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  Welcome to the Spring 2006 1ComputerCare Newsletter  
     

 

Breaking news.  The folks who supply printer ink cartridges to me (JR Inkjet) have told me that for legal reasons they (and probably all other suppliers) will not be selling Epson or Canon compatible cartridges once their current stock is exhausted, for the foreseeable future.  If you want me to see if they have any ink for your printer available (still at half the advertised price + shipping), please let me know as soon as possible.  The refill kits (which are actually much cheaper anyway) and media remain available.

Following feedback from the last newsletter, I am changing the format and possibly increasing the frequency this year.  The main page is a little smaller but the hyperlinks are more plentiful and lead to more substantive content.  This is quite a challenge as I am ever busier and there are so many exciting things happening in the world of I.T. 

 

For example, podcasting has become very popular with

  • those fed up with traditional radio broadcasts

  • folks wanting to listen to content assembled by a third party, whilst on the move

  • people wanting to listen to books rather than read them
  • as a delivery mechanism for single use mass delivery (galleries' guides, students lectures)
  • It is a mechanism for receiving, possibly irregular, audio (and sometimes video) content without being tied to the broadcasters schedule.  Equally big news is the RSS format which supports podcasting, as this enables information to be pushed to you rather than your having to go and search it out.  In fact I use it to read the news while munching breakfast, that way I know I only get presented news which is of interest to me, I don't get newsprint on my fingers and there's no paper to be recycled at the end of the meal.  I still have the washing up to do though.  It is similar to blogging but the news I choose from different sources gets aggregated in one place for me.  The St. John Ambulance website sports a particularly useful series of podcasts.  Please let me know if you find any of particular interest.

     

    Another excitement for me is that in addition to selling customized tower and laptop PCs, I am now selling LCD PCs - a mid way device which gives the best of both formats: compact footprint like a laptop, but enough space to be customizable so maintenance and upgrades are not too pricey.

     

    Both Avid watchers of my Web site will see that I have 'formalised' the service whereby I sell items for people at auction.  Those familiar with eBay may enjoy listening to Weird Al Yankovic singing his eBay song - click here for entertainment.

    Free downloads

    • Microsoft Calculator Plus has a standard and scientific mode as well as conversion allowing currency (if you have an always on Internet connection such as broadband) as well as length, weight, volume... to be converted.
    • Audio, video, screen savers, games & utilities are all available at MSN Tech & Gadgets.
    • One of the best finds recently is the AllOfMP3 site, from which music lovers may download thousands of albums at a quality you choose for a price of around $1.50 (U.S.) per album.
    • TweakUI gives you access to system settings that are not exposed in the Windows XP default user interface, including mouse settings, Explorer settings, taskbar settings, and more.  But make a note of what you change as it is easy to lock yourself out.
    • Microsoft Research have made Group Shot available for free download.  It helps you create a perfect composite photo out of a series of snaps, so having everyone's eyes open in the same shot is no longer an issue as you can stitch the best bits of several photos together.
    • Another free download for photographers is Google's Picasa which will make red eye removal easy as well as many other editing tools, then it will catalogue all photos in your collection and arrange them in a library ready for you to create a slide show - nifty.

    Viruses and security scams are always topical and as the threats develop, protecting your identity is ever important.  Rootkit attacks came to prominence at the end of last year after Sony's PR blunder.  In a nutshell, Sony started selling music CDs which installed hidden code on the customer's PC.  The upshot was that Sony halted production and sent compensation to all who bought CDs encoded this way.  Sysinternals publishes a good rootkit revealer, but if you think you have been hit be wary about removing it yourself.

    A very good and comprehensive Internet Safety Zone is available from a bunch of worthy sponsors with sensible, easy to understand advice for parents, children aged 12 and under and young people 13 and over.  Another very good briefing on protecting yourself and your PC is available at GetSafeOnline.  The BBC publishes a downloadable ChatGuide booklet for parents, and gives good advice for the very young at CBBC.  To help parents choose appropriate electronic guardians for shielding their offspring, GetNetWise has a free tool finder tool which is worth a look.

