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 Great Lakes Geek Tips - Geek Tweaks
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Free Commercial Software of the Day

This website offers free commercial software every day - but you have to download, install and activate that day. They have some really good stuff. Check it out and come back often.

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Geek Fun

Hey! Where'd all the fun links and stuff go? To keep the Tips sections less cluttered, we moved them to their very own page.




Windows Vista and Windows 7 and 8 Tips

We are posting so many Windows Vista and Windows 7 tips, we moved them to their very own page too.


No Charge
Geek Tip

The Great Lakes Geek was in a client's office when he spotted a smart phone and a digital camera attached to USB ports of the boss' PC. When asked, the boss said that was how he charged the devices.

The Geek told him that it is much better and faster to charge the devices with the wall socket rather than the PC's USB port. Consider that a typical USB 2.0 port in a PC can deliver about 500mA. A typical AC adapter supplies about double that: 900-1000mA.

Chargers that connect to your car's battery can do even better - maybe 1000 to 2100mA.

If you have USB 3 ports, they can deliver about 900mA of juice but it still makes sense to keep them free for other uses and use the proper charger for the device when possible.

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Network Admin Tools
Geek Freebie

A Florida company called Axence Software has some great free tools for all you network admins. You have to register but there is no charge.

Tools include:

  • NetWatch
  • Network, port and service scanner
  • WinTools
  • TCP/IP Workshop and SNMP browser
  • Traceroute
  • NetStat – list of inbound and outbound connections and open ports
  • Local info – tables with local configuration details: TCP/UDP stats
  • Lookup - DNS and WHOIS records
  • Bandwidth – network bandwidth test
  • NetCheck – LAN hardware and wiring quality check
Good stuff!

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Windows 7 Repair Disk
Geek Tip

One thing I learned over the long tech incident (holiday) weekend is that people generally don't so the simplest things to prevent problems.

In Windows 7 it is so easy to create a System Repair Disc that there is no excuse not to make one.

Click on Start and type in repair. Then click on Create a System Repair Disc.

Put in a blank CD or DVD (external drive for netbook users) and click on Create Disc.

Voila! Wasn't that easy?

Label the disc and keep it someplace safe. Then if you can't boot some day, load the Repair Disc and it will boot to a basic repair environment which includes System Restore and some diagnostic tools.

Do it!

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Open real old Documents
Geek Tip

If you ever found yourself having to open some real old Word docs or Excel spreadsheets (like from Word 95 or Excel 4 or earlier) in Office 2007, you were out of luck. The programs wouldn't open the files due to security reasons.

In Office 2010 you can change this if you really trust the files. Just go to File, Options and then Trust Center. Click on Trust Center Settings and you will see a bunch of settings you can change.

Caution! The Geek advises against changing these defaults unless you have a good reason and are knowledgeable enough to understand the ramifications.

For this scenario, select File Block Settings. There you can select and unselect file type (like Word 6.0 Binary documents and templates) and choose to Not Open, Open in Protected View or Open in Protected View and allow editing.

The Geek advises that you change the setting back after you accomplish your task.

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No Formatting
Geek Tip

This is another simple one that I took for granted that everyone knew - until a fairly techie pal saw me do it and was impressed.

If you copy some stuff from a web page or wherever and you want to paste it into Word without all the accompanying formatting, use this tip.

Copy the text (Control-C) but don't just Control-V it to paste to the document. Use the Edit menu (or drop down menu under the Paste icon) and choose Paste Special.

Choose Unformatted Text and even the hyperlinks are cleared up. Cool

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Office Ribbon
Geek Tip

I just discovered this - maybe you already knew it.

If you are in Word (2007 and up) or Excel or PowerPoint document and you roll your mouse scroll wheel you obviously move up or down in the document. But if you are in the Ribbon and roll the wheel, it scrolls through the tabs.

I am not sure how much time this will save or errors it will prevent but it's worth giving it a try.

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Decoy Administrator Account

A bad guy who wants to get access to your network is going to try for Administrator rights. Most actions that will mess you up require the security level of an Admin.

So one good way to protect your server and network is to rename the default Administrator account. Be sure to also change the default description of the account.

You can rename the Administrator account to anything, including Guest, but you may want to just make up a user name. One that won't draw a lot of attention (MrSpock is not a good choice, nor is Stephen Hawking)

On Windows Server 2003 it goes like this:

Go to Start - Admin Tools and then Active Directory Users and Computers. Expand the domain and click users. Right-click on Administrator and choose Rename. Type in the new name.

Then double-click on the new account to get the Rename user dialog box. Enter the fake full, first and last names and logon names. Click OK, right click and select properties. Remove any text that is there in the Description Field and click OK.

Now create a decoy Admin account. Create a new user and type administrator in the first name and user logon name fields. Click password never expires.

Now you have a new decoy account that only has domain user rights. And you can track it as necessary.

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Easy Picking for Excel worksheets

I remembered this one as I created a new spreadsheet for 2009 and named 12 worksheets with the names of the months.

Even with a wide-screen display, there was no way I could see each of the tabs across the bottom of the screen. Sure, I could use the navigation arrows and click through them.

And I remembered that I could press Control-PageUp to go to the previous sheet or Control PageDown to go to the next, but that's still too much work.

In every version of Excel I tried (the last few releases at least) you can right-click on the navigation arrows to the left of the worksheet tabs and a list will pop up with all the worksheet names.

The active sheet will have a check next to it and you can just click on any to jump to it and make it the active sheet. January through December isn't too bad but it really helps if you have 30 or 31 tabs for every day of the month.

