About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

July 1, 2015

Windows 10 Upgrade Info from MS

Filed under: ALERTS,Columns,Tech Info — Tags: , , , , , — Ron @ 11:43 am

Here you go a link to answer many of your questions about the Windows 10 upgrade coming on July 29th…if nothing changes.


March 18, 2014

Windows 8.1, Part 3

W8.1, Part 3

For the past several weeks we have taken a look at Windows 8.1, the latest Operating System out of the gates at Microsoft.

I have been “teasing” you about how you can make it operate more like Windows 7 (my favorite OS yet). I talked about how to find programs and more easily start them. We looked at how you close them down and even how to skip the notorious Start Menu (or Metro Screen) entirely when your computer starts.

Today the big question is finally answered, “How do I get the old Windows 7, ‘Start Button’ which functions properly back on my computer?!” It is fairly easy to do; however, not with Windows 8.1 alone. The old W7 start button and menu that went with it is no longer there. The button that is present in W8.1 does some things but nothing like the previous version. So I would recommend you fix it. I would like to note here that Microsoft is rumored to be coming out with the addition of a “new” W8.1 that will have the functionality of the other but we will not know for sure until it hits.

To get a W7-like start button you will have to install a third-party application and there are way too many to pick from. Keep in mind that some of them cost and some are free…you know what type my favorite will be. All of them are under $10 so you will not need a loan if you decide to buy one.

A couple that I have tried are good and free. StartW8 ( and Classic Shell ( which is slick but has many more options than you will need and a little more difficult to set up.

Start Menu 8 ( then it is found under products) is the free one that I like the most. Download it and double click the file to install Start Menu 8. During the install it will ask if you want to install another Iobit application. It is a good program but you most likely will not need it. Once it finishes the new start menu is there, click it and feel good!

imageThere is also a “Settings” window that opens which allows you to customize the start button and menu in several different ways. I suggest leaving them all as the default, but feel free to take a look at them and try options if you like. The only one I would recommend is to click the “Start Button” menu item and change the button’s icon which is just for fun.

If you keep the default settings it will automatically start every time your start your computer. If you wish to get back to the settings for the Start Menu 8 again, click the start button and then “Settings” and change some more settings. You can also delete the desktop icon for the program since you will not need it any longer.

Have fun now that you have a “good” more user friendly version of Windows 8.

March 11, 2014

Windows 8.1, Part 2

Last week I mentioned that I am no longer "afraid" to use Windows 8.1 and that is only 8.1 not 8, about which I still have reservations.  I also said that you need to learn a few new things and make a few "edits" and changes to Windows 8.1 to make it work better for you.  For the following I will figure that you have set up your system to "skip" the W8.1 start screen. 

So today we will look at a few things I think you need to know before you become an 8.1 professional. 

First thing you will notice is that the desktop looks very similar to Windows 7.  One big difference is that there is no longer the familiar, "Start Button" in the lower left-corner.  This feature has been in all Windows OS since Windows 95.  I believe is there largest mistake with 8/8.1 since it was so easy to use and very well accepted by users.  There is a button that resembles the old one but not so helpful, in my opinion.  When clicked it you take you back and forth between the desktop and the start screen.  More on the start key later along with a way to get the old start key and menu back.

image In using 8.1 you will find that when you try to start programs you may have had to hunt for the program for quite a while.  Hopefully, you found it but possibly not…this operating system is not user friendly.   I have found, for me, that the easiest way to find your program is to press the Windows key on your keyboard and start typing what you are looking for.  For instance, I am now typing in Word and need to open an Excel Spreadsheet.  I press the Windows key and type, "excel" and then press enter.  Excel opens up and is ready to roll – easy.  You can search for folders, files, programs, documents containing specific words, etc.  Yes, if you have the word "Doyle" in one file, type "doyle" in the search menu and it will very, very quickly find the file.  Click it to open it. 

To close the program once you are finished, either click File/Close or click the large "X" in the upper right corner, just as in the "old" days.

Not all programs in 8/8.1 close as I said above.  The ones that do not close that way are usually the "native" Windows 8 programs.  Some of them are hard to find out how to close.  That is why I use a quick short-cut key.  This key combo has worked in all of the past versions of Windows OS.  While in the program you want to close, hold down the Alternate key and tap the F4 key (Atl + F4).  It will either ask you to save the current document if needed or shutdown the application automatically.  Be careful that you do not do this while on the desktop or it will ask to shutdown Windows.image

More to come.

