Here we publish general tips to help with some of the little problems that happen all the time with computers.
Don’t forget even the beads fall off the wire occasionally!
If you need help, post your question on our Help Forum – click here for details.
Free Microsoft Office Online apps
Microsoft have a free version of Office that operates on Windows 10 as a Microsoft Edge Extension. The same Office apps are available from the Apple and Android App stores as individual apps.
What are the limitations of the free version?
Although these apps will display any Office document, creation of new documents and editing of existing documents is restricted to only basic features of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook.
New computer threat: Drive-by Crypto-Miners
- Is your computer lagging or freezing?
- Is the CPU (Central Processing Unit) or GPU (Graphics card Processing Unit) in your device suddenly working harder than usual?
- Is the fan is going crazy for seemingly no reason?
- Is your device overheating?
- Is your battery quickly depleting?
- Is your electricity usage abnormally high?
These might be signs that someone is using your computer to mine for cryptocurrency, using much, if not all, of the capacity of your CPU (Central Processing Unit) and GPU (Graphics Processing Unit).
You would have heard of digital or crypto currencies such as Bitcoin, Monero, etc. If you don’t know what these are, see more information here (take note of the “Mining” section): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptocurrency. For a good video that explains how cryptocurrencies and their block chains work, see http://www.bbc.com/news/av/technology-43026143/bitcoin-explained-how-do-cryptocurrencies-work
Anyone can manufacture digital coins using a process called “mining”. Mining just a single coin requires a massive amount of CPU power – far beyond the capability of a single PC, tablet, or smartphone. In fact in Iceland, for example, electricity use for Bitcoin mining data centres is likely to exceed that of all Iceland’s homes.
In late 2017, a company called Coinhive launched a service that could mine for a digital currency known as Monero directly within a web browser. A miner using this service could utilise the CPU power of millions of PCs, tablets and smartphones and generate valuable crypto-coins for him/herself. This is done without your knowledge or consent. It is technically not malware and not illegal, and there are many web sites employing this service to make money. Since then there are a number of similar services being offered.
The only indication that you have this crypto-miner hijack is that your CPU and/or GPU usage increases and you may experience slow responses from your device. Your device is now generating income for a digital miner somewhere. This can significantly increase your electricity usage, and shorten the life of your device.
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How to stop and recover from a scam page that locks your browser
While browsing the Internet you may suddenly be confronted with a small window that reports an error or infection, and may ask you to enter your Microsoft username and password.
The alert may be accompanied by audio warnings and include a phone number.
Genuine system alerts from Microsoft do not instruct you to call “help desk” telephone numbers nor give audio warnings:
Attempts to close the Window may fail, and you may be unable to close the browser normally, so you are stuck…
To add insult to injury, the rogue web page may have attempted to silently install malware on your computer.
Internet Browser cannot display the web page
What does this mean? Usually it just means the site you are trying to access is down at the moment, or the page you are trying to access doesn’t exist.
All the “diagnose problem” bit afterwards is really not relevent for 99.9% of the time. You can test this by typing in a rock solid address like google.com and see if it brings up the page.
But what do you do if this still brings up the above message.
The first thing is to check that all the cables and phone lines are connected to the modem/router/computer.
Secondly, try turning off the modem by unplugging the power supply for 20 secs. Then plugging it in again. This solves 99% of connection problems.
If you are using wireless, click on the wireless icon down on the right hand side of the task bar and see if the connection you usually use is connected. If it is, then disconnect it by clicking on it and reconnect it again.
If all this fails you might have to reset the modem/router… more of that later.
The Nanny State Again
Once upon a time (this phrase always implied some far distant time in the past, well of course with computers this could be a week ago!), one had to select options to assist in how we used the computer. This was the “we are all adults and we know what we want” approach. Of course now we are all idiots and need to be protected from ourselves.
Nowhere is this more frustrating than in computers, where ticks in boxes now rule our lives and we now have to find them to stop nanny preventing us from getting on with our lives.
Generally they lurk somewhere in the options of a program, and this is the best place to start trying to find them.
One of our members has had trouble downloading zipped files from Windows Mail. Microsoft decided to prevent us opening anything that they deem might be a threat. zip files fit into this category, and so they stop us from downloading them.
There is a way of turning this off and here is where you can find it:
- Open Windows Mail by clicking the Start button , clicking All Programs, and then clicking Windows Mail.
- Click the Tools menu, and then click Options.
- Click the Security tab, clear the Do not allow attachments to be saved or opened that could potentially be a virus check box, and then click OK.
Of course if you do remove the tick and open a file with the joker smiling at you, or the means of claiming that lottery win you never entered, and get infected with all sorts of nasties – don’t blame me!
… On no not that time again! Maybe as I am always going on about backing up I should bring folks attention to this little gem.
