Saturday, May 21, 2011

>Dell Inspiron

>After twelve years of owning desktop computers, I finally opted for a laptop so I would no longer be chained to my desk. After months of research and weighing various makes and models, I settled on the Dell Inspiron 600m Notebook Computer. This particular model has exceeded all of my expectations and at a price that is hundreds of dollars lower than many competing brands.

For several months I agonized over my next computer purchase. I knew I needed to be more mobile and only a notebook computer would permit me to take my "show on the road." Still, the decision making process was not easy as the number of different makes and models out there is mind boggling. Ultimately, I settled on a Dell in part because of previous good experience with the company as well as affordability of their product line.

The model I chose was the Inspiron 600m. As with almost everything that Dell builds, it is a "new" model; at least the 600m designation is. That is one of the confusing things about Dell and some other manufacturers: every month Dell introduces new models and you need a scorecard to compare one model with all the others. Fortunately, Dell's website allows you to do just that.

Key features of the Inspiron 600m include:

Lightweight: Just over five pounds.

Mobile Centrino Technology is standard.

14.1 inch screen

Pentium M 725 Processor

24X CD Burner/DVD Combo Drive

256MB DDR SDRAM 1 Dimm Memory

Wireless Network Card

Extended Battery

Microsoft Windows XP Home Addition

WordPerfect Productivity Pack

I kept my computer fairly basic but I did opt for the latest version of Norton Security, a surge protected cable, a wirless router, and a wireless mouse. I selected the wireless mouse as I thought the keyboard's mouse would be difficult to use. After two days I quit using the wireless mouse as I quickly got used to the built in one.

The screen is bright and the keyboard is solid. The mouse keys, however are noisy, almost clunky; you wonder if Dell could have used a quieter spring for each key.

The battery lasts at least four hours without recharging and when I do need to recharge I can go from nearly dead to fully charged in less than one hour.

For the price -- I paid just over $1100. for everything including shipping and local taxes -- the Dell cannot be beat. I haven't had to call customer service yet, so I cannot comment on that although in years past your call would be routed to a technician in India. This model comes with a standard one year limited warranty; I avoided a later sales pitch over the phone to get a three year warranty. Their top of the line warranty sends a technician to your house to fix your computer, so it can be option for those of you who do not want to ship -- and thereby lose the use of -- your computer back to Dell for repairs.

You will find the Inspiron 600m to be adequate for standard business work. Check out their myriad of other models if you do plenty of graphic design or if you need a larger screen. I am happy with the 14.1 screen, but you may prefer their 17" model.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

>Selling Your Computer

>Looking At Alternatives

At some point, your needs are going to outgrow the capabilities of your computer. You may find yourself in need of more hard drive space for all those videos and mp3s that you download, for example. Or maybe that cool new programming language you've been dying to try requires more memory than what your computer currently has. Unless the activities on your computer are restricted to pure textual output (plain text files), your computer is going to get filled with a lot of "stuff" - stuff that can overfill a PC's capacity too much for the computer to function well.

The problem is that while upgrading a computer is always an option, technology advances so fast that newer products (such as memory chips, new drives, etc.) aren't always compatible with the machines that we own. This is a common occurrence when newer pieces of hardware require the programming of a newer operating system. Sure, one could upgrade the operating system to accommodate the demands of a new piece of hardware, but trouble starts when that new operating system requires new hardware in return. If we're not careful, we could end up replacing almost every hard and soft part of a computer that we own - all in an effort to upgrade! Upgrading in this fashion is not only silly to do so, it's also costly - more costly than simply buying a new computer.

But once the decision to buy a computer is set in stone, what can be done with the old one? There are alternatives to selling a computer and this article is going to introduce a few of them.

1. Give it to the kids. This is of course, assuming the kids are too young to whine about not having enough SDRAM or less than a 160GB hard drive. Today's "older" computers are perfectly capable of accommodating the needs of young PC users, and they're excellent machines for playing educational CDs, small multimedia files, or games downloaded from the Internet. And don't forget the most important role they play in a child's homework-clad life: A simple encyclopedia CD on a used computer makes excellent research tool (not to mention a rather fancy calculator!).

2. Donate it to a less-fortunate or less-literate family member. We often joke around the office about the "grandma" who refuses to use a computer until she can afford the "latest" one. Chances are, Grandma isn't ever going to shell out the bucks to buy the latest computer on the market, nor is she going to know how to use it once she gets it. What Grandma doesn't realize however is that a used computer is an excellent training tool that she can use to prepare herself for something "better" in the future. We always say, "'Tis better to screw up something on an old, used machine than to screw up everything on a brand new one!" A couple of errors on an old, used machine are easier to fix because someone is going to have the experience and knowledge to fix it. Errors on a new machine however can be a beast to fix because we're all knocking at Microsoft's door looking for answers.

3. Convert the machine into a storage area. As another alternative to selling that machine, we suggest that people disconnect it from the Internet and use it to store personal documents, records, or files. This way, personal data (such as bank statements, store receipts, health records, etc.) is protected from prying viruses or hackers, while the newer machine is used to surf the net.

As you can see, old computers still serve a purpose either for you or for someone else. And although selling an old computer is always an option, there are a number of things that you can do with an old computer. All that's required is a little "out of the box" thinking and a grateful recipient.

>Working With Computers

>In Today's Society, There's No Escape

Well, we've been warned that this time would come - probably from the earlier eighties on. Yes, computers have finally taken over and if you doubt it, we're here to convince you - but not because we want to or because we can. We want to convince you that if you don't take the necessary steps to control that reign, you're going to be left behind further than you could have ever imagined.

Computers are everywhere. Take a moment to try and think of a place a business where you didn't see a computer in use. From the small local corner store to the largest hospital, computers are in every gas station, grocery store, bank, restaurant, beauty shop, and doctor's office around. From a consumer's point of view - you may not think that's much to worry about. But along with computers, we've also been infiltrated with a little thing called "self-service." Today, there are more self-serviced resources than ever and in an effort to synchronize them with headquarter databases, they're provided via your inescapable computer.

Here are some examples. Banking is self-serviced through the desktop-clad ATM machine. Gas stations are self-serviced through a menu-clad touch screen kiosk. Most cash registers are Windows XP or Vista machines that send purchase details back to headquarters via the Internet (or a small Intranet). Having your weight, blood pressure, and heart rate measured and recorded is now a digitized process. Even ordering a pizza is now a simple matter of dialing from a wireless cell phone and making a few selections from series of pre-programmed menus!

