Aug 27
Windows 7 pricing in Europe
icon1 techandlife | icon2 Software, windows | icon4 August 27, 2009| icon3No Comments »

windows 7 home premium

As some of you may be aware, Windows users in Europe have been offered a great deal to move up to the Windows 7 operating system. Since July, UK users have been able to pre-order the full version of Windows 7 for less than the cost of the upgrade version. According to a Guardian article back in June, typically, a Windows upgrade for Vista Home Premium would cost £79.99 and the full version would cost £169.99. Initially, the plan was to sell Windows 7 in Europe without the Internet Explorer browser, but according to the Windows Team Blog recently:

For customers who have already pre-ordered the full version of Windows 7 E in the EU – either as part of special pre-order offers or otherwise – they will receive full versions of Windows 7 that include Internet Explorer 8. These customers, and any other customer who pre-orders Windows 7 before upgrade versions are available on September 1, will still be able to get upgrade pricing for Windows 7 full versions.

I’ve just ordered Windows 7 Home Premium (full version) from Amazon in the UK for £64.98 (at current exchange rates – 27 August – that works out at 73.78 euro, USD105 or AUD126.63). I still run Windows XP so wouldn’t normally qualify for an upgrade price so I just couldn’t pass up that offer.

So if you pre-order before September 1, you will get upgrade pricing on the full Windows 7 version – well worth checking out, particularly if you are running XP, or an older Windows OS.

Now I have to look into a 1TB hard drive for my new OS!

Update: 4th September – Amazon UK are still pricing the full version of Windows 7 Home Premium at £64.98. I’ll try and update this with any price changes. I’m watching the page with Follow That Page.

Update: 2nd October – UK students with a valid university email address can get Windows 7 Home Premium for £30. Further details here.

Update: 21st October – Amazon UK are now pricing the full version of Windows 7 Home Premium at £114.98.


Aug 26
1st Anniversary of Tech and Life!
icon1 techandlife | icon2 Blogging | icon4 August 26, 2009| icon31 Comment »

Happy Together

Today marks the 1st anniversary of this blog. It’s been an interesting journey for me so far, and thanks to Woopra, the WordPress plugin for website analytics, I’m getting a good idea which posts are the most popular and what people want to read here. I’ve put up 62 posts so far, so that’s just over one post per week. Hopefully, I can improve on that in the next year but it isn’t easy to blog in your spare time and still allow plenty time for friends and family.

My most popular post so far has been Installing Easy Peasy Linux on my Acer Aspire One Netbook, followed by Some Linux Resources for Beginners. However, if you haven’t already seen them, I’ve done a couple of posts in my series on Useful Links which you may find interesting:

Useful links: A to Z of Search

Useful links: Free Wifi Hotspots

It’s really heartening to see the RSS subscription numbers steadily rising. I didn’t dream of having almost 450 subscribers at the end of year 1. Of course, I also really enjoy getting emails, comments and suggestions from readers. Please keep them coming either by using the Contact Me form or commenting on any blog post.

And I really hope you’ll stick with me through the second year. If you haven’t already subscribed to the RSS feed, please do. It really does give me great encouragement to know that people are following and supporting the blog. These are interesting times for me – Windows 7 on the horizon, exploring and using Linux, working with netbooks, blogging with WordPress, getting a new touch-screen mobile phone, and more – and that’s just a few topics I can see coming up. I hope you’ll enjoy the journey with Tech and Life through the coming year too.

Picture credit: *iFatma


Aug 22

ill communication 2

Image credit: spanaut

Every public place should have these… and one day, perhaps they will. Until then, we have to track them down. Problem is that there isn’t one go-to place on the web that shows all the free wi-fi hotspots. Perhaps just as well – it would be a huge site. So here’s a list of links to some sites I’ve found listing free wi-fi hotspots around the world. If paid hotspots are also included, I’ve noted that. I haven’t included many sites dealing with individual towns and cities for obvious reasons but you could try a Google search for “free-wifi” yourcityname

Global

Hotspot Locations (free and paid locations)

Free-Hotspot.com (shows sites which are on and off)

Free WiFi Guru (only certain cities in certain countries)

