Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sharing Your Presentation

From time to time some of us have to give a Powerpoint presentation away from our home base work environment. Some of us are lucky enough to have a projector small enough to bring with us but many intrepid presenters depend on the presentation site (your customer perhaps) to provide the projector. Unfortunately, as many of us have learned, your computer may not communicate properly with their projector. This can lead to frantic efforts and frazzled nerves. Here is a great backup plan that will let you hook up THEIR computer (without your presentation on it) to their projector and, assuming their computer has a broadband Internet connection, display your presentation.

Tonight I am giving a presentation at the Randolph, NJ library entitled De-Gunking Your PC (Tuning up Your Computer). I expected a small group of interested people for whom I would print out copies of my presentation. Surprise! Sixty people are signed up and others had to be turned away due to space constraints! Printing that many copies of a presentation with 27 slides in it is more than I want to tackle. Besides, there are lots of hyperlinks in my presentation that take you to pages in Wikipedia and YouTube (for example). A paper version of the presentation would, obviously, not make the hyperlinks available. I guessed that someone might have created a way to share a slide show over the Internet and I guessed right!

A quick Google search turned up a new free service called Slideshare. At this site, once you have opened a free account, you can upload your presentation and have it viewed by anyone with an Internet connection and a web browser! Right now, (this is being written on October 18th 2006) even the folks who wish to view your uploaded presentation have to establish an account but it seems to be Slideshare's intent to open viewing access up to anyone who comes to their site, account or not. I have uploaded my presentation and I have tested viewing using both the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser and the browser I prefer, Mozilla Firefox. Both work well with Slideshare. The links in the presentation work well. As you move the mouse cursor across a slide, if the cursor changes shape you have found a hyperlink. Left click and a new window will open showing the linked page. Close that page and you'll be back to the presentation.

So..... For those attending the presentation tonight (and anyone else interested in viewing the slides) you can click on this link

or copy-and-paste it into your browsers address window and you will be taken to Slideshare. To establish a login userid and password you will be told you need an invitation. Click on "request an invitation" and fill in your name and eMail address (at a minimum). They will eMail you (in a few minutes) a userid and password. If, when you get into Slideshare, you are not take to my presentation, come back here and click on the above link again. This time, instead of being told you need an invitation to get into Slideshare, you will be taken to the presentation.

If you have any problems or questions about this, leave them as comments to this blog entry. I'll watch it and post answers there as well. For those attending the presentation, feel free to leave questions or comments about it in the comments here as well.

Best Regards,

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tuning Up Your Computer

On Wednesday October I will be giving a presentation at the Randolph Library. Here's a copy of the description of the presentation as it apppears on the library website:

" Learn how to restore your Windows-based PC back to its peak performance and reliability (rather than resorting to buying a new machine). Topics discussed include eliminating unnecessary files and programs, optimizing your hard drive, cleaning the Registry, installing the latest Windows updates and bug fixes, improving security, tweaking the Desktop and Start Menu, and preventing spam gunk."

Here is a link to the spot on the library website where you can register to attend. No fee. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Buying a New Computer - September 2006

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is "what computer should I buy and when should I buy it"? The first part of that question depends on the individual and I ask a lot of questions before I attempt to give an answer BUT the second part of the question is usually easy; the answer I usually give is "as soon as you want to". Right now that could be the wrong answer.

Microsoft is preparing (mind you this was originally due in 2004) to deliver it's next operating system , Windows Vista, in January of 2007. Recommended (by Microsoft) hardware configurations for the new operating system are considerably greater than they are for WindowsXP.

For Windows XP recommendations see here.

For Windows Vista recommendations here.

If you look at the Vista recommendations link above you will see that Microsoft uses two distinctly different terms to identify computers that will run this new operating system. The term "Capable" describes computers that "will deliver core experiences.... at a minimum". For this you should read "it will at least boot up but may or may not be capable of running the programs you need to run". The term "Premium Ready" is used to describe a computer that will not only run your applications but will take advantage of the new aspects of the operating system, especially the new user interface.

