, many graphic viewers/editors, pdf readers, etc…).  For example, in Microsoft Word, when working on a mult-page document, you can “zoom out” to the point that it will tile (show all) your pages on the screen.

Added Tip: Was helping someone today on a small computer screen complete a task online in their web browser and toggled to full screen. They were astonished and asked “How did you do that?”.  Simply hit “F11” on your keyboard to toggle back and forth from full and normal screen.


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Shutdown, Sleep, Restart or Logoff Your Computer Using the Keyboard

Keyboard ShortcutsDid you know that there are built in keyboard shortcuts that you can use to shutdown, sleep, restart or logoff your Windows computer?  Well, there are, and they are good to remember in the event the mouse becomes unresponsive. The keyboard shortcuts differ between Windows XP and Windows Vista/Windows 7; however, the initial key press for all of these shortcuts commands are dependent on the Windows key (which is located to the left of the spacebar that displays the Windows Logo on the key).

For Windows XP:

SHUTDOWN – press the WINDOWS KEY and the letter “U” twice

RESTART – press the WINDOWS KEY, then the letter  “U” once and  then the letter “R” once

LOGOFF – press the WINDOWS KEY and the letter  “L” twice

SLEEP – press the WINDOWS KEY and the letter “U” once and the letter “S” once

For Windows Vista/Windows 7:

SHUTDOWN – press the WINDOWS KEY, then press the RIGHT ARROW key three times and the letter “U” to shut down

RESTART – press the WINDOWS KEY, then press the RIGHT ARROW key three times and the letter “R”

LOGOFF – press the WINDOWS KEY then press the RIGHT ARROW key three times and the letter “L”

SLEEP – press the WINDOWS KEY, then press the RIGHT ARROW key three times and the letter “S”


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What does the “G” represent in 3G and 4G?

If you are a mobile web user of the cellular phone systems, you may have heard the terms, 3G and 4G. I recently had someone ask me, “What does the “G” stand for?”.  Ironically, the answer to that question fell right into my lap while working on my blog.

Below is a clip from a PC Magazine Article, “What is 4G, And Do I Need It?” , that answers the “G” questions for us.

A “G” is a generation of wireless technology. Each generation offers significantly faster Internet access than the previous generation, but it’s incompatible with the previous generation—you have to upgrade your phone to use it, and carriers usually have to install new hardware.

The first G was the old analog cellular systems. 2G systems are digital, but slow. Many phones still use 2G. Internet speeds on 2G phones range from 9.6 Kbits/s to about 200 Kbps. 3G systems run from about 384 Kbps to—well, we’ll get to that.

4G systems such as LTE and WiMAX claim to have real-life speeds of 5 Mbits/s or greater, much like a home cable connection. The most recent versions of these technologies promise speeds in the hundreds of Mbits/s, faster than any home Internet connection available right now. 4G systems are also “all-IP.” Down the road, they’ll be able to replace the old circuit-switched voice phone calling with voice-over-IP systems. [SOURCE: PC MAGAZINE]

 

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Symptoms of a Failing Computer Power Supply

I have been doing IT for many years, working with hundreds of PCs, and I cannot remember having to replace the power supply in any of the computers I managed. Probably was just a stroke of luck on my part.

Power Supply

Recently that stroke of luck changed.  Have you ever heard that things happen in threes?  In this case, three was the magic number.

The following computer power supply failures occurred within a period of 3 days on 3 different computers that were around the 3 year mark in age.

First, my niece… Her PC would not boot.  Power was present to the monitor and other peripherals; however, no power to the computer. Suspected and later confirmed it was the power supply.

Second, my brother… His PC would not boot.  Power was present to the monitor and other peripherals; however, no power to the computer. Suspected and later confirmed it was the power supply.

Third, my PC… The domino affect. First symptom that I noticed began about a month ago. On occasions I would walk away from my computer, returning  an hour or two later to discover that my computer had shutdown and booted on its’ own. Second symptom was more recent. Following a boot of the computer I would go online and suddenly a lockup would occur to the point that nothing worked other than manually powering down the PC. When these two symptoms occurred, I often rebooted and worked with no problems and would not experience these symptoms again for days. Third symptom that occurred was that the computer would suddenly shut down. Then came symptom number four… Power was present to the monitor and other peripherals; however, no power to the computer.

Here are some symptoms you may experience that could indicate that your power supply is failing. Diagnosing power supply problems can be difficult; however, once you start seeing more than one of these symptoms, put the power supply on your troubleshooting checklist.

  • Circuit breakers popping when the PC is turned on
  • System startup failures or lockups
  • Noticeable change in how long it takes for your PC to boot and shutdown
  • Spontaneous rebooting or intermittent lockups during normal operation (small brownouts)
  • Memory Errors
  • HDD and fan simultaneously failing to spin
  • HDD file system corruption
  • USB devices power issues
  • Overheating due to fan failure
  • Electric shocks that are felt when the case is touched
  • Smoke
  • BIOS beeping codes detected

During the course of all that I was experiencing, I was leaning toward the power supply being the culprit and had prepared myself early on. As soon as I started experiencing the first round of hiccups, I made sure I had a backup of all of my data (which I religiously perform on a regular basis anyway). I also went to the computer manufacturer’s website to explore power supply problems and to determine if there were any specs on the power supply in my computer, and if there was any information available on how to remove and install the power supply.

