Jul 31

Uninstall programs

So you’ve tried out a program and don’t think much of it. Or it’s a program you just don’t use any more. You go to uninstall it, either with its own uninstaller or in Windows 7 via Windows orb, Control Panel, Programs and Features and neither option works. Either it has no uninstaller or it doesn’t appear under Uninstall or change a program. What next?

Well, it may possibly be a portable app that didn’t install in the first place, but just runs by clicking an exe file or a shortcut to it. It won’t show up in the list of programs so in this case, just delete the program and its folder. But what about installed programs not appearing in the list of programs? I’ve come across this problem recently with SUMo, a software updater. I found that SUMo didn’t correctly read the version of some of my installed programs. In addition, SUMO was not recommended on Windows Secrets recently. So I wanted it off my system rather than taking up unwanted disk space… but it wasn’t anywhere to be found in the list of installed programs.

What about using Revo Uninstaller I hear you suggest? Well, I have the free version already installed but still SUMo didn’t appear in their list of programs to uninstall. But wait, you actually weren’t too wide of the mark. After searching around online for a while, I came across a suggestion to use Hunter Mode in Revo Uninstaller. Aha! I’d seen Run Hunter Mode in the Revo program folder and ignored it because I didn’t know what it did! So I tried it and yes, it worked.

Using Revo’s Hunter Mode

First download and install the free version of Revo Uninstaller if it’s not already on your system.

Create a system restore point just in case the uninstall causes problems and you have to roll things back. I like to use Quick Restore Maker.

Open the program you want to uninstall, then in Windows 7 click the Windows orb, All Programs, scroll to the Revo Uninstaller folder, and click Run Hunter Mode. A blue crosshair display will appear toward the top right of the screen.

Revo Uninstaller1

Drag and drop the crosshairs over the window of the program you want to uninstall, then select Uninstall from the options menu that appears. You can now select an uninstall mode from Built-in through to Advanced depending on how thorough you want the uninstall to be.

Revo Uninstaller2

I chose ‘Safe’ and the program seemed to uninstall without creating any issues that required a system roll-back. A week on and everything is still fine.

So if you want to uninstall any applications that don’t appear on the list of installed program, Revo’s Hunter Mode seems to be able to uninstall them without any issues.


Jul 25

I’ve already blogged about scheduling daily backups of changed files to cloud storage. Well, that’s fine but what if you want the added security of encrypting the files before you upload them? Well I’ve found a couple of ways to add client-side encryption to the backup process, just in case you are uneasy about sending unencrypted files to the cloud. I read a post about Cloudfogger on the tech blog Instant Fundas. Cloudfogger adds a virtual X: drive to your PC where your changed/new documents are passed to first. Cloudfogger then encrypts the files using AES 256 bit encryption and sends them to your nominated drop folder on your PC. From there, the encrypted files are synced to your cloud storage. In my case, the CX Sync folder mentioned in my earlier post is my drop folder syncing to CX in the cloud, but you could just as easily use Dropbox or Microsoft SkyDrive as your drop folder.

So instead of backing up changed/new files to the CX-Sync folder as in the earlier post, you now backup to the virtual X: drive instead. Here’s an example batch file:

echo off

echo Encrypted daily files to CX

Robocopy “c:\Users\<user name>\Documents” X:\  /MAXAGE:1 /S

echo Backup complete
pause

The changed files are thus copied to the X: drive by this simple batch file, then encrypted and passed to your nominated drop folder:

Cloudfogger

The encrypted files in your drop folder are then synced to your cloud storage.

One drawback of this automatic approach is that everything is sent to the same drop folder and thus sent on to the same online storage provider. Suppose you wanted to send different encrypted files to different cloud storage providers? Well, you could use a second encryption app like SecretSync to pass other encrypted files to a second drop folder and then on to a different cloud storage provider. And you could set it all up as a second scheduled task, just as I’ve outlined in the earlier post.

So now all your daily data is secure in the cloud using a simple batch file and Cloudfogger together with a cloud storage provider like CX, Dropbox or Microsoft SkyDrive.


Jul 19

I’ve already blogged about backing up your WordPress database and files to your hard drive and external drive but how do you keep your backups up to date quickly?

