Computer issues, troubleshooting, tips and general information.

Posts in the Computers category
Changing Motherboard from RAID to AHCI with Windows 7 - 02 Dec 2016

I don’t even remember making this decision, but I recently discovered my motherboard’s storage controller was set to RAID for my SSD and spindle hard drive. I was trying to see how much life was left on my SSD after seeing a friendly reminder on Reddit. But SSDLife couldn’t see either drive. They were hidden […]

Windows 7 Updates Stuck at 0% - 17 Nov 2016

Ever since Windows 10 came out, my Windows 7 updates have gotten really slow. It started taking days instead of minutes or hours to run, with no end in sight. And the whole time it was cranking my CPU fan and still stuck at 0%. My first solution was to disable Windows Updates and use […]

Windows 7 Showing the Wrong Thumbnail - 20 Feb 2015

I have a few avatar pictures that I use for web sites I join. We had some new family pictures taken for Christmas, and I cropped and resized some of them to make new avatar pictures. But whenever I used them, Windows Explorer continued to show the entire image as the thumbnail. Windows caches thumbnail […]

The Imminent Demise of Windows XP - 01 Apr 2014

If you’re one of the 30% of desktop users still running Windows XP, the countdown is nearly over. On April 8, 2014 (seven days from now) Microsoft, in their infinite wisdom, will no longer support Windows XP. This means no more security updates from Microsoft and device manufacturers (i.e. cameras, phones, etc) may decide to […]

Do an Hour of Code This Week - 09 Dec 2013

Today, Google’s front page has a link to an Hour of Code video. The Hour of Code is a worldwide effort to introduce 10 million people to coding and it’s happening this week (December 9th – 15th). I’ll be presenting an hour of code in both of my sons’ classes at school, and if you’re […]

Updating Java Plugin In Chrome - 19 Nov 2013

Update 23 Apr 2015 As of Chrome version 42, NPAPI has been disabled by default. This effectively disables the Java plugin. In order for the below instructions to work, you can re-enable NPAPI by pasting this URL into Chrome: chrome://flags/#enable-npapi, enabling NPAPI support, and restarting Chrome. The Java browser plugin has a sordid security history […]

Quick and Easy Way to Change Settings on a Windows 7 Laptop - 02 Aug 2013

I accidentally hit WindowsKey-X on my laptop and this window popped up: It’s called the Windows Mobility Center and provides one-click access to changing the volume, wireless network, display, presentation mode and sync settings. I don’t see why they didn’t enable it in the desktop version of Windows 7. Apart from the wireless network settings […]

Easily Create Windows Shortcuts - 10 Jul 2012

While you can right click on a file and choose “Create Shortcut” in Windows 7, I disliked the naming convention of “filename.ext – Shortcut.lnk”. I use FreeCommander for all my file management needs and it didn’t have a built-in way to create a shortcut either. Here’s a short VBScript I wrote that takes two parameters, […]

VBScript Invalid Character Error - 09 Jul 2012

If you get this error, change the encoding of the file to ANSI. Windows Script Host ————————— Script: C:\Users\dan\Desktop\test.vbs Line: 1 Char: 1 Error: Invalid character Code: 800A0408 Source: Microsoft VBScript compilation error Or with Cscript: (1, 1) Microsoft VBScript compilation error: Invalid character

How to Fix a Delay When Opening Files in Microsoft Office - 04 Jun 2012

For the past few months opening an Office 2007 document (Word, Excel or Powerpoint) from Windows Explorer on all of my Windows 7 machines took over a minute. Opening the application alone was instantaneous and opening the same file from within the newly opened application was immediate. Since the application opened quickly, I guessed the […]

Why Dropbox Deserves To Win - 02 May 2012

Whenever there’s a post extolling the virtues of Dropbox, some commenter chimes in to ask why people like it so much when (insert service here) is so much better. As someone who over-researches to an extreme, I’ve used just about every online storage service I can get my hands on, and Dropbox continues to be […]

Google Drive Almost Here - 30 Mar 2012

Google Drive has long been rumoured and never seen, but that could all change in a few days. If done right, Google Drive could be huge. According to leaked screenshots you’ll get 5GB for free, and at their current storage pricing you can get 80GB for $20/year compared to $100 a year for 50GB with […]

