Archive for March 31, 2008

[CCC News] Assorted News 5 :)

[CCC News] Assorted News 5 🙂

In this edition:

Important News
I don’t have any!

Security News

What’s New on the ‘Net

Zoom in on webpages
Clean those Fans!
Easy way to manage passwords

CCC and Charity
The Quiet and Loud Mouse story
Exetel Pricing going up?
Quiet Kingswood
How to make the computer read to you
Old Editions

For Sale / Donation:
Ancient Pcs $50
15″ screens $10

Important News

Nothing in particular jumps out and deserves the title of Important News at the moment. Perhaps that’s Good News? 🙂


Every now and then you hear some horror story of some government laptop going missing, taking with it the personal and financial details of thousands of people. This can so easily be avoided if those corporations would encrypt the information.

Chances are some of you are, like myself, also responsible for holding ‘sensitive’ information. Have you thought about what would happen if someone took off with your computer? Or how about those memory sticks that love to go AWOL 🙂 You might like to consider having a play with TrueCrypt – a free program that can make encrypted virtual hard disks.

In my case, I use it to encrypt part of the laptop. All emails, documents, and Instant Messages are stored in the encrypted area; so should someone manage (or bother!) to nick it, they’d have nearly no hope of getting that information. (A password alone is not enough to get the information in my case as you can have secret ‘key files’ which if they’re not present, will not let you get the information out.

It’s a little challenging to set up at first, of course, but offers the best security.

An alternative exists and is built into Windows XP and Vista, where you can right click a file or folder, choose Properties, and then tick the “Encrypt Contents to Secure Data” box. This works pretty well, but only uses your logon password for security. Another downside is that it also prevents those files from being defragmented, so if you have a lot of encrypted files, the computer can get slow.


YouTorrent is a new Torrent File search website. If you’re a BitTorrent user, you might find it useful to find well seeded downloads.

Torrents are a way for people to distribute large files without needing to have a central server. This system has become popular in recent years as a means for distributing movies and TV shows on the Internet – albeit often of questionable legality. See for the whole story 🙂

If you are looking for a BitTorrent program, I recommend uTorrent as it does not carry any advertising, etc. Of course, be careful as most BitTorrent downloads are big – don’t even think about it if you’re on Telstra’s 200MB or 400MB plans!.

Zoom in on webpages

Here’s a feature I really find hard to live without! It’s been in Firefox for years, and now Internet Explorer 7 has it too.

Simply hold down the Ctrl key and press the + or – buttons. It makes the writing bigger or smaller.

Many webpages use quite small writing in order to fit more stuff on the screen, but particularly in the case of laptops it can make the writing too small to read comfortably.

Sometimes pages go a bit screwy when you do this, but reducing the size restores the problem. (Writing overlaps, etc.)

Clean Those Fans 🙂

The recent warm weather has seen an increase in computers failing due to having too much dust in their CPU fans. Computers are a bit like vacuum cleaners when they’re running, often constantly drawing air in from the front and blowing it out the back – but since there’s no ‘bag’ the dust gets stuck in the metal cooling fins instead.

Most computers will simply shut down if they get too hot, but not all are set to do this, and they can cook themselves and simply stop working after a while – or get erratic.

So, perhaps once a year (or more regularly if you’re in a dusty place) take the side panel off and flick the dust out with a paint brush. If you have an air compressor, you can use that as well. Portable spa bath air pumps also work.

Laptops also have fans, and you can usually see and feel where the hot air comes out. They’re not so easy to take apart however, so instead you can often get away with simply blowing hard into the outlet and then plucking the muck out of the fan inlet.

Of course, if you’re concerned about breaking something, I can do this work for you 🙂

Easy Way to Manage Passwords

A common complaint from people these days is how many passwords they have to remember. So, here’s a tip that might help you.

1 – Create a Microsoft Word document.

2 – Enter all the passwords you want to remember into it.

3 – Click File –> Save As …

… and while the Save As box is open, look for and click on the “Tools” button, choose General Options

4 – Click in the “Password to Open” box, and choose your most secure but memorable password. Enter it here, then save the file with whatever name you want.

That’s it.

