IM From Your Browser Not Your Desktop

Most users nowadays have two or more e-mails, how do they managed more than two. Typically by forwarding on e-mail to another e-mail address as a central hub of e-mails or using a e-mail client similar to Thunderbird or Microsoft Outlook. Subsequently, some users may have more than one screen name across different messenger programs. One way to manage being logged in to multiple screen names in different programs is to utilize a program that lets you chat on Facebook, AIM, Messenger, etc from one window instead of one for each.

Meebo enables the user to login to multiple accounts at once. Although there is an option to download a Meebo application for your desktop. I highly recommend using their web services  Meebo Messenger to chat from your browser. The reason being that you will be saving space on your hard drive as well as reducing your computer security risk. Each program your install could have an unknown security hole as well as over time an accumulation of programs may make your computer sluggish. In addition, you will reduce the number or likelihood of installing toolbars which is another security risk.

Meebo is not the only  program that allows you to chat from multiple accounts but the ability to use its services on web will add to convenience.

Meebo Messenger: http://www.meebo.com/messenger

Hackintosh Enabled

If you been following my posts on subjects  related to Apple, you would probably pick up the fact I like Mac OS X and its features but I loathe how expensive the hardware has been these last few years if not always! Well introduce Hackintosh! A Hackintosh computer is basically a "PC" running the Mac OS X operating system, that's it. The difficult part is getting the "PC" hardware to work with the Mac OS X software. Over the years, it has become easier to achieve such goal, as Apple has made decisions to use Intel processors, both NVIDIA and ATI graphics cards if not mistaken and is even rumored to soon switch to AMD processors.  Then again, building a Hakintosh is NOT completely legal, but there are plenty of guides out there to different ways to carry out the experiment. Because it is an experiment, there is no guarantee it will be  100% functional, but I think the benefits out-weight the negatives. Why would anyone build such a monstrosity?

Well, it is cheaper. A build costing about $800 will outperform the best iMac and it's the same for the Mac Pro. Also, the build will perhaps have better quality parts than what Apple uses as the user gets to choose all the hardware. Finally, it will teach a person about computers! Do at your own risk and happy building!

All for One, One Keyboard for All

Does your workspace involve managing more than one computer or perhaps you have a media center that does not have a dedicated keyboard?  Would it not be great if you had one keyboard and mouse to use for all your computers? The answer is Synergy. Synergy allows you to share a keyboard and mouse among multiple computers on the same network. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="454" caption="visualization from Synergy website"][/caption]

The process involves setting up a host which is the computer that physically has the keyboard/mouse attached.  To do so, you FIRST  have to specify the group of computers that will be involved.

IMPORTANT: the names of the computers on the list should match the names under the Windows computer system properties.

In my setup, Rudy-PC is the computer's monitor on the right and simon-PC is the computer that will be the host. You have to include the reflection. If Rudy-PC is right of simon-PC than, simon-PC is left of Rudy-PC!

Next, install Synergy on all the computers that will be using the keyboard. In this case, use the "use another computer's keyboard and mouse" option, verify the computer's name and you should be done with the setup process! Finally, go back to your host computer, either test your configuration, start the server or set it to autostart and you should be done. Once  started, you should see this on your guest computer's once you start the connection to the host.

You can get creative how you use Synergy; multiple hosts, using the laptop as host to create a sudo wireless keyboard, etc.

Breathe New Life onto the Old

With services like Hulu, Justin.tv and the infamous Youtube, TV viewing has taken a shift or in other words, almost been completely replaced by computers.  Instead of going out and buying the priciest HD TV out there, why not take that old standard definition (SD) TV and combine it with your forgotten PC desktop or laptop to convert it a decent media server? I promise your grandma won’t differentiate between the two!  If interested, read on! The first order of business would be the computer. Depending on the TV, the computer will need the matching connector to hook up video to the TV. If the TV isn’t too old, it will have a VGA connection. If that is the case, you are in luck. A VGA connector is the same type of connector that monitors most frequently have if not always! Given that luck, it is just matter of connecting them together and you have video.

[caption id="attachment_2347" align="aligncenter" width="460" caption="VGA cable, Image by Josh Bancroft"][/caption]

If the TV is a little bit older or smaller, it will most likely have an S-video/ RCA (yellow) video input. Older PC’s might have S-video outputs. If not you will need a converter from VGA to S-video like this one.

Regardless, you now have video from your PC to your TV.

For audio, you have two options:

If you have some old speakers lying around, u can simply plug those in and you are set! If not, check to see if your TV has RCA audio inputs; if so, you can as well buy a mini-Stereo to RCA (red & white)  audio cable like this one

If your TV does not have the RCA audio inputs, you will need to purchase a set of small speakers. A 10$ pair will get the job done.