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OpenOffice.org 3.0 released

Celebrated at a launch party in Paris today, and just in time for the eighth birthday of the project, the OpenOffice.org Community today (10/13/08) announced the release of OpenOffice.org 3.0.

The third major update of the leading productivity suite delivers significant enhancements and advanced, extensible, productivity tools for all users, including Mac users, as OpenOffice.org now runs natively on the Mac OS X platform.

OpenOffice.org 3.0 is more than a simple productivity application. With this release the basic components, which include word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, graphics, formula and database capabilities, can easily be supplemented by extensions downloaded from the OpenOffice.org extensions repository.

OpenOffice.org 3 spreadsheet sample

OpenOffice.org 3 spreadsheet


Download OpenOffice.org 3.0 for free but expect some delays today.

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Office 2007 - Keyboard Tips

I stumbled on this one by accident. I got a new keyboard and the ALT and CTRL keys are in a little different position from what I am used to.

So working in Word 2007, I noticed that suddenly there were little letters covering the commands in the ribbon. I experimented and found that I had accidentally pressed the Alt key.

In Office 2007 applications, if you press the Alt key, the ribbon commands will be covered by small letters indicating the keyboard shortcut for the command.

Press the letter for the ribbon tabs (like H for Home or N for Insert) to get more keyboard shortcuts to more commands.

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Save As PDF or XPS

One of the nice features in Office 2007 is the ability to save a document as either a PDF or in Microsoft's new XPS format. Of course because Microsoft and Adobe couldn't come to an agreement (can't we all get along?) they couldn't just include it in the software. You have to jump through a few hoops but it is worth it.

You can download a PDF tool, an XPS tool or the combo tool. Unless you have a valid reason, go for the combination tool.

You will have to go through the validation process insuring you have a legal copy of office but then it's a quick download and painless installation. And your Office apps can be open while you install - that's cool!

In a few minutes you will have a new option in your Save As menu - PDF or XPS (4th option from top).

Save as PDF or XPS menu

You know what PDF is but if you are new to XPS - here's the Microsoft explanation:

XML Paper Specification (XPS) XPS is a fixed-layout electronic file format that preserves document formatting and enables file sharing. The XPS format ensures that when the file is viewed online or printed, it retains exactly the format that you intended, and that data in the file cannot be easily changed.

Be sure to check the Options choices before printing/publishing to PDF or XPS.

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Tech Depot - An Office Depot Co.

No, no, no, no, no ... No to All!

When you are copying or moving a bunch of files in Windows you often get a dialog box asking if you want to overwrite duplicate files. To speed things up they give you a Yes to All option.

But there is no No to All option, which is often just as valuable, or more, than Yes to All. No to All would let you prevent duplicates from being overwritten.

Here's the cool tip. When you start the copy file process and first get the prompt about overwriting the file, hold down SHIFT and click No.

Then, a No to All option will be enabled and you can keep from overwriting the files as a bunch.

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Registry Export - Use those small thumb drives

You probably have accumulated a bunch of small capacity (say 256 or 512MB) thumb drives or flash drives over the years. With 4GB (and larger capacity) drives so inexpensive now, the small drives seem worthless.

But here's a tip to use the drive and maybe save yourself a lot of headaches down the road. Use them to store copies of your registry so if something goes wrong, you can recreate the registry from the saved file.

Click on Start then run REGEDIT. You may have to give permission to run this (if Windows Vista). Scroll to the top and make sure Computer is highlighted.

Then choose File and export and choose a name - something like registry backup. Keep the default file extension of .reg. Save it to a folder or the Desktop and wait a few seconds as it processes.

Then exit Regedit (File - Exit) and right-click on the newly created file and check properties to see how big it is. On 2 of my Vista PCs the reg file was about 175MB.

Then copy the backup to your small capacity flash drive and stick it somewhere safe. If/when the registry gets corrupted, you will have a nice copy to restore from.

You can thank me then.

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Free DNS Flaw Test

You probably saw the headlines all week such as DNS Flaw Leaves Major Internet Security Hole.

Security researcher Dan Kaminsky, director of penetration testing for IOActive discovered the flaw in the DNS (DNS or Domain Name System is an Internet service that translates domain names into IP addresses)

"It's the kind of a flaw that would allow an attacker to, say … go after your ISP, and if somebody dialed in, or wanted to go to Google.com, they could redirect them to pretty much any place they wanted," Rich Mogull of security consulting company Securosis said.

Check out http://www.dnsstuff.com/ and then try http://member.dnsstuff.com/pages/tools.php?ptype=free

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Free Software - Disk Space Finder

There are a lot of ways to see what kind of files are on your drives and how much space they take up but this freebie utility might be the easiest on the eyes.

IntelliConcepts has announced the release of Disk Space Finder which presents a PC's content as a 3D Pie chart, allowing the user to see at a high level what areas of the disk take up the most space.

Here's an example screen shot:

Disk Finder sample screen

You can then drill down into the areas that take up the most space and remove any unneeded content.

It runs on PCs running Windows XP, Vista or later. You can download it for free at http://www.diskspacefinder.com

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Start me up! On second thought, don't

Most of you are familiar with the System Configuration Utility, better known by its command line of msconfig.exe. Msconfig lets you view your startup files and services and then check or uncheck them so they load/unload when you start Windows. It is a great way to clean up bloated Windows systems.

