Category Archives: Software

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Common Windows Shortcuts

Windows Keyboard Shortcuts

When I observe most colleagues and friends working on their PC’s they mostly use the mouse as they are unaware of the powerful Windows keyboard shortcuts that will make their lives so much easier. Some people might be aware of the keyboard shortcuts, but they are used to be working mostly with the mouse and old habits are hard to let go.

In this article I will take things step by step so you can learn the keyboard shortcuts that are required to navigate your way around the Windows operating system.

Lets assume your machine is starting up and due to a faulty mouse or some other related problem your system cannot be accessed with the mouse. A user that is not using keyboard shortcuts on a regular basis will be completely lost. Ok its relatively cheap to replace the mouse, but what if you had to quickly perform a task that cannot wait until a new mouse is acquired or the problem is fixed?

Navigating the Start Menu

I will firstly explain how to launch an application without the use of the mouse and instead use keyboard shortcuts. Immediately after system startup if you are required to log in, type out your password and press the Enter key. Once the system have fully initialized you will be presented with the Windows Desktop. As an example we will launch Notepad. Follow the steps exactly as explained below:

Press Ctrl and Esc to show the Start menu or press the Windows Logo key. Now press the Up Arrow until you can see the selection rectangle moving upwards in the Start menu. Once the selection rectangle enters the Start menu press the Left Arrow to move to the left section of the Start menu. Then press the Down Arrow until “All Programs” is selected. Press the Right Arrow to expand the “All Programs” menu. Press the Down Arrow until “Accessories” is selected. Press the Right Arrow to expand the accessories menu. Now press the Down Arrow until the Notepad menu item is selected and the press Enter. This will cause the Notepad application to launch.

Armed with this basic keyboard shortcut knowledge you will be able to launch any application without the use of the mouse.

Moving Around the Desktop

Frequently users place icons on the desktop to quickly access some application, files or folders they regularly use. What now if the mouse packs up and you have to get to that file? Here is how to make use of the Windows keyboard shortcuts to get that done:
Depending on the current situation different steps might be required so keep in mind that you do not have to do all the steps.

Press the Windows Logo key and M simultaneously to minimize all Windows. Press Ctrl and Esc simultaneously and then press Esc again. (Only required under certain conditions so you might only need to perform this step if you do not get the desired results from the step below). Press the Tab key and release it. Keep on pressing and releasing it until you see a “focus rectangle” surrounding one of the icons on the desktop. If there are a lot of icons on the desktop you might need to look carefully if any receives the focus indicated by the focus rectangle. Also occasionally use the arrow keys to see if you can move between different icons if it is difficult to notice the icon with the focus rectangle. Normally the focus will move between the Windows Taskbar and the last icon that had the focus (being selected) on the desktop when the Tab key is pressed. Once you got the “focus rectangle” on any icon on the desktop it is just a matter of moving to the icon of your choice using the arrow keys. When the required icon got the focus or is selected press the Enter key to open the file, folder or launch a program.

Working with Windows

Our next step in this Windows keyboard shortcuts article is to manipulate windows in the context of minimizing, maximizing, moving and closing them. To minimize the currently active window press Alt and Spacebar. The Control Menu for the window will appear. Now press N to minimize the window.

To maximize or get a window to its restored state when it is minimized to the Windows Taskbar hold down Alt and then press and release the Tab key until the desired window is selected. When the window of choice is selected also release the Alt key which will ensure that the window will either be maximized or restored depending on its previous state.

If you want to maximize a window from its restored state press Alt and Spacebar. After the Control Menu appears press X to maximize the window. To restore an maximized window press Alt and Spacebar. When the Control Menu appear press R to get the window from its maximized to restored state.

To move a window press Alt and Spacebar. When the Control Menu appear press M. Now use the arrow keys to move the window to the desired location and press the Enter key to round of this operation.

When you want to re-size a window press Alt and Spacebar. When the Control Menu appear press S. Now press the arrow keys depending on which side you want to size the window from. Right will take you to the right edge of the window for sizing and the Down arrow will take you to the bottom right corner for sizing purposes. When pressing the left key first you will be taking to the window left border to carry out sizing from that side. Once you have selected your sizing location by pressing the left or right arrows and up or down arrows do the sizing by using any of the arrow keys. When finished press Enter to complete this operation. Pressing the Esc key will leave the original size of the window intact.

To close the currently active window press Alt and F4 or press Alt and Spacebar, then press C.

General Use Windows Keyboard Shortcuts

Take note that the WINDOWS key is the Windows Logo key on the keyboard.

