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A+: Indexing in Windows

Indexing, in theory, helps you find files faster, but also consumes hard disk space can can steal CPU and memory to slow down your system overall. Instead, you might just set up indexing of your My Documents folders (XP) or your User folders (Vista/7).

XP indexing can be disabled with Start | My Computer | Manage (which invokes Computer Management) | (at left) Services and Applications  | Services | (at right) Indexing Service | right-click, pick Stop.  Pick Start to resume indexing.  A right-click on the Indexing Service will show it the service is Automatic (it will restart at the next reboot), Manual (only restarts if asks for) or Disabled (won't run). A right-click on any drive or volume, picking Properties and un-choosing Allow Indexing Service to Index This Disk for Fast File Searching can also turn off indexing. Do not index optical discs or removable flash memory devices.

In Vista/7, indexing can be disabled with Start | right-clicking on Computer | Manage (which invokes Computer Management) | (at left) Services and Applications  | Services | (at right) Windows Search | right-click, pick Stop.  Pick Start to resume indexing.  A right-click on Windows Search will show it the service is Automatic (it will restart at the next reboot), Manual (only restarts if asks for) or Disabled (won't run). You can also right-click on any drive or volume in Windows Explorer followed by picking Properties then clearing Index This Drive for Faster Searching. 

An alternative to indexing all file attributes is to use only the NTFS file index of file names, which is enough for me and much faster as well as not consuming hard disk space.  Everything is donationware which does this on XP, Vista and 7. I have found it very useful.



A+: Tuning the Start Menu Properties

Picking Properties after right-clicking on the Taskbar invokes Taskbar and Start Menu Properties lets you choose the Start Menu to customize it, including:
  •  Choosing the icon size 
  •  Removing recently opened document shortcuts
  •  Pick from a list for what appears in the Start Menu and Taskbar
  •  (Classic Start menu only) Clear the IE browser history, cookies and cache
  •  (Default Start menu only) Whether to add most frequently used programs
Its Advanced tab also allows choice of
  •  Submenu auto-open
  •  Newly installed app highlighting
  •  Links vs menus for standard Start menu items
  •  Standard Start menu items
  •  Listing or not listing most recently used documents 



A+: Start Menu

Manually editing the automatically generated Start Menu can ease the selection of programs. Most apps automatically assign one or more links and/or folders in it for one-click launching, but click-and-drag allows you to recategorize programs, and right clicking allows sorts and cut-and-paste as well as renaming and deleting. You can also switch from large to small icons to permit more apps in a list, or upsize the icons if desired.

Adding to the default Start menu starts with a right-click on its button; pick Explore to add a new item to your own menu or Explore All Users to add to all users' Start menus. Shortcuts appear on the right, the menu folder opens on the left. Expand a folder by clicking on its + symbol.

Pick on a folder by clicking on it at left, or right click to create a new folder. File | New | Shortcut starts a wizard for the Shortcut (for your menu only); then, directly enter a path to the app or browse to it. You can optionally rename the app as it will appear before you do Finish | OK

Vista and XP can use the Classic Start menu mode from Windows 2000 (which runs faster if you are short on memory or CPU cycles) and you can find a registry patch to do the same in 7. It's far easier to edit the Start menu in Classic mode.



A+: More Control Panel

Properties Sheets allow you to invoke many Control Panel functions by picking Properties after right-clicking in:
  • My Computer/Computer, for the System Window
  • Taskbar, for Taskbar and Start Menu Properties
  • Desktop (in XP) for the Display window (In Vista/7, the Personalize Control Panel opens Personalization for the same functionality)
  • Network in Vista/7, for the Network and Sharing Center (In XP, right-clicking on My Network Places to pick Properties opens Network Connections)
You can also launch many Control Panel options from the Command Prompt; for example Start | Run | inetcpl.cpl opens the Internet Properties dialog where you can click on Delete to clear Temporary Internet Files (aka Cache), Cookies and Browsing History, which can solve many Internet Explorer problems.



