Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Waterproofing Your SmartPhone, Tablet, and e-Reader

Right now, if you try to read from your smartphone, tablet or e-reader in the shower without first putting it in a zip-lock bag, or you drop it in the bathtub, swimming pool, or toilet, the phone or tablet or e-reader will be toast and you'll have to buy a new one. But that's about to change. Within 8 months many of those devices will be waterproof as a result of two companies specializing in waterproof coatings for electronics, HzO and Liquipel. Now, here's the really great news: For $59, Liquipel will waterproof your device right now with just a couple of days turn-around time. See http://www.liquipel.com/

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Free Way to Make All IRS Payments Electronically

The EFTPS system provides an easy way to make any IRS tax payments, including estimated taxes, electronically over the internet. All you need to do is enroll in the EFTPS system online. Here is the link:


Friday, February 24, 2012

Transferring Money Electronically

In addition to sending "checks" through online banking, there are two easy and free ways to transfer money electronically. One is through the ACH system which in some form or other is available to you through your bank account, although it will be limited as to where you can send money and it can take a day for the transfer to be completed. With a PayPal account, you can send money to anyone who has a PayPal account and the transfer is completed within seconds.

Making Hibernation Work Better

Many people hibernate their PCs instead of turning them off. This provides a quick way to restart while using less power than the “Sleep” mode. This is particularly useful in laptops. Hibernation works by placing the contents of RAM in a hidden system file called “hiberfil.sys”. In Windows XP and Vista, this file is the same size as the amount of RAM that is installed on the PC. In Windows 7, the default is 75% of the RAM size. This file is always in the root of the drive with the Windows folder or normally the C: drive.

Deleting and restoring hiberfil.sys

It has become common to have a rather small volume for the C: system drive. It has also become common to have 4GB or more of RAM. This means that hiberfil.sys can take up a substantial portion of your system drive. If drive space becomes critical, you may wish to delete the hiberfil.sys file and turn off hibernation. Because hiberfil.sys is a super-hidden system file, the usual way to delete a file does not apply. However, there is a very simple way that uses the command line run as administrator.

Open a command prompt run as administrator and enter
powercfg –h off

That’s all there is to it. To restore the file enter
powercfg –h on

These changes take place right away

The command-line method is also useful for dealing with a corrupt or badly fragmented hiberfil.sys file. In the process of going in and out of hibernation many times, the file sometimes becomes corrupted. Deleting the file and then restoring it will clean up the file.

Changing the size of hiberfil.sys

If you wish to retain hibernation but want to reduce the size of hiberfil.sys, that can also be done in the command line. The file can be reduced to a smaller percentage of RAM with the command "powercfg –h -size ”. The command must be run as administrator. For example, to reduce hiberfil.sys to 50% of installed RAM, use
powercfg –h -size 50

Percent size cannot be smaller than 50.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How to Remove Google Web History

Do you know if Google is tracking your Web activity? If you have a Google account (for, say, Gmail) and have not specifically located and paused the Web History setting, then the search giant is keeping track of your searches and the sites you visited. This data has been separated from other Google products, but on March 1 it will be shared across all of the Google products you use when Google's new privacy policy goes into effect.

If you'd like to prevent Google from combining this potentially sensitive data with the information it has collected from your YouTube, Google+, and other Google accounts, you can remove your Web History and stop it from being recorded moving forward.

After signing into your Google account, type https://www.google.com/history into your browser. (Alternatively, you can choose Account Settings from the pull-down menu in the upper-right corner of a Google product such as Gmail, Google+, or Google.com. From the Account Settings page, scroll down to the Services header and click on the "Go to web history" link.) If your Web History is enabled, you'll see a list of recent searches and sites visited. Click the gray Remove all Web History button at the top of the page and a subsequent OK button to clear your Web History. This action also pauses the Web History feature so that it will no longer track your Web searches and whereabouts. If you'd like to fire it back it, simply click the blue Resume button.

Turn Your Tablet Into a Real Computer

OnLive Desktop is a free app for the iPad now and it's coming for Android devices that will turn your tablet into a complete Windows computer with Word, Excel, PowerPoint pre-loaded at no charge. And for just $5 per month OnLive Desktop Plus will add Flash and give you ultra-fast internet access including email.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Your Computer Can Help Find Cures for Deadly Diseases

Each year, more than 2 million children and adults in 97 countries die from tropical diseases. Many more die from cancer and lack of fresh drinking water. If you would like to help find solutions to these problems, World Community Grid is a good place to start. Just download and install free, secure software that captures your computer's spare processing power when it's on but idle. The site will use that processing power to perform simulations and research on a variety of tasks. Your data is combined with data from thousands of other computers running the software to achieve supercomputer-like processing ability. It's crowdsourcing for cures!