The important thing to realize here is that this phenomenon isn't a new convenience - it's a new requirement. And if you haven't jumped onto the binary wagon, you're going to face a few problems. For just as this new lifestyle was once predicted, we're going to predict that "the old ways" will slowly disappear.

We're going to predict that all paper-based transactions (checks, money orders, etc.) and documentation (think of the old filing cabinet system) will disappear. We're going to predict that chips will replace everything that was once transported from one location to another through the trusty post office. And we're going to predict that homes will become less cluttered with stacks of paper and that our natural resources will flourish as a result of it.

This all sounds fine and dandy of course, but if you're not computer savvy, you're going to feel a little lost once the choice has past and the revolution is 100% complete. Fortunately, computer systems are designed in a way that even a child can manipulate them. In fact, if you can remember that most systems are designed along the line of menus and the selections of a few options on these menus, you'll do just fine no matter how many buttons there are to push.

For example, when you're faced with an electronic system, look for a main menu. Most main menus display themselves as soon as a device is turned on, so chances are that if you're standing before a device that shows a bunch of choices to do something, you're looking at a main menu. The buttons on these main menus of course take you to additional menus, which in turn give you even more choices to make. And all of those choices will eventually bring you to the service that you need. One very important choice you'll want to keep your eye on is the option to return to the main menu. This way, you can return to the beginning of a system and start over in case you get lost among the way.

Another important choice that you want to keep your eye on is the choice to get help! This option may not be available on every device that you encounter, but when it is available, be sure to use it.

There's just no way around it. Computers and computerized systems are here to stay. There's no need to fear them - but you surely can't avoid them. Just remember the menu system and you'll soon discover that you can approach and use these things as if you designed them yourself.

>Introduction to Programming

>Controlling Your Computer with a Programming Language

In a previous article, we introduced automating some tasks with MS-DOS batch files. In this article, we're going to introduce programming and describe how it can be used to control the way your computer works. Normally, computer novices aren't interested in controlling the computer. New computer users are typically interested in learning more about how the thing works. However they may be surprised to learn that programming increases computer knowledge as a whole and it can help to diminish the fear associated with using a new computer.

Programming a computer is creating a sequence of instructions that enable the computer to do something.1 The people who program computers (called programmers) use a programming language to communicate with a computer. You might have heard of some of these languages in the past such as Visual Basic, C++, or Fortran. There are hundreds of other programming language and neither one is better than the other. Most of them are capable of performing the same tasks and achieving the same goals. A programmer chooses one language by a simple preference.

Each of these languages differ by the way they communicate with a computer however, and the commands that they follow are very specific. Not a single command of one language can be interchanged with the commands or language of another. But all of them can be used to control a computer.

Now it would be impossible to teach you how to program any language in a single article. But we can still introduce you to some of programming's most basic concepts - starting with the commands we talked about earlier. Commands are the instructions that a computer follows to perform an action. 2 To make them work inside of a program, programmers assign commands to objects like buttons for example.

The commands in a program are pretty useless unless they have some data to act on so programmers either give the programs some data to work with (list of names or numbers for example) or they make the program generate it's own data. Sometimes, the data comes from an outside source like the Internet or the computer that the program runs on. The data that a program receives is called input and data that the program generates is called output.

Other times, the data is unknown. If the program were working with a simple algebra equation like, "x + 5 = y," the variables "x" and "y" would be unknown pieces of data. Or if a program were to calculate a date "x" days from now, the variable "x" would be an unknown piece of data until we tell the program what "x" is. In programming, it's sometimes required to work with unknown pieces of data.

That's when conditions come in handy. Conditions allow a program to perform an action based on the outcome of a previous command.3 Using this type of instruction, we could instruct a program to do one thing if the "x" variable in our latter example turned out to be 7 days, and then do different thing if the variable turned out to be 3 days.

Commands, data, variables, and conditions help build the most simple programs and there are certainly many more components of any programming language. But when they're typed into a programming language and compiled to create a an executable file (a file ending with the .exe extension), they turn into a software application. 

As we mentioned earlier, you can use a programming language to control your computer. By using simple commands, you can program your computer to perform mathematical tasks, fill out web forms, compose an email message and send it off, or any number of other things. If you're interested, you may find Visual Basic is one of the most easiest programming languages to learn. Visual Basic is an object-oriented programming language and it automatically codes much of a program the minute a programmer drags a button onto a screen.

>File Extensions

>An Introduction to File Extensions

In an effort to be "user-friendly," Windows (and perhaps some other operating systems) hides the most important part of a file name from new computer users: the extension. Okay - we're assuming that the reasoning behind hiding extensions is a "user-friendly" one because we just can't come up with any other reason for hiding them. No harm could ever come from seeing an extension, but plenty could be learned from it. Fortunately you have this article to guide you through some of the most common extensions that you'll run into.

But before you can see file extensions, you need to turn them on. From Windows Explorer, click on the "Tools" menu, and select "File Options." Click the "View" tab and then uncheck the box next to "Hide file extensions for known file types." Click "OK" and you'll notice that the files in Windows Explorer show a dot and group of three letters after their names. That dot and group of three letters is known as an "extension," and the extension explains what kind of file it is.

A file could be a plain text file, an image, a sound, a video, or program. But without seeing the extension, you wouldn't know it unless you double-clicked on it. The following list defines some of the most common extensions that you'll find on your computer.

.au - This extension indicates a sound file. Most sound players will load up and play this kind of file.

.art - This extension indicates an image file that was compressed with AOL (America Online) technology. Both Internet Explorer and the AOL service software can display this kind of file, however if you don't have AOL installed on your system, Internet Explorer will display it.

.avi - This extension indicates a video file playable by most multimedia viewers including Microsoft's Media Player.

.bmp - This extension indicates another image file that might have originated from Windows Paint program.

.dll - This extension indicates a Dynamic Link Library which may contain additional programming code for software. Many different programs often share Dynamic Link Libraries and you'll find a bunch of them in the Windows/System directory (but don't ever delete them)!

