Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Make Windows 8 Easier to Navigate


Windows 8 is faster than the previous versions. The only thing that is somewhat restrains me from using it is its tiled interface. As the live tiles view  are new to me, it is something that needs to get familiar with. At first, I feel lost, I do not know where things are, and I admit I do not know where to start. And this makes things to slow down.

No start button


This was my first problem, to look where the start button is. There is none. But start typing whilst you are in the tiles (start) page, will activate the search function. Windows then shows you the possible files or programs based from the keys you input. If you are looking for control panel for example, just type "C" and windows will show you the link and icon that starts in "C" including that of  "control panel" to click.

Where's the usual accessories?

.
In case you are looking for the calculator, notepad, or paint in the list of files or programs, you might notice that there is no folder named "Accessories" where they usually reside. You need to go further down to "Windows Accessories" to see these.

Not all default  tiles are relevant to users


The tile window is very new and look pretty good. It's like a collection of icons similar to a smartphone. But unlike smartphones that most of the icons there are useful to the user, (How can I tell?  Well they won't be there if the user did not think they are useful to be downloaded) the native tiles are somewhat not relevant to users. And this is where the slowdown occurs.

But the good thing is you can choose which tile to put on and easily delete those you do not like.



Customize the tiles


Windows 8 is easier to use when the start tiles are relevant to the user. Like knowing exactly where to click the usual programs, users usually use, like my computer, control panel, connected devices, favourite programs and utilities. This is all done by "pinning" the programs at the start menu.

  • Unpin tiles you do not use


First is to "weed out" things you do not want to make space for the things you want. Hover your cursor to the top or bottom right (yellow arrow)of your screen, click settings (green arrow), right click (1) on the tile that you want to unpin then click unpin(2). Keep doing it until everything you do not want is removed.


  • Choose and pin programs


Access all apps by right clicking at an empty space, to show all apps (green arrow).



Then go to the apps, utilities and accessories you usually use, or anything you think is useful to you. Right click it(1) then pin to start(2)



  • Rearrage it

Rearranging the tiles is also quick and easy. Just drag and drop each tile to where you want it to be. Here's my trimmed down start tiles with my favourite programs and utilities I usually need beginning with the desktop. You can arrange it alphabetically to make your computer time easier and more productive!



Monday, 22 April 2013

Easy Way To Create Icon Files


Icon files are tiny images used to visually represent an item, a web shortcut, a program or anything that are in a PC's desktop. This type of file with ico extension, although tiny,  is not easily created using windows native image application, like paint. So how could we make one? Before I answer that question, I think the question what's the reason to make our own icon needs to be answered first.

In my case, I want to make my own icon to personalize my computer. All icons in the desktop can be changed with something that is available in the system. But if you fancy a personalized one that is not available within, then you need to make one.

A deeper reason for me to change this is to simplify things on my desktop and to distinguish each item easily specially the web shortcuts. Because when you create a web shortcut, the icon that is used will be that of the default web browser's icon.  For example, if you assign internet explorer as your default, all of the icons of  the shortcut will be that of IE's. If you have 10 shortcuts with the same icon, then it is hard to distiguish which one is which.



Create an icon file

The ebay shortcut above has the default browser's icon and same is true with all of the web shortcuts. To make life easier, I would like to change the icon into an ebay logo for easier distinction. In this case, I do not have a ready image so I need to download it from the internet. The downloaded file is still in png, bmp, or jpg format. These formats can not be used as icons.

The easiest way to create an icon file is to use an online image file converter. In this post I used http://converticon.com/.

 Just go to the site, upload a photo, then export it as an icon file by adding .ico at the end of the file name.

Then I navigated to  http://converticon.com/  Click Get Started and select your downloaded image from the pop up window.  Click open to put the image in the site's conversion window.


Here's the tricky part, which size to choose. In this example, I've tried the original size but it turned out to be unreadable. So I used 32 x 32 which went without a problem..


 And make sure that you add the format extension "ico" as you name the file. In this case the whole filename and format extension is ebay.ico. Do not forget to type " . "(period) between the file name and the extension "ico". Otherwise it will not be converted. As usual, I saved the newly created file on my desktop.



Replace the desktop icon image


Once you've created the icon you like, you can now right click (1) on the shortcut, click properties(2), change icon(3), browse (4)


Then go to the location of the icon file(5) you've just created, open(6), OK(7), Apply(8) then OK(9) 


You can further personalize all of the icons in your desktop, web shortcuts or programs,  using your creation or system icons. This makes your PC or laptop show your personality or simply to make your desktop icons interesting. 


Sunday, 14 April 2013

Internet Explorer 10's New Tricks

I've been using google Chrome for a while because of it's faster loading of web pages than other browsers I've tried in my Windows 7 laptop. Time is gold, and the faster the information is accessed, the more productive a surfer becomes!
Not until lately that I have noticed my internet explorer is updated to the newest version, Internet Explorer 10, that I've became curious what's the difference with the previous versions. Though the looks of it doesn't have much difference like the previous, the minimalist look, the ability to hide components like the menu bar, favourites bar and so on, and the address bar that doubles as search engine bar and his time without necessary to tweak the setting to activate it.
So what's new?

1. Easy change, add or remove  default home page.

Everybody has a favourite website that every time you are online, you want to get there with a click of a button by setting a default home page. But sometimes things can go wrong that a browser hijacker have changed the default setting. Or your taste has changed and need to go to a different site this time, or just need to add another page as a default.
The previous IE versions let you choose the home page by going to internet explorer settings. If you are on a page you like, this time wit the IE10, a click to the home icon will do the trick. In case you can not see the home icon, right click on an empty spot where the tabs are (1), tick command (2), the icons should be visible after ticking, then click the drop down menu besides the home button (3) and you can easily change the home page(4), add another one, or remove it.