A+: My Computer (aka Computer in Vista and 7) and the Control Panel

Computer/My Computer is another option of Windows Explorer which can show
  • local drives
  • network drives
  • the Control Panel folder
  • imaging devices (cameras, scanners)
XP uses the System Tasks pane at left to view system information by opening the system properties sheet, to Add or Remove Programs or Change a Setting.  Vista and 7 show those options beneath the menu bar. 

The Control Panel 

The Category View is the default view of this launching pad for tuning the user interface and hardware settings of Windows, although the Classic View is also popular for new users who like a more function-by-function visualization. Available tasks are shown when you click on an icon.  

Start the Control Panel from the left window pane of Windows Explorer, the Start button, or from My Computer/Computer; the Classic Start menu requires the flow Start | Settings | Control Panel

The Classic View in XP requires a double click; otherwise, use a single click. 



A+: Task Bar and the Tray

The Tray, Notification area, System Tray or SysTray is the expandable bit at (normally) lower right which holds the Clock as well as icons for other always-running apps you need to interact with, such as the Speaker icon for sound control, the Safely Remove Hardware icon for un-mounting USB flash drives, and the Wireless icon on laptops to show if you're connected and how much signal strength you have. 

To the left of the Tray you may see other components; the most popular to the left of the Tray is the Language Bar, which unless you do computer dictation is of little use, then the Task Bar itself, which tells you what programs are running, followed further to the left by the optional Quick Launch (which is highly useful and shows very frequently used apps for a very quick start). At farthest left is always the Start button where you invoke the start menu showing a path to all apps and all settings.

Always, that is, unless you click and drag the inside the bar from its customary position at the bottom to the top, left or right, where it will stick and stay, or if you enable Auto-Hide (in which case the toolbar will disappear when the cursor is not within its area, or if you disable Keep the taskbar on top of other windows in which case it will only appear when an app is not maximized. The Task Bar can also be expanded by click-and-drag of its top edge to show more than one row of apps, so the icons for running apps can show the file they're working on.

Locking the Task Bar prevents it from being moved or resized by accident and is highly recommended. 



A+: My Network Places

My Network Places manages both dial-up and broadband, and shows network locations listed in the standard multi-pane Explorer view. If you need to see the type of connection, go to the tasks pane and and click on View Network Connections. Right-clicking on the connection and choosing Properties lets you configure a connection. If you need to fix a failed connection, select it then choose Repair This Connection in the pane for Network Tasks. 

The Properties sheet shows services, network clients and protocols, and the Sharing tab under Properties lets you share a Wi-Fi connection with an Xbox 360 over a cable if you're on a road trip in a hotel with an Internet connection which requires a sign-in to connect. 



A+: Switching Viewing Choices in Windows Explorer

Changing Viewing Options in Windows Explorer
By default, Windows Explorer prevents users from seeing information such as
• File extensions for registered file types; for example, a file called LETTER.DOC will be displayed as LETTER because WordPad (or Microsoft Word) is associated with .DOC files.
• The full path to the current folder.
• Files with hidden or system attributes, such as Bootlog.txt and Msdos.sys.
• Folders with hidden or system attributes, such as INF (used for hardware installation).
Concealing this information is intended to make it harder for users to “break” Windows, but it makes management and troubleshooting more difficult.  To change these and other viewing options, follow this procedure:
Step 1. Start Windows Explorer.
Step 2. Click Tools on the menu bar, Folder Options and select the View tab.  

In Windows Vista, the Menu Bar is hidden by default. To show it temporarily, press Alt+T (which in this case will bring up the Tools menu). To show it permanently, click on the Organize button, then Layout, then Menu Bar.

          Step 3. Select the options you want. Experienced end users may benefit from:

    • Enable the Display the Full Path in the Title Bar option. (In Vista, this only works if you are using the Classic theme.)

    • Disable the Hide Extensions for Known File Types option.

