Test your computer knowledge!

The Taskbar and other things

taskbarOne of the phrases I hear frequently is, “I didn’t know that!” It usually pops out when something that is being explained triggers a sudden realization that there is a simple way to do something or prevent a problem from occurring. The following suggestions are given to those running Windows machines but many of them are consistent with other operating systems such as Apple or Linux computers.

Take a look at the desktop. This is the screen that appears after we log into our binary buddy. Usually a pretty picture for a background, a taskbar along the bottom of the screen with some icons in it, maybe a few icons located above the taskbar such as shortcuts to programs and files.

If we set up the computer originally choosing all the default settings, (the ones that Windows thinks we need) then some interesting things occur.

Icons that appear on the desktop for a program such as Word and the icon also appears in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen, we find that the icon on the desktop requires a double click to open it, while the one in the taskbar only requires one click from the mouse. If we double click the one on the taskbar we can sometimes open the program twice.

The moving taskbar: Sometimes the taskbar moves to the side or the top of the window. Use the mouse to place the arrow on an empty part of the taskbar, press and hold the left mouse button and drag the taskbar where to its proper place. Once there, use the right mouse button to click on an empty area of the taskbar. A menu will appear and near the bottom of the menu click on Lock the Taskbar. This will prevent it from moving again. If we can’t drag the taskbar to a better position, right click on it and make sure it isn’t already locked. If it is, click to unlock it then move it and relock it.

Now open a browser. There are several popular browsers, Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera and there is a host of lesser known browsers. What does a browser do? It is not the Internet. It does however, take the data coming from the Internet and converts into something that humans can interpret. Or to put it another way, we can always open a browser, but if we have no Internet connection the page will not be displayed.

All browsers have the capability to print the page we are looking at. Remember it will print the entire page, ads and all. Many times we just want the article or statement from our bank, not all the junk that surrounds it. Take our bank statement for example. We can log in, go to our statement and there it is on the screen. If we use the print command from the browser, everything in the window will print. Now look carefully at the statement itself. Somewhere on, above, or near the statement will be a label or link that says Print. This will only allow the statement to be printed instead of all the junk around it.

Simple tips and tricks.

Court Nederveld owns his own computer consulting and fixit service –Bits, Bytes & Chips Computer Services. He makes house calls in Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte! You can reach him at adakeep@hotmail.com

Tick Tock, What Time Is It Anyway

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Tick tock. Tick tock. “Time Has Come Today” sang the Chambers Brothers in 1968. Chicago harmonized with “Does Anybody Know What Time It Is?” Then followed their question with “Does Anybody Care?” Van Halen’s musical entreaty was “Don’t Waste My Time.” In 1974 Jim Croce sang about saving Time In A Bottle. Time, is something that we either have too much of or don’t have enough of. How many times have you said, “I just plain ran out of time?” Or “I didn’t realize what time it was.” Or my favorite, “Time just got away from me.”

Tick Tock, tick tock. What is time? Time keeps everything from happening all at once. Without time you wouldn’t be able to remember the past. Or for that matter, even with time, why can’t we remember the future? Time also has different speeds. Time flies, or time just drags by. We even say that time stands still. Sometimes we lose time, or gain time. We give certain time specific events names such as Christmas Time or Bed Time or Lunch Time. So with all this importance placed on Time, how do we know what time it is?

Tick Tock, tick tock. Check your wristwatch. What time does it say? Now, look at the kitchen clock. Is it ahead or behind your watch? How about the clock in the dining room? Still a different time? Now look at your VCR. I bet for most of you it says twelve o’clock. (Is he a mind reader Martha?) “So what,” you say? Does it really matter if we are five or ten minutes late or early? Two thousand years ago, two buddies would say, meet me under the big tree at the new moon. So you would get there a few days early, camp and wait because no one could actually tell the exact moment of the new moon. Time then was plus or minus a few days. (So what are five or ten minutes?)

Do you have Onstar, Google Maps, TomTom, or a Garmin in your car, or GPS on your boat? Did you know that your position in the world to within a few feet is calculated by measuring the time it takes for signals to bounce from you to satellites in orbit? Stephen Dick, the United States Naval Observatory’s historian, points out that each nanosecond – one billionth of a second — of error translates into a GPS error of one foot. If the satellite time is off by the same five or ten minutes as the clocks in your house, Onstar might send your tow truck to Tampa, or Sea Tow might be looking in the Atlantic instead of Charlotte Harbor.

