Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Voices from Tech Support

If you are running XP is some form.... either Home or Professional, you might have installed more than a few updates in the time you've owned your computer. One thing I've found is that one of those dozens of updates will stop you from removing the Language Bar from your Taskbar permanently. Do this, follow the steps below:

Control Panel->Regional and Language Options->Languages->Details->Language Bar

And uncheck the box next to Language Bar.

Viola`! It's gone!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Voices from Science

From NASA.com:

A JPL-developed and -built cooler on the Planck spacecraft has chilled the mission's low-frequency instrument down to its operating temperature of a frosty 20 Kelvin (minus 424 degrees Fahrenheit). The so-called hydrogen sorption cooler was turned on June 4 and achieved the target temperature of 20 Kelvin eight days later. The cooler is part of a chain of coolers that works together to ultimately chill the high-frequency instrument down to 0.1 Kelvin -- an event scheduled to take place in a few weeks.

Planck is currently on its way to its final orbit at the second Lagrange point, which is located about 1.5 million kilometers (930,000 miles) from Earth, on the opposite side of our planet from the sun. Once there, it will look back to the dawn of time to study the birth of our universe.


From an article a read in this month's Discover magazine is that one of the things that the Planck spacecraft is trying to do is determine if there is enough distortion in the background radiation to be caused by universes outside our own. One thing that has puzzled astrophysicists is that the 3K background radiation is "lumpy." It is not smooth as would be expected after nearly 14 billion years of expansion. If you always thought 'there must be something more,' this is the craft that will try to answer that question about how the universe made and what influences it in it's evolution.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Voices from Life

In the last few days, we have lost three important and talented people. Ed McMahon, the sidekick to Johnny Carson, passed away on Wednesday. Farrah Fawcett, best known for Charlie's Angels, passed away early Thursday morning. And "the king of pop," Michael Jackson died from an apparent heart attack.

However, we tend to concentrate on the wrong end of life. We hear of people dying from one thing or another all the time on the news. But we hardly ever hear when we get the blessing of new people on Earth.

Friday, I went with my mom to her doctor's appointment and after being done there was going to drop of some papers for Liane Barta at Sew Stitchin' in Grover Beach. I was really looking forward to seeing her as she's a very fun and positive person even in the face of a not working printer (see the entry below a bit). But when we got to the store, there was a note taped to it. She was at the hospital as her daughter (daughter in law??) was IN LABOR! I'll have to stop by next week and see how mom and baby are doing. When I was up there Wednesday, the daughter was not only pregnant, she was very pregnant. So I hope that mom and baby are doing well and Liane has a chance to enjoy some time with her fourth grandchild!

Edit: Liane has two daughters, both of which are (were?) pregnant. The daughter I met is still pregnant, expecting in August. The older daughter gave birth to a healthy baby boy!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Voices from Technology

Wow, what a busy couple of days. What I thought would be an easy printer setup turned into two of my own investigations and then three hours of a wonderfully awesome tech from Lexmark named Kristopher (who needs a raise pronto!) that stuck with it for THREE HOURS figuring out what was stopping my client's laptop from talking to the X9575 printer. Finally turned out to be an AMD program that needed to be removed and "viola!," everything worked fine when the printer was connected by USB.

Came back today to get rid of an out of date install of McAfee and replace it with AVG, SUPER and MBAM. Then tried to get the printer working on the wireless. But it jsut wouldn;t co-operate with that. So, I got a CAT5 cable from the local Radio Shack, plugged it in and installed a second copy of the drivers and it connects to the router via the CAT5 network cable. Now, she can be int eh front of the store and do work and print wirelessly to the back office. When it all works, it's really nice!

Then we did something fun, installed Winamp and introduced her to Martini in the Morning via Shoutcast. Sinatra, Ella, Martin, Sammy, all the good music you can understand the words to still!

Thanks to Liane at Sew Stitchin' for her limitess patience, Kristopher at Lexmark for figuring it out, and my 2000 Caravan for hauling me around.

Voices from the Quilt Hobby

Here's a fun test to take, try your knowledge of quilt block patterns. I got 16 out of 30......only 53%. I know y'all can do better than that!

Test your Quilt Block IQ here.

Some of the patterns are really nice to and there are links to them in the answers.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Newegg Giveaway

If you are a subscriber to Newegg's email newsletter, then you know about the Kingston 8GB flash drive giveaway. If you aren't, then you just heard about it now. Very easy to sign up for Newegg's newsletter and they carry all sorts of computer goodies. Worth it for the giveaways.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Voices from the Garden

Here's the volunteer pansies in the backyard. Not sure where they came from, but do enjoy the lovely colors.

Here's a new picture of the whole bed, see how they've gorwn in the last few days!

Went out back and took more pictures of the garden, we have a real tomato out there! The Roma is already producing fruit. It's the pale green blob in the center of the photo. Looking forward to tomatoes and oil for lunch soon!

I was going to post a picture of another volunteer oak tree in the back yard, but it's surrounded by so much green that I can't hardly see anything.

Voices from Tech Support

Had a client call up about his laptop not being able to find hal.dll a few days ago. I had him bring it up to me and I took a look at it. Seems the 40GB HD crashed and took out everything. It was pretty much just for work and didn't have any personal file on it. So he was really lucky in that.

Fortunately, we were able to find the correct HD locally and while there I had him buy more RAM. Random Access Memory is like the desk in an office. The more RAM you have, you more programs you can run. Same with a desk; the bigger the desk, the more paper you can sprear out across the top..... till you have to start putting paper on the floor. In a computer's case, it would put data on the hard drive which is a whole magnitude of speed slower than RAM.

Right now is a good time to buy as much RAM as your computer can hold and use by the Operating System. 4GB for a 32 bit OS, and as much as the comptuer supports for a 64 bit OS typically 4 to 8GB, but can be as high as 32GB for some high end systems.

I was rather worried the hard drive wouldn't work or not work correctly in this old Compaq laptop. However, I was nicely surprised when it booted up and found all the new RAM and even the HD. Loaded up Windows XP Professional, and tomorrow will finish the install with all the drivers, protection software (antivirus, antispy and antimalware), and maybe a few other things he might need.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Important Security Notice

US-CERT is aware of public reports of malicious code spreading via popular social networking sites including myspace.com, facebook.com, hi5.com, friendster.com, myyearbook.com, bebo.com, and livejournal.com. The reports indicate that the malware, named Koobface, is spreading through invitations from a user's contact that include a link to view a video. If the users click on the link in this invitation, they are prompted to update Adobe Flash Player.

** This update is not a legitimate Adobe Flash Player update, it is malicious code. **

Additionally, some of the reports indicate that there are multiple bogus Facebook applications being used to obtain users' private information.

We encourage users and administrators to do the following to help mitigate the risks:

Thank you,

California Office of Information Security




Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Voices from Technology

Want an easy way to increase your productivity on your computer by at least 30%? Add a secong monitor.

With two monitors, you can have a browser open on one screen and chat open on the second like I do. Have a Word document open on the first and do online research with the second. You can even play Solitaire on one and watch Hulu or YouTube on the second.

You can do this pretty easily with a pair of video cards, or one video card that has two signal outs. DVI and VGA are good for this. I originally used SiS AGP onboard graphics and an nVidia TNT2-M64 PCI video card with a matched pair of Mitsubishi 15" CRTs on Windows 98SE. I know use XP Home with a BFG nVidia 8500GT, and two LCDs. Both are from Dell, one is a 19" and the other is a 17".

Here's a picture of my old setup.

This setup is using one 21" CRT and two 19" CRTs on an FX5600 256mb AGP card and an FX5200 128MB PCI card with XP Pro. I'd still use it, but I wanted some desk space back. Which promptly got covered in stuff anyway.