.exe - This extension indicates a program or an application like Microsoft Word, Internet Explorer, or Outlook Express. Use extreme caution when downloading .exe files from the Internet since malicious programmers like to hide viruses in these types of files.

.gif - This extension indicates another image file and it stands for "Graphics Interchange Format." .Gif files are often smaller than .bmp files (described earlier) and they're commonly found on Internet web pages.

.jpg - This extension indicates yet another image file and it stands for "Joint Photographers Experts Group." Like the .gif file, it's commonly found on Internet web pages, however it's much smaller than both the .gif image and the .bmp image.

.mid - This extension indicates a sound file created with a Musical Instrument Digital Interface. Windows Media Player will open and run these files, however they don't sound like normal .wav or .mp3 files (described later). .Mid files are designed to product synthetic sounds using a computer's sound card.

.mp3 - This extension indicates a sound file that authentically reproduces voice and/or music. Windows Media Player will open and run this kind of file.

.scr  - This extension indicates a screen saver file.

.sit - This extension indicates a Macintosh archive StuffIt file. They will not open on a Windows system without a special utility.

.ttf  - This extension indicates a font especially designed for use on a Windows system. It stands for "True Type Font."

.txt - This extension indicates a plain text file that can be opened with Notepad.

.wav  - This extension indicates a sound file that like the .mp3 file, can be opened with Windows Media Player or Windows Sound Recorder. .Wav files are much larger than .mp3 files.

.zip - This extension indicates a Windows archive WinZip file. They will not open on a Macintosh system without a special utility.

>Cheap and Fast Software

>An Introduction to Shareware

Visit any computer store today and you'll find what seems like miles and miles of software on sale. Certainly enticing buys, there are a few problems with buying software off the shelves. On the shelf, software - otherwise known as "commercial software" - can be expensive, and incompatible, and outdated when compared to what's available online. Fortunately, there's an alternative to commercial software and although it isn't new, it's one of the most under-exploited opportunities in the computer industry.

We're talking about shareware - software that you can try before buying.

Shareware has a long history and was rather popular in the days where BBS (bulletin board systems) reigned the online industry. It hasn't gone anywhere, but its competition with commercial software is fierce - so fierce that it tends to fall on the back burner among new computer users. This is unfortunate because shareware has so many advantages over commercial software.

One of those advantages is its cost. On the whole, shareware is generally cheaper than commercial software. But don't misinterpret the cost. With shareware, cheap does not equal low-quality and there are plenty of examples that prove shareware often outperforms the quality of commercial software time and time again. How much savings are we talking about? You could purchase a quality word processor, spreadsheet, database program, or system utility anywhere from a mere $15 to under a hundred. This is almost unheard of in stores like Best Buy, Circuit City, or Egghead, yet the shareware programs offered within this price range rival even Microsoft's Office suite.

Another advantage that shareware has over commercial software is its compatibility. We're not saying that shareware is compatible with all operating systems. What we're saying is that since we can try shareware before paying for it, we can determine if the software is completely compatible with our systems first. In other words, we can discover whether the software performs the way we want them to and should anyone try to do the same with commercial software, they'll be in for a big disappointment.

Commercial software policy doesn't even allow for returns, let alone "borrowing" them to try them.

The last advantage that shareware has over commercial software (but certainly not the least) is its applicability. Plain and simple, shareware is the best bet when you want to keep on top of the latest release of a particular program. Sure, computer stores do their best to keep their inventory up to date, but when you can download version 5.6042 of a shareware program as opposed to buying a commercial 3.0 version from the local computer shop, there's just no comparison.

Which brings up our next point. Just where does one get shareware? Shareware is all over the Internet and it's really hard not to bump into it. The most popular places to find shareware is within thousands of download libraries, however the companies (and even independent programmers behind shareware) are increasingly offering shareware from their own websites. A simple Google or Yahoo search for a particular type of program will yield all sorts of results that point you toward items that you can try before you buy.

Be aware however, that because shareware is not commercial software, you may not experience a full program the way you would if you bought the software out of a box. Shareware may or may not be limited - meaning that some functions may not be available to you until the program is paid for. These limitations are often small and don't interfere with the way its full version operations. They're really just implemented as a way to prompt payment. Remember that shareware is not freeware. You shouldn't try to use shareware as commercial software without paying for it.

About the only thing that's similar between shareware and commercial software is the way in which they may be bought. With a credit card, you can be the new owner of your own software within minutes.


>What They Are And One Reason Why People Make Them

Over recent years, computers have become synonymous with viruses and viruses don't show any signs of disappearing any time soon. In recent news, reported that "Before the month is even done, April has set a record for virus e-mails."1 In the past, we would be comfortable in telling new computer users not to worry about viruses and that catching a computer virus is rare. Today, that would be some of the worst advice we could give anyone. As reported in countless news reports, computer viruses are rampant and they're extremely worrisome. This article will describe what viruses are and then point you in the direction of some rather unique protection and prevention.

In short, a computer virus is a software program designed to destroy or steal data. It attacks computers via distribution - often unknowingly - through email attachments, software downloads, and even some types of advanced web scripting. Viruses that destroy data are known as Trojan horses, viruses that explode their attacks are called bombs, and viruses that duplicate themselves are called worms. Some viruses are a combination of each, however they can be further identified according to where they're located on a computer.

A virus originating from the boot sector of a computer is a boot-sector virus and this nasty devil does its dirty work the moment a computer is turned on. A virus that attaches itself to (infects) other programs is a file virus and activates the moment that an infected program starts. File viruses may also be referred to as parasitic viruses, however should a virus work from both the boot-sector and from an infected program, the virus is then known as a multipartite virus.

Why viruses exist remains a mystery, however we had privy access to the mind behind a virus programmer who explained his motivation behind his destructive inclinations. Apparently, this person had a deep grudge against a popular online service which shall remain unnamed. In this hacker's mind, the online service failed to do a quality job in protecting children from online smut and as retaliation, he created and distributed a virus to as many file libraries of this service as he could. His intentions were to disable the computers of the online service's users so much that they wouldn't be able to connect for days. In his mind, the loss of connection meant loss of revenue for the online service.

Although the malicious code that this person generated may have worked for a small percentage of users, sufficed to say, the online service continued on and still exists today. Despite his motivation or intention, his efforts were null.