ALT+TAB
Display list of open programs and switch to next program.
(Press TAB again to advance to the following program).

ALT+SHIFT+TAB
Display list of open programs and switch to previous program.
(Press TAB again to select the pervious program).

WINDOWS or CTRL+ESC
Displays the Windows Start Menu.

WINDOWS+E
Open My Computer.

WINDOWS+D
Toggle between Show Desktop and Show Open Windows.

WINDOWS+M
Minimize All Windows.

F2
Rename selected folder, file or shortcut.

CTRL+N
Create a New document for the active application.

CTRL+O
Display the Open dialog box of the active application.

CTRL+S
Save the current document of the active application.

CTRL+P
Print the current document of the active application.

CTRL+A
Select All content of the current document.

CTRL+X
Cut the selected text or object.

CTRL+C
Copy the selected text or object.

CTRL+V
Paste contents of clipboard into active document.

CTRL+Z
Undo the last operation.

CTRL+Y
Redo the last Undo operation.

CTRL+B
Make selected text bold or remove bold formatting.

CTRL+U
Underline the selected text or remove underline.

CTRL+I
Make selected text italic or remove italic formatting.

CTRL+F
Displays the Find dialog box.

CTRL+H
Displays the Replace dialog box.


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The Three Types of Video Streaming

If you’ve visited websites with video streaming, you will notice that your video loads. You do not know; however, that there are three methods that the website could use to get the video to you. These three methods rely on separate technologies to accomplish a similar goal, but each method has a slightly different effect on your prospect.

1) Progressive Download

In a progressively downloaded video, the website downloads the video file, but can begin to play the video before it is fully downloaded. This method cannot be considered a true stream, because a true stream does not require a download to your hard drive. With this method, end user is generally satisfied with the viewing speed.

2) Media File Download

This method is the least expensive method, but requires the end user to completely download a video file to their hard drive. Once the media file is downloaded, they can view it and may have less difficulty in viewing the material repeatedly. However, many consumers lack the patience needed to wait for a download, especially if the video presentation is lengthy. Also, internet speeds has a major affect on this method of streaming media. A user may have to wait hours before a media file could be accessed. With the other two types of streaming, the wait is minimal before you are able to access your media.

3) Full Streaming

In this scenario, the end user may be able to watch your video almost as soon as they navigate to a web page. Depending on the speed of the computer in use, the consumer may see very few interruptions in presentation. This is the most expensive form of video streaming simply because there is ‘no waiting’. Consumers are generally most satisfied with this option. This is the main option used today with many streaming services such as YouTube. With the way video files are optimized for online viewing these days, this turns into an easier option when it comes to bandwidth usage and viewing experience.

As consumers become pulled in numerous directions simply because of the hectic pace of life, the thought of having to wait for a download may move them away from watching a video – no matter how good the end result might be.

Many “netrepreneurs,” or entrepreneurs of the internet, may gravitate towards providing a Progressive Download because the cost is reduced while the viewing speed is enhanced.

There are sites where you can upload a video and it’s  downloadable to visitors. There are often provisions that likely include directing your visitor off-site, placing ads on the site page where the video download can be viewed, and last but not least a provision to have the video removed if there is no activity within a certain number of days. In all, there are multiple types of streaming that can work well in different cases.


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Cleaning your Windows Registry: A Simple Task with Big Benefits

Category : Software , Tech Tips

The Windows registry is a hidden database in your computer that tells programs information on user saved preferences. It also gives them information on how to run the program. When you install a program, the program creates registry values during the installation in order for the program to work properly.

Over 92% of computers have some form of Adware and spyware. Such software is rarely accompanied by an uninstall utility, and even when it is, it almost always leaves broken Windows Registry keys behind it. Even if you have an anti-spyware tool your Windows Registry might be broken – developers of those tools focus on removing Adware and spyware functionality, not every trace of software itself.

Another group of software that is known to leave bits and pieces behind on uninstallation is games. There are a lot of special installation systems that create strange files, unique entries in your registry file,as well as changes system dll’s, or system drivers, to other versions. Once you uninstall the game a lot of the special installation changes it made will be left, causing you problems.

You should run an advanced registry cleaner for Windows that allows you to safely scan, clean, and repair registry problems with a few simple mouse clicks on a regular basis.

Problems with the Windows Registry are a common cause of Windows crashes (blue screens) and error messages (memory as well as disk errors). By using a PC tune-up utility, your system will be more stable, your software will run quicker, and your operating system will boot faster.

Registry problems can occur for many reasons, including references left after uninstallation; incorrect removal of software; missing or corrupt hardware drivers; or orphaned start-up programs. With a few easy steps, a good registry cleaner will scan your entire registry for any invalid entries and offer a list of the errors found.

