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Date: Monday, 24 Dec 2012 14:47

It’s Christmas Eve Day. Have you gotten all your Christmas shopping out of the way? Although a rather staggering number of people purchased their gifts online this year(myself included), I’m sure there’s still a fair chunk of you who haven’t yet made your way to the store. Maybe you’re waiting for a last minute deal or two. Maybe you’re simply forgetful, and you’re rushing out for “one last gift.” Maybe you’ve been too busy, and now’s really the only chance you have to get gifts for your friends and loved ones.

Or maybe you’re just a terrible procrastinator.

Either way, you’ve left your shopping to the last minute. You’re stressed, you’re rushed, and you’re running yourself ragged rushing around trying to find the perfect gadget. You’re certainly not alone, if the clogged storefronts and frantic shoppers surrounding you are any indication. Assuming you didn’t get lucky and managed to get out before getting trampled, chances are good that it’s going about as well for them as it is for you.  So what’s a shopper to do? How can you make sure you get hold of that piece of tech your loved one wants, while keeping your sanity intact? Here’s a few tips to get you on the right track:

Know What You Want Before you Shop

If you can’t figure out what you’re getting for your friend (for example, they haven’t told you what they want), things are going to get a touch more complicated. First off, you’ll need to find out what hardware they already have, and what they use it for. If they’ve a desktop PC, for example, are they a gamer? Do they do sound design? Do they simply use it to browse the Internet? How tech savvy are they? Do they have any particular brand preferences?  What do you feel they need? Yes, you’re going to need to know them in order to answer any of those questions.

As a general rule, most people probably won’t object to receiving a shiny new tablet under the tree. The same goes for Mp3 Players. Smartphones, unless they don’t include a contract with them, generally aren’t the best gifts to buy someone spontaneously. If you’re particularly strapped for ideas, you could always find out how satisfied they are with their mobile provider – and offer to buy them out of their contract if they’re unhappy with it.

For anyone who’s a gamer; a new pair of headphones, a new mouse, or a new keyboard could be just the ticket (Razer, Turtle Beach, and SteelSeries are a few of the top brands). If they’ve got Steam, try finding out their username and seeing what they have on their wishlist (or find a friend who knows what they’re doing to do it for you). Buy a game or two, and tell them to log on to the service come Christmas morning. Same deal goes for games like League of Legends, which currently includes a ‘gifting’ system. Granted, they’re not exactly tech, but they’re gifts someone might appreciate, all the same.

Alternatively, the Wii U is pretty hot this season.

If you’re going all-out and buying a laptop or PC, make sure you know what the person you’re buying for does with their technology. Someone who writes for a living might be okay with a bare-bones, portable piece of tech, while someone who does something more intense would probably want something better. Generally, I’d stay away from buying specific parts such as graphics cards or RAM. That’s something best left to the person you’re buying for – if need be, you can simply get them a gift card.

Last, but not least, consider reading online surveys and forum threads such as this one.

Consider Shopping Online

Okay, this probably isn’t your ideal solution. After all, even if your seller does offer next day delivery, chances are good that you’ll have to pay a mint for it. Next day shipping is expensive on a good day, and on Christmas, well…you get the idea. Still, if you’ve the money to spare and you want to avoid the busy storefronts, it might well be worth your while to pop online and do your ordering. After all, everybody’s doing it these days.

Plus, if the product is sold out in most brick-and-mortar stores, it might still be available online (on eBay, for example).

Of course, the first step to finding the ideal gift lies in knowing exactly where to look. In general, I’d recommend avoiding Big Box retailers that provide everything and the kitchen sink. There’s certainly a chance you’ll find the gift you’re looking for there, but the staff sometimes tend not to be as knowledgeable about their products as would an employee at Future Shop, for example. Gamestop’s probably the best place to go if you’re buying any sort of gaming hardware, while the Apple Store (obviously) is your go-to location for any Apple products. In general, you’re going to want to stick to specialized electronics retailers; even PC wholesale outlets (it depends what you’re purchasing, after all). You’ll save yourself quite a few headaches, and the crowds, while they’ll still likely be considerable, won’t necessarily be as overwhelming as they might be otherwise.

Do Your Research

First thing’s first, assuming you’ve little knowledge of technology and you’re buying for a friend, you need to make absolutely certain they’ve spelled everything out to you, in black-and-white; right down to the model number of whatever piece of hardware you’re buying them.  Particularly if you’re buying something without guidance, read a few reviews about the product you’ve got your eye on, to make sure it’s not a complete dud: Tom’s HardwareCNet, and Gizmodo are all good places to start looking (and expand your knowledge a bit).

Second, even if you’re not doing your purchasing online, you should still do your shopping there. In other words, do your research: figure out exactly what it is you want before you leave. Instead of wasting time scurrying from one store to another, you can check store inventory online: most electronics retailers worth their salt will provide you with an online catalogue which you can peruse at your leisure.  As an added bonus, this makes comparing prices – and tracking down deals- an incredibly simple task to pull off. Once you’ve tracked down a store, see if you can put a hold on the item in question. Again, some retailers offer this as an online service; for others, you’ll have to call ahead.

