Archive for the Category ◊ How To ◊

I had a hard time coming up with a title for this blog entry, but I wanted to focus on the latest threats from cookies and also a basic rundown on what cookies are and what they do.

What is a Cookie

A Cookie is a small piece of text that a website will “drop” onto your computer and it is stored on your hard drive.

The text includes a small bit of information basically to remember you the next time you go back to that website.

For example, I like Weather Underground as I have a weather station there and I like the website. I go there often.

When I go there, a cookie is put on my computer so the next time I go back, it remembers me so I don’t have to log back in every time. It always remembers the location that I have in for weather.

The same thing with eBay or Amazon or any site you like to go to. It seems pretty harmless and can be helpful for most people.

All Cookies not Created Equal

But there are different kinds of cookies, and even the basic cookies can be “read” by other websites and information gleaned.

For example they can see some of your browsing habits and focus ads specifically targeted to you from what you have been doing on the Internet.

The interesting thing is, this is done by many Internet providers also. I know that Comcast does this. When I go looking at B&H Camera at some cool new camera stuff, tomorrow, when I go looking at a website I suddenly see B&H Camera ads, and possibly even of the product I was looking at today. No kidding.

Some of this is done with cookies, and some is just done because they know where you have been as your Internet provider.

Back to Cookies, so there are good and bad ones, and some really bad ones. Some that are put on the computer by a company, and it is not even their cookie. Tracking cookies can actually be an invasion of your privacy.

New Cookies, so Yummy – Maybe not so much

Recently there is a new type of cookie called a Flash Cookie, and another called Beacons. Some of these can actually tell that you are a Female, 26, from Oregon who likes the movie Sleepless in Seattle.

Basically this is demographics, just like your cable or satellite TV does, and you probably don’t even know it.

Did you know in your contract for TV service that part of it allows them to gather your viewing habits and use the statistics and share that info with other companies?

So basically it is up to you what cookies you keep or delete, or do not even allow on your computer.

If you would like to read some more about what cookies are, here is a FAQ to explain more.

Next Time

In part II I will cover how to clean up your cookies and combat this new Flash Cookie that even the Whitehouse Website is using!

I work too fast sometimes for my own good. Sometimes I just click on things without paying attention, and that can get me into trouble!

One of the cool things about Windows way back from the old days, you can undo stuff you did, that you didn’t really want to do!

Undo is in almost every program running on Windows today. Usually it is in the menu EDIT and you click on UNDO. Pretty Simple.

Some programs have a left handed arrow, which means Undo or Go Back (just like your web browser, it takes you BACK a page).

Some programs even have a redo, an arrow pointing to the right. Just like in Photoshop pictured here.

 

That means you can undo something, then change your mind and say, O.K. forget the UNDO, and REDO that back.

Another cool thing is that Windows itself uses the UNDO Command. Let’s say you move a file from a folder, and like me accidently let go too soon and dropped it in the wrong folder. O no, how are you going to find it?

Go to the top menu under Edit>UNDO or you can use the handy keyboard shortcut Control+Z keys. That will put the file back where you moved it from and you can start over.

Another thing that can be annoying is if you are selecting multiple files with Control+Click. If you are not careful, if you move them slightly and let up on the mouse, you have now made a copy of everything selected. I hate this, and it happens.

 

Just hold Control+Z and viola! You have undone that little mess you just made. The trick is not to do anything else. One good thing is, if you went ahead and did one other thing, you can do UNDO and UNDO again, and it will step back one action at a time.

There are some rare cases where UNDO will not work, like deleting files from a USB Flash drive, because that drive is not on the computer, it will not restore those files.

But if you goof up, it is worth a try. UNDO is like your little computer angel.

I have been using Custom Guide’s Reference Guides for a couple terms now in my Photoshop Elements class at school when teaching, and they are really helpful.

This company has online training and other services for companies. They have a whole page of free cheat sheets (That is what I call them) with commonly used commands and tips and tricks.

Very nice visually, and very colorful. If you open it in Adobe as a .pdf, and print it in color, you can put it in a nice sheet protector, or even laminate it, and keep it at your desk when working on the particular program.

