Share Folders Free with Dropbox

A very useful tool I use, mainly for backing up online and sharing files within my own network , but it has the potential for much much more is Dropbox. Yes, there is an upgrade option, but you can use the free version very well. There is also an option to get more free storage space when someone you tell about Dropbox signs up.

So what does it do?  It lets you share your files and folders with others by sharing an existing folder on your PC or creating a new one to share. Once you add other members to the folder, it will appear in your friends or colleagues own Dropbox just as it does in yours. Any changes made to the shared folder’s contents will appear instantaneously to everyone who is a member of that folder. You can create a folder in your Dropbox folder just as you would anywhere else on your hard drive.Can you see the potential in this?

There are two ways to setup Dropbox, as a local application or online. The procedure is pretty much the same either way.

Read more

Computer Hardware – Info for Beginners

There is more to your  computer than the monitor, the keyboard and the mouse, though most of the other components are hidden away.

In that big box that you often complain about being too bulky, lies the heart of the computer.

It houses all the vital parts that make your computer fully functioning.

Get to know some of these parts.

  1. The processor or CPU (Central Processing Unit) determines how fast your PC will be & is perhaps one of the vital parts of a computer, if not the most vital. Having a fast processor will allow your computer to convert data faster

    Read more

Saving Downloads so you can Find Them

This is a tip for beginners only! (If you’ve been using PCs for a while you’ll have worked out a method that suits you already).

Have you ever downloaded a piece of software from the internet and couldn’t find it later? It happens to thousands of people all over the world every day! An easy way to find it later is to first prepare a landing zone or a place where you know you can always find it.

Read more

Software Crashes – Prevention & Recovery

These days, most of us have a lot of software on our PCs and we need to know how to take care of our system to minimize the possibility of a crash.

(For beginners, the following words  have a computer specific meaning)

1. Crash – When a program or your entire computer stops working and you cannot move the mouse or use the keyboard, and the screen is frozen.

2. Reboot – When you restart your computer after a crash.

3. Control Panel – A feature of Windows that will give you access to system utilities and settings.

4. PC – just another term for your computer (short for Personal Computer – from early computing days)

What should you do first if your PC crashes? Try to stop work, go away & leave it for a few minutes. Often, the computer is trying to process a whole string of commands and might just need to take a little more time. Pressing more keys will just add to the computer’s processing queue, maybe even forcing a crash.

Most of the time the hardware is OK, but the software has caused a problem. A good way to try to recover from a problem is to press the Ctrl + Alt + Delete keys. In XP this will open the Task Manager and show you all the programs running. Note that at least one will probably have a non-responsive indication. Try clicking one at a time on the programs listed that are “Not Responding” and click “End Task”. After that, close the dialog box and see if your computer is working again.

This should solve about 98% of your crashes. If your computer is not responding after all this, you can try restarting. Switching off the entire power is the last resort and should not be done unless everything else has not worked.

To prevent computer crashes, it’s worthwhile to carry out ongoing file maintenance. Check that you have room on your hard drives. To do this, open My Computer and right click on the drive you want to check (e.g. C:) and then click “Properties”. You will get a pie chart showing how much used & free space is on the drive. Windows needs plenty of working space & the suggestion is not to go over 70% usage of your total hard drive space.

You may need to delete or move  any large audio or video files that are occupying too much space to another hard drive or a CD.  When you are short of space,  it is also advisable to remove software programs that you don’t use by going to “Start”, “Control Panel”,  “Add or Remove Programs”.

Make sure you have enough Memory or RAM (Random Access Memory).  If your RAM is low,  help out your computer by not opening too many programs at once.  To find out how much RAM your computer has, select Control Panel from the Start Menu, Double Click System Tools, and then open the System Information tab. The total and available memory is listed towards the bottom of the right panel when you click on System Summary.

Software programs that use the most RAM are those that include a lot of graphics, video or sound capabilities. If your system runs slowly and you use this type of program a lot, it might be worthwhile to upgrade your RAM

Back up your hard drive regularly. There are notes on how to do this online and it is very important and should be done consistently. This way you will not lose a lot of work should you have to turn off power or restart your computer due to a crash (or a power failure!). Losing work is never fun and can be avoided by a little preventive maintenance.

