Saturday, December 31, 2011

Another Reason to Buy Computer Stuff From Costco

If you buy computer stuff from Costco, you often will get an extended warranty for no additional charge and a 90-day right of return with no questions asked and no re-stocking fee. But wait, there's more. There's Costco Concierge Service at least with certain products. Then, if you have a problem with the manufacturer, and the manufacturer's customer support cannot help you, and they are so stupid that they cannot even understand the issue much less solve it, and they are driving you over the edge, call the Concierge Service and they will get the manufacturer's attention with someone knowledgeable immediately. It's like a miracle.

Happy new year to all ...

Smart Phone Signatures

By default, a smart phone will add a signature tag line saying your message was sent from your brand/model of phone. If you would prefer not to let the manufacturer have such free advertising, you will find "Signature" in your settings and you can delete that tag line. Alternatively, you can delete that tag line and add anything you want in its place.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

What To Do With Gift Cards: How to Buy and Sell Them

1. Go to Cardpool at  http://www.cardpool.com/




Cardpool allows you to buy, sell or trade gift cards with fellow Cardpool members. You're able to sell a gift card for a little less than the overall value of the card. If you opt to send the cards' info in electronically, you are going to get a little bit less for the card than if you choose to physically send the card in.
The actual percentage Cardpool takes per card varies based on the demand for the gift card, and not a flat fee across the board. You're given the option to get an Amazon gift card instead of a check for the value of the card(s) for payment methods. 
If you're looking to buy a card, you will be able to buy cards at a lower amount than what the card is worth, allowing you to save some money. (Which is also a great way to buy the gift cards you plan to give.)

2. Go to Plastic Jungle at   https://www.plasticjungle.com/main
Plastic Jungle allows you to buy or sell unwanted gift cards. You can expect to receive up to 92 percent of the value of the card you're looking to get rid of. 
Once you sell a card to Plastic Jungle, you can receive your payment as a cashier's check, PayPal deposit, or Amazon gift card. You will have to physically send the card(s) in to Plastic Jungle, unless the business for the card you are selling is from the short list of vendors that can be sent in electronically. You will be notified during the checkout process if your card qualifies for electronic submittal.
If you are looking to buy a gift card, you will be able to buy it at a discounted value, which varies based on the card.


Recovering and Transferring iPod/iPhone Contents to iTunes

If you are having trouble recovering and transferring songs and videos and related stuff from your iPod/iPhone, CopyTrans (formerly CopyPod) is the ultimate backup and recovery/retrieval tool. You can rebuild your library from your iPod/iTouch/iPad/iPhone that you thought was irretrievable. While it is NOT free (it cost $20), you get 100 free songs with it.

http://www.copytrans.net/

Increasing a Smart Phone's Battery Life

If you are annoyed by the seemingly short battery life of your smart phone, there are some easy things to do to help. In your phone's settings there will be a battery usage screen where you can see what is draining the battery. Likely, you will see that 50% of the battery usage is from the display. Changing the display setting to the lowest brightness will help the battery life and the display probably will look just fine to you, as will reducing the timeout time or manually turning off the screen when not using the phone. Also, it will help to have wi-fi and bluetooth turned off except when you need them, as well as limiting constant syncing or even better manually syncing instead. Disabling GPS location features and using wireless networks instead will help. Consider disabling or removing unused apps and widgets and any live wallpaper, and us your task manager or a task manager app to see what it running that might not need to be. Finally, activate the power save mode in your settings.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Jigsaw Puzzles From Your Own Photos

Jigsawlite is a free, simple jigsaw-puzzle-maker application that runs on your desktop and enables you to take your own digital photos make them into your original jigsaw puzzle games.


http://puzzle.watype.net/

Monday, December 26, 2011

Toy Box for Your Desktop

Your kids may have a real toy box filled with balls and such, but they probably like playing on your computer. What if you had a digital toy box for them, and you? Souptoys is just the thing. You'll find things like baseballs, basketball hoops, cars, magnets and ramps. Each object behaves realistically. Balls bounce. Magnets pull on metal objects. It's a blast for the kids and you. You can arrange objects into elaborate Rube Goldberg machines. Or just throw together a fun toy. And SoupToys is free.

http://www.souptoys.com/

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ultimate Guide to Tablets

If you are thinking of getting a tablet, you might want to look at this article which gives an excellent overview of the various tablets and will guide you to the tablet that makes most sense for you.