I especially like the Photoshop Elements one, because it is hard to remember the short cuts and other commands.

There are more than 75 different quick ref guides to help you. From Windows 98 to Win 7, Microsoft Office programs to Adobe Photoshop, Elements, Internet Explorer, Firefox and much more is available.

The Windows 7 guide is great if you are just upgrading or getting a new computer with Windows 7 installed, it can really help to get started using 7.

What is cool about these, is you may use the program every day, but not realize some of the shortcuts and quick things you can do with the program.

The best thing is, they are free and you can share them with others.

Check it out at Custom Guide

How to Change What Program Opens a Specific File in Windows
Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009 | Author:

One problem I see frequently on customers computers and with my students at school is problems with file associations. In my last blog lesson, I covered what a file association is and why it is important.

When you go to click on a photo, and some goofy program you really don’t like opens your photos instead of Windows Photo viewer or Adobe Photoshop, or whatever your favorite photo viewer is, it is very frustrating.

The way this happens is when you install new software (knowingly or unknowingly) for things like your camera, scanner or printer. Many times the installation of one of these devices installs what they think is a cool photo editing tool.

When it installs the program, it may or may not ask you if you want all images or photos to be “associated” with this new photo program. At this point you can say no if you have a program you like better.

Another way to avoid this is to only install the drivers for the camera, scanner or printer. One other option is to do an “advanced” install where you can pick what you want to install, and just uncheck the new photo program so it never even installs.

But, if it is too late, here is how you can fix it so another program opens a particular type of file. This is not just for photos, this works for documents, music, anything that opens with a program.

Windows XP
Open the folder that contains the file you want to change.

Right-click the file that you want to change, and then, depending on the type of file, either click

Open With or point to Open With and then click Choose Program.

Click the program that you want to use to open this file.

Do one of the following:

  • If you want all files of that type to open in the same software program, select the Always use the selected program to open this kind of file check box, and then click OK.
  • If you want only that file to open in the software program this one time, clear the Always use the selected program to open this kind of file check box, and then click OK.


    Windows Vista
    Open the folder that contains the file you want to change.

    Right-click the file that you want to change, and then, depending on the type of file, either click

    Open With or point to Open With and then click Choose Default Program.

    Click the program that you want to use to open this file.

    Do one of the following:

  • If you want all files of that type to open in the same software program, select the Always use the selected program to open this kind of file check box, and then click OK.
  • If you want only that file to open in the software program this one time, clear the Always use the selected program to open this kind of file check box, and then click OK.

Note on both XP and VISTA
If you do not see the program you want in the list, click on the browse button, and go to your Program Files Folder. Look for the folder name of the program you want. Open that folder, and look for the main program icon. Usually it will have the .exe at the end of the name. For example Microsoft word is WINWORD.EXE. There may be more than one choice, pick the best sounding one for the program.

If it is wrong, it just won’t open the file. Then go back and try the other .exe files and you will eventually get the right one.

Ooops, I Spilled on My Laptop!
Sunday, April 19th, 2009 | Author:

We all like to enjoy our favorite beverage while we are working on the computer, but sometimes we get a little clumsy and spill. Hopefully it was not too close to the computer.

If you spill on your Home PCs keyboard or mouse it is easy to replace and not very expensive if it goes bad.

But what if that spill is on a laptop? Laptops are unique because everything is build into that little box. The Screen, Keyboard, Memory and CPU can all be damaged by spilling liquid. The cost to replace it is pretty substantial.

I have some tips for you if this happens to your laptop.

How to Dry it off

Before we start the biggest tip I can give you is, don’t let it sit for days, the longer it sits, the longer the corrosion can set in and really cause permanent damage.

Step 1
Immediately turn off the computer and disconnect the power source. Remove all of the easily removable parts that you can such as the power cord, battery, USB drives, etc.

Step 2
Get that thing dried off as quickly and the best you can. Lay down a towel and turn the laptop upside down and try to drain any extra liquid. Turn it from end to end trying to drain out any other big amounts of liquid.

