Why does rebooting my PC solve so many problems?

Written by Tom on . Posted in Tech, Tech Tip, Tip of the Day, Tom's Blog

By Tom Chick,  Staff Writer 541414_4974465893870_2065131128_n Ok OK, we admit it.   As IT Professionals, we HATE asking if you have tried rebooting as much as you hate hearing it. HOWEVER, there IS a method to the madness, and I would like to try and quickly  explain it to you.   1. Fresh Start:     When you reboot a computer,  you are essentially asking your PC to remove all temporary information, and start over. This is an important first step in troubleshooting. Temporary information is much more prone to corruption,  and data failure, and therefore rebooting will solve problems easily by deleting this information.   2.RAM it home:   Memory (or RAM) is generally the first part of your computer to get filled with this temporary information, and, let’s face it, not all programs you may run are created equally. Many programs suffer from issues such as “memory leaks”, where a given program will slowly use more and more memory until it’s all used up. The result? Your computer becomes slower than a rock rolling uphill.   3. The Fixer   Every time you restart your computer, it runs a series of diagnostics, and small repair utilities in the background. You can see how this would solve problems.   4. Your PC, the final frontier:   Sometimes it just fixes problems, and we freely admit, we have no clue why.     5. Freeze or I’ll shoot:  it is a very popular misconception is that if you reboot a frozen computer, you’ll lose everything you were working on. The sad truth is, by the time it’s frozen, there is a pretty good possibility you have already lost it. 🙁 6. Trouble-Shoot.   It helps us to see if it is a reproducible problem, or a temporary issue.                  

Dropbox:The Mac/PC/Andriod/iOS’s Best Kept Secret:

Written by Tom on . Posted in Apple, Internet, Microsoft, Support, Tech, Tech Tip, Tip of the Day, Tom's Blog

What: Dropbox, A cloud based service for storing, backing up, and sharing files. Where: http://www.dropbox.com, App Store: http://www.idez.com/dropbox-2/ Who: Everyone.Must.Have.this.   For quite a while now, Dropbox has been the de facto standard for online “backup” on all of the aforementioned platforms. This phenomenal app is a simple, yet brilliant way to control the cloud. I quoted backup because, yes, Dropbox can be used for backup, in an advanced, purchased-storage way, but this app, and its associated cloud service, is so much more.   The Pricing Structure:   The price of Dropbox is as follows: The first 2 gigabytes is FREE.   It is a great deal, and I have found that the more you use it, the more Dropbox will reward you with free space. Currently, I have 7.5 gigabytes of storage, and haven’t had to do a thing for it. I have never reached the limit of this space, yet. The next level is referred to as the “Pro” level.  I love this option. 100 gigs, 99 dollars a year, and, for an additional 39 dollars a year, you get what’s called the “packrat” option, which is unlimited undo history. The pricing goes up from there, 200 gigs for 199, or 500 gigs for 499. There is another level, called “Teams.” Teams offers centralized billing, unlimited deletion recovery, phone support, and as much space as you need. The pricing of this is a little prohibitive, frankly, starting at 795 a year, for 5 users, and 125 for each additional user after that. One of the cool features of the Teams versions is that you can integrate with your companies Active Directory, and manage users that way. Essentially, your users would be created, and mirror your local network. Very cool and handy.   The Cloud   The premise behind Dropbox is simple. Create a quick user account, and you have online storage. That’s it. Install the app on your platform of choice, and you have immediate access to those files, and storage area. This is accomplished by creating a folder on your Mac, and when you copy files to that folder, they are quietly synced in the background to the Dropbox server. ON the mac, that quick access menu looks like this: (click the image for a larger version)     Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 8.44.55 AM     This is really handy, out of the way, and easy to access when you need it. In version 1, when you clicked on this menu, you were given a choice of opening this folder, looking at recently changed files, and opening a simple preference pane. In version 2, this menu is beyond that. One of the really not-well known features in Dropbox, version 1 was the ability to share files with other users. This was a very handy feature, but to be honest, I had only used it a couple of times. In version 2, this feature is really pushed to the forefront, and man, is it cool.   First lets look at the revamped version two menu: Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 8.50.17 AM   Nice look, simple and easy to understand. Very Intuitive. We have simple access to the entire Dropbox folder in the upper left, Dropbox.com in the upper right, My Most recently added/edited files in the main pane, a sync status in the lower left, and the familiar gear symbol for settings in the lower left.   Here is where Dropbox 2 really begins to shine. Move your mouse over a file and a button appears:   Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 8.49.38 AM   Click the button, and you are quickly brought to the Dropbox website, with your file in front. Click the share button, and this is what you’ll see:   Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 8.56.44 AM     Put in an email address, a short message and click send.     If the user id a Dropbox user, they will immediately be notified on their Mac/PC/iPad/iPhone/Android Device, that someone has shared a file with them. If they are not , they will receive an email with a link to download the file via the Dropbox website.   Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 8.59.01 AM   Its that simple.   How can this work for you?               I can picture an office with mixed devices, PCs, Macs, iPads, iPhones, Android devices and other tablets, all using Dropbox as a collaborative service. Send and share files between one another, regardless of device, and receive files immediately. If you find yourself in a client’s office, in need of a folder of files that is on your local server, you can, with one quick call, have someone send you the folder via Dropbox, and within seconds, you’ll have it. Create folders on your Dropbox site, and manage your data efficiently, and quickly.     Overview:     All in all, there are a number of applications that provide these types of services. The thing that makes Dropbox, and namely this new version, the go-to, is simplicity. Once in a great while, a company takes a service that has been around for quite a while, and just manages to polish it so that it becomes very accessible to nearly every one, invisible, and part of your daily routine in the process. This upgrade pushes Dropbox to that level. I highly recommend that you try this service, at the free level, and please, as always, feel free to provide feedback on your experiences.     Tom

