Thanks to the great folks at DownloadSquad (do they find everything or what!?), I found a great remote desktop application called CrossLoop . Have you ever experienced the frustration of trying to help someone over the phone with a software question? It's so much easier if you can see what they need and show them how to do it. CrossLoop (and other applications like it) overcome this by allowing you to connect to someone's computer over the Internet, see what they are seeing, and control their mouse and keyboard.
This is a guest post by Qwin Humphries, M.Ed, Author of PC-Mommy; 123 Ideas To Run The Family With Microsoft Office And Get A Promotion. Visit her at http://pc-mommy.com.
After a huge business loss from being forced to change my phone number (long story), I went on a hunt to find a possible solution to avoid that ever again. Luckily, I arrived at Google Grand Central and I love it! My husband uses it more than I and my kids think it is the coolest thing I gave them last year. . . And it is all FREE!!!
I love using Google Reader to manage my RSS feeds. There are some changes I've made that make it better for me. For those of you not familiar with RSS feeds, they are a way to subscribe to web pages so new information is sent to you as it appears. I've found that I don't do much web surfing anymore because what I want comes to me automatically by RSS now. Before RSS, I used to visit the same pages over and over again to see if there was anything new. Now, the good stuff just shows up in my Google Reader.
1. Eliminate unwanted startup programs. Check out the wonderful Black Viper site on how to do this. You might be surprised how much faster your computer boots after you finish this process. Not only that but this also frees up RAM, your computer's most precious resource.
2. Eliminate unwanted programs. Just go to the Control Panel and open up Add or Remove Programs. Then uninstall programs that you don't use anymore.
3. Eliminate unwanted files. Even if you have a huge hard drive, the fewer files that you have on it, the faster it will run. There are a number of free and commercial programs that will visually show you all your files by size. This makes it much easier to find and delete your largest files. One program you might want to try is Jam Software's TreeSize Professional.
4. Buy more RAM. If you want or need to speed up your system and can only upgrade one thing: this is the one. If you have Windows XP, 1GB is enough for most people. If you are running Vista, you will want 2GB or more.
5. Buy a faster hard drive. Many applications, especially games and programs like Photoshop, make extensive use of the hard drive. Moving from a 5400 RPM to a 7200 RPM drive can make a noticeable difference.
6. Buy a faster video card. If you are trying to play modern games on your machine without a decent video card, you are not going to be happy. This is easy to do if your machine is a desktop but difficult or impossible if your machine is a laptop. Also, before you go shopping, find out what cards work best with the game you love. Some games are optimized for NVIDIA and some for ATI.
7. Speed up your mouse. You laugh but perception is everything. All you need to do is go into the mouse settings and change the speed. Since it feels faster it is!
8. Speed up your hard drive. You can use Window's built in utilities to do this. Run Disk Clean Up and Disk Defragmenter.
9. Speed up your video. You can speed up your video by reducing one of two things: the number of pixels or the number of colors. Depending on what you are doing, this may make things look not so good. On the other hand, it's free and easy to play with. Right-click on your Desktop and choose Properties. Then click on the Setting tab. To reduce the number of pixels your card has to process, reduce the Screen Resolution. To reduce the number of colors it has to manage, reduce the color quality. For Vista users, consider turning off Aero Glass.
10. Use NOD32 for your Anti-virus. It's simply the best and uses the least amount of resources.
Some of these suggestions can make a big difference; others you may not even notice a change. Try a few and see how it works for you. And remember one of the fundamental principles of computing: they are never are fast as you would like them to be.
What about you? What are your favorite ways to speed up windows?
This is one area where Leopard beats Vista hands down. I was listening to a TWiT podcast the other day when this issue came up. Leopard has only one edition. Yet Vista has four or five editions (depending on whether or not you count "Enterprise"). Why do I think Leopard beats Vista in this aspect?
Simplicity. With Leopard you just have one choice. You don't have to spend the time and energy figuring out which one to buy.
Less disappointment. My laptop runs Vista Business and my wife's runs Home Premium. We can't connect to her laptop remotely through Window Home Server. I can't take advantage of the cool media stuff she has because I don't have Windows Media Center. The worst has to be those people who bought a machine with Home Basic edition. It can't support more than 1GB of RAM!
Easier on retailers. Can you imagine how much more complex retail displays have to be? Not only that but it's at least 4 times harder to manage inventory. What a mess!
I've got an MBA and I know this is all about money. Microsoft has made more money because of all the editions and the way they are priced. And I'll bet they'll make even more through Windows Anytime Upgrade. On the other hand, I believe it is this kind of practice that will cause more people to turn to Leopard or Linux.
Microsoft could learn a thing or two from Apple about simplicity.