Best Wishes
Trish

7 Simple Ways To Speed Up Windows XP

I’m sure we have all complained that our PC is slowing down at some stage, so perhaps some of the tips here can help in your own particular case. They are all fairly simple, designed for beginners to implement if you follow the steps given.

1. Defrag Your Disks to Speed Up Access to Data

One of the factors that slow the performance of the computer is disk fragmentation. When files are fragmented, the computer must search the hard disk when the file is opened to piece it back together. To speed up the response time, you should monthly run Disk Defragmenter, a Windows utility that defrags and consolidates fragmented files for quicker computer response.

* Follow Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter
* Click the drives you want to defrag and click Analyze
* Click Defragment

This may take some time, so perhaps leave a defrag running overnight or while you do something away from your PC.

2. Detect and Repair Disk Errors

Over time, your hard disk develops bad sectors. Bad sectors slow down hard disk performance and sometimes make data writing difficult or even impossible. To detect and repair disk errors, Windows has a built-in tool called the Error Checking utility. It’ll search the hard disk for bad sectors and system errors and repair them for faster performance.

* Follow Start > My Computer
* In My Computer right-click the hard disk you want to scan and click Properties
* Click the Tools tab
* Click Check Now
* Select the Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors check box
* Click Start

3. Disable Indexing Services

Indexing Services is a little application that uses a lot of CPU. By indexing and updating lists of all the files on the computer, it helps you to do a search for something faster as it scans the index list. But if you know where your files are, you can disable this system service. It won’t do any harm to you machine, whether you search often or not very often.

* Go to Start
* Click Settings
* Click Control Panel
* Double-click Add/Remove Programs
* Click the Add/Remove Window Components
* Uncheck the Indexing services
* Click Next

4. Optimize Display Settings

Windows XP has a nice visual appearance but it costs you system resources that are used to display all the visual items and effects. To customize your settings, right click My Computer, select Properties and then the Advanced tab and under Performance, click Settings. Windows looks fine if you disable most of the settings and leave the following:

* Show shadows under menus
* Show shadows under mouse pointer
* Show translucent selection rectangle
* Use drop shadows for icons labels on the desktop
* Use visual styles on windows and buttons

5. Speedup Folder Browsing

You may have noticed that every time you open My Computer to browse folders that there is a little delay. This is because Windows XP automatically searches for network files and printers every time you open Windows Explorer. To fix this and to increase browsing speed, you can disable the “Automatically search for network folders and printers” option as follows:

Click Start, and then click Control Panel, Double-click Folder Options and on the View tab, de-select the “Automatically search for network folders and printers” check box.

6. Optimize Your Pagefile

You can optimize your pagefile. Setting a fixed size to your pagefile saves the operating system from the need to resize the pagefile.

* Right click on My Computer and select Properties
* Select the Advanced tab
* Under Performance choose the Settings button
* Select the Advanced tab again and under Virtual Memory select Change
* Highlight the drive containing your page file and make the initial Size of the file the same as the Maximum Size of the file.

Windows XP sizes the page file to about 1.5X the amount of actual physical memory by default. While this is good for systems with smaller amounts of memory (under 512MB) it is unlikely that a typical XP desktop system will ever need 1.5 X 512MB or more of virtual memory. If you have less than 512MB of memory, leave the page file at its default size. If you have 512MB or more, change the ratio to 1:1 page file size to physical memory size.

7. Remove Fonts for Speed

Fonts, especially TrueType fonts, use quite a bit of system resources. For optimal performance, trim your fonts down to just those that you need to use on a daily basis and fonts that applications may require.

* Open Control Panel
* Open Fonts folder
* Move fonts you don’t need to a temporary directory (e.g. C:\FONTBKUP?) just in case you need or want to bring a few of them back. The more fonts you uninstall, the more system resources you will gain.