Use a soft cloth such as a t-shirt, and mop up any extra liquid. Dry all of the now open compartments. The faster you can do this, the better.

Dry out the Battery Compartment and the battery connectors.

Step 3
Remove the CD Drive. There is usually a screw on the bottom of the laptop, near the rear of the CD drive. Remove that screw, pop open your CD drive with the end of a paper clip, carefully pull out the CD drive.
Dry off the open drive, and the bay where it came from.

Step 4
Open the ram compartment on the bottom of the computer. It usually has two screws and is a small little compartment lid. Dry off that area. Be careful, the RAM is static sensitive. If there is liquid, carefully remove the Memory from the slots and dry off with your dry soft cotton cloth.

Step 5
Open the Hard drive door, usually on the bottom, front or side of the laptop. Usually has a drum looking icon. Unscrew the two screws, and remove the hard drive from the laptop. Be careful not to bang the hard drive around, it is sensitive.
Dry off any contacts and the open bay where the hard drive sits.

Optional Keyboard Removal:
The damage is usually to the keyboard, and if it is a bad spill it can get into the main electronics of the laptop and it probably will not turn on at all, or the lights may go on but it will not boot.

Sometimes removing the keyboard, and drying under it really helps to, because under the keyboard is the CPU, RAM and other stuff that does not like liquid! Removing the keyboard is a bit more advanced and should only be done if you feel comfortable doing so.

To remove the keyboard, you need to remove the top plate that usually has the power button. It is that strip up above the keyboard, near the screen. On the bottom, there are usually 2 – 4 retainer screws holding it on. They might be inside the batter compartment. Once those are unscrewed, this is the tricky part.

Turn the laptop over, carefully, slowly pry up the power strip just below the LCD screen. There is usually a small indent on the left or right of the strip, or sometimes it is right above the keys, and you carefully (did I mention be careful) to gently pop up the strip. Be careful, there might be some cables connected to it.

There should be a few screws holding the keyboard down. Unscrew those at the top of the keyboard. If the keyboard does not come up easily, then you might have a screw or two at the bottom of the laptop that holds the center of the keyboard down.

Once the keyboard is free, there is a cable connector. It is a little tricky to undo, but usually you flip up the little connector, and it releases the ribbon cable. Now dry it all off, as best as you can. Reverse the process to reassemble.

Final Steps:
Use a blow dryer on the lowest setting or no heat at all, and dry off the computer as best you can. After all of this, leave all of the parts off, and let the computer sit in a nice dry room temperature for at least 24-48 hours before trying to turn it back on. The longer the better, I have even heard a week, but I think that might be a bit much.

Turning it back on too fast after this will cause more problems, it needs to dry thoroughly and there are a lots of cracks and crevices for liquid to hide.

Other Tips:
Water is not as bad all by itself. Liquid such as alcohol, juice or caffeine will tend to damage things worse. When cleaning up substances other than water, rubbing alcohol works pretty well to clean up the gook and gunk that make be on the computer, and even work if the connectors are starting to corrode a little.

The key to reviving a drown computer is to get it dried off as FAST as possible, and that includes the insides. Laptops are very difficult to disassemble and reassemble. If these basic tips do not work, I highly recommend taking this to a professional and get it cleaned up.

Remember, don’t let it sit for days, the longer it sits, the longer the corrosion can set in and really cause permanent damage.

I have had good luck reviving computers from spills. Not all can be saved, but it is worth the effort.

You can safely click on the link below, to test and see if you have the conficker worm on your computer. A working group has been assembled in to collaborate efforts with technology industry leaders and academia to implement a coordinated, global approach to combating the Conficker worm.

How does this work?

This works by trying to load several pictures from Security Websites. If the top pictures do not load, you may have the virus. That is one of the traits of the conficker, is that it will block you from going to these type of sites. The bottom 3 pictures are from non-security sites, so they should always load.

If you only see some of the pictures, check below the chart for an explantion. Also try hitting F5 to refresh your broswer to see if they load, as you know the browser sometimes does not get all the pictures when you go to a site the first time.