Day 7

Written by Tom on . Posted in Apple, Microsoft, Support, Tech, Tom's Blog, Uncategorized

Nearing the end, I can feel it!   I finally broke down, and at the suggestion of several people , installed a “Start menu replacement” app. What a difference! The os has become useable! I haven’t seen the “Metro” UI since! This is finally something that I can work with. (figure 1) start menu   Figure 1, Start menu goodness. This, overall, changes the entire dynamic of the OS. It is functional. In the right way. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some annoying issues, Picture, PDF and Map viewing still throws me into metro, and, frankly, the idea of changing default programs by installing others is a bit more work than I am really willing to do for this experiment. Also, a new development. Right clicking has randomly stopped working. I tested my trackpad, and a mouse, rebooted, and nothing works. That’s a little bit of a pain, especially when writing in MS word, and having to correct grammar, and spelling issues on the fly. The good news is, after today, it won’t matter. Hahaha     After a week straight of living, and working in Windows 8, I can honestly say: I will not be recommending it as a viable upgrade to my clients for a while. I will wait for SP1, and perhaps, do this test over again. For the time being, I will continue to recommend that we purchase Windows 7 systems, and make do with those, until easy and reasonable solutions can be found to fix the shortcomings I have discovered. As a person who routinely finds himself having to work in windows environments, the honest answer is, I cannot guarantee the security of a clients’ system with third-party add-ons installed. This would only change if I can confirm, without a doubt, from the vendors, that these apps will continue to be supported. And stay malware free for an extended period of time.   There was a company, a while ago that made a very good malware program, and it seemed, for a while to be the “de facto standard” that every one used to remove malware from windows systems. Then, one day, without warning, or notice, the company sold to a company that created malware. So, unknowingly, several people installed this product, as usual, since there were no actual visual changes to anything other than the ToS (Terms of Service), and as a result, became unknowing participants in the awesome “pay and we will release your system” scam. I cannot guarantee third party products, so that would continue to be an issue. As a result, without a viable solution to address this “Start Menu” issue, the OS will continue to border on “a not-suggested upgrade.” The learning curve, and massive system changes are just too intense. For the average user, these changes can be overcome, with time. In a corporate environment, this means significant time and training for each user. That’s a lot of downtime, and spent money that could easily be avoided by having Windows 7, instead.   One more day!!!     TC