For maintaining or troubleshooting a system, these may also help:
• Enable the Show Hidden Files and Folders setting.
• Disable the Hide Protected Operating System Files setting.
You should probably change these settings back to their defaults before you return the system to normal use.
Step 4. Click OK to close the Folder Options window.
Objects such as files and folders can be displayed in several ways within Windows Explorer:
Tiles— The default in Windows XP, is similar to Large Icons view in earlier Windows versions.
Icons— Displays more objects onscreen without scrolling vertically; might require the user to scroll horizontally to view multiple columns; similar to Small Icons view in earlier Windows versions. Vista has options for small, medium, large, and extra large icons.
List— Displays more objects onscreen than large icons in a single column.
• Filmstrip— A preview of picture files in larger size at upper right, with smaller pictures a la thumbnails underneath it of adjacent files  
Details— (Vista and 7 only) The same size of icons used by Small or List, plus size and last-modified date details 
Stacks (Vista and 7 only) group to specifications of the users - can be filtered, and also saved as a virtual filter or as Search Folders



A+: Windows and the Common Tasks View

When you start My Computer in Windows XP, the Common Tasks view is displayed by default. The Common Tasks view displays the properties of the selected object and displays a preview when available. However, the most significant feature is the changeable task pane in the upper-left side of the display. In Windows Vista, this has been replaced by “Favorite Links” and Windows 7 adds the "Libraries" option.
The contents and name of the task pane change according to the characteristics of the selected or displayed object. For example, display My Computer, and the task pane is titled System Tasks, with a choice of options such as View System Information, Add or Remove Programs, or Change a Setting. The contents of Other Places also changes to display related objects. To switch between Common Tasks and Classic view, click the Folders icon on the toolbar.



A+: Windows interfaces and Windows Explorer

Windows features a variety of user interfaces, from Windows Explorer to the Start menu. 

Windows Explorer is the file-management utility used by Windows. Windows can use Explorer to view both local drive/network and Internet content. In Windows XP it integrates tightly with My Computer and Internet Explorer. However, in Windows 7, Vista and Windows XP systems using Internet Explorer 7 or higher, Windows Explorer will launch a new process when connecting to Internet sites.

By default, Windows Explorer doesn’t display hidden and system files unless the View options are changed.

Windows Explorer can be started in any of the following ways in Windows:
• From the Start menu, click Start, All Programs, Accessories, Windows Explorer.
• Open the Run prompt, type Explorer and press Enter.
• Open My Computer to start Explorer automatically.



A+: Key Windows components to emphasize

Key Windows components to emphasize in A+ study are:
• Registry
• Virtual Memory
• File Systems

Windows' Registry is a database for Windows, applications, and user settings. When you install a program, update Windows, or even change the color of the desktop, a part of the Windows Registry changes. There are five different sections (known as hives) to the Windows Registry, whether it’s the Registry in Windows 7, Vista, XP, or 2000:
HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT—Links file extensions to specific applications installed on the computer (also stored in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE)
HKEY_CURRENT_USER—Stores configurations specific to the current user, such as screensaver, desktop theme, and Microsoft Office user information (also stored in HKEY_USERS)
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE—Stores hardware and software setup information
HKEY_USERS—Stores user-specific information for all users of this computer
HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG—Stores the settings for the current hardware profile (also stored in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE)
Any setting in Windows is stored in one of two top-level keys (HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE and HKEY_USERS). The other three keys provide shortcuts to sections of these two keys.  



A+: Advancements to the GUI since XP

Now that more machines use Windows 7 than use Windows XP, let's look at advancements in the GUI (Graphical User Interface) advances made since XP:

• Windows Aero— Microsoft’s new visual experience, with translucent windows, window animations, three-dimensional viewing of windows, and a modified taskbar. You can make modifications to the look of Aero by right-clicking the desktop and selecting Personalize, and then clicking Windows Color and Appearance. From here you can modify things such as the transparency of windows. To disable Windows Aero, click the Theme link from within the Personalize window. Then, from the Theme drop down menu, select Windows Classic.

• Welcome Center— This is the window that opens automatically when you first start Windows Vista. After installing the operating system, it a good starting point for running initial tasks such as connecting to the Internet, transferring files from another computer, adding users, and learning more about Windows. The Welcome Center will continue to show up every time you start Windows unless you deselect the checkbox to the bottom left of the window. To open Welcome Center later, go to Control Panel, System and Maintenance.

