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2014-04-29

Turn PayPal into Gift Cards, Win8 Product Keys and better Linux Icons

Converting PayPal to Gift Cards lets you monetize the PayPal balance, even if your merchant of choice does not accept PayPal: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/pay-paypal-balance-sites-dont-accept/

Need to find your Win8 Product Key? Look no further: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/four-places-find-windows-8-product-key/

Niftier icons for Linux can be freely downloaded using the tips at http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/9-beautiful-alternatives-default-linux-icons/

2014-04-08

What to do about Windows XP

Updated 22 April 2014 with new items 9-11, enhanced item 1.

On April 8, 2014, Microsoft issued their last update to Windows XP. They will update the Microsoft Security Essentials anti-virus for another year, but a) traditional viruses are no longer the majority of security and malware problems, and b) Microsoft has been explicit that Microsoft Security Essentials was a minimal anti-virus system, anyway, and formally recommends getting a better anti-virus.

I do recommend migrating to Win7 or Win 8.1 Upgrade 1 if your finances and hardware will permit. A free utility from Microsoft downloadable from http://www.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/xp/transfer-your-data.aspx makes it easy to move your data to the new Windows, and http://www.laplink.com/ (not free, around $80) does that and lets you move compatible Windows XP programs, as well as data. 

But, what to do, especially if your system is not powerful enough to run Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 and the new (free and required) Update 1 for 8.1? That's the subject of this post, for a well trusted website, ZDNet, has a checklist of things you can do. That inspires my post today; I'll summarize that checklist for you.

Here's the tl;dr:

0) Action is required, for the same source calls Unprotected XP 'a much greater risk than the Heartbleed bug.'

1) Use the Firefox browser (a free spamfree download from firefox.com ) with free extensions NoScript, Better Privacy, Self-Destructing Cookies, Ghostery, Web of Trust, AdBlock Edge, BugMeNot. (Firefox is the same on the Mac, Windows and Linux, BTW). Make Firefox the default browser, and avoid using Internet Explorer from now on following these instructions.

2)
Make software updates automatic wherever possible. 

3) Uninstall Java, don't reinstall unless you Really need it. (Java is different from JavaScript).

4) Get a firewall; Windows Firewall at the very least. There are better free firewalls.

5) Go to http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com and apply all updates except for the Bing Bar and any Language Pack for languages you don't read. If you are using Office 2003, go to http://LibreOffice.org and install it (free, spamfree) and let it choose to automatically open Office files, as Office 2003 also has security problems.

6) Make a new user in XP, but don't make it an adminstrator. Move all the data from your old (administrator) account to the new user. Use the new user for all web surfing.

7) Replace Microsoft Security Essentials with another antivirus. http://free.avg.com/us-en/homepage is free among many others.

8) Avoid the Internet if at all possible when using XP. 

9) IMHO, use a JavaScript blocker in your web browser, like ScriptSafe for Chrome and Chromium and NoScript for Firefox. Remember, we are not using Internet Explorer any more...

10) Add the free Sandboxie to virtualize your web browsing sessions.

11) If you're tired of the update merry-go-round, choose a major distribution (version) of Linux.  

Linux?  It's no longer the complex bugaboo it once was, and it's free.  

Mint Cinnamon, Fedora, and Xubuntu are my favorite versions for new users. You can install all on a garden variety USB Flashdrive from XP for free with a free and spamfree Windows program, and try them before you install. You can also install any Linux version side-by-side with XP without having to reinstall XP or its programs. Use Linux and Firefox for the web, and XP for your offline games.

Some Windows apps will work under Linux with Wine once properly configured, if there's a Windows program you must have; check the Wine Applications database for how well it runs. There's also a non-free improved version of Wine, CrossOver.


If you want to pass this on to a friend, the easy web address to use is http://j.mp/farewellxp

2013-10-06

Proof that SSDs are a good upgrade for modern PCs

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2048120/benchmarks-dont-lie-ssd-upgrades-deliver-huge-performance-gains.html

2013-09-03

Gadzooks! How to get more legroom for free in the air

http://qz.com/120748/these-airlines-offer-more-legroom-for-free-on-domestic-us-flights/

2013-07-01

New and Improved yet still free: Libre Office 4

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2042552/review-libreoffice-4-liberates-you-from-microsoft-office.html

2013-04-10

What do you do about XP?

http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/european-technology/ok-so-stick-with-windows-xp-but-how-big-a-risk-do-you-run/1627 explains the risks of staying with XP when, a year from now. Microsoft stops support it with security fixes. 

