Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Windows XP tips

Get rid of drab arrows
Tired of looking at the default Windows mouse pointer? Go to Start, click on Control Panel, select Mouse. Click on the Pointers tab. Choose a scheme from the Scheme area. Check the schemes and the kind of pointers they include. Select the one you like and click on OK to bring it into effect.
Super fast shutdown
Normal shutdown can take a lot of time. More so, if you have programs or background services open on your system. To shut down quickly, save all your open documents, open the Task Manager by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Delete, press Shut Down from the menu and choose Turn Off.

Create personalized icons
Creating your own icons in Windows XP is a breeze. Here's how to go about it.
Create an image first which you can use as an icon. Click Start, click All Programs , go to Accessories, and then click Paint. On the Image menu, click Attributes. Type 32 , 42 or 62 for both the Width and Height of the document, selecting Pixels under the Units. Click OK to create a new icon.
Have fun adding type, colour etc, to your image. You can also shrink an image to create an icon. Save the image by opening the File menu and clicking on Save As.
Scroll the `Save in' box to select the location where you want your icon to be saved. Give your icon a name followed by .ico (without the quotes), Now scroll down the `Save as' type box and select 24.bit Bitmap. Click Save.
Now create a new folder, right-click on the folder, click Properties, go to Customize and click on Change Icon. Browse and select the icon you have just created and select OK. You have a folder icon just created all by yourself.
Block websites
It's very simple to block out certain websites that you do not want to open up on your computer: Click the Start button and select Run. Type the following: c:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc\hosts
Windows might ask you which program should be used to open this application. Click on Wordpad.

It will open up a new window on your screen showing some text information. At the end of the last line of the file, press the Enter key. Type and the name of the website you want to block.

For example: knowiz.com
Save the file. The websites that you have put in this list will not open up on your system.
In case you want to open them, go back to the text file using the same commands and remove the names you have typed. Save the file.
Making menu text larger
When you change your screen resolution to a higher setting, the menu becomes too small to read. You can fix this, while retaining the new resolution. Right click on the desktop and click Properties. Click on the Appearances tab and click on Large Fonts or Extra Large Fonts to make the menu items readable. If you don’t like the color scheme of the menus and icons, you can click on the Color scheme drop down menu and chose any other. Similarly click on Effects to get a more snazzy Windows interface. Not satisfied? Explore the Advanced button here and you can have your own personalized Windows interface.

Reach Run quickly
Here’s a quicker way to reach the Run dialog box, if you don’t want to go through the Start menu. Just hit the Windows key + R.
Looking for a better screen font display?
Enable ClearType, Microsoft’s trademark font display technology, for a drastic improvement in screen font rendering. Right-click anywhere on your desktop. Now select Properties. Under the Appearance tab, click Effects. Check the box for Use the following method to smooth edges of screen fonts, and in the drop-down menu, select ClearType. Press OK, and apply the change.
Change your mouse pointer scheme
Bored of the same old arrow? To change your mouse pointer scheme, in the Control Panel, select Mouse and go to the Pointers tab. Scroll through the available schemes, pick one that you like and click Apply.
Check that your Windows Firewall is turned on
To make sure your Windows Firewall hasn’t been accidentally disabled, go to your Control Panel and click Windows Firewall. Make sure the radio button for On (recommended) is selected. Add exceptions to your Firewall by going to the Exceptions tab and adding the programs that you think should have access to the Internet to the list of exceptions.
Instantly activate your screensaver
In XP, you can put a short cut of your favourite screensaver on your desktop to instantly start your screen saver. Here’s how. Go to Start on your desktop and click on Search. In the help box, click on All files and folders. and then type in *.scr. Select your screen saver file and right click. Then select Send To, and then Desktop.
Put your Monitor to sleep
Right click on the desktop and click on Properties. In the dialog box that appears, click on the Screen Saver tab. Click on Power and in the dialog box that appears click on the Turn off Monitor list. Select a time to automatically after which the monitor will be turned off. Click OK twice and you’re set.