We wouldn't be surprised to learn if other motivations behind spreading viruses were similar to this person's, but that doesn't justify the damage that viruses do. Innocent people become pawns for the evil plans of others who've convinced themselves they're doing the "right" thing.

To protect a computer from getting a virus, or clean a virus from a computer system once infected requires the use of an antivirus utility. But may be something else we can do. Perhaps we could make an effort to educate the people who want put viruses into the public about ways to display dissatisfaction with a service or product that don't involve harming innocent parties. In doing so, we just might reduce the number of virus news stories and protect our own investments at the same time.

>Your Own Virtual World

>Play God - Be God (Even If It's Only Electronically)

Part of the appeal of video games is the visual eye-candy that splashes across the television screen. But even the addictive imagery is only half of the equation. The remaining half is the magic bestowed upon our eyes when this imagery comes to life. Animation that's controlled by a gamer is all it takes to escape into a different time and place - a time and place brought to you by virtual reality.

As you can imagine, virtual reality is a hypothetical three-dimensional visual world created by a computer. Players can enter and move about in this world and interact with objects as if inside it.1 Some of the games that are already on the market give a pretty good idea of what virtual reality is and can do. Video games like Zelda, Halo, or Harry Potter allow players to enter into an environment and interact with objects, but they don't allow the player to create an environment and that's what virtual worlds are all about.

Without a single ounce of programming experience, anyone can create a virtual world and have loads of fun doing so. All one needs is an idea.

To begin, you'll want to construct a plan that maps your idea of the perfect world, the craziest world, or the oddest world that you can imagine. Some virtual world software will give you a template of sorts (a "starter" world) that lets you make additions and ultimately build a world that you've always dreamed of. A good example of template use is inside Maxis' SimCity or SimTown games. Both games provide pre-designed environments that provide plenty of space and opportunity to shape them into one that you prefer.

Of course, you could always start from scratch. The only problem with starting with scratch is that it takes more time and knowledge to add some of the features that virtual worlds provide. Either way (from scratch or from a template), most users build a world by adding objects and scenarios - even deleting some until they've reached the perfect balance.

A good place to find examples of what you could build in virtual world gaming is online. Every virtual world program available offers sample environments that players can download and install into their own system. Some manufacturers of these games even hold contests and award winners with free upgrades. Other suitable places to find ideas are from fiction books: -historical, -fantasy, -futuristic, you name it. Science fiction movies are a good resource for ideas as well.

Just understand that virtual gaming takes time. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will your virtual world. There's no rush and this is a relaxing hobby. Take your time and have fun. Don't fret over not knowing how to build an object or lay down a map - you can learn how to do these kinds of things in due time. Your goal is to create a world of enjoyment and it won't help if you find yourself frustrated all the time.

When ready, you can add characters with their own unique histories, habits, strengths and weaknesses. You can even give them goals or small tasks to perform throughout the game. Giving your characters goals and tasks will help you give the game a plot.

To get started, look for RAD (Rapid Application Development) Tools. RAD tools will help you bang a virtual reality game together in no time and with little difficulty.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

>5 very Important Questions You Need To Ask Your Web- hosts Before You Buy

>You finally decided to approach a web-hosting company for hosting your website. You got your domain name registered or perhaps you did not. Web Hosting isn't like buying groceries - there are far too many things you have to consider even for something that looks deceptively this simple as putting up a website. It depends on how cautious you are and how you manage to bag the best web-hosting provider available to serve you.  
It would help you a great deal if you asked your potential web hosting provider a few pointed questions such as those mentioned below, along with the reasons as to why you need to ask ( for your knowledge).  
1. Do they have sound customer support systems in place?  
Now, you would find a lot of web-hosting serve providers online. Some of them serve their customers promptly while some don't. It is very important as a web master, or a web site owner for you to know how your potential service provider rates on this aspect. You could shoot some pre-sales questions about something you wanted to know or ask them one of these other questions and wait to see the response period. If they don't respond within 24 hrs (the Industry Standard) you are talking to trouble-hosting providers. Good customer service and the extent to which the provider would go to educate you or familiarize you with their available services would mean a lot to you as a client.
2. Server systems, technology, Data Centers, Back-up schedules: Does your provider explain his standing on these?
Servers are a must for a web-hosting provider. It forms his basic infrastructure. Back-systems are scheduled to run automatically and these servers are backed-up as frequently as daily with some hosting providers. What does your potential provider has to say about these things? Do they mention the kind of technology they use? Do they have reliable back-up systems at traceable data-centers? How are they equipped technically? Do they have technical people on rolls?
3. Company data, financial standing and profitability: How sound is your provider financially?
You must be wondering as to why you need to bother about your web-hosting provider's financial standing - well, it so happens than some companies might be new and there are chances that you could be talking to a fly-by-night operator. Properly financial health also signifies a stronger management which might be placed better to be able to serve its present and potential customers. However, it is another entirely that some of the best of the web-site providers also make losses and is not to be mistaken that they do not have good customer support or services offered.
4. What might be scope of service provided?
What exactly is your service provider going to offer to you? Depending on your requirements he must be able to provide everything (almost!) under one roof. You could have wanted just a single page hosted or perhaps you wanted a 300 page super content website -Do they have the range to suit your requirements? Under your allocated budgets? Single page websites usually are simple HTML pages and can be hosted easily. Your requirement can be very complex too which calls for inclusion of different application platforms like PHP, and Java extending up to scripts, forum, shopping carts, Intuitive control panels, plesk and also enabling e-commerce. So can your service provider be able to provide you all of this?
   If you had plans of making a truly interactive and content rich site, you could have thought of including content in the form of Video, streaming media, blogs, chatting, live customer support and much more. You will have to ensure that your service provider is able to provide you with all of this and much more.
5. What's your provider's take on Hosting reliability and up-time guarantee?
 Up-time when it comes hosting means the time (expressed in percentages) the host is available to access through the Internet. You would have seen a lot of hosting providers mention a 99.9 % up-time guarantee. But then, you ought to realize that any hosting application environment calls for maintenance too. You should ask how the web-hosting provider manages to shuffle this time efficiently. How do they manage their maintenance?
According to an extract from wikipedia 
"A popular claim from the popular hosting providers is '99% or 99.9% server uptime' but this often refers only to a server being powered on and doesn't account for network downtime. Real downtime can potentially be larger than the percentage guaranteed by the provider. Many providers tie uptime, and accessibility, into their own Service Level Agreement, or SLA. SLAs may or may not include refunds or reduced costs if performance goals are not met. One must be extremely careful when selecting a new company and they should read all terms and conditions carefully. A potential customer should also check out the web hosting company's Acceptable Use Policy in order to avoid potential cancellation of services due to activities that are considered a violation"
Hence, it is important to read all their terms and conditions carefully before signing up any new company as mentioned above and never forget the Acceptable Use Policy before signing on the dotted lines.