The computer I own is a Hewlett Packard multimedia PC with a 300 watt power supply. What I found on the HP site for my PC was awesome. It showed, step-by-step, the removal process (with pics) and even a video on how to remove the front and side panels of the computer, where the power and drive leads for the power supply were located and what to be cautious of (such as static electricity).

Power Supply

I have been inside of computers many times and knew pretty much the rundown to remove and replace the power supply; however, something as simple as removing the case panels was a major help. When it came time to remove the power supply in my computer, the homework paid off. I had the panels off of the PC, the power leads to the motherboard and drives disconnected, the drives pushed forward to create working room, and the power supply removed within 10 minutes. All together, in my case, removal of (6)-six screws were involved. Note: While I was inside the case of the computer I performed a thorough cleaning, as well.

To replace the power supply, I ended up going from a 300 watt power supply to a 400 watt power supply made by Dynex (through Best Buy). The form factor of the Dynex matched my system perfectly. There are numerous power supply options available on the market (see here for an example)

Dynex Power Supply

Following the replacement of the power supply in my computer I noticed (2)-two remarkable improvements. My computer starts up noticeably faster and shuts down noticeably faster. For example, it took me 1.5 to 3 minutes to boot up prior to the replacement.  Following the replacement of the power supply, my computer now boots to the Windows 7 desktop in less than 1 minute.

In the end, diagnosing a failing power supply can be a challenge, but eventually the symptoms of things to come will rear its’ ugly head. Just be prepared, have your data backed up, and do some research.


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Locating Your Software License Keys

Did you know that if you do a complete reinstall of the software on your PC, you will need the product license keys (or serial/registration information) for the software that you had paid for?

For example, products such as Microsoft Office, Nero, Windows (to name a few) require license keys in order to install the product, no matter how many times you end up installing them. I know from my experience with helping others on their PCs, when it came time to reinstall a licensed product (that they had purchased) there were occasions where they could not locate any documentation that contained the license keys or registration numbers. They either was unaware of the licensing process or simply forgot where they placed the CD or documentation that contained the key. In some instances this can result in a loss of hundreds of dollars.

In the event you cannot locate your product keys or licenses, there are several FREE solutions (listed below) that may be helpful; however, it is important that you take advantage of them prior to your PC becoming inoperable. I currently use all three of these apps, in combo, to make sure I capture everything.

The first solution is an app called LicenseCrawler. License Crawler is a portable app that requires no installation. Simply download and run the application; however, you will need admin rights to run LicenseCrawler. When you run LicenseCrawler, it literally will crawl (scan) your computer’s registry for the license keys.  LicenseCrawler will harvest and list any application product keys and other serial numbers or license keys very quickly, and supports all versions of Windows operating system from Windows 95 to Windows Vista. LicenseCrawler has the ability (and option) built-in  to scan various areas of the Windows registry to gather the information.

The second solution is ProduKey (by NirSoft)ProduKey, also a portable app, serves the same purpose as License Crawler, with the exception it scans your PC for the license keys for Microsoft based products (such as Microsoft Office and Windows).

The third solution is an application called SIW -System Information for Windows. This app, also available in a portable version, is actually a tool that gathers detailed information about your system properties and settings and displays the results in a comprehensible manner.  One of the categories which it gathers information, is a category for license keys.

The whole point to this article is to make you aware that if your PC goes south, you will need those product keys and licenses to reinstall your software. If you currently have your license keys keep them in a safe place for future reference and to prevent the keys from being stolen. If you do not have the keys, take the time to try these apps to recover what you have paid for.


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Make An Exact Copy of Your Hard Drive

One of the most frustrating moments for any computer user is when your computer has crashed, all else has failed to work, and you forgot to make the restoration CDs (or DVDs) that came with your PC. The restoration CD (or DVD) option is your last ditch solution to fixing your PC when all else has failed. The restoration CDs (or DVDs) typically restore your system back to the day that you purchased it. Some manufacturers’ PCs provide an option to perform (initiate) the restoration process by hitting a key during the computer’s startup that will initiate the restore process by using files stored in a hidden partition on the computer’s hard drive. The restoration process varies from PC manufacturer to manufacturer and if you have a home brewed system, the restoration is typically a reinstall of the operating system using the operating system discs that you purchased. The whole point to this is just that you make sure you have a plan in the event disaster strikes… AND, BELIEVE ME IT WILL !

The problem with the restoration processes provided is that you are in for some work. I’m talking about reinstalling your software, performing your Windows updates, virus/malware software updates, personal customization, bookmarks, emails, etc… Most of the time when you have resorted to a complete restoration or reinstall of the operating system you will lose your valuable data that you may have saved over the months and even years.