If you’re still not entirely confident about tracking down (or identifying) the product you want, and you’ve a friend who’s more knowledgeable about that sort of thing than you are, consider bringing them along (unless they’re the one you’re buying for). Offer to buy them a drink or a meal after the shopping trip’s done to thank them for their help. After all, ’tis the season, right?

Consider Waiting Until Boxing Day

Last, but not least – and I know this isn’t an attractive option for some of you, as it completely shunts the usual “presents under the tree” tradition – but if you’ve exhausted all other alternatives; consider waiting until Boxing Day to buy your gifts. You might get lucky, and nab even more hardware for your friend or family member than they originally wanted. There are, after all, some pretty extreme deals floating about.  It might well end up being the only choice you have (even though a few retailers are, for some reason, open on Christmas).

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for you folks at the moment. Have yourselves a grand Christmas, and if you’ve got any last-minute tech shopping suggestions of your own, drop a line in the comments.

Image Credits: [1][2][3][4][5][6]

Author: "Nick Greene" Tags: "Daily Tips, Hardware"
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Date: Wednesday, 19 Dec 2012 13:29

To be fair, this one’s a little late. Probably would have been a good idea to get it posted earlier in the month. Still, there’s some valuable information here – it shouldn’t be discounted just because it’s a little dated. Anyway, enough rambling; let’s get right to the point.

Christmas is nearly upon us. Like every year, the spirit of giving (as well as that of consumerism) is particularly strong. Those of us who, for some reason, have yet to do our Christmas shopping are currently scrambling about, running from store to store like headless chickens in a desperate effort to nab the perfect present. What if I told you there was a better way?

While they certainly haven’t been replaced (not by a long shot); physical storefronts are quickly being supplanted by online retailers. So, with that in mind; why not do your shopping online? There are plenty of reasons why you’d want to.

The first, most obvious of these is that you don’t actually have to leave the house. That’s a decent argument at any time of year, but it’s a particularly poignant one during the Christmas season;  when retail outlets are filled to bursting with desperate, annoyed, and frantic shoppers. It’s a spot of stress you don’t have to deal with, and that’s a huge plus.

Speaking of physical retailers; shopping online also means you’re not going to have to jump from outlet to outlet trying to find the products you’re looking for. If one virtual storefront is out of stock, it only takes a matter of seconds to click over to another one to check the stock there. Contrast this with physical shops, where you might end up travelling halfway across the city before you find what you need. Seems fairly clear which one is the more advantageous choice, no?

Admittedly, digital storefronts aren’t necessarily perfect. In some cases, you’re going to need expert advice on which product or service to purchase. When visiting the store, it’s as simple as looking up an employee. Online, however, things get a touch more difficult: unless the place you’re shopping has a live help line, you’re out of luck. Delivery times (and fees) are also an issue. Chances are good that if you’re ordering a gift today to be delivered before Christmas, you’re going to have to shell out a bit extra to ensure it gets to you when it should.

Still, these small inconveniences are a small price to pay, when you think about it: overall, shopping online presents less hassle, and with the rise of mobile technology, it’s possible to do it from pretty much anywhere. Not a bad idea at all.

Image Credits: [MiniLakesSocial][BruceSallan][PrudentBlog]

Author: "Nick Greene" Tags: "Daily Tips, Internet, christmas, Digital..."
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Date: Wednesday, 12 Dec 2012 18:00

Another quick tip for everyone today. The Internet can be a dangerous place. Cyber-criminals are getting smarter; the tools they use to infect other systems are becoming more sophisticated. You’ll want to do everything in your power to protect yourself. Active X Blockers, virus scanners, and ad blockers are just the tip of the iceberg. What if you want to check a page before visiting it – determine if a threat is there before exposing yourself to it? Sure, you could just run a Google search and look for a notification – but those aren’t always updated in real-time.

What you’re going to want to use is a website scanning tool, such as AVG’s Online Web Page Scanner, Scan URL, or Virus Total. Granted, none of them are 100% guaranteed to detect any unwanted guests on whatever page you happen to submit, but better safe than sorry, right?

The best part about these tools is that they can also be used to scan individual files – so if you happen to come across a suspicious download, you can scan it before you infest your computer with a virus.


Author: "Nick Greene" Tags: "Daily Tips, Internet, Internet Safety, o..."
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Date: Tuesday, 11 Dec 2012 18:00

Just a quick tip for you today, folks – a bit of troubleshooting for some of the more finicky programs and games you’ll be running on your computer. See, the way Windows 7 sets up its User Account Control, the majority of programs on your system aren’t configured to run with administrative privileges. Unfortunately, while this does shield you from malicious programs to some degree, it also means that some older applications and utilities – particularly those which haven’t been patched to support Windows 7′s new UAC features – won’t actually function properly without administrative privileges.

Thankfully, it’s actually very easy to set it up so that a program always runs as an administrator. The bad news, of course, is that you’ll need to do this on an application-by-application basis: you’re not going to be able to do this in batches.

Anyway, right click on the shortcut to the application (or the app itself) and click on the “Compatibility” tab. Down towards the bottom of this tab, there should be a small checkbox under “Privilege Level” that reads “Run This Program as an Administrator.” Check it, apply your changes, and exit out. Now, whenever you run the program, it’ll run with administrative privileges, and you’ll be prompted whether or not you want to allow the program to make changes to your system. Click on “yes,” and you’re golden.

