Oct 29

Memory chip

Windows XP will run on 512 MB of RAM. Indeed, I ran it for 4 or 5 years this way. However, if you have a number of applications open at the same time, for example Firefox, MS Word and an image processing suite, you may notice a lot of hard disk activity as you run the applications and save data. This is because Windows stores data in memory, or RAM, and when it runs out of that it will store or cache the remainder that it needs to the hard disk. At the moment I see that on my Windows XP system, Firefox 3 alone is using about 350MB of memory, so on a system with only 512 MB of memory, the browser alone could take a significant chunk of RAM. If the hard disk needs to be used as a data cache, you will see the LED on the front of the hard drive continuously flashing as the data is written to disk or accessed from it and everything will be held up until that’s done. The other disadvantage of caching is that this constant disk activity is probably shortening the life of the hard drive, which is a mechanical device so it doesn’t last for ever.

My point here is that it would be worth getting another stick of RAM to boost memory to 1GB or even 1.5GB to avoid disk caching and hopefully prolong the life of your hard disk. I’ve certainly noticed a big difference in hard drive activity, or lack of it, since I boosted RAM to 1.5GB. And RAM doesn’t cost too much these days and is relatively easy to fit yourself.

Use the Crucial System Scanner to check what type of memory you need and how much you can fit. Or if you know the brand and model of your PC go to New Egg’s Memory Configurator. To install RAM, follow this installation guide.

Photo credit: cheetleys

Useful links:

How much memory can my computer use?
The 4GB memory limit of 32 bit computers
RAM installation guide


Oct 25
Better safe than sorry
icon1 techandlife | icon2 How to, Security | icon4 October 25, 2008| icon3No Comments »

I haven’t really blogged about PC security yet because there are so many sites out there doing a great job informing how to keep your machine free from viruses, spyware and bots. I’ll mention one great site later, but first just a brief outline of my favourite antimalware and security applications. Over the years, these programs have been generally highly recommended on forums and blogs and I find them all excellent.

My firewall is ZoneAlarm Free and for anti-virus I use AVG Free. Both these products have served me well for years. For antimalware, I use SUPERAntiSpyware Free edition. Superantispyware This has been recommended for some time by the experts on the Motley Fool forum ‘Help with this Blasted Computer’, a forum I really like and trust for tech help. More recently, the program has also been picked up and recommended on the Podnutz computer repair podcast as the product which identifies and eliminates spyware which many other antispyware programs miss.

I route all my incoming email through Gmail as I find it’s excellent at eliminating the spam emails which my ISP and web host let slip through.

I use a product called RUBotted from TrendMicro to identify behaviour associated with bots.

As a password manager, I’ve just started using LastPass and so far I’ve found it excellent for managing my online passwords. lastpass One feature I really like is that you can quickly log into different online accounts at the same site very easily. For example, I have different Delicious accounts for personal and blog bookmarks and I can move between them very easily. I’ll be doing a separate post on LastPass later.

All the programs I’ve mentioned are free and I recommend them all. However, if you want real-time antispyware protection, then check out SUPERAntiSpyware Professional edition.

As has been said many times before, the best form of PC security is the person behind the keyboard. Don’t go to dodgy sites, and don’t click on attachments in email unless you are absolutely sure you trust the sender.

But if you really want the lowdown on PC security, great advice on free apps and how to keep your system out of danger, read and subscribe to Bill Mullins’ Weblog. Bill Mullins blog

I’ve been subscribing to his blog for several months now and Bill’s advice on computer security and products is second to none. Here’s just one post from his archive that will give you an idea what security software you need.


Oct 23
Tolerance in life
icon1 techandlife | icon2 Life | icon4 October 23, 2008| icon31 Comment »

diversity-20mmlahal

Well this is the 14th post and the first ‘Life’ post on my Tech and Life blog. I think it’s quite fitting it should be the first post in this category as it’s a very important attribute somehow lacking in many walks of life including tech. This won’t be a very philosophical treatment, just some personal views on tolerance or perhaps more accurately, intolerance.

We’ve all come across it on the Net and in daily life. Religious and political blogs with extreme uncompromising views, flame wars on forums and blogs often over quite trivial statements, blog bullies, and a general bullish need to get across the view that ‘I’m right, my view is the right one and I just won’t tolerate anyone having a different viewpoint’.

We hear it on TV debates and radio phone-ins all the time. Two sides each with their own viewpoint battling it out for supremacy. I often wonder what’s the point. Okay we’re hearing both sides and we are hopefully better informed as a result, but very often neither debater nor listener changes sides as a result of the discussion.

