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protonic.com Newsletter
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Issue 34 - January 21, 2010
Table of contents:
????New computer guide
????Secunia update & Security suggestion
????Computer Access
????Words of the week
????For total peace of mind: Backupify
????Free Software via Trialpay
????Website of the Month
????Help spread the word
????Author?s Note
????Credits

New computer guide[ TOP ]
This was originally written before Christmas. Perhaps not as much relevance now but still useful if you?ve recently obtained a new machine!

I thought I?d run through some suggestions to set your machine up for a long and happy life. Another great guide is available, amongst a host of other brilliant guides, at jimmyr.com [1].
So, you?ve loaded Windows* for the first time. Unless you have a netbook your operating system is likely to be Windows Vista or Windows 7. The first thing you need to do whatever the computer is to uninstall anything the manufacturer has put on that you don?t want. Go to the control panel then ?add/remove programs? or ?programs and features?. Common items are antivirus trials (uninstall then install Microsoft Security Essentials [2] or for extra security but with slightly intrusive popups every now and then Avira Personal [3]), Microsoft Office Trials* and various shortcuts to websites such as ebay. You may even want to go the whole way and do a complete reinstall of windows but that?s not really necessary.

The next thing you?ll want is an internet connection, hopefully you?ve managed to set this up. If you?ve already got broadband installed then it should theoretically just be a case of plugging in the Ethernet cable or joining the wireless network (wireless keys are usually found on the back of your wireless router).

With an internet connection, you?ve now a world of free software open to you. For a pretty comprehensive guide see http://www.techsupportalert.com/ - mentioned in a previous edition. As a basic guide I?d suggest you download and install Microsoft Security Essentials [2], VLC Media Player [4], Paint.NET [5], a secondary browser (Firefox [6], Google Chrome [7], Opera [8] are all better options than Internet Explorer in my opinion), iTunes [9], Picasa 3 [10], CCleaner [11], 7-zip [12] (if you don?t do a lot of downloading you probably won?t need this one). If you?re going to install the whole lot, perhaps along with some other software then I recommend Ninite [13] which will install most if not all of this lot in one go. You may also want to download windows live essentials [14]. Another thing strongly recommended is to uninstall Adobe Reader and replace it with Foxit Reader [15]or if you only ever read PDF documents then Sumatra pdf [16] (doesn?t allow you to select text but superfast).

Phew! If you survived that step your computer should now be fully equipped to do almost anything. If you?re running Windows 7 you might like to right click on the desktop and go to ?personalize? ? there?s a large range of customization options including the option to have a slideshow wallpaper (for super-duper wallpapers see Interface Lift [17] and for some extra premade themes see the Microsoft Personalization gallery [18]).

In the bottom right you may see a blue icon related to updating windows. Install every update and make sure you set it to automatic. The white flag is the ?action centre? and will tell you to set up backup. Seems pointless on a brand new machine but however annoying it?s very important that you backup your computer unless you really don?t care about losing all your files. A good backup solution is GFI Home edition [13], see support alert for other options.

Windows 7 users might want to change the icons on their taskbar ? just drag and drop shortucts to word etc there. You could then delete the desktop icons. If you want to pin files or documents to the jump list right-click menu then drag and drop onto the respective icons.

[1] http://youtube.jimmyr.com/
[2] http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/
[3] http://www.free-av.com/
[4] http://www.videolan.org/vlc/
[5] http://www.getpaint.net/
[6] http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/
[7] http://www.google.com/chrome/
[8] http://www.opera.com/
[9] http://www.apple.com/itunes/
[10] http://picasa.google.com/
[11] http://www.ccleaner.com/
[12] http://www.7-zip.org/
[13] http://ninite.com/
[14] http://download.live.com/
[15] http://www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf/reader/
[16] http://blog.kowalczyk.info/software/sumatrapdf/index.html
[17] http://interfacelift.com/wallpaper_beta/downloads/date/any/
[18] http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/downloads/personalize
[19] http://www.gfi.com/backup-hm

*If you?ve got a version of office to put on then great. Otherwise there?s Microsoft works for basic programs ? just remember to save files made with the ?works word processor? as ?rich text format? (choose in the box below the box where you choose the filename- extension ?.rtf?). Microsoft are giving away Office 2010 Beta [4] ? it comes with a years license, perhaps enough time to save up for the home/student edition, which I recommend you buy from amazon or another online store instead of somewhere like PC World or Walmart. Alternatively there?s the complete office suite ?open office? [5] which, whilst it has its faults, is pretty amazing considering that it?s free. I could go on, for example SoftMaker are actually giving money to charity in turn for you downloading their 2008 office suite free of charge [6] or there?s a basic document editor with international spellcheck ?Abiword? [7])

