Archive for April, 2012

Searchable PDF’s

Helpful Hints | Posted by Dennis April 26th, 2012

“What is a Searchable PDF?”, my customers often ask.  Well, there are basically two ways to scan a document; 1) As a picture.  These can be saved as JPG, BMP, or any other picture format.  BUT they can also be saved as a flat, or picture-style PDF document.  You’ve probably run across these if you’ve ever had a PDF where you COULD NOT select text.  To get around this you need 2) to scan the WORDS within the document.  This is called OCR, or Optical Character Recognition.  The computer tries to interpret every little symbol as a letter or number, and then indexes those words for you, making it SEARCHABLE.  Note that you can often OCR to a Word document or other editor and then spellcheck, edit, etc.  You may need this because the accuracy of the OCR depends on the software and quality of scanned document.  A lot of scanners now offer these options.  OR if you own Adobe Acrobat (rather than just the Reader) it will OCR as well.  Here’s an article that steps you through it (thanks CreativeTechs!). Powerful stuff…

Outlook Duplicates

Helpful Hints | Posted by Dennis April 25th, 2012

Sometimes Outlook, or your email server, messes up.  With all the syncing and smartphone use these days, there are more ways than ever to get COPIES, or duplicates, in your email, calendar, contacts, etc.  If it’s email, there can be several causes.  Here’s an article  that has good starting points for troubleshooting this issue (Thanks Mike at Demand Media!).  If these don’t help, keep searching, there is a LOT of info out there.  But after the fact, once you fix the source of the problem, you STILL can have a big mess to clean up.  I found a nifty free tool that can remove all duplicates from any given folder in outlook.  You can download it here

Scrubbing data

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis April 24th, 2012

Did you know that deleted files aren’t REALLY deleted?  Normally, even if you remove a file from the Recycle Bin in Windows, it only removes the first bit of the file, the rest stays intact.  So if you’re getting rid of an old PC, for example, a savvy user can pull up things you intended to delete.  The answer?  File Scrubbing.  This is a method of going through the free space on your drive and re-writing it several times with 1’s and 0’s.  I found a great, free, utility that does this called Summit HDScrubber.  You can get it here.  Of course, you also need to watch out for hidden files, and other stuff.  Before you scrub, remove your Windows account and the data in it.  If you’re just going to throw the PC away, you can always just remove and pound the hard drive with a hammer.  :-)

Android update

Helpful Hints, News | Posted by Dennis April 23rd, 2012

I’ve been using the Samsung Intercept for about 8 months now, along with Virgin Mobile’s (VM) pre-paid service.  I still like it, mostly for the price.  This Android phone (and service) have issues that make them both mediocre at best, but I feel like I’m taking a stand against outrageous fee practices with the other “mainstream” companies.  If you’re interested in cutting your monthly mobile bill in half, VM has several new Android phones available that are getting much better reviews.  The one I’m eyeballing is the LG Optimus Slider.  My wife bought the Optimus V, and it’s better than mine.  But I REALLY like having a slide-out keyboard, so the new slider phone fits me to a tee.  (See it here)  It has a faster processor than most of the other offerings, which will be a much-needed improvement.  The only other (repeated) gripe I see is about battery life.  I’ve said it before, but just a reminder:  On ANY smartphone, you will greatly improve your battery time if you’ll disable the GPS and WiFi features.  Just turn them on when you need them, and you’ll get hours instead of minutes of phone time.

Linux on a Stick

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis April 19th, 2012

For emergencies, it’s a good idea to have an alternative way to boot up your PC (especially if you don’t have quick access to a good IT guy/girl!).  Back when Windows Vista came out, a lot of us in the PC industry were worried about the file system.  They changed it to a mandatory NTFS file system, which meant that a lot of the bootable tools we used were obsolete. Alas, this continued with Win 7.  See, there are times when having some OTHER software besides Windows on your hard drive is very helpful.  If your drive crashes, glitches, or gets infected you need another way to see and manipulate things.  The answer is to have a disk or  other bootable media do it instead.  Back then the vast majority of tools available couldn’t read the new file system.  But that has all changed, thanks to OpenGL projects like Ubuntu and Unetbootin. 1) Ubuntu is a flavor of Linux.  Much like Windows, it’s a very user-friendly way to use your computer.  You can download it FREE from this site, and burn a bootable CD within minutes.  When you start your computer, just choose your CD (or DVD) drive, and VIOLA… you can surf, play movies, and pretty much everything else with a totally different operating system!  Kudos to all the hard-working Linux people out there.  These latest varieties of Linux (there are LOTS more) have come a long way from the early days.  Back then it was NOT for the faint-of-heart, and could be downright frustrating for a newby.  Now here’s the REALLY cool part:  2) Unetbootin is a tool that lets you put Linux on your Pen Drive!  (I call them USB Memory Sticks).  Most PC’s these days support USB boot, and Unetbootin is a quick, easy way to turn your 2 Gb (or bigger) stick into a great boot tool.  You can download it here.  [You might ask “But can’t I boot to Windows on a disk or stick?”  Answer –   Yes, but it’s a lot more difficult to set this up. Microsoft is stuck in the dark ages when it comes to bootable tools]