Monday, May 9, 2011

>Little-known Strategies to Maximize the Life of Your Hard Drive

>Maximizing the life of your hard drive

If I asked you the question: which part of your computer is the most fragile, what would you say? What if I asked: which part is most important to you?
Often, the answer to both of these questions is your Hard Drive.

Your hard drive is likely one the most important things you own. It contains work data, school data, emails, photos, music, movies, tax information, etc… Incidentally, the hard drive is also one of only two moving components in your computer (the other being your optical drive). The following is a list of important maintenance and monitoring techniques you can use to maximize the life of your hard drive and prevent data loss.

Hard drives are physically fragile – handle with care
Statistics show that 25% of lost data is due to a failure of a portable drive. (Source: 2001 Cost of Downtime Survey Results)
Contrary to its seemingly rugged appearance, your hard disk is a very delicate device that writes and reads data using microscopic magnetic particles. Any vibration, shock, and other careless operation may damage your drive and cause or contribute to the possibility of a failure. This is especially relevant for notebook users, as they are most at risk of drive failure due to physical damage, theft, and other causes beyond their control. That’s why we recommend regular backup of notebook hard drives, as often as possible.
Possible solutions include external USB or Firewire drives (although these are prone to the same risks), desktop synchronization, or backup at a data center through the web.

Hard drives write data in a non-linear way forcing it to become fragmented.

When files accumulate on your hard drive, they do not just get written in a linear fashion. A hard drive writes files in small pieces and scatters them over the surface. The fuller your hard drive becomes and the more files you save and delete the worse file fragmentation can be. Hard drive access times increase with fragmentation since your drive must work harder to find all the pieces of the files. The more fragmented your data is, the harder the actuator arm has to work to find each piece of a file.

A case in point: Disk fragmentation is a common problem for users of Outlook Express and database software. Each time outlook saves new mail, it does so in a different physical location from the previous time. This results in extreme fragmentation, causing longer hard drive access times and forcing more strain on the heads. This strain can eventually lead to a head crash, and often that means a virtually unrecoverable drive.Finally, in the event of a total crash, a fragmented drive is much more difficult to recover then a healthy defragged drive.

Luckily, Windows makes it remarkably easy to defrag your hard drive, simply launch the Disk Defragmenter utility (Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools), choose which disk or partition you’d like to defragment and set it to work overnight or while you are not actively using your computer. Defragmentation will speed up your computer and ensure a longer life for your hard drive.

A very small power surge can fry a hard drive – use a UPS and turn off your computer when you can

Another little-known fact about the fragility of your hard drive is its susceptibility to electrical failure. An electrical failure can be caused by a power surge, lightening strikes, power brown-outs, incorrect wiring, a faulty or old power supply, and many other factors. If a power surge enters your computer, it may do an unpredictable amount of damage, including destroying your hard drive’s electronics or crashing the heads and possibly resulting in total data loss.
The best way to protect your computer from such dangers is to use a highly rated protected power bar or an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). Although these devices won’t eliminate the chances of a crash, they will serve as effective protection in most cases. Also, you can minimize the danger of an electrical problem and reduce wear of your hard drive by turning off your computer or using power-save modes whenever possible. It’s a known fact that 100% of drives fail, the question is when will it happen and will you be prepared? Make sure to check out the knowledgebase section of our website for more detailed information on how electrical power affects your computer.

Be SMART, monitor the health of your drive to prevent unexpected crashes

All modern hard drives have a self-monitoring technology called SMART (Self Monitoring Analysis & Reporting Technology). What most people don’t realize is that the majority of hard drive failures do not have to be unexpected. Most failures occur as a result of long-term problems which can be predicted. By regularly monitoring disk health and performance, you can know about potential hard drive problems before you lose any of your data.

Several excellent utilities are available, including DiskView and Stellar SMART for standard IDE and SATA desktop drives. Also available are tools that monitor the health of SCSI drives and full RAID Array systems. Ariolic Software offers a great utility called ActiveSMART.

The only fool-proof way to prevent data loss is... Backup!

If you only take one of the suggestions here to heart, let it be this one: always back up your important data. After all the monitoring and all the prevention measures are in place, one fact still remains: all hard drives fail. Backing up regularly will ensure that you’re never caught without your critical data. For individuals, the simplest solutions include external portable hard drives, dvd’s, and online storage. For businesses, we recommend renting space at a secure data centre and implementing a disaster recovery plan, regardless of the size of your business.

I hope that the above techniques give you some idea of the importance of hard drive maintenance and provide some insights in how you can protect yourself from data loss.

>Fast and Reliable Recovery of Microsoft Office Documents

>What would you value most in a data recovery solution should you lose an important document? Would it be speed, convenience, or ease of use? These things surely matter for all kinds of computer software, but data recovery has one specific demand that outweighs everything else by a huge margin. This factor is reliability of the recovery.

Microsoft Office documents store results of many hours, days or even years of work of practically all office employees and most people who use their computers at home. Microsoft Word dominates the market of word processors, and most if not all documents are stored in RTF and its proprietary DOC formats. Microsoft Excel and its XLS file format dominate spreadsheet market. Most presentations are created in Microsoft PowerPoint and stored in PPT files, and most charts and drawings are drawn in Microsoft Visio and saved as VSD files. Combined, files in these formats occupy significant space on the users' hard drives, and represent hours and hours of work, much more than any other file format.

In an unfortunate case of hard disk crash or file system failure, what would you try to recover the hardest? Would it be a set of software products such as Windows or Office itself, which you can easily re-install from the original CD or DVD, or would it be files and documents you spent your personal time working on? Unless you have a fresh backup of your documents somewhere, the documents are impossible to simply re-install. If you have a recent copy of your Office documents, that's great! But what if your backup is several days old, and you've put a lot of work into these documents? Or even worse, what if you don't have a backup at all?