If you get all 6 pictures on the Eye Chart, you are good!

Run the Test!

http://www.confickerworkinggroup.org/infection_test/cfeyechart.html

You can also check out the approximate map of infected computers throughout the world!

http://www.confickerworkinggroup.org/wiki/pmwiki.php/ANY/InfectionDistribution

How to stay away from Bogus Win Antivirus 2009
Monday, April 06th, 2009 | Author:

These are a couple of samples of the fake software. There are many variations, but this gives you and idea of what they look like. Note the shield and how similar to Microsoft’s Security Warning it looks like.

I have had a larger number of Win Antivirus and Antispyware 2009 infections in the shop lately, and I wanted to give you a few tips on how to avoid this junk on your computer.
The interesting thing is that most of the computers have had valid Antivirus Software, and the Virus still got on the computer. The problem is we say something is OK, and our Antivirus just assumes you want it, even though there may have been a warning, or maybe no warning.
What is this stuff anyway?
Antivirus 2009 and Antispyware 2009 are not real programs. They act like they are going to help you, and when you pay the fee, they are just smoke and mirrors. The program pops up over and over and says you have hundreds upon hundreds of horrible bad stuff, and they are going to do a scan to clean up your computer.
These fake programs use trojans, such as Zlob or Vundo, to spread. These viruses have been around for a while and are really common in the infected computers I work on.
Where does it come from?
Sometimes the viruses come from porn sites or what are called as Warez sites (free illegal software) or other illegally downloaded music/programs/movies. Even though it is very common to come from a place like this, there are a lot of other seemingly innocent ways.
Many viruses can come from files downloaded on Filesharing programs such as Limewire, Bearshare and eDonkey. These is called P2P, or Peer to Peer software. Many people are using this method to share movies/music/software illegally with others, and in turn, others share their stuff with you, including viruses. This is all under the guise of sharing legally, but no one really pays for the stuff and it is a way to get free stuff.
Another way some of the Bogus Antivirus programs show up is on a “drive by.” You go to a site you think is ok, and the message pops up, and it looks like a real antivirus message from your antivirus program.
But if you look closely, you will see that it is not. It is really just a pop up ad, that when you click on it, you are essentially downloading the virus. Dawn had one of these pop up on her desktop, and it was just that, a pop up ad that looked just like a security warning. We did the procedures below, and did a full scan, and thankfully we never actually got the virus.
The so-called program shows hundreds or viruses on your computer. It even acts like it is doing a scan, and then says you need to pay to get rid of the stuff. It is all a scam. Once they get your money, that is it. There is no antivirus program. It does nothing for you, but mess up your computer, and make your pockets lighter if you fall for it.
How to avoid getting it
If you get a message like this suddenly, check it out carefully. It should say Trend Micro or Norton, AVG, or whatever your antivirus program name is on the top or somewhere on the window. If it does not, here is what you do. The window will have the look and feel of a real program. I have included screen shots of what some look like.
First off, DO NOT click on the window at all. Many times the buttons are disguised as to what they will do, and usually clicking on it will attempt to download the problem onto your computer. Even the handy X for exit or other buttons may activate it.
Hit Control+Alt+Del and bring up the task manager. Look at the running applications, and there should be one that is Internet Explorer, or one that says the name of the program Win Antivir 2009. Click on that and click on End Task.
Then disconnect from the internet (easiest way is to unplug your modem from the wall power). Then run a “FULL” scan of your computer and make sure you do not have any Trojans. If you do this, at the first sign, you may have never gotten the virus on your computer, but it was more of a pop up ad/scam to get you to put it on your computer. This is what happened to Dawn, and thankfully she caught it right away.
Also if you have CCleaner on your computer, run that to remove all your Temp files and Temporary Internet files. These are not needed and they are a place where the bad stuff likes to hide. Click here to get CCleaner.

I run this monthly on my computer and would suggest the same for you.

Downloading Tip


One last thing on downloading anything, including this Ccleaner. You have to watch what is on the page, and not click on the DOWNLOAD buttons that are for other stuff. It can be very confusing, and even with all my experience, when I am in a hurry, I have clicked on the wrong thing, and downloaded something I did not want. Clicking on these buttons that look like what you want, can give you a lot of other junk you do not want or need.

