Saturday, May 28, 2011

How to clean your computer of dust and dirt.

That's right they do need to be cleaned, and I'm not talking about Windex on the monitor and digging out poppy seeds that dropped from your chin while eating a muffin, well maybe if you ate enough muffins over your keyboard it would get real gross.

Believe it or not your computer is mostly made up of electronic circuits, not magic like you may have been led to believe. Those circuits need to be kept cool and clean in order to work properly. Here are a few preventative maintenance tips to keep your machine operating in tip top shape for many years to come.

  • Vacuum out any vents on your laptop especially if it has fans. Turn your laptop over and you will see what I mean. That fan is sucking in air from the outside to cool the processor running your computer; if it wasn't doing this your computer would overheat and fail. Simply take your vacuum cleaner and suck out all of the accumulated dust.
  • While you're at it go over to your Wii and vacuum out its vent too. Game machines are computers with fans that accumulate dust. Cleaning out that vent will keep it from overheating and Mario Kart will thank you.
  • Your desktop computer needs a little more work. Many of them have fans sucking in air to the case and to the power supply. Use your vacuum to suck out accumulated dust at any fan, open your computer's case to expose its electronics. You will find that a ton of dust and dirt has been sucked in. Dust can become a conductor and short out your circuits, it also reduces the capability of your computer to cool itself, vacuum out all dust and dirt you can see.
  • If you own a wired or wireless keyboard your best bet for cleaning it is to power it down and again vacuum that sucker out, they make small vacuums for keyboards that you can try but you floor vacuum works too. If the keys are dirty then clean them with a small amount of alcohol and a cloth or some cotton swabs.
  • Is your wired keyboard a filthy mess? Are ants crawling in and out? If you answered yes then here's how to get it really clean. Run it through the dishwasher, that's right the dishwasher. But DO NOT USE DETERGENT, detergent will leave residue inside that could short out circuits. Let your keyboard fully dry before plugging it back in, at least a couple of days. Shake it once in a while to see if any drops of water come out. You may be without the keyboard for a couple of days so plug in a spare if you have one.
    • NOTE: If you have a wireless keyboard that uses a battery and has an LCD you may not want to run it through the dishwasher. Batteries + Water = Bad News.
    • *HAZARD* you never want to get any piece of electrical equipment wet that has a battery installed or is plugged into an outlet. I could ruin your equipment, or ruin your life if it's plugged into the wall. You don't need that kind of bad hair day!

If you own a desktop computer you will suck in less dirt if it's not left on the floor while running, so move it on up to the desk, or place it in the nook that's made for it. Make sure the vents to your computer are not obstructed so air can flow. If you have a laptop get a small device that increases air flow by propping it up, and if it has a fan make sure to vacuum it out on a regular basis.

If you are unsure about how to open the case of your desktop computer then refer to its operating manual or simply use Google to find instructions on the web. Search for the model number and how to open the case, you will be surprised at how much information is out there on your machine.

Regular cleaning won't stop you from getting spyware but it will keep your hardware running for years.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Glary Utilities is in the Top Drawer of my Toolbox

Like Indiana Jones picking the correct Holy Grail in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade I downloaded Glary Utilities from their website. With all of the scam programs out there for supposedly optimizing your computer it was refreshing to find this jewel amongst the turds. I had never heard of Glary utilities until I saw it listed in an Article on Yahoo of things you could do to speed up your computer and since it had already been given a thumbs up by Yahoo, I decided I should give it a try and see what it could do, and I'm glad I did.

Glary Utilities is a professional FREE Windows program that reminds me a lot of Norton Utilities without $49 price tag. Not only does it provide a 1 click Maintenance to spruce up your computer, it also includes a whole suite of functions to help you optimize your system.

The 1 click Maintenance provides:

  • Registry Cleaner
  • Shortcuts Fixer
  • Startup Manager (cleans dangerous entries)
  • Temporary Files Cleaner
  • Spyware Remover
  • Tracks Eraser
Each of these features can turned on or off by checking a box next to the feature, you then click Scan for Issues and the software goes to town. After it's done scanning it gives you options for fixing problems so you have control over what is performed.

1 Click Maintenance is only one of the features of this fantastic program. Under the modules tab is a plethora of options allowing you full control, here is what you get:

Under the Modules Tab you find:

  • Clean up and Repair
    • Disk Cleaner, Registry Cleaner, Shortcuts Fixer, Uninstall Manager
  • Optimize and Improve
    • Startup Manager, Memory Optimizer, Content Menu Manager, Registry Defrag
  • Privacy and Security
    • Tracks Eraser, File Shredder, File Undelete, File Encrypter and Decrypter
  • Files and Folders
    • Disk Analysis, Duplications File Finder, Empty Folders Finders, File Splitter and Joiner
  • System Tools
    • Process Manager, Internet Explorer Assistant, System Information, Windows Standard Tools
Under the Menus Tab you find:

  • Restore Center
  • Help
  • FAQs
  • Settings
  • Skins (To change the look)
Quite frankly I've never seen such a complete easy to use, all in one, and FREE utility. If you would like to automate some of these functions you can purchase the Pro version for $27.97 (at the time of this review.) This is a great example of using FREE to get a large user base and offering a version with scheduling for a fee. Glary Utilities is one of my favorite tools in my tool box you should check it out. You can get your free copy by clicking here to visit their website.