No hacker tools needed. With Adobe Acrobat Standard 8.0 anyone can easily change most PDFs in such a way that you can't tell it was changed.
How? All they have to do is choose Tools > Advanced Editing >Text Touchup. Then they can click in the document and replace any text that they want. Adobe even loads the correct fonts! If kids could use this for forging notes to the teacher, they'd never get caught.
What documents are affected? Any unsecured document that retains the underlying text. For instance, is you convert a Word document to a PDF it would be affected. On the other hand, most of the time when you scan a document, someone would not be able to easily change it.
The good news. It is easy to secure a PDF document. Using the same, Adobe Acrobat , select File > Document Properties and choose the Security tab. There you will find options to secure this with a password. Will this stop a hacker? No. Will this stop the average person? Yes.
More bad news. I was talking to a friend about this yesterday and she said, "You can just print the PDF, scan it back in, make whatever changes you want, and save it under the same file name." She is absolutely right.
The moral of the story. The only way to make sure that a document you send has not been changed is to compare the original with what you receive back from them.
More good news. PDF is a good choice to avoid the potential problems with Metadata associated with Microsoft Word documents. Word retains much more information in metadata (e.g. Track Changes) than PDFs do.
I don't recommend that you stop using PDFs. They are one of the most universal document formats around. Just be aware that someone could easily change them without your knowledge.
It's the same story as it was 23 years ago. In 1985, Texas Instruments (the ones that make great calculators) created a marketing campaign called "Dare To Compare". It pitted their PC against the IBM AT. The TI PC had a better monitor, better keyboard, and faster processor for the same price as the IBM AT. Guess what: nobody bought them. Why? Because everyone was already using IBM PCs.
Buy computer stuff based on how many other people are buying it. WordPerfect is better than Microsoft Word. On the other hand, I think it's stupid to use WordPerfect because when you try to exchange documents with the rest of the world (that uses Word), it's a problem. When you need to hire someone the odds are that they will know Word and not WordPerfect.
If Dell has a problem, 100, 000 people will scream and they will get it fixed. But if you buy a "better" PC from the shop down the street, you may be the only one screaming when you have a problem.
More tools are written for the most popular products. Need an Add-in for Excel? No problem? Need an Add-in for Quattro Pro? Good luck.
Is Leopard more stable and just plain cooler? Yes. Is Linux free and superior in so many ways? Yes. Which is the better operating system? Vista or Leopard, Linux? Vista is the best because more people use it.
Mind Mapping seems to have somewhat of a cult following. Not that many people use it but those who do are really into it. When I bought MindManager, I thought I would use it all the time. What I found was that although MindManager is a fabulous product with great integration to Microsoft Office, I don't use it every day. On the other hand, when I need it, I find it indispensable.
What do I use it for? When I am brain-storming a new speech, class, or group of either, I love to use it. Recently, I was planning for a new 12 week class I'll be teaching at church next year. One Sunday morning I used MindManager to outline the classes and add notes to various ones. It worked great.
Do you need it? If you speak or write for a living or a hobby, I would recommend that you try it. Also, if you manage projects but don't use project management software, I think you would love it.
Want to know more?
The Mind Mapping Software Weblog – the mother of all Mind Mapping blogs.
The Underlying Blog – another excellent blog with a Mind Mapping focus done by my friend Kyle McFarlin.
MindJet.com makers of the market leading MindManager. You can download a trial version of the software.
What about you? Do you use Mind Mapping either on paper or on the computer? Do you love it? Hate it? Let me know.
The year was 1984. I was selling computers at Computerland on Oxmoor Road in Birmingham, Alabama. One day, a man walked in and said "Gimme some of that Ms. Dose; I don't know what it is but I've heard it's good; So gimme some of that Ms. Dose". In 1984, the operating system of choice was MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System). In the world of personal computing we've come a long way since 1984 in large part because of Microsoft Windows. Why I am thankful for windows?
Windows created a standard user interface. 1984, to save a document in WordStar (the word processing market leader) you pressed CTRL+KD. To save a document in Lotus 1-2-3 (spreadsheet of choice), you pressed /FS. Every software vendor had their own way of doing things. It was frustrating and confusing! Then Microsoft stole an idea from IBM called SAA (Systems Application Architecture). SAA was a set of standards that specified that every program should have a basic set of menus and keyboard shortcuts associated with them. That's where we got the File, Edit, and View menus we all take for granted now.
Windows works with everything. I've got nothing against Mac or Linux but they don't work with everything. Windows works with literally millions of devices and configurations. Millions! It's a minor miracle that it even runs. 20 years ago, when you thought about buying a new printer, you had to find out if it was compatible with the programs you were using. Then once you bought the printer, you had to install a driver for each program you used individually. Wow. Today, in most cases, you plug the printer in, put the CD in the drive and it works! Amazing.