JiWire: Wi-Fi Finder (free and paid locations)

WorldWiFinder

TechNewsWorld: WiFi Hotspot Locator (free and paid locations; have to register first)

wifi.com

WaiFi

Wi-FiHotSpotList

TotalHotspots

Australia

Free WiFi Hotspots

Wi-Fi Free Spot: Australia

WiFi Hotspot List

Europe

Wi-Fi Free Spot: Europe

Free WiFi Please (some cities in Ireland)

Free WiFi in Europe

UK

myHotspots

Free Wifi in London

Hotspot Locations (free and paid locations)

USA

Open Wi-Fi Spots

hotspotr

Airports

Wi-Fi Free Spot: Airports

SmallBusiness.com: Free Wi-Fi Airports (mostly US airports)

Chains/companies

Wi-Fi Free Spot: Companies

Hotels

Wi-Fi Free Spot: Hotels

Free WiFi Hotels (only UK hotels)

Parks and campgrounds

Wi-Fi Free Spot: RV (North America only)

Download and connect

WeFi (downloads all the locations and connects automatically)

Oh, and if you have a Windows or Mac laptop, use the free Hotspot Shield for your security. If you know of any other great sites, let me know in the comments.

Additional reading:

4 Ways to Keep Your Public WiFi Sessions Secure

Things To Know When Using a WiFi Hotspot Or a Public PC

free-wifi-hotspot


Aug 19

filing cabinet

Image credit: Artivex

Frequently, we come across websites or webpages we want to return to or refer to in future. But how best to store these bookmarks or links for future reference? How will we find them again?

Well, we’ve probably all got our own ways of storing this info. I’ll quickly run through mine then point you towards another site which is currently conducting a survey on how we process online information.

I use Google Reader as my main source of information. I’m subscribed to over 200 blogs mostly covering tech and blogging.  I also check out any interesting links posted in Twitter by the people I follow. I star any posts in Reader that I may want to refer to again then tag them with, I hope, a memorable tag, e.g. wordpress-tips, wordpress-plugins, ubuntu-apps, ubuntu-tutorials. Notice, I generally tend to make two-word tag phrases by hyphenating tags. That way I can quickly browse through tag phrases and have more success retrieving information when viewing these categories than more general single word tags like ‘wordpress’ and ‘ubuntu’. I also tend to assign these same tag phrases in Delicious. Yes, the belt-and-braces approach, but my feeling is that I would rather some bookmarking duplication than find that one bookmarking site has disappeared or started charging for access and I lose all my data. Some webpages I definitely want to ensure I keep long term, and so as to avoid any possibility that the website or webpage may disappear for whatever reason, I save these pages to Evernote. Finally, I try to tweet the best 5 to 10 weblinks I’ve found each day. I can make an archive of all my tweets using the methods suggested in a recent post at ReadWriteWeb.

So that’s just one way to do it. Have a look at the survey over at ProductiveWise for lots of other techniques and add your method to the comments there.


Aug 18
Some Linux resources for beginners
icon1 techandlife | icon2 Linux | icon4 August 18, 2009| icon3No Comments »

I’ve already done a post on Ubuntu and Linux blogs for beginners so I thought I’d round up some great resources for those starting out with Linux. I’ll do a follow-up post on Ubuntu Resources for Beginners a little later. I haven’t included many blogs here where posts are put up regularly, only if they’ve mentioned a good resource in a blog post. Mostly these are just Linux reference/resource sites with tutorials, guides, howtos, forums, etc.

General Linux resources

Maximum PC: The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Linux

Linux frequently asked questions for newbies

Get to know Linux: Terminology

Linux Migration Guide: Finding Linux Equivalents to Your Favorite Windows Programs

Best resources for Linux

Best Web Resources for Linux

Helpful Linux URLs

Linnewbies

Layman Linux

NewLinuxUser

Linux Home Networking

17 Essential Linux Resources That You Shouldn’t Miss

10 of the Best Online Resources for Linux Beginners

tuXfiles – the Linux newbie help files, tutorials and tips

Tuxfreaks: Tips for Linux Beginners (1st part in an ongoing series)

Linux for Beginners

Linux User Groups

Top 10 Linux Support Questions & Answers

Hardware for Linux: look up and report hardware compatibility and incompatibility with Linux distros

How to be Your Own Linux Tech Support

Linux cheat sheets

All the best Linux cheat sheets

10 Essential UNIX/Linux Command Cheat Sheets

Linux-Unix Cheat Sheets –  The Ultimate Collection

Linux command line

I know, this is a post for beginners so why’s he mentioning the command line? Don’t be afraid of the command line. You can get a lot of useful things done there quite quickly once you get the hang of it.

