14/02/15

Permalink 07:39:00 pm by Eugene Gardner, Categories: Articles

So here’s the thing – if you are kind enough to invite me round for dinner and afterwards place a cup of coffee before me I will feel bad.  I’d appreciate the gesture but I don’t drink coffee so I would either have to drink it (yuk) to avoid upsetting you or cause embarrassment by asking you to throw it away.  If only you had put water before me – something that everyone drinks and there’s no problem tossing it down the sink.

It’s the same with email attachments – if you assume that the recipient can read your chosen format you may be wrong.  Far better to convert to a universally recognised format such as .PDF - a format that, unlike editable documents (such as Word.DOCx or Ability Write.aww) is very hard to inject an infection into.

Also, it is polite to make it clear whether you are emailing a distribution list (or mail merge) to a large group or just an individual.  Replies to an individually addressed person are polite, whereas a mass mailing does not warrant a reply from everyone merely to acknowledge receipt.

Mailing several people ?  Use the BCC: field to hide the addresses from other addressees.  That way a single virus infected computer cannot harvest all your correspondents’ addresses in preparation for spear phishing attacks.

Wanting to send a few photos to someone ?  Have a thought for their time and download capacity.  Rather than attaching many individual files just upload them to a free cloud store (e.g. Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or Dropbox) then share the link.

Too busy to reply to a message within 24 hours ?  Send an acknowledgement of receipt – save the other side from wondering whether it was lost in transit and having to decide when to send you a pester note.

Please comment below about the above or any that I have missed.

P.S.  Although not strictly on topic, when you make a post in a forum think about the subject and how anyone visiting later would be searching.  Titles such as "another problem" or "what causes this" give no clue to the subject under discussion, will get far fewer people bothered to go to the trouble of reading through to help in your case, and give no regard to later generations trying to avoid reinventing the wheel. 

01/02/15

Permalink 11:08:00 am by Eugene Gardner, Categories: General

The regular Google Earth has been free for ages and given users the ability to get views of most places from the Google satellite down to the Google car.  It gives 3D images from your street to Mars.  Now though the Pro edition has been made free.  You still need a license but that comes by email a minute or two after you sign up at

https://geoauth.google.com/gev0/free_trial.html

I recommend the flight simulator mode of travel.  You can get tutorials from http://www.google.com/intl/en_uk/earth/learn/  

This is good for both Windows and Macintosh computers although your experience will be enhanced with a modern good quality computer.

18/01/15

Permalink 09:29:00 am by Eugene Gardner, Categories: General, Articles

It is sometimes interesting to know how your broadband speed is varying over time, or perhaps check on the quality of your line graphically.  Two free tools that help this are

Jack Dinn's AutoSpeedTester available from http://www.gmwsoftware.co.uk/  This displays in bar chart and log table modes the upload and download speeds every few minutes.  Also, usefully, the PING and Jitter.  There is a performance hit when you use this to think carefully before setting this to run too frequently.

RouterStats available from http://www.vwlowen.co.uk/internet/files.htm  This will show the signal to noise ratio and bitloadings - very helpful in checking the network on your side of the router.  Not all routers are supported but many are and as long as you know your router credentials it's not hard to set up.

Both these programs need configuration - they are not simple plug and play apps, but this shouldn't be much of a problem for those interested enough to download them in the first place.

25/10/14

Permalink 02:34:00 pm by Eugene Gardner, Categories: General, Technical Tips

It is common for devices to be able to connect with a network either through Wi-Fi or Ethernet.  Given that a hard wired Ethernet cable has a theoretical speed of twice Wi-Fi, it make sense to ensure you are passing data over the fastest available connector.  To set the priority of Ethernet over Wi-Fi proceed as follows.

For Apple Mac OS X open Network Preferences.  From the cog at the bottom left choose Set Service Order... Now drag Ethernet to the top of the list.  Click OK then click the Apply button. 

For Windows 8 open Control Panel > Network and Sharing Center  > Change adapter settings.  If Always show menus is not set in the Folder Options then press the Alt key to get the menu.  Choose Advanced > Advances Settings...  and in the Adapters and Bindings tab select Ethernet and click the up arrow to get it to the top of the list.  OK.

For Linux it varies a lot sepending on which distro you have.  Editing /etc/network/interfaces to reduce the network that should have highest priority is a common method on many.  FOr others the ifconfig command allws metrick adjustment.

04/10/14

Permalink 05:56:00 pm by Eugene Gardner, Categories: General, Articles

Most printers bought today have a wireless card and so can be used from any device anywhere. This can happen in different ways.

  1. Typically you will run the printer manufacturer's installation program on your computer that will guide you through setting it up for that computer.  Once done the computer could share the printer to others in the network, but to enable printing without going through the computer it is normally better to install the printer drivers on other computers.
     
