Search This Blog- Enter the tip # or a keyword(s)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

1228. How do I re-arrange my IPhone icons?

I have a lot of different apps on my iPhone, but I find that  they are not arranged in a way that is useful to me.  Is there some way to move them around or group them so I can find the ones I want to use most often?

It is very easy to re-arrange your applications on the iPhone.

If you select the application and hold your finger down, all the application icons will start to wiggle.  You can then drag the icon from its current location to where you want it.  You can drag it to the right or left edge to move it to other pages. When you're done, click the home button to get out of "wiggle" mode.

You can also create a folder containing groups of applications.  Imagine you want to group all of your games in a folder.  Hold down the first applications icon and when it wiggles, drag it on top of another  game application and drop it on that application. This will create a folder with the two applications. (The phone will "guess" the appropriate name for the group. You can change the name at this point, if you like.)  Now you can drag more icons into that folder.  Click the Home button when you're done.

You can also use this same technique to delete an application. When the icons starts to wiggle, you will  see an x in the upper-left corner of each user-installed application icon.  Select the x to delete the application. You will receive a confirmation that you actually do want to delete the application.  Be carefull because you may lose any data you have saved that's associated with this app, and may not be able to recover that data even if you re-install the application.  Also remember to remove the application from iTunes so it doesn't install again.

If you sync your phone using your computer and iTunes, you can also arrange your application icons from within the iTunes application.

These steps work equally well on an iPad.

You can accomplish the same goal on Android phones, using the information found here.



1227. My DVD is broken

The DVD drive in my laptop broke and a friend told me I would have to contact the manufacturer to replace it.  It's awfully expensive.  Is there a way to get one cheaper?

I, too, always thought that the DVD drive was unique to the laptop and if there was a problem you had to get the new DVD from the manufacturer.

As it turns out, DVD drives are standard, and you can buy a generic DVD drive. You must simply move the face and connection plates on both ends of the old drive to the new drive, and for a lot less money you can replace your DVD drive. This isn't something a computer neophyte should tackle, but for someone who is used to digging around inside computers, it's a simple task. (One of the best sites for computer parts like this is Newegg.com. There are many others, as well, including Amazon.com.)

The hard drive in your laptop is also replaceable, and it will cost less than purchasing a replacement from the laptop manufacturer.  You can check the drive type by looking in your technical manual and find a matching drive from local office supply store or online sites and increase the size and speed of your old drive at significant savings.

Of course you need to get the data off your old drive if possible and restore it to the new drive.  You may want to contact one of the local computer stores to help you.  You can also purchase a backup/restore utility, such as True Image from Acronis.com to help. Again, this isn't a difficult task, but not one that most computer beginners would want to tackle.

1226. Wireless connections

Sometimes the wireless connections don't hook up correctly for me.  Am I doing something wrong?

I've had this problem before. In my case, the problem I had was caused by additional software (other than the operating system's wireless driver software) that gets installed by third parties (often your laptop manufacturer) and this can cause these types of problems.

Note that this is a Windows-only problem--it won't happen on Macs.

My  first suggestion, if you feel comfortable uninstalling programs, is to un-install the extra wireless connection utilities. They sometimes provide pretty graphics of your wireless network but not much more. They can cause more problems than the benefits.

Of course there can be other things that cause these problems.

Maybe you are too far away from the wireless access point, which is usually your internet modem/router.
Maybe you didn't enter the correct password on the wireless connection, or set up parameters incorrectly.

Before doing too many drastic things, you can also try turning your modem/router off, wait for 10 seconds and turn it back on. Turn off the computer, and then turn it back on.

Calling your internet provider, or a local computer store, would be the next steps if your initial steps do not solve the problem.

1225. Keyboard shortcuts


Julie asks: I am not a very good typist and moving the mouse around to accomplish tasks seems to take too long.  Are there keyboard shortcuts to speed things up?

You can realize a real productivity boost using keyboard shortcuts. The trick is to "internalize" them, so you remember them from day to day. Our suggestion? Pick one per day, and practice it.