For cost analysis, in the worse case, you'll spend $5 on the adapters and maybe 15$ on a new set of stereo speakers. If the wires are too short, you will need to simply purchase additional adapters to extend the wires; of course, it is assumed the computer will be near in proximity to the TV.

[caption id="attachment_2353" align="aligncenter" width="460" caption="One way to extend the RCA audio cable, Image by CHCOOBOO"][/caption]

You can now watch Internet videos through your TV. The only downside is that the text will be blurry, unless you bump up the DPI. Once set up, browse to your preferred video provider, set to full screen and enjoy!

Speed up PC by Writing to Your RAM

With the inertia of my previous post on SDD’s,  they are still high priced compared to hard drives but there does exist a happier and much faster medium, which when used correctly, has the possibility to perform just as well if not better than SSD’s in some scenarios. This happy medium turns out to be your RAM. If you have more than 4GB of RAM, I recommend you download Dataram RAMdisk. Essentially, the utility uses RAM instead of writing the data to your 200X slower hard drive. The program will create a hard drive with a TEMP folder. To configure, simply specify how much RAM should be allocated as the hard drive and individually modify each program to store its temporary files in your RAM hard drive.

You may wonder how this is useful and not tedious to modify each program altogether? It turns out there are programs that write to the hard drive more frequently than others. The main culprits turn out to be your internet browser and installation executables. Check with your preferred browser. I know for a fact Chrome will not let you change its TEMP folder directly, but as always, if there is a will, there is a way. As for the installation executable, modify the environment variables to point to the RAM hard drive. In my case, “I” is my RAM hard drive.

The only downside is that because RAM gets deleted at shutdown, so will any temporary files get deleted; in other words, the temporary files that could have speeded up your page loading will not be there. If you think offsetting the cost of slower page browsing is negligible, proceed. If not, simply do not modify the browser's settings.

Bye Goog-411, Hello Bing-411

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Image via CrunchBase"]Image representing Bing as depicted in CrunchBase[/caption]

About a month ago, Google shut down Goog-411, a free 411 service that gave you directions and numbers to business. Bing, Google's competitor came out with a similar service. Bing addrd extra handy features.

You can dial 1-800-BING-411 or 1-800-225-5411.

It works very similar to Google's former service. You call the number and pick from various options. Some are:

  • Numbers to business
  • Driving directions
  • Move information
  • Traffic reports
  • Weather information

It automatically detects your zip-code or you may change it.

I believe the most handy feature is Cheap gas info and Traffic reports.  Give it a try. Just save it on your phone and you will see it comes handy. See more info at BING Mobile.

Enable Multiple Desktops in Windows with VirtuaWin

In my opinion, Windows 7 is one of the best operating systems to date, but it lacks some features I find handy when I use Linux. One of those features is the ability to have multiple desktops! VirtuaWin is the solution! You might wonder why is it useful? Having multiple desktops, in a way, compensates for the lack of a high resolution monitor and reduces clutter especially if you enjoy having multiple programs running with multiple windows. VirtuaWin is a light-weight application; it will run in the background without slowing down your system. To use, simply configure VirtuaWin to how many desktops you want, set a keyboard short-cut, set it to start-up automatically and you gain your way to perhaps a more productive working environment.  Did I mention it’s free?

As for recommended settings, I would stick to only two to three desktops. Too many desktops, and it will defeat the purpose of reducing the number of items a person has to manage! Also, enable the mouse to drag any window to a different desktop. Be warned, the Window 7 Snapping Window feature interferes with switching desktops via the mouse drag and will snap the window if  it's Microsoft software; not a huge problem, but rather annoying. If you feel it's a problem, you can as well disable that feature within Windows 7.  Enabling the mouse dragging emulates having multiple monitors. Finally, as for the desktop switching keyboard short-cut, I use alt + left/right arrow combination. Give it a try, especially if you do not have the cash to burn for a nice shiny 1080p monitor!

Split Your Computer Into Two or More Personalities

Today's tip focuses on giving your computer more than one identity. Ever felt like being more than just Windows? You could be Penguin (Linux) and/or a Mac. How, you may ask? Partitioning.  When your hard drive is divided into many different pieces or slices it is called partitions. These partitions are what one may call sub-hard drives in your main hard drive. In order to partition a hard drive you will need software to carry out the partitioning. Windows has a built-in program but I'm not a fan of it, so I will use the third-party software called EASEUS Partition Magic.

NOTE: IT IS RECOMMENDED  THAT YOU BACK UP ALL YOUR FILES BEFORE PROCEEDING.

First, we shall resize the primary space where the OS is located (as highlighted above).

Next, we determine the size of the partition you want to create which will use some of the space already set aside for the Windows OS for a new purpose.