Linux command line directory

Introduction to Linux Commands

LinuxConfig

20 Useful Linux Commands

The 10 most useful Linux commands

Common Linux Commands

Highly Useful Linux Commands and Configurations

FLOSS Manuals

Linux ebooks

A Newbie’s Getting Started Guide to Linux

Top Nine Free Linux EBooks for Newbie

10 Free Linux Ebooks for Beginners

5 Excellent Downloadable eBooks to Teach Yourself Linux

The Linux Cookbook

Introduction to Linux – A Hands On Guide

Linux Forums

LinuxQuestions.org

Linux Forums

Linux Home Networking

Linux howtos and tutorials

The Ultimate Linux Newbie Guide

HowtoForge

5 Best Places to Learn Linux – Linux Tutorial Sites

5 Great Linux Tutorials

Linux Knowledge Base and Tutorial

Linux for Beginners Free Online Guides and Tutorials

ReallyLinux

Linux software

Softpedia

SourceForge

LinuxSoftware.org

Reference Guide to Finding, Installing and Running Linux Applications

Linux podcasts

Unfortunately, there isn’t much choice for beginners and intermediate users. Many Linux podcasts are quite geeky and just not aimed at beginners. These are probably the best around at the moment

Going Linux

Linux User Podcast

Linux magazines

LINUX Format This is the best I’ve seen for anyone just starting out with Linux through to more advanced users.

Twitter

Twitter accounts about Linux and free software

I’m sure I’ve missed many important Linux sites here. Just drop a comment below with any you’ve come across and I’ll add them.


Aug 14

skype

I posted recently on trying the Google Chrome browser after Google Reader and Google Mail suddenly slowed to a crawl in Firefox. It turned out that the latest Skype extension for Firefox was causing the problem. I had upgraded Skype to version 4.1.0.141 and elected to install the Skype extension for Firefox during the Skype upgrade. Others have also reported this problem recently.

So if you’re experiencing problems with Firefox suddenly being a lot slower than usual, particularly when viewing Google Reader, Google Mail and Facebook and you’ve recently upgraded Skype and installed the Skype extension for Firefox, uninstall it and things should improve. Doubtless Skype will fix this buggy extension in a later release. Thanks to Scotian who posted in the comments of the Chrome post and resolved this problem.


Aug 12

chrome

In a recent post on tech tips, I listed Firefox as my current browser of choice. I have also been using Google Chrome for the last 6 months or so and am pretty impressed with it. I do find Firefox slow to load and I find that recent Firefox updates still haven’t resolved the RAM issues. On the other hand, Chrome loads quickly and is pretty responsive.

For the last few days, I’ve been finding Google Reader and Google Mail really slow in Firefox, probably as a result of some disk maintenance I did over the weekend. Probably my fault and I should be able to track the problem with time. However, I’ve found that both Google Reader and Google Mail are still really responsive in Chrome – perhaps not surprisingly – they’re all from the same stable so should work well together. So that got me thinking. I wondered just what else I needed Chrome to be able to do so it might be a real alternative to Firefox. Well, really important to me is a Delicious plug-in like Delicious Bookmarks in Firefox so I can bookmark webpages straight to Delicious from Chrome. I also need LastPass integration with Chrome so I can quickly recall passwords and login to websites. I really like LastPass for password management and have blogged about this before.

