Admittedly, you don’t have to have a cat crawling across your keyboard for some of these things to happen, but the likelihood is dramatically increased if you do.
Your Computer Screen is Turned Sideways. Some video cards use the key sequence CTRL-ALT-Left Arrow to rotate the display. Try pressing CTRL-ALT-Up Arrow to change it back.
Wireless no longer works on your laptop. It worked the last time you used it (before the cat crawled across the keyboard — or before you brought it back from a trip — take your pick). Chances are good that your wireless radio got switched off. Various Dells use Fn/F2 to switch on/off; various Toshibas use Fn/F8; others may use other key sequences or a switch on the top, front or side. The label may look something like this:
Your Taskbar Has Moved to the Side of the Screen. Right-click on a blank part of the taskbar, and make sure that Lock the taskbar is NOT checked. Left-click on a blank part of the taskbar, and while holding in the left mouse button, drag it back to where you want it, and release the left mouse button. Voila! Lastly, right-click on a blank part of the taskbar, and CHECK Lock the taskbar.
Your Multi-function Printer Frequently Cuts off Scans and Copies. Of course what you are trying to scan/copy is properly aligned on the scanner glass, but sometimes copies are cut off in the middle. There’s a good chance that your printer has a button for 4×6 photos, with the light next to it lit. Press the button and try again. Problem solved!
Someone makes nonsense posts in your Facebook account and forwards embarrassing emails when you’re away from your computer. A possible fix for this problem could also prevent numerous other computer mysteries, including the first three listed above. When you are away from your computer, keep it locked with a strong passphrase. The cat can probably guess simple passwords like furball, fluffy, and catlover!
Mac users have long known the benefits of running software not available on the Mac, within a virtual machine on their Mac. All they have to do is purchase and install virtual machine software, such as VMware Fusion or Parallels, and a full version of Microsoft Windows. Windows 7, in the Professional and Ultimate versions, offers this capability as a free download from the Microsoft web site.
Why would I want to run windows XP on a Windows 7 computer? If you have legacy hardware or software that will not work in Windows 7, you could save a significant amount of money. For example, say you have prior versions of Adobe Creative Suite and Pagemaker that will only run on Windows XP, or have an expensive printer that won’t work on Windows 7, XP mode could save your bacon.
CPAs and bookkeepers may need to use legacy financial software that requires Windows XP. Personally, I needed to install Coreldraw, and it refused to install on Windows 7, but worked flawlessly in XP mode. Your needs may be different.
What’s the downside? You have another computer operating system to maintain. This means installing and maintaining security software, installing Windows updates, and maintaining any other software you have installed in XP mode. Additionally, when XP mode is in operation — you only use it when you need to — it takes away computing resources from Windows 7. In other words, your racehorse becomes a much slower workhorse!
What’s the upshot? If you do not have a simple, inexpensive solution to your software or hardware compatibility problem, Windows 7 XP mode could be just the ticket!
There are quite a few new features in Windows 7 to eliminate the usability advantage once enjoyed by its plus-priced competition. Here are a few of my favorites.
Jump Lists. Applications written to take advantage of this feature display recently used files, without having to start the application.
Action Center. Here you can handle security and maintenance issues, in addition to doing troubleshooting and recovery.
Libraries. These provide an aggregated view of related files and their folders. Out of the box, Windows comes with documents, music, pictures, and videos libraries, although you can create others. By utilizing the pull-down Arrange By box on the right side, you can view each library by folder, author, date modified, tag, type, or name. Name and date modified just show file names, and the other views show virtual folders with files inside. An example should illustrate the real power of libraries. You have years of Turbotax returns scattered in various nooks and crannies inside My Documents. By arranging your library by Type, you will find that they are grouped into three virtual folders — because Turbotax used the .tax extension through 2007, then used .tax2008 and .tax2009 for 2008 and 2009, respectively. Even so, locating your tax returns is still a snap, thanks to the library functionality built into Windows 7.
Next time around, we will talk about using Windows 7 with XP Mode. This is a feature that could save having to replace expensive legacy software or hardware.
Usually, software installation is straightforward: Agree to terms and conditions, answer some obtuse questions, tweak a few settings, and go about your merry way. Of course, IT pros know to verify compatibility before beginning an installation, and if necessary, use administrator privileges. The Intuit Quickbooks Pro 2010 box stated compatibility with Windows 7 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Check.
