Posts Tagged ‘#software’

Java, anyone?

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis June 9th, 2012

“What IS Java?!” my customers often ask.  Besides coffee, Java is a programming language, and since 2006 has been licensed and handled by the GNU open-source project.  It’s original intent was to make a streamlined, object-oriented language that would work on any platform.  So you’ll find Java on all kinds of devices from PC’s to smartphones.  Android is a fine example of Java-based software, although Google  broke away and created their own version of the platform.  The language has a rocky history, with Microsoft initially helping Sun Microsystems (now Oracle) push the standards, then later becoming the villain in a dramatic turn about.  When Microsoft was sued by the DOJ for anti-trust practices, Java was part of the lawsuit.  The claim was that they were implementing Java with the intent of eventually destroying it.  Microsoft (MS) settled, and stopped shipping Java with Windows.  Nowadays you have to download it yourself.  Meanwhile MS started pushing .NET as a competitor language.  It’s all based on the C# language core, but the big argument is about open vs. closed source.  MS doesn’t like open-source software.  After all, that’s how they make their money.  So ANY open-source software is a threat to their livelihood.  Meanwhile Sun Microsystems/Oracle has helped foster and grow the Java platform to be one of the most popular and stable languages in the world.  For you, the end users, what’s all this mean?  Well, now you know what Java and .NET are all about.  They help bring your devices to life, with cool apps that are often web-based.  And YES you should update these two whenever prompted.  Sometimes they find security or other glitches that are fixed with updates.  BUT watch out!  The Java install often tries to add some other junk software, like the ASK toolbar for example.  Keep your eye out for a check box to disable this. 

Buying software

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis June 2nd, 2012

Technology has changed a lot in the last couple of decades, and it has changed the way software is sold and delivered.  Nowadays it’s usually cheaper (and more convenient) to buy the DOWNLOAD version of any software you want.  But BUYER BEWARE there are some caveats to this method of purchase; 1)  Be certain it’s legitimate!   There are lots of fly-by-night pirate software companies out there that will sell you stolen or hacked licenses.  Rule of thumb: if the price is too good to be true, then something is wrong.  2) Make sure you keep a copy of the install file and the license key/code in a safe place!  That way you can reinstall if you have any problems or change computers.  3)  Be careful when buying locally at places like Best Buy or Sam’s Club, etc.  Lately the price for a CD/DVD version is grossly inflated.  Don’t get stabbed on price just ‘cuz you’re in a hurry or impulse buying.  A good example is Microsoft Office.  Most new PC’s come with a pre-installed version that will allow you to immediately go online and purchase the version you want.  The cost is less than ANY of the disk versions I’ve seen on the shelf.  If you want nice packaging, try online sellers like Amazon.  They’re more likely to have good deals. 

MP3 players

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis May 21st, 2012

If you’ve ever had problems playing your music, join the club.  There’s a lot of us out here that use our computers and other devices (players, pads, smartphones) to keep the tunes rolling through our lives.  Personally, I live and breathe by my music collection.  It lifts my spirits, sets the mood, or helps me to work out.  In any case, it REALLY irritates me when I can’t simply play it all, at random.  I click SKIP when it’s not right for the mood.  So I was pretty irritated when I bought a new Sansa Clip + player and it DIED.  It worked great for a while, then simply wouldn’t turn on any more.  I tried all their recommended steps… no good.  So I RMA’d it, and bought a second one just in case.  This was the Sansa Clip Zip, the next generation.  It worked fine too, with one MAJOR glitch:  every time I hit the Power switch, it REFRESHED my media.  It took 30 MINUTES for it to do this (yes, I have a huge collection).  Apparently this has been a problem with these players if you add a 32 Gb SD card.  The answer?  DIFFERENT SOFTWARE.  You don’t HAVE to use the crappy software that Apple, Sansa, or any other company gives you with your player.  (NOTE: you might want something different just because of DRM… Digital Rights Management has hosed many people out of Boo Coo songs!)  Instead, try ROCK BOX.  This is more free public domain software from the GNU project, and it’s GREAT!  Just download the installer, tell it your device, and WHAM your player is reborn!  You can find RockBox here. The only issue I had was trying to play all songs, but it’s easy once you figure out the context menus.  If you get hung up, search for it online, there’s tons of documentation out there.

Drivers

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis March 2nd, 2012

Nope, they’re not a golf club, or a chauffeur.  In PC lingo a “driver” is the software that helps your computer use add-on hardware.  Most people who have used Windows know the routine; you plug in your new gizmo, and hope it works.  Windows 7 has REALLY refined this process, and made it easy for THOUSANDS of products to be added to your setup.  But what if it can’t find your driver?  This can be a real nightmare, and it’s gotten worse.  See, I USED to be able to surf the web and easily find what my clients need.  But lately, every time I go to look, there are TONS of crap driver pages that are a minefield of convoluted information.  All of them want you to buy a service, or install their software, to get what you need.  I was really let down that Driverguide.com has done this.  What used to be a very useful site has turned into garbage.  So what do you do?  Your best bet is to AVOID GENERAL WEB SEARCHES.  Instead, go STRAIGHT to the support section of the manufacturor’s site.  So if it’s a Logitech mouse, for example, go to www.logitech.com and look for your driver there.  Be sure to check if your operating system is 32-bit or 64-bit (yes, it matters… a LOT).  You can do this by right-clicking My Computer and choose Properties.  Meanwhile, beware of the commercial crap out there.  They are just trying to steal your money.