All right, how do I actually know what time it is? The genuine official keeper of time is the United States Naval Observatory. Here they currently have fifty-nine atomic clocks from which they calculate an average and answer Chicago’s question. This is the official world time. And here is the answer to your next trivia question. Of the fifty-nine atomic clocks currently used, ten of them are hydrogen masers and forty-nine are HP-5071 cesiums. (Gesundheit!) No, I don’t know what a hydrogen maser is either. But, these clocks must be accurate because it is predicted that the average of these clocks will be off by one second every six million years. So…

timedateIf you are running Windows 10, right button mouse click on the time in the lower right hand corner. A dialog box will open up and there will be navigation link labeled Date & Time. Click on it and make the selections in the right half of the window to configure you specific time and date situation.  Choose which ever you wish and let your computer set its clock with the atomic clocks and display the most accurate time currently possible. (Now go set the rest of the clocks in the house.) For those still using Windows 7, click on the date and time in the lower right corner. A box opens up displaying a clock and calendar. Click on the link labeled “Change Time and Date Settings. A new dialogue box opens and there are buttons to change time and date and time zone. At the top of the dialogue box are some additional tabs one allows us to display multiple clocks and the other allows us to change the Internet time server that our prompt digital domestique uses to keep accurate its clock.

Until next time.   And, oh by the way, don’t be late.

Beeeep…Beeeeeep

Beeeeep…..Beeebackupeep…….Beeeeep. I was sitting in my bathrobe this morning, drinking a cup of coffee and reading the local rag. I mean the Charlotte Sun. When this awful noise crashed into my morning routine. Beeeeeep……Beeeeeep……Beeeeep. There it was again. I jumped up; or more accurately, got up. That early in the morning not everything wants to function quite as sprightly as it once did. I walked out the front door to see what was going on. Coming down our street in reverse was a large moving truck.

Beeeep….Beeeep….Beeeeep. Now I am not superstitious but this was a bit weird. Have you ever had one of those days where at the end of the day you say, “I should buy a lottery ticket.”  One of those days when seemingly random events have a recurring theme embedded in them. For example: I client of mine gave me his phone number. Later that day I went to his house and his house number was the same number as the last four digits of his phone number. Then oddly enough, when setting up a broadband account, they asked him for the last four digits of his social security number and, you guessed it, it was the same number.

Beeeeeep…..Beeeeeep…….Beeeeep  So here I am standing in my driveway, listening to a truck make that terribly annoying noise and it hits me. The truck is BACKING UP. This is the second similarity in two random events. Not twelve hours prior to this, a business client of mine had called me and told me his PC had crashed during a power outage and now it would not restart. I had run over to help him but the PC was in need of a complete re-installation of the operating system. I looked up and asked for all the BACK UPS so I could rebuild the system for him. “BACK UPS, what BACK UPS?” he said. Fortunately PC CPR  (that’s a computer/medical term)  was able to get the system BACK UP and limping along sufficiently to do an immediate BACK UP of all critical business information. Happy ending so far.

Beeeeeep…..Beeeeep……Beeeeeep. What was this series of events trying to tell me? As I pondered the question I turned and went BACK UP to the house. Wait a minute, is that the third event? I realized that while my PCs are all supposed to automatically BACK UP all important data, it had been awhile since I actually checked the BACK UPs myself. How do I run my BACK UPs? First, since I have more than one machine networked together, I have software on my machines that takes all the important files from one PC and copies it to the other on a regular schedule. This means that each machine on the network has a complete copy of all the important files on each machine. Lose one machine, no files are lost, and as soon as a new machine is installed, I am BACK UP and running. Second, the critical files or the ones that would be nearly impossible to recreate, stored in the cloud. Finally, on rare occasions I will make an image of the entire hard drive (no this does not mean I take the PC apart and take a picture of the hard drive) and store it on the network.

Now, let’s BACK UP a minute. You don’t have multiple PCs on a network. You don’t have a flash drive, and finally your camera doesn’t take pictures of bits and bytes. When your PC crashes you want to be BACK UP right away too. What should you do? If your back up requirements are minimal, open a GMAIL account and take advantage of 15 gigs of free cloud storage called Google Drive. Or if you have a Microsoft account go to OneDrive for 5 gigs of free online storage. Dropbox is another storage site as is Amazon Drive. If your storage requirements are even greater then check out Carbonite (https://bitsbytesandchips.com/cloud_backup  (“Did he say FREE, Martha?”) There you can store terabytes of data, (that is a lot of space.) Not only would your data be secure and BACKED UP, but if necessary you could access your files anywhere in the world. Isn’t the Internet wonderful?

Hopefully you have picked up the recurring theme embedded in the seemingly random preceding paragraphs. I have to head BACK UP to the office now, but later on, I think I will go out and buy a lottery ticket. Beeeeep……Beeeeep…….Beeeeep!