As of 9/13/2006 Dell Computer's website does not seem to offer any systems that are identified as "Vista Premium" compatible and their use of the words "Vista Capable" is very confusing. For someone unaware of the distinctly different meanings of the terms "Capable" and "Premium" in this context, much of the text on the Dell web site does not make the difference clear. HP's web site does a much better job of describing the difference.

Bottom line, at present it is not clear that all manufacturers (and in particular all retail sales clerks) will give you a clear idea of what if any part of the new operating system will run on a given system. I also believe that as we start getting closer to the holiday gift giving season, we will see major computer manufacturers and retailers selling systems bundled with a free upgrade to Vista when it is finally brought to market by Microsoft.

All in all, this is one of the few times that I am advising folks to wait a few months before making a new PC (desktop or laptop) purchase. Let the dust clear a bit first.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Destroy That Hard Drive Before Throwing Out Your Computer!

Here's a great example of why you should physically remove and destroy your hard drive before trashing your computer:

Some folks will tell you that if you delete all your files or Format your hard drive it's safe to give it away or trash it. NOT so! Deleted files are easily recovered (especially if after they are deleted there is no additional activity on the drive). Even formatting the drive doesn't remove all traces of your data. There are lots of utilities (many of them used by computer forensic experts like those you can find at the FBI) that can restore date on a reformatted disk to readable condition. Hard to believe? Here's an example of software that will do the trick:

Bottom line: if you are going to trash your computer, open the case, remove the hard drive, and literally beat the crap out of it with a heavy ball peen hammer or small hand sledge. Then trash it.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Downloading Audiobooks From Randolph Library

I have often used books on tape and more recently books on CD, buying them or borrowing them from the library to play in the car on road trips. I have also used them at home while doing some chore that doesn't take much attention. A couple of times I have forgotten to go to the library until the morning I'm leaving on a trip and, since the library doesn't open till 9:00, I've had to leave without my "book on tape". No more! Now, in just a couple of minutes, I can download a new book via the Randolph Library online!

As of May 1 2006 any Randolph resident, landowner, or person who works in Randolph can go to the library (you must go in person) and register to participate in the program. You will need an already established eMail account (anywhere) but if you're reading this it's pretty likely you already have one. After that, it's a simple matter of logging into your account, browsing the titles available, selecting one to download, and down it comes!

You will be able to play them back from your Microsoft Windows based home computer because the included Windows Media Player can play the .wma file type that these are recorded in. If you have a PDA that can play .wma files *and* you have enough storage room on the PDA to download the book files into then you can play them on your PDA. Any PDA using the Windows Mobile or Windows CE operating system from Microsoft and others that have licensed use of a .wma audio codec from Microsoft will be able to play .wma files. Most manufacturers of MP3 players have licensed .wma codecs from Microsoft and can play .wma files.

If you want to play the audio books from your PDA through your car's stereo system, buy an inexpensive device from radio shack that looks like a cassette tape with a wire attached. You plug the wire into the PDA or MP3 player head phone jack, pop the "tape" end into your car's cassette tape player and viola! the book plays through your car stereo. If you don't have a tape player in the car there are other ways of connecting the two devices. Note that Apple has a format that competes with .wma and has so far (this is being written 4/2006) refused to include a .wma codec in it's very popular IPod music players.

.wma files are capable of being managed by digital rights software that can put limits on their use. After downloading a book from the library and before you disconnect from the Internet, you "open" the book on your computer (using Windows Media Player). The player will then, over the Internet, acquire a license. According to the Randolph Library site, " The license allows you to listen to the audiobook for 21 days and to copy it to two additional portable listening devices". When the 21 days are up you will still have the file but your player will not be able to open it. According to Leanna Povilaitis, Assistant Director of the library, "the audiobook license can be renewed once and it will play for another 21 days.".

Click here to go to the Randolph Library site and find information on this great new service.