Well it turns out that although Chrome doesn’t have plug-ins for these features yet, it does have bookmarklets which give the Delicious and LastPass integration I need. I found these two websites which show how to get the functionality I need in Chrome:

How to make a Delicious ‘Plug-in’ for Chrome

Use LastPass in Chrome

Using Chrome, I’ve also solved another problem that I had had with Google Reader that I had assumed was a fault within Reader but turned out to be due to Firefox. I have over 2000 tags and folders in Google Reader. In Firefox, when I went into Settings in Reader and selected Folders and Tags and scrolled down to the end, the listing ended around the ubuntu tag, i.e. way short of the actual end of the list of tags and folders. However, doing the same thing with Chrome as the browser, my complete list of tags and folders was displayed allowing housekeeping like deleting tags, etc right to the end of the complete list which I couldn’t do in Firefox.

How have you got Chrome up to speed? Drop a comment below.

Edit (13 August 2009): Thanks to Scotian whose comment below solved the slow Firefox problem.  It turns out that the latest Skype extension update for Firefox  slows down Google Reader and Google Mail to a crawl. Just uninstalled the extension and everything is fine again in Firefox.


Aug 10
Upbringing and beliefs
icon1 techandlife | icon2 Life | icon4 August 10, 2009| icon3No Comments »

New baby

Image credit: Gimli_36

Back to a ‘Life’ post and the first on religion and religious beliefs. If you don’t fancy it, try clicking some of the links to other posts on the right but this is more about how our upbringing influences our beliefs so it may interest you.

If we were fully conscious of our surroundings when we entered this world from the womb, we would have observed that many things which will go with us through life were already in place – no matter where we live.  Our parents, sex, nationality and race were all fixed at this point, and we didn’t choose them. Our parents will go on to teach us what they think is right, their attitudes and traditions, and of course, their religious views, if any. If they hold religious views, in most cases they will be obligated by their religion to pass on those views and teachings to us.

The point I would like to make in this post is that we owe so much of our attitudes and views to our upbringing, to the country in which we live and were brought up and to the traditions of that country, our community or region. From an early age, our parents and also later our schooling and church may teach us religious beliefs. We will take these beliefs on board with very little questioning, at least until we are older and can make decisions for ourselves. Even then, fear of going against our parents and community may prevent any consideration of abandoning our religion, or of adopting alternative beliefs.

Very few of us actually set out to chose a religion – why would we? The religion we have been taught by our parents, our church and our society seems right and natural to us. If we haven’t had a religious upbringing, then that seems right. Why change? So we may believe our religion is the ‘right’ religion and that all followers of other religions have somehow ‘gone astray’. We can become polarized against others because they have a different religion.

Having grown up in northern Scotland in the 1960s and 1970s, the choice was to be brought up as a Christian … or to have no real religious beliefs. Most people in my region of Scotland were of the Protestant denomination with some Roman Catholics. My parents were both Protestant so that’s how I was brought up.

Granted there are many who are converted to another religion but I believe on a global scale, they’re pretty much in the minority. Globally, most children and many young adults take on the religious beliefs of their parents, if they have any religious views. My point here is that there was absolutely no chance I would be brought up as a Muslim, Hindu, Jew, etc. because of my parents’ beliefs and the country, community or region where I was brought up. I’m sure the same is true for you if you think about it.

So why is it that many of us look upon our religion as the ‘correct’ one and all others somehow ‘wrong’ or misguided when we haven’t even looked into the merits and demerits of each in an unbiased fashion? If truth be told, it’s only the ‘correct’ religion because it’s the religion of our parents and our region, that’s all. I’m quite sure if I had been born to Jewish parents in New York, I would quite happily be Jewish, if born to Muslim parents in Tehran I would be Muslim and if born to Hindu parents in Mumbai I would be Hindu.

It’s a very simple and logical argument, but, in terms of which religion is correct, one I find very hard to argue against.

The next part is slightly harder. Most religions advocate spreading the Word – certainly Christianity does. Many wars have been fought in the name of religion. For centuries, Christian missionaries have gone around the world ‘spreading the Word’. Christians obviously believe this is the right thing to do. Why? Well because they’ve been brought up in the Christian faith and it seems right to them to spread the ‘correct’ religion. But as I’ve argued above, if they’d been brought up under different circumstances, they might firmly believe that another religion is ‘correct’ and they would have happily been spreading that Word. So what does it all mean? I don’t know, but if by some quirk of chance, I’ve landed with the ‘correct’ faith, and I am in the right boat so to speak, what about all the others around the world who have again by chance been dealt the card of the ‘wrong’ faith and will never question it. I do find that very hard to accept.

