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Tricks & Tips

Archive for January, 2009

Your $$$ Online

January 29th, 2009

Mint.com is a great way to see your personal finances in one central place. Mint is for the wealthy investor as well as the struggling college student.  It’s free, so try it out at www.mint.com.

Why use Mint?

  • Raise your awareness
  • Tag or categorize expenses (vacation, tax deductible, reimbursement)
  • See what your spending
  • Receive alerts for low balances, past due bills, and more
  • Learn more from Mint.com

(screenshots below – click to enlarge)

Accounts overview:

Register from accounts:

Custom alerts and budget:


Concerned about security?
Whether you use online banking or not, your data is out there.  I trust mint.com for myself and there are hosts of reviews online that support them.  Regardless, there is always a chance.  Later we’ll look at securing your identity online.  For now, check out Mint’s own commitment to you.

Want to learn more?


Reminders From Your Phone

January 27th, 2009


Use reQall to send reminder to yourself or others from your phone. Signup free at www.reqall.com/web/registration

Scenario: You’re driving down the road and you think of something you need to do.
Solution: Instead of emailing yourself, or writing it down, call Reqall to send yourself a message.

Reqall is a free, text to speech reminder service.  Reqall is a lot like previously mentioned jott.com.  Jott is now a fee based service so it doesn’t meet everyone’s needs.


How it works:

  1. Call reQall’s toll free number
  2. Leave your message, thoughts, or share a task with a friend
  3. Receive an email with your transcribed message along with a copy of the audio recording.  This is all added to your online todo list at reqall.com.

Bonus #1: Set a speed dial on your phone so Reqall is easy to dial.
Bonus #2: To send reminders to others, they must first authorize you to share with them.


5 Ways to Customize Outlook

January 22nd, 2009
  1. Hide MS Outlook in the tray: If you run MS Outlook all day like I do, it sits on your start bar, just taking up real estate:

    photoYou can force Outlook to hide in the system tray when minimized to keep your area clean.  Simply right click on the existing Outlook tray icon and check “Hide When Minimized”:


  2. Turn off desktop notifications when new email arrives (New mail arrived from: Friend’s Name):  While on that same right click menu from above, uncheck “Show New Mail Desktop Alert”.
  3. Turn of sounds when new mail arrives:
    1. In Outlook, click on the Tools menu and choose Options.
    2. Click on the Preferences tab
    3. Click E-mail Options
    4. Click Advanced E-mail Options
    5. Uncheck the box “Play a sound”,  under “When new items arrive in my Inbox…”
    6. Hit OK, and OK to save
  4. Show the total number of messages, not just unread item count besides the mailbox:  By default, the number besides your mail box (  Inbox (21)  ), is displaying how many messages you haven’t read.  To show the total number of messages instead:
    1. Right click on that folder and choose Properties.
    2. Dot, “Show total number of items”
    3. Hit OK
  5. Sync your Outlook calendar with Google Calendar: You might wonder why this is so great, unless you just need mobile access to your calendar.  However, after syncing you could also share your calendar with family or friends to stay on the same page.   Use Google’s free download to start your sync:  Google Calendar Sync.

The instructions above are for Outlook 2007.  They may vary slightly for earlier versions.

Don’t use Outlook? If you don’t use Outlook, I highly recommend a GMail email address.  It’s a smarter choice for email as it’s free, includes the best spam filters, and always available no matter where you are.  Create an account at www.gmail.com.   Outlook is good application if you need task or contact management and/or sync with a PDA Cell (Blackberry, Treo, etc).  Otherwise, shoot for GMail!


3 Ways to Save Money Online

January 20th, 2009

Below are company’s I trust and use a regular basis.  I wouldn’t recommend them otherwise.

  1. Check your credit for free
    www.annualcreditreport.com is the safe way to check your credit online.  Some places try to charge you to check, or for monitoring.  However, by law, you are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three reporting agencies each year.  Bonus tip: check only one agency at a time (through this site), throughout the year to get samples of your credit on-going.  There are many scams and look alikes out there, but this is the site to use.
  2. Print discount restaurant certificates
    www.restaurant.com sells discount certificates for participating restaurants.  Discounts are up to 80% off!  I was the biggest skeptic out there, but as I’ve read great reviews about the place, I tried it myself and got $50 off my $60 tab at a City Range in Greenville, SC.  This site is for real.  Just read the fine print some restaurants limit the use for tips or minimum tab, etc.
  3. Find coupons online
    www.couponalbum.com shows hundreds of coupons for use with online retailers and for printing, including Target, GAP, Best Buy, Home Depot, etc.  Before you buy, check here for coupons.  Also try a Google search for coupon or promo code and the name of your store, eg. “coupon amazon.com”.

