Friday, December 30, 2005

Debugging a Slow System
The first thing I recommend is shutting down and restarting. Many systems are left on all the time and a re-boot can solve a number of issues. It does not eliminate the cause of the slowdown, but it could stop the offending process which was running. The slowdown may have been caused by a process started off the Internet that will never be accessed again.

If an application has been installed in the past few days, it may be the cause of the problem. I try uninstalling it and/or using System Restore to back the system up to a date prior to the slowdown issues. This process restores the registry to a previous point that worked. To use Restore press Win+F1 > Pick a task > System Restore, then choose Restore my computer to an earlier time. Choose a likely date and see if the issue goes away.

Next, I make sure an anti-virus program has been running and do a full scan of the system after downloading the most recent signatures. Then I use an anti-spyware tool to remove any spyware on the system. This usually improves performance greatly.

MSCONFIG is a great command line tool to manage the processes and programs starting when the system turns on. To run it, Win+R to open the RUN dialog box. Then type MSCONFIG and hit ENTER.

Click the Startup tab to view the programs starting each time the system boots. One issue with MSCONFIG is its inability to explain what each startup program is doing, as the names are cryptic. To determine what the program actually does and to see if you should stop the program from starting, try googling its name. For a slow running system, I turn them all off and then turn them back on one at a time until the issue I was debugging returns.

On the same screen, click the Services tab to see what services are started when the system boots. The Essential column shows the ones Windows needs to have running. This does not mean you can shut them all off; the system may boot successfully, but a number of your applications may fail to start without the services they require running. Read the descriptions to help determine what should or should not be running.

One service known to slow down the system is the Indexing Service. On older versions of Windows it was called Find Files. It is responsible for indexing the content of each hard disk to make the Search utility find files faster. Disabling it will usually improve performance.

Another tool to try is the Administrative Tools menu—Right-click My Computer, then select Manage. Locate Services and Applications, click the plus sign to open the list, and then click Services. The list of Services opens in the right window. Click on any service to see a detailed explanation. This list is more detailed than MSCONFIG. Double-click on any one service to open its Properties window.

If I try all of the above and the system is still sluggish, it may be time for a reload. I backup all critical files and do a factory restore. This brings the system back to the way it was when it came out of the box. If it is still slow, there is a hardware problem—hard disk failing, RAM failing, or something else. Remember, after a factory restore SP2 probably needs to be applied, as do all the Windows updates since. Add the anti-virus and anti-spyware tools, and then restore the critical files from backup. Any applications not installed on the factory fresh system must be re-installed. This might be a good time to reassess what was previously installed and not bother with any applications no longer used.

I cannot guarantee the above will work for you. These are the steps I usually take. Before starting any debugging be aware you could do some damage, so always backup critical files before starting, if possible. When asking someone what files are critical, they often forget about their collection of pictures and music. Back them up as well. Recall that some programs do not store their files in My Documents—AOL and Outlook Express are two culprits I know of. Therefore, if I must restore a system to factory specs, I suggest a new hard drive. They are so inexpensive today it is well worth it. The new drive will be larger and faster and all the old data will still be on the old drive. It can be installed as a secondary drive temporarily so you can pull over necessary data and then be kept for a while in case some files were missed.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

I just began to use the Maxthon Internet Browser. I like it. Based on Internet Explorer, it is a powerful tabbed browser with a highly customizable interface. It is filled with many efficient features that will take me weeks to discover and experiment with.