Days 5/6

Written by Tom on . Posted in Apple, Microsoft, Tom's Blog

(Day six was New Years Day. I didn’t use the computer at all.)      Aaahhh, Windows. How I have grown to loathe you…… Perhaps it’s me. Actually, I should clarify. I don’t loathe Windows, just Windows 8. Windows XP and Windows 7 are pretty decent, actually. I will say, however, I really miss my Mac, and I really am ready to go back. And, I have to admit, I cheated. Day 5, I cheated. I had a very good reason. One of my Mac clients needed assistance with a problem, and I couldn’t find a suitable program on the Windows side to allow me to do what I needed to do. Chances are there’s something out there, but reality is, I would have spent more time looking for it then I would have opening my mac, and just solving the problem. So that’s what I did. Then back to Windows 8. I am struggling with the differences in this versus Windows 7, which I am using as a reference. It isn’t fair to attempt to match this to Mac OS 10.8. They are just too different. Regardless, I will add some another issues I have encountered.   In Outlook 2013, I added our Office 365 cloud account for email, and this works fine. EVERY other email address I have added constantly gives me the following error: cert error   Now, I have been in the computer industry for quite a while now, so I can recognize the need to install a certificate when I see one, so I did that, installed the certificate. Several times. For multiple accounts. I still get this error. Annoying. Keep in mind, this was a totally and complete “clean” install, and all software was clean install. There is no reason this should be happening. Doesn’t make it any less frustrating.  I will move past it, I have two days left. I can assure you, when I am done with Windows 8, I will most likely delete it, and install Windows 7 in its place. That doesn’t mean that I will be using it exclusively, but I will use it when needed. I generally use Parallels Desktop for the majority of my Windows needs with a clean install of Windows XP. That does most everything I need it to. It works fine.   I would like to review some apps.   Office 2013.   I really can honestly say that, with the exception of the certificate error, which I blame Windows 8 for, that this is a nice, solid upgrade. It is fast, and has an awful lot of nice new templates, and a lot of great features. The ribbon is still there, but it’s manageable. I can really see where Microsoft is going with this, and I am behind them 100%. This is such a nice upgrade. I am loving the updates to Word, and Excel. These changes will come as very welcome changes to anyone who lives in windows. I consider this a “must-have” upgrade. These apps all use the “Standard” Windows interface. No Metro nonsense. I am certain that this will come, either in the next upgrade, or as an option. For the time being, this is a good thing.   Bing Search/Maps/News Apps for Windows 8                   These are a conundrum. Web search and news reading should be easy. The news app is a little bit better than the Bing app, but all three apps trigger one of my biggest pet peeves.   When a link is clicked in the local metro app, it launches IE. If you are going to create an app, and this goes for both APPLE and WINDOWS, include the functionality to USE the app. I don’t need a “headlines app” unless I can click through the headlines and read the story, without having to switch back to the app to read the next headline. This is the same in the Maps app. And Bing Search. Combine this functionality into one app, add IE engine and call it a day.   Skype for Windows 8   This one takes the cake. This is the winner. I have used Skype on and off for clients for quite a while. I haven’t logged in in probably over 6 months, though. In the interest of exploration, I launched Skype for Windows 8 (more on the reason for the continued use of the proper name in a minute,) and attempted to log in using my old login and password. Login failed. Try again, maybe I just don’t remember the password? Login Failed. Now, I KNOW I remember the password, but just to be sure, I start looking for the “forgot my password” button when it hits me. “Please log in using your Microsoft account.” BAM. Just like that. No way to log into a old Skype account, unless you succumb to the Microsoft account monster, and connect the old Skype account to your new Microsoft account. Or so it would seem. A quick trip to the Skype.com website shows me that there is a “Skype for Desktop” version available. I download it, and install it, and sure enough, I can log in using my old account. Since I don’t use it, I uninstalled it and chalked it up to experience.   App Store for Windows 8                   Where do I begin? I love this! This is long overdue, and what a wonderful way for Mom and Dad to be confident, and SAFE about the software they install on their Windows machines! Awesome! Lack of good organization is a bit frustrating, but overall, great selection of software! On a whim, I do a quick search for some software to show my instagram feed, and immediately am presented with a great selection! I pick a cool looking one, called, instagrille, and go to install. Oops, it redirects me to a website for the product, and a download button. I download it, figuring “Hey, I suppose I can live with this.” Done!  Just like if I had found it on the web myself. :\ Install it. Easy. OOPS. It also installed something else, called Pokki. Apparently, you can’t have one without the other. Wow. That store was USEFUL! SAFE! Just like the old Windows. Love it!   That’s enough for today, Day 7 and 8 approach! Can’t wait! More tomorrow!   TC

Windows 8, Days 3 and 4.

