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!
When is the last time when you tried to use Internet Explorer and received this message: “Microsoft Internet Explorer has encountered a problem and needs to close?” Since I’ve received several calls about this problem in the last several days, it sure looks like Internet Exploder is a much deserved name! Before downloading and installing Firefox — which I highly recommend — try the following fix for Internet Explorer.
Go into the Control Panel, and open Internet Options. Click on the Advanced tab, and select RESET. Another dialog will appear, and you will click on Reset again. Click on Close, then try to run Internet Explorer. When you get the “Welcome to Internet Explorer” message, you may chose to click on “Ask me later.”
Next, you will go to Tools, Manage Add-ons, to enable any necessary add-ons, such as the one(s) for your security software. Lastly, I recommend that you go to http://www.mywot.com to download and install Web of Trust, which I greatly prefer to Microsoft’s Smart Screen Filter.
Lastly, you may want to head over to http://getfirefox.com to download and install Firefox. I also recommend that you install Web of Trust for Firefox.
Hopefully this post will provide you with a dose of Technology Frustration Remediation®.
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.
As soon as Windows 7 RTM (release to manufacturing — the final product that will be available in stores October 22) became available to IT professional Action Pack subscribers, I downloaded Windows 7 Business edition and did a clean installation on an old spare laptop, after running Windows Easy Transfer to save my files and settings to a thumb drive. Since there was not much on that computer, a clean install and setup probably took under two hours from start to finish. Fortunately, I already had all the hardware drivers I needed on my thumb drive. As it turned out, the sound card was the only device that required me to manually install the driver for it. Boring! Since this computer was a spare with nothing of any importance on it in the first place, failure was an option. That’s probably why it went so smoothly: Your results could be far different.
Next on the agenda was my main computer — the one I use to run my business. Failure was not an option, nor was extended downtime. Since the computer had never been compromised by malware (viruses, spyware, trojan horse, etc.), was running Vista very well (but slowly for so much power), and had far too much software for me to want to reinstall it all, an in-place upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate edition made good sense to me. Not wanting to rely solely on my backup images for a backout plan, I decided to clone my hard drive, and perform the upgrade on the new drive. If the upgrade went horrifically wrong, the new drive would be removed, the old drive swapped in, and the computer would be back to square one — running that s-l-o-w a-s m-o-l-a-s-s-e-s Vista.
After cloning the old drive with the software that came with the new one, I began the in-place upgrade. Right away, the installer insisted that the computer be deauthorized for the iTunes store, and iTunes be uninstalled, before the upgrade could begin. A few minutes and one reboot later, the real upgrade finally began. Because of the amount of software it had to reconfigure, this process took a couple of hours and several restarts. If you are not at the computer to remove the installation DVD from the drive when it performs the first restart, it will attempt to start the upgrade over. If this happens, remove the DVD and restart the computer. At this point it will pick up where it left off.
When the upgrade was finished, the only thing that did not work was Norton Internet Security 2010 beta. After an uninstall and reinstall, Norton worked fine. When iTunes was reinstalled and the computer reauthorized for the iTunes store, we were back in business. iPod and Blackberry successfully synchronized, Outlook, Firefox, and Quicken all worked. After two days, the only thing that does not work properly is the access to the computer management console, which is how you get to the computer’s event logs, device manager, disc manager, etc. It is supposed to start up by right-clicking on My Computer, then scrolling down to manage. Since that does not work for me, I can get to it by typing compmgmt.msc in the search box. This is hardly a deal-breaker. Finally my Cadillac computer no longer feels like it has a Volkswagen engine in it!
If your computer does not have much installed on it, a clean install may be your best approach, and if it is experiencing any kind of problems or has ever been compromised by malware, a reformat (or new drive) and clean install is probably your only option. In this latter case, you probably should not even use Windows Easy Transfer to migrate your files and settings. Although it is more work to manually copy your files and start from scratch, you are much less likely to migrate your computer problems. Whatever you do, don’t neglect to have a backout plan!
A client had a serious problem with his email. He was sending multiple copies of every outgoing email via Outlook Express. If he sent you an email, seconds later, you would get another copy, then another, etc. I was able to observe that it was not a case of him clicking Send several times before the email actually went out. One may be inclined to think that the computer was infected with spamming malware, but that was not the case. When he clicked on Send, the email would go into the Outbox, get sent, but not move to the Sent Items folder, instead staying in the Outbox. Outlook Express would notice that there was email in the Outbox, send it, then attempt to move to Sent Items folder; since it failed at the move to Sent Items, it would keep it in the Outbox, and the process would start over, until we shut down Outlook Express. At that point I looked at Sent Items.dbx, which is the Outlook Express Sent Items folder, and observed that it was at the 2GB limit. Because the Sent Items folder was already “full,” no more outgoing email could be moved into it.
Since the Sent Items folder was no longer accessible, we had two simple choices: delete the folder, and lose copies of all sent email; or import his email into Mozilla Thunderbird, which has a 4GB limit on each folder. Since he wanted to retain and prune his send mail, he chose the Thunderbird option. After I set up Thunderbird for him, he was able to pretty quickly prune his sent items folder from 2GB to under 500MB. Now his email works much faster than it has in quite some time, thanks mostly to not having his email operating at or near its storage capacity.