One feature of IE I like is the ability to type a Web site name, press Ctrl+Enter and have IE fill in the http://www. and the .com for me. Maxthon adds a Shift+Enter and Ctrl+Shift+Enter to fill in .net and .edu (or whatever .xxx you wish to opt for). Download your FREE copy at

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Another Address Bar Shortcut
To jump to the address bar and highlight its content with one shortcut, press Alt+D. Now to copy it to the clipboard use Ctrl+C. Then you can use Ctrl+V to paste it to an email you are composing or add it as a hyperlink to a letter or Web page. If you want to type a new address, simply begin typing. The selected address will be replaced with the typed characters. To navigate in the address bar, use Ctrl+arrow -- right arrow to move right one section at a time and left arrow to move left. Try it. This is easier than using the arrow keys and delete or backspace when modifying an address.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Another Excel Shortcut
To reveal formulas, you probably know about Ctrl+Tilde—that is the tilde key just below the Esc key. Press the combination once and all cells containing formulas will display formulas instead of resulting values. Press the combination again and the display toggles back to values. A slight variation to the keystrokes and you can change the formatting for a cell or a range of cells to General formatting--Ctrl+Shift+Tilde.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

An interesting approach to sorting the every increasing number of emails we receive on a daily basis. SNARF or a Social Network And Relationship Finder uses social analysis to organize incoming email. Read the article at:
SNARFing your way through e-mail

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Entering Fractions in Excel
Enter 1/4 in any unformatted cell in a worksheet and Excel assumes we have entered a date. It displays what we keyed in the format 4-Jan and assumes the current year (2005). The actual value stored in the cell becomes 38,356, the number of days since 1-1-1900.

What if we wanted to enter the fraction 1/4 and not the date?

We can select the cell, then pre-format it to fraction by clicking Format > Cells > Number tab > Fraction > OK. Then we enter the 1/4 and it remains a fraction.

Yes, there is another way. In an unformatted cell, enter a zero followed by a space, then the 1/4. The zero-space overrides the default Date formatting and creates the Fraction formatting.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Another Excel Shortcut
In Word inserting a date is pretty straightforward; there is a menu option for it using Insert > Date. In Excel you can search all you want in the Insert menu without ever finding Date as an option. Sure, there are functions like =TODAY() to display the current date every time the worksheet opens. With =NOW() you are given date and time. To insert a fixed date or the time right now, like in a time stamp, you might think you have to just type it in.

Recall from a previous entry Ctrl+; results in the current date (system date) being inserted into the active cell. There is also an easier way to insert the system time; Shift+Ctrl+;
Free Web Based Word Processing and More
On the road and without your full office suite of products? Or perhaps you have acquired a great notebook but have not wanted to part with any more cash to get a full office suite. There is an alternative thanks to gOFFICE. This is an office suite available online. All you need is an Internet connection and a browser. The Word Processor and Desktop Plublishing pieces are up and running. Fonts and spellchecker and more. And since it uses HTML behind the scenes, you can display the source making it a simple HTML WYSIWYG editor as well.

You have to try this one out! The Spreadsheet and Presentation pieces are still in Beta. Free to try and free to use. There are additional features if you sign up for the pay for option. Try it at

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Date and Time
We all know the time appears in the lower right of our Desktop; right side of the Taskbar. To view the current date, mouse over the time and a screentip will appear. With XP, if you make the Taskbar double size, the date and time appear all the time. Neat, but it takes up screen real estate. When I wanted to see a calendar, I used to double-click the time to pop-up the Date and Time properties dialog box. This is a little dangerous; change the date and hit OK instead of Cancel and you have changed the system date!

I found a better way with a freeware program by Dale Nurdeen called TClockEx. You may download it from It allows you to display the date and time in place of the current time. You pick the format and color scheme. Click once and a calendar pops up -- one which will not change your system date.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Address Bar
When we view a web site (like this one) the address bar contains the URL to the web site. If we want to travel to another site, we can type the desired address in the Address Bar text box. Getting there is as simple as a mouse move and a click, but there is a shortcut. Hold the Window key down and tap F4 -- Win+F4. When you arrive at the Address Bar, the current address is filled with blue indicating it is selected and the list of previously entered addresses drops down. Choose from the list or enter a new one. Because it is selected, as soon as you begin to type or Copy another address, the highlighted address is replaced. You do NOT have to erase the old address to enter a new one. When using Internet Explorer, typing a new address ending in .com, just type the name (ie: blogger) , hold the Control key down and tap Enter -- Ctrl+Enter. The http://www and the .com are added for you! Press Enter or click Go to find the site.