Happy listening and thank you Randolph Library!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Podcasts - Internet Radio and TV on Demand

When I retired I was determined I would stay current with new developments in Information Technology. Of course, retirement also meant I would begin to catch up on all those "around the home" projects I had been putting off for years. Some of those projects involved mindless labor like stripping wallpaper off the wall and painting it afterward and doing my own yard work. Podcasts have allowed me to keep my mind active, stay current on technology events and futures, and get the mindless projects done with a minimum of pain.

An excellent definition and explanation of podcasts can be found on Wikipedia at but I'll give you a short version here. If your cable TV provider offers "Movies On Demand" you're already familiar with the concept. A Podcast is audio or video content on demand over the Internet. Of course the techies got there first so early podcast "shows" have been predominantly on technical topics and that suited me just fine.

At this point some of you are saying "Hey, I've been able to download voice, video, and music files over the Internet since almost day one, what makes Podcasts so different?". The answer is a technology called Real Simple Syndication (RSS). RSS has been used for some time to syndicate (distribute) text from web sites and web logs (blogs). With the right receiving software (known as a NewsReader) on your PC, RSS lets you "subscribe" to a "feed" of new information from a web site or blog. This way you don't have to keep going back to multiple originating sites to see if there is anything new. The new stuff just shows up from each site you subscribe to "aggregated" in your newsreader on your desktop when any of them add new content. For a more in depth discussion of RSS and newsreaders see

Of course, to listen to an audio RSS feed or watch a video RSS feed you need software and hardware different than a text newsreader. In my case Apple's ITunes multimedia player takes the place of the newsreader. Yes, ITunes is free (you can download it from Apple's web site) and there is a version that runs on Windows. If you go to a website that offers podcasts and click on the RSS icon they will have on the page that offers the podcasts you will get a URL (like the text you type in to go to a website). You then highlight that URL and "edit/copy" it. You then start up ITunes, go (on ITunes main menu) to "Advanced", "Subscribe to Podcast", and, in the popup window, paste the URL you copied and click "ok". You have now subscribed to the current and future podcasts offered by that site from that "RSS stream". ITunes will automatically download them as they become available and you can either use ITunes to play them on your computer OR, if you have an IPod, you can tell ITunes to download them automatically to the IPod next time you connect it to your computer.

This technology has enabled me to "keep up" - I listen to the latest technology news and discussions while getting my "mindless chores" done. The very best site I have found for information Technology discussions is ITConversations which is part of There are literally thousands of "shows" to choose from in dozens of "channels". You can mark the ones you want to download to ITunes and/or your Ipod by adding them to your own personal queue on the ITConversations site. Your personal queue has its own RSS icon. I clicked on it, fed the URL it gave me to ITunes (as described above) and BINGO anything I drop into my personal queue on ITConversations winds up on my IPod! The amazing part of this is the content on ITConversations includes recorded sessions from conferences that my former employer paid thousands of dollars for me to attend back in my working days! In the latest batch of available podcasts on www.ITConversations.Com is their first video podcast and since my IPod is a video model, it works just fine. Of course, video makes it a little difficult to work on chores at the same time but hey, maybe I raked enough today.

Try it, you'll like it!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Safe Surfing

Virus, spyware, phishing attacks, identity theft - the headlines are scary for an experienced Internet user let alone the newbie. According to an article in the 3/20/2006 issue of Business Week, 33% of Americans age 45 or older do not use the Internet at all and the rate of new users signing up is expected to be less than 1% this year. Complexity and a lack of security are the two most important reasons quoted. With that in mind, let's take a look at a simple set of rules that will dramatically reduce your risk of being attacked by any of the above.

First rule: Run Windows update at least once a week

1. Windows Update. Many of the above attacks depend on errors (bugs) contained in Microsoft software. As soon as one is discovered the bad guys look for ways to exploit it and Microsoft looks for ways fix it. Microsoft makes those fixes available to you free of charge by way of Windows Update. You should run it manually (you will find it in your start menu) at least once a week or, better yet, work through the menus you'll find in it to set it up to run automatically once a day.