Now you can store that file on a memory stick so that you have access to all your passwords wherever you are, provided you remember the one to open the Word document

A word of warning of course! Computers are so good at working out passwords now (because they can try millions of combinations a minute) that it is better to have a longer password than a short one. Perhaps a phrase is a better option – like “The dog was born on a Tuesday” etc. There may potentially be software out there to bypass the Microsoft Word password too, but it’s still safer than having them on a piece of paper!

CCC and Charity?

I’ll admit to often deliberately walking around the back of the Guyra Bus Shelter charity stand when it’s operational, and avoiding charity stalls in general. Some might view this as ‘snobbery’ or lack of charity – but really it’s just because I don’t want to donate in that manner. (Plus, I’m often a busy fella!) Instead, I contribute to charity and other NonProfits by the 30% reduction in hourly rates that I offer them on any work carried out. That’s fair I reckon?


One of the easy recent jobs was a complaint of a broken keyboard on a laptop. The owner usually uses a separate cordless keyboard on the laptop since that’s more comfortable. The symptoms were recognisable as a stuck “Shift” key, and there was a satisfying crunch as the crumb under the shift key was crushed by a keystroke, thereby restoring the laptop to health!

The ‘Quiet and Loud’ Mouse Story.

Since Armidale and Guyra are small towns, and there’s much competition in my arena, I am pretty diverse in the repairs I’ll carry out. This story is from a customer who had a broken stereo. The volume control knob was broken, and it was blind, so it could no longer see the remote control – sure signs that senility was kicking in on this cheap Asian stereo. (The remote control tested fine.) Taking the cover off, I was able to operate the volume by shorting various connectors together – which surprised them, but of course was not the most practical way to turn the music up! So, I used the same solution for them that I used on the $50 dishwasher @ home – an old Mouse! Right button is now Louder, Left button is Quieter.

A picture is at

Exetel Pricing going up?

Exetel is unusual in that it’s manager has his own Blog in which he posts his thoughts. One thing that’s troubled him for a while is that they are reselling ADSL via Telstra’s network. Indeed, anyone in Armidale and Guyra using Broadband is actually using Telstra resold connections. He’s a bit spooked by the change of government as well as changes in global financial markets, and Telstra’s retailing cheaper than wholesaling strategies, and appears to be planning to up the activation fees on Exetel plans to slow growth.

I’m not really sure where this is headed for us out here in the sticks. I believe they’re looking at moving people over to wireless broadband where possible, but until we get 3G carriers other than Telstra out here, that’s not an option for us. I don’t believe they’re going to try to disconnect existing customers, but it means that for me as an agent, I might have to look for alternatives for new customers looking for reasonably-priced Broadband. (The 3G stuff is rumored to be coming soon!)

Since I’m not in Big Business, I don’t see what’s going on clearly in the financial markets, etc; but can understand the need to reduce the rate of growth if that is deemed necessary as conditions change. I think in this case he’s concerned about future pending changes rather than current ones 🙂

You can read his post at….Bad-News-On-The-Door-Step,-I-Couldnt-take-One-More-Step…html

I act as an agent for Exetel because they have among the best pricing of any provider, and of course there is a small income for CCC from it as well. It was the best way I could find to migrate from Dialup to Broadband since the market for tiny ISPs like myself has shrunk dramatically over the last 10 years.

Quiet Kingswood

The noisy exhaust is fixed at last, after bartering a computer repair for a bit of assistance. It’s tricky when you rely on a vehicle so much as it’s hard to live without it! I can understand how Taxi drivers feel! Speaking of taxis….

How to make the computer read to you. – one of the first ever e-Books. Have trouble reading from a screen? Try and have the computer read it to you instead.

Old Editions

The Mailing List software did something I didn’t expect, and squashed all 2007’s editions. So instead, for the time being I’m posting them onto the CCC Blog.

For Sale: Old Computers & Screens.

If you know anyone who needs a cheap computer, I have some 400MHz PCs here with XP on them. Only $50. Good enough for general letter writing, but a bit slow for modern Internet.

Also for sale is a garage wall of 15″ CRT screens – only $10 each. Their 14″ bretheren are being used as anchors for tarps.

If I cannot find a buyer for these old PCs, some may go to Charities.

Next Newsletter: Podcasts Explained.

[CCC News] Assorted News 6 :)

[CCC News] Assorted News 6 🙂

In this edition:

Important News
Busy Busy Busy!
Equipment-Free VoIP pricing.
Telstra won’t like this!