Written by Tom on . Posted in Apple, Microsoft, Tom's Blog, Uncategorized

The Weekend. This is the first time to really put Windows 8 through the paces in a non-work environment. .   First things first, I will say this: I really miss mail notifications. Outlook/Windows Mail are very lacking in this area. It DOES give notifications, but the send/receive stuff is hit and miss.. Sometimes I would get a small splash telling me there was a new email, and sometimes, I would switch to Outlook and discover that I had 15 new emails I wasn’t aware of. I found myself constantly being surprised that I had new emails by looking at the screen of my iPhone. Since it was the weekend, it wasn’t a real issue, but if it had been a client with a server down, it could have been problematic. I can say without hesitation that Facebook works fine with it. Whew. Emails, however, are a different story. I found several instances where emails would just draw awful, and not display properly at all. I guess maybe I am just spoiled by my mac? In Figure 1, you can see that the bottom of this email from Amazon.com is pushed to the right. This happened quite frequently. I’m not sure if this is an Outlook 2013 problem, or a Windows 8 problem. Either way, I am not using Beta versions of either, so, in my opinion, it shouldn’t be happening. bad email draw   Figure 1, Email issues.   Other than that, most everything else went smoothly. Still having issues with trying to find my way around the new Metro version of IE, and I have been given some very helpful hints from the community, but from the perspective of a new Windows user, they will not have the resources, and will most likely be stuck and a bit lost. A representative from Microsoft told me that there was a short, useful, tutorial when you first install that would explain everything. I found this to be more short than useful. It was approximately 10 seconds long, and it basically stated that, in order to do most anything, you would need to move the mouse to one of the four corners of the screen. The problem with this is, those four corners are generally used by other things, and that can conflict. I have discovered, that, when I go to click the X to close a window (when there IS an x, this is very inconsistent between applications on this system,) I get a pop up giant clock. This is not useful to me at all. It may, however, be useful to someone who has a case of OCD about what time it is. (A giant rabbit with a top hat comes to mind.) I read a review of Windows 8 recently in which the reviewer had mentioned that The OS has an annoying habit of popping things into your face, frequently, without apparent reason most times, and I find this to be true. I will be working on something, or reading an article, and the Metro stocks app will pop up, or weather, or something else, and I have no idea why, or what I did. It may even randomly close what I am doing, too. Fun.   For the most part, however, the weekend went without a hitch, other than the aforementioned. I look forward to your comments. OOPS. Just went to post this to the website, and the Metro interface popped up, without warning! Onto another day in paradise! Halfway home!!!!   Has your experience with Windows 8 been different? Let me know!   TC      

Windows 8; Day 2

Written by Tom on . Posted in Microsoft, Tech, Tech Tip, Tom's Blog, Uncategorized

After getting things going, I installed all the third party software I needed, including: Office 2013, iCloud, and iTunes. Sadly, I soon discovered that the computer, somehow, took all applications on the computer, and added icons to them to the “Metro” interface. This included things like “Disk Management,” “Disk Defragmenter,” and several other not-very-used applications.  This made the whole thing a mess. I quickly discovered that right clicking on the icon allowed me to remove them from the Metro interface, and clicking on a second added to that, and I could remove several at a time. This was useful, but I also discovered the first of many odd glitches in the operating system. I would select 4 or so applications, and I would right click on the 5th or so, and it would launch that application and deselect all the rest.(figure 1) metro Multi click This was annoying, to say the least.   That aside, let’s discuss some things l did like about the operating system.   First off, as I said before, the interface is beautiful. It really is. I give Microsoft credit for being brave enough to make a bold move like this. They are really attempting to make strides in the right direction, and it shows. The Metro Apps are very attractive. The new Microsoft Office 2013 Suite is very Stable, and nice as well. Some of the changes to these apps are long overdue, and they make a great difference. Internet Explorer 10 is a nice upgrade, however, it leaves me with a “not ready for prime time” feeling. Day one, I ran into an issue with it, and found myself very stuck, and confused… Microsoft really wants you to appreciate the visual changes that went into this operating system, and for the most part, I do. However, as I pointed out on my Facebook page the other day, there are two different versions of IE on this machine, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. The first version is discovered when you click the IE logo in the Metro UI. (figure 2) ie 101  
I LIKE this version of IE. It’s nice, its fast, and it looks good. The menu bar on the bottom is nice, once you get used to it, but once again, as is the way with all Metro apps, there is no easy to navigate, or close other than ALT+f4.
Also, when you click on a link to open a page that would normally open in a new window, there is NO readily visible way to get back to the previous window, a stripe appears across the top of the page, when you click a link, exposing both pages, but it quickly disappears, and I haven’t really discovered how to bring it back. Even my old faithful ALT+F4 has let me down here, since it closes ALL windows from that app, not just the one.
  If IE is launched from Desktop mode, it looks much more standard. (Figure 3) IE102   This is annoying. Why two versions? Granted, there are much bigger things to worry about, but boy, this rates up there. If this were just a visual thing, I could let it slide, but no. Each of these have completely separate pages, history, and bookmarks.  That means if you are in desktop mode, open a page, then switch to Metro mode, and open IE there, you are not going to be using the same version. Even more frustrating, you never know where you’ll be put while opening a link from another app. Another huge annoyance, the alert for a site opening a potentially unwanted popup greys out the whole screen, and displays a visually nice white stripe across the whole screen, telling you that a web page wanted to open a popup, but it was blocked, with an OK button. Down at the bottom of the screen, there are the usual IE buttons, “allow this popup, or always allow from this site.” They are useless, since the whole screen is monopolized by the white  bar. When you click ok on the white bar, they both disappear. (figure 4) popup    Most importantly, the software I use to book service calls, and schedule times is a Microsoft web-based app. It is NOT compatible with this version of IE, forcing me to connect remotely to a windows Terminal server in order to perform the simplest of tasks, something I do on my Mac every day anyway. It seems to me that if you are a big company like Microsoft, you would take whatever steps necessary to assure that your software plays well together. This is not the case. Day two is over, I have struggled through this, and found some cool features, and an awful lot of things that just feel like unfinished software. I will have a special blog where I address Office Suite 2013, and discuss that in depth. I will also be assessing Windows 8, in a different capacity,  over the weekend, where I will mainly be using the computer for personal stuff. Days 3 and 4 will be compressed into one blog.   See you then! TC