• Windows Sidebar and gadgets— The Windows Sidebar is a new window pane on the side of the desktop. It is primarily used to house gadgets. Gadgets are mini applications that provide a variety of services, such as connecting to the Web to access weather updates and traffic or Internet radio streams. They can also interact with other applications to streamline the Windows experience. Additional gadgets can be downloaded from Microsoft. You can modify the Sidebar by right-clicking on it and selecting Properties. From here you can select whether the Sidebar starts when Windows does, place it above other Windows, change its orientation, and remove gadgets. To add gadgets, click the + directly over the topmost gadget.

• Modified Start menu— The new Start menu has a few changes compared to Windows XP. For example there is a useful search field directly above the Start button. However, the Run prompt has been removed by default, but can be added by accessing the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties window. The Start menu and desktop can also be configured to run in ““Classic mode”” similar to the one used by Windows 2000 and by XP, if it was configured that way. In Classic mode, the Start menu displays the name of the operating system along the left side in the same way that earlier versions of Windows display the name. This is usually done to optimize Windows performance.



A+: Operating systems, and GUI advancements of XP over Windows 2000

Operating systems: Advancements from Windows 2000

The Windows XP GUI (Graphic User Interface) has several differences compared to its predecessor Windows 2000:

• Personalized start menu for each user.

• Two-column start menu; the left column displays the most recently or frequently used programs and access to default applications for Internet and email, while the right column provides access to the user’s documents folders and Control Panel. To see all programs, hover your mouse over All Programs.

• Task bar adjusts in size according to the number of programs that are running and the number of quick launch icons in use.

• Start menu and desktop can also be configured to run in a Classic mode similar to the one used by Windows 2000. In Classic mode, the Start menu displays the name of the operating system along the left side in the same way that earlier versions of Windows display the name.

To change only the start menu to the Classic mode, right-click the Start button, select Properties, and choose Classic Start menu. To change the start menu and the desktop to the Classic mode, open the Display properties sheet, select Themes, and select Windows Classic. You can open the Display properties sheet from Control Panel or by right-clicking an empty area of the desktop and selecting Properties.



A+: Application compatibility with Windows versions

Most commercial business applications should run properly on Windows 7/Vista/XP as well as on older versions of Windows. However, some commercial and custom applications designed for older versions of Windows to run properly on Windows 7, Vista or XP, you can use the Program Compatibility Wizard built into Windows, or the Compatibility tab located on the executable file’s properties sheet to run the program in a selected compatibility mode.

To start the wizard in Windows 7 or Vista, click Start, Control Panel and then click the Programs icon. Then, under Programs and Features click the link Use an Older Program with This Version of Windows. This program works essentially the same in 7 and Vista as it does in XP.

To start the wizard in Windows XP, click Start, All Programs, Accessories, Program Compatibility Wizard.

Once the wizard is started, you can select from programs already installed on your computer, select the current program in the CD-ROM drive, or browse to the program manually. After you select a program, you can select the version of Windows the program worked best under.

You can select one or more of the following options to aid compatibility:

    • 256 Colors— Many older Windows programs can’t run under 16-bit or higher color depths.

    • 640×480 Screen Resolution— Many older Windows programs use a fixed screen size and can’t run properly on a high-resolution screen.

    • Disable Visual Themes— Many older Windows programs were created before visual themes were common.

After selecting the options, test the program (which applies the settings you selected and runs the program).

After you close the program, Windows switches back to its normal screen settings if necessary, and you can decide whether to use these settings for your software or try others. You can choose whether to inform Microsoft of your settings, and the settings you chose for the program are used automatically every time you run the program.

Keep in mind that the Program Compatibility Wizard won’t work with all old Windows programs; in particular, the wizard should not be used with antivirus, disk, or system utilities that are not compatible with your Windows. Instead, replace outdated applications with updated versions made for your version of Windows.

Microsoft periodically offers Application Compatibility Updates through Windows Update. These updates improve Windows’s compatibility with older applications. If you can’t get an older program to work with Windows now, it might be able to work in the future. To see which programs are affected by a particular Application Compatibility Update, click the Details button on the listing in Windows Update.
As an alternative to the Program Compatibility Wizard, you can apply the same settings by using the Compatibility tab on an executable file’s properties sheet. Use this method if you already know the appropriate settings to use.