As for how to get rid of that prompt, well…let’s just say that in order to do so, you’re have to pretty much disable Windows UAC…and you really don’t want to do that.


Author: "Nick Greene" Tags: "Daily Tips, Software, Administrative Pri..."
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Date: Thursday, 06 Dec 2012 18:00

Shopping around has never been so simple. With just a few clicks and a couple keywords, you can find virtually any information you could possibly desire – and that includes information on a product or business you’re interested in searching up.  Here’s a few pages to get you on the right track- there are many more sources of information out there than what I’ve listed here. Feel free to share a few of your own sites in the comments below.

The Consumerist:To be fair, the Consumerist is more about looking up whether a particular business has recently goofed- and just how big their goof was. If you’re looking for the latest news on the wrongdoings of a particular organization, check up on their website, and you’re sure to find something- even if that something is only a healthy dose of schadenfreude.

Yelp!: If you’re trying to find yourself a local business, such as a restaurant, Yelp! is the place to go. Go on there and give the site a search- you’ll probably find a few amazing businesses you never even knew existed (and find out some nasty details about a few that you did). It’s entirely maintained by users, as well – so you can submit your own reviews if you know of a particularly top-notch place.

Facebook: Believe it or not, Facebook- and really, any social networking site- is pretty much the perfect place to go if you’re looking for some information on a potential purchase, or even if you’re just looking for somewhere good to have a bit to eat. You’ve probably got a boatload of Facebook friends- why not talk to them a bit? Not only that, there are also quite a few Facebook pages out there for businesses and their products. Ask around.

Reddit: Reddit is the front page of the Internet for a reason. There are several communities on Reddit devoted to helping the site’s users decide on purchases, troubleshoot problems, and do research. If you’re particularly curious, it’s worth giving it a look. Just be careful- people who go on Reddit tend to have a bit of trouble signing off.

Epinions: Here’s the mother lode. Epinions is one of the largest consumer review sites on the ‘net, and features reviews for pretty much every type of product you can think of- all written up by real people. If you’ve recently been burned by a particularly foolish purchase, or you’re wondering if that tablet you’ve got your eye on is worth the cost, have a look on Epinions.

Ebay and Amazon also have review sections, and CNet and Tom’s Hardware are great places to look for tech.

Image Credits: [Refaware]

Author: "Nick Greene" Tags: "Daily Tips, Internet, online, Reviews, s..."
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Date: Monday, 03 Dec 2012 17:00

The whole purpose of a laptop is to be portable – and without a battery , it’s a lot harder to keep things mobile. Every piece of electronics eventually degrades over time. Eventually, your battery’s going to die. If you follow the best practices on this list, you can keep things running for just a bit longer.

  1. Don’t fully discharge the battery before charging. Believe it or not, in newer, Lithium based batteries, this can actually shorten the battery’s effective lifespan, since it puts the battery under a great deal of stress. Further, modern batteries can be charged regardless of how much energy they’ve got left – so there’s really no reason to fully discharge them.
  2. Depending on what type of battery you’ve got, leaving your battery in while your laptop is charged could either be harmful, or have no impact whatsoever. Heat has been known to shorten battery life, however, so if you know your laptop tends to heat up when you’re doing processor-intensive tasks, it might be a good idea to pull it out.
  3. If you don’t care to remove the battery, you should, at the very least, purchase a cooling stand for your laptop (or make one yourself). Again, you want to keep things cool.
  4. If you’re planning to store your battery for an extended period of time, be sure to discharge it until it reaches around 40% capacity, then put it in as clean and dry a place as possible. The key here is isolating it from too much heat and humidity.
  5. If you’re particularly paranoid, you could try downloading a battery management program such as Batterycare, though it’s not strictly necessary.
  6. It should go without saying that you want to keep your battery away from water or any other liquids. It’s like any other piece of electronic equipment – it doesn’t really like to get wet.
That’s pretty much it. If you can think of any other tips for keeping your battery alive, let us know in the comments.


Author: "Nick Greene" Tags: "Daily Tips, Hardware, batteries, battery..."
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Date: Thursday, 29 Nov 2012 17:00

There is a particularly vile breed of scum populating the corners of the blogosphere. These men and women haven’t got a single shred of originality between them – yet somehow they continue to come up with new, regular, and fresh content for their blogs. That it’s not theirs is just a minor technicality – what the original authors don’t know won’t hurt them, right?  These amoral individuals are known as content scrapers- and there’s a good chance that if you’ve been writing online for any significant stretch of time, you’ve encountered one.

Chances are, you don’t even know that you did.

So how does one deal with this most vile class of plagiarist? What exactly can one do when they’ve been victimized by a content scraper? And furthermore, why should one even care about them? If they think your work’s good enough to copy, more power to them, right? It’s not like they’re actually turning a profit off your writing, is it?

Well, actually…

There’s a good chance they might actually be getting traffic that would otherwise go to your blog, resulting in both revenue and traffic loss, and potentially wreaking havoc with your SEO. Not only that, the fact that they’re trying to turn a profit off of the hard work of others (without actually doing anything themselves- most of them actually have an automated systems designed to nab content straight from the RSS feed of blogs). It’s a new level of laziness.

Thankfully, they can be stopped – here’s how.