March 4, 2014

Let the Party Begin!

~ Or…Windows 8.1, Part 1 ~

Since the beginning of the now infamous Windows 8 in the last quarter of 2012, I have pooh-poohed the notion of ever installing it on any of my computers.  Well, I have fought the good fight and have now succumbed.

I did test W8 several times throughout its premiere period and never really found it to be user friendly.  Even more than that, since the interface significantly changed from Windows 7, you would have no idea how to do some of the more simple things in the operating system.

image I will now make it known to the world that I have installed Windows 8.1 on my Dell notebook.  I have been using it for about 90 days.  I will tell you that there are some things I really appreciate about the new OS, though they are small in number.  Furthermore, there are some things that are in the, “You have got to be kidding me category.”  Other than the few in each of those categories, once you make a few changes and adjustments it works like W7 but is much quicker.

It was recently reported that Microsoft may be offering a free version of W8 to current W7 users just to get people using this “not well received” OS to upgrade.  That is not official but it has been floating around the internet for a little while now.

I would advise most users that upgrading to Windows 8.1 is OK, W8…well not a great idea.  That is because I feel that the large majority of people would not like the original release due to difficulty in the learning curve.  Windows 8.1 is just simpler to use…if you make a few easy edits.

Keep in mind that this is my opinion and I am sure that there are many 8 lovers out there who would disagree.

Let me guide you through a few changes to make the 8.1 experience better than, the “out-of-the-box” version.  First, I suggest again, that you only use W8.1 and not 8.  Next, I suggest that you skip the screen which I call the W8 screen.  In actuality the screen that it boots to is the new W8 start menu.  To me it is a total waste of CPU and screen space since the old start button menu system worked well for all users.

image Go to Control Panel and choose, “Appearance and Personalization” or “Personalization” which depends on where you are and how it is set up.  At the bottom-left corner click “Taskbar and Navigation.”  Click the Navigation tab at the top and look about halfway down the window and put a check mark in “When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start.”  Finally, click Apply (not required but a good habit to start) and OK.  You will no longer see the W8.1 start screen unless you accidentally get there or hover over the “Charms Bar” and click “Start.”

This is not nearly all you need to know but there will be more to follow.

December 31, 2013

The End of an Era

It was born at the end of 2001.  It was greatly received as most everyone who experienced it loved it much better than many of its predecessors.  It entered our computing lives at that time and continued on in new computers into 2010.  It was supposed to disappear from our screens several years ago.  However, due to its popularity and the love of the masses it has lasted for all of this time.  However, the sad news is that it will officially RIP on the eleventh of April, 2014.   

What the heck am I talking about?  Give yourself a minute and guess before you look down.

I am referring to Windows XP.  Yes, as of April, 2014 it will no longer be supported by Microsoft.  It terms of computers 13 years is quite old.  I do not know how to convert it to human years for a comparison. But I can tell you that is a long, long time for an operating system to remain in operation.

Windows XP logo

I encourage you to not think badly of Microsoft for doing this to you.  All operating systems have had an end of life built into them, so this is nothing new.  For instance, Windows 7 support ends January, 2020 and Windows 8, "End of Extended Support" date is January, 2023.  They do not necessarily just do this for the money since software needs to be modernized on occasion in order to keep up with advances in technology.  Computers upgrade and have new features and components which the operating systems must be able to use efficiently so they fade away. 

What does this mean if you are still using Windows XP on your computer?   First, I would suggest that you should have changed to Windows 7 a while back.  If not it will now be easiest to get Windows 8.  Seven is still available in very limited places.  Many new computer manufacturers have downgrade rights which allow you to roll back to Windows 7 Pro.  You need to investigate if that is what you want before a new computer purchase.  Next it means that even if you are running the latest security updates of your antivirus software you could still get viruses.  Windows itself updates to fight viruses but since it will be out of support it will update no more.  You could also be at a security disadvantage if you use MS Internet Explorer as your browser since the newest versions will not run on XP.   

In my opinion one of the worst things to happen to XP lovers who have not upgraded to Windows 7 is Windows 8.  The change from XP to Seven was significant but you could figure it out fairly quickly.  However, the differences in the GUI (Graphical User Interface or the way it looks and operates) is MAJOR from XP to Eight.  You will be lost for quite a while if you skipped Windows 7.