A+: History of Windows

1985: Windows 1.0 offered titled windows, the use of a mouse (heretofore restricted largely to graphics creation programs) and borrowed on IBM's Common User Interface ('CUI') to create the menu-at-the-top interface still used today in many apps. Multi-tasking was co-operative, not pre-emptive, and all programs were 16-bit, just like MS-DOS applications.

1987: Windows 2.0 added icons to make program launching easier, as well as the Program Information File (.PIF) which allowed easier configuration of programs to launch from the Windows desktop. Windows could now overlap, whereas with 1.0, they could only be tiled.

1990: Windows 3.0 allowed use of memory past the 640 KB limit, added virtual memory, and the File Manager and Program Manager applications.

1992: Windows 3.1 added Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) which permits data from one application to be easily used in another (such as drag-and-drop of a picture from Paint or a spreadsheet from Excel into a Word document). It also enhanced media playback as well as graphics capability in general.

1993: Windows for Workgroups 3.11 integrated small-scale networking into the operating system whereas before it required an expensive dedicated server running server software, such as Novell's Netware.  32-bit software could now be run which allowed more memory to be used by the program.

Also, the first version of Windows NT, an entirely 32-bit operating system with entirely 32-bit memory addressing, was introduced for the business community, with stability and networking its primary features. It introduced the NTFS file system for formatting its hard drives with journaling and redundancy in its directory, and runs on a Hardware Abstraction Layer ('HAL') to allow its installation on CPUs other than Pentiums. NT was originally intended to be OS/3, but Microsoft's decision to add Windows APIs to NT led to a falling out with IBM and NT instead effectively replaced OS/2 in the business world over the years to come. 

1995: Windows 95 was the first version to run without MS-DOS; it now emulated DOS within Windows. Plug and Play ('PnP') allowed new motherboards designed for PnP and new components also designed for PnP to be installed with no need for external drivers. The network stack, the behind-the-scenes programs which permit networking of personal computers, was also more rugged and resilient.

Also, Windows NT 3.51 was introduced, following closely on the heels of the fall 1994 release of ver. 3.5.

1998: Windows 98 was released and quickly replaced by Windows 98SE ('Second Edition') to fix stability issues.

2000: Windows 2000 replaced Windows NT, adding the Windows 95 look-and-feel to the business version of Windows while moving video management, spooler and server functions from the user space to the kernel for greater reliability. It shipped in Professional and Server editions. Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Server 2003, 7 and Server 2008 are all more sophisticated versions of Windows NT.

Also, Windows ME replaces 98SE, but the restricted access to real mode MS-DOS (in order to speed up system boot time) made ME unpopular.

2001: Windows XP replaces Windows ME (and the crowd goes wild!). Like Windows 2000, it is NT-based. It comes in Home, Professional and Media Center versions.

2003: Windows Server 2003 replaces Server 2000.

2007: Windows Vista is supposed to replace XP. If you don't have 2GB, it won't run well, if at all. Its User Access Control feature was also rough around the edges (if you still have Vista, you can turn it off with Start | Control Panel | Security | Security Center | Other Security Settings).

2008: Windows Server 2008 replaces Server 2003.

2009: Windows 7 replaces Vista (and the crowd goes wild!).



A+: More on Operating Systems

Multi-tasking and task switching:
  Task switching looks like your computer is doing many things at once, but really it just puts one program on hold and changes to another when you ask for it. 
  Co-operative multi-tasking was an early Windows method which waited for the application running to control and release resources such as memory, but when that program failed, your computer locked up.
  Preemptive multi-tasking is more sophisticated; the OS now schedules when a program can use resources, and takes back control of resources to give to other programs. If one application locks up, other programs also running don't suffer. 