Once you have decided on the partition's size, click OK. A word of advice, the partition you are creating should at most be about the current free space available.  If you go beyond, you may damage your system.

You should see an additional unused partition which you may use to install another OS when prompted by the new OS.

Try out Linux via a Flash Drive

Are you an average computer user that is only aware of  Windows and Mac OS's? If so, I have a revelation for you; these OS's are not the only operating systems available for your computer. For example, there is Linux. Yet with Linux, there are many different versions also know as distros. The most popular of the these distros, in my opinion, are Fedora and Ubunntu. Ubuntu is perhaps the most user friendly.

On a quick note, I would like to mention that you can run Windows on a Mac and Mac OSX on a typically Window Machine with a bit of work.

Subsequently, the main focus of today's tip is to allow the average user (or power user)  to try out Linux. The objective is to run an entire OS from a flash drive (or a CD, if you still use those :) ).

First, one must download a distribution of Linux. Below are a few of them

Next, install

The Universal USB Installer

Once you have downloaded and have the program running,

install on a 2gb flash drive and

follow the on-screen instructions.

This Software automates the entire process for you.

Once it is completed, you may now boot Linux from your Flash Drive.

In order to do so, SHUTDOWN your computer and power it on BUT press f2 or which ever message that prompts you to the boot menu, similar to the image below

Change the boot order to "first be removable drive" or you may also see your flash drive listed there.

Then once you exit, make sure the flash drive is plugged in. It should boot from your flash drive instead of your hardrive and voila! Linux has appeared.

Once prompted, select Run and try it out!

Now you may see what all the fuss is about.

Tomorrow, I will show you how to use a software program to partition your drive so you may do a full installation without deleting your Windows.

Create Portable Version of Just About Any Program

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQyS24OY6PM&feature=player_embedded] Have you wanted to carry around a program with you on a flash drive?  Cameyo is the solution. This program captures the installer and converts it into a Exe file.  The above video shows how simple it is to use. I have used this to carry around my Chrome browser, with its add-ons, everywhere I go.  Click here to download it.

Use DropBox to Sync files

Do you use multiple computers and want to keep your files Synced? Maybe use a flash Drive to carry them around? Use DropBox. You don't need to carry those files around. DropBox is a web based syncing service. It syncs to one DropBox folder on each computer. You have 2GB free and if you need more you may pay to get more storage. Usually 2GB is enough. Have any questions let me know. Click here to install.

How to Consolidate itunes

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="128" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]iTunes Icon[/caption]

As we gather more and more music in itunes things may get out of hand. I bet many of you have seen a little arrow to the left of your song like this:

What does this mean? Well, it means itunes can not locate the song you are trying to play. There is one way to prevent this, to Consolidate your library. This allows itunes to store all your music in one spot. Instead of having some in My documents, some in My Music and just spread out.  To do this in Windows Go to File->Library->Organize Library... You will see a windows pop out like this:

Click the check box and click OK. itunes will gather all your songs into one place. You won't have that  exclamation issue again but remember every time you add a song repeat the processes again. This tip works for Windows but if you know how to do it in the Mac post below. Thanks!

SUPER Meets All Your Needs

I am confident in saying that at one point in our tech lives we would open a media file and it would not play whether it be on a personal computer or some kind of media player. There are many solutions out there but many are limited in some form and/or require some kind of monetary fee. I have tried several converters many were limited in conversion types and the best ones were free to try but were costly. BUT as always there is a free alternative!!

SUPER by ERightsoft

Provides all the neccessary to convert over 90% of files to a file of your choice. I have also made gif from videos with this software.

Although what may prove to be an obstacle for you if your a regular pc user,  whom utilizes the computer for just web, e-mail, and basic media use. The reason is because I feel the interface is difficult to figure out for those first timers out there and non power users.

The program WILL require some playing around with the options to get the best quality conversion possible. I say its definitely a must for those media users that like to share media through various file mediums for example convert a video that will play on iPod converted from and original format that is not supported by the iPod.

SUPER ERight Softwebsite

http://www.erightsoft.com/SUPER.html

Start Applications and Open Files Faster with Launchy

Whether working with the keyboard alone is much efficient than using a mouse is debatable, there are applications such as Launchy that push the debate in favor of working solo with the keyboard. Launchy is similar to Mac OS X's  Spotlight, and more configurable than the search feature within the Windows Start button.

As you can see, the level of customization is deep. I think the most powerful feature is you can have different folders be searched for a specific type of file. For example, in most people's case, a great amount of different files get placed in the Documents folder, when only the ones that are accessed are Microsoft Word files! So instead of spending 20 seconds looking for a specific file, simply configure Launchy to your taste!