[4] http://www.microsoft.com/office/2010/en/default.aspx
[5] http://www.openoffice.org/
[6] http://loadandhelp.com/home-en.html
[7] http://www.abisource.com/

Secunia update & Security suggestion[ TOP ]
In the previous article, I should have said that Secunia PSI makes certain that you are notified when a program on your computer has a security flaw, instead of saying it helps you keep all programs updated. Programs with security problems should be updated as soon as possible. As for programs without security problems, updating is the user's choice, but usually recommended to take advantage of bug fixes and new/improved features. To check which of your other programs need updates, you should use Update Notifier [1].
Essentially Secunia PSI will keep your computer secure but not necessarily up to date.

This was pointed out by a reader who has written a great guide to computer security, if you really want to keep nasties out then I recommend you read it [2]. Support alert also provide a similar guide [3].

[1] http://cleansofts.org/view/update-notifier.html
[2]http://www.adrive.com/public/099ac1cc41c0fdd481d49ddffb3e989d424a38e6ebd2100f0d848d5b9c727579.html (expires February 20th)
[3] http://www.techsupportalert.com/how-to-secure-your-pc.php

Computer Access[ TOP ]
After the positive response of my previous article about Harry Potters first computer there?s going to be a regular segment for those less tech savvy readers. I think one of the worst aspects of computers is all the jargon, meaning that even if you do have a manual or guide it?s near impossible to understand. The first port of call I recommend if you get into this situation is computer hope?s dictionary [1]. However, I?ll also be including some common terms each newsletter (see below).

There is a wealth of resources for obtaining computer help online. Of course the best place you can go to obtain help with computer problems is protonic.com but otherwise there are many forums such as techguy [2], Dear Wandy (made by the magazine PC Zone and actually very good) and 5 star support. For a guide to the various sites available see this page from support alert [4].

So, if you encounter a problem and still have an internet connection there are places to go online for assistance. What with the vast range of potential computer problems this is often the best way forward. However, you may not immediately need to create an account somewhere, ask your question then wait for an answer as invariably someone will have had the problem before you and asked that same question. For example, if your volume control icon has disappeared from the System Tray** then a quick search for ?volume control icon disappeared? will bring you on the first page a guide to re-enabling the volume control icon [5] (the problem may be more complex than this but just as an example). Sometimes you won?t know how to phrase your problem for a search engine ? four example if you don?t know what the desktop is and your background picture has disappeared you?ll be stuck with queries such as ?picture disappeared? which is less likely to lead to accurate results. In these cases it?s worth trying a few searches but failing that you?ll need to post on protonic.com or a forum.

The use of search engines doesn't stop there ? you can search for pretty much any word your computer has told you that you don?t understand and find an explanation. If you get an error message about ?qttask? a quick search will reveal that ?qttask? is part of quick time, adding an icon to the system tray for ease of use. Sometimes you get error messages when your computer loads up for the first time simply requiring you to click ?ok? before they appear to cause no further problems. It?s definitely worth looking these up as they could be evidence of a virus infection.

[1] http://www.computerhope.com/jargon.htm
[2] http://forums.dearwandy.com/
[3] http://www.5starsupport.com/
[4] http://www.techsupportalert.com/best_free_tech_support_sites.htm
[5] http://www.petri.co.il/add_volume_control_in_windows_xp.htm

Words of the week[ TOP ]
Window(s) ? these are what the Microsoft operating system is named after. Essentially when you open a document or run a program the thing that appears is a window. By clicking different things on your taskbar* you switch from window to window. Windows usually have three icons in the top left ? a red cross to close, a square to maximise(2 squares to ?demaximise?) and a line to minimize. It will also most likely have a title at the top and an icon representing the program in the top left. Error messages are usually contained within windows.

Taskbar ? the bit usually at the bottom of your screen ? in the far left it has the start menu button, in the far right it has the system clock. In the middle it shows your running programs. You may also have a quick launch bar and on windows 7 you have icons that are there constantly. **On the right are icons for battery life, volume control and network access ? the area in which they are contained is called the? System Tray?.