Automatic Backup of Blog Database

The database contains your posts, comments, etc. The best way to keep this up to date is to use a plugin like WP-DB-Backup and automatically email database backups to yourself daily. You can then back this up to your external drive or to the cloud. An automatic backup is as quick as you can get and needs no planning so that’s that covered.

Backup Only WordPress Files that Have Changed or Been Added

So you’ve already backed up your wp-content folder, with your uploads, themes, plugins, etc to your hard drive. Fine, but then you add a post or two. What files do you need to back up to keep everything up to date? The problem I’ve found is that if you use an FTP client (I use CoffeeCup Free FTP) to copy your updated wp-content folder from your webhost to your hard drive, it may just copy everything again rather than sync only the changed or new files, and that takes time. I have almost 250 posts on this blog now and the wp-content folder has a total of almost 4000 files reaching over 200MB. That seems a pointless waste of precious bandwidth when just a few files are added with each new post. We only want to back up those new files.

Here’s the thing. When you add a new post and don’t change any settings in your theme and you don’t update any plugins, the only folder that’s changed is your uploads folder containing the images added for the new post, and of course the database. So after adding a new post and changing nothing else, really all you have to backup is the uploads (images) for the current month. For me, that’s at public_html/wp-content/uploads/current year/. So just fire up your FTP client and download the images for the current month to the appropriate folder on your hard drive and make sure those new files are also backed up to your external drive.

Free FTP

Of course, if you’ve updated your plugins, copy public_html/wp-content/plugins and if you updated your theme, download public_html/wp-content/themes/current theme. And that should save you some time and bandwidth.  Until I have to do a blog restore, I personally haven’t checked this. But when I asked what files have changed since the last post on the forum at WordPress.org, the reply I got was ‘the DB would have changed and any media files added should be backed up also’. No one else commented to contradict this, so I assume it’s correct. If you know differently, please let me know!


Jul 17

Trello1

I’ve never tried project management apps before. I thought they were really aimed at businesses with a number of employees and for tracking activities assigned to staff, but I read a post on project management tools on Mashable recently, watched the video on Trello, and thought, hang on, this might just work for me.

In my day job, I’m a freelance editor/proofreader, I don’t have any employees and I don’t collaborate with anyone, but I do usually have a number of projects (papers to be edited) for clients on the go at the same time, all at various stages – from initially sending out a quote for editing right through to finally sending them an email thanking them for payment of my invoice. I used to go to my to-do app Wunderlist to remind me which client was at each stage of the process, to send them a quote, edit their file, send out an invoice, etc, but having to delete and retype client names as they moved from task to task was a bit of a nuisance. Much better if you could drag the client name from task to task as each was completed.

So I tried Trello and wasn’t disappointed as it could do just what I wanted. After you register and open Trello, you’ll find it’s divided into Boards, Lists and Cards. Each screen is a Board (or Project) and you can create new Boards. Boards can be public or private – a private board called Editing was enough for me initially. On each Board, you have Lists and you can add as many Lists as you like across the Board. I found Lists to be oddly named. Perhaps Activity might be more appropriate. For me, these were the various stages of the Project. On each List, you can have a number of Cards, for me these were clients, but everyone will have different cards in their projects depending on their line of work, for example Cards could be company employees, to-do items, or anything you’d like to track in a project. I won’t go into setting up Boards, Lists and Cards – it’s really quite intuitive. Here’s a typical example loosely based on my project:

Trello2

You can show/hide Lists on the left side by clicking the grey Trello logo to the left of Example (shown in the above screenshot), then click Layout, then click Show/Hide List Guide to toggle between the two. The List Guide is a collection of your list titles that appears on the left side of the board when the total number of Lists is greater than the board size. It helps with navigation by visualizing all available Lists when some Lists on the board are hidden.

When you click on each Card, you can add comments, checklists, due dates, and other features, but these three are the most useful to me.

And that’s about it. Just drag your Cards from List to List across the board as each activity is completed. The beauty of Trello is it’s great for visualizing tasks – I have an instant graphic of what stage each of my clients is at, from quote to be sent out through to invoice paid.

Drawbacks? Well there are a couple of minor niggles. It would be nice to view Comments on a card by just mousing over the comment box rather than having to click the Card.  And you can delete Cards, or close Boards, but you can’t delete Lists as yet, just archive them. Hopefully List deletion will come in a later version. There’s a Trello app for iOS but not Android as yet although the Trello web app will work on Android.