Windows 7 & 8 logo I do not believe the end of extended support will change for XP but these dates are not in stone.  XP has already been extended several times.  Vista was only supported from 2007 through 2011 so you do not always get a long time span. 

I have recently installed Windows 8.1 on one of my computers so next year you will start hearing more about it…until at least 2023.  

September 10, 2013

Nexus 7 (Revisited or the New 2013)

Time and technology march on.  A couple of months ago I wrote about the Nexus 7 and how it compared to my first tablet which was a Toshiba Thrive.  Since then they have come out with a new Nexus 7, called…are you ready for this snazzy name? "Nexus 7 (2013)" Yeah, they even use the parenthesis.  I think that is really forward thinking naming; not.  I have also heard non-official references to the Nexus 7.2.

As luck would have it my wife’s Thrive of many years stopped functioning properly and she had used my Nexus 7 some while we were on vacation.  I told her about the new Nexus that just came out and being the wonderful wife she is, she had an idea.  A great idea in my opinion.  She thought I should let her have my old Nexus 7 (about 5 weeks old) and I should get the 2013 version, since geeks should always check out the new equipment.  What a fantastic and brilliant wife!

Image from Google.comSo I got one a couple of weeks ago.  It really is nice, not a tremendous amount better than version one, but nice none-the-less.

The original 7 had the same 7 inch screen and weights 0.75 of a pound. The newer one is, by comparison a light weight at 0.64 lbs.  The screen resolution is higher than the retina display you have heard about in other tablets.  It has a LED-backlit IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 and 323 pixels per inch.  To those of us who are half-way normal people that just means that it has a very sharp, clear screen.  Movies run on it very well and it advertises a nine hour Hi-Def video playback.  The most I have run it so far was to watch about four hours of HD videos, including some on Netflix.  That took it down to about 50% battery life left.  I had also played a few games and checked email throughout that time.  That makes me believe in their advertised battery length.

It comes with the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean operating system which is the latest one out there.  Google is constantly fixing and updating as I have had two updates since I got mine.

The 2013 model also has a camera on the front (1.2MP) and back (5 MP auto focus camera with face detection; 1080p video recording @ 30fps), unlike the original which only had the front facing camera.  One problem I had with the original is that it would not work with Skype which I had planned on using.  The new one works fine and I have had a decent video conversation using it. 

I will not get into the processor speed here but it is faster, much quicker than the original which was very good, too.  There is a noticeable difference.  The last thing I would mention is that it has two speakers on the back now instead of one so it is advertised as stereo.  In my opinion, it is like all tablets.  The sound system leaves a lot to be desired if you want to listen to high quality music with the tablet speakers but I think that is the same with any tablet.  However, when using a nice headset or ear buds it is very good indeed.

My opinion is that if you are in the market for a good seven-inch tablet this is the one you should take a serious look at. 

August 28, 2012

Windows Tips & Tricks, a great site for coding and statistical information, does a monthly poll on the main operating systems used today and the percentages of users taking advantage of each system.  For July, 2012 it rolls out like this:  Windows 7-53.8%, Vista-3.4%, Microsoft NT-1.2%, Windows XP-26.1%, Linux-4.9% and Mac-8.2%.

W3Schools Stats

It is obvious that Microsoft is currently the ruler of the OS kingdom but of course this could always change.  However, I doubt it will anytime in the near future.  It is also no surprise that the majority of the questions I get involve Windows 7.

I receive a multitude of questions regarding, "How do I…?"  You can fill in the blank.  So today we will take a look at some useful and yet many times overlooked Windows 7 tips.

Here are a few useful keys which help you navigate around the main Windows 7 desktop. First, find the Windows Key (which I will abbreviate "W" in the following commands.)  It is the key located on the lower left corner of your keyboard between the CTRL (Control) and ALT (Alternate) keys.  The majority of the time it will have the Microsoft Windows logo on it.

