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Add context option to open file in administrator level Notepad

It works in Win 10 too!
(Image used under: Creative Commons 3.0 [SRC])

One of the more irritating oversights in Windows 7 is that when you open configuration files from Windows Explorer (txt, ini, etc), they open in Notepad as expected, but when you go to save, only then do you realize that you didn't have admin rights and your work is wasted.

Sick of wasting my time this way, I found a little hack that adds a context option to the right-click menu in Explorer so you can open any file in an Administrator-level version of Notepad. You still get a UAC warning, but that's fine. At least it works.

Here it is

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Firewall Flowchart

Firewall
(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

I always recommend having a Software Firewall on your computer, but the one catch is that you have to know what to do when you get an alert. It's not very hard once you've seen it once or twice, but to help you walk through it, I've made this firewall flowchart:

Click on the image for a larger view

Just start at the green oval and answer the yes/no questions to trace your way through.

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Newegg.com

Newegg is one of those sites that just doesn't seem to have a downside. Check out these pluses:

Great Search and Sorting Function

Newegg - Electronics store

In this case, I wanted a laptop so I clicked that category. Now I can choose filters that will narrow the results by brand, screen, hard drive, processor, memory etc. This way I never waste my time on options with tiny screens or that are way out of my price range.

Even better, I can go to power search where I can add multiple filters from the same category! Now I can choose anything from EITHER Sony or Toshiba and within three price range categories.

Now I can get REALLY specific

The main reason I love this feature so much is that I don't care if a screen is 15 inches or 20, but I definitely don't want anything smaller! I also am very picky about brand while maybe in this case any graphics card is fine as long as it's an Nvidia and not a Radeon type. Power Search lets me do that!

Great Prices and Shopping Options

I have found Newegg to consistently have some of the best prices on anything around. Even if they're no lower than anyone else, they often offer free shipping or other deals. Even if there's no particular deal at the moment, they have a "Price Alert" function where you can enter a price to watch for. If the item goes to or below that price, you'll get an e-mail.

Many options

For the alert, enter any price you want, but note you'll get no response if the price never goes to that level. You can also set other conditions like if it goes to free shipping or has a rebate (I recommend checking both).

Setting a price alert

The Best Research Tool of All

There's 8 reviews and all of them are very high (except one)

Nothing beats direct feedback from users who have purchased products before. Newegg's community is very good about giving feeback both positive and negative and you will learn the best from the experiences of others.

An example of a positive comment

In this comment, the user tells us how much he loves this laptop, but also mentions that it has trouble going into sleep mode. By scanning the other comments or doing some research online, it's easy to verify if this is an isolated issue with just this user or something real to worry about.

An example of a negative comment

Now there was that one completely negative comment that seems out of place. Reading it, you see that the user is not complaining about the product, but about Newegg itself. And even then, it's not a very credible complaint. This kind of review can be disregarded.

The point is that you have a lot of good information from other users about the pros and cons of any product. In some cases, the reviews one after the other said that the power supply unit I was looking at was cheap, but wouldn't likely last more than a year. That was really good information to have before I purchased.

Great Service

Besides fast shipping that is often free, Newegg both in my experience and as can be seen from the other shoppers on the site, provides excellent service consistently.

Bash the product, love the store

While researching products I often find ones that mention that there was a problem of some kind, but that Newegg fixed it, refunded, replaced, etc. No matter how nice a site seems otherwise, without good service, it's no good, but Newegg is an great example of how websites should be.

Summary

So there you have it. Not only do I use Newegg all the time, I love the site and I recommend you try it out too. Click the logo below to visit them:

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5 Things I Love and 3 Things I Hate About Windows 7

Windows7
(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

The new Windows is actually very good. Some of the new features are huge time savers and make work faster and more efficient than ever. Here are a few:

Things I Love about Windows 7

Program search

Navigating through a series of menus, no matter how well organized causes a delay in launching programs. For the stuff you use the most, you can just make desktop or taskbar shortcuts, but every now and then you want to run a program you haven't used in a while (and may not remember where it is).

Click in the white text box and type what you want

Using the program search feature of the start menu, you can click the windows button, type a few letters in the search box and up come any matches. Using it, I can find my programs much faster than hunting around in the start menu. It's even better when using someone else's computer where there may be little to no organization to the programs at all!

Matching program names or menu items will appear.

Alt+Tab

The Alt+Tab menu in Windows XP

One problem with having many windows open at once in XP is when you hit Alt+Tab to scroll through the open programs, you only see the program icon which isn't very helpful if you have many browser windows open.

Improved Alt+Tab function in Windows 7

Windows 7 fixes that by using thumbnails of the windows making it far easier to tell WHICH browser window is the one you want. You can very easily see which one you want visually particularly ones that are animated, games, or movies. The thumbnails for these types of windows will be animated too instead of just static images!

Note! If a movie/game is minimized, the thumbnail will not be animated.