Windows processor features and memory:
  Multi-threading allows one CPU (Central Processing Unit, the central chip of personal computers) to look to Windows as if it were multiple CPUs. Multi-threading first reached the desktop in 2002 with the 3.06 GHz version of Intel's Pentium 4. Also known as Hyper-Threading, it's also included in Intel's Atom low power processors as well as the Core i7.
  CPUs labeled as x86 are Pentiums; 32-bit CPUs can run 32-bit programming, with a Microsoft-imposed limit of 4GB of memory (from which one must subtract the video card memory since it shares the same memory space). x64 AKA 64-bit CPUs can run 64-bit operating systems and applications, and the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Pro has a limit of 192GB, whereas Windows Server 2008 is capped at 8GB-2TB depending on the version.

The foundation of Windows:
  Windows was developed by Microsoft using principles created in 1974 and first shown in the Xerox Alto, a machine never commercially sold. The Apple Macintosh also used Xerox's innovations from the Alto.  
  Version 1.0 shipped in 1985, despite IBM's focus on OS/2, a competing windowing system with much better integration of the Graphical User Interface ('GUI') into the operating system. By contrast, Windows ran atop MS-DOS, and the two were not integrated until Windows 95 and Windows NT.

  Microsoft publishes a Hardware Compatibility List for its different versions, which will be replaced by a Windows Catalog. It shows the user whether their computer and its components are compatible with the next version of Windows, and microsoft.com/whdc/hcl/search.mspx has the Windows 7 version.

Before installing an OS:
  1. Check for the OS minimum requirements and hardware compatibility
  2. Choose the installation options (manual? automatic? cloning?)
  3. Choose the installation method (from CD? DVD? Memory drive? Over-the-wire?)
  4. Prepare the PC for installation



A+: Operating Systems Intro

  The operating system, or 'OS', communicates with PC hardware so users can give input & get output. It provides standardized disk and file management, access to devices, manages memory and formats the output from the system to display, storage and printing devices. Some tasks a computer does are used so often that it makes sense to move those tasks into the OS so the application developer does not need to duplicate the efforts of other developers.

  Driver software tells the OS how to control and work with specific hardware. Again, offloading the development of drivers, like the development of the OS, away from the application, allows quicker development of programs, as well as greater diversity and faster innovation in computer peripheral development. 

  Applications supplement the commands within the OS to do jobs not built in to the OS.

  Software, whether a driver, an application or the OS, has a version number, so the administrator or user can see which version of a program is on hand, so they can be assured what that program can do. 

  Programs are almost always written in a high-level 'language', which has a grammar and a syntax which allows programmers to more efficiently develop the program. The text in that language for the program can either be available to anyone, in which case it is 'open' source, and can be reviewed for errors and security risks, or unavailable, 'closed' or 'proprietary', in which case only the programmer knows completely what the program can do and how it works. CP/M, AppleDOS, PC-DOS, MS-DOS, Windows and MacOS are closed source; Linux and FreeDOS are open source.

  Originally, business computer programs only used a keyboard for input, with every command hand typed or replayed from storage media (punch cards, paper tape or magnetic tape) but an important innovation was the 'shell' program which allows not only a menu to pick commands from but also, later, the use of a GUI, or Graphic User Interface, where a pointing device such as a mouse and a point-and-click interface can be used to select commands instead of typing the commands.




Free business management cloud service, SohoOS

http://www.sohoos.com/welcome/what-is-sohoos/solution explains a new, free, business service providing accounting and CRM (Customer Relations Management) with billing, receivables and payables, plus document, project and inventory management, which also works from a smartphone.

PC Magazine's review noted: SohoOS sports two tabs, Tools and Communication, which carry costs. Users can either pay per usage or sign up for a "VIP" membership that loads extra cash, direct support, and training. If you're looking to distribute bulk e-mails or SMS messages, host a VOIP conference, or send a fax, you can pay to play through the Communication tab.

If you run your small business out of your hat, their FAQ and manual can tell you more about how it works. 

Easy website builder w/ hosting

http://onepagerapp.com/ lets you create your own business website without technical knowledge, and host it cheaply, too.

Inc, Tech said, "Business owners enter the name of their company, a tagline, and body text on a template provided by Onepager. The site registers the company’s domain name and helps create custom email addresses. The company says its product strips away any technical knowledge that may keep a company from building its own website."  
If you'd like to avoid having to build that vanity business website for your brother-in-law, looks like a good choice.