Tracking Down Scrapers

Unfortunately, there’s no surefire method to tracking down one of these rats. The only advice I can give you is to use all the tools at your disposal. Do periodic Google searches for the titles of blog entries you’ve made, use plagiarism checking tools such as Copyscape, check for links and trackbacks to your content, and consider utilizing applications such as Tracer to keep an eye on what people are copying off your site .

Taking Scrapers Down

If a content scraper is hosting the plagiarized content on a well-known blogging platform, your course of action is very, very simple: just report them to the company that manages the platform. The staff of that organization will investigate the claim, and with any luck, shut down the offending website. If they’re not on any sort of blogging platform, or you can’t tell what platform they’re on, things get a little trickier. You can try contacting the web host (depending on who it is, they may or may not take action) or the content scraper directly (it’s highly unlikely they’ll actually respond, or take you seriously, if they do).  If you’ve convicted yourself to trying, you can do a Whois lookup on the domain.

One alternative to simply taking out content scrapers is to take advantage of them – use them to drive more traffic to your site.

In order to do this, you’re going to have to link back to your content in multiple places with each post, and include a header or footer that links back to your main page. This’ll let readers know that the content they’re being shown is yours – and that it doesn’t belong to the scraper. At the very last, it offers some degree of protection.

Unfortunately, if you’re dealing with a particularly crafty scraper, that method won’t really work, and your only recourse is to take them down.

Content scrapers are one of the most irritating plagues on the Internet, and one of the biggest blights the blogging world has ever suffered from. The methods listed here are by no means guaranteed to protect you from plagiarists, but they can’t hurt, either – ideally, you want to do whatever you can to protect your content.

Author: "Nick Greene" Tags: "Daily Tips, Internet, Tech Lifestyle"
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Date: Tuesday, 27 Nov 2012 17:00

Just a quick one for you folks today. Some time ago, I was at a friend’s place. We were about to do a bit of gaming, so I pulled out my laptop, meaning to connect to her wireless. Unfortunately, she couldn’t actually remember her wireless key – nor could her family. Now, ordinarily, this problem could be solved simply by connecting to the router and figuring out the key from there. Unfortunately…they didn’t know the password for the router, either. They knew they had it written down somewhere, though, small comfort though that was. What followed was an hours-long search for the elusive notepad which contained the access key.

The irony here is that we could have worked out the password in a matter of minutes, if not seconds, if we’d known what we were doing at the time. Of course, we could have downloaded an application such as WirelessKeyView…but there’s actually a much simpler solution: so long as you’ve got a system connected to your network which is running Windows 7.

As far as I know, this doesn’t work on earlier versions of Windows.

Anyway, the process you need to run through is quite simple. Go to the Network and Sharing Center in the Windows Control Panel. Next up, click on “Manage Wireless Networks.” Once you’re there, scroll to the network whose key you wish to know. You can also simply click on the “show hidden icons” button on your status bar and right click on the WiFi icon to access the “Properties” menu. You should see two tabs: Connection and Security. Click on the second, then click on “Show Characters” underneath the input box for the password.

That’s all you need to do – your network password will be there, clear as day. Maybe write it down somewhere it won’t get lost, this time.

Image Credits: [Salon]

Author: "Nick Greene" Tags: "Daily Tips, Internet, WiFi Key, WiFi Pas..."
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Date: Thursday, 22 Nov 2012 17:00

So, you’re showing a friend a video on YouTube – it’s one you’ve seen several times before, and you still can’t get enough of it – and just when it’s getting to the good part, it cuts out, and skips straight to the end. A bit frustrating, isn’t it? Thankfully, the issue’s actually fairly easy to fix – all you need to do is clear your browser’s cache. See, somewhere along the way, your browser’s download of the video was interrupted. This might be a connectivity issue on your end, or it might just be a glitch in the YouTube platform. Either way, you’ve got an incomplete copy, and you’ll always have one so long as the files related to that video are still on your hard drive.

Here’s how to clear the cache in various browsers.

Chrome: Go to the wrench menu, go to “History” and click on “Clear Browsing Data.” That’s about all you need to do.

Internet Explorer: Open up Internet Options, and navigate to the “General” tab. Once there, click on “Delete Browsing History.”

Opera: On the menu, select Tools->Delete Private Data. Once you’ve done this, check all the options, then confirm the deletion.

Firefox: Open up the options menu, and locate the “advanced” pane. From there, go down to “Network” and look for “cached web content.” There’ll be a button next to the information on how much space that says “Clear Now.” Click on it.

Author: "Nick Greene" Tags: "Daily Tips, Internet, YouTube Glitches, ..."
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Date: Wednesday, 14 Nov 2012 17:00

Just a quickie for you today, folks. We’re going to talk about PC gaming. Specifically, the hardware side of it. Whether you buy or build (personally, I’m still a proponent of building), eventually you won’t be able to run games the way you used to. Eventually, your hardware is going to become outdated and obsolete. Eventually, you’ll need to upgrade.

Naturally, upgrades come easier on a desktop, particularly if you’ve put together your own rig. More often than not, it’s simply a matter of swapping out an old part for a new one. It’s not exactly a complicated process, so we’re not going to spend a lot of time on it. Instead, the question we’re going to look at isn’t how, but “when.” When should you consider an upgrade?  While it’s true that this might be obvious to some of you, but it still can’t hurt to lay out a few guidelines, right?