There's tons of tutorials on where and how to setup your OS for this, and it sure looks cool.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Voices from the Garden

Went out to the backyard to check on the tomatoes. They are starting to grow up nicely along with the lone squash at the end of the bed. Just a couple of little yellow flowers to start off. Looking forward to the red, ripe, fruit for my salads and sandwiches.

Here's the little tomatoes with blackberries growing through the fence in the background.

Here's the whole veggie garden bed. The tomatoes are heirloom varieties, and sure be excellent in suaces, sandwiches, and just served with olive oil and a bit salt with a few cubes of mozzerella.

Voice from 3D Modeling

Here's a design from SketchUp that I thought was rather nice. USS JADE DRAGON. Haven't made any specs for it, just the name so far.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Voices from the Family

Here's a new site for Dads and kids. Targeted at kids 5 to 12, this is a place where you can securely spend time online playing games and activities with your kids. Free too!

From the site:

My Dad N' Me is a great place to connect and share with your family and friends. It's fun, interactive, and since you've got control over your child's account, you can feel good knowing that their security is in the safest hands of all — yours.

Voices from the Internet

TV Stations:

KEYT TV Santa Barbara
KSBY 6 TV San Luis Obispo
KCOY 12 TV Santa Maria

Radio Stations:
Click on the links that say "Listen Live."
KFI 640 AM Los Angeles
KVEC 920AM San Luis Obispo
KINF 1440AM Santa Maria

Other stations can be found by typing their call letters into Google.

Use Shoutcast from Winamp to listen to radio from all over the world and acros the genres. Also streaming video.

Voices from Google

PC Magazine has posted a user's guide to GMail. There are tons of things I didn't GMail could do, now you can learn them too. Make GMail your's. Use an email address that's accessable from any Internet computer. Don't be locked down by Outlook, Outlook Express or Windows Mail anymore.

Voices from the Quilt Hobby

Here's a nice little sewing ship also in Nipomo for you to check out. The page is a little sparse, but we'll be working on that soon!

Kay's Sewing Studio Check it out for the newest in Janome and Bernina sewing machines. Have any questions, just give her a call!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Voices from Dell

Dell has been using Twitter to post bargains from the Outlet side of the business since 2007.

Follow them @DellOutlet You can also follow @dellhomeoffers for home deals and coupons.

Go to Twitter andjoin up for great deals.

And yes, I love my Dells.... but there are times when you can find deals at other computer manufacturers, like HP, which makes a really laptop.

Voices from the Internet

I had an awesome day today. Went up to JD's house and showed her what she can do with broadband. She lives in a beautiful area of the county, surrounded by hills and oak trees. She just moved from dialup at 21Kb to satellite service at 1500Kb. Added some defence programs, threw Office on there, got rid of AOL and SBC and that silly 60 day trial of Office 2003. Then we did something fun! Loaded up Winamp and listened to streaming music from Europe and watched about two minutes of Stargate Atlantis. Was there for two whole hours and the time just flew by!

She shared some prints she made from a program called Ultimate Fractal (I think) and they would make awesome quilt patterns. Something different than the usual.

It's always nice to see people using the tools at hand to make things better and get more out of thier computers.

Also, got MB's old laptop running with a fresh install of XP and the usual programs. Pretty nice. I've never seen a P4 HT in a laptop before, but this one runs a 2800/512. It seems to run okay, but the battery isn't working correctly and I'm not sure why. It holds a charge, but if you pull the power cord, it loses power. Popped it out and back in, but it still doesn't discharge to the laptop.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Voices from the Quilt Hobby

And here's a local place for us all to visit. Or email, or call, and see what new stuff Patti has in store!


Voices from the Quilt Hobby

Here's a nicely done Quilt blog for you to enjoy:


Voices from Alaska

DataBrokers is on the Wyldryde IRC network (irc.wyldryde.org) and there he runs a chat room called #databrokers where he has a webcam of his yard. If you want to see some serene nature, go to The Squirrel Cam and sit back and nejoy for a bit. The squirrels have names and personalities and you see more wildlife and outdoors provided by UStream.

Come on by and just watch, or join the chat for minute or 30 and say, "Howdy!"

Voices from Technology

Using multiple monitors:

The uses for multiple monitors are endless. You can have your image editing program on one and its tools on the other. You can have a browser window open on one and chat open on the second. Or play Solitaire, or watch a video, play music from Winamp or Windows Media Player. Have chat and your streaming video to family going.

How to set up multiple monitors in Windows. You can use any monitor that will connect to your video card. VGA, DVI, CRT or LCD, it doesn't matter. I started with Windows 98SE, onboard AGP graphics and a TNT2-M64 PCI video card with a matched pair of Mitsubishi 15" CRTs about ten years ago. Now, I use XP Home, an 8500GT-512MB PCIe video card with a Dell 19" and 17" LCD. I used to run a 22 and 19" CRTs, but the power bill dropped by a third when I switched to LCDs. Previously, I have used a 21 and two 19 CRTs for a -triple- monitor setup.

And you can attach as many monitors as you have video outs. But three is probably a practical limit for most people and your desk space.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Quilting Cousins - Pismo Beach

This is Quilting Cousins in Pismo Beach, just like the sign says. This was our first stop on the Central Coast Quilt Run. Very nice selection of fabrics and always something new going on, see the circle quilt in the last picture. If you want to see the pier, just walk to the end of the sidewalk and cross the street. And yes, that's Elvis on a surfboard.

Here is the little laptop I setup to display quilt photos in the back of the store. It's just an old Dell Latitude C600 that's missing a battery, so it's perfect for re purposing to a static place. Just put all your photos in the My Pictures folder, and set the screen saver to start after one minute. And then I set the power button to turn off the computer when pressed. Just one button runs the whole thing! And it keeps a working computer out of the landfill.

Here is Danielle and Shawn of Quilting Cousins in Pismo Beach. They had the beach theme for the Quilt Run last weekend. Right up the road from Pismo Pier. Very friendly people and always helpful!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Voices from teh Intratubez

Yeah, I spelled that wrong on purpose. It's my nod to Internet speak. A very small nod. But in my travels, I found this:

Raising grandchildren and being a quilter and a teacher. Good read.

via this Twitterer:

Has tons of links to other quilters and sites.

Voices from the Quilt Hobby

Here's an example of Twitter being used in the Quilt Shop realm:


Think I will follow to keep informed on new stuffs.

Voices from the Future

Truly, a Voice from the Future.

From Astronautics on Twitter:

Astronautics AP: A sixth-grader from Kansas who won a contest to name NASA's next rover to Mars visited California to meet the project engineers and scientists and to sign her name on the robot. Twelve-year-old Clara Ma said Monday she never dreamed she would win. The youngster from Sunflower Elementary in Lenexa, Kansas, chose the name "Curiosity" for the Mars Science Laboratory because she says that's what space exploration is all about. The essay contest was sponsored by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, which signed an agreement with NASA and paid for Clara and her family to visit Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Curiosity is under construction at JPL. It was supposed to launch in the fall, but technical difficulties and budget woes pushed the launch back two years to 2011. - courtesy of Associated Press

Voices from the Quilt Hobby

Last weekend was the Central Coast Quilt Shop Run. Eleven stores participated, from Carpinteria to Paso Robles. Had to miss a couple stores though, wasn't up to the 100+ mile drive south, but I'm sure they had a great setup too. And we had to miss going out to Morro Bay for The Cotton Ball, which moved to a new building a couple of years ago.