Now open any program on your computer. Let’s use Internet Explorer for an example. Now press ‘W + Left Arrow‘ key (all four arrow keys are usually located in the central bottom area of your keyboard.)  What happened?  It is now somewhere to the right of where it was previously.  Try it again until it makes its final resting place on the right half of your screen.  Now press ‘W + Up Arrow’.    Yes, it is now maximized.  Try all of the arrow keys. Only one makes me mad.  After you play with them a minute see if you agree with me.  Yes, the one that bugs me is the W + Down Arrow.  Depending on where the window is located on the screen this causes it to minimize.  That is great in itself; however, there is no key board maneuvering that will bring it back up. You will have to use your mouse.

My Computer when putting this article online

Now try ‘W + M.’ Yes, you have now minimized all of your open windows.  Good job!  To bring them back you can use your mouse.  I have one question about all of the slick minimization capabilities:  Why not have a key to bring an app back to its original or maximized size?  Oh well, they didn’t ask me in the first place.

Next, if you are one of the many, many windows users who have several programs opened at one time and want to "clean up" your window try ‘W + Home’ key.  This key combo minimizes and then restores all of your open windows except for the currently active one.  Slick!  To bring them back try it again…poof!  There they are, back where they started.  You must be able to see more than one program at the same time on your monitor to see this work.

Now back to my headache of having all of your programs minimized.  Try this one, ‘W + Tab‘ key, tap the tab key without releasing the Windows key.  This will surprise you if you have not used it before.  You will get a rotating "arc" of all currently open programs on your computer, along with the empty desktop.  Let go of the keys when the one you want to use is at the front of the arc.  Now add one more finger to the trick, try ‘W + Shift + Tab’ and tap the Tab key.  Let me know what you get.  I will see you back here next week.

January 24, 2012

More Android Apps

Thank you for all of the emails over the last couple of weeks regarding the past year in review.  Keep in mind you can find all the articles online at and my site, if you want to catch up.

Many emails asked about the Android Market link (  Before starting you should note that I work for Ntelos Communications, Waynesboro, VA, USA (that should make disclosure folks happy).  I have used Windows, Blackberry, iPhone (not as much) and now Android phones.  Android phones are currently my preferred flavor.  Keep in mind Android is the name of the operating system (created by Google) not the actual phone manufacturer, etc.  Again, that is opinion and I am sure there are a bazillion people out there who would argue with that statement.  But, I write the column…

Android logoThe above mentioned site is the default Google site for apps available for this type of phone.  You can get free apps and some that can cost from less that one dollar to several dollars.  Of course, there are also free apps which are missing the enhanced features you pay for if you get the "Pro" version.  For instance, a game may have two adventure levels for free but if you purchase it you will get all 30 game levels.  There are games, business, utilities, entertainment, education and any other type of applications/programs you can imagine.

According to Distimo (, a company that watches of the stats of mobile apps, as of December, 2011, there were 400,000 Android apps in the marketplace.  Of those applications over 270,000 were free. 

In addition to the Android Market there are many other places to get apps.  You can search for apps online or go to specific sites.  Here are the other two sites I frequent. 

My number two favorite after the default market is the Amazon "Appstore for Android" (  Many of the apps in the market at Amazon and everywhere else are repeated in each site online; however, prices may vary and some are only available at specific sites. 

Why is Amazon my #2?  If you log into the Amazon site you can get one free app every day.  I check the site most every day and have 250+ apps; however, I have only installed about ten of them.  I have the rest in reserve for future use, testing or forgetting about them.  If you buy one (for $0) you do not have to install it on your phone or tablet at that time; or ever.  Some of them are junk but some of them are excellent.  One that currently costs $9.99, "OfficeSuite Pro 5" I got free several months ago.  This application is basically an office program that will allow you to view, create and edit Microsoft Office files, i.e., Word, Excel and PowerPoint files with your smartphone. 

The final site I like is called 101 Best Android Apps (  This is where new apps are released by developers before they are officially approved by Google for the Android Market. 

Wikipedia says that the approval process for apps is that Google, "…places some restrictions on the types of apps that can be published, in particular not allowing ‘sexually explicit material’, ‘Violence and Bullying’, ‘Hate Speech’, ‘Impersonation or Deceptive Behavior’, copyrighted material (without permission)…"

The 101 Best Android Apps site mentioned above allows many of the unapproved ones to be downloaded to your phone as an .apk file (similar to .exe for Windows).  Warning, be very careful when loading an .apk file as it could contain harmful code…check out the reputation of the developer first! 