I often think how refreshing it would be if sometimes, one party would stand up at the end of the discussion and admit, ‘Well the other side have made some good points here, and I’m going to have to change my stance on this’. No, that rarely happens because admitting you’re wrong is often taken as a sign of weakness. A prime example is in politics where the media will invariably pounce on a politician who admits that his/her views or actions were wrong, or that they have changed their view, portraying this as a sign of weakness and somehow it’s wrong to change your view.

The reality is that we all make mistakes, even politicians, particularly when we are rushed to make a decision or are not in possession of all the facts, or even turn a blind eye to the facts. It’s part of human nature – we’re not perfect. But it’s so hard for some people to admit they’re wrong , or that they have a flaky viewpoint not based on facts or that they have made an incorrect decision. We must learn from our mistakes and benefit from our experiences as we go through life and let that help form our views.

Our opinions, views and beliefs are very much coloured by a number of factors: where we were born, that country’s traditions, our upbringing, what our parents taught us and what we learned at school, among other things. It’s obviously important to respect people with a different perspective on life from our own and respect that diversity. Clearly if we had been brought up in that situation, we would probably share those views and traditions. But this is somehow difficult for many people to grasp and has been a root cause of intolerance throughout history.

Our opinions are important but they must be based on the best facts available at the time, not on gossip, or what we read in poorly researched newspaper columns or blogs or see on TV. This is made really clear when we have actually researched and understand a subject and we can see the factual inaccuracies, bias, spin, hoax and general misinformation in what is being said in the media for example – which of course others without adequate knowledge of the subject are going to read, watch, believe and pass on, for example, in blog posts, blog comments and on forums.

In a recent post on Windows Tips and Tricks, Vic Laurie notes that as history has shown many times, the majority of people often believe things that are not true. Unfortunately, he has lost the source of the following quote he gave in that post, but it is apt:

“Belief” is a funny thing. In human psychology, belief is the intersection of logic and emotion. It’s not always clear what irrational or non-rational factors cause us to accept, discard, overweight, underweight and otherwise synthesize the facts before us in a belief. Sometimes we sincerely believe things without facts. Other times we believe things despite facts.

Some people do speak and argue with real authority. They sound confident and positive and we feel they must be right. But be careful to check their arguments and opinions are well founded.

We are so lucky nowadays having access to the Internet. It’s perhaps the prime example how tech can really have an amazing benefit on our lives. Knowledge, opinion and viewpoints are all around us  –  on blogs, twitter, podcasts, in forums, encyclopedias. We can search for information and read the facts and the spread of views on a subject and armed with the facts and opinions, we can make our own opinions better informed if we chose to. As well as reading a blog, we can read and contribute to the comments and see the spread of views there.

But at the end of the day, if someone else has a different view from your own, all you can do is politely let them know your views and what the facts are behind your view. If they choose to hold their view, fine. We must be tolerant of that. On the other hand, if their opinion is persuasive, then change sides – it’s actually not a sign of weakness but of maturity.

I’d love to hear your views on intolerance. Drop a comment below.

‘Your neighbor’s vision is as true for him as your own vision is true for you’. – Miguel de Unamuno

Photo credit


Oct 22

White Macbook Well 12 posts down and no mention of Apple or Mac or Linux. Not good. Doubtless there are people surfing over here and who are dismayed (or stronger) to discover yet another PC oriented tech blog. I’m genuinely sorry. I better give a word of explanation and justification.

I really first came into contact with computers in the mid-80s when in college in the UK. I used the VAX mainframe there to produce some maps, diagrams and for word processing. In 1988, I wanted to get a computer to do the same things at work and by now Macs and PCs were really hitting the marketplace. The major factor in my decision to buy a PC and not a Mac at that time was the off-the-shelf third party map making software available for it which I needed for working with spatial data. So I bought a PC, learned how to use it, rescue it, upgrade it, and stuck with it. I’ve really nothing against Macs believe me. It’s just the Mac’s price and the PCs range of applications and upgradability which have been major factors for me through the years. Macs are perfectly adequate platforms, particularly for creative and graphical work. Indeed they’re probably a better choice for many people and are probably more reliable. Problem is they are premium products at premium prices. I’d really like to own one and perhaps one day I will. In fact, it would be nice to chart cross-platform computing on this blog.

Yes the observant readers will be saying but you haven’t mentioned Linux either. Well I tried Ubuntu last year. It installed fine but I just couldn’t get online. Seemed it wanted a WEP encrypted wireless network and I had WPA. There was a workaround mentioned on various forums but I just hadn’t the time to sort it out and it didn’t seem like an easy fix to me. I’ll try again with the new Ubuntu 8.10 release at the end of October (Intrepid Ibex) and hopefully document how I get on.