Our first stop was at Quilting Cousin's, where Shawn and Danielle had a 60's Elvis beach party theme going. Perfect since they are three blocks from the pier in Pismo Beach. Just walk straight down the road they are on. Behind the count was a new quilt, made of a suftboard pattern, and off to the right was the ever interesting quilt using a reverse applique technique to make circles. Very bright, like gumballs. Happy people, full store, lots of good parking. Had a nice stop there.

Second stop took us up to Betty's Fabric in San Luis. Really big store, carries everything you need. But, being San Luis, it has a small parking lot. And Saturday found it totally packed. Loads of people looking at all the bolts and bolts of fabric. Loved the fat quarters hanging formt eh cieling over the registers. Looked like eight pointed stars with Chinese lanterns like planets floating over our heads.

Third place was Sew Fun in Atascadero. Very nice store with both a fabric area and a sewing machine display area. Got a nice Chinese quilt pattern there. Lots of quilts on display. Mom picked up a panel of dinosaurs for her grandson. Another very busy place.

Between the two qult stores is a train shop, where I wanted to stop and get another car for my n-gauge diorama. While there, mom found a special edition Smokey the Bear train. I bought some buildings, a Raritan River boxcar, and two 18-wheeler trailers to park next to one of the buildings that looks like grainery or storage building. Now, if I could get them to fit on the board I'm using. Looks like I might have to make this wider after all.

Fourth was Quilter's Cupboard, a small shop from a converted house with lots of small rooms full of stuff! They went with a hospital theme, warning everyone that the store was under quarantine for "Cotton Fever." Already have that, just a mild case for me, as I also do computers. They have a nice display of Chinese fabric and quilts on the back hallway. Mom got a fabric to make my aunt a shawl. They also had yummie treats.

Fifth stop took us into Paso Robles, which is usually in the 100+F temp range this time of year. However, it was barely into the 70's this time. We stopped at The Quiltery first where they had a Western theme going with all the ladies wearing jeans, white button-up shirts, colorful neckerchiefs and little sheriff's stars! Small store, but the five dollar a year fabric and friendly people more than make up for it.

Sixth took us into the center of Paso Robles right across the street from the park to Wine Country Quilts. It's on the corner of a building that's over 100 years old and still has some of it's original glass and woodwork with hardwood floors. Lots of traditional quilting with patriotic patterns and grapes and vineyard themed quilts everywhere. The large wuilt on the backwall is mahcined quilted, but lovely workmanship! Was busy, and that's a good thing, but we ended up parking halfway down the block to the north for a parking place even though they had reserved places in red zones in front of the store for the weekend. I didn't feel like dealing with any "Imperial entanglements," so we walked. Next door is the most amazing candy store, whose name I don't know off hand.

For lunch, we stopped at a Burger King in Atascadero and we pickedup a set of Star Trek glasses.

After leaving Paso, we called home and got setupfor making hamburgers and hot dogs and had a nice dinner after our long drive home. I'll post pictures later when mom brings her camera home tonight.

Voices of Comedy

Need a bit of a laugh today:

Sitting on the side of the highway waiting to catch speeding drivers, a State Police Officer sees a car puttering along at 22 MPH. He thinks to himself, "This driver is just as dangerous as a speeder!" So he turns on his lights and pulls the driver over.

Approaching the car, he notices that there are five old ladies -- two in the front seat and three in the back - eyes wide and white as ghosts.

The driver, obviously confused, says to him, "Officer, I don't understand, I was doing exactly the speed limit! What seems to be the problem?"

"Ma'am," the officer replies, "You weren't speeding, but you should know that driving slower than the speed limit can also be a danger to other drivers."

"Slower than the speed limit?" she asked. No sir, I was doing the speed limit exactly... Twenty-Two miles an hour!" the old woman says a bit proudly. The State Police officer, trying to contain a chuckle explains to her that "22" was the route number, not the speed limit. A bit embarrassed, the woman grinned and thanked the officer for pointing out her error.

"But before I let you go, Ma'am, I have to ask... Is everyone in this car ok? These women seem awfully shaken and they haven't muttered a single peep this whole time." the officer asks.

"Oh, they'll be alright in a minute officer. We just got off Route 119..."

Friday, June 05, 2009

Voices from Nature

In Pismo Beach, just north of where Grande Avenue crosses Highway 1, there is a stand of eucalyptus trees tucked between the road and the beach. In this stand of trees, every year a "flight" of monarch butterflies enjoys the safety and comfort of the trees. They also make a wonderful stop for learning about nature and seeing amazingly beautiful gold and orange against the green of the trees.



Voices from the Backyard

Here's the only picture I have of my beloved BBQ. You can just see it on the left, behind the workbench covered in computers. The bench has moved, but the BBQ has not. And I like to use it as much as possible.

Voices from IRC

One of my fun things to do is be part of a chat room for Chris Pirillo. I've always enjoyed talking to people as I was in a grocery store for 16 years. Today, I'd like congratulate Brigitte on joining the Admin team and becoming a full op, BigRedPimp and his darling wife TSSTechAngel and Ashryne on becoming half ops in the channel! Woohoo! I can't hardly think of four people that have earned their places and deserve it.

Voices from Tech Support

Called AT&T again today. Finally got a human on the DSL side to talk to and he had to pass me off to the phone side, got a lady there, but she was for businesses and she transfered me to another guy for voice issues. All I wanted to do was tell that someone needed to come out and check the powerpole that was hit three days ago because ever since my phone was sounded like 1930's AM radio in a thunderstorm and my DSL hasn't been staying connected for more than 30 minutes, if that long, at a time.

Someone will be out Wednesday morning to look at it and the outside house wiring.

I've been a customer of AT&T for nearly six years with my DSL service, and I've been very happen wiht it so far. But taking a -week- to come look at powerpole? I can't be the only person with problems in the neighborhood.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Voices from Into Tomorrow

Literally voices from into Tomorrow, as this is a radio and online shop about computers, technology and gadgets to make your life easier and keep you connected Into Tomorrow! And this week starts IT's Summer Giveaway! Over $75,000 dollars in prizes including a Sony Laptop, Olympus digital SLR camera, computer speakers, GPS devices, camera tripods, HUGE LCD monitors and HD TVs. Go sign up now, but the laptop is MINE! :)


Voices from the 1990's

Tuesday night, some {fill in the blank} hit a power pole near my house. Since then, we've had nothing but trouble with the DSL service. Not a problem of ATT, which has given me rock solid service for nearly six years. I've been with ATT, SBC/Yahoo, SBC, Prodigy Internet, Prodigy for Windows, and Prodigy starting back in 1988. And the last time I had to call for tech support was last century when Sprint made my dialup number a long distance call.

I'm hoping this settles down and starts working to it's expected level soon. It' only been a day and I'm getting tired of resetting -everything- int he house to get online for five minutes at a time.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Voices from the Quilt Hobby

This weekend is the Central Coast Quilt Shop Tour, happening Friday, Saturday and Sunday on June 5, 6, and 7, 2009.


Here's a map of all the stops: http://www.centralcoastquiltshops.com/2009%20Tour/2009TourPaper.pdf

The Quiltery, Wine Country Quilting, Quilter's Cupboard, Sew Fun, The Cotton Ball, Betty's Fabric in San Luis Obispo, Quiltin' Cousins, The Quilt Attic, Old Town Quilt Shop, The Creation Station, and The Treasure Hunt are participating this year.

Three stores in Santa Barbara County and the rest are in San Luis County.

People that get thier card stamped at all ELEVEN stores can win a commemorative Vingate Featherweight sewing Machine in purple, over 100 yards (over THREE HUNDRED FEET!!!) of fabric, and 50 dollar gift certificates from each store totaling 550 dollars.

Please see http://www.centralcoastquiltshops.com/ for more information.

