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Tricks & Tips

Archive for May, 2009

Vista SP2 Now Available

May 28th, 2009
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Microsoft released Vista’s latest update, Service Pack 2.  Service packs are major updates to Windows.  Often, as in this case, they include new features, and a lot of fixes to known problems.  Notably, Vista’s SP2 includes better Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, increased performance,  and over 700 repairs.

How to Update
Vista SP2 will not automatically download just yet.  You can install it by downloading here, or waiting a few weeks for it to be distributed with your other routine Windows Updates.

More Updates
Just in case you missed it previously, Office 2007 also had its release of SP2 adding some extra features including saving files as PDF built right in.  This is now available through Windows Updates.
Something Fun
Don’t care about Windows Updates?  Original Super Mario Brothers 3 is an easy online game: play now

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These online maps of zip codes and area codes makes it easy for quick reference. Just enter your area code or zip on the search box across the top after clicking one of the following links:

Other options:

In the news…

Circuit City was going out of business, but CircuitCity.com is now up and running again.  They were acquired for $14 million and re-launched online only.  Interesting business direction.

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  1. Skype is awesome. Traveling international?  Call home anytime for pennies.  The call quality is great.  You don’t need a webcam to just use for cheap voice calls around the world.  Learn more…
  2. Know your power options…

    • Road Trip: Power inverters convert your automobile’s cigarette lighter plug into a standard electrical outlet.  This can be very handy for keeping a laptop battery charged, cell phone, or DVD player (kids!).  A basic one can be purchased easily at a local store:  Wal-Mart link
    • International: Voltage and plug adapters vary between countries.  Know before you go!  If your appliance supports both 110V and 220V (see the power label), you only need an adapter, and not the whole clunky inverter!
  3. Get your voice mail. Traveling abroad makes it difficult to access your voice mail.  Use youmail.com (free) to a listen to your messages online.  Just turn off your phone, people are immediately directed to your voice mail, and then receive an email with the message.  (Use when home too – you can check as usual from your phone).  Learn more…
  4. See it before you get there. Google Maps (or Earth), zooms you down to see actual images of streets and places you will see in person soon.  Why not take a look around and be prepared?  Learn more…
  5. International Fees. Travel abroad and you might be surprised to learn Visa adds 3% on all your purchases!  Use Capital One’s No Hassle card to avoid these fees.  No annual fee, offers some rental car insurance, and can earn points/cash. (see their site for details).  Learn more…
  6. Speed through airport security. Clean up BEFORE you enter the security line.  Place your cell, wallet, coins, and other items in a bag or carry-on luggage before entering the security line. Now just walk up, place your bags on the scanner, and walk through.  On the other end, you can grab your bags and walk on, later re-locating things.
  7. Watch your TV. Not home to see your favorite show?  Point your laptop to hulu.com to watch almost ALL major networking shows from ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, etc.  For example, 24, Lost, SNL, and all the others. (free, but only works in the USA) Learn more…
  8. Check reviews. There is power in numbers.  Use tripadvisor.com to learn where to stay, what to do, and where to eat.  Others place their tips so you know what is best and what isn’t!
  9. Flying wisely. Use kayak.com or tripeedo.com to find the lowest rates.  They search other popular sites to give you an over-all view.  Use farecast.live.com to see forecasted flight rates to know when to buy.  Seatguru.com shows plus and minuses of every single seat on the plane.
  10. 28 Rules For Life I Learned On the Road

Have another good idea?  Leave a comment on our site or email us.

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Google just added new “Search Options” to help you quickly find exactly what you’re looking for. To enable, click “Show options…” at the top left of any Google search page.

A few examples

  • Narrow results by reviews only
  • Show results only updated in the last 24 hours, or view a timeline
  • Show related topics
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How to Sync Two Computers

May 14th, 2009
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Mac/Windows/Linux:  Dropbox syncs your files across two or more computers. This program makes it so easy!  Basically you have a “virtual” folder.  Anything you put in here is instantly copied to all the other computers.

Example: While traveling with your laptop, you make changes to a Word document.  When you get home, the document is there on your desktop computer with the updated changes.  No files to copy or wrong versions to worry about.

Don’t have your computer with you?  You can access all your files via Dropbox’s web interface anytime.  Need to send a large attachment?  You can share specific files with others via a direct link.

Dropbox helps your business send large files, synchronize remote workers, easy off-site backup, and recover deleted files.  This program is smart.

Watch the video tour: getdropbox.com/screencast

Getting Started
Visit getdropbox.com and click Download Dropbox. Choose Run to start the install.

Ready to sync to your second computer?  Just download and install there also and your ready!

Getting More…
Dropbox comes with 2GB of storage for free.  You can upgrade to 50GB for $9.99/mo or $99/yr.

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How fast is your Internet connection? Use one of the following two free services to check your speed now:

Note:   Your results will vary by time of day, if you have other programs running, and/or if you have more computers on your network.

Two speeds to know…
The Internet works in two directions, up and down, or upload and download.  When you browse the web or check email you’re mostly using download speeds.  This is why the download speed is always much faster from your Internet Service Provider (ISP).  Upload speeds are becoming more important with new services like VoIP, online backups, and other services that SEND, or upload files.

Understanding your speeds…
Some ISPs refer to speeds in different ways.  This can get VERY confusing, fast.  To keep it simple, you will either see a kbps or mbps.  There are roughly 1000 KB (or Kilo Bytes) to a MB (Mega Byte).  If your ISP offers 3MB / 256KB, then you have 3000KB download and 256KB upload.  For comparison, dial-up Internet worked at about 50kbps.  Remember how slow this was? 😉

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How do your speed tests compare with what you’re paying for?

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You may know Adobe Acrobat as the program that opens your PDF files.  Did you know it is bloated and far slower than other tools that do the same and more?  We haven’t used Adobe Acrobat in years (what is a PDF anyway?).

Better alternative: Use free app, PDF-XChange, to open your PDF files.  Not only view, but fill in forms, add comments, and save or print features are all included. Learn more…

We previously recommended FoxIt.  It’s a bit faster, but doesn’t have all the features of PDF-XChange.

Convert PDFs to Word documents
Need a PDF converted to a Word document so you can edit, or copy the text?  Use free online app, PDF to Word.

Why so much about PDFs?
PDFs replace paper.  We print most documents to PDF, instead of real paper.  Learn how in our Paperless Office series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

In the news…
Think you’re identity is safer because you don’t have accounts with FaceBook, Twitter, and other social networking sites?  Maybe not!  Continue reading…

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Share Documents Online

May 5th, 2009
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Google Docs let’s you create files and share online instead of using MS Word or Excel.  This means everyone on your team is on the same page – live.

Rather than emailing a document, changing it, and re-sending it, simply post existing documents, or create new ones on Google Docs, for free.  Enter your colleague’s email addresses to share and work together.

Examples

  • Company financial information (can be set for ‘read only’) for easy distribution and updates
  • Employee directory
  • School activities

Getting Started

Q and A

Will I have to re-create my documents? No, you can upload your existing documents.

Do I have to upload all my documents?
If you want to, or just the ones you want to share.

So does this mean I see my own documents from any computer? Yes!

Is this secure? You specify only those which you want to share each document with.  Specify no one, or public.

Is this only for documents or spreadsheets? No, Google Docs also supports presentations (like Power Point), and you can use Google Calendar for sharing events too!

Our company is serious about online collaboration.  What are other, more complete solutions? Check out BaseCamp!

In the news…
Mac’s have been mostly free from viruses that plague Windows.  Unfortunately, Mac users will have to start taking these threats more seriously. Continue reading…

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