About fifteen minutes later, after requesting to reboot to continue the installation, the installer program proclaimed, “Third party components are not found. Installation will be interrupted.” No big deal. Just install the third-party components manually, reboot between steps, and continue the installation, right? Nope. Same result as before. Before calling Intuit’s technical support and waiting in the queue for an hour, only to be told to disable my anti-virus and firewall and restart the installation, I did what should not make any difference with professionally-written software — copied the contents of the CD to the hard drive and installed from there. Several minutes later, the installation completed successfully. Although I had attempted the installation from the CD with security software enabled and disabled (different times), the successful installation occurred from the hard drive with security software enabled.
Note to Intuit: Thanks for taking up a large part of my afternoon. You kept me from having to figure out what to do with a large chunk of my time.
Now that Windows 7 is available, this question takes on added significance. The ease of use advantage that Apple once enjoyed is now a thing of the past. Windows 7 and Apple Snow Leopard have equally slick interfaces. Apple’s marketing campaigns have done a good job making the claim that Macs “just work” and and PCs don’t. Of course, plug and play has been built in to PCs since Windows 95. What makes connecting new devices to PCs or Macs “just work” is the software that vendors provide with their printers, digital cameras, etc., to make them work. The frustration long known by PC owners with old unsupported printers came to be known by Mac owners who upgraded to Snow Leopard (the newest Mac operating system), then discovered that their old printers no longer worked. So, whether you own a PC or a Mac, the truth is the same: “supported” hardware “just works,” and unsupported hardware probably doesn’t.
Always clever and timely, Apple’s new marketing campaign talks about the pain of upgrading to Windows 7, but conveniently neglects to mention the catastrophic data loss suffered by many Mac owners who recently upgraded to Snow Leopard. Apparently, Mac owners using guest accounts (and some without them), lost all their data — all documents, music, photos, etc. For further information, here are two articles http://gadgets.boingboing.net/2009/08/28/snow-leopard-killed.html http://news.cnet.com/8301-31021_3-10373064-260.html.
There are a few issues to help decide if a PC or Mac is right for you and your specific needs.
USE. How you are going to use your computer could determine which is right for your needs. For example, if you do video animation, and (if) the software you need to use is only available for the Mac, you have your answer. Although many industry-specific packages are only available for the PC, that might not be true in your specific situation. If appropriate, do the necessary research to determine what you need.
SUPPORT. Unless you are very technically sophisticated, you will require technical assistance on occasion. Conveniently available support at home or work, by IT staff, coworkers, family, or independent IT consultants will greatly enhance your computing experience. Determining what type of expertise is readily available should help make your decision easier.
DESKTOP SOFTWARE. If a large variety of readily available desktop software is a necessity for you, you should probably go with a PC. Conversely, if you have limited needs that are met by both platforms, then this will not be a determining factor.
COOL. Let’s face it — Apple products are cool. Although — in my opinion — the iPhone and iPods (especially the Touch!) have more of it than the Mac, the Mac does seem to have it, at a several hundred dollar premium to the PC. Although the new PC designs — especially ones with Piano Black finishes — are awfully slick looking, the Mac seems a bit more sleek.
CONTROL. Apple tightly controls the Mac platform, to a much greater extent than any one vendor controls the PC. If you like control (think of your favorite “hands on” sports franchise owner), you will love Apple. Many of the choices are made for you. Whether that’s a pro or con depends on your perspective and needs.
Good luck with your decision.
Not many things get me riled up more quickly than hearing fellow IT professionals ridicule people for being technically unsophisticated. Here are a few things IT people need to know about non-IT people.
Everybody is good at something, but not necessarily IT. If everyone were good at IT, many of you would be unemployed, eating Hot Pockets, living in your mother’s basement, and playing X-Box all day.
Writers don’t need to know a domain from a workgroup, as long as they’re there for you and they know their stuff. If you’re lucky, they can rework that gibberish you write and make you look good to your clients.
Doctors don’t need to know MS Office from MS Windows, as long as they know a metacarpal from a mandible. It would be a shame to have a cast in the wrong place! Luckily, doctors have “M.D.” instead of “MCSE” after their names.
Accountants don’t need to know a router from an access point , as long as they know the difference between a tax deduction and a tax credit. Who would you rather prepare your financial statements: a CCNA or a CPA?
Financial advisers don’t need to know 802.3 from 802.11, as long as they know a SEP from a Keogh from a 401(k). You just might prefer to have a CFP, rather than a CNE, help you with retirement planning.
Personally, I’m delighted that there are non-technical people I can earn a living helping, and thankful that there are people who can help me with things I can’t do myself. Vive la différence!