From Paso Robles to Carpinteria, There should be something for everyone!

Voices from the Past

Martini in the Morning - MartiniVision on USTREAM: Martini in the Morning is a live, interactive radio STATION, online around the clock and around the world p

If you like jazz and swing from the 50’s and 60’s, this is the UStream for you. Also on Shoutcast via Winamp, just search for “jazz” or “Martini in the Morning.”

Voices from the Public

San Luis Tribune

My sister works at Trader Joe’s good to see a nice word put in for a good company, instead of all the bad publicity lately.

Positive news

Now that I can’t complain and fuss about George W. Bush and Dick Cheney anymore, I want to write a good positive letter to fellow Trib fans.

For one thing, I want to publicly praise Trader Joe’s stores for their generosity to local food banks. I take an old man who would be homeless, if not for an old RV he lives in, to two food banks. The best food they have comes from Trader Joe’s. In order to stock plenty of exactly what you want when you want it, they overbuy and send truckloads of day-old food to the food banks.

I’m old and disabled myself, so I have free MediCal services, which I wish everyone could have. I have only three teeth, but when they give me trouble I go to CHC Dental Services in Nipomo and get first-class treatment from talented, careful, friendly, patient dentists who work for wages and do not gouge patients or withhold treatment to enrich themselves like so many private-practice dentists and doctors do.

CHC made my dentures. No matter what your income level (if any), they provide first-rate treatment for everyone and you will love them. Everyone deserves socialized medicine.

Those who insist on overpaying for private medical services deserve the right to do so. Just don’t try to force everyone to do things your way. Not everyone can afford it.

Francis H

Side by side: UI changes from Windows 7 beta to Windows 7 RC - Ars Technica

Even in just 100 builds, Win7 is looking better. What’s under the hood might be very similar to Vista, but what you see and interact with are going to be different. But that’s for the better. This article shows many of the changes Microsoft has made just between the two Windows7 releases they’ve allowed us to try out. I am using on two computers right now, neither of them are full time work machines. One is an old Toshiba Satellite 1800-S204 with a Celeron 1000, 512MBs of RAM and 16MB AGP graphics. This machine can’t play the version of Solitaire that comes with Win7 because of the video. However, it does Win7 better than it ran XP Pro and boots quicker. The other computer is an AMD Athlon XP2100 running 1.5GBs of RAM and a Maddog nVidia FX5500 128MB AGP card. It also runs Win 7 better than XP Pro, but can run Solitaire. So far, I’m very impressed with the changes that Microsoft has made to Win7 and to improve the OS experience. However, I was hoping for something more, like a new hard drive format to replace NTFS, a better file search or organizational feature (not sure that Libraries cuts it yet), and improved security. That being said, if you are dissatisfied with Vista, then you should be following the news on Windows7.

Voices from the Myths and Legends

snopes.com: Urban Legends Reference Pages

Check out that email you just got about the little boy looking for get well cards, or the cookie receipie, or the latest rumor on the big corp trying to hold down the little guy…. Snopes is the place to check it out before hitting forward.

Voices from the Garden


An excellent resource for your gardening needs. Follow @kvmeyers on Twitter for updates and new articles.


Childhood Redeemed: Lego artist creates jaw-dropping four-wheeled creations

Big rig, Ford GT, KITT, and Jeep Hurricane concept. Awesome models made from Legos.

kogibbq (kogibbq) on Twitter

1001 Uses for Twitter: Tell people where your business mo

Voice from the Earth

Earth Speaks: index

What would you say to beings from another planet? People from around the world are invited to submit pictures, sounds, and text messages that they would want to send to other worlds. The project aims to foster a dialogue about what we should say to extraterrestrial intelligence, as well as whether or not we should be sending intentional messages.

Circle the Cat ~ Grandma Faith's

Fun, easy game to waste a few minutes.

Earthquake Information

United States Geological Survey

This is the site for world-wide, near real time earthquake information. With data up to a week old, the earthquake locations are marked by color and size with location and depth. They are recorded from anywhere on Earth and can be brought up in most cases via Google Earth in a kmz file.

Google Tricks and Tips

One thing you can do with Google that’s not printed in the tin is that you can type “time” and a city name and it will give you back the current time in that city.

time los angeles

for example.

InciWeb the Incident Information System: Current Incidents

Ever wanted to know what active fires are going on in the US? This is the place to check out. Has infomation on evacuations, size of fire, maps of road closures. Excellent resource. Thanks @CJams for bringing this to my attention.

PeeWee PC Computers for Kids. The ideal kids computer systems and laptops.

Forget the kids, I want one of these. I’ll take a tablet and a little box desktop with the Star Trek theme, thanks. Oh, and they ALL run XP Home or XP Professional.

Clickfree™ -- Save your data. Backup today.

Well, this isn’t free, but it looks really nice for making backups. (You have made your backups? Right?) No software to install, works on Windows and OSX, looks really easy to setup. Supports 2000, XP, and Vista. Sorry, 98 and ME users….. Check them out and see what you think.

Shimmer Small Wireless Sensor Platform Designed to Support Wearable Applications

This is a cool use of tech for monitoring of people’s health and wellbeing and how to keep people at home and under care longer. Please, look into it.

Scifi Watch

NIce looking blog with SF info. Check it out.

My Oats

Nothing to do with breakfast cereal, it’s a way to draw without needing any software installed on your computer. Just in your browser. Simple to use, but complex designs can be made. Enjoy!

Visible Tweets

Type in search terms and operators and see what comes back! Works for Twit


Tonido is an extensible and open (available under GPL and commercial licenses) platform that allows you to run your own personal web applications on your desktop and form your own private Tonido network. Applications and data are always local.

Looks this will allow you to share documents, photos, and files with other people in a group WITHOUT a central server. Looks very cool and worth trying out if you need to share files with a group of people.

Double Wires

Swing like Spiderman and waste a few minutes!

An Unofficial User's Guide to Gmail

PC Magazine has created a guide to GMail. If you’v been using GMail for years or are thinking for signing up tomorrow, this guide is for you.

How the Space Station was Built

A to scale, year by year, building of the ISS. Thanks, Mal!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Use your mouse to drag and create lines for the balls to bounce off and create sounds / music. Or just drive your cat nuts!

Free music that _you_ pick!


Play any song in the world for free! Listen to just about anything out there, make playlists and even send what you are listening to to your Twitter site to dhare with friends.


Because so many people don’t read the EULA. Please note section 2A.

2. Permitted License Uses and Restrictions.
A. Single Use. This License allows you to install, use and run one (1) copy of the Apple Software on a single Apple-labeled computer at a time. You agree not to install, use
or run the Apple Software on any non-Apple-labeled computer, or to enable others to do so. This License does not allow the Apple Software to exist on more than one
computer at a time, and you may not make the Apple Software available over a network where it could be used by multiple computers at the same time.

NBC - Full Length Episodes Online

Watch the latest episodes of Heroes or relive the nostalgia of old shows like Emergency! online, for free, when you want.

CalTrans Live WebCams

Caltrans has over a thousand cameras monitoring freeway sections across California. Select the section of California you are interested in, then view the live streaming videos of traffic available for that region. Our Frequently Asked Questions page may answer other questions that you have about the Caltrans traffic camera pages.

California Highway Patrol Incident Information Page

If you live in California or are just curious, this is the page for you. Every incident on CA’s highways from north to south. Click on Hot Spots and see what’s happening NOW.

99 dollar Linux Computer

It’s the size of a wall wart. Runs Linux. Has a USB port. And a gigabit NIC. What more could you -want-? Just needs a video port and this would be perfect for emerging markets. One USB port: add a hub. Very cool.