Win+Tab

This is a completely new feature from Windows XP, but if you press the windows key and tab, you'll get a scrollable series of large thumbnails. While still holding the windows key, continue to press tab and they'll file forward similar to flipping through a roladex.

The main difference between this and Alt+Tab is that it looks way cooler and the "thumbnail" is actually about half the size of the screen making it even easier to identify the window you want.

Bonus: Both Alt+Tab and Win+Tab include the desktop as one of your windows.

Grouped Taskbar Icons

This is actually a feature I really hated in XP. When it grouped my windows on the taskbar, it made it impossible to quickly click from window to window since I'd have to find the group and then figure out which in that group was the one I wanted.

With Windows 7, all windows for the same program (multiple Explorer windows or Firefox windows etc) will be next to each other on the taskbar. The default is to group them if the taskbar gets full (just like XP), but now, when you hover over a grouping, it shows you a series of thumbnails. When you see the one you want, you can just click it to open that window.

Instead of reading each title, you can tell in an instant which one you want. Even better, the function still works even if you turn grouping off. Just hover over any Firefox window for example and you'll still get a thumbnail list for all open Firefox windows.

Windows Explorer Thumbnail Size Control

Click this on the upper right...
... and you get this menu

For someone who uses images a lot in graphic and web design not even counting the thousands of family photos lying around, I often found myself using the old hack to increase the size of thumbnails in explorer.

Now, thumbnail size is built right into the view options of Windows explorer. You can select medium, large, and extra large (there are some other options, but they don't produce thumbnails):

Medium Thumbnails
Large Thumbnails
Extra Large Thumbnails

Things I Hate About Windows 7

And while there are some great new things about Windows 7, there were certainly bound to be a few things that aren't as good. Here are a few:

User Access Control

Ok, granted this doesn't bother you near as much as it used to in Vista and that's a HUGE improvement. BUT! Why, oh why, is it necessary to be prompted EVERY time a program opens? Firewalls have had a "remember my choice" function since they were created so, what? Microsoft hasn't noticed? They didn't think perhaps I don't want to be asked every single time!?

I'm sure the Microsoft programmers are smart enough to have been able to put a "always allow" and "always deny" option on their UAC prompts. I mean, seriously What excuse do they have for making this kind of mistake after all this time?

Driver Signature Enforcement

In the 64 bit versions of Windows 7, certain programs and hardware will no longer work because they can't afford to purchase Microsoft certification. Either that or it's an old program of yours that you really love, but isn't being actively developed. Because of this restriction, you have to say goodbye… or do you?

Fortunately, there's a workaround for this so if you can't figure out why your hardware is unresponsive or certain programs won't work while others do, try this trick.

Folders Refuse to Expand in Windows Explorer

While browsing around in Windows Explorer, you may have noticed an unpleasant change. It used to be that if you click a subfolder, the folder listing on the left would auto-expand all folders at the same level.

This is the kind of thing that you either notice becuase it bothers you as much as it does me or you don't notice at all because you don't use Explorer the same way. If so, no worries, but if you hate it like I do, here's a simple fix to make it work like it used to.

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Force Windows 7 To Install No Matter What Kind of Key You Have

Windows7
(Image used under: Creative Commons 2.0 [SRC])

If you lose or break your original installation CD for Windows 7, you're going to have a tough time. Maybe your neighbor has a copy, but it's the home edition and you have the pro. What can you do? Right now, a Windows 7 installation key is specific to the type of disk. However, all is not lost thanks to the Ei.cfg removal utility.

Although your Windows installation disc may say "Home Premium Edition," it still contains the other versions (such as Pro or Ultimate) on the disc—it just has a very small file called ei.cfg that tells the disc what version to install. The ei.cfg Removal Utility creates a new ISO of your install disc that ignores this file, thus letting you choose what edition you want when you start the installer.

It won't let you upgrade for free since your key will still have to match the version installed, but at least if you and your neighbor have a matching bit version (32 or 64) of Windows 7, you can use their disk for your reinstallation regardless of which package they purchased. Also, for people who routinely help friends with their computers, having a generic disk that can install any version of Windows easily is a huge help and cost savings.

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Wrapping Text in PowerPoint

A friend asked me today how to wrap text around an image in PowerPoint and it occurred to me that I had never done or even tried to do that. So I looked up the answer and found this from Microsoft's webpage:

We want to wrap this
There! That's better!

The trick is to use a built in Microsoft function called the tab key. That right… there is no function. First you put your graphic behind the text (and make sure the textbox doesn't have a background color). Then, Microsoft's own tutorial says you have to use tabs or the spacebar to create empty space over the image.

"Sure", you say, "but that's an irregular object. If I want to wrap around something square on the left or right, that should be much easier right?" Rest assured, it is.

In that case, all you have to do is create three different text boxes. One above the image, one to the side, and one below. Use the same font and size and be sure to place the boxes so they look like the text in the top flows to the one on the side then bottom when they're actually just three different boxes.