Hope you find these tips useful.
Best wishes
Trish


Filezilla (ftp) listing problem

Recently I began to  get the error message “Failed to retrieve directory listing” at the point where I tried to list the files in the directory on some of my hosting accounts:

Command: MLSD
Error: Connection timed out
Error: Failed to retrieve directory listing

Filezilla was working fine until I updated to version 3.2.4.1 so this was very frustrating. After contacting the support desk of my hosting account, we worked out that this was either a Mozilla configuration error or my firewall was blocking ftp access.

I had Zone Alarm Security Suite running on my XP partition & initially turning this off allowed me to list. However, after a couple of days, the problem cropped up again. Note that I had the same problem using Windows7, even after allowing Filezilla to communicate through the Windows Firewall.

To cut a long story short, after a lot of trying different settings, we found a fix that worked for my situation so I’m passing it on in case it may help others, too.

This is for Filezilla:

Go to Edit, then Settings

1.Click on Connection – FTP &  Choose Active
2.Click on Connection – FTP – Active Mode & select “Ask your operating system for the external IP address”
3.Click on Connection – FTP – Passive Mode & Choose “Fall Back to Active Mode”
4.Click OK.

Now connect to your FTP site once again. This worked for me, as I got the result below:

Command: MLSD
Response: 150 Connecting to port 55410
Response:226-ASCII
Response:226-Options: -a -l
Response: 226 20 matches total
Status:Directory listing successful

Good luck!

Regards
Trish


Starting Your Own Blog

What is a blog and why would you want to start your own?

Firstly, a blog is often a mixture of what is happening in a person’s own life and what is happening on the web. It is usually in the form of  a  frequently updated, personal website featuring diary-type commentary and links to articles on other Web sites. Blogs range from the personal to the political, and can focus on one narrow subject or a whole range of subjects,  there are as many unique types of blogs as there are people.

Blogging is part of the general trend of putting everything on the web, regardless of whether we are talking about business, hobbies or personal stuff. It can just be a means of communicating with friends, with others who share your hobbies or interests, or it can be a business tool. Of course it can also be a combination of these things.

So perhaps instead of asking why you would want to have your own blog, ask instead if you want to, or have a need to communicate with others. The great advantage of social media is that you don’t need to know people personally to communicate with them and for this reason it is ideal for bringing interaction with others into the lives of folk who may otherwise feel isolated.

Is this you or somebody you know? Don’t think that it would be too hard to learn how to blog, because it is in fact quite simple and there are dozens of free videos and help pages to show you exactly what to do. There is no need to have fancy looking pages, but if that is what you would like, you could soon learn how to spice them up a bit.

Generally speaking blogs tend to have a few things in common:

  • A main content area with articles listed from the lates backwards.
  • Articles are usually organized into categories.
  • There is an archive of older articles.
  • There is a way for people to leave comments about the articles.
  • A list of links to other related sites, sometimes called a “blogroll” is often included.
  • There can also be one or more “feeds” like RSS, Atom or RDF files. (A Feedreader accesses other sites automatically looking for new content and then posts updates about that new content to another site).

Blogs can be stand-alone (self-hosted) or externally hosted. If you wish to host your own blog, you will be able to choose your own domain name, but you will be up for the cost of that domain name and your hosting at a minimum.

Externally hosted blogs are usually free but will often have limitations on what content and customisation you can have and perhaps also whether you can monetise it so if you want your blog to make some money, it is best to start out hosting your own. It is possible to change platforms later, but you would probably have to change the blog domain and that might lose you some readers. (For a more extensive discussion on the choice of blog platforms, go to  blogger.com

Some of the most popular free hosted blogs are listed below. All are very easy to set up and get you going quickly. Have a look at each one to see if it does what you want your blog to do, for example upload photos, videos, podcasts, run discussion boards etc.

wordpress.com
thoughts.com (as distinct from wordpress.org which supplies the platform for self-hosting)
weebly
yahoo 360
Windows Live

Problogger – Tips for Beginners

If you sign up to my blog this month you will get access to free ebooks about blogging (if you are already subscribed, you’ll be sent the link).

For more information, check outbecomeablogger.comProblogger – Tips for Beginners & becomeablogger.com for free video tutorials on how to create your own blog.

Blogging is an easy and economical way to share with family, friends and busuness associates alike. Make it fun!