I wonder if the whole PC-Mac-Linux polarity is just becoming less important these days. Seems to me that computing is increasingly just about getting online to work in the cloud or communicate on social networks – and you can do that from any platform. They’re all increasingly just platforms getting you to a goal.

Photo credit: redjar


Oct 20
Gizmo’s great tech resource
icon1 techandlife | icon2 Software | icon4 October 20, 2008| icon3No Comments »

There are many great freeware software products out there and a great website reviewing and identifying the best freeware is Gismo’s Tech Support Alert. gizmo1 As well as listing the best freeware in different categories, Gismo also lists his pick of the best tech websites, gives helpful How-to articles, and between 1998 and July this year, produced a brilliant tech Newsletter which then merged with the Windows Secrets Newsletter, another excellent tech resource.

The 158 back issues of Gizmo’s Tech Support Alert Newsletter are still available on his website here or you can download the complete Premium Edition archive here along with a free “Lite” version of the commercial indexing program diskMETA, that allows full text searching of the back issues. But if you already have Copernic Desktop Search or Google Desktop Search, you can use those utilities to search the tech archive.

To give you some idea what’s in each Newsletter, here’s the contents of the 158th issue:

0. EDITORIAL: How Gizmo Protects his PCs
1. TOP TECH SITES AND RESOURCES

1.1 New Way to Discover the Latest Freebies Please read this
1.2 Gizmo and His 60 Volunteer Freeware Editors Need Your Help
1.3 Easy Way to Detect Infections
1.4 More Malware Scanning Options
1.5 New Free File Sharing Site Offers Free Faxing
1.6 Great Internet Explorer V7/V8 Site
1.7 800,000 User Guides
1.8 Learn How to Solve Elusive Windows Problems
1.9 How to Send an Email Using any “From:” Address
1.10 How to Solve DVI Problems

2. TOP FREEWARE AND SHAREWARE UTILITIES

2.1 A Free Gift from Gizmo: a $40 Backup Program Nice!
2.2 Alternatives to Evernote for Web Note Taking
2.3 Another Free Option for Resizing Digital Photos
2.4 Free Personal Task Management Software Impresses
2.5 Free Auto Refresh Add-ins for Your Browser
2.6 Add Vista Flash Drive ReadyBoost to Windows XP
2.7 A Solution to XP SP3 Trashing Your Visual Styles
2.8 More Free Online Storage Options

3. SECURITY PATCHES, SERVICE RELEASES AND UPDATES

3.1 Microsoft Security News
3.2 Apple Plugs More Flaws in QuickTime
3.3 The Latest News on AVG Free vs. Avast!
3.4 The Limitations of AV Certification
3.5 Infected Websites Replace Email as Main Source of Infection
3.6 Firefox 3 Released

4. OTHER USEFUL STUFF

4.1 USB Flash Drives at Ridiculous Prices
4.2 Best Vista Tweaks
4.3 Please Vote for Your Favorite Have your say
4.4 Edit and Share Your Photos Online
4.5 Vista’s Main Competitor: Windows XP
4.6 Useless Waste of Time Department
4.7 Zero Charge Directory Calls from Your Cell Phone
4.8 Free Utility Reveals the Truth about Your Video card
4.9 How to Make Your PC Run Faster

5. TIP OF THE MONTH

5.1 How to Strip Unwanted Formatting from Text

6. FREEBIE OF THE MONTH

6.1 Free Remote Access Software Offers Simplicity
6.2 Free Utility Compares Two Microsoft Word Documents

Gizmo now contributes to the weekly Windows Secrets Newsletter and you can subscribe to it by email and RSS here. gizmo2 If you like it and want to support the Newsletter, you can upgrade to the paid version with additional content.


Oct 14

This is the first in an ongoing series I’m going to cover on online services which I find really useful.

delicious

You may have heard of Delicious already or seen their logo on a web page. It’s really just a way of bookmarking webpages you have found useful so you can find them again easily or share them with a friend, a group of people or everyone. You just tag a webpage with appropriate keyword/s or phrase/s and you can return to that page again later by searching for that tag. The tag can be anything: a person’s name, a location, a recipe, etc. Even Delicious. You can link words into phrases using hyphens, e.g. Google-Chrome, PC-troubleshooting. The possibilities are endless.

People use Delicious in different ways. It’s really very flexible. Here’s a few uses:

View pages that are currently popular

You can view pages that are currently popular and being actively tagged by just going to the Delicious website. Here’s what’s currently popular as I am composing this post.