But you should really have Autoruns in your toolbox. It is like msconfig on steroids. You can download it for free at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb963902.aspx

Not only does Autoruns cover the startup files and services like msconfig, but a whole lot more like info on toolbars, Internet Explorer shell extensions, browser helper objects and more. Plus it provides a lot more details about the files and services than msconfig including the exact registry key item for registry entries.

A nice feature is the ability to export the entire findings to a text file which you can look at later or store a copy. Later when things go bad, you can look at the old file and see what changed.

It's a great utility written by Mark Russinovich and Bryce Cogswell and well worth the 490KB download.

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Alphabetize your Programs and Favorites

Lots of you are still using Windows XP and have been for a long time. This means that you may have a bunch of programs installed. So when you click on Start and All Programs, you are faced with a ton of applications.

If you want you can group similar programs into folders and tidy up the list. But for many people, they just want some semblance of order. Here's an easy way to sort all those programs alphabetically for easier searching.

Click Start then All Programs. Then Right-Click on any of the folders or icons. Then just select Sort by Name and all the apps will be listed alphabetically.

This also works for your Favorites in Internet Explorer. Right-click and Sort by Name.

Note - this does not automatically alphabetize new items that you add so you will need to occasionally repeat the process to keep the lists in order.

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Make your Monitor Green

No, I'm not suggesting we go back to those eye-straining green monochrome screens from the early DOS days. Not the amber screens either. I can still recall seeing the row and columns of Lotus 123 permanently burned into a few of those old monitors. (kids, ask your parents)

I'm talking about the other "Green."

Save on electricity and reduce your CO2 emissions by a slight tweak in your Windows XP system. You can help the monitor go to sleep and enter low power mode by a simple adjustment. And when you want to use it again, just touch a key or move the mouse.

Right-click anywhere on your desktop and select Properties. Click on the Screen Savers tab. In the lower-right you will see a Power button - click on it.

Select the pull down list to the right of Turn off Monitor and select a setting like 5 minutes or whatever makes sense for your work style. Click OK a couple times to lock it in.

Now after 5 minutes of non-use idle time, your monitor will go to sleep and save energy until you need it again.

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Too many Icons?

I like to have a fairly uncluttered desktop but I see PCs all the time that are just covered with shortcut icons. If that's your preference, there's a way to adjust the screen real estate to give you more or less room between icons.

Right-click anywhere on the desktop, and then click Properties. Choose the Appearance Tab and then find the Advanced button in the lower right.

In the Item pulldown choose Icons Spacing (Vertical) and increase or decrease the number in the Sixe box. The default is 43. Click OK.

That will work for any future icons or shortcuts you create. To resize the space for all your existing stuff, just right-click on the desktop and choose Arrange Icons BY and then Arrange to Grid.

Finally, right-click on the desktop again and choose Arrange Icons by and then Auto Arrange.

On a monitor with 800 × 600 resolution, changing the default icon spacing from 43 to 39 squeezes eight icons into each column, up from the original seven icons. But really, wouldn't it be easier to just clear up some clutter and/or groups some of the icons in folders?

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Free Adobe Photo Tools and Storage

Adobe Photoshop Express (beta) is now available for free.

It's web-based software so you don't download an app. Instead, you join the site and upload up to 2GB of photos to their site. Then use the free tools to crop, edit and apply effects to your photos.

Visit here to give it a try.

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It's not you, it's me

How many times have you gone to a website and it doesn't come up and you wonder if the site is down or if it's something on your end?

Well, you don't have to call your buddy and ask them to check the site anymore. Just visit Down for everyone or just me? and enter the URL.

It will probably respond "It's just you." but you never know.

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MIT College Course

If you enjoy the brain teasers and logic puzzles but have a hard time with some, maybe you need to study problem solving.

The MIT Open Courseware program has a new free class you can download called Problem Solving Seminar

It gets a little heavy into math problems (it's intended to help students prep for the Putnam Exam) but will help you think creatively.

Take a look

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Free Software for Students

How would you like free, legal copies of Windows Server 2003, Visual Studio 2008 Professional, Microsoft Expression Studio and XNA Game Studio?

Microsoft has a new program called Dreamspark that will hook you up.

"DreamSpark is simple, it's all about giving students Microsoft professional-level developer and design tools at no charge so you can chase your dreams and create the next big breakthrough in technology - or just get a head start on your career."

You have to be verified as a student but after that, find a fast connection and download the software. Lucky kids!

Details here

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Collaborate on a Document in Word

If you work with others (and who doesn't?) here's an often neglected feature of Microsoft Word called Reviews that will make your collaboration much easier. And you don't need the latest version of Word to use these Reviewing features. It's there in previous versions but many people aren't aware of it.

If you have a version of Word before 2007, go to the View Menu and select Toolbars. Then check the Reviewing Box. You will see a new toolbar at the top of your screen.

This will let you share documents with other people and add comments and edits to the document. Each area you highlight and choose Add Comment will be in your color with your initials and the comments will be pulled out to the right of the document.

When you forward to colleagues, their comments will appear in another color with their initials. It's a great way to collaborate on a document and track who made what edits and comments. Or to make notes for yourself (why did I make that change?)

It's even easier in Word 2007. All the necessary commands and features are in the Ribbon bar under the Review tab. You can choose to accept or reject changes, compare two versions of a document (legal blackline) and combine revisions from multiple authors into a single final document.

Give it a try.

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Can't watch that video or hear the sound?

Sometimes you get a video that has picture and no sound or sound and no picture or, nothing at all! Assuming it's not a corrupt file, you probably don't have the right Codec installed on your system.