Recover latest versions of your deleted documents even after a hard drive failure with DiskInternals Office Recovery securely and reliably. Unlike general-use undelete and data recovery tools, DiskInternals Office Recovery strongly benefits from being designed specifically to handle documents stored in Microsoft Office format.

General-use recovery products scan the computer's file system in order to locate files that were deleted or corrupt because of a hard drive failure. However, they frequently fail to work properly if the file system itself is damaged, which happens a lot after hard drive failures.

DiskInternals Office Recovery scans entire surface of your hard drive in order to locate all Microsoft Office documents that are still there. In order to find the documents, it uses a set of signatures that are characteristic for the Office file types. The file system is also scanned in order to retrieve the names of the files. The results of disk scan are matched against information contained in the file system, and you are presented with a complete list of all Microsoft Office documents that are on the disk and that are still possible to recover.

Quite often you don't want to see the list of all Microsoft Office documents that were ever saved on your computer. There's no point in spending time scrolling through an endless list of files if you just need the latest revision of a PPT presentation or an XLS spreadsheet, but you need that document right away. DiskInternals Office Recovery offers an extensive set of filters allowing you to display only the files that you need with just a few mouse clicks. If you need a DOC file that you know you worked with today, you simply activate the File Format and Date filters, and only the Word documents that were modified on this day will be displayed. If you don't remember the name of the file, but know its title or the person who created the document, the Title and Author filters will show you those files. Similarly, if you only remember a line or even a few words of text from the document, you can instantly locate that particular file by activating the Text filter.

>Knowing Your Data Is Safe

>All companies of today make great use of the technology available to them and rely on their data.  Most businesses however, don’t have the budget to invest in network storage or large servers, which is what the bigger companies use to transfer information and create a backup of the information they rely on to carry out their operations.

Smaller businesses have a limited budget.  When most encounter a disaster they never seem to recover, normally going out of business.  Past disasters such as 9/11 or the dreaded hurricane have showed the importance of backups and disaster planning.  Companies that thought things out and protected their data survived these disasters, while those that didn’t went out of business.

There are several ways that you can protect your data and keep it safe.  One of the most popular and easiest ways to protect your data is with a server.  Servers are great for both large and small businesses, and protection the data for your business.  They can tend to get expensive though, with the most popular server, Microsoft, starting out around $3,000. 

Unlike other options, servers provide you with a safe and secure system to store all of your corporate data.  You can set the permission of your files to prevent any unauthorized access, to keep your files safe.  When using servers, most of the loss comes from either accidental deletion or employees that are upset with corporate management and decide to get into the server and erase files.

When using a server, your data will be stored in one central location, and not spread around over different computers in your network.  Servers are very user friendly, and keep your files neat and tidy - in one location.  This way you don’t have to go looking all over the place for your data, you can look in the server and find everything you need.

Another way to keep your data safe is with CDs, DVDs, and even external hard drives.  If you are using any of these methods, you should always do a backup of your information at the end of every day.  With disasters being completely unpredictable, backing things up every day will ensure that you are protected if something should occur. 

If you are backing things up to CD or DVD media, you should always put the discs in a safe and secure location, preferably a fireproof safe.  This way, if the office should catch on fire, you’ll have your backup discs protected.  You should always add your new backups to the safe at the end of every working day, so you’ll have them tomorrow if you need them.

You can also store your data and information offsite as well.  This is a highly recommended option, as you pay a flat monthly fee and a company stores your information.  Most have secure vaults and servers for your data, which ensures protection from unauthorized accidents or hazards.  You don’t need to worry about your data when using these services, as they will do the protection for you.

No matter which method you use for protecting your information, you should always make sure that you have a plan.  Corporate data is very important and essential to success, which is why you should look into immediately if you don’t have a plan already.  If you know your data is safe and protected from hazards and unauthorized access - you’ll have the peace of mind in knowing that your data will be there each and every time you need it.

>How to Choose Right PC Diagnostic Software

>Computer Diagnostics is a need to keep a healthy operating system and vital for business productivity, where a failure can be a costly mistake. PC diagnostic software can determine hardware and software conditions and possible failures, as well as current settings and connectivity.

A PC diagnostic program can also suggest the best performance settings in order to get the most of your system according to your hardware specifications. In addition, a PC diagnostic tool can help you to identify potential problems that can damage your hard drive or any other piece of hardware.

Some companies provide troubleshooting tools to test your PC’s electronic circuits, in the form of system plug-ins or stand-alone applications. Computer Diagnostics should also be able to check other computer components such as the BIOS, serial and parallel ports, USB and Ethernet ports, etc.

Choosing the best PC diagnostic software depends on your computer related knowledge. You may find a PC diagnostic program worthless if you do not understand what a benchmark diagnosis means, or cannot make changes in the settings that the PC diagnostic tool may suggest.

Computer Diagnostics provide end user with intuitive diagnostics tools for troubleshooting while improving performance. However, some of them can be risky if you do not understand what they can do, like those including the ability to reformat any type of hard drive.

Most software developers state, "use it at your own risk" because of the lack of knowledge that can lead also to massive data loss. Although data can be recovered, it is a painful process because of the required proper software or you may have to take the hard drive to a service center that can restore and reformat your hard drive.

Even then, there are no guarantees of getting 100% of your data back, so be careful choosing software intended for Computer Diagnostics, and always read before clicking any "OK" message that may pop up.

If a PC diagnostic tool returns the parameters of the hard drive, and allows toggling the IRQ directly to determine which I/O port is at which IRQ, make sure you understand what all this means before proceeding, because the software can read, write, overwrite and edit most values.

Perhaps the best PC diagnostic software is that which can only read, generating log files or an overall detailed report of your computer including all its components.

If the PC diagnostic program cannot write, the possibilities to damage your hardware or destroy your content are very low, although other problems such as a buggy, unstable version can ruin your operating system.

>How to Avoid Hard Drive Overheating

>Even though the hard drive stores data, it isn’t perfect by any means. Hard drive failure is very common with all computers, with no real way to prevent it. Although there are several different reasons why a hard drive can fail, the most common is overheating. Viruses and crashes are common as well, along with theft and accidental deletion.