  1. Generally, you’re going to want to swap out old components for new at least every two to three years, unless you’ve got a particularly high end system. Technology tends to move fairly quickly, after all. If you’ve the money for it, it can’t hurt to do a minor upgrade every year. On higher-end systems, you can probably get away with keeping them from between three and five years, but at that point, you’ll need to completely swap out the majority of your components (essentially, you’ll need to purchase a new system)
  2. As an exception to the above rule, keep an eye on new developments in the hardware sector. New processors and new manufacturing methods are two things to pay very close attention to as a cue to upgrade your stuff.  You’re also going to want to keep an eye on hardware releases, as well, in order to determine when to upgrade and what to buy.
  3. Finally, if your system is running with a motherboard that’s more than five years old, you should probably nix it. It’s not likely to be able to deal with newer hardware.

Any other tips you folks can think of?

Author: "Nick Greene" Tags: "Daily Tips, Hardware, Gaming Hardware, H..."
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Date: Thursday, 01 Nov 2012 17:00

We all know what bloatware and crapware are, even if we’re not fully aware of it. They’re the programs we love to hate- the digital garbage packed on to pre-built PCs that their users neither want nor need. Usually, they accomplish nothing, aside from slowing down your system to a crawl. In the worst cases, PCs which might otherwise boot up in seconds take minutes, and systems lock up frequently while trying to process all the memory that’s being funneled to the trashware.

For those of you who don’t know, bloatware is any software which isn’t strictly necessary to run an operating system. A lot of organizations love to sneak these gremlins onto your system while you’re trying to install their programs (they label them as “recommended software,” more often than not). Maybe they’re antivirus programs that hog more memory than they’re worth. Maybe they’re browser toolbars (something which you should never install). Maybe they’re printer management utilities, or chat programs, or disk protection utilities, or any of a wide array of apps you never really wanted in the first place.

Regardless of what form bloatware might take, there’s one universal constant with it: it clogs up your operating system, and chews up memory that could be put to better use. How exactly does one deal with garbage such as this? How can one save their system from a bloatware infestation?

The simplest way, obviously, is to never install it in the first place. Pay close attention to the installation process whenever you’re putting a new program onto your system, and don’t install anything that you feel wouldn’t be absolutely vital. If you do end up with bloatware, uninstall it immediately. This is often easier said than done, of course – you might have to jump through a few hoops to get rid of the peskier browser toolbars, and antivirus programs often force a restart (seemingly out of spite) to remove themselves from your system.

Here’s a few tips for recognizing (and dealing) with bloatware infestations.

  1. If possible, avoid McAfee and Norton Antivirus. Those two pieces of software have a very negative reputation for being resource hogs, and sending startup time through the roof.
  2. Avoid trial programs and demos, unless you plan to upgrade to the full version in the near future.
  3. Think about what programs are absolutely necessary to your day to day computer use, and remove anything that doesn’t fit the list.
  4. Install programs like Spybot Search and Destroy and CCleaner, and use them to keep your hard drive free of stuff you don’t need.


Image Credits: [Phalanx IT]


Post from: PCMech. Helping Normal People Get Their Geek On And Live The Digital Lifestyle.

Dealing with Bloatware and Crapware

Author: "Nick Greene" Tags: "Daily Tips, Software, Bloatware, Softwar..."
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Date: Tuesday, 30 Oct 2012 17:00

It’s bound to happen, eventually- keyboards are like anything else, and subject to the same wear and tear as any piece of hardware. If you use one enough, eventually, you’re going to have to do a bit of repair work. After all, cleaning your keyboard doesn’t really help when half the keys are missing, does it?

Truth be told, it’s not actually terribly difficult to replace the keys on a PC or laptop – the trick is in finding them. Anyway, if you’ve got some missing keys, there are a few options

Option 1: Contact the Manufacturer: Ideally, you don’t want to do this. The majority of laptop and keyboard manufacturers don’t really do the whole “individual key replacement” thing. Chances are good that if you call in to them and report you’re missing a few keys, they won’t just sell them to you – they’ll demand that you send your malfunctioning hardware in, for them to do the repairs themselves (at a premium, of course). While I’m certain there are a few manufacturers who might prove more helpful, but…don’t get your hopes up.

Option 2: Swap Them Out:  You don’t necessarily have to swap all your keys out – you can really just replace each individually malfunctioning cap. Of course, if the replacement keys you find are of a different make than the one’s you’ve already got, your keyboard’s going to look like garbage. As such, the solution is to replace them altogether. Purchase some replacement keys from Amazon, or a similar website. Get a sharp, flat object such as a knife, and slowly/gently work each key off the board. Pop the replacement keys back in, and you’re done!

Option 3: Find Replacements: This one will be tricky. You’re going to have to do a bit of searching online, to see if anyone has replacement keys for your specific make and model. Laptopkey.com might be useful, to that end. Order them up, and pop them back in.

Image Credits: [Inside My Laptop]

Post from: PCMech. Helping Normal People Get Their Geek On And Live The Digital Lifestyle.