  2. Cloud services are a good way of printing without going to the trouble of installing device drivers.  There are two non-printer manufacturer generic services that are common:
     
    • Google Cloud Print is easy to setup once you have a Google account.  In your Chrome browser select Settings > Show Advanced Settings then press the Sign in to Google Cloud Print button.  Most printers are compatible and can be added in this way. Even if not your free cloud storage option, Google Drive, is available should you want to save a document there before logging on to a computer that does have printer access, from where you will be able to print.  It is also possible to give printer access to friends - handy, for example, if your visitors want to print their boarding cards before leaving for the airport.  Many apps are able to access Cloud Print also as listed here.
       
    • Apple's AirPrint is easy to setup but not all printers are compatible - especially the olduns.  Your Apple device will automatically see the printer if both are switched on and connected to the network.  Many apps such as your Chrome or Safari browser, and Pages are AirPrint compliant and will just present the printers without any further ado.  
       
  3. Many printer manufacturers enable printing my giving the printer its own email address then it will print whatever is sent to it.  Not so good for complex documents but fine for 'regular' jobs. 
     
  4. Apps are available from the printer manufacturers to take the computer out of the picture.  Failing that apps such as PrinterPro enable printing where manufacturer support is lacking.

06/09/14

Permalink 09:54:00 am by Eugene Gardner, Categories: General, Articles

The word on the street is that Windows 9 will, as OS X and Linux have for years, support virtual desktops – the ability to group many programs’ windows and move the whole lot on/off the display together.  The functionality is available now free by running Sysinternals Desktops.

But the thrust of this item is virtualisation – the ability to run one operating system inside another.  This is often useful for running old programs you don’t have a licence to run on modern versions of Windows, or testing out a possibly virus laden program/website, or running a Windows program side-by-side with an OS X one, or even as a form of image backup.

There are five heavyweight players in this space and each has their pros & cons:

  • Microsoft’s Hyper-V
    Available only with the Professional editions of Windows 8 but included without further charge.  The VHD format guest disks can be mounted for read/write in the host OS to enable easy file transfer and virus scanning.
  • VMware Player & Converter
    Free, hence limited support.  The Converter is a physical to virtual tool that easily bundles up a real system for transportation elsewhere and execution on a Player.  Converter can even bundle up Acronis .TIB images (old versions only).   
  • VMware Fusion & Parallels Desktop
    Want to run Windows on a Mac ?  Apple’s Boot Camp allows you to boot into one or the other but virtualisation allows you to run them both together.  Fusion runs Windows well but does not allow OS X guests.  This is true of competitor product Parallels Desktop also.  Parallels is a slicker experience with good support but unlike Fusion cannot be run as a VM within Player.
  • Oracle’s VirtualBox
    This is free and runs on Windows, OS X & Linux but is sometimes hard to work with and good support is hard to come by.  Other virtual machine containers supporting the Open Virtualization Format can be imported but going the other way is difficult. Building guest OS’s is easy but switching hosts is hard work.  There is a portable version enabling you to take the virural machine with you on a USB drive and use it on any other computer.  Probably the best solution if creating many snapshots is your goal, but to maintain a sandboxed environment don't enable file sharing, use bridging to connect to a real network, or use regular accounts (that synchronize stuff).
  • Microsoft Virtual PC
    This is part of the 'XP Mode' that is incorporated into pro editions of Windows 7 but can also be coaxed to work under Windows 8 now renamed to Hyper-V

Remember that both host and guest operating systems will need a valid license to work properly; moving a guest to a different physical machine is possible but the hypervisors change the MAC address of the network card so reactivation is usually necessary.   Also, you cannot have too much RAM for smooth running virtualisation.

11/08/14

Permalink 07:59:00 pm by Eugene Gardner, Categories: General, Articles

Most email services limit the size of attachments to around 25 MB or less.  But sometimes you want to send one-off larger files right ?  Here are some options to consider; most free.

  • Create a Dropbox account and share a folder.  2GB is free but this can easily be increased by recommending others etc.   

  • Use a free web service to email large files such as https://www.wetransfer.com/

  • If you have a Skype contact you can click Conversation > Send > File...   (or Shift/Ctrl/F) 

  • Web sites like Box.com are designed for sharing files.  See 
    https://www.box.com/en_GB/personal/send-big-files-fast/

  • http://www.mega.co.nz/ offers a similar service for transferring large files.

  • Anyone who has a Goolgle account can share a link to a file or folder that breaks all normal size limitations by copying the file(s) to Google Drive.

There are surely others, please let me know if you find another service or method of sending large files.

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