Icon ? something that you click/double click to open a file/folder

Cursor ? the thing that moves when you move the mouse

Desktop ? the screen that comes up when you first turn on your computer. It usually has a picture as the background which you can change by right clicking on it and going to ?properties?. Here there are icons! To quickly access the desktop you can hold down the windows button (usually next to the right hand ?Alt?) and then press ?d? press it again to restore your windows.

Webmail: Email that you access by going to a website, for example Hotmail, windows live, Yahoo Mail, Google Mail?

For total peace of mind: Backupify[ TOP ]
These days we store an enormous amount of data online. Everything from your webmail account to your facebook status updates are stored ?in the cloud? and are effectively in the hands of someone else. The chances of the servers on which your data is stored failing is relatively low and, even if they do, there will be backups in place so that you don?t even notice that a problem ever existed. However, accidents have happened in the past in which people have lost data that has been stored by some online service. Short of keeping a copy of everything on your hard drive (a process that isn?t all that straightforward and very inconvenient) we?re somewhat at the mercy of the companies that are looking after our data. Here?s where Backupify [1] comes in. Free until January 31st, it will back up your online services to?another online service. But this does dramatically decrease the odds of you losing your date and, once more, you can download the data from Backupify to your hard disk = 3 backups!

The service is easy to use ? simply sign up then enter the usernames and passwords of the accounts you want to backup. It backs up a whole range of services such as flickr, Hotmail, Facebook and twitter. Apart from anything else it?s good for peace of mind and you get a nice warm feeling knowing that you swiped a product for free that will soon be given away commercially!

[1] http://www.backupify.com/

Free Software via Trialpay[ TOP ]
I recently got an amazing deal on Avira Antivirus Premium. Free antivirus isn?t exactly hard to come by ? I could get the same product from Avira with a few popups as a direct download [1]. However, after using the wonderfully quiet Microsoft Security Essentials any intrusiveness would have been too much. The only straightforward way of removing the popups from Avira is to buy the premium version.

Anyway Avira, amongst other companies such as AVG has teamed up with trialpay to give their software away for free. How trialpay works is that you get one product free in return for trying another. Sometimes these ?trial? products cost more than the product you were going to buy in the first place but for others are actually free as well.

Anyway to cut the story short I clicked the link on the Avira website[2]then chose the offer for ?emusic.com? ? this service offers a free trial period and if you cancel your account within that time you don?t pay a thing (though they take card information to prevent people from filling out the offer repeatedly). So I signed up for emusic ? they give all new users 25 free downloads, after which point you start paying. Within the hour I had signed up, got my Avira Premium license, downloaded 24 tracks and cancelled my account. So essentially I was given 25 tracks in return for being given ?20 worth of software. Only certain companies work with trialpay so this tip might not be all that useful to you but I felt it was too good a deal not to share!

[1] http://www.freeav.com/en/index.html
[2] http://www.freeav.com/en/trialpay_download/1/avira_antivir_personal__free_antivirus.html

Website of the Month[ TOP ]
If you are at all interested in the latest goings on in the technology world then you simply must check out Techmeme (http://techmeme.com/). The homepage shows all the latest stories in order of popularity and invariably interest. I frequent the site several times a day ? it?s somewhat addictive but there?s always at least one exciting news story each day during the week. Give it a try!

Help spread the word[ TOP ]
At protonic.com we would like to ask that you help to spread the word about the services we provide.

If you run a website of your own, why not consider adding a link to us, you may find some of your site visitors will appreciate it!: http://www.protonic.com/?page=link

Perhaps you have a few friends or family members who are forever asking you for help with their computers? Why not tell them about us!: http://www.protonic.com/?page=refer

Or perhaps you or someone you know has the technical knowledge to join our team of volunteers: http://www.protonic.com/?page=join

Author?s Note[ TOP ]
You?ll notice there?s been an almost two month gap since the last newsletter. I?ve got exams next week which to a certain extent decide my future career and they?ve dominated my life a bit! I?m afraid that I?ll have to drop to one newsletter a month for now. This newsletter is also a good 600 words shorter than usual. With a bit of luck Februarys edition will be sparkling with brilliance and be full worth the wait!

Credits[ TOP ]
Newsletter Administrator - Ross Connor (ross@protonic.com)

This issue has been entirely written by Philip McMahon (philip@protonic.com)





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