Useful USB drive tips

http://www.flashdrive-repair.com  seems to have some useful stuff.

2013-03-13

Goodbye Google Reader

So Google announced the impending death of Google Reader. What else will they jettison to shave another tenth of a percent of profit? Now is the time to find a replacement for every Google based service (including this one) because they're loyal to the dollar, not to the customer.

2012-11-16

Hackers are relentless

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/11/ff-mat-honan-password-hacker/all/ is a very scary story in hacking.

2012-10-03

Free better Windows caching app

http://www.techno360.in/speed-up-your-pc-with-oo-clevercache-7-pro-for-free/

2012-08-27

A+: If your Win7 Install Goes Wrong

If the system won’t start, you can still view log files. However, this depends on the type of installation and how far the installation got. If it was a clean installation, you should boot to the Windows 7 DVD; select Repair your computer, then access the System Recovery Options menu, and select the Command Prompt. If it was an upgrade that didn’t get far, and if Windows Vista/XP/2000 was previously installed on an NTFS drive, you can boot to the System Recovery Options in Vista, or the Recovery Console from a Windows XP or 2000 CD and view the log files from there.

 If you cannot start the clean installation or upgrade, check the following:
 
• Processor speed and memory size: Verify that your computer meets the minimum requirements for Windows 7.  Make sure you are installing the correct type (32-bit or 64-bit) and version of Windows 7.
 
• Windows type and version: Make sure you are installing the correct type (32-bit or 64-bit) and version of Windows 7 (Starter, Home Premium, and so on...).
 
• Free disk space: You need 16 GB/20 GB free for Windows 7 (for 32-bit and 64-bit editions respectively); the more space available, the better.
 
• Hardware conflicts or hardware issues: Use the Device Manager to ensure that all hardware works correctly before you start an upgrade.
 
• Installation media: Make sure that your DVD-ROM media is not scratched or damaged in any way. Verify that it is genuine Microsoft software and that you have the right type of media for your installation, for example, Windows 7 Full Version License or Upgrade DVD.

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2012-08-26

A+: Did your Win7 install go OK? Use the logs to check

When you complete the clean installation or upgrade, verify that your installation has gone smoothly by testing it. For example, attempt to navigate through Windows, access administrative functions, connect to the Internet, and so on.

 If you have confirmed that Windows is working normally, update the system. Install the latest service pack and additional updates as necessary. It is possible that the service pack was included on your installation media, but if not, download it and install it before going any further. Then, download any other updates that are necessary utilizing the Windows Update feature.

Installations usually go smoothly, but not always. If an installation fails for any reason, or if the installation completed but Windows doesn’t seem to be behaving properly, consider reviewing the log files to find out more about the problem and why it occurred.


The following table refers to variable directory called %WINDIR%. By default, the name of this folder in Windows 7 will be “Windows.” %WINDIR% is the new name of the variable previously called %systemroot%. Also, $windows.~bt is a temporary boot folder created during setup. It remains if the installation was not successful, allowing you to analyze the log files, but should be automatically deleted when the installation completes properly.


Windows 7 and Vista, as well as Server 2008, include the capability to review Setup events within the Event Viewer, or by way of a script. See for details: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd744583(WS.10).aspx.


Log File Location Description of Logfile
$windows.~bt\Sources\Panther Location before Setup can access the drive
$windows.~bt\Sources\Rollback If a fatal error happens, log location used if Setup does a roll back
%WINDIR%\Panther Setup actions after disc configured
%WINDIR%Panther\setuperr.log Info of errors diring install. A file size of 0 bytes means no install errors.
^START WITH THIS LOG FILE WHEN TROUBLESHOOTING^.
%WINDIR%Panther\setupact.log Shows setup actions during the install
%WINDIR%\Inf\Setupapi*.log Plug and Play devices installed
%WINDIR%Panther\Setup.etl Windows Setup performance evants
%WINDIR%\Memory.dmp Memory dump used for bug checks
%WINDIR%\Minidump\*.dmp Mini memory dumps used for bug checks
%WINDIR%\System32\Sysprep\Panther Logs made by Sysprep

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