However, Blogger, Google's web logging service which creates, hosts and manages this site, is also free and allows building some attractive web pages, or you can use free tools to create the web page(s) like MarkdownPad, a full-featured Markdown editor for Windows XP-Vista-7, which does text-to-HTML conversion tool for web writers, converting text to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML), using .NET 4.0 and Windows Presentation Foundation 4 frameworks. 


A+: Laser printers and their other components

 Printer Interfaces:
  Ethernet (max 330' of cable without an intermediate switch or bridge), USB (max 16' without a powered hub or special cable) and WiFi are the most common now, but others include parallel (old popular system, maximum of 50' using a very bulky cable), serial (very slow, also with a bulky cable), SCSI (rare), InfraRed ('IR'), Appletalk (no longer sold by Apple and slow), IEEE-1394 AKA Firewire (rare), and Bluetooth (33' max.).

Printer languages:
  If the computer has to send a dot-by-dot map ('bitmap') of each page to be printed, that's a lot of data to send down the wire. That's inescapable when printing pictures, but when you're sending a page of text   Therefore, printer control languages were created, so the data stream can be shrunk. The more powerful languages, such as Postscript, require more processing power in the printer control circuitry, shifting the printing burden from the computer and using a terse, elegant syntax, easily read. When laser printers were very expensive anyway, the extra cost of the Postscript language and its interpreter was an acceptable burden, but now that computers are wickedly fast and since people often buy on price, not elegance, the simpler, dumber printer is more popular, and PCL6 (developed by HP) now leads the pack as the predominant printer control language. GDI, another control language, is often the basis for even less expensive printers, with less text and more bitmaps sent from the computer to the printer. Since data transmission rates continue to rise with faster and faster networks and interfaces, the trade offs make sense.

Printer drivers:
  The manufacturer of the printer is responsible to create drivers, small programs, which allow other programs to create the datastream for the printer to use, and to communicate with the printer. Operating systems are shipped with drivers for popular printers, but as new features are added, the manufacturer must add to the drivers to enable the new features. 
  The feature set in the driver lets you determine the resolution, scaling, color vs B&W and other modes of printing as either the default or on a job-by-job basis.

  Paper quality is important to satisfactory printing. The composition (virgin paper vs. recycled content percentage plus rag content), weight and caliper (thickness) are all important to avoid jams.  The brightness determines how 'white' the paper appears. 

Other printing material:
  Make sure not to use any transparency or label stocks which were not specifically designed for your model of printer. 



A+: Laser Printer Details

Toner in electrophotographic systems bears a negative charge, and paper (like most objects) has a positive charge.  The fusing system uses heat and pressure to fuse, or melt, toner onto the paper. The fuser roller is a Teflon-coated solid aluminum roller, heated by a halogen lamp.

Fusers run at 329-365 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to PAINFULLY burn you!

Another health risk is the ozone from older laser printers which us a corona wire, instead of a corona roller. Make sure to remove the ozone filter and dust it off outside when chnging your toner if you have one of those older printers.

The controller in the laser printer orchestrates all processes, especially turning the stream of data coming from a computer into a 'bitmap' of black and white areas so the black areas are covered with melted toner. More memory in the buffer of the controller speeds up the intake of the print job from the computer so the computer program can move on to the next page, print job or task.

The process, from start to finish, could be summarized as:  

Clean: Scrape the drum/belt clean, and illuminate it to eliminate charges.
Charge: Apply around 600 volts to the drum or belt.
Write: Laser scanning the drum drops the drum/belt to around 100 volts of charge.
Develop: Put toner on the drum or belt, it sticks to where the image should be.
Transfer: Move the toner to the paper.
Fuse: Melt the toner & mash it into the paper.

A mnemonic to help remember this is Charlie Can Walk, Dance, Talk French.



A+: Laser printer fundamentals

The laser ('electrophotographic') printer was invented in 1971, and first sold in 1984. It uses 'toner', a black or colored substance mixed with iron oxide so electrostatic charges can move it, plus a polyester resin which melts into the paper.