Monday, September 26, 2005

All Those Shortcuts
A good number of my posts are for shortcut keys when using Windows and Office products. You can find a complete list of all their shortcuts on the Microsoft site at: And of course you can always use the Help index of a Microsoft product. In Help, type "keyboard shortcuts" in the Answer Wizard or Index boxes. You will be returned a list of keyboard shortcuts for that application.
Title Bar Shortcut Menu
One little known way to close a window is to double-click the title bar icon located at the far left of the title bar. Alt+Spacebar opens the title bar shortcut menu (this was referred to as the control program box in Win3.1). The default option is Close which is why the double-click works. Other options allow you to manipulate the screen without using a mouse. This is helpful when the window is off screen or the mouse stops working. To open this menu without the mouse, click Alt+spacebar.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The vertical scroll bar in Internet Explorer allows us to move a window up and down to see more of a web page. As you know, clicking the top arrow moves the page up; the down arrow moves it down. A quick way to scroll through the page is to grab the scroll bar by mousing over the bar located between the arrows, then hold down the left mouse button and drag up or down. Often this method is too quick.

A better approach is to click in the white space between the scroll bar and one of the arrows; top to scroll up and bottom to scroll down. This results in a scroll of one screen worth of data at a time. There is a shortcut for this method -- simply press the spacebar on the keyboard.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A Typing Test
Ever wonder how well you type. Here is a simple typing test you can take online to see what your speed and error rate is. Try it out; it only takes a minute or two.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Systems Properties
To open the Systems Properties screen, most are aware of right-clicking My Computer off the Start menu, then clicking Properties. This is easier than finding it in the Control Panel. However, there is an even easier path -- Win+Pause will open it right away.
Minimize All
A little while ago I showed you a shortcut to clear the desktop. This one is similar, but useful when you have a number of open windows and one or more hidden dialog boxes on the screen. I say hidden because they are hiding behind some other window. This will happen to me when I am trying to do two or three jobs at the same time. I start an install and while it runs I check my email. The email screens are on top so I do not see the message dialog box that popped up regarding the install. I wonder why the install is taking so long. Then I finish the email and close the program. Now I see the message. So much for multitasking! Win+D would have cleared the desktop and I would not have seen the message. Win+M minimizes all windows having a minimize button. The messags dialog boxes will remain.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Non-Breaking Hyphen
In a world of numbers, we have many occasions where we do not want a series of numbers with hyphens to be split at the end of a line in Word. When hyphenation is turned on, this is what will automatically occur. There are even a few hyphenated words you might like to keep together. What numbers am I speaking about? How about telephone numbers, social security numbers, credit card numbers, zip codes including the plus four digits, and others.

The solution is simple. Use a non-breaking hyphen instead of a hyphen. They look the same.