Go to http://www.jockersoft.com/english/codecinstaller.php and have this free utility check your system and see what you are missing. It then tells you where to get the Codecs.

Or try the K-Lite Codec Pack. It probably has all the Codecs you need. You even get a freebie video viewer.

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Internet Explorer 7 Tip - Multiple Home Pages

Everyone knows how to set their home page in Internet Explorer. Just Click on Tools then Internet Options then enter the URL in the space or click on Use Current to make the page you are on now your home page.

In IE 7 you can have more than one home page. This is valuable if you always open up more than one page when you open your browser.

Maybe each morning you open up a browser for Nasdaq and one for MSN. Instead of manually opening another tab, just include both URLs in the space on separate lines.

Be sure to put www.GreatLakesGeek.com on one of the lines too.

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Been a long time since I debugged

Jimmy Page with doubleneck guitarThere's a lot of hype over the Led Zeppelin reunion.

For those of us old enough to remember Zep when they (with John Bonham) ruled in the 1970's here's another memory jog.

Remember how we use to use the debug command to access and edit specific memory locations? (ah, assembly language - we miss you)

I needed to check a video card manufacturer and couldn't get it from Control Panel and couldn't open the PC so I recalled this old debug routine.

From a command prompt, type in debug then d c000:0. Type d again to see more or q to quit.

But don't fiddle around with debug without knowing what you are doing because it can directly accesses memory locations. That will leave your PC Dazed and Confused.


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Create your own Keyboard Shortcuts

I often have observers stop me when I am working on their PC and asking "How did you do that?"

Like many of you, I have accumulated a bunch of keyboard shortcuts that speed up my work.

Almost everyone knows at least some of the standard keyboard shortcuts like:

  • F5 to refresh an Internet explorer browser page
  • F2 to rename the selected file
  • WindowsKey - R to launch the Run command
  • Ctrl - S to save the current document
  • Ctrl - O to open a new document
  • Ctrl - Z to undo the last thing you did
  • Ctrl - A Select the entire document
  • Ctrl - Y Undo your last Undo (Re-do)
  • Ctrl - X Delete highlighted section and move to clipboard
  • Ctrl - C Copy highlighted section and move to clipboard
  • Ctrl - V Paste the clipboard contents to current spot
  • Ctrl - P Open Printer dialog box
  • Ctrl - B Toggle Bold on and off
  • Ctrl - I Toggle Italic on and off
  • Ctrl - U Toggle Underline on and off
  • Ctrl - F Start the Find fucntion
  • Ctrl - Home Move to start of document
  • Ctrl - End Move to end of document
  • Alt - Tab Switch between open windows
And so on

But did you know that you can create your own personalized keyboard shortcuts? It only works for real shortcuts, not any file. Say you have an icon for a shortcut to ABC on your desktop. Right-click on the icon and choose Properties and then click on the Shortcut Tab. Then you can make up your own Keyboard Shortcut Key as long as it uses at least one regular key and two or there of Control, Shift or Alt.

So you could could Shift-Alt-A for your keyboard shortcut for the ABC shortcut on your desktop. Of course, it will only be available to you on the PC that you created it.

There are also a variety of freeware and other apps that will let you create more robust keyboard shortcuts if you need more features.


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The Lazy Brown Fox gets Randy

When you are a two-fingered typist, you learn some tricks to speed things up. There's been one hiding in Microsoft Word for many versions. When you need to quickly fill up a page or more with some text, use the rand function.

For example, in a Word document type in =rand(5,6) and press enter. Word will display 5 paragraphs consisting of 6 sentences (the 5 and the 6 you chose) with the famous "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." sentence.

It's useful for checking formatting or impressing your high school typing teacher.


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Free Book - Ruby on Rails

“Ruby on Rails is a breakthrough in lowering the barriers of entry to programming. Powerful web applications that formerly might have taken weeks or months to develop can be produced in a matter of days.”
-Tim O'Reilly, Founder of O'Reilly Media

Rails is a full-stack framework for developing database-backed web applications according to the Model-View-Control pattern. From the Ajax in the view, to the request and response in the controller, to the domain model wrapping the database, Rails gives you a pure-Ruby development environment. To go live, all you need to add is a database and a web server.

You can learn more and download Ruby on Rails.

Plus for the next 43 days you can download a free Ruby on Rail beginner's book.


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Isn't that Special

Church LadyHere's something I use all the time that many people don't know about. When you are in an Office application like Word or Excel or Outlook and want to copy data from one app to another, you copy and paste, right?

That works but it brings along the formatting of the original document which can mess up your current document.

Instead of Paste,choose Paste Special from the Edit Menu. Then you can choose what and how to paste. For example you can choose to Paste Unformatted Text which gives you the data without carrying over the formatting from the original document.

This works well within documents too - especially in Excel where you may have formulas attached to cells.


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Not ready for Vista?

Many of you asked for some more tips for those still using XP. Several were jealous about Vista's Sidebar and Gadgets. What to do?

You can check out Desktop Sidebar, a nice piece of freeware that is very close to Vista's Sidebar.

Plus it has a growing 3rd party plug-in section with lots of nifty extras such as a File Browser, IP info and lots of skins.


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Internet Explorer 7 Tip - Tabbed Web pages

As more and more people upgrade to Windows Vista, they are finding a significant amount of differences from familiar XP (or earlier) versions.

This tip is actually not just for Vista but for anyone running Internet Explorer 7 (Yes, Firefox users, you had tabs first).