Replacing Broken Keys on a Keyboard

Author: "Nick Greene" Tags: "Daily Tips, Hardware, Keyboard repair, P..."
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Date: Monday, 15 Oct 2012 17:00

I’ve written my fair share of articles with my laptop propped up by my legs, and I’m sure most of us who have portable PCs have held them in that general area. As it just so happens…that’s a very, very, very bad ideaparticularly if you’re pregnant. See, the thing about laptops is that the complex circuitry within emits a fairly strong electromagnetic field, one which is more than the human body’s used to being in contact with for any extended period of time. So…basically, you’re being exposed to a higher than recommended dose of electromagnetic radiation every time you hold your laptop on your lap- and possibly whenever you rest your arms/wrists on the laptop itself, as well (I’m guilty of doing that frequently, I’ll admit…).

That all sounds pretty intimidating, doesn’t it? But what does it all mean? What exactly does this radiation exposure do to the human body? Is it really that harmful – or deadly?

We’re not quite certain whether or not it’s deadly, but it’s definitely harmful to adult humans. Short-term exposure can cause “excitation of the nerves and muscles” (essentially leading to involuntary muscle spasms and pain), and long-term exposure has been linked to a very slight increase in the risk of leukemia. Oh, it could also increase the temperature in your genitals (which is bad). Note that this is all in adult humans- imagine what might happen to a fetus exposed to such currents.

Anyway, laptops aren’t to be feared or anything – it’s not like the side effects of overexposure to this radiation (which is pretty much everywhere, anyway) are fatal. Plus, they’re still incredibly useful and convenient tools. I’m not trying to scare anyone out of using a laptop. Just…don’t keep them on your lap or anything. And don’t put them on your stomach if you’re pregnant. Oh, and….avoid getting into close proximity with your power supply – it emits way more radiation than the main rig.

Seems pretty simple, right?


Post from: PCMech. Helping Normal People Get Their Geek On And Live The Digital Lifestyle.

Why Putting Your Laptop on your Lap is a Bad Idea

Author: "Nick Greene" Tags: "Daily Tips, Hardware, Computer Health"
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Date: Friday, 12 Oct 2012 17:00

Laptops have an issue with them that isn’t shared by their larger, desk-bound brethren. Given the close proximity of their components to one another, they’re actually fairly difficult to keep cool. While some systems don’t seem to have much of an issue, others seem to overheat at the drop of a hat. Cooling trays aren’t so much a luxury with these devices as they are a necessity. Unfortunately, finding the right tray can be something of a headache- again, depending on what sort of device you’re using.

So…why not just build your own? It’s actually not as hard as you might think, depending on how fancy you want to get with it, and what sort of design you want to go with. The simplest one requires a couple of fans (PC fans would work just fine), a low power AC adapter, a crimping tool, and a soldering gun and a material of your choice for the base. For those of you who are interested, here’s a more in-depth guide to pulling this off.  If that doesn’t quite catch your fancy, have another five.

In addition to cobbling together a cooling tray (or building your own), there are a few other things you’ll want to do in order to keep your laptop running cool. Pay attention to the temperature of the area in which you’re using it. Don’t obstruct the fans. Keep an eye on when it gets hottest, and try to find ways to mitigate the heat at those moments (or double check and make sure that none of your software is causing an issue). Pretty basic stuff, right?

There are quite a few applications out there that are designed to help you better monitor your laptop and keep it from internally combusting, as well.  Real Temp’s probably one of the most comprehensive pieces of software out there (and better yet, it’s free). Others exist, as well- look around a bit, and see if you can find one that’s right for you.

Post from: PCMech. Helping Normal People Get Their Geek On And Live The Digital Lifestyle.

Keeping Your Laptop Cool

Author: "Nick Greene" Tags: "Daily Tips, Hardware, Laptop Cooling, La..."
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Date: Friday, 05 Oct 2012 17:00

So you want to create a guild, do you? That’s not exactly an easy task to accomplish- particularly if you’re looking for your guild to gain any sort of recognition or power on your server- it’s not as simple as knowing how the in-game guild creation system goes or inviting a few friends along for the ride.

In a lot of ways, it’s almost like managing a business. Honestly? I’d actually argue that experience as the leader of a successful guild in a game like World of Warcraft could actually teach you a fair bit of useful real-world knowledge. You’ll see why in a moment.

Your Fellow Staff

Think about it for a moment. You’re not going to be able to be online 24/7 to run things. You’re not going to be able to control and manage every single aspect of how your guild’s run. You’re going to need staff members, and you’re going to need to be sure that they can be trusted. This is the first thing you’ll need as a successful guild leader- you’ll need to be a good judge of character- which, when it comes to the Internet, is easier said than done.  To that end, you’re probably going to need to set up an application form of some kind (and do ‘background checks’ on guild staff). Alternatively, you could always promote them based on skill or merit, but that’s a touch riskier.

Either way, you can’t really go it alone- and figuring out who’s able to do what is vital if you’re to succeed. Further, you need to be capable of motivating your fellow staff to do work, as well- if you’re not, everything’s going to fall apart.


