Archive for February, 2009


25 February 2009

I understand that Carbonite for Mac is now out of beta.

I highly recommend this online backup service for both MACS and PC’s.


How do I use a USB memory stick?

23 February 2009

Q: How do i use a USB memory stick? (also called a disk on key)

A: If you ever used a floppy disk, USB sticks work in a very similar fashion with a few minor differences:

(a) A USB stick has far more capacity than a floppy,
(b) A USB  stick is more reliable and easier to carry around,
(c) A USB stick will never be the “a” drive like a floppy. Instead it will be a “d”, “e”, “f”, “g”, “h” or even “i” drive etc. depending on how many other drives you have.

Simply plug in the USB stick in to a USB port in your desktop or laptop and then wait until the device has self-installed (this can take a minute or two the first time you use the device in that particular USB port).

Then click on “My Computer”  and you will see a new drive appear (usually this will be “e” or “f”).

You will be able to save files to this new drive just like you did back in the days of the floppy (which was the “a” drive).

Mouse pointer keeps moving on laptop

23 February 2009

Q: My Mouse pointer keeps moving on my laptop.  Any idea why?

A: It always seems to be laptops that experience this issue and not desktops.

When I have experienced this in the past with clients, it has often been one of two things:

1.    While typing the user is inadvertently touching the mouse pad or mouse nipple without even realising. This is easy to do with a small cramped laptop where the keyboard is positioned in front of the mouse pad.

2.    The touch pad or mouse nipple on the laptop is damaged, with some form of pressure causing the pointer to move.

One solution to the problem is to disable the on-board mouse and work off an external one – which is probably healthier and more natural for your hand.

Large icons on quick launch bar

18 February 2009

Windows XP and Windows Vista both offer a “quick launch bar” which is very useful for single clicking your favourite programs.

To view the quick launch bar:

1. right click on the task bar at the bottom
2. click on “toolbars”
3. select “quick launch”

You can lock and unlock this toolbar.  This is done by right clicking the task bar and click the option to “lock the taskbar”.

If the taskbar bar is unlocked, you can right click on the quick launch bar and select “View” and change the icons to be “large icons”.

AOL personal filing cabinet

18 February 2009

If you have AOL, you must consider backing up any data stored on your pc. This includes emails and favourites which are not backed up on AOL.

The locations of these files are difficult to find and I am appalled by AOL for this.

To view your AOL personal filing cabinet, you need to view hidden files first.

To unhide these files and system files:

First, you need unhide hidden and system folders.

1. Double click My Computer (or Computer in Vista)
2. Click Tools, Folder Options
3. Click the View tab
4. Scroll down and select“Show hidden files and folders” and untick “Hide Protected Operating System Files”

Remember to reverse later on, to prevent accidental deletion of important computer files.

Then, the personal filing cabinet is located in a folder called “Organize”.

In XP, this folder is located somewhere like:

C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\AOL\C_AOL9.0a\organize

In Vista, this folder is located somewhere like:
C:\Users\All Users\Application Data\AOL\C_AOL9.0\organize
or C:\ProgramData\AOL\AOL\C_AOL9.0\organize

I highly recommend backing this up with an offsite backup like carbonite.

Blocking spam in outlook

18 February 2009

Outlook 2003 and 2007 have a built in spam filter. If you run microsoft updates regularly, the filters should update every month.

To manually block spam, try the following:

Right click on the email in your inbox and select the “Junk Email” option and then click on “Add Sender to Blocked Senders List”.

That should move future emails from this sender to the spam folder.

If you still suffer from spam, I highly recommend cloudmark.

Backing up emails on a Mac

10 February 2009

If you want to backup emails in a Mac, here are the locations that emails may be saved:

Entourage 2008
Documents\Microsoft User Data\Office 2008 Identities\Main Identity\Database

Mac Mail
user name\Library\Mail\Mailboxes\
elmx files and mbox folders

Winmail.dat in entourage

3 February 2009

If you run Entourage in Mac, you may on occasion receive an email with winmail.dat attachment.

This could be a bunch of attachments that have been combined into one file that your entourage cannot separate.

This is supposedly “a problem” resulting from settings in Outlook at the sender’s end. They are sending mail in rich text format, assuming that a Windows Email user is at the other end, and its sending the mail bundled into a TNEF format – which the Mac programs cannot read.