When the Hewlett Packard Officejet Pro printers, with their low electrical and ink consumption and high quality text printing, became available, it was inevitable that one of them would be my next printer. As soon as the Officejet Pro 8500 multifunction printer went on sale at a local retailer, I bought one. As is usually the case with Hewlett Packard multifunction printers, the software installation was the most time-consuming part of the installation, but it completed without a hitch. HP thoughtfully — without asking permission — put an icon for Solution Center, which handles scanning , cropping, OCR, etc., on my desktop. Everything worked as advertised, for a brief period.
Shortly after installing the printer, as part of normal maintenance, I ran the Secunia online software inspector, which reported an old and insecure version of Flash Player. After updating to the latest/most secure version of Flash Player and removing the insecure one, I opened Solution Center to scan a photo. Immediately, Solution Center started its installer and requested the installation CD be put back in the drive. Of course, if you put the installation CD back in the drive, the just-uninstalled insecure version of Flash Player gets reinstalled, and the process continues ad infinitum. It is possible to hit cancel when the installer requests the CD, and Solution Center will work fine — until the installer pops up again, and again. This is not the way software is supposed to behave, nor is constantly hitting cancel an acceptable workaround. In case you are wondering, this is the newest version — 12.0.0 — of the software from the HP web site.
Armed with the knowledge that Solution Center would eventually perform all the functions I needed it to perform with the newest version of Flash Player and without the two Flash components that it thought it needed from the old, insecure version, I tried an experiment. Please do not try to replicate this experiment, as tampering with files in your system folders can render your system unstable or unusable. When those two “needed” files were replaced with text files of the same name, Solution Center quit complaining and performed all the functions I asked of it, including scanning photos and converting paper documents to editable text. Printing, which is done through the print driver, not Solution Center, works quite nicely as well.
Wouldn’t it be nice if HP fixed its software to work properly? Currently your choices are: live with a known security problem, put up with constant installation windows, hack system files, or buy another vendor’s printer. Unless HP fixes this problem, alternative number four looks pretty good.
Imagine how much more enjoyable reading our email would be, and how much less time we would waste, if everyone with whom we wish to communicate would practice proper email etiquette. Since training in proper email usage in not a prerequisite to getting an email account, many otherwise polite people don’t know the proper email etiquette to help them be considerate and respectful of other people’s time dealing with email. Here are a few basics.
SUBJECT. Every email message needs a descriptive one, so the recipient knows what you are writing about. If your name is Joe Schmoe, “From Joe Schmoe,” is not a useful subject. Email programs already tell us who the message is from. A proper subject makes it much easier for the recipient to find and followup with your message in the future.
TO, CC, BCC. As a general rule, when you send email to more than a few people, the recipients should be blind copied, to protect their privacy, keep their email addresses from being collected by viruses on other recipients’ computers, and to keep from cluttering the message. Nobody wants to have to look at a page of email addresses on top of a two sentence message! Many years ago, I maintained a distribution list of about seventy five people to whom I regularly sent important announcements. When somebody sent a completely off-topic reply to all, I learned to use BCC and never looked back. An exception to this rule is when your email is part of a discussion, and you want people to reply to all.
REPLY, REPLY to ALL. Before replying to all, consider whether or not others on the list need or want to see your response. If they do, go for it, but otherwise. . . Whatever you do, refrain from sending an off-topic response. Doing so is the email equivalent of belching at the opera. If you need to write on another topic, please create a new email message with a topic-appropriate subject.
FORWARD. We all get email forwarded to us, usually rumors and heart-wrenching stories about Johnnie the orphan. They usually start out, “This is a true story. I verified it on Snopes,” and end up with, “Forward this to everyone you know.” Delete it. These are very rarely true. Microsoft did not just email your friend about the worst virus outbreak ever; nor did the FBI email your friend’s coworker about six Middle Eastern men apprehended with photographs and descriptions of a nuclear power plant. If you are curious, Google it, but don’t forward the message. When you encounter something that would interest a friend or client — hopefully, nothing that’s mentioned above — clean out all the extraneous email addresses and comments make by others, and just send the actual content. Please do not make your recipient open several layers of nested attachments to get to the content.
CLEAN UP. Always consider what is necessary for recipients to see when you reply. It is not necessary to quote a two-page message and another page of email address when your response is, “I can make it to dinner Friday night.” In many cases, you can go into the body of the email message and hit Ctrl-A, to highlight the entire text, then hit Delete to delete it, before typing your message. In other instances, it’s appropriate to snip out extraneous text. Use your judgment regarding what’s appropriate.