The bottom line of course is that we should all be tolerant of the beliefs and religious views of others. After all, most of us haven’t actually thought about and chosen our religion.

What do you think? Drop a comment below.


Aug 8

Gears2

I’ve already blogged about setting up my Linux powered netbook to work offline on holiday using Google Gears (or Gears as it’s now called) and HTTrack (website copier). HTTrack worked well but Gears appeared a little buggy and lacked fine tuning of features.

A couple of things that annoyed me with Gears were:

1. Items I’d already read in online mode in Google Reader were marked as unread in offline mode using Gears.

2. I generally read my feeds in list view in Reader. This lets me skim through the post titles and decide which are worth reading. I therefore end up with many unread items at the end of a session. That’s fine in online mode – just click the button Mark all as read in Reader. But this button doesn’t work in offline mode in Gears. So next time you get a chance to sync the feeds online, you end up with your (so-called) unread posts from the old session plus your new posts to go through. This isn’t satisfactory as you’ve already decided the old unread posts aren’t worth looking at.

I did find a workaround for this though. First of all, in Settings In Google Reader, under the Preferences tab, make sure that the box against In expanded view, mark items as read when you scroll past them is checked. Then, if you work in list view in Reader, once you’ve completed your session in Gears offline, change to expanded view and scroll down through all the items until all are marked as read. Not great if you have a lot of unread items, but at least when you sync up again online, all the old items should be marked as read, although I understand from this post that even this doesn’t work satisfactorily at the moment.

I’ll update this post when Google updates Gears to iron out these problems using Google Reader in offline mode.


Aug 6

Idea

Image credit: brunkfordbraun

I’ve been following the tech scene for about 2 years now since I discovered tech podcasts. Although I had reasonable tech knowledge before this, mostly from browsing tech forums, I found that listening to tech podcasts and subscribing to tech blogs in Google Reader uncovered many tech tips and great advice, and some of the best tips keep coming up again and again. I’ve tried to gather together some of the best that I can remember. If you’re a geek you’ll have heard most before, but for the tech beginner, hopefully there’s some useful advice here. I’ve tried to keep each tip as short and concise as possible. Just use Google to get lots of additional info.

Essentials

1. First and foremost, back up your data regularly. This can’t be stressed enough. Sooner or later, your hard drive will die and you don’t want all your photos, etc to die with it. Back all your data up to an external drive, or to one of a host of free online services like DropBox. If you’ve a lot of data, have a look at Carbonite, a paid service. Better still, image or clone your hard drive regularly onto an external drive using a product like Acronis True Image so you can quickly get back up and running after a disk disaster. I’ve written a how-to on avoiding a disk disaster.

2. Second and also really important, always use secure passwords online: long and with a combination of numbers, letters and symbols, never dictionary words. Don’t use the same password on multiple sites. Use a program like LastPass to manage your passwords. It’s free and will also help with filling out online forms.

3. Have a rescue CD to hand so that if you are caught with a non-booting drive, you can at least try to get your data off. A Knoppix CD or the Ultimate Boot CD may do the trick. And before disaster strikes, make sure your PC will boot off the CD drive when a CD is inserted at boot-up. You may have to change the boot order in the BIOS so that the PC boots off the CD first.

4. Make sure you always have a firewall enabled on your PC.

Hardware

1. If you’re using the default router username and password, change them immediately. The default settings are all commonly known and listed here or here. So anyone with this knowledge can effectively hack into your PC if you have a wireless router and they are in range.

2. Uncheck all unnecessary programs launching at startup. To do this in Windows XP, click on Start, Run and enter msconfig in the box. Then click the Startup tab and uncheck any programs you don’t need at startup. Google any you are not sure of. Or use the excellent free utility CCleaner to disable startup programs. Click the Tools tab on the left then the Startup button. Revo Uninstaller can also disable startup programs through its Autorun Manager.