Here are some of the ones we use most often (on a Mac, replace the Ctrl key with the Command key):
  • CTRL+C copies selected text; CRTL+X cuts the selected text; CTRL+V pastes the text you placed on the clipboard.
  • CTRL+A selects all the text in the window or document. 
  • If you are in an application and want to quit, instead of using the menus to quit, pressing Alt+F4 (Cmd+Q on a Mac) will close the window or active program. 
  • If you are in a program like Word or Excel, Ctrl+F4 closes individual documents (Windows only).
  • Alt+Tab (Cmd+Tab on a Mac) opens a window with a list of open programs that you to cycle through.  

The important thing to get from this tech tip is to know that there are many keyboard shortcuts that will enhance your productivity. Try using one new shortcut each day and in no time you will find your productivity increasing significantly.


1224. Access to tech tips off the radio


We have heard from a lot of people that they hear our tech tips on the radio but it's while they are in a car when they can't write anything down.  How can people get more information about the tips they hear on the radio?

The new KNCO site offers direct access to the TechTipGuys podcasts. Select the PODCASTS menu item, and select the Tech Tip option:



But the best way is to go to  visit our web site at techtipguys.com. You can search for the specific tip by tip number or topic.  You can also subscribe to our RSS feed and read or listen to our tips.

The written tip contains more information and will always contain links to anything we recommend in the tip.  You can enter questions at this site and join the site as a follower as well as comment on our tips.


Remember that all of our tips are "from the heart".  We do not get any kickback from products or services we recommend.

1223. Local computer backups


How do I backup my computer locally?

There's no doubt about it: Your hard drive will die, unexpectedly, some time in the life of your computer. If not this computer, then the next one. You need to be prepared for this to happen.

Mac OS X includes Time Machine, software that can back up your computer to a local or remote hard drive on your network.  Every modern version of Windows also includes some kind of backup software.   The specific name is dependent upon which version of Windows you use.

These applications can backup everything or selected files based on a schedule.

You can also use 3rd party backup solutions, and these might provide more options and flexibility.

For the Mac - ChronoSync, and SuperDuper are two that Ken uses regularly.

For the PC,  we both like Acronis True Image from acronis.com.  One nice thing about the Acronis product is you can combine a local copy along with a remote offsite backup to the Acronis cloud service.  This combines the best of both worlds.

What you backup and how often depends on how you use your computer.  The one thing to remember about backing up your system is the backup is only as good as the ability to restore the information.  If you have not tested the ability to recover what you are backing up,  frankly, you might as well not waste the time running the backup. Make sure you have tested the recovery process.

The first, second, and third rule of backup club is to Backup, backup, and backup more.  The fourth rule is to test the restore.

1222. USB ports - need more.

Mary asked: I have two USB ports on my laptop, but I need to connect a USB mouse, keyboard, printer, and hard drive. Do I have to juggle the connections?

You can never have too many USB ports on a computer and two is almost never enough. If you hook up a mouse and keyboard, you're done, if you only have two USB ports.

The easiest solution is to purchase a USB 2.0 hub which allows you to attach multiple USB devices into one single hub device. (Note that USB 3.0 hubs, which support the latest standards, are trickling into the market. They're more expensive, and are only worthwhile if you have a new computer that supports USB 3.0 devices, or are planning to get a new computer that supports USB 3.0. USB 3.0 supports much faster data communication than does USB 2.0, but there are few devices now, few computers that support it, and the devices are more expensive than their USB 2.0 counterparts.)

I have several USB 2.0 hubs sitting here, each of which has ports for 7 USB devices. You can purchase a USB hub from a local office supply store or you can purchase one online for (most likely) less money.

My favorite spot for purchasing such things online is monoprice.com: they seem to have the lowest prices on cables and other electronic doodads.





1221. Shutting down a stuck computer

Sometimes an application will bring my computer to a halt. I need to completely shut down, but the computer is unresponsive, and nothing I do will allow me to shut down. And this happens with both my PC and my Mac.  What's the solution?

One solution, of course, is to toss your computer out the window. Believe me, I've contemplated this many times. Next thing to do is ask it politely "what the heck is wrong with you?". Not exactly the wording I use at such times...

Of course this really shouldn't be possible, and in a perfect world it wouldn't happen. But in the worst of situations your PC or your Mac will become so unresponsive that it doesn't respond to any keystrokes. What do you do?

On a PC you can try pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del and hold the combination for 10 to 15 seconds. That might free things up.