Watch TED Talks in High Definition - 19 Jul 2011

While reading this reddit post about Mikko Hypponen’s TED talk, I concluded that some users either had incredible visual acuity or they were watching the video at a higher resolution than me. Then Mikko posted a comment recommending we watch it in HD. I looked around for a link to the high res version for […]

See the Current Time in Other Time Zones - 02 Mar 2011

I work with folks from different time zones, and it’s hard to get all the times straight and make the proper adjustment in my head. In Windows 7 you can see the time in two other timezones when you click on the current time in the taskbar. It also displays the calendar, which is useful […]

Google Cr-48 Review - 29 Dec 2010

I’ve been using my new Cr-48 for over a week. It has some incredible features, along with a few drawbacks. Twelve months ago I felt Google Chrome (the browser) wasn’t ready for prime time. It’s made huge strides since then and a few months ago I began using it as my main browser. There are […]

Yahoo Shutting Delicious Down - 16 Dec 2010

It’s a sad day. Techcrunch has confirmed that (formerly known as is being shut down. You can export them under Settings, Bookmarks, Export / Backup Bookmarks, but some of the comments said the export had the wrong timestamps and was missing some fields. To get a complete export of all your data in […]

PowerCalc in Windows 7 - 10 Nov 2010

I love PowerToy Calc (a.k.a PowerCalc) but was disappointed to learn it doesn’t run in Windows 7. You can use the Windows 7 calculator but PowerCalc is keyboard friendly, supports custom functions, conversions, RPN mode, 128-digit precision, complex numbers and can even graph functions. It also loads quickly, is portable and can show only the […]

Auto-Advance in Gmail - 27 Oct 2010

Today Lifehacker highlighted a new lab setting that makes processing your email much faster. It automatically goes to the next (or previous) email after you archive or delete the current email. This is a feature I’ve wished for in the Gmail core from the very beginning. I’ve only been using it for a few hours, […]

Simple Way to Improve Apache Performance - 18 Jun 2010

When I was first setting up my Linode server, I spent quite a bit of time tweaking the Apache config files for performance. I ran a few tests with ab and kept a close eye on the graphs in Munin to see what worked and what didn’t. The single most effective change I made was […]

Name-based Virtual Hosts Serving Default DocumentRoot - 17 Jun 2010

I spent a while trying to figure out why one of my virtual hosts was serving the default DocumentRoot instead of the one in the virtual host section. I finally figured out the reason and am sharing it in case anyone else runs into the same issue. I’m running Ubuntu and the default VirtualHost configuration […]

Let Kids Go Wild On the Keyboard - 07 Jun 2010

If you have little kids, you’ve probably found they love to “help out” at the keyboard. I have a 1 year old who loves to sit on my lap and hit the keyboard, but the right combination of keystrokes can be paralyzing. So one night I wrote an application similar to Scott Hanselman’s BabySmash mainly […]

Quick Way to Speed up Your Wireless Connection - 01 Jun 2010

My wireless router was using channel 6, the default channel. Here is a benchmark of my connection. It’s not bad, but keep reading. I ran InSSIDer to see what was in my area. This is an example of what I saw (it’s not my actual results) There was nothing on channel 1, so I switched […]

Simple and Quick MD5 Comparison Tool - 29 May 2010

I’ve written a portable Windows application to do one thing well: calculate and compare the MD5 sum of a file. It’s called Snap MD5 Here’s a video I made illustrating how I use it. Give a try and let me know if you have any suggestions to improve it.