One option to avoid all of this, and reduce the workload, is to use disk imaging software and a good external hard drive. Disk Imaging Software is software that you install on your PC and use when your computer is in a healthy state. The disk imaging software is engineered to make a backup (disk image) of an exact representation of your hard drive (or partitions) at the time you perform the imaging process. Don’t be fooled into thinking that your everyday backup software can make an exact copy of your hard drive and partitions. It can’t… The Windows operating system is like a living organism that is constantly evolving and changing when you start it up. Your typical backup software apps are unable to capture those changes. As a matter of fact Windows will not allow you to make a copy of certain critical system files without special software. Your typical backup software is great for backing up your personal files (such as pictures, documents, etc.) and should be used on a daily basis in addition to the imaging software that can be used on a less frequent basis.

As you well know, the What’s On My PC blog specializes in locating FREE software options.  In this case of disk imaging software, the FREE app that I use and recommend is the FREE Edition of Macrium Reflect

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Using Macrium Reflect™ Free Edition you can create an exact image of partitions on your hard disk for easy hard disk upgrade or complete/partial system recovery

Key factors to using imaging software, such as Macrium Reflect, is that when you perform the backup of your system it is critical that your system is in a healthy state and that you have an external source (with sufficient space) to store the image file.  Even though Macrium Reflect offers other backup media options to CD or DVD media, I suggest you use an external drive. Besides, the external drive will serve you in performing your normal daily backups.

Another important factor to using Macrium Reflect is that the first thing you should do is create a Rescue CD. This option is available in the Macrium Reflect software under the “Other Options” menu selection. The rescue CD is used to boot your computer and restore your computer from the image file when disaster occurs.

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For FREE imaging software, Macrium Reflect is a great option for home-based users and is comparable in performance and appearance with that of its’ commercial counterparts. Macrium Reflect is also regularly updated to meet the needs of the ever changing Windows operating system.

Features of the FREE Edition of Macrium Reflect:

Absolutely free! No strings! The only free XP, Vista and Windows 7 compatible disk imaging software with BartPEand Linux based recovery options.

  • Create a disk image whilst running Windows using Microsoft Volume Shadow copy Service (VSS).
  • Image to Network, USB, FireWire drives and DVD.
  • Built in scheduler.
  • 32 bit and native 64 bit versions.
  • Industry leading compression levels and speed.
  • Linux based Rescue CD with Network access and full GUI. Only 6.5MB in size!
  • Built in CD/DVD packet writing engine. Supports packet writing to DVD DL media with Windows Vista.
  • HTML log files.

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Go Incognito with Firefox…

Mozilla Firefox

Did you know that Firefox, the choice browser of the tech community has a Private Browsing Mode built into it?

If you are a Firefox user and you are using Firefox version 3.5 or higher you can easily switch from normal browsing mode to private browsing mode. Many of the other popular browsers also have a private (incognito) browsing mode that you can explore.

When you are normally browsing the internet, Firefox remembers the web sites you have visited, your user names and passwords, your browsing history and more. In other words these browsing morsels become a profile of your browsing habits and of you. When you switch to the  Private Browsing Mode in Firefox, these browsing morsels are not collected and stored on the host computer.

Using Private Browsing Mode, to protect your privacy, is handy when browsing the internet from a friend’s computer or at work. In reverse, you can switch the browser into Private Browsing Mode when someone else is using your computer to prevent extraction of or review of your personal morsels (such as user names, passwords, history, cookies, etc…).

To get into Private Browsing Mode, go to the menu bar (at the top of the browser), click on “Tools”, then “Private Browsing Mode” [ see video ]. You can also perform the hotkey combo of  Ctrl + Shift + P on your keyboard to turn Private Browsing Mode “on or off” .

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Personally, I prefer using the hotkey combination to quickly go in and out of Private Browsing Mode. When you enter the Private Browsing Mode, Firefox will graciously remember any pages or tabs that you have open, so that when you exit from Private Browsing Mode, you are right back where you started.

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You can also depart from Private Browsing Mode by going to the menu bar, click on “Tools”, then “Stop Private Browsing”.  You can also leave Private Browsing Mode by simply closing Firefox, as well.

In a Private Browsing session, Firefox won’t keep any browser history, search history, download history, web form history, cookies, or temporary internet files.  However, files you download and bookmarks you make will be kept. [ click here to see details ]

You can tell when you are in Private Browsing Mode by looking at the Title Bar at the top of the browser window.  It will reflect “Private Browsing – Mozilla Firefox”. Downloading files or saving bookmarks is not affected by Private Browsing Mode.

If you are at another PC, I strongly encourage that you use Firefox and the Firefox Private Browsing Mode to protect your privacy.  If Firefox is not available on the host PC you can use Mozilla Firefox, Portable Edition and run it from your flash drive.

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