Tabs are very convenient. In IE just click New Tab and enter the URL in the box. Repeat as desired. Then click on a tab to view that particular Web page.

Click the Quick Tabs button to view all the web pages you have opened.

With multiple web pages in tabs, click the down arrow next to the Quick tabs button for a list of all the open tabs.

If you right-click on a tab you can choose to close that particular tab or close all other tabs except that one. Sweet.

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Get your Motor (Auto) Running

My system has slowed down to a crawl. What's the problem?

I hear this all the time. If I look at the system odds are there are lots of things loading at startup - probably without your knowledge. Files, services, device drivers and tasks all want to load every time.

I've advised you to run msconfig (Start - Run - cmd - then type in msconfig) to disable some of these items but it's not always easy. And some pesky files (are you listening QuickTime?) reload themselves every time you use it.

Msconfig is good in a pinch (everyone has it) but give a free utility called Autoruns a try. It provides a lot more information and includes and Online Search option to help you determine just what the heck some of those file are before you disable or delete them.

Once you clean up some of the startup bloat, you may have a much better performing system.

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Microsoft Word Functions

We all have a few Function key shortcuts that we remember and use. But there are a whole lot more that we probably don't recall and don't want to bother looking up.

Here's the solution. You can turn on a context sensitive function key display at the bottom of the Word page.

Go to Tools - Customize - Toolbars and look for the Function Key Display toolbar. Check the box to enable the toolbar.

Now you will see all the possible Function keys - the Function Key Name and the action it performs - at the bottom of the screen. And it is context sensitive so when you are doing a specific task, it will display those function keys that you can use in that particular circumstance.

Just uncheck the box in Tool - Customize if you want to turn it off.

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Google Stalker

You know that you can input a phone number in the Google search bar and get an address back. You can even get a Google map that pinpoints the location. That can be very useful but it can be a problem for some as well.

If you are concerned that your residential address will pop up from a phone number search, you can have your remove your name from the Google phonebook. You can even remove your business address but as Google warns "this removal is permanent and that it's not possible to add your phone number again in the future."

You fill out a form (residential) or send a signed request on your company letterhead (business). Details here.

But remember, just removing it from the Google phone book does not remove you from other Internet databases such as whitepages.com, anywho, switchboard.com and others.

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Speed up your Database Queries

John Hitchins of Teksouth


Danger Will Robinson. This quickie podcast, while of business interest, has a techie bent.

It's a brief interview with John Hitchins of TekSouth Corporation about their EntelliCache™ product.

EntelliCache™ lets you speed up your database queries significantly by analyzing them and creating a series of caches.

Take a listen.

2,147 KB and 2:17

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Y2K Vu all over again?

By now you've undoubtedly heard that Daylight Saving Time (DST) has been extended in the US starting this year. DST will start on March 11, 2007, three weeks earlier than usual, and it will end on November 4, 2007, one week later than usual. So we get 4 extra weeks of DST.

Since most of our PCs automatically update for DST based on rules that were established before this extension became law, there will be errors in time, calendar and scheduling unless you do some patching.

There are 2 areas to be concerned with: Your Operating System and your Applications.

Operating Systems

If you are using Windows Vista, don't worry. Vista is new enough to have the new rules embedded. If you have your Windows XP computer set up to automatically update, you should be OK as well. Microsoft has released a patch that is automatically installed if you have Auto Updates enabled. If you don't have Automatic Updates enabled, this may be the week to do it. (Start - Settings - Control Panel - System and then choose the Automatic Updates tab and Click on the Automatic choice and click OK)

Apple said Mac OS X Tiger, the most recent edition of the operating system, is fixed and has just released a fix for Mac OS X Panther.

If you run Windows Server 2003, there are patches available. Check the Microsoft Knowledgebase here

You can manually turn off the Automatic DST setting in most versions of Windows by right-clicking on the Date/Time in the lower-right hand corner of your display and choosing Adjust Date/Time and then the Time Zone tab and then deselect the Automatically adjust clock for daylight savings changes.

If you have older versions of Windows, such as Windows 2000, there are detailed instructions to make the changes yourself.

Applications

You may also have to update your scheduling and calendar software. On the server side, Exchange Server, for example, will need updates. On the desktop, Outlook will need an update. If you have other calendar and/or scheduling programs, check with the company that produces them for a patch.

Microsoft advises heavy calendar users to download a small program known as "tzmove" - Time Zone Move - that can retrofit all previously booked appointments to the new daylight-saving rules. Other vendors offer similar tools for their systems.

Many applications get their time information from the operating system but some (IBM, Oracle, etc.) rely on additional software, like Java, to stay on time.

So what's the big deal?

The change in DST will mostly affect products that small to midsize businesses are currently using for scheduling, time calculating, transaction logging, and billing.

Plus, you can't assume that others will have made the corrections. So pay extra attention to meetings and appointments scheduled between March 11 and April 1, and again between October 28 and November 4. Many people rely heavily on their computer calendar programs so if they aren't updated, you could miss them by an hour. Make sure you confirm with people the exact, corrected time of appointments.

And if you are flying or doing other time-sensitive actions, double-check the times.

Don't forget your laptops, smart phones and other mobile devices. Without a fix, calendars on those devices will show appointments at the incorrect time.

The problem won't show up only in computers. It will affect non-networked devices that store the time and automatically adjust for daylight saving, like some digital watches and clocks. But in those instances the result will be more of a nuisance and you can adjust the time manually, or wait three weeks.

Isn't technology fun?

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Uh, Haven't you ever looked at your keyboard?