- is a Hyphen
‑ is a Non-Breaking Hyphen

So instead of pressing the hyphen, press Ctrl+Shift+hyphen When you toggle show/hide to display the formatting marks, the non-breaking hyphen will be twice as long as the normal hyphen. When it prints, it will be the same length.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Backing Up
It is frustrating to find your self at a browser window and not having a back button on the toolbar. You right-click hoping to see a Back option. There is a way... Alt+LeftArrow backs you up one screen in the browser. And as you might guess, Alt+RightArrow moves you forward one screen.
To the Desktop
Now here is a simple shortcut you can use all the time. The screen is filled with open windows and you need to find an icon which resides on the desktop. If you have the Quick Launch toolbar open, you might have an icon to clear the open windows by minimizing them all with one click. If that is not available to you, or even if it is, try the keyboard instead -- Win+D. All the open windows are minimized and you have access to the desktop. To open one of those closed windows, find the shortcut on the taskbar and click once. The window is restored.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Reveal Codes
As an old WordPerfect user, the one feature I miss having now that I am a Word user is reveal codes. There are many times when something has gone wrong with my document and I am at a loss on how to correct it. I usually revert to a select all and copy, then I paste to a notebook file, and then copy paste back to a new Word document. It sure would be nice to reveal codes and find the problem. Well there is a way to get reveal codes in Word! A program called CrossEyes by Levit James does that and more. You can download a trial version at
Locking Up
When I leave my car in a parking lot, I always lock it up. I do the same when I leave the house. But, what about when I leave my computer unattended? Sure, I could power it off, but that means waiting for it shut down and waiting again for it to boot back up. I could log off, but that requires shutting down all open windows. There is another choice. Simply type Win+L (that is the Windows key between the left Ctrl and Alt keys) and the sign on screen appears. All your applications are still open but without your password they cannot be accessed.
I find the right-click, Send To function to be very useful. However, the list does not always contain the places I would like to send my file or folder to. It also contains some entries I will never use. Well this is easy to fix. Click Start > Run, then type sendto and press Enter. The Send To folder opens. Delete what you no longer want to see in the list and drag the shortcuts you want to add to it.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Behind the Scene
If your machine is anything like mine, it has gotten sluggish since you first turned it on. And if you look at the tasks running in the background, you will see why. I cannot believe how much stuff is in memory eating up cycles all the time. What should be there and what should not, is the question.

To view the list of running processes, right-click on the taskbar and select Task Manager. Then on the Windows Task Manager dialog box, click the Processes tab. Right now I have 56 running processes! By looking at the Image Name, you can tell what is running, but the name usually is meaningless and sometimes what it seems to mean is nothing like what it really is.

Check out They have a number of useful things for you to solve problems. One is the Task List. It shows all the possible entries in your Task List and tells what they are used for. Now you can go through your list and intelligently decide to remove an item or not.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

My Computer
I like to use as few mouse clicks as I can as I navigate around in Windows XP. And when I need to open My Computer to explore my USB Drive, I find it a pain to have to click Start > My Computer then wait for the window to open to find the icon for my USB drive. I know I can use the Win+E shortcut to open the Explorer, but even that takes a while.

Try this out. I think you will like it as much as I do. Right-click Start, then click Properties. On the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties dialog box, click customize, and then click the Advanced tab. Scroll down to find My Computer, and then click the option button “Display as a menu”. Then OK and OK to apply it.

Try it out. Click Start > My Computer and notice you now have an instant additional menu that displays all the drive icons. No more waiting for the My Documents window to open.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Full Screen in Any Window
Most know about using double-click on the title bar of a window to toggle it from full screen to restore size. Many even know that F11 will produce a full screen of the window--only one line of a combined toolbar appears on top. What was new to me was the use of Ctrl + double-click on the title bar. This creates a full screen display from the restore screen size. To get out of the full screen view, click the restore button or F11. Try it.
Big Files
When there is a LARGE file that needs sending to one or more, email can be a problem. Your email carrier may allow it, but the recipients might not. Different email carriers have different size restrictions on attachments. Then there is the security issue. Many are blocking and even rejecting any email that contains an attachment. Well, there are a number of Web sites out there that allow you to post your file(s) and send others the link to it by email. This eliminates two issues, (1) the maximum attachment issue and (2) the blocking of attachments. Since they have already read your email, clicking on the supplied link to get the file is easy and foolproof. Try it out at
Ever wish you could have a spell checker in a program that does not support one? Like when using Notepad to create a web page, or WordPad to write a quick note, or even in your email program... If you are connected, as most of us are, head over to Just copy/paste your word or words to be checked and click the "SpellCheck Text" button. When done, if you found errors, copy/paste the corrected text back. Quick, easy, and free.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Don't think you do not have a problem with spyware. If you are on the Internet, emailing, or simply installing software from others, you probably have it installed and don't even know it. I had been using a program called Ad-Aware on a regular basis; I still recommend it. Another one is Spybot. Both companies have lite versions that are free and more powerful versions you can purchase.