In the MS Word case, add the Documents directory and specify that only Word documents should be indexed. To do this, you would simply type in "*.docx" without the quotations where "docx" is the Word file type. In my case, I work with programming files, word files, pdf, etc. The variety is considerable, so I just have Launchy search and index all the various files but only within that folder. Placing such a simple restriction has a huge influence on how efficient Launchy will be at finding the desired file. By default, Launchy will index your applications, but you can always take it a step further! Questions, comments are always welcomed.

Log On With A Different Screen

If you are a fan of user customization this is for you. Have you ever wanted to change the background of the screen that you log into? You know the one where you type your password in (if you have password lock enabled). Well, today's tip I will show share with a software that makes it quick and painless. Yes, there are ways to do this without installing software but this is for the everyday user whom does not want to go through a plethora of steps to change a picture. The software I am describing is LogOn Studio by Stardock. LogOn enables the user to select a picture from their harddrive to be used as the background for the login screen.

The reason why you should use a program instead of going through a bunch of system files is :

  1. Simplicity/Convenience
  2. You don't risk harming your computer by accidentally deleting something you should not
  3. If you go the system files route your picture has to be a specific size and type. This software does it automatically.

Note: This assuming you are not comfortable messing around with your computer files that could effect your daily computer operations.

Once you have selected your picture select open and then save on the following screen and your selected picture should appear as a choice. For example I selected onetechtip logo.

Once you have selected your picture CLICK APPLY and you are done. :)

Download @ the Official Site:

http://www.stardock.com/products/logonstudio/

Turn Off Windows Update Restart Window

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"]Revised Restart dialog box in Windows Vista[/caption]

If your on Windows, you know and have been itrrupted by the Windows Update pop up that bugs you to restart your computer. That screen can be so annoying. There are just three options,  to remind you later to restart your computer but no option to LEAVE YOU ALONE.  There is a solution to that. If you head over to www.persistenceunlimited.com and download the application LeaveMeAlone you can have this software

temporarily turn off the source of these restart messages

it's that easy. Download it and be more productive.

 

Use Your Ipod as a Flash Drive

Though flash memory has become cheaper over the last couple of years, the capacity in USB drives is still relatively small. On the other hand, Apple has done a fantastic job by increasing  their storage capacity in their Ipod music players without forcing you to carry a brick in your pocket. What if you combine both? You actually can! An Ipod and virtually any portable music player can be used as a huge flash drive that is easy to carry around. To do this, simply plug the device and it will behave like a flash drive!  In this example, the Ipod gets assigned drive letter D; below,  you can see a simple file transfer. Simple? Yes!

Lock Your Minimized Programs With Only Clicks Away!!

If you have a family computer that lots of people use, and you want to block some minimized programs so others wont use them or open them, then you've come to the right place. This download called LockThis! locks the minimized programs that you have selected so they cannot be opened except with the password that was made by you. To activate this program, you don't need a password, but in the other hand, to dis-activate it, you do. So give it a try and download it here.

Nvidia, Dell, HP, Apple Settlement

A couple days late, but apparently, there has been a settlement between chip maker Nvidia and computer manufacturers including Dell, HP and Apple. As it is, Nvidia supplies video chips to these companies for video capabilities for their respective computers. As Dell, HP, and Apple are major suppliers of computers, there is a high chance for people to qualify for a replacement especially if your computer failed in the last couple of years. To see if you qualify check here. Personally, I own a Compaq that failed recently, I will proceed with trying to get a replacement and will provide a follow-up if anyone is interested. [polldaddy poll=3883013]

Video or it didn't happen: Why screenshot when you could screen record!

Have you ever wanted to make your own how to do videos ? Especially when related to how to do videos on a computer? One day in order to show an audience how to access a site visually without being there in person and posting it on a site so easily accessible to others I decided to look up ways I could do this. Therefore I searched for screen recording software for my computer. I tried a couple free trial ones,  ones that required more work than I would of liked. Fortunately,searching under the “freeware” category lead me toCamStudio - Free Streaming Video Desktop Recording Software.Once installed you may select a specific area of the screen to be recorded in case you only want one a specific portion to be viewed.My recommendation is to learn the short cut keys to record and stop while recording the entire screen. You want to maximize the area (and resolution) for the best quality video.The video files may be saved as either SWF (which are good for websites streaming) or.AVI (ideal for uploading to youtube).Unfortunately,there are limits to this free software:

  • No annotations
  • No post video editing
  • No support for other video formats (MPG, DIVX, FLV, MOV, MP4).

Overall, the software is great to share some how to do on your computer videos or some demos of software. For example, a visual of the steps to  remove Ping from Itunes or where some steps are better supplemented with visual steps aside from  screen shots. If you are in need of more advanced features similar to those mentioned under limitations of this software expect a monetary solution.