What’s new on the ‘Net

Scrolling on a Laptop
What are Podcasts?

Flashing and Hitting?
Merc Madness
Old Editions

Busy Busy Busy!

Some of you might have been just a little disappointed with my response times in the last month or so. There’s a few reasons for this!

Black Mountain Taxi?

While my other half’s recovering from an arm operation, I am taking her to work in Armidale and back every weekday. This should finish at the end of this week all being well, but has meant a shortage of free time.

A Dying Friend.

We have a friend in Coffs Harbour who is 87 years old and suffering from Motor Neurone Disease. As a result, I’m traveling to Coffs Harbour each Friday night, returning Sunday night, which knocks out most weekend office repairs, etc. Friends are important!

A Dying Laptop.

My two year old Clevo laptop died 10 days ago. Well, it didn’t actually die, but it has developed a fault where if you pick it up or move it, it freezes. I’ve stripped it down twice in an attempt to resolve the problem, but it appears to be a hairline fracture somewhere on the mainboard. I was always a bit concerned about the Clevo laptop because it lacks a reinforced internal chassis, making it vulnerable to damage through flexing.

I have now purchased a new Toshiba laptop to replace the old Clevo. I did consider a Dell laptop since you get a bigger screen, etc, for the same price; but after some research I found this report (,4149,1186140,00.asp ) from PC Mag US which stated, among other things, only Dell and Compaq have worse-than-average scores in this category; in both cases, about one in four notebooks needed work. Those odds are too high for my liking.

From XP to Vista and Back

Of course, the new laptop came with Vista. I’ve used Vista quite a few times now and it does work OK most of the time. However, it gave me some grief with TrueCrypt, so I ended up reverting to XP. This is a bit of a challenge because XP doesn’t know about new Hard Disk drives, so to install it you have to either find a floppy drive, or make your own XP installation disk with extra drivers built in to it to install it. I may return to Vista later, once the mysterious problems with file transferring, etc, have been resolved.

There’s still a few bugs in the new laptop that need ironing out, but after about 8 hours of working on it, I’ve got it working well enough – well enough to carry on business as usual rather than having to use an old one to remotely access the sick Clevo.

Equipment Free VoIP Pricing

The trial of no-equipment-needed VoIP has gone very well. However, there’s no way for me to directly monetise the service, so from here on I’m introducing a $5 administration fee for each recharge, to help cover the costs in time and paperwork required to proxy the payments. The rates are as follows:

Call any Landline in Australia: 20 cents untimed.
Call any Mobile in Australia: 22 cents per minute, plus 10c connection fee.
Many overseas calls are only 3 cents a minute.

Note: You do not need Internet access to use this prepaid VoIP service. You also incur no cost on your telephone line. Here’s how it works.

It’s a bit like the early days of the telephone, where you picked up the phone and spoke to the operator, and then she called you back when she had found the other line and was ready to connect you! (Funny how old things come back!) Except, instead you dial 82078900 (which comes up engaged) and just hang up. Shortly thereafter your phone rings, and you pick it up. It says ‘You have 9 dollars and 90 cents. Enter the number you want followed by hash key.” Put the number in and it rings the other person.

To simplify the process, simply program 82078900 into a speed dial button.

Telstra won’t like this!

And here’s another handy tip! If you have a NextG or other prepaid mobile phone where the rates are around $1 per minute, you can use the same process, and instead you’ll be paying 22 cents per minute plus either 20c untimed for landlines or 22c per minute to call another mobile. That’s at least half price on your expensive to use mobile! (And Telstra gets none of it, because the exchange called you – – you called the exchange but it was engaged.)

Disclaimer: I am pretty sure that’s how it works, but have not verified 100% as I don’t have access to the last bill here.


DoubleTwist is a new program from DVD John. I’ve not had enough time to play with it, but what it’s meant to do is remove any copy protection (DRM) from any of your music and videos so that you can transfer them from one computer to another, or onto your iPod, MP3 player, etc. (DRM, for example, prevents you from copying your music from one computer to another, etc.) If you’re in a situation where you want to be able to transfer music from one computer or device to another, it might be worth checking out.