With the older style and mechanics of hard drives, the RPM speed was low, meaning that the drives wouldn’t overheat. The hard drives we use now days, have speeds between 7,200 and 10,000 RPM, meaning that they can get quite hot when they start working. Computers of this day and age come with fans to cool everything down, with most hard drives including temperature sensors as well, so you can keep track of just how hot your hard drive becomes.

With hard drives today, overheating is a very common problem. The faster hard drives come with speeds of 10,000 RPM, which can make the temperature soar above 70 degrees F, really heating things up inside the drive. The mechanics on the inside are built to withstand the heat, although if things become too hot, you’ll encounter problems. If a drive becomes too hot and ends up losing the data, it may be next to impossible to retrieve the information - no matter how good your data recovery specialists may be.

One area that suffers from the drive overheating is the platters, which are magnetic media. Platters are what carry the data throughout the hard drive. Platters are constructed from optical glass, aluminum, or ceramic and normally coated with a layer of magnetic material. Once the hard drive begins to heat up, the platters will start to expand, which changes their size. When this happens, the magnetic surface on the platters will get destroyed, which results in a loss of data. If the physical area of the platters are damaged, it will result in unreadable sectors.

Other areas of the hard drive that can be damaged due to overheating are the read and write heads, head actuator, and the controller chip. Hard drives are very sophisticated pieces of hardware, and can’t handle overheating. The read and write heads are a common example, as they can easily render the drive useless if they become damaged.

To prevent your hard drive from overheating, you should always make sure that it is cooled properly and well ventilated. You can always get additional fans and coolers, which will improve both ventilation and the flow of air in your computer. You can buy fans and coolers at very affordable prices, which makes them an ideal investment for keeping your hard drive or hard drives cool.

You can also get software that monitors the temperature of your hard drive as well. Whether it’s software, or additional fans, you should always ensure that your hard drives are kept cool. By keeping them cool, you’ll greatly reduce the amount of crashes. You’ll also increase the stability of your hard drive as well, which will make your entire computer perform much better.

>Not Too Late For Data Recovery

>As most of us already know, recovering data that is lost or damaged is known as data recovery.  Data recovery can save a majority of your data information, in the form of hard drives, zip disks, CDs, DVDs, and other means of storage.  Data recovery is very common these days, as it can help you get back on track after your hard drive crash or other means of destruction to your data.

On the professional side of things, there are a lot of companies out there who excel in data recovery.  They have technicians who are experts in recovering your data, and spend a majority of their time working on hard drives.  Recovering the information from a hard drive can be a very time consuming process, all depending on just how bad the drive has been damaged.  If the hard drive is damaged physical or the sectors have been damaged, some of the data that was stored on it may be lost forever.

If you take immediate action and seek a repair service for your hard drive, you just may be able to save everything.  In the result of a crash, virus, accidental deletion, or other disaster, you shouldn’t waste any time at all.  You should always look into a company, preferably local, that can help you with your hard drive.  The company will first do an evaluation on the hard drive, then contact you and discuss what options you have available with you.

To safely and efficiently recover your data using software, companies have a few choices they can use.  Below, you’ll find some software examples that companies use to recover lost data on hard drives.

FIRE recovery
FIRE is a bootable program that can immediately take action with data recovery.  It can also assist with virus scans, incident response, and forensic analysis.  FIRE is a very common program, widely used by data recovery specialists around the world.

LDE recovery
Known as Linux Disc Editor, the LDE method of recovery was originally created for recovering lost files in Linux.  It is an older method of software and data recovery, which proved to be very beneficial to those who used Linux.

NT recovery
The software for NT data recovery provides the proper read access for hard drives that are set up with NTFS in the Windows or MS DOS environment.  This software is among the most popular for data recovery technicians, allowing them to copy files from NTFS to FAT volumes. 

The above examples are all but a few among the software recovery methods.  Software recovery can work with most hard drives, if they aren’t too badly damaged.  If the hard drive has been damaged by flood, fire, or other physical damage, it will probably need to be rebuilt.  Again, if you don’t waste in time seeking a technician, you may be able to get everything fixed.  Rebuilding the hard drive will take quite a bit of time, as the technician will have to go through every inch of the drive and replace the parts that have been damaged.

As important as your data is, it’s always in your best interest to get on the ball and don’t let any time be wasted.  Time is always of the essence, especially when it comes to recovering all of your data and information.  Time will always prove to be the ultimate and deciding factor with your information - which is why you shouldn’t let one precious second be wasted whenever something happens to your hard drive.

>Microsoft Outlook PST repair tool

>Are you interested in mail recovery process? Many users ask this question, now it is possible with Recovery Toolbox for Outlook and repair pst. Microsoft Outlook is not a simple messaging, this program usually stores user contacts, meetings, tasks and journals. The loss of this data may affect your business, so, you may need to perform some actions that can ensure the integrity of your personal information.

We suggest trying Recovery Toolbox for Outlook, this program represents an intelligent solution, that permits to avoid losses. Recovery Toolbox for Outlook can repair all items, stored in Microsoft Outlook, in several easy steps, just follow the instructions and all emails will be successfully repaired. It does not matter, what was the reason that led to mailbox corruption, there are a lot of them.

Your mailbox may be affected due to power failures, file system corruptions, viruses or hacker attacks. Recovery Toolbox for Outlook repairs your email regardless of its corruption. It is very easy, you can save a lot of time for preventive measures, Recovery Toolbox for Outlook will never replace your firewall or antivirus client, but this program will be a good addition to other programs, that helps, when other ways of pst recovery and repair Outlook are useless. Please download free demo version of Recovery Toolbox for Outlook Outlook repair tool for pst repair now and make sure, that it helps. For your convenience, Recovery Toolbox for Outlook pst repair tool can save retrieved files as separate emails or as a single file of PST format. Feel free to ask questions about repair pst file, our support department will be glad to respond all requests with regard to Microsoft Outlook repair and Outlook pst repair in a reasonable time.

>Microsoft Word repair tool

>Recovery Toolbox for Word is a program for Word file repair, it helps to repair docx files, if it was not possible to prevent data corruption. Many users regularly see error messages, when opening *.doc files. Stay calm, when Word unable to read file, we will be glad to suggest a solution. Recovery Toolbox, Inc. suggest trying Word file repair tools, that can be found on our website, just click on "Download" and save the installation file of Recovery Toolbox for Word to your hard disk.