Problems Printing With an HP LaserJet 5L? - 18 Mar 2010

Do you have an old HP LaserJet 5L? Do you use a USB to Parallel port converter for it? I do, and for almost a year, printing on it made me tear my hair out. Print jobs took forever to start, sometimes you’d have to hit a button to get it to print even though […]

4 Tricks to Read Content Without Ads - 27 Jan 2010

As I illustrated in this screencast on the readability bookmarklet (a new version was released yesterday), I like to read content on the web, not advertising. Here are some other tips to make reading on the web easier when ads overrun the site or articles are split up into a ton of separate pages. Our […]

Download YouTube Videos in One Click - 25 Jan 2010

The instructions on sound easy, but they’re harder than they need to be. To use the site manually you have to change the ‘y’ in youtube to a ‘3’. But why do it yourself when the browser can do it for you? Here’s the bookmarklet: Download YouTube Video. Drag the above link to your […]

Shortcut to Create a New Folder in XP - 19 Jun 2009

Lifehacker posted about a tiny but useful feature of Windows 7 – a keyboard shortcut to create a new folder. On Windows XP, it’s still missing. In the past I’ve always used a right click with wf. It gets the job done but it uses the mouse, which is slow. Now that Microsoft has given […]

Best Windows Clipboard Manager - 13 Jun 2009

The default clipboard handling of Windows is simple. It can only hold one item. This works, but can be frustrating when you’re copying and pasting a lot. To give you more flexibility, there’s a whole class of clipboard management programs out there that give you more room on your clipboard. Everything behaves normally for the […]

Facebook Username Debacle - 12 Jun 2009

If you’re protective of your username and use Facebook, listen up. The Facebook blog has spoken. Starting at 12:01 a.m. EDT on Saturday, June 13, you’ll be able to choose a username on a first-come, first-serve basis for your profile and the Facebook Pages that you administer by visiting You’ll also see a notice […]

The Best PDF Viewer - 11 Jun 2009

Acrobat Reader is the standard PDF viewer, but it takes ages to start up and every release is slower and more bloated. A few years ago I switched to Foxit Reader. At first it was fast and nimble, but over time, it too has become slower. My new preferred PDF viewer is PDF XChange. It’s […]

Tasty Tip for Keyboarders - 08 May 2009

If you’re a keyboarder, or just like to do things faster than the mouse allows sometimes, here’s a handy tip. I was installing a few virtual machines (Windows and Linux) that didn’t have mouse support because of limitations in the virtualization software. As a result, I had to do everything via the keyboard. I’ve gotten […]

Touchpad and Keyboard Issue on Linux with Compaq nw8440 - 05 May 2009

I installed Ubuntu 9.04 on my Compaq nw8440 and had strange touchpad jitters where the mouse cursor would slow way down, then speed up. It was very annoying. The keyboard also ignored every few keys, which was even more annoying. I installed Ubuntu 8.10 after learning that the video card drivers had changed in 9.04, […]

Outlook Rules Not Working - 04 May 2009

When I used procmail on HP-UX it was so easy to create precise rules to filter my email. I use Outlook at work and hoped it would provide similar flexibility. So far, I’ve been disappointed. I had a dozen rules until I realized you can add multiple filters to a single rule. In other words, […]

Ideas for Hostnames - 02 May 2009

I take too long coming up with hostnames, and using virtualization I’ve been installing lots of hosts recently. It’s hard to come up with a good name. I like them short (4-5 characters are easy to type) and memorable. A few examples of hostnames I’ve used in the past are dyad, koan, merk, zayin, alai […]

How to Display Keystrokes for Screencasts on Windows - 01 May 2009

Mac users already have this handy feature, but if you’re creating a screencast in windows, users are unaware of what keystrokes you’re using. If you’re anything like me and use keyboard shortcuts all the time, this can be tediously frustrating to use the mouse for everything. Instead, use one of these tools to give your […]

10 Ways to Find Beta Invites Online - 30 Apr 2009

If a new web site becomes too popular too soon, it can suffer from the thundering herd problem. To slow the stream of new users, many institute an invite program, where users need an invite code to sign up. Knowing how to get an invite can be eminently useful. Why, you ask? To register your […]

Pismo Mount Installer Error - 17 Mar 2009

Pismo File Mount Audit Package is a great way to mount ISOs on Windows. Once installed, converting an ISO into a folder is as simple as a right-click on the ISO file. The only problem – it got an error at installation. “ERROR: 193 Unable to execute command “…pfmap-050.exe\pfmap-setup.exe”. (The dots contained the path to […]