http://savedelete.com/ultimate-guide-to-tablets.html

Friday, December 23, 2011

Free Online Chart, Diagram and More Maker

Cacoo lets you create online charts, plans, diagrams and so on.  The basic features are free to use, and you can also collaborate online with other users.  It's a great way to draw anything from a table plan to a new web page design.


https://cacoo.com/



Speak-A-Message

With Speak-A-Message, which is free, you can record a voice mail and transcribe it automatically to text. The recipient can listen to your voice or read the transcript - even without installing Speak-A-Message.


http://www.speak-a-message.com/en/download.html

Thursday, December 22, 2011

How to Back Up Windows 7 and Other OS Drivers


Drivers are essential software for the functioning of a computer and it is a good idea to back them up to some external source. It can be a real pain to try to reinstall or repair Windows, only to find that some proprietary driver is missing or corrupt. Many PC manufacturers have their own drivers for crucial hardware and Windows generic drivers won’t work.
One approach is to download and use one of the driver backup programs discussed at Best Free Windows Driver Backup and Restore. Alternatively, in Windows 7 all the drivers are in a few subfolders located in the system folder %SystemRoot%\System32\. Two standard  protected subfolders  are called “DriverStore” and “drivers”.  Often there is also a third subfolder  “DrvStore”. These folders can be copied to some external media for safekeeping. In addition, you should back up the folder %systemroot%\inf\. This folder contains the driver setup information files. This folder is sometimes overlooked but drivers cannot be installed without the information it contains.
More discussion, including ways to reinstail drivers can be found at this link.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cell Phone Shopping

There are many alternatives to cellphone plans and phones and ways to go about finding the best for you, such as http://www.lowermybills.com/. But once you've decided on a carrier and a phone or that you want to upgrade to a new phone with your existing carrier, you might save a substantial amount just by seeing if stores (such as Costco, BestBuy, Walmart) might have the very phone you are looking for at a lower price. By way of example, if you wanted a Samsung Galaxy S II with a 2Y new plan or an upgrade through AT&T, it would cost you $199 to get the phone from AT&T but $99 to get it from Costco. And everything else re your plan with AT&T remains identical (i.e., your AT&T contract and all its terms remains the same). And you can do all the comparison and buying right from your computer.

How to Deal With a Pool Leak

If you suspect you have a pool leak, when you call a pool leak service, do NOT ask what the charge is to find the leak. Asking what the charge to find the leak is will get you the price for pressure testing the pool, which will be $300 and up. Instead, what you should say is that you suspect you have a leak, but you want someone to come out and look at the pool to discuss options with you.  Asking someone to come out should cost nothing (except the cost of the site visit should you proceed with that company) and could result in locating the leak visually without the need for any pressure test.

Making Art Fun for Kids

Thanks to a variety of interactive art applications and fun art games on the web, you can reboot a child's appreciation of art. As any good docent will tell you, fun art games are a cool way of not only releasing our creative instincts, but they are educational too. Here are ten interactive art websites for some art games and interactive fun.

http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/top-10-websites-fun-art-games/

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Improving Your Web Searches

Smart Suggestor is a free browser widget designed to speed up and improve your searching, sharing, and shopping activities. It can suggest similar sites to the one you're visiting, translate pages quickly, share sites via popular social media such as Facebook and Twitter, access Google Maps and similar features, and alert you to price changes when you're shopping. It works on IE, FF, and Chrome.

http://tinyurl.com/73ugh6p

[PS: Speaking of Internet Explorer, this January, the Automatic Update feature, which you should have turned on in IE, is going to upgrade your IE to V8 for XP users and V9 for Vista users]

Do Not Believe "Toner Low" Message

Your printer may display a "Toner Low" message even though the toner level is not low or even if you put in a new toner cartridge. Rather than believe any such message, you are better off to believe your eyes as to the quality of the print. As long as it looks good, stay with the toner cartridge. Getting the printer to stop displaying that message can be tricky, and it depends on the printer. Sometimes you can trick it by putting black tape over the sensors (so they see black and think it's toner) or in other ways. Put your machine name and model in the Google or the Bing and the phrase "reset toner low message," and that might give you the solution. If not, phone or email your printer manufacturer. One other tip, as the toner does start to go low and your print quality decreases, take out the toner drum and shake it back and forth a few times. [Note: If you are using a knock-off toner cartridge made by someone other than the printer manufacturer, do not both contacting the printer manufacturer because it will not help you if you have a knock-off toner cartridge]

Free eBooks for Children and Everyone Else

Here's a list of 124 sites offering free, 100% legal children's eBooks with many titles available in several different formats. The range of books covers all age ranges. And let's not leave the adults out of this. The same article has links to tens of thousands of adult eBooks across many different genres.