Toner cartridges add a developer/carrier as well as contain the toner. A drum or belt is also normally built into the cartridge, along with a scraper blade which removes excess toner. When a laser beam strikes the drum or belt, a photo-sensitive coating gives up a charge, so the toner will stick to the drum or belt where needed. The drum/belt not hit by the laser beam are statically charged so toner won't stick to it. A high voltage power supply in the laser printer generates the charge; that power supply is dangerous, can threaten your life, and should never be opened up.

A transfer corona wire or roller (roller-based systems are faster) moves the toner from the drum to the paper. A static eliminator strip drains the charge from the paper once the toner is fused to the paper.

Okidata and Panasonic created LED printers to compete with laser printers. They're less expensive and less complicated, but also print at a lower resolution (300 dpi instead of the 600 dpi or above of lasers and better bubble jet printers). The charging roller and erasing lamp are not in the toner cartridge, and are instead in a separate replacable assembly. The laser assembly is replaced by a row of LEDs which blink on and off as the belt or drum turns.



A+ More on bubblejet printing:

The printhead carriage contains the heads, the ink (in almost all designs) and connections to the print head. The carriage is moved by the carriage belt, carriage motor (for large scale motion) and stepper motor (for the tiny motions which allow one row of bubble jets to consecutively print to form letters and other characters).  It rides on a stabilizer bar linked by pulleys attached to the carriage motor.
Pickup rollers in the paper tray or paper feeder work against coarse cork or rubber separator pads to pick just one sheet at a time, and are turned by a printer stepper motor. Clean those rollers and pads with mild soap and warm water; alcohol and solvents can dry out rubber and cork. 
Paper feed sensors watch for jams and report to the printer control circuits. Those control circuits connect to the interface circuits and the printer's buffer to process data, and the power circuits turn wall outlet power into the voltages (typically 12vDC and 5vDC) needed for the motors and logic of the printer.



A+ More on printing tech

A+ More on printing tech
Bubble jet printers have four major types of components
 a) The print head and ink cartridge (HP designs normally combine those in one part, Canon designs normally keeps them separated)
 b) The head carriage, belt and stepper motor
 c) The paper feed system
 d) The power supply, interface and control board.

The print head typically uses ink in the colors of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black, with 100-200 mozzles. HP designs push ink through the nozzles by applying heat and vaporizing a small amount of ink to push more ink out onto the paper; Canon designs use piezo-electric principles, applying electricity to crystals which then flex and push ink through the nozzles. Either way, the print head and ink cartridge return to a 'maintenance station' at the edge of the printer where the printhead assembly rests and where ink is suctioned out of the nozzles to prevent clogs.



A+: Printing technologies

 Printer mechanisms are mostly either Impact Printers (Daisywheel and Dot Matrix), Bubble-Jet (including Ink Jet) and Laser Printers. Less popular mechanisms include LED printers (Okidata's & Panasonic's less expensive / simpler equivalents of laser printers), solid ink printers (pioneered by Textronix before assimilated by Xerox) and dye-sublimation printers (slow, spendy and superb quality).

 Also, there are the ubiquitous thermal printers (cheap, but heat destroys the image so not used for anything you want to save, and the slick paper has toxic BPA in it).



A+: Less Power!

A+: Less Power!
ACPI, the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface, was first published in 1996 as an open standard, was first included in Windows '98, and has replaced the earlier APM Advanced Power Management, which was dropped from Windows when Vista was released. ACPI provides common interfaces for finding what kind of hardware a PC has, and how to manage it. The computer's main board, CPU and operating system must all support it to work.

How do I fine-tune my power settings?
in XP, do Start | Control Panel | Performance and Maintenance | Power Options
in Vista, do Start | Control Panel | Mobile PC | Power Options
in Seven, do Start | Control Panel | Power Options

Or, right-click on an empty spot on the Windows Desktop, | Properties | Screen Saver | Power

There are four or five tabs: Power Schemes, Alarms (laptop) or UPS (some desktops), Power Meter, Advanced and Hibernate. In Power Scheme, Portable and Laptop machines have a separate setting for when plugged in vs when on battery. Save As allows customization and fine tuning of the power settings.