What sort of items does the guild have in their guild bank? What scheduled events do you have, and when are they set for. Where’s your headquarters? Are you going to be scheduling meetups and other in-person events? What are your rules, and how do you enforce them? Moreover, who’s responsible for enforcing them? Organization is one of the most important traits for a guild leader to possess, and the lack of it is one of the biggest reasons guilds fail. Well, that, and an unwillingness to put the necessary work in…but that second one goes without saying

Public Perception

You’re going to need to consider how people perceive your guild and its members. In other words…you need to market your guild as though it were a legitimate organization. Recruitment drives, a professional-looking, polished website (if you don’t know HTML and web design, best find someone who does in short order), and a good public image are all vital to your success. To that end, if you’ve got a member who’s causing problems, and giving people a negative idea of what your guild is like…they need to be disciplined or removed.

Long story short…leading a guild isn’t just a game. You’re going to need to be a manager, more than a gamer…and not everyone can do that.



Post from: PCMech. Helping Normal People Get Their Geek On And Live The Digital Lifestyle.

Gamer’s Corner: The Ins and Outs of Creating a Guild

Author: "Nick Greene" Tags: "Daily Tips, gaming, how-to, video games"
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Date: Tuesday, 02 Oct 2012 17:00

Another quickie today, folks. I’d like to draw your attention to a nifty tool for benchmarking your PC, by Passmark Software.

It’s not really all that difficult to determine if one graphics card(or PC, for that matter) has more power than another. In a lot of cases, you can simply look at how much video memory it’s got. Plus, it’s a safe bet that something by one of the specialized manufacturers is going to pack a bigger punch than some random on-board card. Unfortunately, power is only a small part of the bigger picture- you’ve also got to take into account power consumption, firmware, and any additional features one card might have packed into it could set it apart from another card on the market.

Of course, chances are good that you already know all of this.  You’re aware that, if you’re really curious as to how the model you’ve got stacks up against it’s peers, you can take a look at this graphics card hierarchy chart, posted on Tom’s Hardware. You know that you can find a wealth of information on performance benchmarks on Passmark’s Video Card Benchmark Database.

But what if you’re looking to figure out exactly how your card- the one you’ve plugged in to your own system- measures up? What if you want to know how your unique operating environment affects your graphics power- and whether or not there’s anything you can do to improve things if the impact is negative?

Passmark’s PerformanceTest software’s just the ticket. You can use it to benchmark pretty much every aspect of your PC’s performance and compare your numbers to baseline systems that the software’s got in it’s database. In the event that your computer’s not necessarily performing as well as it should, you can use PerformanceTest to determine how the tweaks you’ve made have impacted your system’s power.

We’ll go over how to tweak your system’s performance settings in a later post.


Image Credits: [Infoflavour]

Post from: PCMech. Helping Normal People Get Their Geek On And Live The Digital Lifestyle.

Benchmark Your Graphics Card (and PC) With Passmark’s Performance Test

Author: "Nick Greene" Tags: "Daily Tips, Computer Hardware, gaming, G..."
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Date: Tuesday, 11 Sep 2012 17:00

Everyone who’s ever written an academic paper knows that academia in general doesn’t much care for Wikipedia. Citing the Internet’s largest open encyclopedia is more or less a guaranteed fast track to a failing grade, and a great many experts caution against using it, stating that the information contained on the site is both incomplete and unreliable.

It’s not hard to understand why they hold these views, either: anyone can edit a wiki page, and although there are certainly a great many users who make it their mission to seek out errors and correct mistakes, they can’t be everywhere at once, nor are they infallible. Wikipedia is, at best, an imperfect source. At it’s worst, it’s a completely unreliable source of information. In reality, it’s somewhere in between.

Wikipedia’s actually a pretty awesome starting point if you’re seeking to learn more about a particular topic, whether your pursuits are academic or simply steeped in personal interest. Many of the articles on the site (most, in fact) cite sources of their own, and provide enough knowledge for a very basic framework- though I’d caution against setting it up as the only framework for your information.

What you’ll want to do when using Wikipedia for research, then, is look at the sources linked in the article you’re reading. Track them down, and have a look at them. Use them to fill in any knowledge gaps left by the Wikipedia article, and to fill in any holes in your research. In other words, use Wikipedia- but don’t use it in the way you’d use any other source of research. Instead, think of it as a repository of information,a  place where you can go when you’re not sure where to look next.

Chances are good that even if you don’t find what you need on the site, you’ll find it in the sources.

Image Credits: [Wikipedia]

Post from: PCMech. Helping Normal People Get Their Geek On And Live The Digital Lifestyle.

Daily Tip: Citing from Wikipedia

Author: "Nick Greene" Tags: "Daily Tips, Internet Tips, Wikipedia"
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Date: Friday, 31 Aug 2012 17:00

Here’s a bit of a pickle for you. You’ve got some little, 15 inch laptop on which you want to game, but the screen kinda hurts your eyes a bit. We’ve all been there, right? Now, let’s take things a little further and assume you’ve also got an old iMac sitting around. Now, the screen on that thing is just a touch bigger than your laptop screen, isn’t it? Believe it or not, it’s actually quite easy to hook the two together- but you’ll need to make sure your computer has a Mini Display port, and Display Port Output, in which case you’ll want a male to male Mini DisplayPort Adapter. Check out the manual to find out. Failing that, you can pick yourself up a mini display port to VGA adapter. Again, Amazon’s the place to look.