http://www.techsupportalert.com/free-books-children?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+gizmosbest+%28Gizmo%27s+Best-ever+Freeware%29

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fixing Things

The was an ice-maker that wouldn't stop making ice, threatening to fill the freezer with ice cubes. Before calling a service person, the owner went to the Google and put in "ice maker won't stop making ice cubes." That led the owner to some very easy steps that could solve the problem and that he could do himself (as well as to steps that would require a trained technician). It turned out one of the easy steps worked, and at least $100 was saved (or more if the technician took more than an hour to figure out the right step). At the other extreme, this same person  could not get a Windows 7 computer to run his multi-function print/scanner through his networked print server. Before calling a tech, he went to the Google and put in "print server Windows 7 problems." That led him to see how it easy it was to fix the problem to allow printing through the print server, but that scanning could not be done through the print server. The bottom-line is this: While the Google has many ways to do sophisticated searches, when anything goes wrong in your house either in the low-tech side or the high-tech side, before calling for paid help, take a few minutes to see what the Google will tell you in response to putting in the simplest search words.

PS: In the interest of accuracy, this person prefers the Bing to the Google, so the above searches actually were done on the Bing.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Top Free Rootkiller

TDSSKiller is a utility that was created in order to provide you with a simple means of disinfecting any system that suffers from an infection from the malware family Rootkit.Win32.TDSS. A rootkit is a program or a set of programs designed to obscure the fact that a system has been compromised.


http://www.softpedia.com/progDownload/TDSSKiller-Download-165428.html

Excellent Free Photo Editor

You can do amazing things with a good image editor. Take any photo you've shot. Make subtle changes to remove blemishes and improve the lighting. Or add impossible effects that are just plain cool. Almost anything is possible with the right tool. Photoshop is the best- known image editor. It has loads of features. And it can work wonders. But it will also dent your wallet. Try GIMP. It's a free image-editing program. And it has an impressive set of tools. It can handle nearly any editing task.
Like Photoshop, GIMP is complex. It has a steep learning curve. In fact, it may be too much for a beginner. But if you've found other programs lacking, this is what you want.


Link: www.gimp.org

Internet Explorer 9

I haven't been a fan of Internet Explorer for a long time. There were much better, and safer, browsers around. With IE9, however, Microsoft created a fast, secure browser that rivals its competitors. If you are still running IE8 on Vista or 7, you really should update now if not for the enhanced speed and features, at least for the much enhanced security.

Linkwindows.microsoft.com

Watch TV From Around the World

Livestation lets you stream live TV for free from around the world and alot more. The service has a partnership with several high profile stations. These include the BBC, Aljazeera English and France 24. Many channels on Livestation are news outlets. It's interesting to see current events from a different point of view. There are also user-created streams. These are real channels from a number of countries. These channels cover everything from music to nature. You can even stream radio broadcasts from other countries.


http://www.livestation.com/downloads

Friday, December 16, 2011

Chrome Overtakes Internet Explorer

Google's Chrome 15 has jumped into the number one spot, replacing Microsoft's IE8 (Internet Explorer 8) as the world's most popular browser edition. And there's a good reason: Chrome is faster and easier and has way better add-ons. Also, with Chrome, you in effect can bring up your browser (with your bookmarks etc.) from any computer in the world. You also can print any document on your home/office printer from any computer in the world. Also, the transition to Chrome is very easy (and you don't lose anything by trying ... you can always go back to IE or Firefox or whatever dark place you came from).


http://www.infoworld.com/d/applications/google-chrome-15-takes-the-top-spot-ie8-in-global-browser-market-share-181889

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How to Fix a Computer That Won't Start


A computer that won't start is frustrating, but the problem is often easy to fix. The steps you take to troubleshoot the problem depend on your symptoms. This page identifies the most typical reasons a computer won't start and sets out the steps to take to fix it. You might want to print this out for ready reference should your computer not boot.