News, Warnings | Posted by Dennis April 14th, 2012

We’ve been recommending Norton protection (again) for the last few months because it seems that Symantec finally got their act together.  So far, so good; it’s fast, reliable, and thus far we have had ZERO infections with the Internet Security (NIS) 2012 product.   BUT there have been a few worrisome glitches, mostly having to do with their registration process.  Many software companies have a way to make sure that you don’t pirate their stuff, and Symantec is no exception.  Although I’ve seen several glitches with the online tracking system, so far their support has been quick to remedy the issue.  In the news:  Symantec announced that users should STOP USING their PC Anywhere software until a patch is released.  See, back in 2006 a hacker stole the code for several of their  products, and then released them to the public when his/her extortion attempt failed.  I don’t really think anyone needs to worry about the NIS package, but DEFINITELY disable PCAnywhere if you run it.  You can read the full article here.

Searching Windows

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis April 13th, 2012

Trying to find something in Windows 7?  Scratching your head?  No results?  You’re not alone.  Windows XP had a great tool called the “Search Companion” that could find ANYTHING.  In particular, it had the ability to search EVERY FILE for stuff INSIDE it.  So if you needed to find any file with the word giraffe, for example, it was a few clicks away.  Granted, it might take it all day to perform such an exhaustive search, but it could do it with the patience of, um, a Computer.  Things changed when Google Desktop came along.  The new trend was to INDEX everything beforehand, so that searches were very quick.  Microsoft followed suit with their own search gizmo, and the race was on.  These programs go through all your files while you do other things, and create a list of your stuff, and keywords inside.  And therein lies the problem:  a keyword is usually found in the dictionary.  But what if you need to find the number 12345?  Sorry, that’s not indexed.  This is the problem with the Windows 7 search tool.  Besides being clutzy to use, they have taken away the ability to search for “strings” within files.  Supposedly you can type content:”STRING” in the search box to accomplish this, but I tested it and it failed for a random 5 letters/numbers within an Excel file.  Sometimes with Microsoft it’s One step forward, Two steps back.  This is a terrible search tool.  Once again I’d like to say “IF IT AIN’T BROKE DON’T FIX IT”.  Meanwhile, I found some nifty search tools;  1) for general searches of text within files Windows GREP (after the UNIX GREP command) is easy-to-use software that’s quite powerful.  unfortunately it has a hard time with the latest office formats, in particular Excel XLSX files. I believe it could do it, but you have to tell it the column layout of your spreadsheet.  UGH.  Instead, I recommend 2) IceTeaReplacer.  I was able to find my random string within seconds of using this tool, and had the option of replacing it if I wanted.  Very Nice!

HP Nightmares

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis April 4th, 2012

Well,  just about the time I was bragging on Hewlett-Packard printers… HOLD THAT THOUGHT.  I just had an HP Photosmart 7500 series printer FAIL after only about 1 MONTH of use.  As if that’s not bad enough, getting it replaced was NOT EASY.  First of all, to get assistance I had to go to the web site and enter the serial number and product number.  They have a little picture to show you where these are, but it’s WRONG.  The product number, it turns out, is located somewhere ELSE that you’d never guess.  I’ve run into this issue before, so I eventually punched in the number that made it happy.  But what a NIGHTMARE this would be for the typical end-user!  Then they had me jump through hoops like the proverbial circus dog, running through an entire page of silly instructions (like turning the power on and off, trying different paper, etc.) before they would admit that the unit had failed.  Then I had to wait for a phone call so that they could ship a new one without waiting for the old return – they won’t do this without a credit card number.  It took a week for it to arrive, and the new unit refused to take the practically NEW cartridges from the old printer.  It insisted that I unpack and install the new set that was shipped with it.  By the time I finished all of this rigamarole the customer could have bought a new one.  All of these issues are from poor design by HP; the website, the process, and the printer itself need to be redesigned.  If nobody else on the planet reads this, maybe they will.  In the meanwhile I would urge consumers to wait.  HP is trying to turn things around, but they have a ways to go yet.  PS.  Remember that slick little Laserjet I wrote about?  One of them has already misfired on printing, but shaking the toner cartridge seemed to help… stay tuned for updates.