First thing you’ll want to do is power down both systems. Once that’s done, plug one end of the adapter into your computer, and the other into the iMac. The slot you need to plug it into should be right next to the ethernet port.  Once that’s done, turn them both on, and the iMac should enter into Target Display Mode.  That’s it! You’re done!

Now, if you want to use an iMac as a secondary screen,things could potentially get a touch more complicated. It depends what sort of system you’re running, and whether or not it can support multiple displays (check your graphics card’s information to be sure). For this, we’re going to assume you’re using a PC, and you’ve already got one monitor all set up and good to go.  If your PC has more than one input plug for a display monitor (quite a few do), you’re good- all you really need to do is plug them in and configure the software (which shouldn’t be too difficult).

However, if you’re using a laptop, you’re going to want to pick up a multi-display adapter. Most of them aren’t too pricey. Shop around a bit, and see if you can’t find one you like.

Anyway, once you’ve plugged everything in, you shouldn’t have too much trouble configuring the software. It’s…pretty much just a case of plug in and play, more or less. Note that the iMac will still be running, and if you unplug it, you can use it as a computer, as well.

Image Credits: [Gizmodo]

Post from: PCMech. Helping Normal People Get Their Geek On And Live The Digital Lifestyle.

How to Set up an iMac as a Second Screen

Author: "Nick Greene" Tags: "Daily Tips, Hardware, Apple iMacs, Compu..."
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Date: Wednesday, 29 Aug 2012 17:00

I’ll be frank with you guys: the job market sucks. Finding decent, paying work is a herculean undertaking these days, even if you’ve got a degree that’s supposed to guarantee you a cushy spot. There’s a good chance that those of you who are currently unemployed (or underemployed, as it were) have been doing daily searches on all the biggest and best job sites- Monster, LinkedIn, Indeed….you get the idea.

There are other places to look.


Think about it. Most organizations worth their salt these days have a twitter account or two, through which they connect with their customers and with other businesses. There’s a very good chance that, if there’s a new job opportunity available, they’ll have a twitter account on which they post it, not to mention all the twitter feeds which are completely devoted to making people aware of new job opportunities. Check it out- there’s a very good chance that you’ll find something good.

Company Websites 

This one’s actually one of the more obvious entries on the list- as such, it’s curious that not everyone seems to be aware- if you’re interested in landing a career in a particular field, do a bit of research on the organizations that work in that field. Have a look on their websites.


To be fair, Cragslist is pretty well-known- but it’s not used for job searches as often as some of the other top boards. It’s more of an “everything” sort of site- one which doesn’t necessarily have the best reputation. Still, I’ve found quite a few freelancing opportunities on Craigslist, and I’ve not been burned by it yet. Give it a try if you’re not finding what you’re looking for on Monster.


Jigsaw might not be free, but it’s still a pretty awesome job board. There’s a huge database, with a great many more high-end jobs than you’d find on some of the free job boards. If you’re willing to spend the money (it’s $25.00 a month), and you’re looking for an upper level job, Jigsaw’s actually a pretty sound investment.


Again, this is another great resource for job hunters- even if, like Craigslist, it’s so much more than a job site. But hey, while you’re online, you might as well see if you can replace your old desk or get a new TV- if you’re lucky, you might not even have to pay for either of those.

What other job sites do you folks recommend? Think there’s something missing from this list? Drop me a line in the comments.

Image Credits: [Mashable]

Post from: PCMech. Helping Normal People Get Their Geek On And Live The Digital Lifestyle.

Job Hunting: Five Sources to Take you Off the Beaten Path

Author: "Nick Greene" Tags: "Daily Tips, Internet"
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Date: Wednesday, 15 Aug 2012 17:00

Configuring your router and setting up a network can be a bit of a pain sometimes- particularly if you’re planning on running applications which require specific ports to be opened. Thankfully, there exists a plethora of online tools to make your life easier.  Let’s get started, shall we?

Port Forward: We’ve covered Port Forward before, but it’s still worth mentioning again. If you need to forward ports on your router for any reason, this is the site to use. It features comprehensive guides for pretty much every router on the market, includes several well-written guides on general networking and software, and even features a selection of useful downloadable tools, to boot. Basically, it’s probably one of the most useful sites on this list – the forwarding guides only play a small part in that.

Router Passwords: If you’ve managed to forget the default password for your router (hey, it happens) and you’d rather not play a guessing game, swing by and check to see if your router appears on the list. There’s a fairly comprehensive database, and chances are good that you’ll be able to find the default username and password for your device and get back to configuring it in no time at all.

Speedtest and Pingtest: These two tools are something else we’ve covered before – but again, it’s worth reiterating how useful they are. Basically, they can be used to get a good idea of how well your computer is able to connect to the Internet, and how fast your connection actually is. If you appear to be having network trouble, these two sites are a good place to start troubleshooting.

You Get Signal: The You Get Signal website includes a fairly extensive list of tools, including a port forwarding checker, network tracers, performance monitors, and domain name look-ups. You can also check your computer’s global IP address, and determine whether or not you’re connecting from behind a proxy.

Image Credits: [Compva]

Post from: PCMech. Helping Normal People Get Their Geek On And Live The Digital Lifestyle.

Five Awesome Websites for your Networking Needs

Author: "Nick Greene" Tags: "Daily Tips, Internet, Networking Tips, N..."
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