Microsoft is beta testing its version. I downloaded it the other day and it works great, finding some spyware that the other programs missed. And it runs all the time, protecting my computer from receiving spyware before it infects and slows down my system.

If you want to give it a try, download the free beta version at:

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Color Matching
Speaking of color, Word’s color palette is missing the eyedropper that is found in FrontPage. If you want to match the color of text to a color on a graphic or image you are inserting, you have to select the More Colors option on the color palette and try your best to get a color that is close to the one in the graphic.

Pixie can make that task much easier. When you mouse over the color you wish to match, Pixie displays the RGB color values. Armed with this information, you can easily select the Custom tab in the color palette and key in the values for an exact match. Pixie can be downloaded at
Complementary Colors
When using color, it is important to use colors that go together. I found a Web site that really helps out in this area. It is called ColorMatch 5k and can be found at

Here is what the Web site has to say about the program: This utility will help you select a matching 6-color palette for your website. Define a single color that you like. Matching colors will be calculated. Click a color in the palette to promote it to the primary color.

There is nothing to download and install. Just select the primary color using there sliders right in your browser, the utility displays 5 complementary colors for you to use in your next Web page or flyer or presentation or whatever...

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Another Keyboard Shortcut
Keyboarders will like this IE6 feature. You no longer have to reach for the mouse to key an address into the address bar. Simply press Alt+D and type away (or Ctrl+V to paste that URL you just copied from somewhere else). No, you do not have to click GO with the mouse either. Just press Enter on the keyboard.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Byte Cost
I cannot get over how much it costs for storage today. Hard drives of 80gb or more are going for less than $100. Floppy disks are out as a means to get data from one computer to another. They used to be the media of choice for the sneaker net fanatics.

Now they use a USB drive (aka thumb drive, flash disk, among other names). I have a few of them and use them all the time. They are great for backups of critical files; I keep at least one in my pocket at all times. You can get a 512mb one for less than $50.

The other day I found an external 80gb USB 2.0 hard drive at Staples for $89. I am dating myself, but I remember paying over $500 for a 40mb hard drive and that was not too many years ago! The cost per byte for storage is at an all time low.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Phishing Update
I just read an interesting article regarding the HOSTS file that resides on all our WindowsXP machines. And Phishers are finding ways to add postings to that file. Short story is that the file is used when you attempt to goto a site on the Web. When you type a URL in the address bar, the browser goes to this file first. If it finds an entry, you are directed to the IP address listed, otherwise you are sent to a DNS server to find the correct IP addrss. This can cause your browser to be redirected to the wrong IP address!

Read the entire article at

Monday, January 24, 2005

I would have preferred to teach today rather than shovel. That was a lot of snow! Nothing like a blizzard to bring in the Spring semester. Wednesday will be the starting day for each of my classes. If you are registered, you are already set up in WebCT for your course. Goto my Web site at and click the WebCT icon to get started. CU Wednesday. Oh, if you are signed up for 251-03 on Monday nights, we will start next Monday. You can check out WebCT as well.

Friday, January 21, 2005

For those in my Web Development class, and anyone else with an interest, this is a good paper on design received from Site Pro News this morning. Check it out. Site Pro News present a number of good papers on a regular basis. Sign up for thier ezine to get the latest in your mailbox.

SiteProNews: Design Your Site for Traffic in 2005

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Wow, last semester went by awful quick! I never added to this Bolg even once... shame on me. I promise to be better this year. Spring 2005 starts next Monday, January 24th.

ALL my courses will be using WebCT v4.1 which is online as a pilot program. If you are using WebCT in another course, you might be using the older v3.8 as well, but not in any of my courses.

To signon to the pilot version:

OR goto my Web site at and click on the WebCT link right next to th Blog link...