RECYCLING. Sometimes it’s necessary to recycle an old email message, especially if you do not have a distribution list for your intended recipients. Make sure to change the subject line to one appropriate for this email message, and delete the entire original message before typing a new one.
cAPS lOCK. Make sure that it’s off, because when you type in all caps, it looks like you are SHOUTING!
DON’T BE the ONE to send out email like the following. Have mercy on the poor schmuck who needs to print out your address and six pages of extraneous junk comes out of his printer!
Occasionally, I hear from clients who suddenly cannot send email, even though they can receive it, using Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, or another client-based email program. Email they attempt to send is stuck in their Outbox. [NOTE: If you get an authentication error, you will need to resolve that with your email provider; otherwise, read on.] Sometimes their ISP — usually a cable company — decides to block port 25, the standard outgoing SMTP email port, in which case changing the SMTP port to 587 usually fixes the problem. More often than not, however, the problem is with the email they are attempting to send. Here’s how to tell.
First of all, as soon as you attempt to send one problem email, i.e., one that gets stuck in the outbox, subsequent emails are stuck in the outbox, waiting for the first one to go out. Create a new folder within your Inbox. Name it Test, or give it another name if you prefer. Drag the oldest email message — the first one to get stuck — from the Outbox into the new folder. Hopefully, the other messages, if any, stuck in the Outbox will go out. If not, drag them one at a time, starting with the oldest one first, into the new folder, until newer ones automatically go out, or the Outbox is empty. Alternatively, you can drag them all at once into the new folder. Now the Outbox is empty. Assuming that the Outbox did not automatically empty itself, create a test email, carefully addressed to yourself. The subject and body can both just say “Hello.” If it does go out, you are ready to troubleshoot the problem email messages; otherwise, your problem is beyond the scope of today’s post.
More often than not, the problem is with invalid email addresses. One by one, click on the email addresses of the recipients, to verify that they are real email addresses. You will need to fix invalid ones. Quite frequently, your invalid “email addresses” are actually business fax numbers. Microsoft Outlook was designed to show fax numbers as email addresses when you select names via the To or CC buttons. In their infinite wisdom, Microsoft equates electronic addresses, which include fax numbers, with email addresses. One workaround to this architectural flaw is to precede fax numbers with text, such as F for fax. This way, fax numbers will not show up as email addresses. Microsoft offers links to third-party vendors, such as Sperry Software http://www.sperrysoftware.com/outlook/Hide-Fax-Numbers.asp to fix the problem. Your last option is to be careful not to select “email addresses” that are actually fax numbers. For some people this option will work successfully, but for many will result in having to seek this article again in the near future.
Most information security professionals agree that passwords, in order to be effective, need to be complex and use at least three of the following: uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters (i.e., !, $, ), ?, etc.). There is, however, strong disagreement about usability. For example, many will argue that Z9!*pQZ7Rn! is a good password. Not in my book! In order to be effective, a password has to be both strong and memorable. Aside from being terribly hard to type, the only thing memorable about Z9!*pQZ7Rn! is that it’s nearly impossible to remember. Passphrases, but not common ones like America’sTeam can be quite effective. Redskin fans may be inclined to use HailToTheRedskins, but instead should modify it to something like rail,2theHEADskins. You should be able to make your own quirky passphrases that cannot be guessed or easily cracked by password-breaking software attacks. Anybody who knows you should know the names of family members and pets, so they fail the first criterion. For Windows log ons, any password under eight characters can be easily broken, as can most under fifteen characters. Wireless network encryption keys should be at least twenty-eight, to be effective. In most cases, the key only needs to be typed once, so such a long key is not usually a big problem. On the flip side, asking paying customers in a coffee shop to type a twenty-eight character encryption key would be a risky business proposition!
It’s important to consider just what you are protecting with your passwords. For most people, your password to a newspaper web site is not that important, unless they have your credit card number, or other confidential or proprietary information; however, if you have a high profile, you certainly do not want people making unauthorized comments in your name. Bank and brokerage accounts are intuitively obvious, but email accounts are also very important. For example, once someone has access to your email, that person can attempt to log in to any online account and click the Forgot Password link. Many sites will email the password or a password reset link. It gets quite ugly from there!
Lastly, consider physical security. If you are in a location with access by those who should not have your passwords, do not have your passwords written down. Likewise, do not let your web browser manage passwords for any accounts that you need to protect. There are many robust password safes that require a master password to access. Norton’s Identity Safe is one such product.
Please remember — it’s your privacy. Do what you can to protect it.