All That New Christmas Technology

OK, so I am writing an update of my post from 2009 that was titled “So You Got A New PC“. I will finish it and get it up soon – updated to deal with newer versions of Windows and Mac and iOS and yes, maybe even Android. Until then though, please go read the original post and make sure you have working anti-virus software installed on your Windows machine and for all devices – backup, backup, backup!

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Backup Your DVDs and a Contest!

How often have you wanted to take a DVD that you own and move the contents to your laptop, iPod, iPad or, shudder, Android phone to take on a trip. Or maybe you just want to make a backup copy of that DVD for when the original gets lost or scratched. Well there are a number of tools to let you do so, but I was recently given the opportunity to try out one of the easiest. Daniusoft DVD Ripper

Daniusoft DVD Ripper for Windows and DVD Ripper for Mac OS X are basically the same program, just for the different platforms. DVD Ripper not only allows you to extract whatever movie it may be on your DVD, but will also convert it into MP4, AVI, WMV, MOV, FLV, MPEG or other formats for playback on almost any device. Additionally, you can use DVD Ripper to extract just the audio from a DVD and save that out to MP3, WMA, WAV, M4A, AAC, OGG or AC3 formats. In other words, there are an abundance of options for how to save out the files.

And that is why I said this is one of the easiest tools. DVD Ripper comes with many presets already established so that you don’t have to know the video size, frame-rate, or format of the output you want. Simply select your target device and DVD Ripper will take care of all of this for you. While not as fast in the copying process as some of the other products I have tried, such a the freeware HandBrake or MacTheRipper for the Mac, the pure ease of use wins hands down. Additionally, since DVD Ripper is developed by a commercial entity I would hope that they will keep up with technology. Unfortunately many free products, such as those I mentioned, have been left to languish with no updates. This sometimes makes those products finicky to use on newer operating systems or with new hardware. I have had no such problems at all with Daniusoft’s DVD Ripper.
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So You Got A New PC …

Congratulations, you got a new PC for Christmas. Or maybe you bought a new one for your business before the end of the year tax season runs out.  Either way, do you know what the first thing you should do is? I mean after taking it out of the box, admiring its awesome shine and plugging it in.  That’s right, you should make sure the anti-virus software is in place and up-to-date.

If your machine didn’t come with any protective software, or if you don’t like what it came with, there are some great alternatives available for free download. Note that most of these have both free and paid versions. Even if you would like the extra features available from the paid version, I would recommend trying out the free editions first. You may find out that the software doesn’t suit your exact needs or that the free version would do everything you want.

AVG Antivirus – “No-frills protection to meet your basic security needs.” This is the AV software I recommend most often and the one I use on my own machines.

ClamWin – ClamWin is a Free Antivirus program for Microsoft Windows 7 / Vista / XP / Me / 2000 / 98 and Windows Server 2008 and 2003. ClamWin is open source, so you can even get the code behind the product. An excellent product that is constantly updated and monitored by the open source community. There is even a similar product available for the Mac.

Microsoft Security Essentials – “Microsoft Security Essentials provides real-time protection for your home PC that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.” Microsoft finally started producing security software for Windows, and it is actually quite good. Also, of course, coming from Microsoft it integrates quite well into the Windows environment.
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Q & A: Windows 7 Upgrade

Question: Windows 7 is available to those who bought a new computer recently. How about the older computers? Do we buy them separately or are they available through our existing software?

windows7_versionsAnswer: Windows 7 can indeed be purchased as an upgrade for older computers. The exact price will depend on which version you choose, but should be approximately $100. The two most important considerations to keep in mind are 1) will your computer run Windows 7 adequately and 2) what will be involved in the upgrade?

If your computer was purchased within the last 3 or 4 years or is currently running Windows Vista, you should be good to go. If it was purchased earlier than that, you will want to visit the Windows 7 Upgrade adviser at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/get/upgrade-advisor.aspx to download a small test program that will determine if your machine is Windows 7 capable.

No matter what the age of your machine, if you are currently running Windows XP and want to upgrade to Windows 7, you will have to perform what is called a “clean install.” That means that your hard drive will be totally wiped out and all software will have to be reinstalled. Therefor, before you do that, you want to make sure you have all of your original software media, the registration information, and a good backup of all your personal data. Actually, no matter what upgrade route you decide on or even if you aren’t doing an upgrade, you should have a good backup!

Note: This is part of a column that originally appeared in The Daniel Island News in the weekly issue for November 18, 2009.

Q & A: Sticking Keys on Keyboard

Question: What should I do with a keyboard when some keys seem to need an extra push? Is this it wear and tear or a cleaning issue?

Answer: It could easily be either simple wear and tear, or it may be that there is something stuck underneath the keys. If you turn the keyboard upside down over a trashcan, shake it, and beat on it gently, you may be surprised at the amount of hair, food particles, and other gunk that comes out. If that doesn’t solve the problem, you can often carefully pry the keys up and clean underneath them with something like hydrogen peroxide. The main requirement of the cleanser is that it is non-corrosive and doesn’t leave a residue.

For wear and tear situations or if all your cleaning fails to return your keyboard to normal performance, a regular replacement keyboard should only cost you about $20. This is not a bad investment at all for the major interface point between you and your computer.

Note: This is part of a column that originally appeared in The Daniel Island News in the weekly issue for November 18, 2009.