November 22, 2011

Thrive, Even in the Cold

This should be the final time I write about my Toshiba Thrive.  Here are the 1st and 2nd articles.  (Well, OK most likely the last one.) But two more questions about it need to be answered. These were the most common questions I received about it from my readers.

First, it has Android Honeycomb as its operating system and it has been upgraded once since I got it six to eight weeks ago. Next, I run Nook software on it and it also has Kindle and other book reader apps for it. PDFs can also be read on it. If you do not know what a PDF is, do not worry, just skip that last part.

imageFinally about the Thrive; yes, you can work with Microsoft Word documents on the tablet. However, you will need to purchase an application to do it. I bought one called “OfficeSuite Pro 5” ( from the Android Market, for a whopping $4.99. Yes, the prices for the applications range from free to (I believe the highest I have seen was $19.99.) They are reasonably priced to say the least. With OfficeSuite you can create, edit and save (online or on your tablet) Word, Excel and PowerPoint files along with other neat features.

OK, I think I am done. Be advised; I left a lot out but you will have to read more, email me or buy your own tablet PC and let me know what you think. I always like to hear from you folks.

Here is something you may want to consider purchasing for your tablet, smart phone, iPad or any touch screen using friends for Christmas this year.

Picture this, it is winter time, cold, snowing, icy rain, whatever the case may be ands you have on your nice warm mittens. Then your phone rings, you pick up your phone and see it is someone you really need to talk to. By the time you take off your gloves they have hung up. You then call them back, while your fingers are getting numb. Is there a better solution? You betcha!

imageLook for some touch screen gloves. I have had a pair for a couple of years and they are great. I am not talking about gloves with the finger tips cut off so you can use your touch screen device. These are gloves which actually have a special material built into the finger tips which reacts to your devices just like you were using your bare finger.

Some of them have finger tips that fold up out of the way, but I like the ones mentioned above much better. The special material finger tips work very well without having to do anything that takes more time.

You can find them online anywhere from $15 to over $100. My comment on that is the old, “Let the buyer beware.” My wife found two pairs this week in a local store for less than $5 for both!

July 26, 2011

God Mode

The column that was censored.

If you are one of my regular readers you realize that this column was not in the DNR today.  They contacted me before press time and said that they thought it was too advanced and could cause people to mess up their computers. 

All of these commands are available in the Control Panel anyway, the “God Mode” just allows you to access them in an easier more organized way.

So read on and give it a try if you like.


So here it is for you anyway.  Have fun with it…and don’t mess up your systems.

Microsoft has a great way, or at least traditional way from back in the beginnings of Windows to adjust your computers’ settings.  That way is named, the "Control Panel."  However, there is another way to access the Control Panel information and others more difficult to find.  This is called the "God Mode" and was also available in Windows Vista if you knew how to access that neat feature.

Windows 7  alleged, "God Mode" is actually a shortcut to accessing the operating system’s various control settings.  Reports vary as to how it works for Windows Vista.  The 32-bit version usually works and the 64-bit version does not.   However, I have never tried it in Vista so I cannot comment about personal experiences there.

The term "God Mode" comes from long ago in the history of video games. A player could use different "cheat codes" in a game to gain an unfair advantage over other players.  God Mode meant that the player could not be killed even without having earned available weapons.

First, to set up God Mode in Windows 7 (and Vista if you would like to try) is very easy.  (Click the screenshots at the end.)

  1. Copy the following text (without the quotes), "God-Mode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}".
  2. Next, create a new folder and name it by pasting in the text copied in step #1.
    1. If you wish to try it on your desktop all you need to do is right-click on your desktop wallpaper and choose, "New."  Then select "Folder" from the drop down list.

You will now have a folder with an icon for the Control Panel wherever you created the God-Mode.  By the way, if you wish to name it something else, just substitute the "God-Mode" at the beginning of the text with something like, "Total Control".

Once created all you do is double click on the new icon/folder and you will have access to 46 categories (from Action Center to Windows Update) which include (at this time) 282 items you may choose to adjust.  Be cautious since some of them bring about major change while others will hardly be noticed.  You can do simple things like adjusting your mouse or much more complicated procedures.  Proceed with those advanced features at your own risk.

There are other settings you can set up which are similar to this, "Trouble Shooting.{C58C4893-3BE0-4B45-ABB5-A63E4B8C8651}".  This is included in the God Mode.  Have fun, you bunch of newbie hackers.


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