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-GB/windows-xp/help/setup/how-to-fix-computer-that-will-not-start

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Free PDF Reader: Let's You Turn Pages Like a Book


Read PDF documents like a book using a patent pending 3D technology! Soda 3D PDF Reader™ is 100% compatible with all PDF files and its powerful tools make it easy to: open, view and print any PDF file; browse catalogues, books and magazines, zoom in and out easily while in 3D view, and use customizable viewing options, including full screen. It's way cool! 
http://sodapdf.com/products.aspx


Options When Closing the Lid on a Laptop and Related Power Management Options

Besides setting your screen saver, the Screen Saver Tab of the Display Properties dialog box of your laptop provides several useful options for your laptop. To get there, right-click on your screen, click on Properties and click on Screen Saver.  Then click on Power, and you will see the various power schemes and other settings you can change, including alarms for when the battery starts to run low. Under Advanced, you will have the option of what the laptop does when you close the lid (shut-down, hibernate, stand-by, or nothing) or when you push the power button (shut down, ask me what to do, stand-by, hibernate, or do nothing).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

When Desktop Icons Won't Stay Put

Sometimes, no matter what, your desktop icons do not return to where you left them on your desktop. One of the more instances is where they will spontaneously migrate to the upper-left corner of the screen. There might be registry or other fixes you can try, and if you put "icons keep moving after reboot" in Bing or Google you will find several free programs that say they will save/restore your desktop layout. I caution against the registry or other fixes, and have not found a free program that works satisfactorily. But there is one that you can evaluate for free for 30 days and then, if you choose, license it for $5, and it works great. It is the only one you can set to turn on at start-up, restore the desktop, and then quit after restore.

http://www.iconsaver.com/index.html

Great Website for Small Electronic Stuff and Stocking Stuffers

If you like fresh garlic, you need a garlic peeler, and there's one available at a fabulous website for $1.39. It is amazingly easy and actually fun to use (although it is green and not translucent blue as pictured), and makes for a great present and stocking stuffer. The website in question, Meritline, looks to be the best for small electronic and electronic-related and computer-related stuff, and many other things. For example, HDMI cables that will cost you $30-$80 at BestBuy cost $5 or less. Laptop and tablet sleeves and covers that cost $30-$50 at Amazon cost half that price or less. Most items ship free, even some items that cost under $1 (although unfortunately the garlic peeler does not ship free).

http://www.meritline.com/

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Ultrabooks and Desktops

If you are thinking about a new Windows computer, you might give serious consideration to what are called "ultrabooks." While they are a bit more expensive than laptops with similar functionality, and do not have DVD drives (an external plugin one runs about $50), they are extremely thin and much, much lighter. Typically, they have a 13.3" screen which makes them bigger than a netbook but smaller than a laptop. The coolest thing of all about them (or at least most of them) is that you push the power button and they boot-up instantaneously.  The following companies and likely others make ultrabooks: Acer, Asus, Dell, H-P, Samsung, and Sony.

Relatedly, given the power of laptops, even netbooks, and their cost, there is no reason to buy a desktop computer. You can set up your laptop to do everything a desktop can do (including, run two or more monitors, a multi-function printer/scanner/fax, an external hard-drive or network storage device, and speaker system, and more), and then take it with you whenever you want. You can do an add-on 10-USB port hub for under $20 or a full-functioning media port replicator for about $80 (which will give you 4 USB ports, an HDMI port, a VGA port, and more).

Friday, December 9, 2011

Less Expensive and Better Way to Do Microwave Popcorn

If your popcorn choice is packaged microwave popcorn, you're wasting your money and depriving yourself of better tasting popcorn. Here's what to do instead: Buy popcorn kernels either at your market or online (Wabash Valley Farms Amish Country Tender & White is delicious) and brown sandwich bags, and then microwave the kernels in the brown sandwich bag (closing the top of the bag with a plastic clip), and salt and butter to taste. For the cost of one 3-pack of microwavable popcorn, you will get 50-100 bowls of better tasting popcorn. Also, you can re-use the brown sandwich bag and the plastic clip many times saving even more money. Finally, while you can eat the popcorn right out of the sandwich bag, and carry the bag around, please do not sneak your homemade popcorn bags into movie theaters.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Texting From Your Computer for Android Phone Users


BrowserTexting lets you sync your Android phone with your browser, so you can send and receive text messages from the comfort of your computer. It's perfect for when you're at work, or at home, or when you just don't feel like tapping away at your Android device's touch screen. 
The beauty of BrowserTexting is its simplicity and it's free. Once you download and install the app on your Android phone, you pretty much never have to fiddle with it again. Your browser window will immediately pull up your phone's contact list, and you can start sending and receiving texts right away. Your browser should be synced with your phone every time you fire it up. You can send up to 50 texts from your browser and send group texts to up to five recipients. There's no limit on incoming messages. 