Windows is graphical. Yes I know that Apple stole the GUI (Graphical User Interface) from XEROX PARC and then Microsoft stole it from Apple. On the other hand, neither Apple nor XEROX made the right decisions to create a GUI that was accepted by the masses. Microsoft did. For engineers and other geeks, a command line was and still is a beautiful thing. But for most folks ideas like "folders" and "drag and drop" were breakthroughs that made it so much easier to get your work done.
Yes, Microsoft is at times evil. But every now and then it's good to take a step back and be thankful for what they have done to make the world of personal computing a better place.
If you are a Windows user this post could save you some time.
Keyboard shortcuts are generally the fastest way to do anything. In addition, they usually don't change when a new version comes out. I love Office 2007 but it does take some getting used to. On the other hand, it's really satisfying to try a keyboard shortcut and have it work in the new version.
I had a co-worker ask me the other day about the fastest way to get to your desktop. I told her it was to hold down the Windows key and tap the D key. What I really like about this short cut is that you can use it again and your windows appear just the way they were. So you press Window + D to go to the desktop and then Windows + D again to restore your open windows.
The funny thing was, she asked me if her keyboard had that key. Yes, all windows keyboard have the key (in most cases two of them located on either side of the spacebar). Okay, you probably know about the key but check out the list below and see how many of the shortcuts you know. These are the ones I find the most useful.
Installation. Installation was straightforward and simple. The steps were as follows (Steps 1-4 apply to any Add-In):
Use. The way I use the Add-In is illustrated in the screen shot below.
I created one folder called ToFlickr. Then I created a sub-folder for each set I wanted to create on Flickr. After that, all I had to do was copy the folder from my machine to the sub-folder. As soon as the Sync happened, it created the set on Flickr and copied the files to my account. Sweet!
Conclusion. If you use Windows Home Server and Flickr, this Add-In is a clear winner. I recommend it.
This post also appears on Philip Churchill's blog, MS Windows Home Server.
All hard drives fail. It's not a matter of if but of when. Since you are reading this, chances are computers are mission critical in your home. Windows Home Server (WHS) is the best solution for backing up the computers in your house. You can rest easier knowing that if a hard drive fails you can quickly and easily recover from a hard drive failure.
What I Love.
It's just so easy! Most people don't backup their machines because it's a hassle. Not so with WHS. Once it's set up, WHS keeps and manages multiple backups for all your computers without you having to do a thing. In addition, it gives you the ability to "lock" backups so that they won't be automatically deleted. It's a good idea to do this for the first backups you run. That way if a machine becomes infected with malware, you can restore it to a known good point.
It notifies you if there's a problem. WHS puts an icon in the system tray for all computers connected to it. If that icon is green, things are good. If it turns red, something needs attention. Let's say that you are running out of hard drive space on the server, the icon will turn red to let you know. Or maybe a machine hasn't been backed up for days; again it will let you know.
What I Want.
I want more control. WHS lets you decide when you want backups to run and how many to keep. But this setting is for everyone on the network. What I would love to see is the ability to set backup times and other settings for each machine. This matters to me for two reasons. Some machines contain more critical data than others. The machines that my wife and I use have important files stored on our local drives. On the other hand, my kid's just use their machines to connect to the net. Also, we have early birds and night owls at our house. It would be great to set one machine to backup between 9 and 11 PM and another to backup between 4 and 6 AM. This would help avoid the problem of backups failing because the machines were in use.
I want integration with online backup. Windows Home Server is great but it's not a total backup solution. For that, you need to add online backup. I use Carbonite, but there are a number of good alternatives out there. In an ideal situation WHS and an online service would work together seamlessly. Here is how I see this happening. WHS would know if an online backup were running on a machine and wait until that's finished to run its own. In addition, online backup would be integrated into the Health Alerts so that you would be aware of any machines that were not being backed up regularly online. Lastly, the server itself would be backed up to the online service. I would love to see a vendor step up to the plate and offer unlimited household backup integrated with WHS for around $10 per month.
How about you?
What do you think of WHS's backups? Do you know of a better solution? How could it be improved?
This post also appears on the MS Windows Home Server Blog by Philip Churchill. It is the best source for WHS news on the net.
My first experience with this was back in 1984. At the time, Lotus 1-2-3 was the king of the spreadsheet market. Many businesses were run on Lotus and all it took to bring Lotus to a screeching halt was one bad floppy. That's right, Lotus used a special floppy that you had to have in your machine or it wouldn't run. Like all copy protection, some smart folks overcame this limitation so people who bought the software could use it without fear.