Computer Crash! Prevent Loss of Your Valuable Data

Have you ever had a computer crash and all your data was lost?

Most likely your computer’s hard drive failed & this happens more frequently than we’d like and for all sorts of reasons. Another major risk to your data is fire, flood or theft. The following strategies will help you to protect and recover your data.

Although the software files for the programs that run on your computer is also data, you don’t need to back that up as it is easily recoverable from the installation disks you received when software is purchased.

The data that we will focus on is “user” data specifically, the data that you create from the software programs that run on your computer.

For example, if a word processor is used to create a document or a letter, the word processor provides functions to save this data. The data that is created and saved through the word processor is “user” data. Most programs will create and save data somewhere on the hard drive.

There are many kinds of user data that are usually stored on the hard drive, do you have some of these?

  • letters you write in a word processors
  • flyers / posters for your clubs
  • business cards
  • spreadsheets
  • greeting cards you’ve made
  • accounting data from a money management program
  • picture files
  • music files
  • video files
  • email and email addresess

This is not a complete list, but to give you an idea of what you might have created and could lose if your computer crashed or in a fire or theft. Most people do not pay enough attention to this basic fact about computer systems until it’s too late. Don’t let this happen to you!

Remember, the key is “prevention” and in order to prevent loss of valuable data you must be prepared, so let’s look at some basic backup plans.

Option 1: Save your data to CD or DVD disks
This is by far the cheapest option and a very good approach to securing user data, especially if you don’t have too much. All that is needed is a CD or DVD burner and some blank disks, which cost very little these days.

When using this option, make two copies so that one of the copies can be stored off site, to protect you against fire, flood & theft. Another reason is that a CD or DVD backup can also become corrupted & it’s better to have two or more copies.

Option 2: Use a memory stick (USB stick)
This will cost a bit more than option 1, but USB sticks are getting cheaper & cheaper all the time, and holding more data as well. One advantage is how small they are and easy to carry around. I bought a waterproof one when they first came out for my client’s data and was very glad I did so, as it went through the wash twice and still worked fine! (I did have other backups though & I still use that drive today!.)

Option 3: Consider having two internal hard drives, especially if you have a lot of user data, especially big pictures or music files.

Most home computers generally all come with only one internal hard drive, which stores both software and user data. This means that this one single hard drive is experiencing a lot of wear and tear. Every time a program is launched it’s being accessed. Every single function that the operating system invokes will likely hit the hard drive etc. This heavy wear and tear can eventually lead to physical failures.

Also, many viruses are designed to hit the operating system & if the user data is on the same physical drive as the operating system, then it can be severely impacted by viruses as well. The disadvantage of this method is that it doesn’t protect you from fire, flood or theft, etc, but it is probably the easiest way to automate backing up your files.

Option 4: Attach an external USB Hard Drive to the system

With the price of hard drives getting much cheaper, this is another really good option. By attaching an external USB hard drive to the system, special backup programs can be installed and scheduled to run over night. There are many cost effective backup programs available. Some will be built into your operating system and others are available free – search on the internet and you’ll find plenty of options. The advantage of the external drive is that your work is still physically separated from the main hard drive and can be taken off-site with you.

Option 5: Online backup service
The services are fairly inexpensive (typically about $5 a month), and the best ones won’t noticeably slow down your PC use or Web browsing (after the initial large upload, at least). They also encrypt your data before, during, and after it’s been sent to industrial-strength servers. There are no discs or USB drives to worry about, either. The service can start processing and uploading files automatically on a schedule or in the background when there are enough free cycles available.

How often should you make backups?

This really depends on what your data is. If you are only using your computer for emails and writing letters, perhaps once a week is sufficient. When you’re doing work for someone else, it’s wise to keep doing incremental backups as you go, every ten minutes, every hour perhaps. It’s a decision you need to make for your personal circumstances. I personally do my backups before I go away from my work area and every night. The main thing is, remember to DO IT!

Summary

  • You need to backup your user data in case of computer crash or fire or theft
  • Back-up frequently, as often as needed to make it easy to restore your work to where you were
  • Use at least two different methods
  • Keep one copy of your backup data away from the computer (prevent loss if fire or theft)

Hopefully this helped you become more aware of the importance of your data and the need to back it up.