Windows Updates Failing - 11 Mar 2009

The latest Windows updates were failing on several Windows machines I manage with the following error. Your computer’s date and time appear to be out of sync with an update certificate. [Error number: 0x80072F8F] My clock was spot on, so the error message didn’t make much sense. I turned to Google. I applied all four […]

KeePass AutoType Clarification - 10 Mar 2009

I’ve been using KeePass for about a year but I only recently figured out the nuance of how Auto-Type-Window interacts with the entry title. If you don’t use KeePass this won’t make any sense, but I hope it will be of use to any KeePass users who were similarly confused. By default, KeePass (as of […]

How to make nslookup work on Windows - 03 Mar 2009

When I needed to look up a hostname on Window I kept trying nslookup, but it gave the wrong result every time. I would login to a Linux box, run host, and be done with it. But I finally got fed up with not knowing why it didn’t work on Windows, so I researched the […]

How to Beat the Impossible Freecell Game - 13 Feb 2009

On Windows, Freecell game #11982 is impossible to beat. But there is a way, albeit unorthodox. Open up Freecell and hit F3 (or Game -> Select Game) and type in 11982. Hit Control-Shift-F10, then move the 2 of hearts to the 3 of spades and voila, you won the game. At least, that’s what your […]

Online Storage and Synchronization Solutions - 04 Feb 2009

Local storage is great. It’s fast, relatively inexpensive and under your control, but if a natural disaster strikes, on-site backups alone may not preserve your data. Having off-site backups has been expensive in the past, but dozens of free or inexpensive services have been created in the past few years. There are several flavors of […]

Remember to Backup Your Online Data - 30 Jan 2009

It’s convenient to think a web site has your data safe and sound, but that’s not always the case. For Magnolia users the message, “Ma.gnolia has just experienced severe failure, we are aware of the issue and are looking for solutions” was proof. I hope they can recover the data, but if they don’t, all […]

Share Multiple URLs with a Single Link - 19 Jan 2009

Techrunch posted about, an awkwardly named site to share multiple sites with one link. As I wrote in a comment on techcrunch, it’s a good idea, but already has several competitors (that are ahead in the ease of use department). The links should be cleaned up with a little htaccess love, converting a URL […]

4 Gmail Lab Features You Can’t Live Without - 11 Dec 2008

My wife glanced at my browser the other day and said, “Hey, I want that!” She was referring to the embedded Google Calendar in the sidebar. I realized some of you may not be aware of the new features Gmail has been rolling out in the form of Lab features. Here’s a rundown of my […]

On the Oregon Trail - 10 Dec 2008

I never played Oregon Trail in school. We played Lemonade Stand and programmed in Logo. Even though Oregon Trail and Lemonade Stand were created by the same company (MECC), I never heard about Oregon Trail while I was in junior high school. I’ve since heard enough about it that I wanted to give it a […]

The Perfect Windows System Monitor - 03 Dec 2008

I’ve been using KlipFolio to monitor CPU and memory usage, but it’s had some problems. The always on top setting didn’t always work. The whole point of having it was to be able to see it whenever I wanted, like when my machine was crawling to a halt, so I could see if it was […]

Simple Way to Take Lots of Screenshots on Windows - 21 Nov 2008

If you want to take multiple screenshots quickly and easily, here’s a great solution. 1. Download IrfanView, a feature-filled but lightweight image viewer for Windows. 2. Run it and type ‘c’ (or go to Options -> Capture / Screenshot). 3. Configure the settings. Here’s what I chose: 4. Press ‘Start’ and then go about your […]

What’s Taking Up All the Space? - 19 Nov 2008

It can be helpful to know what’s taking up all the space on your hard drive, but the default Windows tools don’t give you an easy way to figure that out. Here are three applications that will give you a good overview of your disk usage. WinDirStat – The best of the bunch. Shows a […]

Show the Date in the Windows Taskbar - 13 Nov 2008

I didn’t think it would be so hard to find a simple way to display the date on the taskbar in Windows XP. An admittedly easy solution is to unlock your toolbar and make double the normal height to display the day of the month, but I didn’t want to reduce my screen real estate. […]