My sticker shock. I love my tablet PC (Toshiba Portege M400-S5032" TFT 1024 x 768 ( XGA )) but I had a heat related issue the other day. I shut the machine down and was trying to find out what the problem might be. I looked on the bottom of the machine and saw two holes that had burned through the Window Vista sticker! The folks at Toshiba had put the sticker right over three rows of holes over the processor. It was hot! After I removed the sticker, the temperature problem went away.
I am a big fan of Microsoft products. I understand that piracy is a big problem. On the other hand, I think Microsoft, like the big record labels, need to find ways to make money without hurting the customers who are paying for their products and hardware vendors need to be careful where they put stickers.
For several months I have been beta testing Windows Home Server (WHS). It seemed to be a product with a lot of promise but I wondered if Microsoft would make it easy enough for the average person to install.
Well, thanks to great service from NewEgg, I got my copy of the OEM version on Friday. So, Saturday morning, I was ready to install it.
With Paul Thurott's Screen Shots pulled up on my laptop for comfort, I got started.
How hard was it? Scout's honor, the hardest part was putting in the product ID. With the package, you get one DVD for the server install, one CD for the clients installs, and one CD to restore a client image from backup. So, put the DVD in and turn your machine on. After that you enter a couple of things like language preference and geographic location, click next a few times, it starts to crank away. It ran for about an hour and fifteen minutes, copying files, configuring, and rebooting before showing the welcome screen (my server is a two year old machine with an Athlon processor and 512MB of RAM). I did not have to manually reboot even once! Wow. The server install worked without any problems.
I then put the CD in for the client install. The installation was quick and easy. I installed a total of 5 clients including 2 Vista Laptops and 3 XP Desktops.
How long did it take? As stated above the server install took about an hour and fifteen minutes. Each client install took between 5 and 10 minutes. Keep in mind though some of this was my own paranoia. I rebooted and turned off all non-essential software before installing the client. In addition, I moved some data from my old server, installed a printer and a scanner on the server, and set up each of the clients to access the network printer. All told: less than 3 hours start to finish.
Why was I so impressed? For one, I had to do absolutely no troubleshooting or tweaking to make it work. Also, I didn't have to answer any "technical" questions. In fact, I hardly had to give any input during the install. WHS just detected my network settings and configured itself and my router as necessary. This is pretty amazing considering how complex networking can be.
Why would you want one? For now, it's the best home backup solution available. If you want to rest easier at night knowing that all your machines are backed up, you can't go wrong with WHS. Another big plus, is that if you have machines that use Windows XP Pro, Vista Business, or Vista Ultimate, you can access any of those machines remotely. In addition, anyone who has a login can login remotely and get to files that are on the server.
What does the future hold? I believe Microsoft intends for this box to become the single computing appliance for your home. Future plans include adding media sharing and streaming and home automation. What I would love to see is something that combined adds TIVO, AppleTV, and SlingBox capabilities to the current features. That would be really sweet.
Should you buy one now or wait? If you have multiple PCs and a Broadband connection, you may want to buy one now. That is, if you have a box to put it on (only the software is available for now so you have to dedicate a machine to be the server. On the other hand, you may want to wait to buy a box with Windows Home Server already installed. There should be several to choose from this holiday season.
How about you? Would you buy one? If you already have, what has been your experience?
As a beta tester for home server, I've been looking forward to this time for months: Windows Home Server has been RTM'd (released to market - that is, the version that will be ship has been sent to the folks that will duplicate, package, and ship it).
The best things about Windows Home Server . . .
The "official announcement can be found at Window Home Server Blog.
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Being somewhat Anal Retentive, I hate when things aren't neat. Hand written notes are inherently messy (especially with my handwriting) and difficult to manipulate. Not so when taking notes with OneNote.
Whether or not you are a Tablet PC user, note taking is better with Microsoft OneNote 2007.
Want an even bigger productivity boost? Buy the package that includes the Preferred version of Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 and a digital voice recorder that works with it.
You can "write" a blog post while driving. The jury will disregard that last statement.
I've tried voice recognition software before but this is the first one that's worked for me.
What's been your experience?
If you're not a OneNote (Microsoft OneNote 2007) user, you may want to try it. Why? Because it is quite simply the best way to take notes in any setting. The majority of OneNote users are NOT Tablet PC users. Whether you have a Tablet PC or not, it's a great product.
If you are a OneNote user, you are going to love the OneNote Printer. With the OneNote Printer, anything you can print, you can send to OneNote. It rocks!
At a recent conference, the handouts were available as pdfs (not a format OneNote supports directly). So, I opened them up in Adobe Reader and "printed" by simply selecting the OneNote printer from the list of printers. This process imported the pdf into OneNote as an unfiled note. Then I was able to take notes directly on the handouts using my Tablet PC. It was so much better than taking notes on paper handouts.
This was a real breakthrough for me. Now . . . anything I want in OneNote, I can have in OneNote.