    Interesting Websites

    • Aspirant artists (audio, painting, photo, video and traditional writers) may publish (& maybe sell) their work without charge at Lulu.  

    • Anyone wanting to save a buck or two on phone bills can do so by translating 0870 and 0845 phone numbers to their regional equivalents by visiting the SayNoTo0870 Web site.  Not all numbers are listed, but many are.  If you need to call a free-phone number in the States, dial 0800 890 011 first and AT&T will make it a truly free call.

    • Avoid junk mail and telesales calls by registering free with the telephone, fax and mailing preference services.

    • At The Cloud Appreciation Society Web site you can see... pretty clouds !

    • [Broadband users only] The second best Flash animation Web site I have seen recently is Heavy, although Derren Brown's comes a close third for its artistic merit.  For technical skill in creating, MrPicassoHead has to take the biscuit.

    • Most entertaining site prize goes to net disaster - must browse there with Internet Explorer though.

    • If watching medical operations in close detail is something which would excite you, OR Live is the self styled home of live surgical video on the Internet.

    • For Real-Time traffic information on the Motorways, you know you can trust the Highways Agency to show a map of traffic congestion throughout the country.

    • The British Library's Turning the Pages project allows us to access ancient manuscripts remotely.

    • The Hampster Dance Video is one of Google's Video collection, many of which are good for an hour's cheap entertainment.

    Although backing up files is covered in some detail on my website, I have been asked what I do with my own main computer.  I have two internal 200GB disks and once a month I run an automated Acronis True Image backup to copy each disk to the other.  This allows both the entire disk and individual files to be recovered.  Then each week I have an automated job run to perform a differential backup (only copies files which have changed since the last image backup). Finally, for the really important and frequently changing files, I run Microsoft's SyncToy to echo changes to the other disk on a 24 hourly schedule.

    AOL users - you are not alone: compare your misfortunes with others' at the Computer Gripes site.  Seriously, have you (not just AOL users) checked your ISP usage recently ?  If you are paying more than 15 a month for a bells and whistles service, give me a call.

    Following the recent 'extended outage' for PlusNet and Metronet broadband customers, I am reminded that it is wise for us all to have alternate options.  For example,

    • an icon to enable a dialup connection to allow e-mail collection if we loose broadband - that way you can still e-mail Eugene@1ComputerCare.co.uk 

    • Having a second way (webmail) to access your e-mail is also useful to guard against one server failing.

    • Having two browsers (such as IE and Firefox)

    • An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) will not only protect you from power failures and lost data, but also the surges, sags, brownouts and frequency variations which hasten the demise of the power delivery component in your PC. 

    I looked into VOIP (using your broadband connection for phone calls) for a client a couple of months ago as routers and service providers are now making this more easily available.  I read a BBC report and compared the main players and decided that the decision to switch from traditional PSTN to VOIP really boiled down to whether your quarterly spend on geographic calls (numbers starting 01 or 02) was more than about 20 - more than that figure and you would be quids in.  Freetalk and Vonage seemed to be the providers of choice, but this is a fast changing market. 

    Dear Eugene - agony uncle.  This section lists a few snippets of questions which came my way recently.  If you have any irritating issues please send them in.

    Q. I've bought some high capacity CDs - 850Mb each, but Windows XP keeps recognizing it as 700Mb.  How can I make my computer see the true capacity of free space/disk ?  Nero also tells me that "there's not enough room" when I wanted to burn more than 700Mb onto the new CD.
    A. The maximum capacity and speed you can achieve will be the slowest of the capabilities of medium, the software, and the hardware drive.
     