Cost: Free

Link: http://www.worldcommunitygrid.org/

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Saving Money on Rental Cars

AutoSlash is a website dedicated to saving people money on car rentals. We're the only site on the Internet that applies the best coupons and discounts, tracks rental price changes right up until the pickup date, and re-books users into these savings automatically—ALL FOR FREE!


You can read more about it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/18/your-money/autoslash-a-rate-sleuth-makes-rental-car-companies-squirm-your-money.html?_r=1&ref=your-money-email&nl=your-money&emc=your-moneyema2

Syncing Outlook Contacts and Calendar With GMail Contacts and Google Calendar

There are various ways to keep your Outlook contacts and calendar in sync with your GMail contacts and Google calendar, some more complicated and involved than others. Here are two free programs that will sync for you on a real-time basis and are very easy to use:

For Calendars: http://support.google.com/calendar/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=98563

For Contacts: http://www.pppindia.com/contacts-sync/

Protecting Your Computer From Children

Allowing a baby or small child near your computer is not really a good idea. A few enthusiastic whacks on the keyboard and you could lose important information. If you will have a small child in the vicinity, however, you want the program BabySmash. I know, the name sounds like the opposite of what you want, but bear with me. Launching BabySmash turns your computer into a toy. Letters, numbers and shapes are drawn on the screen whenever keys are pressed. Until the program is turned off, your data is safe from accidents. Exiting the program requires a key combination that a child isn't likely to hit by accident.

Cost: Free

Sunday, February 19, 2012

New Netflix Releases

Every Sunday, Netflix sets out a list of its new releases for the week. You can see them here:
http://www2.netflix.com/AllNewReleases  While this is helpful, it is surprising that Netflix does not adopt the Vudu approach of emailing you new releases each week.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


At first glance you might think that Springpad is much like the better known Evernote (online note taking and saving). There are some similarities but their core functions are different. Springpad is more like a personal organizer or assistant. Springpad uses virtual notebooks to organize information, you can create your own notebooks and there are pre-made ready to use notebooks for a large array of tasks. For example, if you save a recipe from the web, Springpad adds a list of ingredients and a link back the original source for the instructions, and you can create a shopping list that can be printed or sent to your smartphone. Springpad syncs with your Google Calendar and can add Gmail Contacts. Springpad is a web application, there isn't a separate program you install on your computer. Springpad is free.


Lend and Borrow e-Books

Buying books for your e-reader is always fun, but what do you do with those books when you're not reading them? Here's a way to make sure they don't go unread - and you can earn a little bit of money, too. Lendle is a service that helps you lend - and borrow - Kindle books. Join now and start listing your available e-books and the e-books you want to borrow. The more books you lend, the more you can borrow.

For each book you lend, you get credit. Lend enough e-books and you'll earn an Amazon gift card.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Case Sensitive

Some fillable forms are noted as "case sensitive." This means that whether the letters to be filled in are done in upper case or lower case matters.

Free PDF to Excel Converter

Programs to convert PDF files to text or document format are pretty common. However, PDF To Excel Converter is the first program I've encountered which claims to be able to convert PDF files to Microsoft Excel format. In my tests, the results varied significantly. If you need to convert a PDF file that contains tabular data, then the converter does a reasonable job. Thankfully, tabular data is the most common spreadsheet format so this could be a quite useful addition to your toolkit. 


Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sending Custom Postcards From Your Phone

The Touchnote app for Android and iOS takes a photo from your mobile device, prints it on a glossy postcard with a custom message, and sends it anywhere in the world for $1.49. Touchnote (download) is available for free in the Android Market or iTunes App Store.

Transferring Data Wirelessly Between Your Android Phone and Your Computer

Transferring pictures, music, data, and other files between your Android device and your computer can be simple--if you've got a cable within easy reach. If not, you may end up sticking with last year's music or keeping your pics locked up tight where nobody can see them. Fortunately, a free app called Software Data Cable lets you use your Wi-Fi network to transfer files easily. Here's how to use it: 
  1. Download Software Data Cable here.
  2. Make sure your Android device and your computer are both attached to the same Wi-Fi network. 
  3. Launch the app and tap Start Service in the lower left. 

TV Size viz Seating Distance

With the cost of decent screen size (55", 60", 70" and 80") LED televisions coming down as much as they have, there no longer is any compelling reason to suffer through with 52" or smaller sets. And you actually can sit much closer than you think and still enjoy the maximum clarity of picture. Thus, in a perfect videophile world, you'd want to sit no closer than 1.5 times the screen's diagonal measurement, and no farther than twice that measurement to the TV. So, here are the minimum/maximums by screen size:

80” Diagonal: 120” to 160”

70” Diagonal:  105” to 140”

60” Diagonal:  90” to 120”

55” Diagonal:  83” to 110”

Here is an excellent explanatory article on the topic and on related topics:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Stopping Web Trackers

 “Do Not Track Plus” and is a browser add-on. It works with IE, Firefox, Chrome and Safari. After installation, cookies from a list of ad agencies and others will be automatically blocked. The list is maintained  by Abine. A button is placed in the upper right of the browser and the number of cookies being blocked is shown in the button.  The button is normally green but if it is red or orange that means you are being tracked in ways that have not been blocked. 


