Tuesday, February 27, 2007

12 Quick Productivity Improvements

If your IT organization needs to show its value (and whose doesn't?) or show how it's improving the organization's productivity, read "12 quick IT productivity wins," by Dan Tynan.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Change Windows Explorer's Default Open At The Start Menu

When opening Windows Explorer in Windows XP, it takes a long time to open because the operating system reads through the listings of so many files in the default directories. It doesn't have to take so long if you change the default to open in a different directory, say the C:\Work directory. To change the default, set the target for a Windows shortcut to:

%SystemRoot%\Explorer.exe /n,/e,C:\Work

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Custom Sign Graphics

Both CustomSignGenerator.com and Txt2pic.com offer more than a hundred free graphics templates to help you design your own custom signs online. With a little imagination, you can create humorous signs to fit nearly every occasion. But they don't have to be humorous. The signs can announce a coming event or special occasion, such as an anniversary, graduation, or baby's birth.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

SQL Server 2005 Express SP-2

The final release of SQL Server 2005 Express SP-2 is now available for a free download. (Not be be confused with the earlier release under the same name back in November 2006. What's up with that?) The Books Online (BOL), SQL Server Management Studio Express and some other associated files, such as the SQL Server 2005 examples, have been updated to match the latest service pack of the various SQL Server 2005 Editions and the free SQL Server 2005 Express Edition.

If you have an earlier version installed (including CTF and community previews), use Microsoft's uninstall tool to uninstall it before installing SQL Server 2005 Express SP-2, because the components have to be uninstalled in a specific order. You'll go crazy trying to do it manually. But there's a readme file with the list of components that must be uninstalled (and in the order they must be uninstalled), just in case the uninstall tool fails.

The SQL Server 2005 Express Edition download is a compact 36.4 MB, while the SQL Server Management Studio Express is 43.1 MB, and the BOL is a hefty 135 MB.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

IrfanView v3.99 Graphics Editor

Download the free IrfanView v3.99 graphics editor. It's popular not only because it's free, but it does most of what the expensive graphics packages do. IrfanView can view, optimize, convert, scan and print graphics. If you need play movies or create slide shows, IrfanView can do that, too. It's free for private, non-commercial uses and for educational uses only.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Look Out For Drive-By Pharming Of Your PC

Symantec just released a report on how they've discovered how hackers can easily steal your bank user ID and password when you bank online. It's pretty ingenious, and because so many of us fail to protect ourselves against this type of attack, about half of us are at risk.

Here's how it works: The victim visits a Web page on the hacker's Web site (and it could be a Web site that the hacker has attacked, not just one he owns). Unbeknownst to the victim, the Web page contains JavaScript that changes the DNS (Domain Name Service) server setting for the victim's router, so that instead of requesting the IP address of the URL's typed into the browser from the ISP's DNS server (to go to the real Web site), the router requests the IP addresses from the hacker's DNS server. Unfortunately for the victim, the hacker has already set up his fake DNS server to point to his fake bank Web sites that look like the real McCoy. Next time the victim wants to do some online banking, he types in the URL or uses his bookmark, and the router sends the request for the IP address to the fake DNS, and the Web browser goes to the fake bank site. The unsuspecting victim types in his user ID and password, the fake Web site saves them both and now the hacker has all he needs to get into the real bank account and transfer the money elsewhere. Evil, huh?

You can prevent this from happening to your router by changing the default password, which according to reports, about half of us have failed to do. Yikes! If the hacker doesn't know the router's password, he can't change its DNS setting. If you haven't changed the password on your router, do it today before it's too late. The most common routers are D-Link, Linksys, and NETGEAR. If you have one of these, go to the manufacturer's Web site to find out how to change your router's password.

See the video explaining this all in more detail if what I've explained doesn't make much sense. You'll be glad you did.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Extend Vista's Activation Period

According to Brian Livingston, the Windows expert, Vista's 30-day activation can be extended up to three times. Read his article, "Extend Vista's 30-day activation deadline to 120 days."

Don't Pay Full Price For Vista Upgrade

If you plan to either upgrade to Vista or install a copy of Vista on a new PC, read Brian Livingston's (the Windows expert) advice: "Get Vista upgrade, never pay full price."

I gotta think that heads were rolling when a senior manager found out and asked, "You guys let it out the door like that?!!"

"Sorry boss. We forgot to comment out the code that let us test installs on any computer."


Friday, February 16, 2007

Free Gmail For Everyone

No one has to beg, borrow or steal that precious Gmail invite anymore. Google has made Gmail available to everyone, even those who don't have a cell phone (to get themselves invited). If you don't already have a Gmail account, sign up and you'll see what you've been missing. They're really good about keeping spam out of your inbox, and you never have to delete your messages. Just archive them and use Google's famous search to find them again.