Explore gigapixel pictures from all over the world, even some for Easter. Find all the object, have fun with your family. Enjoy some really unique p

Microsoft Dreamspark

Free software for students. Almost wish I was one again to get some fo this. Windows Server might be interesting to play with. If you know a student, pass this along to them.

Barrett-Jackson Auto Auctions

From 14,000 to 1.4 million, this is where anything automotive can bought or sold. Live coverage on Speed. I want just one, of each! Want a 1925 Essex, they sold one for 15,000. Want a custom Camaro, better bring your checkbook with 500,00

World's cheapest car Tata Nano officially launched in Mumbai | GlobalMotors.net

Yes, I’d buy one if they were sold in the US.

Geeks to Go

Discover the best free computer help!
Learn more about Geeks to Go by taking the tour. Want to ask a question, reply to a topic, or remove all advertising? It’s easy, fast and free. Join today!
Spyware, virus, trojan, fake security or privacy alerts? Please start with our malware cleaning guide.

USGS site, live (almost) earthquake reporting

As an unbiased, multi-disciplinary science organization that focuses on biology, geography, geology, geospatial information, and water, we are dedicated to the timely, relevant, and impartial study of the landscape, our natural resources, and the natural hazards that threaten us. Learn more about our goals and priorities for the coming decade in our Science Strategy.

Kat Armstrong's Windows Security Software Recommendations

I get asked on a daily basis what software I recommend to help protect Windows computers. I decided to compile a category-sorted list that I can point people towards. I always try to recommend free software. However, when asked, I will tell you my opinion on the best paid software, as well. (Eset / Nod32 FTW!!)

Anti-Virus Software

Avast: Avast is light on system resources, and it’s unobtrusive. For the most part it runs silently in the background. It’s the only free antivirus with boot scan options. Avast free can only be used by users in a home environment.

Anti-Vir: Anti-Vir has a very nice interface. It has a small footprint and is easy on system resources. It also consistently ranks near the top of all antiviruses in detection rates.

Edit: I no longer recommend AVG. It has become too bloated with unnecessary junk, and the detection rates aren’t very high. I would strongly recommend replacing your AVG with AntiVir or Avast.

Spyware Detection

SuperAntiSpyware: This program boasts one of the best detection and removal rates. Don’t let the odd sounding name fool you. This is an excellent program.

MBAM (Malware Bytes Anti-Malware): Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware is considered to be the next step in the detection and removal of malware. Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware can detect and remove malware that even the most well-known Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware applications on the market today cannot.


Sunbelt Personal Firewall: SPF has received many awards for its excellent protection. This was formerly Kerio Personal Firewall.

Comodo: This firewall is very easy to use, has an excellent interface, and even better results.

ZoneAlarm: This firewall is very powerful, and can be confusing to novice users.

Temp File Cleaner

ATF Cleaner is the ONLY temp file cleaner I recommend. I know the developer personally. This is a very powerful little tool, but completely safe. Never use something like CCLeaner to clean temp files, or you may end up with a completely hosed machine.

All Around Malware Scanner and Remover

DrWeb CureIt! Dr.Web detects and removes Malware of all types, including viruses, trojans, rootkits and adware/spyware. It’s a very small and easy-to-run tool.

(Disclaimer: I still find AVG the easiest to get along with. I’m never sure of what Avira is doing and Avast talks too much. Also, Adware and Spybot are good second tier lines of defence. They found things in some cases that Super and MBAM did not.)

Computer Humor Page

Good, funny, and great for those that own computers.

Ten Free Software You Should Know About

Instructional videos, easy printing from web pages, turn a web page into a PDF and much, much more. And you should look over the other 91 entries in t

What you need to know about Conflicker (and how to not panic):

Conficker Info:




Taking a (big) step.

I’ve been using Twitter more than I thought I would. Originally, I started on a lark, to help a friend boost her followers over 500. I’ve found it very useful to post short messages to people. More than just “what I am doing now” things. I can post links of the moment, talk to people outside my normal sphere of locality, put my little voice out there.

Now, I have my blog on Tumblr connected to Twitter. So all that TechTeach-y goodness gets posted there too.

Maybe I should post my Twitter site here too: http://twitter.com/StarFortress

Because none of us are getting any younger.....

Well, I started a new project a few days ago. I’ve been working on a N-gauge train diorama. Now, I’m pretty sure we know what HO scale looks like, it’s the common size for trains. The scale for N-gauge brings even the mighty Chevy Suburban down from some 20 feet to less than an inch. I posted a picture of the Suburban with a Hot Wheels car just to show the scale. http://19.media.tumblr.com/eXvD07CaCllnnqf9rFMmE6jdo1_400.jpg Anyway, this has brought my being 41 to mind as that is a really hard car to paint on that scale. Time to invest in a magnifying glass I guess.

And it brings me to this topic of how to make Windows more… adult friendly. I found this link with resources of how to make Windows a little easier to get along with.


Hopefully, we’ll all find some tips and tricks to make our computing easier and less stressful.

Strange Horizons, a weekly speculative fiction magazine

Science fiction reviews and stories and mor

PDFVue (beta)

Edit your Portable Document Format files (PDF) for free online wiht no software to install.

NASA - Kepler

How to look for habitable planets without the aid of faster than light starships? Build a really big telescope and launch it into space for over 3 years to watch over 100,000 stars in the Lyra and Cygnus constellations. 10:49:57 p.m. EST on March 6, 2009 Watch live over the Internet: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html?param=public


Tell people what you are doing in 140 characters or less. Add links to what you are doing and have people follow you and follow them back.

Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

Convert PDF Document To Word

Just like what’s on the tin: Converts PDFs to Word document format so you can edit them. No software to install. Totally free. (Till some bright boy in Wash. DC figures out how to tax it….)

Going Linux

Going Linux is for computer users who just want to use Linux to get things done. Whether you are new to Linux, if you are moving from Windows to Linux, or if you are thinking about moving to Linux, this audio program (podcast) and website will provide you with practical, day-to-day advice on how to use Linux and its applications. Our goal is to help make the Linux experience easy for you.

charity: water

charity: water is a non profit organization bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing nations. We give 100% of the money raised to direct project costs, funding sustainable clean water solutions in areas of greatest need. Just $20 can give one person in a developing nation clean water for 20 years.

Read the Words . com

Step 1: Tell Us What You Want To Read

Step 2: Choose A Reader

Step 3: Sit Back & Listen

ReadTheWords.com is a free, web based service that assists people with written material. We do this by using TTS Technology, or Text To Speech Technology. Users of our service can generate a clear sounding audio file from almost any written material. We generate a voice that reads the words out loud, that you request us to read

Lovely Charts

With Lovely Charts’s extremely simple and intuitive drag’n drop drawing mechanism, you’ll be able to focus on what really matters. You won’t have to draw boxes and arrows, you won’t have to worry about what symbol to use.

CuePrompter.com - The Online Teleprompter

Free teleprompter/autocue service

CuePrompter is a free teleprompter/autocue service. Your browser works like a teleprompter -no extra software needed.
Check the system requirements and give it a try. Bookmark this site and come again when ever you need teleprompter services.
Free for any use (both commercial and non-commercial).

The Best Free Software of 2009 - Features by PC Magazine

173 free programs, must be good.

Buying a New Computer

Now is a great time for a new computer, to either replace an old workhorse or add a second computer for family use. Just about anything you buy now will do a great job for email, word processing and web browsing.

Sign up for newsletters that computer manufacturer’s publish. Direct to your email, and easy to read. They’ll have the latest deals and price cuts. A few of those links are already on the site.