Using your Windows Key
Your Windows key can be used to for many short cuts. If you want to open your Windows Explorer quickly just press your Windows key and E. If you want to open the Run dialog box, just press the Windows key and R. If you want to open your search dialog box, press your Windows key and F.
Instantly lock your PC
If you have password protected your Windows, here is a quick way to lock it. Press the Windows key and L together.
Change the look of folder icons
If you don’t like the look of the folder icons on your desktop, you can change them. Right click on the folder, select Properties. Click on the Customize tab, and under the Folder icons area, click on the Change Icons button. Select the icon of your choice and select OK.
Minimize a Window to your taskbar
If you’re tired of using the mouse over and over again to minimize a window, here’s a handy tip. To minimize a window using just the keyboard, press Alt, Spacebar and N together.
Display album art in your music folder thumbnails
If your music files are in WMA format, XP automatically picks up the album art and displays it, both in the folder thumbnail as well as in the Windows Media Player display. If your files are in MP3 format, you can download the album art from the Internet and then customize each folder to display it. But this takes a lot of time. A faster way around is to save each image as ‘folder.jpg’ and put it in the correct folder. Once you do this, XP will pick up that image and use it as the thumbnail for the folder, and also use the image to display in Windows Media Player while playing songs from the album.

How to stop Windows Media Player from accessing your information
You may be uncomfortable with the idea of Windows Media Player collecting your information and sending it to various websites. You can stop this. Go to the Tools menu of Windows Media Player. Select Options and then go to the Player tab. Look for the check box that says "Allow Internet sites to uniquely identify your player?" and make sure it is not selected.
Opening folders with a single click
If you’d rather not have to double-click everything to open it, here’s the way out. Go to My Computer, and select Options in the Tools menu. Choose Folder options. In the dialog box that opens, select the check box that says ‘Single-click to open an item (point to select)’, and click OK.
Making web pages available offline
You may occasionally need to refer to a website, and you may not be able to connect to the Internet at the time. An easy way out of the situation is to go to the Favourites tab in Internet Explorer, and click Add to Favourites. In the dialog box that is displayed, select the Make available offline check box, and press OK.


Recycle your computer

When new software or a new PC model hits the market, the urge to upgrade is palpable. Estimates suggest that most PC owners upgrade to a new computer within three to four years, hardly considering the fact that the old PC has as much computing power as before, and is far away from its end of life.
Estimates also show that manufacturing one PC requires about 240 kg fossil fuels, 1.8 tonnes of materials, 22 kg chemicals and about 1,500 liters of water. That’s one of the most environmental-resource-intensive production processes.
What’s more, disposing of a computer, without causing harm to the environment or to those involved in the disposal process, is a very expensive job. A computer is made of several precious metals and chemicals. Many of its components contain toxic substances and carcinogens, such as cadmium, lead, chromium, flame-retardants and mercury. Unsafe methods of disposing of computer components include landfills, burning to extract metals such as copper from printed circuit boards, or breaking and throwing components such as CRT monitors. In all these methods, toxins are released into the air, soil, and groundwater.
Considering the cost to the environment of both producing and disposing of computers, it makes complete sense to use each computer to its optimum, and to think of destroying it only when it is really useless.
A great way to do this is to encourage reuse and to put in place recycling processes for safe and effective disposal of e-waste. In parallel, production processes need to be redesigned to reduce environmental costs.
Several Western countries export their e-waste to countries in Asia, because the labor and cost of recycling is lower. Though this is a profitable activity and there are several licensed companies that recycle computers and their components; there are also many other companies who are not authorized, and which subject their workers to very hazardous environments while recycling computer parts.
Many leading computer-manufacturing firms accept all parts of PCs for recycling at a much lower cost. Countries like China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan have taken the responsibility to recover and recycle e-waste. India, however, lags far behind in this area.
To reduce the environmental cost of computers, they should be recycled only when there is no further use for them. Computers that are displaced due to upgrades often have more than enough computing power and can be used for several years. Such PCs can be donated to government-aided schools or institutions, to help impart computer skills and IT literacy to students, who wouldn’t be able to learn it otherwise. Such initiatives require the support of people and corporates, without which the problem of e-waste cannot be solved.


For safer browsing

The main responsibility for online security lies with your browser. It’s the browser’s security and privacy settings that keep malicious code such as Trojans or spyware out, warn you when you visit potentially unsafe websites or download content from a suspicious source, and protect you from online fraud and identity theft.
By default, Internet Explorer (IE) comes preset with security levels that are good for most browsing and online transactions. But you can also tweak these settings if you require a higher security level. What’s more, you can assign a slightly low security level to websites that you trust and more stringent security for those that you visit for the first time. Similarly, you can work out the privacy settings that suit your browsing needs.
Changing security settings