Friday, February 10, 2012

Better Alternative to Drop Box: Team Drive

Services such as Dropbox, which sync a folder on your PC with the cloud and also with your other devices, have one major drawback.  Your files get copied to the internet, and to someone else's server.  So they're not as secure as they might otherwise be.  Plus, in the case of Dropbox, the company has the ability to decrypt your files on its systems in order to de-duplicate them.  If you and I both upload the same file to our Dropboxes, the servers are intelligent enough to only store a single copy.  
A new player in the cloud storage/backup market aims to change all that, and to bring some additional layers of security.  The system in question is called TeamDrive, and you can find it at www.teamdrive.com.
TeamDrive, like Dropbox, gives you 2 GB of storage for free.  If you need more, you'll have to pay.  But unlike Dropbox, TeamDrive encrypts your information before it gets copied to the remote servers, so (the company claims) there's no way that anyone but you can gain access to your files.

Five Ways to Speed Up Your Web Browsing

As explained in the noted article, there are five simple things you can do to speed up web browsing: switch to Chrome; disable Flash; save temp files on a ram disk; get rid of tool bars; and use tabs, not windows.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Some Cool New Android Apps

You can use your Android phone to do the following: measure your heart rate; control computers remotely; measure noise; tune a guitar; to work as a flashlight; track earthquakes; as a cordless mouse and keyboard; and as a timer and stopwatch.


No Port, No Problem

Now, there's a special, modified, pocket flash drive that works as usual with PCs and Macs, but can transfer and stream files to popular mobile devices without standard USB ports, such asApple's iPad and iPhone, Amazon's Kindle Fire and many other Android devices. Its secret: It has built-in Wi-Fi to beam the files to and from tablets and smartphones wirelessly. It can even stream files like videos to many devices simultaneously.
It's called the AirStash and is made by a tiny company called Wearable Inc., and distributed by Maxell Corp. It's available at Amazon.com and a few other retailers for $150 for an 8 gigabyte model, which can increase the storage capacity of a base iPad by 50%. An AirStash model with 16 gigabytes is $180.
The AirStash is a clever device that solves a genuine problem, though not without some issues. In my tests, it worked as advertised, without crashing or exhibiting bugs. But it's pricey and has one big drawback: When a device is connected to the AirStash via Wi-Fi, it can't be connected to the Internet. The company plans a fix for that as early as next month.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

iTune Syncing to Your PC and to an Android Device

doubleTwist is a two-part application that can allow your iTunes for Windows or Mac library to journey into Android Land (and back) with ease. One part of the application, including a media player for your convenience, runs on your Android device. The other runs on your computer and automatically locates your iTunes library and populates its own list for syncing. This site will explain further and give you the link to the download:


Start Menu 7

If you do not care for the standard Windows start menu, you might love Start Menu 7. Whether you choose the free or the paid version, you will find it gives you enhanced flexibility and a visual treat.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Unblocking Windows 7 Firewall Settings

One problem that you may encounter with the Windows 7 application is that it sometimes blocks a program that you have just installed. Here is how to configure the firewall settings to allow the program to access the Internet.
  1. Open the Start menu and in the search bar type "allow" (without quotes).
  2. Select "Allow a program or feature through Windows Firewall" from the Control Panel list
  3. A dialog box will open with a default list of allowed programs and their settings (example shown in Figure 1 below).
  4. To change a program setting, click the "Change Settings" button shown in the upper right of Figure 1. If the "Change Settings button is greyed out, then it has already been enabled.
  5. Put a check in the box to the left of the entry for the program in question. Then add or delete appropriate check marks for "Home/Work/Private" and/or "Public".
  6. Finish by clicking "OK".
Generally, home computers will have the two settings, public and private networks, but computers joined to a domain would have a third domain setting as well. It is worthwhile to note that a program that can access the Internet on a home network can be blocked on a public network. It is one way to reduce your exposure when surfing the web in a public place like an airport or coffee shop.
Not all programs and services are in the default list. To add something, click the "Allow another program" button shown in the lower right of Figure 1. The dialog shown in Figure 2 will open. Here you can select additional programs to add to the list of allowed programs. Highlight a desired program and click the "Add" button shown in the lower right of Figure 2.