A friend is recuperating from carpal tunnel surgery and the mouse is still a hassle for her to use for awhile. She complained about not being able to right click without the mouse.

Huh? Look down. Haven't you seen the key on your keyboard, usually between the Right Windows and Right Ctrl key?

It's called the Application Key and is the same as right-clicking. It looks like a little menu with an arrow on it.

She's been using a PC for 15 years (and types like Mavis Beacon herself!) yet never saw this key. Just in case you haven't either, check it out.

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Don't Log Me In

I got asked this three times in the last 2 weeks so I guess people don't know how to do it.

If you have a home (or work) PC that is physically secure and you don't want/need a password and you don't share it with anyone else, it's not necessary to logon with name and password.

So how do you turn off the screen prompting you for a logon?

If the computer logs into a domain then you have to edit your PC's Registry. I do NOT recommend you do this. If you log into a network domain, just bite the bullet and log on when you boot up. If you choose to bypass the logon, make sure you back up the registry before you mess with it. Detailed instructions to edit the Registry to automatically log on.

If you log on to a peer-to-peer network, workgroup or no network then you have a much easier and safer solution.

Click on Start. Then Run and type in control userpasswords2 and click OK.

You may get an error when viewing the help information in XP Home. Don't worry about it.

You will see (among other things) a check box next to "Users must enter a user name and password to use this computer."

Uncheck this box and click on Apply.

In the Automatically Log On window, type your current password in the Password box, and then retype the password in the Confirm Password box.

Click OK to close the Automatically Log On window, and then click OK to close the User Accounts window.

Next time you boot up, you will be automatically logged on without having to enter a name and password.

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Autoruns - Priceless Freeware for your Windows systems

The Autoruns utility has been called "The most comprehensive knowledge of auto-starting locations of any startup monitor" and is available as freeware for you to download and use. It shows you what programs are configured to run during system bootup or login, and shows you the entries in the order Windows processes them.

I always recommend MSConfig to people because it comes bundled with Windows but since this is a freebie and much better than MSConfig, give it a try. It has a nice feature where you can have it display only 3rd party stuff (not Microsoft apps) so you can see what has been added to your system.

You can use it on all versions of Windows including the 64bit version and Windows Server 2003.

Get it here.

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Flight Simulator is 25

25 years ago Microsoft Flight Simulator changed the face of the gaming world. You can download the free updated Flight Simulator X trial version which includes two airports, two missions, and three different aircraft. All of the missions take place at St. Marten in the Caribbean.

Missions:

Flour Power
Plane: AirCreation Trike Ultralight
Details: This mission has you behind the controls of an ultralight, a very easy to fly glider. The object of the mission is to drop sacks of flour attached to your ultralight onto various objects and targets scattered throughout the area surrounding St. Maarten. You'll be scored on both speed and accuracy. Try not to drop any flour on spectators or dolphins, as you'll be assessed a time penalty.

Caribbean Landing
Plane: Bombardier CRJ700
Details: The most challenging of the three included in the trial version, this mission will essentially be a take-off and landing of a Bombardier CRJ700 in a technically challenging airport. You'll need to manage air traffic chatter and surrounding AI planes efficiently to succeed.

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Professional Photographer Software from Adobe - Free

Photoshop Lightroom beta 4 is available for free download now (it will expire on February 28, 2007).

This is a heavy-duty tool for serious photo manipulators. The site has two free video tutorials to get you started.

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Too Many Programs?
Security Engineering - Free Book

Ross Anderson is a professor of security engineering at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory and an acknowledged expert in the field.

His book, Security Engineering, is now available online for free download (chapter by chapter) even though it's still for sale (click on the Amazon ad on the left) if you want the traditional format book.

From the Preface: "The purpose of this book is to give a solid introduction to security engineering, as we understand it at the beginning of the twenty-first century. My goal is that it works at four different levels:

  • As a textbook that you can read from one end to the other over a few days as an introduction to the subject. The book is to be used mainly by the working IT professional who needs to learn about the subject, but it can also be used in a one-semester course in a university.
  • As a reference book to which you can come for an overview of the workings of some particular type of system. These systems include cash machines, taxi meters, radar jammers, anonymous medical record databases, and so on.
  • As an introduction to the underlying technologies, such as crypto, access control, inference control, tamper resistance, and seals. Space prevents me from going into great depth; but I provide a basic road map for each subject, plus a reading list for the curious (and a list of open research problems for the prospective graduate student).
  • As an original scientific contribution in which I have tried to draw out the common principles that underlie security engineering, and the lessons that people building one kind of system should have learned from others. In the many years I have been working in security, I keep coming across these. For example, a simple attack on stream ciphers wasn't known to the people who designed a common antiaircraft fire control radar so it was easy to jam; while a trick well known to the radar community wasn't understood by banknote printers and people who design copyright marking schemes, which led to a quite general attack on most digital watermarks."

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Too Many Programs?

Can you really have too many programs? If when you click on Start - Programs you get an unmanageably large list, then you need to do something about it. It's easy to clean up and organize.

One way (easy but not my favorite) is to Right-click anywhere on the taskbar and then choose Properties and the Start menu tab. Click on Customize and look in the Options list. Find the Scroll Programs checkbox and check it. Then your Programs menu will display as one column and let you scroll through your list of Programs.

I prefer to organize my programs. Right-click on the Start button and choose Explore (or Explore All Users depending on how your PC is set up.) This opens up an Explorer Window right at the Start Menu. You will see the Programs folder under that. Click on the Programs folder to see all your programs. As you browse through, you will see that some could and should be grouped together. Maybe Music apps or Graphics programs or Utilities or whatever.