Second rule: Install and run antivirus software and
keep your subscription up-to-date.

2. Antivirus Software: Any good antivirus software will serve you in several ways.
a. You can manually start it scanning your computer's storage (hard disk) for any virus that might have found its way there.
b. You can set it up to do a full scan of your system automatically at the same time every day (recommended).
c. In addition to the system scans mentioned above, when you install the software (or later) you can tell it to always be active watching everything you download and every attachment you receive in your eMail and warn you if they contain a virus.

NOTE: The antivirus "stuff" you get from any reliable vendor comes in two forms, equally critical:
a. Software
b. Virus descriptions used by the software as part of its efforts to spot a virus.
The first, software, will continue to be able to run on your computer for years. The second, virus descriptions, are updated by the vendor on a daily basis and are available to you on a subscription basis. What this means is, you buy the antivirus package, install the software, and then have to renew your subscription for virus descriptions on a periodic basis, usually annually. Without up-do-date descriptions your antivirus software becomes more and more useless over time since new virus appear every day.

Third rule: Install and run antispyware software and
keep your subscription up-to-date.

3. Anti Spyware software: Spyware is a general term that refers to virus like software that watches what you do on your computer and reports it back to its creator over the internet. The result can be anything from annoying popup ads for things you might be interested in based on what you've been doing on your computer to identity theft as it sees (and reports) what you type as userids and passwords. Software to combat this threat works much like antivirus software does (see above) including the "software and subscription" model. As a result, antivirus software is beginning to look for and combat spyware and vice versa. Soon you should be able to buy one package and maintain one subscription for both.

Fourth rule: NEVER EVER respond to an eMail which directly or indirectly asks you to provide critical identifying information like account or social security number

4. Phishing attacks are usually eMails that pretend to be from a legitimate business that already has a relationship with you but "needs some identifying information refreshed" for some fictional reason. The eMail will usually ask you to click on a hot link. The link will take you to a web site that can look EXACTLY like the official site of the company you do business with but it IS NOT. Any information you enter will be captured by the "phisher" and used by them against you.

Safety is a relative thing. We all do things that are to some degree risky because of the potential reward. Riding in a car is a prime example. More than 40,000 people are killed annually in the USA in automobile accidents yet we don't stop getting in the car. Instead, we wear a seat belt, buy cars with air bags, and drive defensively. You can think of the above four rules in the same way. Safe surfing, folks.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Putting Video Up On the WWW for Free

Well, my apologies for the long hiatus over the holidays. I'm sure many of you were busy also, so perhaps you'll understand. At any rate, I'm back, and hopefully with something you'll find interesting.

In an earlier post I mentioned snap shot sharing as one of the useful things you can do on the web. One of the best known and easiest locations to do this from is Once you have set up a free account there, you can upload and store photos on Flickr. The number you upload is unlimited, but with a free membership only the last 200 will be viewable by anyone. You can designate them as viewable only by people you name or by the whole world (which is the default). You have the choice of retaining copyright to your photos or making them available for anyone's use under the Creative Commons license. (You can check the meaning of a Creative Commons license in Wikipedia at ) . If you establish a paid membership, restrictions on the number of your photos that can be viewed are removed and you get other benefits as well. Among other things, I use Flickr to store the picture of me that appears in this blog.

So much for photos, how about video? Keep in mind that if you are on a dialup link, video isn't practical because the files are too big to upload or download unless you have an amazing amount of patience.

Flickr does not handle video but another free site, WWW.Putfile.Com does. Upload any number of up to 25MB files and they stay for up to six months even if they're never viewed. If they're viewed at least once every six months they stay indefinitely. They have a FAQ here that spells out the terms of service. I spent a couple of hours browsing and it looks like for the most part people are experimenting, learning how to use software to capture, edit and mix video. There is an occasional gem in the mix. Here is an example:

Hope you enjoyed it; why not browse around the site to see if there is a Gem you can locate.