I also find that good deals can be found on the business side of Dell and HP. In some cases, up to 150 dollars less for a Vostro than an Inspiron with similar specs. For modest computing, like mentioned above, an E2000 series from Intel or AMD X2 is plenty of Central Processing Unit for most people. Look for a CPU in the 2.0 to 2.5 GHZ range. Those are both Dual Core CPUs, meaning they can process two programs at once.

Intel CPUs: Pentium Dual Core, Core Duo, Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad, Core 2 Extreme, Core i7, Celeron (single and dual core)

AMD CPUs: Athlon, Athlon64, Athlon X2, Phenom X3, Phenom X4, Sempron (single core)

The CPUs that the casual computer user is looking at are the Athlon X2 and the Pentium Dual Core / Core 2 Duo. Steer away from the lower end CPUs: Celeron, Sempron. Also, the Core 2 Quad, Phenom and Core i7 are too expensive, unless you plan to engage in hypersonic jet fighter studies. (Or if you find a really good deal on those.)

The type of RAM installed won’t make much difference, the important thing is how much is there. Two gigabytes is a minimum for Vista. If the computer you are looking at has less, you can add more later. Most new computers have at least two slots for RAM, some have four. You’ll probably see comptuer with 3, 4, or 6GB of RAM. More is always better.

For hard drive space, I’d say go with at least 160GB. Again, this is a case of more is better….. to a point. I have heard of issues with the very large hard drives, those on the order of 700GB and larger. Not sure I can recommend hard drives that large right now. 320 to 500 is large enough for now.

For most people, onboard video (Intel GMA950, X3100, X4500 or nVidia’s GeForce 6000 and 7000 series) are fine for most people. If you find yourself wanting to do more digital photos or edit movies, you should look into a discrete video card like a GeForce 8500 or higher, or the ATI HD series. You can buy a computer with onboard video and, if it has the appropriate interface, buy a video card later.

Now, a DVD rewritable drive is a standard feature. There can store at least 4.7GB (4700MB) on a disk. Dual layer DVDs can hold twice as much. They can also burn and read CDs, which can store up to 700MB per disk. And you can watch movies with a nice LCD panel. Most computer will have DVD abilities. Blu-Ray is still rather pricey and few machines have it as an option.

LCDs are rather nice. They don’t take up much space, you can hang some of them on walls with hardware, and they come in widescreen versions. That means the ratio of the height to the width matches that of a movie screen. Otherwise, you’ll see black bars top and bottom on a regular screen. You can still play movies just fine on a regular screen.

You might want memory card readers in the computer if you have or are planning on buying a digital camera. That way, you can just remove the card from teh camera and slide it right into the computer. Both XP and Vista will detect the card and ask what you want to do with the files on it.

If you decide to keep the computer in the same room as the internet connection, being wireless isn’t that important for a desktop. But with a laptop, you’re going to have the ability to go wireless. So, you want to have a wireless router. Then you can use your laptop just about anywhere there’s a signal. Range is usually about 100 feet, though that can bee affected by walls.

TechTeach, Issue Sixteen

One of my subscribers, Patty, asks me a good question: “…while I’m on the subject of email, I’ve really enjoyed your tech savvy letters. Could you do one on how to remove email files to the computer or to a thumb drive???”

There’s a couple of ways to do this. You can archive your emails to a backup, using the export or archive commands. There, you should be able to pick the drive and folder you want to archive your email to. With Outlook Express, you can use the Import and Export commands under the File menu to backup your Address Book and Email to a file that you can copy to a thumb drive. You can also save each mail. A great resource for using Outlook is “Link ‘Em Up On Outlook” by Stephen J. Link. It covers Outlook 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Also, here is a link to a Microsoft Knowledge Base Article about Outlook:


This tutorial is designed to provide a quick and easy way to back up your Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express e-mail:


You can also look at this Google link for more information on doing backups for Outlook:


I have to say I haven’t used Outlook in quite some time now as I use online mail services for email, such as Gmail, Yahoo and Excite. I find them useful for when I’m away from home and need to check mail as I can check mail anywhere there is a computer with an Internet connection. And I don’t have to worry (too much) about loosing mail, as it is all stored on someone else’s computer. My oldest email dates back to 2004 and is from the Gmail Team welcoming me to the service.

I do use Outlook 2003 on my laptop for keeping track of contacts. I only have Office 2000 on my main computer, and Outlook 2000 won’t do that here for me. Even so, the laptop is very out of date. I’d be better off just using Gmail and filling in the blanks there instead. Then, I can have my contacts anywhere.

TechTeach, Issue Fifteen

I thought I’d pass on some great places to shop, sign up for their newsletters, and a few where you might win some cool computer / tech stuff.

CompUSA has pulled back a bit in California this year, but they have a really good site for technology items:


They also do contests and giveaways in conjunction with the Computer America radio show:


Tiger Direct and Newegg have been selling products via mail order for a long time. Tiger Direct has been around for at least 14 years, and Newegg for almost ten.



I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about Computer America before, but it’s well worth mentioning again since I join their chat every weeknight from 7-9PM. Craig Crossman has been on the air for 16 years now. They also have an excellent newsletter that’s worth getting, and you can enter giveaways here too:


Dave Graveline has been doing his show, Into Tomorrow, for nearly as long and is just as good. IT is streamed around the clock on his site for free, and you can use the links on the site, or use Winamp. He also does giveaways.


Currently, HP is doing a $6000 dollar computer giveaway with some major computing and tech blogs. Each of 50 blogs is giving away one of these packages, and they are each doing it differently.


Chris Pirillo has been doing a tech show for years, first on TechTV and now via Ustream. He also does lots of extra value services for the community, like finding the latest coupons for a variety of products:


http://geeks.pirillo.com/ (for the HP giveaway)

Thirteen years on the air, and still going, Kim Komando does a computer show Saturday mornings at 7AM to 10AM on 1240AM (http://1240ksma.com/ ), and she is in the middle of her 13th anniversary giveaway. Though signing up for the giveaway here gets you her newsletters, you can always unsubscribe from them later.


TechTeach, Issue Fourteen

Now that we’ve looked at the parts of the computer, let’s take a look at some of the things you can do with them.

With the fires lately, I find that local news doesn’t cover them as much as I’d like. So I have found that KCBS/KCAL from Los Angeles have live streaming video of their feeds from the helicopters. Shows lots of video of stuff you don’t always see on TV.

They can be found at: http://cbs2.com/

There will be more TV and radio stations on the TechTeach site.

If you like music, you can pull up sounds from all over the planet, really, the whole planet. Download and install Winamp, and you can pull in audio from 10,000 stations using Shoutcast, a free streaming service. This does come with the notice that there are people streaming rather “adult” video, so if you click on Shoutcast Video, you will be asked to set the “parental” controls.

Winamp: http://www.winamp.com/player, choose the Free Version. Uncheck the box if you don’t want to give them your email.

You can listen to radio from the BBC, and some videos. One that I like is “The Shy at Night” with Sir Patrick Moore. It’s been running for years and you can watch previous episode. However, you will need RealPlayer (http://www.real.com/ free download) to view it. You can also listen to the BBC World Service. Some broadcasts will work with Windows Media Player, but it seems sort of hit or miss.

BBC Home Page: http://www.bbc.co.uk/

BBC Radio: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/

Note: Most, if not all, BBC video is blocked to be viewed only inside the UK.

I do like to listen to Dave Congleton on KVEC in the afternoons, from 3PM to 7PM Pacific time. They also stream their morning show from 6AM to 9AM Pacific time. That is an AM station from San Luis Obispo. http://www.920kvec.com/

Same with KINF from Santa Maria: http://www.am1440.com/index.html

I also like to listen to Leo Laporte on the weekends when I’m home on KFI 640 from Los Angeles, http://www.kfi640.com/main.html . He talks about computer, and technology. On from 11AM to 2PM, Pacific time. And, like the BBC, I believe they block connections outside the US.