Scrolling on a Laptop

Most of you would by now have used a mouse that has a wheel on the top – otherwise known as a scroll mouse. The wheel on the top of the mouse allows you to move long pages (such as this email) up and down on the screen simply by turning the wheel. You soon get quite used to them, and then miss them when they’re not around! Most new laptops allow you to do the same using that trackpad thing which you probably hate. To see if yours can do it, put your finger in the top right corner of the track pad, and then slide your finger towards you. There’s a fair chance the page will move up and down as you move your finger in this area. Some can do left and right as well in a similar fashion.

What are Podcasts?

Podcasts are basically recorded radio shows that you can listen to. The key difference is that you can set your computer to fetch them automatically as they are released. This can be quite handy if you’re a person who has an MP3 player and would like to have your favourite shows put on there automatically. At this stage, unless you have iTunes, you’ll need some software to handle podcasts – for which I recommend Juice.

Here’s a few of my favourite places to find podcasts.

ABC’s shows –

Tech Shows –

Merrick and Rosso –

Free Audio Books –

Unfortunately Podcasts are not quite as straight-forward as they should be, but once set up they are reliable. I am happy to help you set up your computer to automatically copy the podcasts onto your player where it’s possible 🙂 Some of my oldest customers use them! Side note: Not recommended for people on very restrictive download plans.

Reminder: These newsletters have both useful information, and almost pointless banter as well! The useful information is usually placed at the top of the newsletter, and at some point, usually about half way down, it turns into generic chatter. Guess where you are now! 😉

Flashing and Hitting?

Perhaps it’s just because I’m doing more Armidale time than normal, and perhaps it’s because the world is getting faster than the Kingswood, but I’ve noticed two trends in the last month. Once is the number of people who flash their lights at me. Sometimes I actually get to see who it was, and smile and wave back; but often it’s just a friendly hello; or a warning that the police are coming! (Something which doesn’t worry me for reasons you can probably guess!)

The other, slightly more concerning trend, is the number of people who almost end up wearing my tow bar at traffic lights! The Kingswood is a three speed column shift manual, which means two things. 1 – You get up to about 15-20kph in first. 2 – The shift from first to second takes approx. 1.5 to 2 seconds, during which time the car is ‘coasting.’ This surprises people in Automatics who don’t realise that there’ll be this moment of deceleration. I’d put a warning sticker on it, but by the time that was explained on a bumper sticker it’d be too late anyway! Oh well, just hope I’m not classed as at fault if someone does end up with a surprise indent in their plastic grille!

Merc Madness

Have you ever had a “Herbie” moment? I’m referring to the scene in the most recent Herbie movie where “Herbie” is being hoisted in the air, doors flapping, on it’s way to a crusher. Well, here in Coffs where I’m staying at the moment, I envisaged such a scene as the 1961 Merc that has for eight years adorned the outside of the shed here, had been scheduled to be sold for scrap metal. To me it was a bit of a waste for what is a rather unique looking car, looking posh from the front, boring from the side and beetle-like at the back. So, I’ve picked it up for the cost of transportation, and will attempt to stop it from deteriorating further. It’s not a car of great value to restore, but for some reason cleaning up old cars is for me an enjoyable passtime when not hands-deep into computer repairs. For those curious – it’s a 190b, and I’ll document the process at

Word Stops Responding opening network files vista

Word Stops Responding opening network files vista

How to fix the following:

How to fix Word Not Responding opening network files Vista
How to fix Excel Not Reponding opening network files Vista
How to fix 30 second delay opening files vista
How to fix 20 second delay opening files vista
How to fix 40 second delay opening files vista
How to fix long delay opening files vista
How to fix one minute delay opening files vista

OK – This solution might not work for all, but after many tests, it did for me with Vista and Norton 360

The solution: Remove Norton 360

The problem: Opening files shared from a PC running norton 360 on Vista Home (and possibly other versions) results in a long delay of up to 60 seconds when opening the files in Office applications on other Vista Home series PCs. Interestingly, Vista Ultimate (and possibly business, not tested) were not affected by the problem.

Other tried solutions that made no difference:
– upgrading to SP1 of Vista
– Turning off differential copying in Windows Features control panel
– Turning off CA Antivirus on a client PC
– Disabling Norton 360 as much as possible.

As usual, the warning is to never by a Norton product.

Cheers, Mike.