2. Launch websites from the start up menu


Another interesting feature is the ability to launch websites from the start up menu. This is done by pinning the website that interest you into the start up menu items, so you can access it anytime by clicking the start button, or pressing the windows key button. Steps below.

Go to a website you want to pin(1), click the cog icon at the top right of the browser(2), choose Add to Start Menu (3), click Add (4) at the pop up dialogue box. You can now access the pinned site by pressing the windows button, or clicking the start menu(5) and the pinned site will be available with the start up menus(6).




Pinned sites are launched independently on a new browser, with the site's favicon and not with the usual internet explorer icon at the left side of the browser (1) and at the task bar (2). I do not know why using chrome can not render the favicons at all!


 

3. Incognito browsing by default



If you are concerned about online security, IE10 is defaulted to Do Not Track browsing mode. This means the advertisers and websites are told not to record and track your browsing habits. When on, your computer will also delete automatically all traces of your browsing history including cookies from website once you have closed your browser.  This can also improve the problem that brought about by outdated website cache that can cause problems in accessing a site, uploading pictures, or websites not rendered correctly. 

You can check if this is on by clicking the cog icon(1), click Internet Options(2), go to the Advance tab(3), scroll down to the Security (4) section, and tick the Always Send Do Not Track Header(5) if it is not ticked, press Apply(6) and re start your computer.





4. Protects you from malicious sites and suspicious downloads 


The smart screen, although not new, but is a good security measure worth mentioning. As normal surfers do not really know about how safe a site is, specially when they are contained in an email, facebook or twitter messages. The worst is, if the links are rendered by URL shortening services like bit.ly, adfly and others,  it is difficult to say the final destination website is. This doubles or triples the chances of getting at an infected site.

Sometimes even you are at a legitimate site, those pop ups and advertising banners are injected with malicious codes without the knowledge of the site owner. Turning smart screen on is another layer of protection that can detect such threat before they could get entry into your system by your web browser.

To turn it on, click the cog wheel icon(1), click Safety (2) and Turn On Smart Screen Filter (3).  Once it is on and if you happen to browse on a certain website that has been reported with malicious contents like Phishing, Malware, or other scarewares, IE10 alerts you with a message(6).

If you suspect that a site is infected or distributing malwares, you can also let Microsoft know by reporting the site at one of the options when you are turning smart screen on (3).


Smart Screen does also work hand in hand with the download manager. It shields you from downloading potentially hazardous add ons and programs by analysing these and gives you an informed choice whether to run, save or delete the files in question. I usually delete these files as recommended by the Smart Screen!



Wednesday, 3 April 2013

DIY How To Share Your Hotel's Wired Internet

Myself having a flu did not stopped the family's day out.  It was booked and well planned in advance and the kids are excited to move out from the over staying winter weather in the UK, only to find out Czech Republic has the same weather condition as well, -3 celcius centigrade.  The travel is not really smooth, well not for me. At Heathrow, my backpack was swabbed twice when I was  checking in, and randomly frisk checked  again at Oslo. I blamed my flu and cough!


The accommodation, Roma Hotel,  is within the heart of Prague, very near to tourist attractions like, Prague Castle, St Nicholas Cathedral, Infant Jesus of Prague and many more. I can say that these attractions are within walking distance from the hotel. Most establishments within the vicinity offers free wi-fi, that's Hotel Roma included. It says in their website and services that they offer it free. The annoying part is the connection doesn't have no internet connection. I can connect my laptop and the other gadgets wirelessly but doesn't give us internet. I was tempted to call the customer service about this until  I discovered an RJ45 dangling at a wall socket. Tried it on my laptop and viola, it has an internet connection! Now the next task is to share it with my son's iPad, wife's iPhone, daughter's S2 and my S3.



This is one of the moments that I missed my HTC phone, to use it's internet passthrough service and create a hotspot to share the connection. Problem is, I did not brought it. iPhones, iPads, and Galaxy's have no reverse tethering capabilities! Then I got curious at Intel My Wi-Fi Utility program of my laptop, (dropdown menu at control panel, network and internet) and discovered that I can automatically share my internet connection in just a few clicks. No need to create adhoc connections, which is rather fiddly. 



At the utility interface, just click enable and your wired internet connection is ready to be accessed wirelessly. Click profile, click edit and change the wireless security code. Why? The natively assigned security code is quite very long!



 Press OK and your connection will be transmitting wirelessly waiting for your devices to connect with the correct security code.





To connect on your device, just go to the wi-fi connection window and choose the name of the network, key in the code and your device is online in no time. Faster than having to call customer service to fix their wireless connection!  Believe it or not, it only took me at least two minutes to set this up.

At the My Wifi Utility window in your laptop, you can see the connected devices. From there, you can block a device from getting an access or you can unshare your connection at any time.






My basic Fujitsu laptop served as the most valuable gadget for this vacation,  not only because of it's backward compatible with the RJ45, but it's ability to create a hotspot powering up the shiny gadgets. Though mobile phones and tablets are becoming more popular, this experience has made me think otherwise  that there is no real substitute to a full size computer that fits to all possible connectivity interfaces. And yes, it can also double up as a multiple charging station, from apple to android, all you need are the USB cables of your gadgets. 

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