Let's do an example with your Utility Programs. Right-click on the right-hand pane of the Explorer window and choose New - Folder. Name it Utilities. Then drag your utility program folders to the new Utilities folder. Drag your ant-virus, disk defragger and other utilities folders there.

Repeat with other programs that can be grouped together. Soon you will have a nice organized Programs list that you can manage.

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It's like, you know, a great Word tip

Some people pepper every sentence with a few "you know's" or "like". You know, it's like I couldn't, you know, download the file.

You can get away with that in speech but not in print. You might not want to repeat any word too often in your document. In Microsoft Word you can choose Tools - Word Count and get a count of how many pages, words, characters, paragraphs and lines are in your document. But to get a count of how many instances of a particular word are in the doc, you need to use this Geek Tweak.

Open the Find and Replace box by pressing Control and H. Type in the word you want to count in the Find What field. In the Replace With field type in ^& (caret ampersand)

If the More button is there, click on it and make sure the Search menu says All. Uncheck all the other boxes except for the Find whole words only.

Then click on Replace All and you will get a count of, like, you know, how many times like, that word, you know, is, like, used.

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2 useful Perl scripts for you heavy duty admins and geeks

First, check out http://www.spamshield.org/fast-rdns.pl

The script is an "rDNS scanner." That is, you feed it a given subnet (say 1.2.3.4/16) and it performs a series of PTR queries to obtain the name of all the hosts (having a PTR record) sitting on the subnet.

The check out this Perl script at http://www.rfc.se/fpdns/

It lets you perform DNS fingerprinting. Running it against a given server IP address (or name) it will tell you which DNS s/w (and version) is running on that DNS

Thanks to fellow Microsoft MVP Obi Wan for these.

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Dell De-Crapifier

No, this is not another warning about Dell laptops bursting into flames. Jason York was tired of removing all the extras that came pre-installed on Dell PCs so he wrote a script to remove them.

He called it the Dell De-Crapifier and it got a lot of attention and updates from other scripters and system builders. After some, uh, attention from Dell, he changed the name to PC De-Crapifier and has branched out to other brands as well.

De-Crapifier and the associated words (like the verb 'to de-crap') should become part of the lexicon. Look out Sudoku and Podcast!

Be sure you know what you're doing before running the script. There are no guarantees that it won't mess up the system. But take a good look and decide for yourself. It's been tested pretty extensively but make sure you can handle the risk before running it.

Learn more and get it here

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Dude, this is a fantastic freebie!!!

There is an application called The Dude that acts as a network monitor. It can dramatically improve the way you manage your network environment. It will automatically scan all devices within specified subnets, draw and layout a map of your networks, monitor services of your devices and alert you in case some service has problems.

A great tool for network admins - and a terrific price! (free)

Some features:

  • The Dude is free of charge!
  • Auto network discovery and layout
  • Discovers any type or brand of device
  • Device, Link monitoring, and notifications
  • Includes SVG icons for devices, and supports custom icons and backgrounds
  • Allows you to draw your own maps and add custom devices
  • Supports SNMP, ICMP, DNS and TCP monitoring for devices that support it
  • Individual Link usage monitoring and graphs
  • Direct access to remote control tools for device management
  • Supports remote Dude server and local client
  • Runs in Linux Wine enviroment, MacOS Darwine, and Windows
Get it here

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Britney's Guide to Semiconductor Physics

This is a great reference. Who would have thought that Britney Spears was such an expert in Schrödinger's equation and Quantum Physics. But she must be. It's on the Internet so it must be true, right?

The lessons are actually very good and the Britney connection makes it fun. These guys did a great job with their site.

Briney Spears teaches physics
Maybe you can get your teen son to do his homework now.

Check it out.

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Math Nerds

While on the subject of homework, check out the help available from the Math Nerds.

As their site says, "MathNerds provides Free, discovery-based, mathematical guidance via an international, volunteer network of mathematicians.

MathNerds does not supply answers to homework, take home tests and the like; rather, we provide hints, suggestions, and references to help our clients understand and solve their mathematical problems.

Our team members are unpaid volunteers whose only compensation for their efforts are the "Thank You" messages from our clients.

Being a Math Nerd hinself, the Great Lakes Geek strongly approves."

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Batch File Tip - Start Me Up

Yep. The Geek still uses batch files. They save a lot of time and effort.

If you want to open say 3 programs from a batch file you might enter:

Calc
Notepad
MsPaint

But then Notepad won't run until you close the Calculator and Paint won't start until you close Notepad. To get around this, type it like this:

Start Calc
Start Notepad
Start MsPaint

And they will all launch right away. You could also use the pipe symbol | to launch all at the same time like this:

Calc | Notepad |MsPaint

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Selecting a few, but proud, files

When you want to work with a large number of files (copy, move, delete) in Explorer, it can be a hassle to hold down control and pick and choose all the files you want to work with. This is a cool way to speed things up when the wanted files far outnumber the unwanted files.

Instead of holding down the Control key and clicking on all the files you want, select the files you don't want. Then go to the Edit menu and click on "Invert Selection".

This will switch the highlighted files with the unhighlighted. Also a great party trick.

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The other founder of Microsoft

Paul Allen, the other founder of Microsoft, has created a great site focusing on Digital Equipment Corporation mainframes and minicomputers.

It's called PDP Planet and it not only contains an image gallery of those great old boxes but manuals and software. (Remember Kermit?)