What is Windows 7?

January 15th, 2009


Windows XP, Vista, and now, Windows 7 is Microsoft’s latest operating system.

The previews look clean and simple.  I’ve been impressed with everything I’ve seen and read.  Check out great screenshots, and a few videos here.

More details…
Currently called Windows 7, it will be all that Vista should have been,  without the annoyances.  Windows 7 was announced late last year, and Microsoft recently released a public beta.  Although officially it should be available late 2009, early 2010, many speculate it will be available mid-2009.

To find out exactly which Windows version you’re running, follow these steps:

  1. Click  Start
  2. Click  Run (if you don’t see it, skip this step)
  3. Type:  winver
  4. Hit  ENTER


Have you ever wanted to download and save a YouTube video to your computer?  Maybe for an iPod or other portable video player?

OPTION 1 (easy, but often a busy site):

  1. Visit http://www.keepvid.com/,  paste in the link to your YouTube video, click Download.
  2. Right click on the >> Download << link for mp4 – High Quality and click Save Link As.

OPTION 2 (more reliable):

  1. Free software, YouTube Downloader is easy: Download Now
  2. After install, run the application and paste the link to your YouTube video to download.
  3. Dot the second option to convert the video to a standard format for viewing.

Video:  I made a short video example.  Download and install the application first, then watch the example:

***  Click above image to ENLARGE  ****

*** UPDATE: Use savevid.com now for best results – download the MP4 version.


By Terry Kirby


They’re costly to replace, so follow these guidelines to keep your laptop battery healthy and happy:

  • The most important thing is to USE your battery.  Do NOT leave your laptop plugged in all the time. Allow it to run from battery sometimes to keep the battery in good shape.  Fully drain and fully charge the battery every two to three weeks.
  • Fully charge new batteries before use.  New batteries need to be fully charged and discharged a few times before they can condition to full capacity.
  • Remove the battery from the notebook and store in a cool, dry place if the battery will not be in use for more than a few weeks.
  • Avoid exposure to extreme temperatures. Leaving your laptop in your car during summer or winter months will reduce its life.  This is so easy to do.  But don’t.  😉

By Terry Kirby


Here are 10 ways you can greatly extend the use of your battery’s charge while on the go.  Extend, as in 30 minutes or more!

  1. Reduce screen brightness – This is huge.  The lower, the better.  Check keyboard icons for which buttons modify this. Probably hold the Fn key while pressing up or down, or one of the F keys (F6/F7?).  It all depends on your model.
  2. Tune the radio off! Most laptops have an external switch to turn off wireless and Bluetooth radios.  Again, probably an Fn + F key on the keyboard.
  3. Limit usage of external devices such as USB connected devices.
  4. Don’t open many applications at once.
  5. Exit programs you aren’t using. Programs that start with your computer are just pulling away at your battery.  Exit things like QuickTime, MSN Messenger, Google Desktop, etc.
  6. Keep it cool.  Increased heat it puts more stress on your laptop and starts up the fan.
  7. Use hibernation when not in use vs sleep mode.
  8. Use light programs such as Word, Excel, or internet browsing. Stay away from graphic intensive applications or even media players.
  9. Avoid playing games, music, or DVDs.
  10. Mute your sound.

Solid state drives are available in some new laptops.  They’re basically a huge flash drive instead of a hard drive at all.  As they don’t have any moving parts, some manufactures advertise up to 18 hours of usage.  Look for this option on your next purchase.

Need power while stuck in an airport?  A Microsoft employee started this wiki to detail power outlet locations.


Best of 2008

January 1st, 2009

2008 was DWZ’s Tips & Tricks’ first year. Publishing these has been a real treat.   We hope everyone else had a great year as well and wish you only the best for 2009!  Below is a round up of the top 10 best of 2008 Tips & Tricks.

  1. Video: How to Print on Envelopes
  2. How to Send Long Web Links
  3. 4 Tricks for Your Phone
  4. 3 Reasons You Should NOT Have an Email Address with Your Internet Provider
  5. Listen to Music Online (I prefer last.fm more now)
  6. Best Freebies (movies, directory assistance, shipping, etc)
  7. Easy Home Surveillance Camera
  8. Block Websites and Get Reports
  9. How to Send Large Attachments
  10. How to Get Your Voicemails by Email and Save Forever

Happy New Year!