The options presented here are the very same methods used by many highly experience data processing centers and can be easily adopted by the average computer user. The most important point to remember is that good planning for potential disasters is the best protection against loss of valuable user data. You may not think of it this way at first but the user data that you accumulate on your computer takes time to build up and acquire.

If you value your time then you’ll value your data. Your data has a lot of value. So why not take a few simple steps to protect it.

Handy Hints 1

Beginner Level

How many times have you wondered how to do a particular task on your computer but didn’t know how? How about things like create a new folder or copy and paste some text into notepad? These are simple but often a lost skill with many of the computer users on and off line, so here’s a refresher.

Computer Tip #1

Copy and paste is one task that every computer user will find they are using many times per session for many useful tasks. Say you wish to copy a portion of text into a file in which you are creating a report or project, even an article or your website content? This too is a simple skill to learn with a little practice you will be an ace at it and wonder how you ever got along without it. To copy something you must first highlight it using your left mouse button with your index finger.

You will want to start at the beginning point of the text you wish to copy and place your mouse cursor then by clicking your left mouse button. Now when you do this DO NOT let go of the mouse button which you are holding with your index finger and while holding that mouse button down simply move your mouse over the text until you reach your stop point then let go of your index finger.

Now simply move your mouse into the center of the highlighted text and then using your ring finger to press the right mouse button. This will bring up a menu with the copy selection. Use your index finger, otherwise called the left mouse button; click on “COPY” from the menu that comes up. You have now successfully copied the text and are ready to paste it into your project or a new notepad text file.

Place your mouse cursor in the blank notepad or project and then using your ring finger press the right mouse button to bring up the menu. From the menu select “Paste”. If you successfully completed the copy process your text should appear in the new text file or your current project. If not go back and try again. With practice you will find it becomes second nature to you and your speed will increase as you use it more and more.

Once you have mastered the copy and paste process this way, there’s an another very good way to do it (and my preferred method). Once you have highlighted the text you wish to copy, hold down your control key (Ctrl) and the “C” key at the same time, very briefly. This is written as Ctrl-C and does the same function as the right mouse click ‘copy’. Now move to the new area as you did before and do Ctrl-V (hold down the control key and the “V” key at the same time).

With copy and paste you end up with your text in both places. Sometimes you won’t want that, what you really want is to move it from one place to another, so instead of using copy and paste, you use cut and paste. And yes, there is a shortcut key combination for ‘cut’ too – it is Ctrl-X.

There are times when the cut, copy & paste options are not available on the right mouse menus, but Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V & Ctrl-X will still work. Practice and see which method works best for you. There are always lots of ways to do everything with Windows, Office and other programs , so you just use the one that seems easiest for you. Good luck!

Computer Tip #2

Have you ever downloaded a piece of software from the internet and couldn’t find it later? It happens to thousands of people all over the world every day! An easy way to find it later is to first prepare a landing zone or a place where you know you can always find it.

Some people use the My Documents of Windows but after downloading many files you may find it hard to find the latest file. One simple fix is to create a new folder on your desktop. The definition of your desktop is where you see icons of folder; files and you’re able to see your favorite picture as the wallpaper for your desktop.

To create the new folder is easy. First find an un-crowded portion of your desktop and then using your ring finger click the right mouse button to bring up the context menu for the desktop. There in the menu you will find a selection called “New” Then Click on “Folder”.

This will create a new folder on your desktop. You can name it something that will help you find the downloaded files. The first time you create a new folder, you will notice that the folder naming text is highlighted. To rename the folder to something more to your liking simply start typing and the highlighted text will be replaced with what you wish to type in. A good folder name would be downloads or my new files or even the month and year which will make it much easier to find those files in the future.

Now once the folder is created simply remember when you download the next file to save it in that folder on your desktop for easy and fast access.

I hope you found these tips useful; there are others I think you’ll find handy that will appear as time goes on. If there is anything you want to know about or some topic you’d like to have covered in a post, leave a comment or send me an email.