New messages appear at the top of the inbox, but conveniently enough, the rest of the conversation appears right below it, so you don't have to go digging for any earlier replies. Cool, huh?

And some of Google's free offerings are tied to your Gmail account, such as the free Google Pages Creator (free 100 MB Web site and free hosting on Google's GooglePages.com domain), so there's no excuse not to have your own Web site any more.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Introducing Google Webmaster Tools

If you're a Webmaster, get free Google Webmaster Tools to manage your Web site's search engine statistics. These tools can help you to diagnose any problems you Web site has with Google's Web crawler. You'll discover what queries visitors have used to find your Web site in the last week, when the Googlebot last visited your site, and which pages are indexed by Google.

Introducing Google's Webmaster Central

If you're a Webmaster, the free Google Webmaster Tools is just the beginning of free resources available to help you manage your Web site. Google's Webmaster Central provides links to the free Webmaster tools which I covered earlier), Google's Blog, and Google's Discussion Group for Webmasters. Google's Webmaster Central provides links to an online tool that checks whether or not your Web site is being indexed by Google. You can also submit your URL and site map to Google, and get online help from Google's Webmaster FAQ.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Speed Up Your Browser With Google Web Accelerator

If you have broadband, you can speed up your browser even faster by using Google's free Web Accelerator. This tool uses strategies that load Web pages faster by doing the following:

  • Sending your page requests through Google machines dedicated to handling Google Web Accelerator traffic.
  • Storing copies of frequently looked at pages to make them quickly accessible.
  • Downloading only the updates if a web page has changed slightly since you last viewed it.
  • Prefetching certain pages onto your computer in advance.
  • Managing your Internet connection to reduce delays.
  • Compressing data before sending it to your computer.
Since it's designed for broadband connections, it probably won't help a dial-up connection. It requires Windows XP or 2000 SP-3 operating systems and Internet Explorer 5.5+ or Firefox 1.0+ browsers. If you're using another browser, you need to change the proxy settings to use Google's Web accelerator.

Monday, February 12, 2007

20 Most Popular Windows Open Source Applications for 2006

OpenSourceWindows.org has put out the list of the 20 most popular Windows Open Source applications for 2006, but someone named Carol went one better. She listed all of the portable equivalents of these applications, so we can download them and put them on our PDA's and cell phones. She also provided links to Open Source software for the Mac and for Linux, just in case Windows isn't your cup 'o tea. All of these applications are available as free downloads, so load up the truck.

Free Scan For Malware

VirusTotal offers a free online scan if you have any files you suspect may contain malware. They use several popular antivirus engines to scan each file for you, so you don't need to rely on only one antivirus software package any more. Files can be uploaded with an unsecure connection or with an SSL connection if your files are private. VirusTotal also offers a free scan if you have multiple files and want to E-mail them, instead of using the online scanner. VirusTotal will return a free report indicating the scan results.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Don't Use Public Wi-Fi Hot Spots Without Protection

Those free public Wi-Fi hot spots look convenient, but don't hook up to one with your laptop without protecting it first. Hackers are just waiting to grab unprotected data that you may send from your laptop, or which may be stored on your laptop that the hacker can read from his own laptop nearby, because when you connect to the Wi-Fi hot spot, you're on an unprotected network. Your firewall needs to protect your laptop from any would-be intruders. Read Preston Gralla's article, "How to protect yourself at wireless hot spots," to find out what you need to do to protect your laptop from those intruders.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Tips For Windows Vista

Just like earlier versions of Windows, Vista allows you to tweak its default settings to get better functionality and increased productivity when you need it. Read Preston Gralla's article, "Five Ways to Bend Windows Vista to Your Will," to find out how to tune Vista on your PC.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Opera 9.1 Web Browser

If you've been wondering if you should switch to a more secure and better Web browsing experience, try out the latest version of Opera. They just released version 9.1, and it has some more improvements over the last version. Most important, I think, is the security. It supports SSL version 3 and 256-bit encryption, provides fraud protection from phishing sites you may visit, and clears the browsing history and cache on exit so snoops can't see where you've been.

Opera 9.1 provides a content blocker to avoid ads and images, and it also blocks those annoying pop-ups. The BitTorrent download linker will save you time, and you can manage your preferences when displaying each Web site, in case you need to customize how some sites to look in your browser, but not others.

The combination E-mail program, news reader, RSS/Atom newsfeed reader, and mailing list organizer can also save you time and help keep you better organized. The E-mail program is a POP/IMAP E-mail client, so whatever protocol your E-mail provider is using, you'll be able to easily connect.