On the other hand, on both computers, should things get so bad that you can't enter any keystrokes, pressing and holding the power button for 5 seconds or longer will sooner or later shut down the computer. No questions asked, no files saved, everything you were working on will be lost, but the computer will shut down. (Of course, if you're using a desktop computer, you can also simply pull the plug to get the same effect.)

Don't blame us if you lose some data because this happens.  (This shouldn't affect anything you have saved, but if you were working on a document at the time this happened, it's likely you'll lose at least a little work.) We can't help you in that situation, but you can get control back by pressing and holding the power button for 5 seconds or more.




1219. Schedule a meeting

It's nearly impossible to schedule group meetings using email. You send email after email trying to hone in on a date and time.  Is there a web site to help with this?

I see the need to do this a lot.  Recently, I needed to ask a group of people in the local choir I sing in to volunteer for booth duty at a fair, given a choice of five time slots. I often schedule rehearsals and meetings for the theater group I run, as well. Sending emails around and gathering the results manually is a huge pain.

I've investigated a number of "meeting scheduling" sites, and the one I found most useful is Doodle. There are other websites that help with this sort of thing, but doodle makes it really easy to ask people  when they are available given a selection of choices, and everyone can see how many people are available in each time slot.  Doodle.com makes it simple to schedule group meetings.

Doodle also supplies many useful features for managing your meeting scheduling.

And did I mention it's free?

Doodle makes it easy to set up scheduling surveys.

1218. Offsite Backup - Crashplan

Jerry asked: I know I need to back up my computer, but can't figure out the best way to do it. What are my options?

There are a ton off options including local options that we will discuss in another tech tip.  But an important feature is storing data offsite in case of a catastrophic failure--imagine a fire, flood, or some other disaster that renders your computer unusable, or even a theft. You need some way of storing your important data offsite.  And there are lots of options for this as well.

Mozy, Carbonite, and others advertise heavily on the radio (and they're both fine), but my favorite backup service is Crashplan. It has the same features as all the rest but it adds a special feature that the others don't offer (or at least, don't advertise): You can backup to a friend's computer offsite for free. That's right: Crashplan is totally free for backing up to a local hard drive, or to a hard drive at a friend's location (taking care of the "remote backup" issue.) On the other hand, if you want to back up a large amount of data (as I did--over 800GB of content. Don't ask!) it can take a long time for the initial remote backup to happen. Months, at the upload speed I have available.

To solve this problem, Crashplan offers the option to "seed" your backup. You can backup to a local hard drive (which still takes a fair amount of time for a large amount of data, but it's far faster than sending the data out over the internet connection to a friend) and then you can take that hard drive to a friend's location. The backup will continue from that point. You won't need to upload your data to the remote site, saving a ton of time.

You can do the same thing with Crashplan's servers. That is, you can back up your data to their remote servers. If you have a large amount of data, you'll probably again want to "seed" the backup with a hard drive. Crashplan will (for a fee) supply a hard you can use to seed your backup. Backing up to the Crashplan remote servers isn't free, but it doesn't cost much, and the amount you can back up is unlimited.

Crashplan offers a whole lot more features.  You should check out their site for more details. It's true that you can never backup too much and Crashplan offers many different options for backing up your data.




Friday, April 13, 2012

1220. Tools for building a website

Sue asked about tools for building web sites. She's neither a developer nor a designer. Any suggestions?

There are many local designers that do great work. But if Sue's determined to do this on her own, there are tools online that make it easy.  My favorite is weebly.com: This full-featured website design site lets you choose from a ton of attractive templates, and provides tools for creating a full site including everything from simple text to videos, photo galleries, and blogs.

You can create an account at Weebly.com and you can create all sorts of different kinds of websites using the templates and tools they provide. You don't have to be a designer or developer to take advantage of Weebly.com (although being a web designer or developer allows you to extend the features of the site).

You might also want to investigate Wordpress. Wordpress started life as a blogging engine, but it quickly became popular for displaying any sort of content, including full web sites. Wordpress has a huge developer community, and there are a ton of useful tools, templates, and support available. You don't have to be a designer or developer to use Wordpress, although  it is a little more complicated and a lot more powerful then Weebly.

For the most flexibility and the best looking websites, however, you are probably better off using the services of local web designer and developer.