Dan LaFollette

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Internet Bottleneck

Modern personal computers have been fast enough to handle almost any task an everyday user could ask them to do, and they have been doing this for years. Wireless connection speeds have climbed to the point that 802.11N is over 100Mps, that’s the same speed as an Ethernet cable plugged directly into your computer. Within your network at home or at the office you should be able to transfer files seamlessly between the computers in your network. However, there is a real problem, more and more services are going into the cloud. With your application not on your speedy personal computer and placed on a remote server somewhere on the internet, you are at the mercy of the speed of your internet connection; It’s like a step backwards in speed because of your internet connection hasn’t caught up to the speed of your network connection.

The internet in all of its wonder is not the same for everyone everywhere. The vast majority of people connected to the internet do not have a 100 Mps connection, so your connection is not going to keep up with the hardware that you have. In my home I have a DSL connection of 3 Mps download speed that usually is running at 1.5 Mps.  Some cable internet providers offer 15 Mps of download speed but that still doesn’t come close to the 100 Mps speed that your computer can handle. Even if you have a 15 Mps connection you are still only going to go as fast as the slowest connection. For instance If computer A has a 15Mps connection and computer B has a 3Mps connection the fastest a file could transfer between the 2 computers is going to be 3Mps.

I keep hearing the grumblings of faster internet speeds because of fiber optic lines, but I haven’t seen anything real yet. In our community we still have people a short distance out of town that don’t have a high speed internet connection, or they have to rely on internet through cell phone lines. These connections are always limited and they throttled your speed if you use them too much. 

The bottom line is that until some substantial changes happen to speed up the internet then it really doesn’t matter how fast your new computer or router runs. With more services going to the internet cloud, we are all going to be putting along at the speed of our connections.

Dan LaFollette

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Free Technical Support! You would be nuts not to check out this site.

I just wanted to let everyone know of this great site for Free Technical Support that is staffed by volunteers and paid for entirely by sponsors and donations. The web site is called Tech Support Guy  Click on the link, watch the video, follow the instructions and begin to get your computer questions answered. If you have a question about any Operating System, Microsoft Word, Malware, Multimedia, Games, Digital Photogrophy or anything else you can think of, The Support Guy can help.
It's free to register and free to use, period.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Document Collaboration, the Easy and Cheap Way.

When we think of creating a document many of us think of firing up Microsoft Word and typing away. This is all good and fine but you could also forget the jumbo price tag of Word and type your document using Libra Office (my personal recommendation) or us another office suite like Lotus Symphony both are completely free and feature rich. There are also a lot of other word processors out there that are free, just pick one that you are comfortable with and go to town. Critics would say that nothing is 100% compatible with Microsoft Word and that when you start to do special formatting sometimes things don’t exactly translate back and forth. But So what, Big Deal! If you need to send a document to someone and guarantee that the document is going to look exactly the way you created it when the reader opens the file, then save it as a PDF. Then it doesn’t matter what you used to write your document with. PDF readers are free and everyone has some sort of program to read a PDF document with. Being completely compatible with Microsoft Word is not all that important anymore. Did I just say that?

 I worked for a software company a few years back and we were making auto service schedules for car dealerships. Each car dealership wanted to package their services a little differently, but still ensure that all of the scheduled maintenance was being performed for a particular model of automobile. We used Google Docs to create the service schedules; Google Docs was used because we needed to work on the documents collaboratively. Each participant could work on the schedules wherever they were, and we didn’t have to think about the mechanics of collaboration. The documents were saved on Google’s cloud server so we didn’t have to create our own server or email around documents. It didn’t matter what kind of IT situation our company had and it didn’t matter what the other company was using. We could take documents that were created with our favorite word processor and then paste them directly into Google Docs or create the document directly in Google Docs itself. The document could then be easily saved as a PDF or uploaded as a file to your computer in any of the most common formats. Oh did I mention that Google Docs is free, you already knew that anyway almost every application Google makes is free.

Sharing a document, and inviting others to your document is as easy as sending an email. The originator can completely control what others can do, you may want to work with a document with 3 other people and have the rest of the company only be able to read the document. Or you could let the whole world be able to read it. You can do all of that with Google Docs, permissions are easy to set.
Just for the record I am writing this with Word only because it’s a new version and it came with the computer. But I would rather use a Word alternative if my only choice is an old copy of Microsoft Word or a New/Updated version of something else. I’m downloading Lotus Symphony right now and I can’t wait to play with it!

Happy Collaborating!
Dan LaFollette