See https://market.android.com/details?id=com.browsertexting.android

Excellent Free Backup Manager

Yadis is a free backup manager. It lets you easily designate any file or folder as a source to be backed up and any file or folder on your computer, on a thumb-drive, on an external disk, or on another computer on your network or all of them as the target(s) where each backup source will be stored. It then runs in real-time in the background backing up immediately after you add or change a source file. The help and documentation for Yadis are not great, but it actually is very easy to set up.

http://www.codessentials.com/products/yadisbackup.html

Two Websites for Idle Time

EarthCam My love of earth cams started some years ago when I stumbled across a web site called Africam. I would stay up late to watch the live feed from the watering holes hoping to see some activity. Now there's EarthCam, with cameras all over the world with live feeds you can watch.
http://www.earthcam.com/


BioDigital Human is a site that allows you to view the human body in 3D. It's best viewed using newer browser versions that support HTML 5 and WebGL.
The site will let you know if the browser you're using will work, and if not, walks you through what to do. If you want to jump right in, click the link above. If you'd rather know a little more, this article has an excellent overview. The site is graphics intensive and best viewed with a fast internet connection. Those with slow internet connections might want to skip this one.

http://www.biodigitalhuman.com/default.html

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Google Maps Go Inside for Android Devices

Android mobile 6.0 users got a huge treat this past week in the form of a Google Maps update. This mobile application can map the indoors of select airports, malls, and big-box retailers around the United States. For now, the technology only covers select airports, transit stations, and big-box retailers in the U.S. and Japan, but the list likely will grow rather quickly. Google is even inviting business owners to manually add floor plans to its map database at maps.google.com/floorplans. For a full list of buildings with Indoor Maps coverage, head over to Google's Help Center. And when you open Google Maps for Android, you can do many things: view your location on the map, discover where to go with Places, get GPS turn-by-turn directions with Navigation, check in to share your location, and more. 

Tracking Shipments Easily

Just in time for the holidays, there is a new free website at which you can track shipments from virtually any carrier. Alternatively, you can simply forward your shipping confirmation email and you will be notified as the package proceeds.

Website: http://www.faranow.com/?utm_campaign=intro_fara&utm_source=ptrackr&utm_medium=email

Email Address: track@faranow.com

Three Useful Keyboard Shortcuts


These keyboard shortcuts work for Word and WordPerfect as well as for other applications including Outlook and Outlook Express:
Control font size:  To make a sentence or particular piece of text display in a larger font size. select the text that you want to change, hold down the Ctrl key, and press (right square bracket) until the font is the size you want. Hold down Ctrl and press [ (left bracket) to make the font smaller. 
Go to the end of the document: If you have a fairly long document and want to add something, here is a quicker way to get the end than scrolling all the way down. Use the keyboard combination Ctrl+End. Use just End to go to the end of a sentence.
Go to the beginning of the document: If  the start of a document is the place you want to be, use Ctrl+Home. Use just Home to go to the beginning of a sentence.

Monday, December 5, 2011

New Free Way to Backup Docs, Access Them From Anywhere and Sync Them

Systems such as Dropbox are great, because they automatically sync one or more folders on your computer with the cloud and with other computers.  But you can't actually do anything with the cloud-based files, except take a copy of them if you lose your local copy. Here's a really brilliant idea if you work from more than one computer, or you sometimes work on a machine that isn't your own.


Instead of syncing your files to an anonymous storage area called "the cloud", Kumosync syncs them to your Google Docs account.  So the files are still safely online as a backup, but you can also edit them and access them from any machine that has web access, just by signing in to your Google account. 
The program works in both directions.  Change a file on your PC and it instantly gets copied to Google.  Change the file in Google Docs and it gets downloaded to your PC (so long as the PC is on.  Otherwise it will sync when you turn it on).
Kumosync is a 3 MB download from http://www.fieldstonsoftware.com/software/kumosync/index.shtml. It's free, and runs under 32- and 64-bit Windows (XP and above). 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Adding Characters to Any Text

Here is a free site where you can find just about any typographical, numerical, or other character and copy it for inclusion in any text (e.g., email). For example, if you want to include a telephone image or a scissors or a pound sign, it takes one click to copy from the site and one click to paste here: ☎ ✄ £  Or you can even add a tilde to a word like año. There are various sets to search from, or just type in the search box the character you want, and you also can create your own set of characters.

http://copypastecharacter.com/

Search by Voice

Apple's Siri personal assistant is way cool. It will even tell you the meaning of life. While not quite as helpful as Siri, Google has voice-activated features and is available for the iPhone (Google Voice Search) and for Android phones (Voice Actions) as well as for its Chrome Browser (just click on the microphone) which is available for Windows or Mac OS X (and Chrome is the browser you should be using no matter what).