NASA also streams live video. Launches, from orbit, other events. http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/ Uses Windows Media Player.

Computer America is a computer and tech show that has been running for 16 years. I’ve been listening since before I even owned a computer. Sign up for the giveaway on the left side of the screen, and join the chat. Show runs 7PM to 9PM weekenights, Pacific time. http://www.computeramerica.com/

Also, you can use Google to find radio and TV stations online. Just type in the call letters, such as “KTLA,” or type “ktla.com” into the address bar of your browser. Keep in mind that not all stations stream programming, and some only stream in during emergencies or important events.


Radio and TV from the UK. If you are outside the UK, the TV shows are blocked. But the radio is worth a listen for something different. World Service and BBC Radio 5 are a good place to start.

KCOY 12 TV Santa Maria

KSBY 6 TV San Luis ObispoKEYT TV Santa Barbara

KCBS 2/ KCAL9 TV Los Angeles

KINF 1440AM Santa Maria

KFI 640 AM Los Angeles

KVEC 920AM San Luis Obispo

“Hometown Radio” for San Luis Obispo County, 3PM to 7PM is the Dave Congalton Show. Entertaining and informative, he’s worth a listen for that little slice of the Central Coast.

TechTeach, Issue Thirteen

I tend to think of my computer like an office. The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is like the person behind the desk giving out instructions on what to do. It handles all the requests for data and controls the devices connected to your computer. You might see the terms: Pentium 4, Duron, Athlon X2, Phenom X3 and X4, Core2Duo, or Celeron, or others in connection with the CPU. Pretty much they all do the same thing. Just some are quicker than others about it. If you are looking for a new computer, the names to look for are Core2 Duo and Athlon X2. The Core2Duo is a better CPU all around, though the Athlon X2 is usually less expensive. The “core” is the part of the CPU does all the work; some CPUs have more than one core to share the work. The most you can get in a desktop computer is four cores, with the Phenom X4 and Core2Quad (and upcoming Core i7) based computers. For casual computer use, there’s not a need for more than two cores yet. Not many programs take advantage of them fully.

Random Access Memory (RAM) is like the desk itself. RAM holds programs that are currently open. And like a desk, the RAM can only hold so much before your computer slows. When your computer runs out of RAM to use, it will start to use the hard drive to store information it’s using. If you currently have a computer with less than 1 gigabyte of RAM installed, you might think about upgrading to at least 1 gigabyte (1GB). 512 megabytes is fine for XP, though if you are starting to run more programs, you might think about an upgrade to 1GB. Vista really does need 2GB to run well. XP Home and Professional do well with 1GB.

The Hard Drive is the file cabinet where all your programs and files are stored. If you look at a picture of the insides, it looks like a record player. There are metal platters that spin with an armature just over the surface. The arm has a small magnet that reads the + and – polarities of the surface. These equal 0’s and 1’s and can be formed into useful information by the CPU which then turns into what you see on the screen. Yes, for all the stuff your computer does, it only uses two numbers. They are measured in gigabytes, and an average hard drive is about 200GBs in size.

The Compact Disk or Digital Versatile Disk are optical devices that require the use of lasers to read the pits and flats, similar to the 0’s and 1’s of a hard drive. A CD can hold either 650MB or 700MB of data and come in recordable (use once) versions, and re-writable (use over) versions. Re-writable CDs (CDrw) have to be formatted before using, but can be used over, as the CD drive can melt the material of the disk. Recordable CDs (CDr) can be used right out of the spindle.

DVDs come in many formats. Not only are they DVDr and DVDrw, but they come in + (plus) and – (minus) versions.And they come in single and dual layers. You can read the front plate of your DVD drive to see what formats is capable of reading and writing to, or see your owner’s manual. DVDs can store up to 4.7GB (4700MB) of data on a single layer and 9.4GB on a dual layer.

A DVD drive can read CDs, but a CD drive cannot read DVDs.

The video card is what displays the data on the screen. They come in two types: onboard and add-in card. For general computer use (word processing, web browsing, email), onboard video is fine. If you plan on gaming, 3D programs, and hypersonic jetfighter studies, then you need an add-in card. Add-in cards also have the advantage of using their own RAM, while onboard video uses system RAM. That’s why if you check the RAM in XP, it will show less than you actually have sometimes.

All computers have sound cards these days. Back in the “old days” of computing, and IBM computer was hard pressed to make beeps. Now, you can get 5.1 and 7.1 sound from an onboard sound chip. Unless you need excellent sound quality, onboard sound is fine.

Floppy drives really aren’t used much any more. You’ll find them on older machines, but with computers booting from optical drives now, you won’t find a new computer with a floppy drive unless you order it that way. Memory card readers are becoming more common now. They can read a variety of memory cards and are treated just like any other drive.

USB stands for Universal Serial Bus. It replaces the serial and parallel ports for devices on the back of your computer. If you have a new printer or scanner, you’ve seen this plug. It’s a narrow rectangle at the computer end, usually on the back. You might find one or two USB ports on the front of your computer. They also have two main plugs at the other end. One is generally used printers, scanners and other larger devices. It looks like little five-sided house. Another is very small, about a quarter inch long and that one is mostly used for cameras and other devices where space is a priority. There are others that are proprietary to the device, such Apple’s iPods.

Serial and parallel ports are now what is called “legacy” and are slowly being removed from computer.

Firewire is not very common, and used for video devices where high-speed data transfers are important. Even Apple is dropping this port from their computers. It’s shaped like a rectangle, with two beveled corners on the right side.

Network cards allow you to connect to routers, high-speed Internet and other computers. They come onboard, as add-in cards and wireless. Most new laptops have built-in wireless networking, so you’d want to purchase a wireless router to take advantage of that.

The thing that connects all these devices together is the motherboard. It has a socket for the CPU, slots for the RAM and add-in cards, and connections on the back plane for keyboards, mice, USB ports, network cables, audio, and other devices. Many of the other devices above can be replaced and you get a working computer back again. If the motherboard fails, it’s probably time to get a new computer.

To get a listing of all the “stuff’ in your computer, download Belarc Advisor.


It’s totally free for personal use, and runs on all versions of Windows from Windows 95 to Windows Vista, but only gives Center for Internet Security ratings on Windows 2000, Windows XP Professional and Windows 2003 versions. If you have been doing the Windows Updates, this isn’t a big concern.

TechTeach, Issue Twelve

Backing up, it’s not something just your car does. It’s something you should do with your computer. Parts fail in your car, and parts fail in computers too. The hard drive in your computer is a spinning disk of metal that looks like a record player. A metal arm with a small magnet hovers over the disk as it spins. The disk spins on an electric motor with bearings in it. This motor can turn at speeds up to 15,000 revolutions per minute. These bearings can fail leading to a grinding noise. This can be called a variety of things and lead to a variety of problems. Crashes, Blue Screens of Death, missing files, weird behavior.

The common location for your personal files is in My Documents and you can copy this entire directory / folder if you want.

Before those start to happen, you should have a copy of your important data somewhere else. You can use blank CDs, blank DVDs, USB thumb drives, external hard drives, even memory cards. A blank CD can hold 650 to 700 megabytes of data, a blank DVD can hold 4700MBs (4.7gigabytes), a thumb drive can hold anywhere from 128MB to 32000MBs (32GBs). Common external hard drive sizes start around 80GBs and go up from there. And finally, memory cards are mostly used for cameras, and go up to 4-8GBs. For everything but CDs and DVDs, you can just copy the data to the appropriate drive letter.