Of course, Opera includes tabbed browsing that even Internet Explorer 7 now has. You'll find the file transer manager, password manager, and fast-forward convenient, but what you'll really like for the convenience are the voice features, which allow you to talk to Opera and tell it what you want it to do. Opera also provides a unique feature called "mouse gestures," where pre-defined movements with your mouse will automatically call some commonly used features.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Abiding By Moore's Law

A major breakthrough in semiconductor technology by both Intel and IBM has the semiconductor industry all abuzz, and for good reason. Since the early '60's, computer technology has improved at such a pace that computer performance and cost have roughly doubled every 20 months, and the size has roughly halved. This is known as Moore's Law, after the man who first voiced this observation of the computer industry. Unfortunately, as the computer chips scale down in size, the material used as an insulator inside transistors becomes too thin to insulate them properly, leaking energy and producing additional heat. This in turn makes the chip burn more energy as additional energy is required to replace the electricity that has leaked from the transistors, which of course makes the chip run even hotter.

For some time, semicondutor manufacturers have been trying to overcome this size limitation, and it didn't look like Moore's Law would be able to provide the technological breakthrough needed. Until now. Both Intel and IBM have overcome this leakage by replacing the insulator material inside the transistors with a better material, allowing the transistors to be built even smaller for cheaper prices. With the transistors size decreasing, more transistors can be built into the chip, increasing the performance for the size of the chip.

These smaller, cheaper, and faster computer chips will be available commercially in the second half of 2007 and by mid-2008.

Lost In Translation

Ever come across a non-native English speaker who wasn't quite clear on the concept of whatever he was talking about? Something gets lost in the translation, and the results can be hilarious. Read these English language signs written by non-native English speakers and see whether or not they translate into something you'd want to buy, eat, or use.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Tutorial Video Series For SQL Server 2005 Express

While I'm on the subject of free tutorials, Microsoft's MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) has 13 free videos for beginners to learn SQL Server 2005 Express. After you watch the nearly nine hours of video (yeah!), you should be able to build databases and manage them, and to connect to them from other applications, even if you have no previous experience with databases.

Access 2007 Tutorials

Microsoft has provided tutorials to help you migrate to Office 2007 as soon as possible. The latest tutorials for Access so far are:

  • Basing one combo box on another
  • Shading alternate rows in a report
  • Multiple column reports
  • Eliminating unwanted blank lines in labels and reports
  • Counting in reports
  • Summing in reportsUsing parameters with queries and reports
  • On time and how much has elapsed

Send your questions to MSAccess@Microsoft.com, and Microsoft will answer as many questions as possible in upcoming tutorials.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Best Time-Saving Tips For Vista

Read Robert Cowart's and Brian Knittel's article, "Top 16 Vista Time-Saving Tips," to help bring yourself up to speed on the new Vista operating system. Fortunately, these tips work on earlier versions of Windows, so they can be applied to other operating systems.

Microsoft Office 2007 Tips For The New UI Ribbon

There will undoubtedly be a slowdown as offices migrate to the new Microsoft Office 2007, especially with the new UI Ribbon, as office workers relearn how to use Office's features without the menus and toolbars they're used to. Read Christopher Elliot's article, "6 tips for increased productivity," and you'll be up to speed in no time.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Complaining About BloggerBotIsDead

I wanted to add some pics to this blog, so I followed the link in Blogger to Hello.com, where I read about how BloggerBot works with Blogger. I felt really good that this was so easy, even though I'm new to blogging. I followed the directions, downloaded and installed the Hello software, and then I ran into a roadblock. Instead of BloggerBot being listed as one of my "friends," I found a BloggerBotIsDead friend -- and it didn't work. I tried adding BloggerBot, but that stayed as "pending" and I suspect I'll never get him to admit he's my friend. So I was stuck after following Blogger's and Hello.com's advice, but I figured I must be doing something wrong. This should work, right?

After scouting around, I found this blog with the explanation and what to do about BloggerBotIsDead. If they've know about this problem with the new Blogger since November, how come Blogger still recommends Hello.com and links to it? And how come Hello.com hasn't changed the Web pages to reflect the change, instead making us think it all works?

What a huge time waster on my Saturday. Thanks Blogger and Hello.com. Not!

Instead of BloggerBotIsDead, why not just update the Hello.com Web page to explain what happened? Or how about BloggerBotWillNeverWorkAgain or DoNotUseBloggerBot? That would've given me and everyone else a clue not to use it and waste so much time.

Connect To Access 2007 And Excel 2007

If you don't already have the new Office 2007 on your PC, but you need to connect to an Office 2007 data file on the network or you need to connect to Sharepoint, you need the right driver. The Data Connectivity Components of the 2007 Office System Driver are now available for free download. They include the ODBC and OLEDB drivers for the ACE and Jet database engines, a driver for Microsoft Office Excel 2007 (xls, xlsx, and xlsb), and a driver for Sharepoint Services.