Seriously! Those are the instructions for wrapping text. What kills me is that sounds exactly like what I'd tell someone as a hack to make it work when no other way exists which must mean that it's an unsupported feature in PowerPoint. I can only assume that there's so little demand for this feature that they still haven't bothered to add it even to their 2007 version of office. Tags: , , , , , ,

Web Publishing and Kids

18 and partying... do you want to broadcast this?

Did you know that once your kids graduate high school or college, they're going to need to find a job? It's true! Did you also know that employers can be just as tech-savvy as your kids (or more so)?

Take this picture. You can see some girls having a "good time" while possibly illegally drinking underage. Let's say one of these girls is your daughter (we'll call her Suzie). Not thinking that it would come back to bite her, she posted this picture and caption on Myspace, Facebook, or her personal blog site. Fast forward a few years and Mr. Employer has Suzie's resume sitting on his desk. Wanting more than paper information, Mr. Employer does a quick web search and brings up Suzie's page with years worth of blog entries and pictures. Will he like what he sees?

It gets worse. Besides biting your kid in the butt, this can come back to bite you as well. Let's say she posts the following in her blog:

Suzie's Blog

Bummer! My parents are fighting again!

Posted: October, 10, 2004

This is SO LAME! I can't believe them!! Why do they always have to yell at each other? Just because my Mom smoked Dad's last joint… ugh!

Damn, Timmy is crying. He's just a baby for crying out loud! Of course he's going to cry when Mom and Dad are screaming at each other late at night. I better go get him so they don't take it out on him again.

Whether this post is based in truth or your kid is just "playing around", this kind of information could bring in law enforcement, child services, and who knows what other kinds of trouble. For example, what about the risk of drawing the attention of online predators?

The fears are well publicized based on a few exceptional cases: Someone finds your child through the Internet and does something bad to them. But according to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, the vast majority of real-life encounters of "Internet Friends" do not end in violence.. Stories of kids getting involved with older strangers usually involve teens (not younger kids) who voluntarily met them knowing their intentions. But it's hardly comforting to know that your 13 year old kid is in a "consensual" relationship with a 28 year old.

Whether consensual or not, the action is generally initiated by the predator and not your kid. Predators are going to "shop" online for information on likely targets and pick the ones that both match what they're looking for and then narrow it to the targets that are either especially interesting or especially vulnerable.

What to do about it

First teach them about Internet Safety including how to set up and use their social network profiles. But also make sure to Monitor their Internet and web service usage so that you can see problems before it's too late.

If you've only just discovered bad content online, it's not too late to do something about it. First, delete the data from any website under your control. As for ones that aren't in your control, check out these resources and the ones they point to as well:

  • How to check your online profile before you get a job – I could have put together tips for finding and handling your online profile, but they already did it so check out their article. One thing they didn't mention is a DMCA takedown notice. You can only use this for copyrighted works and not just stuff you find embarrassing. If you try it anyway, you're likely to anger the recipient and could find yourself the victim of the Streisand Effect.
  • How to create a positive online profile – This gives you advice on how to improve your online profile on purpose.
Remember that it's much, much harder to remove data once it's been posted (''you can't un-ring a bell'' as they say). Learn to be careful BEFORE you post and teach your kids the same.
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Kids and Computers

Put a kid on a computer and all kinds of interesting issues arise. First there's the problem of clutter as yours and their files and pictures intermingle making it near impossible to find what you want. Then there's the viruses and malware that they bring home from school or get online. They could download copyrighted materials and find themselves facing a lawsuit. They could post mean lies about other kids they know (cyberbullying). And in the extreme, they could draw the attention of sexual predators or worse. A kid can take a computer and destroy it, themselves, or your whole family if not supervised correctly.

The easy, but usually wrong, answer is to ban your kids from technology or web services.

The easy answer to is to avoid computers and the Internet altogether. However, kids need to understand the net and it's trends to make it in tomorrow's world so the better choice is to arm yourself with a little knowledge of your own so you can guide them down the right path before they take the opportunity to learn it themselves without your input or supervision.

Having a conversation in public place is usually safe because people won't necessarily hear you or care what you say. When when you speak online in Chat, Instant Messaging, Forums, and Internet Forums, everything can change.
It might be fun to post information online about your thoughts or feelings, but that can come back to bite you.
Your kids are probably downloading music and movies. Be sure you handle the risks before it's too late!
Make sure you limit the damage your kids can do to your computer.
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Microsoft Courier – Touch-Enabled Multi-screen Tablet PC

Microsoft's Courier PC

Today I found this article and short video talking about Microsoft's upcoming Courier Tablet PC. The device is a computer, but uses your fingers and a special pen for its navigation and input. This shows a lot of promise in making computing more intuitive.


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UK Police Can Hack Citizens Computer Without Warrant

Government overreach in the UK

This comes from a long string of stories about how bad privacy is getting in the UK. As bad as it's become in the US, apparently our friends out there have it much worse.

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