To copy data to blank optical media (devices that use a laser to write data), you can use Windows XP (and probably Vista) which will do this for free. You will need an optical drive that is capable of recording. Have a blank CD or DVD in the drive. Then navigate to the folder where the files are that you want to copy. Next, highlight them by clicking and dragging a rectangle around them all. You can also use your mouse and the Control key to pick each file, or the Shift key to pick a continuous group. Then just right click on one of the files (and be careful here, or you’ll have to re-select all the files over again) and from the menu select “Send To:” and then your optical drive’s letter. Most likely, if you have one hard drive and one optical drive, that will be Drive D. It should be called CD-RW Drive, or DVD-RW Drive. This will create a copy of the selected files and Windows will display a text balloon in the System Tray (that place in the lower right where your clock and other programs reside). If you click on the text balloon (before it vanishes, don’t worry if it does) you’ll be taken to a temporary folder. On the left side of the screen, one of the options will be “Write these files to CD.” Click that and the CD Writing Wizard will start.

In the first screen, there is a field called “CD name:” where you can change the date to a name if you’d like. This name will be displayed in My Computer when you insert the CD into a drive after it is created. If you click on “Next,” the CD burning process will begin. When it’s done, click “Finish” and the wizard will close. If you don’t want to burn these files, you can safely delete them with the “Delete temporary files” link. The originals will be right where you left them.

The steps for other devices are the same, as the process stops at the “Send To:” selection. The files will just be sent (copied) to the device. Then you can store your newly backed up files in a safe place (safety deposit box, closet, trunk of your car) for just in case.

TechTeach, Issue Eleven

Last issue we looked at differences between browsers. And there are quite a few to pick from. This week is about a few things to look for using them.

Some people do their banking online. I prefer to type the address to my bank by hand each time I go. Never use a link from an email. Your bank will never do business via email, always through real mail or a phone call. If you click on a link from an email, you could be going to what is called a “phishing” site. That is where people at the other end hope you will enter your ID, password and account information in the fields on the resulting page. Then, with this information, they can access your accounts.

When you do get to what you are sure is your bank’s page, you should look for a few things on the site. You should see a padlock in the lower right corner of the window. You should see the address bar turn yellow to alert you that this is a secure connection. And you should see clearly posted link to a privacy policy. If these things are missing you should close your browser, re-open it and try typing the URL by hand. When I go to my bank, the actual URL is stated with the padlock, the URL for the log in page start with “https” (the “s” stands for secure, and the http part means Hyper-Text Transport Protocol), and the Privacy Policy is clearly at the bottom of the page. And they provide a phone to call if you have any concerns about emails or private messages. There is also a link to current scams on my bank’s login page.

You should also see these indicators when you do on-line shopping. Stick with major or well-know stores. Many offer you the ability to return items purchased over the Internet to a store instead of mailing the item back. I did that a few times with a computer case I wanted from Best Buy, it kept getting cracked in the shipping. Third time was enough. If you are not comfortable with completing the transaction on-line, many sites will have a phone number you can call and talk to a real person, or you can even chat in real-time with someone. Dell offers live chat on its site.

And, as I mentioned in the last newsletter, keep your browser as up to date as you can. You should always install the newest version or accept any updates via Microsoft Updates. These are very important in keeping untoward people out of your computer and away from your bank accounts and other personal information.

TechTeach, Issue Ten

What is a web browser? I’m glad you asked. A browser is a piece of software that allows you to see content on the Internet. You can view pictures, listen to audio, and read articles from sites across the world. There are two big names in browsers right now. One comes with Windows, called Internet Explorer. Another is called Firefox. Other, less well-known browsers are Opera, Seamonkey, Safari, Netscape, and Google’s Chrome. Chrome is only weeks old and has some issues with performance, so I can’t quite recommend it yet.

What’s the difference between Internet Explorer (IE) and Firefox (FF)? The big difference is that IE is an integral part of Windows and cannot be removed. Because of its closeness to Windows, IE is vulnerable to attack from the outside. That’s one reason why your defenses should be always up to date and running, or you should be using IE7. FF is a program that runs in Windows, and with the third version, runs in Windows 2000, XP, and Vista. With its distance from Windows, FF is easier to keep secure than IE is. The people that keep up FF also do many updates and FF will let you know when those are available for installation. It’s safer, easy to use and usually pretty quick to display pages.

Of the other browsers, the only I really have any experience with is Seamonkey. Odd name, but it does work well and is pretty secure. I use it for displaying on my second monitor while I am using FF on the first. Seamonkey also includes a chat program, email, address book and newsgroup reader. I only use it for the browser and chat.

If you want to see content online, most browsers will require other software to be installed. For example, if you want to chat with other people, you might need Java from Sun Microsystems. To see some animations, you might need Adobe Flash. In the early days of “the Internet,” there was only text and a few pictures. Browsers didn’t have to do much. Showing pictures (such as gif, jpg and other formats) is pretty much automatic. If you see a blank square with the red X in the upper left, which means the file is not available to be displayed. You can try to reload the page (blue arrow in a circle in Firefox, and a page with two green arrows in IE6 and a big green circle in IE7) and see if that reconnects you to the server and downloads the picture. Otherwise, that file was probably lost somewhere on the originating server.

All browsers have Favorites or Bookmarks to store links (Universal Resource Locator, or URL) to web sites that you may find. You can also organize these to your liking by type, alphabetical order, subject, however you want, using the Organize Bookmarks or similar menu. You should export your bookmarks file once in a while in case something happens to your computer for a backup.

Your browser can also start other programs, like Adobe Reader and Winamp. Reader displays PDF files (document files that are difficult to change) and Winamp plays audio. With Winamp, you can listen to music from around the world, and any genre you like.

TechTeach, Issue Nine

As important as anti-virus and anti-spyware are, this issue I’d like to dip into the fun side of your computer. Some people leave their computers on for long periods of time. Hours, days, even weeks without shutting them off. If you are going to be away from your computer for more than a couple of hours I recommend at least turning off the monitor. But, you can have your computer do a couple of things to make it interesting. Windows comes with a few screen savers of it’s own.

One of my favorites is the My Pictures Slideshow. This screen saver looks in you’re my Pictures folder and displays those pictures in a slideshow on your monitor. You can change the size and how long the picture stays on the screen. You can also point the screen saver to a different folder if you keep your pictures elsewhere. This great for family photos; kids, grandkids, events, vacations, favorite places.

Another one is Mystify, which shows lines bouncing around the screen as they change colors. Beziers does the same thing, only with curved lines.

You can also download screen savers from the Internet, but these come with the usual warning about being careful where you download them. Some screen savers can be the carriers of bad software (malware). If you want to look for screen savers, search CNet’s Download site. ( http://www.download.com/2000-2001_4-0.html ) These are pretty reliable for being clean files. Since I don’t run the site, I can’t promise that they will be clean, but I have had no issues with them in the past. If you find something you want to try, but aren’t sure, send me an email and I’ll give it a try first.

For those Star Trek fans among us, I can strongly recommend System47’s screen saver. It comes with animated screens and sounds and is multi-monitor aware. Meaning that it will use two monitors for its displays. I also like Planet Quest, which displays planets. It is also multi-monitor aware, but you have to tell it by un-checking the Use Primary Monitor box in the Configure program.

You can find screen savers for cars, planes, flowers, landscapes, art, cats, dogs, fish, or anything you want to display on your computer. Try the ones that come with Windows first, and see if those are appealing to you. Most of them have been since the days of Windows for Workgroups around 1992. It’s a great way to see some Windows history, without the pain.

Screen savers are a great way to give your Windows experience a new twist and have pictures to look at while you take a break from your computer.