The default security settings in IE block the entry of malicious code and also prevent websites from installing add-ons or other programs on your computer without your knowledge.
To view these settings for IE6, open IE, go to Tools > Internet Options, and click the Security tab. You will see four zones here—Internet, local intranet, trusted sites, and restricted sites—each of which has a default security setting assigned. The default level for the Internet zone, which includes all the websites that you browse, is Medium. Click Custom Level to see specific security settings. It is advisable to use at least this level of security for browsing. You can move the slider on the Security tab to set a higher level of security, for instance, if you plan to visit some lesser known sites for the first time.
If your machine is connected to an intranet where you view local sites, you may want to assign a lower security level. Click Local Intranet and then Default Level to set the security to Medium-Low. Otherwise, click Custom Level to set your own security preferences.
As a Netizen, you will have visited certain sites that you trust implicitly—sites that can cause no potential harm to your computer. If you are extremely sure of this, you can add these sites to the Trusted Sites zone and set a lower security level for them. To add sites, the first step is to get the exact URL—you can do this by opening the site in IE and copying (CTRL+C) the URL from the address bar. Then, go to Tools > Internet Options. Click the Security tab, click Trusted Sites and then click Sites. Paste (CTRL +V) the URL in the box titles ‘Add this Web Site to this zone’ and click Add. If you add sites whose URLs begin with http: and not https:, uncheck the check box against ‘Require server verification (https:) for all sites in this zone.’ However, be very sure that the site you’re adding is trustworthy. Click OK when you’re done. Now, you can customize the level of security for the Trusted Sites zone by clicking Custom Level. For instance, you could disable alerts when you download something from a trusted site.

Changing privacy settings

These deal with blocking cookies and the Pop-Up Blocker.
Cookies are used by websites to gather some information about you, mainly for the purpose of providing you a personalized and consistent experience whenever you visit that website again. For instance, shopping sites use cookies to store items in your shopping cart as you visit various sections of the website. Some cookies could help you go to a site directly, without having to sign in each time. However, some cookies are harmful, and could be used to track your online behavior for malicious purposes.
Settings for this are available by clicking the Privacy tab in Tools > Internet Options.
It’s not a good idea to block all cookies, because that may prevent some sites from functioning properly on your machine. The default setting in IE is Medium here, which you can increase to Medium-High by using the slider. For even more safety, you could select to block all cookies; when you visit websites that attempt to use cookies, you will be alerted and you can select to accept cookies from websites that you trust. A word of caution here: first-party cookies (those used by the website that you visit) are usually safer than third-party cookies (those used by banner or pop-up ads on the website).
Another way of managing cookies is to select sites from which you want to block or allow cookies at all times. For this, click Sites in the Privacy tab, and enter the URLs of the concerned sites.
The Pop-Up Blocker is a strong safety measure for unknown sites, so it should not be turned off completely. To tweak its settings, click Settings under Pop-Up Blocker in the Privacy tab. You can change the Filter Level to Low, Medium, or High here. You can also add sites from which you always want to allow pop-ups. Click Apply and OK when you’re done.


Laptop security guidelines

A laptop epitomizes convenient computer usage. You can carry it along, work on it anywhere and at any time, and connect it to public wireless networks to communicate with your office or home.
The downside of this is the attendant security hazards. Since people travel with their laptops outside office, others can access it; it’s not uncommon for laptops to get stolen either—many companies have lost sensitive information and confidential data this way. Using laptops on public wireless networks gives hackers ample opportunity to break into not only the machine, but also into the corporate network to which the machine is connected. In fact, when a laptop with wireless capabilities is connected to a wired network, it can allow hackers to exploit vulnerabilities in the wireless setup to break into the wired network.
Here are five tips to ensure that your laptop and the data on it don’t fall into the wrong hands.
  • Prevent physical access
    As far as possible, you should avoid leaving your machine unattended when you’re outside office. You should also not let anybody use your machine, for however short a period of time, unless it is a co-worker who has legitimate reasons for doing so.
  • Guard against spyware
    Spyware is the prime cause of data theft from laptops and corporate networks that are accessed through infected laptops. You should not install any peer-to-peer (P2P) program or shareware on the laptop, as these are known to spread spyware. When you download anything from the Internet, be sure to read the End User License Agreement (EULA) carefully, to ensure that you are not downloading any spyware alongside. Pirated software is a way to get spyware on to your machine – stay away from them.
  • Take regular backups
    It is extremely important to take regular backups of the work you do on the laptop. Since the risk of hacker attacks over wireless networks and even physical theft of the laptop is higher, it becomes critical for you to backup the data frequently.
  • Use full-disk encryption
    Many encryption utilities, freeware and otherwise, enable you to encrypt the data on your hard drive and even on USB pen drives. Using encryption ensures that even in the worst-case scenario of your laptop getting stolen, the thief cannot access your confidential data.
  • Use a firewall
    A firewall, along with anti-virus and anti-spyware software, is very essential to a laptop, because you may be connecting to the Internet via public hot spots, which make your laptop more vulnerable to hacker attacks.