    Q. I just installed an external USB hard drive for back up.  It seems to be running all the time even when I am only using my original hard drive.  The only way to stop it is by disconnecting it from the USB or shutting down the computer.  Is this normal ?
    A. That action is perfectly normal.  Windows power management does not mediate over the external USB disks' controller chips.  External USB hard drives often do not have the best cooling built in and if left connected for a long time can stress the hard drive by pushing its upper temperature limit.  It is prudent to disconnect these drives when not in active use.
     
    Q. I want to upload some files that are about 200MB so that others can share.  Are there any free sites which don't make the downloader enter passwords or dodge around too many adverts ?
    A. http://www.techactually.com/db/2006/02/23/where-to-upload-your-file.html

    Sending and receiving faxes via Windows XP.  To configure, add fax services via Add/Remove Programs, Windows components window.  Then to send, just print to the device 'fax'.  To receive faxes in e-mail, choose one of the numerous free services - I use GTI Telecom.

    Keyboard shortcuts can save time and are useful to people who find mouse action unnatural.

    • CTRL+<enter> - To complete the address box in a browser
    • CTRL+S To save the current document
    • CTRL+V To paste text
    • ALT+F4 shuts down the selected program, window or dialogue box.
    • ESC to cancel, or get rid of something like box or window that popped up when you didn't want it.
    • TAB takes you from one field to another, one "button" to another, one icon to another etc.
    • CTRL+Z   undo. Undoes the previous editing action, if the application allows.
    • CTRL+Y redo. In some applications, Excel for example, this combination repeats the last action.
    • CTRL+A select all.
    • CTRL+HOME to the top  
    • SHIFT+CTRL+END selects from cursor position through the end of the document.
    • CTRL+DOWN ARROW jumps your cursor to the next paragraph.
    • CTRL+SPACEBAR hitting these keys allow for non-contiguous selection.
    • F1 Help, my keyboard is stuckkkkkkkkkkkk

    And that's it - I hope you found this interesting.  This newsletter is just my thoughts and so you should check all items carefully before acting on any advice as I accept no responsibility for unfortunate events resultant on heeding the ideas here. 

    Eugene.

    "Daddy, why doesn't this magnet pick up this floppy disk ?"

    Here's an index to what is in this newsletter.

     

    podcasting

    RSS feeds

    LCD PCs

    eBay song

    Free downloads

    Rootkit type viruses

    Internet Safety

    Interesting Websites

    Backing up files, Eugene's way

    ISPs - Are you on the best deal ?

    VOIP - voice over Internet

    Dear Eugene - agony uncle

    Sending and receiving faxes

    Keyboard shortcuts

     

    "You start coding. I'll go find out what they want."    

    Computer analyst to programmer

    My recently revamped Web site is now available for public view; in fact you are now reading one page of it.

    I would appreciate knowing what you liked most and least about this and any suggestions which come to your mind for improvement. 

     "A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk I have a workstation..."

    If you have appreciated receiving this, the way I would most value your thanks is for you to make a small note on my testimonials page.

    If you have a question or interesting website to share for the next newsletter, please let me have it.

    "Real Programmers always confuse Christmas and Halloween because Oct31 == Dec25"

    Andrew Rutherford.

     

     

    "CChheecckk yyoouurr dduupplleexx sswwiittcchh.."

    Please note that my working hours are 9am to 6pm Monday to Saturday.  If you call 0845 108 0254 between these times I will be very helpful and friendly.

    "I rigged my mobile phone to send a message to my PDA, which is online with my PC, to get it to activate the voicemail, which sends the message to the inbox of my e-mail, which routes it to the PDA, which beams it back to the mobile phone. Then I realized my gadgets have a better social life than I do !"  

    Tom Ostad

    If it wasn't backed-up, then it wasn't important.

     

    For non-I.T. related news, visit

     

    "The nice thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from."

    If you think *I'm* expensive, wait until you hire an amateur.

     "There are 10 kinds of people in the world, those that understand binary arithmetic and those that don't."