Open Source

Helpful Hints, News | Posted by Dennis February 27th, 2012

Open Source Software is great.  It is built like a community project, with lots of people writing code, testing, and helping with all the details.  This is in stark contrast to closed-source, or “proprietary” software like Microsoft’s (and Apple’s).  The software is often free, and published under the “GNU General Public License” project, or GNU GPL for short.  Some great examples that run under Windows are LibreOffice, Firefox, and Firebird.   Some are operating systems, like Linux, or languages, like Java.  All these products have a large following, and don’t cost users a dime if they choose. You might think that would result in lower quality, but evidently not.  A recent study by Coverity shows exactly the OPPOSITE:  the open-source stuff had LESS MISTAKES and problems in the code than their proprietary counterparts, according to a recent article in TechWorld.  You can support open source software by downloading, using, and donating to the authors or the project.

McAfee

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis December 14th, 2011

For the third time in less than a week I just cleaned up a TERRIBLE infection on a PC with McAfee protection.  My advice?  GET RID OF IT.  In my opinion you’re better off with no protection at all than to go along thinking that your PC is safe, when it’s NOT.  I realize a lot of you get McAfee free from your cable provider or AOL.  But seriously, you’re better off with AVG free or some other product.  For a pay product I like Norton Internet Security, but watch out for price gouging.  The Symantec (Norton) site will try to stab you for $60-$80 per license.  You’ll get get MUCH better deals from resellers, office stores, or even Wal-mart.

Office 2010

Helpful Hints, News | Posted by Dennis October 22nd, 2011

The newest version of Office, the productivity software that includes Word, Excel, etc., is the 2010 edition.  It’s now safe to use.  As usual, there were glitches in the initial release so we warned our customers to stay away for awhile.  Now it seems stable, so I thought I’d let you know about some of the purchasing changes.  Unlike Office 2007, this new version only has 3 purchase options.  They’ve done away with the multitude of packages they offered previously, probably because it confused customers.  Now you can buy 1) Office Home and Student, 2) Office Home and Business, and 3) Office Professional.  The Pro version is the ONLY ONE that has Publisher and Access.  Here’s a chart that shows the options.  They also did away with the UPGRADE option, which used to be available for about $100 less than the full product.  I think these were bad moves on Microsoft’s part.  More options are better.  By the way, if you don’t like having to shell out $100-300 for a license, there’s an open-source freebie out there that a friend of mine just told me about called LibreOffice.  It has a lot of powerful features and is very similar to the newer Microsoft products.  This one replaces the old OpenOffice suite that I told you about earlier.  You can download it here.

Startup

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis September 22nd, 2011

One problem with installing a lot of software is Windows Startup.  The more things that are loading when your PC fires up, the longer it will take to do so, and the less resources you have left when it’s ready to work.  One place to watch is the Startup folder in your Programs list.  But that’s not the main place to look; try running MSCONFIG instead.  This is a program included in all recent versions of Windows that will help remove software that start with your PC every time.  (note: if you don’t want the program AT ALL, remove it from your PC from the Control Panel).  In Windows XP just click Start, Run, and type MSCONFIG.  In Win Vista/7 search for it, then right click and Run As Administrator.  Then click the Startup tab.  Uncheck anything you don’t want to run when Windows starts.  If you don’t know what it is, try doing a web search for it.  For example, mine has the command Reader_SL.exe.  If I do a web search I find out that’s the Adobe Speed Loader (it supposedly makes it faster to pull up pdf files).  After you uncheck what you want, it will prompt you to restart.  You’ll probably notice it’s faster, too!  WARNING:  BE CAREFUL WITH THIS!  If you’re not sure, don’t uncheck it.  It might be a critical driver or program you use. 

PDF vs Fax

Helpful Hints, News | Posted by Dennis August 31st, 2011

As recently as 5 years ago, businesses did a LOT of their work via FAX.  Everybody had a fax machine, and most businesses had a dedicated phone line for it.  But times have changed.  In 2008 Adobe released the rights to the PDF format to the world.  This meant that you didn’t have to buy Adobe Acrobat in order to create this wildly popular document type.  Nowadays, a lot of programs can convert your paperwork to a PDF, including Microsoft Office.  This means that people don’t have to fax any more, they can just send information attached to an email.  This has helped a lot of offices ”go paperless” and save money in other ways, like dropping one of their phone lines.  One of the cool things that I miss from Adobe Acrobat was the PDF printer.  It would install a fake printer whose only job was to make ANYTHING printable turn into a PDF!  You can still have this wonderful feature – for free!  Here’s a link to the program called PDFCreator.  By the way, when you look for good, free software, watch for the “Open Source under the GNU Public License”.

Speed up your PC

Helpful Hints, Warnings | Posted by Dennis August 26th, 2011

A slow PCI see lots of ads and products that claim to speed up your PC.  A slow computer is one of the common complaints that I resolve for my clients.  I can tell you that THERE IS NO SINGLE, SIMPLE solution to this.  BUT there are lots of things you can do/check.  First, make sure it’s not just psychological.  Did you recently get a new PC at home or office that is really fast?  Otherwise, did it suddenly get slow?  You might have a ‘critter’ of some kind, so run virus and malware scans.  Check the Task manager (CTRL-ALT-DEL) performance tab to see if your CPU is working hard.  If so, it’s busy doing something in the background that you may not know about.  Click the process tab to see which program is so busy.  You can also run MSCONFIG to remove software that runs when windows starts.   Otherwise, if it’s hardware, you need to find the one thing that’s slowing it all down.  See, the slowest piece will limit the chain of events, kinda like the rate limiting reaction in chemistry.  The windows 7 performance index is a good place to nail this down.  The lowest scoring hardware is your rate limiter.  Be aware that anything internet related should also include your BANDWIDTH, or internet speed, in the analysis.  You can test your internet speed here.