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Tricks & Tips

Archive for April, 2009

Power of the Mouse

April 30th, 2009


Laptop Users
Using only the touchpad on your laptop is convenient, but don’t miss out on the power of adding an external mouse to your laptop.  A real mouse adds precise control of the pointer for faster, more accurate navigation.  Don’t believe me?  Try it.

What to Buy
By far, the best options in a mouse is a wireless mouse that offers laser sensing.  Most come standard with a wheel, and this is great for scrolling on pages.  If you can add Bluetooth to your laptop, or purchase with it pre-installed, look for a Bluetooth mouse – no extra hardware to plug-in!

Does your mouse “stick” as you move it across the screen?  If you have an older mouse with a ball, it needs cleaning.  The rollers inside collects trash fast.  If it’s wireless, try changing the batteries, or moving it closer to the wireless adapter.

The Future
How much longer will we need the basic mouse, or keyboard?  These are simply input devices we use to communicate and control with.  There are other input devices.  Speech recognition is improving rapidly.  Microsoft’s Surface technology is a multi-touch desktop that is amazing.  Check out the videos here.

Did you catch our previous tip on keyboard shortcuts?  While using my laptop, my right hand is on my mouse, but my left hand rests between the CTRL button and the space bar with my fingers stretching up to the home keys (ASDF).  You can copy, cut, paste, undo, switch windows, exit, minimize, and tons more in less than a second.  Learn keyboard shortcuts here.

In the news…
MS Office 2007’s latest update, Service Pack 2, is ready for download.  Visit windowsupdate.com or download directly here.  Most claim performance increase, but you can see all improvements here.



Traveling soon? Here’s a great list of 6 sites to make flying easier.

Example Excerpt: “Instead of using the airline sites, try using Tripeedo. Tripeedo’s an easy way to search most of the major airlines for tickets, as well as some of the best bargain sites like Kayak, Travelocity, and Orbitz.

Finding a flight’s as easy as typing where you’re coming from and going to, and Tripeedo does all the searching for you. You won’t buy your ticket from Tripeedo, but it’ll put you on the page you want to see – unlike most airline sites.”


Screenshots Made Easy

April 23rd, 2009


Windows / Mac:   Jing is easy to use. Capture whatever is on your screen and save, or share with friends in a few clicks.  Not only does Jing capture still images, but videos too.   I encourage you to try this free tool… you’ll love it.

Jing creates a link you can include in an email so you don’t have to “send a large file”.  You just use the link they give you.  Smart.

Watch the demo: start video

Getting Started…

  1. Download and install Jing, free at jingproject.com
  2. Register with your email, and use the yellow orb at the the top of your screen to start taking shots

A little extra…

17 Cool Magnet Tricks
– including how to get batteries out of difficult places and making a refrigerator pen.  Continue reading…



Did you know Google Maps has several additional tools besides the basic map?  The Distance Measurement Tool allows you to pick points on a map and it will total the feet, miles, or meters between two or more points. I recently used this to see how far I was walking.

Of course this isn’t super accurate as elevation changes and doesn’t follow the road perfect, but will give you a general idea.  Alternatively, you could use Google Earth for more options.

Try it out…

  1. Visit www.google.com/maps
  2. Find your area on the map by searching or scrolling
  3. Click the My Maps link at the top
  4. Put a check in Distance Measurement Tool
  5. Start clicking away on the map

Explore other neat My Map options, like The Weather Channel (radar), GPS, Gas Prices, etc.  Pretty neat.

In the news…
Windows 7 Release Candidate to be available for download on May 5th!  This is just for those ambitions testers and not shipping in new computers until later this year, most likely.  Continue reading…


Learn Most Languages Online

April 16th, 2009


Openculture.com has an excellent list of resources for learning foreign languages online.  Most include a link to the podcast, RSS, or download via MP3.  I always enjoy listening to educational audio while driving.  Add these to your iPod or MP3 player and enjoy!

Rosetta Stone is another great (fees apply) option.  My problem is though you can only use it on your computer (they have basic “audio companion” but that doesn’t work).  If you’re serious about learning, try these online resources but consider giving Rosetta Stone too.  Audio for the car, and Rosetta Stone for your computer.

Start now:  Free Foreign Language Lessons

Extra: Traveling?  Knowing even a little language of the country you’re about to visit goes a long with acceptance by the locals.

In the news…
Microsoft will release Office 2007’s update, SP2, on April 28th.  This should help with speed and reliability.  Also expected is print to PDF options built right in.  Continue reading…


What is this .xyz file?

April 14th, 2009


Sometimes you get a file you can’t open. We’re often asked to help open a file that doesn’t work, like the above screenshot.  Openwith.org answers that question and provides free alternative software you can use.

Learn more…
All files are named with a period and then a few letters thereafter.  This is called the file extension.  For example, a Word document is .doc.  An Excel spreadsheet is .xls.  These letters after the period define which program opens the file.  Pretty smart eh?  The problem comes in if you don’t have the application installed needed to open that file.  Use Openwith.org to find free software to open your files.

Openwith.org only features free options.  For complete searches, use filext.com.

Advanced user only….
Honestly, the extra step of having to choose to specify the application you want to use is annoying.  Here’s how to disable it (read the comments section for Vista instructions).

In the news…
The latest version of Microsoft’s browser, Internet Explorer 8, is now available for download.   I still highly prefer and recommend Firefox.  As does the rest of the world.



Use e.ggtimer.com to count down and alert you when times up. It’s like a kitchen timer for your computer.  Simple, free, and nothing to download.

Why use E.ggTimer?

  • Start a phone call and want to keep it under 10 minutes:  set the E.ggTimer
  • Need to leave for an appointment in 25 minutes:  set the E.ggTimer
  • Put the chicken in the oven and go back to “wasting time” on the Internet:  set the E.ggTimer

Getting Started:

Visit e.ggtimer.com and type in your desired time.  For example, “25 minutes” or “2 hours 15 minutes”.  Hit enter and wait.   Be sure to turn your speakers up.   When times up, a popup will alert you with a loud sound.

Another unique way to use E.ggTimer is to type in the address exactly what you want: e.ggtimer.com/10minutes.  Add a bookmark with that address on your links bar for quick access.  Need a break or want to be more aware of your time on the phone?  Click the link.  You’ll know when your 10 minutes are up.

Try it now:  http://e.ggtimer.com/6



Use trackthepack.com to track your anxiously awaited packages.  This site summarizes everything on one page: estimated delivery date, and current status and location of each package you add.  Enter the tracking number just once and your set!

  • FREE and simple to use
  • UPS, FedEx, DHL and USPS – all on one page
  • Use labels to identify packages
  • Shows step by step locations on Google Maps
  • Archived history

Getting started:
Visit trackthepack.com and enter your tracking number.  No login required for single packages.  Create a free account if you want to save your history.

In the news…
CVS Pharmacy joins Google Health to offer prescription history online. Continue reading…


Google’s Voice Search makes searching the web simple. Even the most novice user can do this.  The above video is for the iPhone, but Voice Search is available for BlackBerry, Android, and many other web ready cell phones.  After install, speak your search and Google goes to work – easy!  A must have.

Ready? Visit www.google.com/mobile or browse from your phone to install.

Don’t have an Internet phone? You can still dial 1-800-GOOG-411 (learn more) for free 411.

Other search tricks by Google:
Do More with Google
4 Tricks for Your Phone
Other Google Tips

In the news…
The Conficker Worm, that had everyone hyped up today really wasn’t that bad.  If you’re running updates and good anti-virus, protection is already there for most viruses.  However, this privacy invasion looks scary to me (continue reading).