So, whether you are a manager assigning projects to staff, a scientist with different experiments at various stages, a PC repair tech working on PCs and laptops for customers, or indeed anyone trying to manage a project with a number of activities at different stages, give Trello a try and see what you think.

Do you use a project management app? Which one? How do you use it? Drop us a comment below.


Jul 11
Dad, You’re Sending Me Spam!
icon1 techandlife | icon2 Security | icon4 July 11, 2012| icon31 Comment »

I got a phone call from my daughter a week ago and my heart sank as I realised one of my email accounts had been hacked sending out spam to the contacts in the address book there. Apparently, I had sent out spam from my Virgin email account to her and 11 others in the address book. Thankfully, I don’t use that email address very much which is why I only had 11 contacts there. It’s my own fault – I had chosen a poor password years ago – a dictionary word followed by a single digit number so it was apparently able to be hacked.

So I set about securing the account. Fortunately, the hacker hadn’t changed my password so I could still access my account settings. I guess they don’t change the password as this would automatically send an email to me telling me I’d successfully changed my password and the game would be up straight away. For them, it’s all about stealthily accessing the account and sending out spam to the contacts. Luckily, my daughter contacted me when she received it – none of the other contacts bothered. I guess they’re as fed up of spam as I am and just deleted it without a second thought.

So I changed the password to a much more secure one and also deleted all 11 contacts in the address book, just in case. So far so good, she hasn’t reported any spam since.

There’s an obvious lesson for us all here about passwords. I won’t bother repeating it. But if you do receive spam apparently from a friend, tell them politely so they can take steps to stop it. No one else may actually bother to tell them.

If you think your email account has been hacked, you could also check with several online services to see if your email address is in their database. Should I Change My Password and HackNotifier are two worth trying.


Jul 5

Over time, you can end up getting just too many annoying sales and telemarketing phone calls on your landline. I’ve blogged about dealing with unwanted telemarketing calls already, but sometimes there comes a time when you just can’t stop these nuisance calls to the point they are a distraction when they call and for minutes afterwards as you try to pick up your train of thought at work again.

Well last week, I finally bit the bullet and changed the landline number I’ve had for 21 years. I’m with BT in the UK so I called them up on a Thursday afternoon. They were very helpful and explained everything well. There was a charge of £24.99 to change the number which I felt was worth it. I also opted to go ex-directory to get rid of marketers and scammers who go through telephone directories.  The next morning I had an email from BT saying my new number was active.

Lessons learned

Application Form

Well in future, I’ll be very, very careful about handing out my landline number. Already, when I google my name (which is pretty unique), on the first couple of search pages, there are quite a few directory hits with my old phone number, so this number change should prevent anyone harvesting my correct details in future. When I’m filling out forms like the one shown above, I often come across boxes asking for my landline and mobile numbers. I think most of the time, we just blindly fill out the boxes without thinking too much about it. But remember, the data will most probably be entered into a database somewhere and that phone number may be used by that company for marketing calls, or worse still they may sell on your details and phone number to other marketers. When I come across these boxes in future, I’ll need to ask myself will they really need to contact me by phone? Do I really have to give this information? If they asterisk the box saying it’s compulsory to complete these details, and you just don’t think they’ll need to reach you by phone, just change your area code or phone number slightly. In my case, I can now fill these boxes with my old number!

So now I’ll have to phone around giving my friends and family my new number. I work from home, but email is the main form of communication for my business clients so there’s no problem there. Changing the number on a Friday gave me the weekend to call around. BT give me free calls in the evening and at weekend so that worked out well. I’ll deal with close friends and family immediately and then the remaining more distant friends will get the new number on their Christmas cards.

One piece of advice I would give if you want to change your landline number, if you can afford to wait a month or two, start by making a note of each person who calls you over that period, so you have a list of numbers to call when your phone number changes, then you aren’t left scratching your head trying to remember everyone. And if your landline provider is different from your ISP, don’t forget to phone your ISP and tell them about the number change as soon as possible after the change. If you don’t, you will lose your internet connection after a few days.

I’ve had my new number for a week now and silencing the marketers has proved really worthwhile.  Now I’m only getting calls from people I know, calls that I want.


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