Recovery Toolbox for Word features easy system requirements, this program will work on all PC's and with all supported versions of Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Word. Word repair tools are easy to use, we believe, that instructions will not be needed in your case. However, we are always ready to respond all request within a reasonable time. Feel free to forward us your opinion with regard to Microsoft Word repair tool and other programs to repair docx file.

All users can preview the data, when repair Word file and make sure, that the money will not be paid for nothing. The service of repair docx works, it requires minimal user intervention, so, the process of data recovery can be done even for beginners. You have a great chance to test this data recovery service for free, demo version is distributed without restrictions. Just do not forget to let us know your opinion about Recovery Toolbox for Word, we need it to improve existing services. Please register your copy of Recovery Toolbox for Word to remove all restrictions.

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>Backup Data Properly

>Computer data can be very important to us, especially those of us who make a living on the computer.  Over the last several years, the computer has grown on all of us, making our lives so much easier.  For that very reason, it’s easy to tell that if we lost our computer data, it would completely destroy a majority of us.

Losing data can be an overwhelming thought to say the least.  Computers store data, although machines have been known to fail.  Even though the computer has become a lot more reliable over the years, it is virtually impossible to prevent computers from losing data.

You don’t need to take this lying down through, as you can indeed fight back.  The ideal way to ensure that you never lose your precious data, is to back it up and keep backing it up.  You should back up your computer data at least once a week, with once per day being the recommended way to do it.

In the past, and even some today, the floppy disc is the main method used to back up computer data.  Even though they store a small amount of data, they are easy to access, easy to use, and nearly every computer has one.

Those of you who are looking to take things to the next level should look into backing up your entire hard drive.  Backing up your entire hard drive is something that everyone should do, as it is indeed one of the best and most reliable ways to backup your computer.

When you create a backup of your entire hard drive, it will copy all of your information, so if something happens you’ll always have your data.  Doing a full backup of your hard drive is great, although it can be very time consuming.  To make matters worse, it is recommended that you create  a backup at least once a week.  On the other hand, if what you have on your computer is very important, you’ll find it more than worth the effort and time needed to back things up.

Another way you can back up your data, programs, and files, is to burn them directly to a data CD or DVD.  This way, you can select which files or folders you want to keep.  If you use CD/RW or DVD/RW disks, you can continue to add information to them when you create a backup.  If you don’t use the RW (re-writable) media, then you won’t be able to go back and add more information to the disc.

Burning data directly to discs are the method of backup that most people are using these days, although backing up the entire hard drive is the preferred way of backing up your data.  If you plan to use discs, you’ll need either a CD or DVD burner, which you can get for a great price these days.  The discs are cheap as well, which only makes this method of backing things up that much better.

Whether it’s for your business or for personal reasons, you can’t go wrong backing up your data.  You should always strive to back things up properly, as this will ensure that the data will always be there when you need it.  This way, if you computer happens to crash or you lose everything on your hard drive, you’ll always have your backup files to go back to.  This in itself can save you a lot of time, effort, and quite possibly even money - just for the simple fact that the files are all but a copy away to restore.

>Can USB Data Recovery Be Recovered?

>When you store important information on a USB device, you take the chance of losing that information. Losing data on a USB can be kind of a mystery, but there are companies out there that can help you get that data back. These companies use engineering that can recover your lost data over ninety six percent of the time. These companies can even recover data that has been stored on a damaged USB device. So when you find yourself in a situation where you have lost valuable information you should not assume that this data can not be retrieved. 

There are some companies that specialize in repairing damaged USB memory devices. In the process of retrieving your data, companies can also repair your device. Types of the problems they can repair broken solders, loose plugs, and broken internal connections. Some of the devices that they can fix are USB ports, USB sticks, USB drives, USB thumb drive, and Flash memory devices. These companies use a type of recovery called a jump drive recovery. They can recover any files from any type of USB drive or memory stick. Sometimes the chips inside the devices will be damaged, but don't fret; there are some companies that can fix that problem too.

So the conclusion on USB data recovery is that just because information seems to have disappeared, doesn't mean that it is lost forever. There are companies that can find and retrieve lost data on a damaged or removed USB device. In the process of finding data, the problems that caused the data to go missing in the first place will be fixed. This is helpful because it insures that it won't happen again. There are programs out there that can help you retrieve your data by yourself, but the problem might be bigger than you know, so you should always seek professional help. There could be problems inside your device that prevent your device from working properly.

>Backup Data On Your Laptop

>If you were to look at past statistics regarding the information that has been lost in regards to laptop computers, you would find yourself amazed.  Even though this information can be astounding, many of us still don’t take the time to back up the information on our laptops.

To put it in simple terms, nothing in the computer industry is fool proof.  Hard drives can crash, the laptop can get stolen, or it can even be dropped and rendered useless.  To ensure that we are never left without our precious data, we should always create a backup of our information.

There is no mistaken the fact that over a million laptops have been stolen over the years in the United States alone.  Anytime a laptop is stolen, chances are that it won’t be recovered.  If the information wasn’t backed up, then the owner will be left with no laptop - but more importantly - no backed up data either.

Just like you can with desktop computers, you can also create a backup of the data on your laptop as well.  You can use online services, back it up remotely, or use several other methods to ensure that you keep all of your data.  Preserving your data is something you should really look into, especially if you have business material on your laptop.

The best way to go about backing up your data and files is to burn them to a data CD.  Data CDs can hold up to 700 MB (Mega Bytes) of data, which means a lot of files.  To back things up this way, all you need is a CD/RW burner in your laptop, which most of the newer ones come with.

The only drawback to laptops is the fact that they don’t offer near as much storage or security measures as a desktop PC.  Desktop computers have a lot more power, and they can also do things (including backups) in a fraction of the time.

The laptop computer was designed for on the go use, which is the main reason why people don’t really think about backing up their data.  When the thought finally does come to mind, it is normally too late to do anything about it.

As mentioned above, the easiest and quickest way to backup your laptop data is to use an online backup service.  Depending on your connection to the Internet, it can take anywhere from several minutes to several hours.  Although it may take you a little bit of time, you’ll have the satisfaction in knowing that your data is there if something should happen.

Whether it’s for your business or personal use, you can’t go wrong backing up your data.  You should always create a backup of your data at least once a month, even more than that if you have a lot of important information that you add to your laptop on a frequent basis.