One option is to contact them and ask them to change the preferences on your entry in their address book to “plain text”

There’s a great little program called TNEF’s Enough that can extract the attachments for you.

Shortcuts in Windows and on Macs

3 February 2009

A “shortcut”, as the word suggests, is a way to activate a program or document from a convenient location. For example, a link to Microsoft Word from the desktop will be a shortcut and not the genuine programme.

You can tell a shortcut by the little arrow in the bottom left hand corner of the icon. If you delete a shortcut, you will not be harming the actual programme or document.

In windows, shortcuts are created by right clicking on the file and selecting “Create Shortcut”.

Mac shortcuts are created by a right click and then selecting “make Alias”. This can be very useful for shortcuts on the main desktop or in the dock.

Broadband Internet going slow

3 February 2009

Test your Internet speed from

Click on the yellow pyramid and wait a few minutes for the results

If you get anything below 2000Kb/s download speed then your Internet speed is far too slow and it is time to call your ISP (Internet Service Provider). They might need to upgrade your speed (which most will do free of any charge) or there might be another issue that they can help diagnose.

I currently get approx 5Mb/s download and 500Kb/s upload which are fair, but there are faster speed out there! For BT lines, you can check what speeds should reach using BT broadband checker

Recently, I diagnosed a faulty cable to be the cause of Internet being barely useable (with speeds around 10% of normal). It was a desktop cabled to a router, which is usually the most reliable way to connect to the Internet.

Here are 10 things to check when trying to diagnose Internet Speed (this is based on a PC Pro article from July 2008, Issue 165).

1.    Check for electrical interference

Lights with faulty power supplies and televisions have been known to wreak havoc with broadband speeds within a 200 metre radius. If you find that your Internet is significantly faster at times when a certain appliance is turned off, pay attention to this!

2.    Fit an iPlate

Ask your ISP for an iPlate which can be fitted to your telephone socket. Thisdevice helps to filter out issues relating to point 1 above. The device will only benefit those with multiple phone sockets in the home. Those that use their master socket alone are unlikely to notice any difference.

3.    Avoid extension wiring

Apparently a number one connection issue. Avoid extension cables – routers should be connected directly to a phone socket (and preferably a master socket).

4.    Wi-Fi and homeplugs

If you connect using WiFi, then check the channel your router is broadcasting on. If there are plenty of neighbours using the same channel then change to a different one since you are just competing for signal strength.

Netstumbler will help identify what wireless channel you are using (Typically in the UK it will be channels 1, 6 or 11). Also, this article gives more information on channels you could try.

Changing a channel is done from the router control panel. For Netgear routers, for example, this will be done using your internet browser and going to with username admin and password of password. If you do not feel confident changing any settings here, please ask a technician since this can affect your internet connection!

5.    Ask for the Reactive Repair Tool

Most ISP support staff can look up detailed history on your line’s maximum and average speed, faults and uptime over the last fortnight. Looking at this information can be very useful in pinning down issues.

6.    Keep your router up to date

If your router is more than four years old, then it is time to get a new one to benefit from the latest innovations e.g. ADSL2+

My current favourite router is the Netgear DG834N
If your router is younger than 4 years of age, visit the router manufacturer website and check the support section for router firmware upgrades which you can upload direct to your router. Please be careful and read their instructions thoroughly when doing this – for example, unplugging a router during an upgrade could destroy the router.

Some routers fitted with a Texas Instruments AR7 chipset see have certainly shown issues in connectivity reliability. In some cases a router firmware upgrade will overcome the issue. Often when you buy a new router, there are already updates for it available online!

7.    Replace your broadband filters

Filters are little white boxes that should be connected to each telephone socket to filter out broadband noise. They are surprisingly a common point of failure for home broadband connections. You can also do away with filters by buying a £17 ADSL faceplate which would fit to your master socket. Here is a guide to look at on changing faceplate

8.    Fine tune your MTU settings

MTU stands for maximum transmission unit. On most routers this is set to 1500, but some ISP’s recommend a different setting like 1478, 1468, 1430. Best to check with your ISP for recommended MTU and then set this up on your router.

You can also use this optimiser to check MTU settings on your Windows machine, but be careful if you use this.

9.    Ask for Interleaving

If all else fails and Internet is still very slow, ask your ISP to turn on Interleaving (this is in place of an iplate).  It has pros and cons but may help overall with an erratic connection if there is excessive noise on your line.