Did your Windows Product Key Expire?

We discussed these items before but after this week, it appears a refresher is in order.

windows product keyMost of us run PCs with the Windows operating system on it, either Windows 10, or one of the older versions such as Windows 8, or Windows 7, or if really living in the past, Windows Vista or even XP. Someday the phone will ring and either we’ll be unfortunate enough to answer it or the caller will leave a voice mail message informing us that the Windows license key has expired and our binary buddy will be shut down permanently unless we pay up immediately. Red flags should fly up our flagpoles. First, the windows license key NEVER expires. Second, as a client was recently instructed, they needed to go to Walgreens, the scammer even provided the nearest Walgreens and purchase seven $100 Steam Gift Cards. The client was to call back and provide the numbers on each card to the caller and their Windows license key would be reactivated. Third red flag; Microsoft is a global corporation; the chance that they can’t take credit cards is zero. Fourth red flag; $700 to reactivate a key that doesn’t expire? We could buy a new computer for less than that. Fifth red flag, Microsoft will NEVER, not EVER, call us unsolicited.

And from here it went downhill as the caller convinced the client that he needed to take control of the computer to check a few things. The scam artist installed a small program. This program activated as soon as the computer was turned on and made the screen go black with a little message in the middle that said the computer had been deactivated and the user needed to call the 800 number right now. It looked serious, but task manager quickly allowed the bogus program to be turned off and then uninstalled.

Another item that needs attention is System Restore verses System Recovery. System Restore is like time travel. If we have it turned on, we can tell our binary buddy to travel back to a date where everything worked and start over from there. Example, we download an old driver for our printer by mistake, install it and the computer starts whooping and hollering that the world is going to end. We quickly open System Restore and move our pc back to the day before we installed the non functioning software. All is as it was. System Recovery on the other hand is like a rebirth. It wipes our calculating companion of all the accumulated junk, files, pictures, programs and miscellaneous detritus we’ve inadvertently added to our poor pc. When the System Recovery is finished the machine will be the same shiny box it was when we first brought it home. Here is the take away from this. System Restore, earlier time, System Recovery, all is gone but the PC is like a new born babe.

Finally, use a local tech. Much cheaper in the long run.

Court Nederveld owns his own computer consulting and fixit service –Bits, Bytes & Chips Computer Services. He makes house calls in Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte! 

 

Moving Files to the New Computer

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There sits our brand new calculating companion we successfully set up last week. We answered the initial set up questions and it finally displayed a beautiful, if empty desktop. What’s next? Moving files from the old PC to the new one would be appropriate now. There are multiple processes available to accomplish this task.
For those heeding my entreaties over the years to back up files to an online cloud system such as Carbonite (http://partners.carbonite.com/bitsbyteschipscomputerservices) the process is as simple. Surf over to our cloud based backup provider, log on to the site, click on recover files and follow the steps. This will install Carbonite on the new computer and then restore all backed up files to where they were on the old computer. Depending on how large the backup is it can take a long time. However this won’t prevent us from continuing with other tasks such as loading programs on the new computer.
For those preferring to back up files to an external drive, simply connect the drive to the new computer and copy and paste from the drive to the new PC. If we used Windows File History to back up our files to the external drive, we can open File History on the new computer and tell it to restore all our files in the same places on the new computer that they were on the old computer.
There are still a handful of folks that have no backups. If the old computer is still running, use a flash drive to copy all the files we want from the old PC to the flash drive then put the flash drive into the new computer and copy the files from the flash drive to the new computer.
Another possible method to move a lot of files from the old PC to the new is to network the PCs together and transfer files via the network. This again assumes that the old PC is working and we know how to set up the network between the two.
Some folks use Microsoft’s Onedrive, Google Drive or Dropbox. Install these on the new computer and all the files we kept in them will magically appear on our new computer.
If the old PC isn’t running, there is a possibility that the hard drive (where all files and programs reside) may still be readable. A local tech can pull the drive, hook it up to some fancy drive reading hardware and salvage files and pictures and move them to the new computer.
Many programs such as Microsoft’s Office 365 actually store files in the cloud so even if we didn’t back them up as soon as we reinstall the program the files will be available on the new computer.
If our preferred email program is a webmail based system where we open a browser to read our mail, then all the email we had was actually in the cloud. It will still be there when we surf over to the email site with our new computer.
One last method for transferring files, call a local tech. Next week installing programs, hardware, and setting defaults.

Court Nederveld owns his own computer consulting and fixit service –Bits, Bytes & Chips Computer Services. He makes house calls in Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte! You can reach him at adakeep@hotmail.com or 941-626-3285

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