Show that 20-year-old in the office what a real computer was like back in the day.

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Share and Share alike

If you manage more than 1 PC doesn't it get annoying to have to run Windows Update on each machine? Being paranoid, I am not a fan of automatic updates. There's a faster/easier way.

Go to Windows Update (either via Tools - Windows Update in IE or Start-Windows Update) then choose Use Administrator Options on the left hand side. Then you can click on the Windows Update Catalog.

The Catalog lets you download the files and save them to a share or burn them to a CD so you can use them more than once. Or go there directly

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Magical Jelly Bean keyfinder

The Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder is a freeware utility that retrieves your Product Key (that you would have from the CD if you could just find the darn thing!) from your registry.

Download the utility, unzip the file and run it and a little window pops up showing your Windows Key and a tab for Microsoft Office (if you have a compatible version). You can then copy the key to the clipboard, save it to a text file, or print it for safekeeping.

They say it works on Windows 95, 98, ME, NT4, 2000, XP, Server 2003, Office 97, and Office XP. I've tried it on Windows XP and 98 and Office XP. Works like a charm.

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Free PowerPoint Viewer

Need to view a PowerPoint presentation but don't have it on your laptop? Grab Microsoft's free PowerPoint 2003 viewer

It works with PowerPoint slides from PowerPoint 97 through 2003 versions.

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I Buntu, You Buntu, We all Buntu for Ubuntu

Have you been curious about trying Linux but don't have a PC to spare or don't want to mess up the configuration of a regular machine? Here's a great way to do it.

Ubuntu is a Linux distribution that you can freely download. According to the Ubuntu website, "Ubuntu" is an ancient African word, meaning "humanity to others". Ubuntu also means "I am what I am because of who we all are".

You can download a CD image and burn a CD or they will ship you one or many CDs. You can get the standard version or a 64-bit version if you have 64-bit hardware.

A couple things make this a slick distribution. One is that not only can you download the Install CD with all the stuff you need but you can also get a Live CD. The Live CD lets you boot from it and launch Ubuntu Linux without touching your existing configuration.

For example, I put the Ubuntu Live CD (I have version 5.10) in my CD-drive and start the PC. I boot from the CD instead of the hard drive and soon a Ubuntu desktop loads. It never messes with my hard drive.

When I reboot without the CD, my Windows XP system has been unchanged. So feel free to try this distribution.

The other good thing is that it comes with a collection of useful apps - even with the Live CD that runs from the CD.

Besides the Gnome desktop it has a bunch of Accessories, lots of Games, a Graphics section including the Gimp (the Photoshop clone), Internet apps such as Firefox browser and Bit Torrent, OpenOffice 2.0 with all the typical Office apps and a Sound and Video section with CD Rippers, Music Players and more.

All of these load from the CD.

It's a great way to try Linux and some popular Open Source apps without much of a hassle.

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Microsoft PowerToys for Windows XP

If you use Windows XP, check out the Microsoft PowerToys for Windows XP.

PowerToys are special additions to Windows that do special things but are not included in the standard operating system that you buy. Though Microsoft makes them available, they are not eligible for support from Microsoft. But the utilities work well and you can get any support questions answered here at the Great Lakes Geeks site or elsewhere online.

There are over a dozen PowerToys available. Each can be separately downloaded and installed. Check them out

Some are more for special interests such as the PowerToy Calculator which lets you graph functions, display your history of calculations and use trig and log functions.

Or the RAW image thumbnailer and viewer for you serious photographers.

Others will make your Windows life easier and more customizable. The Alt-Tab Replacement PowerToy, for example, lets you see not only the application icon when you task switch with Alt-Tab but also a preview of the page.

The granddaddy of them all, and what no serious user of Windows should be without, is Tweak UI which lets you do all kinds of useful things to the Windows interface. So if you prefer your Mouse to act a certain way or that windows open how you like them, for example, try Tweak UI.

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Useful Utility

The Great Lakes Geek likes small, tight code that doesn't require extra DLLs and doesn't modify the Registry but still provides a useful function. That's why the Geek recommends TinyResmeter.

It's a free utility that displays useful realtime system resource information (CPU speed, usage, RAM, processes, disk space, swapfile, etc) in a customizable format.

The small (under 100k) file also includes some cool printscreen stuff.

The Geek rates it at 3 Pocket Protectors

Check it out and download it.

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What CPU do I have?

Sometimes you get a PC and you can't determine what CPU is in it. Or you are looking at a used system and want to check things out for yourself before buying.

Intel offers a free Processor Frequency ID utility, for their CPUs, that you can download. They have 2 versions - 1 runs as a Windows app and the other as a bootable COM file for non-Windows OS.

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Minimize and Restore Desktop

I don't know how I've missed this one. I always use Windows Key - M to minimize everything so I can get to my Windows desktop.

But I just learned that Windows Key - D (remember D for Desktop) will do the same minimizing but it acts as a toggle so if you press it again it restores all the windows you had open.

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Stop Auto-Complete in Internet Explorer

When you are typing in a web address, Windows will, by default, try to complete the address for you. This is usually a nice convenience. It looks at what you've entered in the past and assumes that you want to go there again. Some people find this annoying and want to turn it off. No sweat.

In Internet Explorer, Click on Tools and then Internet Tools. Click on the "Advanced Tab" You will see a bunch of options with a check box next to them. Just click on the box to remove the check from the "Use inline AutoComplete" box and click Apply.

You will probably see some other options in the list that you may want to change

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Dan Hanson, the Great Lakes Geek

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