One of the things sites have done now, is when you click on download, it goes to the next page, saying your download is starting. While you are waiting (a wait done on purpose by the way) you are presented with a screen which says DOWNLOAD Now! If you look carefully, that is for something different, maybe similar, but not what you are trying to download.

Wait a minute, and usually you will see the bar light up across the top of your browser saying “To help protect your security, IE has blocked this site from downloading… Click here for options.” That yellow bar on the top is where you download the file from. Click on the bar, and then save the file to your computer.

If a download button or pop up window says it will help you speed up your computer, check your computer, clean up your computer, make your bed, clean your registry or any other great claim, completely avoid it unless a reputable source recommends it and has tested it themselves.

Remember, up to date antivirus software and up to date windows security updates are both key to helping you out here.

Feed the Need or Read the Feed!
Tuesday, March 24th, 2009 | Author:

Now that I have some of you hooked on reading my blog, I wanted to give you some tips about reading blogs and how to make it even easier.

First of all, an easy way to read my blog here, is to put a link/shortcut on your desktop. Simple, and it works. Just go up to the very top of Internet Explorer address bar where the icon of this blog is located, and drag the orange B to your desktop.

Another cool way to read a Blog is with a Feed. You can get all kinds of information with feeds. You can get news, sports, financial info, and read other blogs too.

The really neat thing is that if you use the news feed method, they are all under one roof, and easy to get to and read. I find that if I have my friends blogs all in one spot, it is easier to read them. The only catch is that the Blog the person is writing, has to be set up to feed to people.

If you are using Internet explorer you can use it to read your favorite blogs and it is really easy. When you go to the Blog page, you will see the little News Feed Icon which looks like this.

Look on your favorite websites for the orange icon or the terms RSS Feed. This stands for Really Simple Syndication and it is an online way to publish information to those who want it. If a website has the icon or the words RSS Feed, you can usually just follow the steps below.

Look on the top right menu bar next to the Home icon of your Internet explorer. Click on the orange “News Feed icon. (If it is not orange or you cannot click on it, then the page is not set up for RSS Feeds.) Once you click on the icon you will see a page full of feeds from the site you are subscribing to.

At the top of this page is a “Subscribe to this Feed” Link along with the Add to Favorites Icon (green plus sign with a star). Click on that link.

Next, the Internet Explorer Subscribe to this Feed box comes up, and you can just click on the “Subscribe” button. You can also create a new folder, or put this in an existing folder you have created. This works just like the favorites in Internet Explorer.

Now your feed is saved. To bring it back up, open up Internet Explorer and Click on the Star Icon for your Favorites. You will see your favorites on the left column, click on Feeds on the top, and the list of all the feeds you subscribe to are there. Just click on the feed, and poof, you get all the latest news, every time it is updated, right on your browser!

If you want to refresh and see if there are any new feeds, just click to the right of the name, and two green arrows appear, and new feeds, if any, will be downloaded to your computer.

What I love about this, is that every time I come across a cool blog or feed I like, I just add it, and can look at it any time. I also can put my favorite hockey news and world news stuff there.

If you want to look for feeds, there are many search engines dedicated to just telling you about feeds that are available. I like this site for searching for RSS topics

Also our local newspapers have feeds that you can pick from headlines, sports, community, and more!

Lebanon Express

Albany Democrat Herald

Corvallis Gazette Times

One more tip: You can adjust settings on how your feed work in your internet explorer settings. Go to Tools>Internet Options. Click on the Content Tab, and then the Feeds>Settings Buttons. There are several choices on how often your browser checks for feeds, and it can even play a sound if a new feed is found!

If you are using Firefox, the Feed Icon is on the bottom right of the browser, down on the status bar, and it works essentially the same.

Have Fun getting FED!