3. Get as much RAM as you can into your PC, 2GB or more if possible. Use the Crucial System Scanner to check what type of memory you need and how much you can fit.

4. Disable the annoying Caps Lock key. Here’s a short how-to.

5. By all accounts, many PC users, particularly in the US, seem to suffer from dust and dirt clogging up the fans, etc. and causing overheating problems which can damage your PC. It’s well worthwhile unplugging your PC, removing the side panel, taking it outside and carefully blowing out all the dust and dirt before you do permanent damage to your system. If you found a lot of dust, clean it regularly.

6. When using you laptop with the mains cable plugged in, take great care not to strain or loosen the power jack by for example by tugging or tripping over the mains cable. Treat that connection with great care. Once the connection shears from the motherboard you’ll only have hours of battery life left before a trip to your local computer repair shop is needed – and they mightn’t be keen on doing this type of repair.

Software

1. Firefox is a great multi-platform browser, particularly because of the vast amount of extensions which improve the user experience. Don’t load up too many plugins though or you’ll slow it down.

2. Don’t use the bulky Adobe Reader to open pdfs. Lightweight, free Foxit Reader is fine.

3. Thunderbird is a great multi-platform email client.

4. If you haven’t tried Skype, sign up for it. You can make free calls from PC to PC with this. If you both have webcams you can make free video calls – excellent for keeping in touch with friends and family abroad. Our daughter is away at college now and Skype is invaluable for keeping in touch.

5. VLC is a great multi-platform media player. It’ll play virtually anything you throw at it.

6. You don’t have to spend money on commercial software. Products like OpenOffice are really excellent, multi-platform free solutions and suitable for most things you might want to do. You can even open and edit pdfs in OpenOffice Writer.

7. There are many free utilities to convert Word documents to pdfs. I use doPDF which effectively prints your doc to a pdf file.

8. CCleaner is an essential free utility for a Windows PC for deleting temporary files, history, cookies, etc. Use BleachBit on a Linux machine.

9. Use the free utility Recuva to recover deleted files.

10. Revo Uninstaller is a great free utility that does a thorough job of getting rid of installed applications and the junk that they can sometimes leave behind.

11. Two great Windows anti-spyware programs are SUPERAntiSpyware and Malwarebytes. Free AVG is a good antivirus program, but if you’re careful where you go on the net, you may not need any of them – particularly if you’re using a Linux distribution as your OS.

12. Evernote is great for collecting web clippings, etc. Give it a try. Doesn’t support Linux yet though.

Online services

1. GMail is a great spam filter. Route all your email account inboxes through GMail. I’ve been doing this for over a year now and I find it almost never puts genuine mail in the spam folder and is brilliant at filtering out any imported spam emails. In addition, it won’t import any email when it identifies a virus in an attachment. Excellent.

2. If you’re search on Google isn’t getting the results you wanted, try searching for exact keyword phrases by putting your keyword phrase in inverted commas – or use the exact phrase box in Google Advanced Search. I use this a lot so I always have Google Advanced Search loading up in one tab when I launch Firefox.

3. XMarks is great for syncing your browser bookmarks between all your PCs.

Operating systems

1. By all accounts, Windows 7 is going to be a great OS. Upgrade to it when you can.

2. Don’t be afraid to try Linux, particularly Ubuntu if you’re a beginner. Although things are done slightly differently from Windows, it really is well worth trying out and it isn’t hard to use. You may well decide to switch from Windows afterwards. You may be able to use Wine to get some of your favourite Windows programs running on Linux.

General

1. If you have to put your email address on your website, make sure to cloak it so it’s not picked up by spammers. Use a service like HideText to do this. Better still, use a contact form on your webpage.

2. Subscribe to @makeuseof in Twitter for lots of useful info on web applications and services.

3. Subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog!

That’s all I can think of for the moment – I’ll come back and add additional tips when I think of them. Drop a comment if you have a great tech tip to share.

Oh and by the way, if this article has whetted your appetite for tech tips, have a look at David Pogue’s great article (and the comments) for even more useful tips.


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