You then can choose to clean each item or automatically repair them all after making a backup without the need for a registry editor such as Regedit.

To help people choose a product have we created this short checklist.

A good windows registry clean and repair product should have the following options.

Automatic Scan

This is the hands-off approach for your windows registry scan. This is the simplest way to clean up the registry. Automatic Scan is recommended for ‘non-technical’ users.

Custom Scans

You customize your search and scan Windows registry for particular types of errors. (shared DLLs, missing fonts, invalid start-up entries, etc.).

Manual Cleanup

After the scan is complete, the program should show you a full list of errors with details, broken down by types. Then the program should let you fix individual invalid entries or all invalid entries of a certain type.

Backup and Undo

Before removing an entry from your registry, should an automatic creation of a backup file be done, that can be used to undo the changes. This to avoid changes without backup.

Scheduler

To schedule the program to scan the registry whenever you start your computer.

Using software like this is not a one time fix. You must run it on a regular basis to keep your registry clean and without errors. This will help the stability and speed of windows.

So when you want to clean your registry, you can easily click a mouse a couple of times and fix some possible crash-causing problems on your computer in a few minutes.


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Windows or Linux?

Category : Software , Tech Tips

Computer users and programmers have become so accustomed to using Windows, even for the changing capabilities and the appearances of the graphical interface of the versions, therefore it has remained Microsoft’s product. Although, Lycoris, Red Hat, Mandrake, Suse, Knoppix, Slackware and Lindows make up some of the different versions of LINUX. These companies release their own versions of the operating systems with minor changes, and yet always with the same bottom line. The simple fact that not one of these companies are close to competing with Windows, for the most part causes the difference in market share.

It sometimes seems everyone on the planet is using Windows. Many say Windows is way better than LINUX because of the simple handling of the software or hardware. There are huge differences between the number of users of LINUX and Windows. Many say LINUX is far better because it started as an Open Source software and thus is more flexible than Windows. Then what accounts for the enormous difference in market share between these two operating systems?

Windows and Linux are different in many ways.

1. Windows GUI is an integral component of the OS; speed, efficiency and reliability, while the Linux GUI is optional, is increased by running a server instance of Linux without a GUI, something that server versions of Windows simply can’t do. The nature of the Linux GUI makes remote administration of a Linux computer easier with a more natural feel than Windows computers.

2. The command prompts of the operating systems are very different. The command interpreters in the Windows 9x series are very similar to each other and the NT class versions of Windows also have similar command interpreters. There are, however differences between a Windows 9x command interpreter and one in an NT class flavor of Windows. Linux, like UNIX, also supports multiple command interpreters, but it usually uses BASH or “Bourne Again Shell”.

3. While you have to pay hundred’s of dollars for a new Windows version, you can just go download Linux. There’s no manuals or simple installers for the free version. Although there is quite a learning curve when utilizing the free package. There are some easy automated packages of Linux for low prices.

Microsoft’s “big con” is the supposed security issues with windows. Most spyware, adware and malicious files programs work with Windows just fine. In general you do not deal with these kinds of circumstances unless you are working with Windows. whereas Linux offers a strong protection, password protection for Windows can be bypassed with ease.

The software availability is the key to why Windows wins over Linux in this competition. Most software releases are already configured for Windows. If you chose to use Linux you must copy Windows with special software in order to use your windows based programs. You could always install Windows as a subsystem to Linux, this would take the administrative capabilities of Windows and allow them to function on Linux.

If Linux is ever to compete with Windows, it must become more user friendly and provide serious technical support.


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Cleaning and Organizing your Computer

It is a good idea to think of your PC as an office. It stores files, programs, pictures. This can be compared to an actual office’s files, machines and decorations. The operating system is the boss. With this image in mind, think of an office you’ve visited that was slow and inefficient. There were probably many different reasons for the inefficiency. This is the same with a computer. There can be many items that slow down your computer. Perhaps the one most commonly overlooked is disorganization and clutter.

Disk Cleanup

An office can accumulate a lot of unnecessary files, machines, and decorations. This is the same with your computer. One of the best ways to keep this clutter under control is to perform a cleaning utility periodically. In Windows this cleaning utility will be called a “disk cleanup.” It removes a variety of unnecessary files depending on the options you have selected.