Category: Blog, How To, News, RSS Feed  | One Comment
Tips on Extending the Life of Laptop/Notebook Batteries
Tuesday, March 03rd, 2009 | Author:

The Life of a Battery

I have been working on so many laptops lately, and have seen customers buying new ones; I thought it would be a good idea to give some tips about the batteries. Our good ‘ol towers do not have the battery power option, so most of us are not as familiar with the Wall power vs. battery power that a laptop utilizes.

Battery life in a laptop is usually about 18-24 months! New batteries in some older models can cost near $100.

Get ‘em while they are HOT!

Buy a second battery within the first year of owning the laptop. Batteries will be in full supply. After a couple years the batteries get scarce, and can cost double the original price.

Squeeze some extra battery juice out of a charge:

  1. Disable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi if you are not using them. Bluetooth usually has an icon in the control panel. The Wi-Fi usually has a switch or button on the computer that you turn on or off. These are like using a radio, they take power.
  2. Drop the screen brightness down. The LCD Screen has a light bulb that uses a lot of power. This can usually be done with the good old function key that is labeled “Fn” usually in a different color, on the lower left of the keyboard. The Fn key in combination with the key that has the brighter/darker icon, usually a sun or what looks like a light bulb.

    You can adjust this and other power settings:
    in XP with Start Menu > Control Panel > Power Options.
    In Vista go to Start Menu>Control Panel> Click on Classic View, then Power Options.

  3. Do not play music or DVDs directly from the DVD/CD player. The motor uses a lot of power. Copy them onto the computer and play them from there. Also with movies or shows, view them online on places such as HULU or another download service.

How to extend the life of your battery

Batteries will loose their charge over time, even the better new type batteries. If you leave your laptop plugged in most of the time, you can speed this process up a lot, and your battery will die much faster. The battery rarely gets a chance to recycle it’s charge, and thus looses it’s ability to hold a good charge.

If you are using your laptop mostly plugged into AC wall current, take the battery out when convenient. This will allow the battery to discharge and not always be charging. Just make sure you charge it up when you hit the road.

Vista Shutdown vs. Sleep

Have you ever noticed that on Vista when you hit what looks like the power button from the start menu, it is yellow, and it says “Sleep”? This means the computer is still using power, and you can stop that. I always like to shut down my computer when I am done using it, especially if you are putting it in a case.

Here is how to change this setting. It is really hidden, but when you change it, the button turns red and will now say “Shutdown”, which is what you want it to do. I have changed this on many customers’ laptops, so make sure to check yours and see if you need to make this change.

  1. Open the Control Panel and go to Power Options.
  2. Click Change plan settings for your selected power plan.
  3. Click Change advanced power settings.
  4. Expand Power buttons and lid.
  5. Expand Start menu power button.
  6. Change the setting from Sleep to Shut down.
  7. Click OK.


Now you have a real shutdown button!

Troubling Touchpad Torment!
Wednesday, February 25th, 2009 | Author:

I have big hands, and I always have problems when I am typing on my laptop, and I somehow activate the touchpad, and mess up what I was typing, and end up opening a web page or the start menu!

There usually are some settings that can help you. Here are a couple tips to help stop the touchpad annoyance.

On older laptops with Windows XP, open the Control Panel and then double-click Mouse. If you see a Device Select tab, click it and enable Disable TouchPad when USB pointing device is present.

On a Vista notebook, there is a Tapping tab in the Mouse Properties window. If you enable Tap off when typing, this will keep the touchpad from recognizing taps while you’re typing.

If your laptop doesn’t have this option, look for something similar, many times there is a program specifically for your laptop brand.

On a Toshiba, you can double click on the icon in the system tray by the clock, or the mouse properties in Control panel, and go to Advanced Settings/Features > and Detailed Touch Pad Settings.

Find the enable tap settings on that menu. Click on Tap Settings. Then find the tapping menu. Locate disable touchpad during key input. Put a check in that box to disable the touchpad while using the keyboard.
On some Acer Aspires, you can use the hotkey Fn + F7 keys to turn off and on the internal touchpad.

There are several other laptops that have this feature, using the Fn in combination with another key to turn off the touchpad. The Fn key is usually located on the lower left of the keyboard, usually in a different color than the regular keys.