Windows 8, Day 1

Written by Tom on . Posted in Tom's Blog

First off, the install. Not a bad process, and quick. My first grievance; as well. You NEED a Microsoft account to log into the computer for the first time. I was not interested in using one, I wanted to use the machine locally, but I wasn’t able to. Correction, if I was able to skip this step, the option was not readily available, and I didn’t see it. I know a lot of people will point out that , on a Mac or iOS device, one of the first steps when using it is the screen to create an ”iCloud” account, but this is also joined by a big, noticeable, “Skip” button at the bottom. Not so with Windows 8. That’s ok, so I was forced to log in using an old, long-forgotten MSN account I used to have, years ago. This also meant, that, when using this account, my computer password was now the same as the MSN account. No option still to change it, or create that local account. The option to use the “cloud” for online storage is a nice one, but only as an option. There are still a lot of people who aren’t willing to hand over control of their computer, and information to the cloud, and a lot of times I don’t blame them. Once I got the computer set up, I was presented with Windows 8’s new “Metro” UI (user Interface,)and it does look pretty slick. (Figure 1) metro   However, having said that, this new interface is slightly confusing. The good news is, if you look to the lower left, there is an icon for desktop. I clicked it.(Figure 2)   ss1   The first thing most people will notice is the utter and complete lack of a “Start” menu. This is by design. Microsoft has decided that the last 18 years of “Start” are now over. Hey, it’s Microsoft’s decision to make. When you move the mouse to the lower left, you are presented with a small pop-up that will bring you back to the Metro interface. One of the most frustrating things I discovered, almost immediately, is that, while using apps from the Metro interface, there is apparently no simple way to close apps. Take for example, Weather app. (Figure 3) weather   While these apps, often times, can be visually stunning, you’ll soon discover that, sadly, this is what you get. A few small arrows, here and there, and nothing else. Right clicking to bring up a contextual menu does NOTHING. I found, the only way to get out is to move back to that lower left corner, and go back to the Metro interface, which presents a wholly new problem. Apps still run. Much like a bad parody of “Brokeback Mountain,” you “just can’t quit them.” So, after a quick Google search (Sorry Bing.com, I changed you as soon as I figured out how to,) I discovered that the old Alt+F4 trick is the way to quit these apps. If you don’t know the ALT+F4 trick, well…… you’re just like most people who use Windows, it turns out. After a quick small, informal survey, 3 out of 5 people I asked with moderate windows experience ( use Windows machines all day at work) had NO IDEA what ALT+F4 does on a windows computer.   So this was just the first day. There are just enough remnants of Windows left that I was able to install my usual software (iCloud, iTunes, Office 2013, etc.-YEESH, I’m not a caveman!) and get functional. I should note, for those who are curious, the new Windows mail app (which has a very interesting interface, albeit greedy in its desire for screen real-estate,) will NOT function at all unless you add a Microsoft account. Then you can proceed with other accounts. No Google-only mail program unless you go third-party. Or buy Outlook.   I’m still alive, at least for now. Tomorrow starts the delve into whether or not I am able to be productive. Here’s to Day two.     TC