To perform a disk cleanup on Windows XP you can simply click on “my computer” under the start menu. Than right click on your “c drive” or “hard disk” and choose properties. Than click “disk cleanup” and follow the prompts. When selecting files to clean up, or delete, Windows will give you information to help you decide. When looking over the list of file types, you would simple click on the name of the file type and read the description placed below in the description area. This will let you know if the files can be safely deleted. To select the file group just check the box next to the group name. When finished selecting press “OK” to finish.

Now, performing a disk cleanup is not very time consuming, just a couple minutes, and it may save more time in the end by making your computer run faster. However, a disk cleanup should be run periodically rather than just once in a great while. One way to make this run periodically is to make it a scheduled task. This will allow your computer to run it automatically with intervals and time of day determined by you. Yet, you can always run it yourself periodically without creating a scheduled task.

Add or Remove Programs

The information given above can help you get rid of some unnecessary files, but you may also need to clean out some unnecessary programs as well. This can be done using the “add or remove programs” utility in Windows. This is located in the control panel and lists all of your currently installed programs along with an option to uninstall them. It is a good idea to browse through the add or remove programs utility every once in a while just to make sure that all programs are of usefulness.

If there are programs listed that are no longer used, you can simply highlight the program and click the uninstall button. Windows will than begin the process to uninstall the program. In most cases, to finish uninstalling a program, it is wise to restart your computer. This will dump and files that are held temporarily.

The add or remove programs utility is very useful, but not all of the programs are listed up front. Programs that come pre-installed on your computer and the Windows operating system can also be uninstalled. For instance, Outlook Express is a default e-mail program that comes with the Windows XP operating system. If you do not use this e-mail program you can uninstall it. Click “add or remove windows components” found in the add or remove programs utility and simply follow the instructions.

Defragment

Many offices contain a large number of files and programs that are valuable and cannot be thrown away. In fact, they may contain files that are not even used, but still have to be retained for some reason. Although these files must remain in the office, they need to be organized. This is why we create file folders that hold groups of files that are related. Than we store them in cabinets that are arranged in alphabetic order.

In a computer, the files that are saved are placed on the hard drive. However, they are placed according to the time that they were saved. So, if you open a word document and save the file as “file A” and than open another document and save it as “file B”, you have a “file A” placed next to “file B.” This is fine, but if you open “file A” later on and save it again, than the added information is saved next to “file B.”

When files are broken up this way it is referred to as a fragmented file. This means that the computer must find the first part of the file and then find the second part of the file to open that one word document. This can make your computer run slower. However, Windows has created a utility that is meant to rearrange files so that they are no longer fragmented but sit right next to each other.

You can run the disk defragmenter by selecting “all programs” under the start button. Next, select “accessories” and “system tools” and you will see “disk defragmenter.” In fact, this is also an alternative way to select the disk cleanup mentioned earlier. Before starting the defragmenter you can analyze your hard drive to see if Windows recommends performing the defragmenter. It will either say that you should or should not defragment at this time.

If you need to defragment your computer, simply hit the defragment button. It may take your computer a while to finish this task depending on the speed of your computer and the amount of defragmented files. It could take from about 15-30 minutes or more. However, you can still use the computer while the disk defragmenter is working.


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All About Backups and Keeping Your Data Safe

There has been an increasing amount of emphasis in recent times on the subject of keeping the information on your computer safe. The terms Back-Up, Archive, Data Storage and Security being mentioned frequently, but what is all about?

In simple terms, people are increasingly holding more and more information on their computers, be it photos, personal data and finance, business data, accounts, contacts, addresses and much more.

What everyone needs to understand is that the information held on your computer is a very vulnerable entity and can be very easily and completely lost, either by component failure, malicious acts or theft. If loss of the information you keep on your computer would cause you distress, then you need to take steps to ensure it is kept safe and that you would be able to continue even if your computer was stolen.

The only definite way of safeguarding against the many different kinds of threats is to have a copy of the valuable information and keep it away from the computer, this is commonly referred to as back-up. In case of loss, the information can then be restored to a computer from the safe back-up copy. A back up consists of an exact copy of this important data, kept on a separate storage medium such as a CD / DVD or an external tape or hard disk drive.

Naturally, a back-up is only as good as the last time that you actually made a back-up copy, so it is common practice to create a new back-up frequently and overwrite the old copy. How frequently you do this depends on how often your valuable information changes, the more changes, the more frequent the back-up. A back-up can be performed manually by simply copying the data you wish to back-up to your chosen media, or the process can be automated by using specialist back-up software programmes. Back-up software allows you to select the data that needs to be backed-up, when to make the back-up and where to copy the backed-up data to, this set up can then be memorised by the back-up software. Backing-up your data then becomes a relatively quick and simple process.