Delicious bookmarks2

Popacular is another site which lists currently popular sites. It lists the 25 most tagged sites in the last hour, 8 hours, day, week, month and overall.
Index pages of interest

Delicious bookmarks1

I subscribe to quite a few tech blogs. I’m particularly interested in PC troubleshooting, new applications and online services. Once you have registered with Delicious, when you come across a webpage of interest, you can tag it. I use the Firefox Delicious Bookmarks plugin which has a button to  bookmark a page.  You can assign a number of tags to the page if you wish and you can choose to make the tags public or not by checking the box at the top right. You can later bundle related tags into groups in Delicious for better organization of your tags.

Share a website with a group of people

Some tech podcasts, for example the Aussie Geek Podcast, ask their listeners to tag sites of interest for the benefit of other listeners and to bring websites to the attention of the show hosts.

Subscribe to a tag

You can subscribe to a tag in Delicious to see what sites other people are tagging with the same tag. You can even send that subscription as a feed to your RSS reader so you are constantly updated on new pages with that tag.

Viewing your tagged pages

You can view thumbnails of your tagged pages using Favthumbs either in grid or carousel layout.

Favthumbs

Viewing and searching your tags

You can search your tags at your Delicious home page. There are also a few Firefox plugins which allow you to tag pages and view and search your tags in a Firefox sidebar. I’ve already mentioned Delicious Bookmarks.

Delicious bookmarks

Search the contents of all pages you’ve tagged

If you’re a registered Delicious user, you can search all of the contents of your  bookmarked pages using Delizzy once you’ve entered your Delicious username and password.

delizzy

Manage your delicious bookmarks locally

You can also manage your bookmarks locally using Netlicious, but this is beta software so it’s not release quality yet. There’s a good description of it here. I find it crashes regularly, perhaps because it can’t cope with my 1649 tags and 3836 bookmarks.

Delicious blog and forum

There’s also a Delicious blog here where you can get the latest info on developments and a forum here where you can ask any questions you have on Delicious.

Hope this has convinced you that Delicious is a worthwhile online app. I recommend you sign up for it now and get to know it. It’s a great service and it’s free.

Further reading (added 15th February 2009)

Absolutely Delicious Tools Collection


Oct 10
The Tech Well
icon1 techandlife | icon2 Blogging, Tech | icon4 October 10, 2008| icon31 Comment »

Tech blogs, tech podcasts and tech forums will inform you. If you have the time to follow a good selection of these, you will constantly learn new things and discover shortcuts to make tech work for you more effectively. I’ve blogged about good tech podcasts and tech blogs earlier.

I’ve made a number of great discoveries in the ‘tech well’ recently. Here’s just two from yesterday.

1. As a regular listener to the Aussie Geek Podcast, I was interested to hear the Jeffro2pt0 WordPress Weekly podcast mentioned there.Jeffro2.0 I didn’t know about it so downloaded the last two or three episodes to try it out. Pretty good and I’ve now subscribed to it. You can subscribe here. In episode 22, there was an interview with Alex King, creator of the Share This WordPress plugin among others. I’m relatively new to blogging with WordPress and am looking for ways to improve the experience for anyone who visits my site so I’ve added the Share This widget to my blog. Share This allows any visitor to easily share the content via a social bookmarking site or email it to a friend. You can see the Share link at the bottom of this and every post.

2. Still on the blogging theme, I was reading the Download Squad feed in Google Reader and noticed a post about NotePad++. NotePad I already use this text editor from earlier recommendations on tech blogs and podcasts. It’s very useful for editing your theme’s css and php files before uploading to your website. What I didn’t know was that you can upload the files directly to your website from within NotePad++ using the FTP Synchronize plugin without going near your FTP client, saving some time.

That’s just two discoveries from yesterday. Who knows what today will bring!


Oct 3

Part of the idea behind this blog is to point PC users, particularly beginners and intermediate users, in the right direction when using their PC and accessing services on the internet.

I’ve just listened to an excellent podcast on Computer America. Carey Holzman was the host and he ran through his current favourite freeware picks from antispyware, and antivirus, through system maintenance, disk utilities, etc. Basically everything you need to keep your PC running well, for free. If I trust anyone when it comes to PC advice it’s Carey, so I recommend you download and listen to this podcast and listen to his recommendations. I actually use quite a few of these programs myself but he’s uncovered a number I wasn’t aware of which I must check out.

The show was broadcast on Computer America on 29 September 2008 and the freeware review is on Hour 2 of the show after the first advert break starting at about 18 min 16 sec into the podcast. You can get the podcast here or here.

You’ll find them there for about 2 weeks after the broadcast date, after that look in the Computer America archives for September 2008. The show is 092923.mp3. To help you miss the advert breaks when these come up, fast forward to 18:16, 28:48, 33:40 and 47:50 when the ads start.

Many of his software choices are also listed on the site’s Free Software and Services page.


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