Microsoft, surprisingly enough does very good programs that can help you with your computer. One of these is a back up program called SyncToy.
Too often back up programs are far too complicated with too many options that sometimes completely confuse me let alone a new computer users. I was looking for a very simple set up and you don’t get much simpler than this one.
This program is easy to use and creates a copied backup that can be read directly and doesn’t need to be translated.
[SyncToy also requires an addition file, net.framework 3.5, you get from Microsoft. If you are running Win 10 Anniversary it will locate it for you during setup of SyncToy. If not you will need to go here, download the file first and run it.]
Search Google for SyncToy, it will be the first option. Choose the 86 version not the 64 one. Click download. Save to your computer, it will default to download.
Once downloaded, click the file and it will set up SyncToy.
It will create a desktop shortcut. Open this.
SyncToy works be using folder pairs, the left folder is where the files/folders are coming from, the right folder is where they are going to.
Click Create Folder Pair.
Browse for the left folder you wish to backup, a pop up menu will present a file explorer – click libraries Documents – My Documents. [choose a broad brush eg My Documents.] OK
Browse for the right folder you wish to create. It is best to save backups on a separate drive to your hard drive in case it fails. These can be a stick or external hard drive.
In the popup window click computer to find the drive you are saving to, click this to highlight it You will need to Make a New Folder on the drive you wish to backup to. Name it Backup(date). OK.
You have three choices, for backing up choose Echo. By clicking on the options you will be given a short description of what the option does. Next.
Name the folder pair eg Mikes Backup. Finish.
This will open a new page that will open the Next time you start SyncToy. To run the backup click Run and another window will open to give you the progress.
SyncToy takes some time to do the first backup, but after this it is much faster as it only backups those new files and those that have changed.
From the main window, you can create further folder pairs or delete them as you wish. Deleting the pair does not delete the folder it refers to, this needs to be done manually.
Remember to back up folder like your Internet Explorer Favourites which are not stored in your Docs File, nor are your PC based Email contacts and messages. These need to be added as well. Check with Google to see where these are hidden.
Synctoy is not automatic, you need to set up Windows Task Scheduler to do this.
Now the Scary Stuff – Task Manager.
Click Start button, type task. Click Task Scheduler.
Click Create Basic Task in the right frame.
Name the task eg Mikes Backup – Next
Set the frequency eg daily or weekly – Next
Set a stat time and date – Next
Select Start a program – Next
Now the tricky part, you need to browse for the program execution file. Click browse and in the left frame click computer, in the right frame now double click C:, then Program Files, and find Synctoy, double click again to open the folder, and look for SyncToyCmd, click and open, this will complete the command line. In the If you have more then one Folder Pair backing up (eg Docs and Pictures) in SyncToy; to run them all type in the Add argument line -R -Next
This will show you a summary – Finish
Quickly Change Icon Size on Desktop & File Explorer
Here is a nifty way you can quickly fine tune the icon sizes on your Desktop and File Explorer:
- Left click on the desktop or in a File Explorer window (not on an icon)
- Hold the CTRL button down while scrolling the mouse wheel up or downCtrl>scroll can also be used to quickly change the zoom level in any open window.
- Using this method on the Desktop gives you many more size options than the three size options offered by the right-click-on-desktop / View method.
KeePass Password Saver and Archive
How to install and set up KeePass – click here to view the article
After you have set it up, you can secure it and also use it to store photos of your important documents – Read more here…
Resizing Pictures on Windows Computers
This document explains how to resize digital photos and store them so you can attach them to an email, or upload them to the Cloud, or to websites such as eBay, Facebook or GumTree.
Three methods are explained:
- Using Microsoft Paint to resize individual photos – I have chosen Microsoft Paint because it is available in all versions of Windows. Most photo applications will allow you to change the image size, for example GIMP (use Image > Scaling), Photofiltre (use Image > Resize)
- Using Google Picasa to resize multiple photos
- Using the powerful IrfanView Batch processing to resize multiple photos
Using Picasa to Crop, Straighten, and Adjust lighting in Photos
Three common operations we need to do with photos are cropping, straightening and lighting adjustments. A good application to do these three things is free Google Picasa.
Lighting adjustments can be complicated, sometimes requiring “curve adjustment”, where you adjust points throughout an image’s tonal range.
Basic Brightness and Contrast adjustments offered in Word, Publisher and many photo editing apps are not generally useful because the adjust the whole photo.
Picasa has some clever and powerful editing tools to easily adjust the lighting. Fill light adjusts the ambient light in a photo. It uses a slider to gently boost the shadows and mid-tones, but leave the highlights, so it brightens a backlit or dark photo while preserving the details in lighter areas of the picture.
This article explains how to do it!