Many confuse back-up with “archiving”. Archiving is where you transfer data, which is important enough to keep, but no longer required (e.g. old photos, old accounts) to an external, safe storage medium for future reference. The archived data is then removed from the computers main hard drive to free-up space.

Whether backing-up or archiving, there is a choice of media you can record your copy on to:

Recordable CD or DVD
If you have a CD or DVD recordable drive, this is a better longer-term solution with more space. The downside is that the recording process can be a pain as you cannot just drag and drop and that you need CD’s or DVD’s to record on.

This type of backup can be cumbersome, time consuming and sometimes frustrating, depending on the software and the quality of disks used.

When using this method of backup, remember to check the disk you have transferred your data to, to make sure your computer can read the disc ok in future.

USB Pen Drives
Also known by various other names USB Pen Drives are an excellent low cost solution for smaller back-up purposes being easy to use and they are also great for transferring data from one computer to another.

External USB Hard Drives
For most users the best storage solution for back-up and archiving purposes is the USB external hard drive, being reliable, easy to install (just plug in to your USB port) and easy to use (just drag and drop your files to be backed-up). USB External Hard Drives are available in pocket or desktop sizes and storage capacities from a few Gb to 250Gb + offering a huge amount of recording space. Being a plug in device they can be easily disconnected and kept separate from your computer and out of harm’s way. Some external USB Hard Drives like Iomega come packaged with back-up software too.


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Computer Slow? Fix It Yourself!

Why does it seem like every time you get a new computer it operates at lightning fast speeds for only a few months before becoming slow and laborious over its tasks? Is this just something that we have to live with or can we do something to keep our computers running at optimum speeds?

The truth is that computers do not get slower as they age. A slow computer is a sign that something is literally holding your PC back and affecting its performance. And the good news is that you can do something about it.

There are many things that can affect your computer’s performance, from low memory to a fragmented hard drive and everything in between. The small errors or resource-heavy programs that can affect your computer’s performance are usually of your own doing. Each time we download a program or delete a program, we affect the way our computer operates. This change in operation can leave holes in our PCs operating procedures or may even leave behind programs that can affect our computer’s performance.

Here are just a few things that could be making your computer slow:

· Running Background Programs – These programs are software applications that are running behind the scenes even when they are not in use. You may not even know that they are running, but they can zap precious memory and slow down your other tasks considerably. To see if you have programs running in the background, press Ctrl + Alt + Delete at the same time. The box that pops up will show you all applications that are running.

· Full Hard Drive – If your hard drive is too full of data, it will not have enough space to perform chores. Your hard drive should have at lease 2GB to 3GB in free space.

· Fragmented Hard Drive – When you download and delete programs, you create holes in your hard drive. These holes mean that your PC has to search for the files it needs over greater distance and not necessarily in the order that it needs them.

· Left Over Parts – When you install and uninstall Windows programs, they leave behind parts or applications that can slow down your computer. You may even unknowingly delete a file needed for other software applications. (Note: Spyware and viruses can also slow down your PC’s performance, but for the purpose of this article we are assuming that the problem lies in application errors.)

Make Your PC Run Like New

While it’s not rocket science, making your computer lightning fast once again will take a little work from you. Sometimes, this is as easy as running your Windows System Tools program. You can find these programs by clicking “start,” “all programs,” “accessories,” and “system tools.” Here you will find several system optimizers to help you free up your disk space, defragment your PC, and detect and repair disk errors.

In addition to tools already installed on your PC, you can opt to download additional programs to optimize your computer’s performance. These optimizers can be either  purchased as a set or downloaded for free individually off the web. These optimizers, along with other software programs can help you get the best out of your computer. Here are just a few of the extra optimization programs that you may want for your PC:

· Memory Optimizer – When you are using your computer, it takes several programs and application to handle everything that you are doing. Each of these programs uses memory. When memory is short, computer response time is slow. Memory Optimizer helps to make the allotment of memory to each program more efficient. This can help you eliminate slow PC execution time, Windows hang up or crashing, loss of data and unwanted shutdowns.

· Registry Deffrager and Optimizer – As mentioned before, a registry with holes results in slow response times as your PC searches for the data it needs. This program improves the system response time and saves memory by creating a smaller registry.

· Windows Optimizer – We all use our computers differently. Some use their computer as a media and entertainment centerpiece while others use their PC for data storage and business purposes. Windows Optimizer allows you to tweak program settings so that they will perform in line with your needs.

Granted, a slow computer is a nuisance and it may leave you wanting to go out and purchase a new model. But before you give up on your current model, make sure that you have optimized it first. You may be surprised by how much life is still in your PC.