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Saturday, 31 March 2007

Zone Alarm Free firewall - Major Update Is Ready

For all those who use Zone Alarm Free firewall, there is a new major update available. You can either get it by manually running the Update, or eventually, Zone Alarm will pop up with an update notification.

If you have had troubles properly updating Zone Alarm in the past (like, if you ended up running a trial version instead of the free version after running an update, or, if you clicked on the wrong file and ended up opening some other program), print this article out first so you can follow all the instructions step by step.

To get the update manually:
- Open Zone Alarm
- On the top left, click on Overview
- On the top right, click on Preferences
- Click on Check For Update and follow instructions
- Your browser will open to a Zone Alarm update page. The first option (1) and it's sub-options will try to get you to buy the paid version of Zone Alarm and other stuff. Ignore them and click on option 2 (download update only)
- Once you have finished downloading the file (zlsSetup_70_337_000_en.exe), run it
- Select No Thanks
- Allow it to scan the computer for your Internet-related programs
- Restart the computer
- After your computer has re-stared, it will pop up with another window trying to sell you stuff again. Select No Thank You
- Don't click on the video, choose Finish
- Done

You will notice that it looks a bit different, especially the icon in the System Tray (bottom right of your sceen). Instead of the red and yellow ZA, it is now a blue & grey Z. Don't worry, it works the same.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Open Office 2.2 Is Finally Out

Open Office 2.2 has finally been released. There are security improvements and other enhancements. Click here to go to Open Office.

If you have a previous version, just download v2.2 and install it on top of the old version.

It's bigger than previous releases, and, since it just came out, their server may be slow for downloading. If it is going way too slow, cancel the download and try again.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Another Thunderbird Extension

I just found another very useful Thunderbird extension: Empty Trash Toolbar Button.
Install it, restart Thunderbird, right-click on your toolbar to Customize, drage the new Trash icon up to where you want it, ok. Now, to empty the trash, just click on that button.

To empty your junk folder, there is a Delete Junk icon already in there (when you Customize the toolbar) - you can drag it up to where you want it to have a shortcut for that too.

Fun With ISPs

Ellen Roseman wrote an article in the Toronto Star the other day about customer dissatisfaction with Bell services. I was inspired to send her an email highlighting some of my fun with Bell Sympatico:

Good article. It brings to light some on-going problems.

I have personally had some bad experiences with Bell Sympatico over the years.

In March 2006, I upgraded my email to Sympatico's new server, which is the MSN Hotmail server. Right away I noticed a difference. I wasn't getting many of my emails - for example: from myself (I often send myself notes), from friends and family - all of these people are in my personal address book. I was told to make sure these people were in my contacts on the web site for my email. So, I did that and I lowered the Spam filtering on the web site to the lowest. Guess what?, still not getting emails and delays of up to a few days for an email to reach me, or for an email I send to reach someone. After many calls, over a number of months, and many hours of talking to people who say, "oh, it's an MSN server issue, we will pass it on to them", there was little improvement.
It seems, after a year, that they have got things working okay now. In addition, the level of spam suddenly jumped back to what it was before I "upgraded". So, it took them a year to fix the problem, and all the while they denied there was a problem.

Any time I call when the service goes down, they always deny there is a problem with the lines or server or station and they want to get me to do all sorts of nasty things on my computer for the next 1/2 hour before they will even ask a supervisor (even after I explain that I am a professional computer technician and I've done all those things already). If I stay on the phone long enough, they will admit that someone is working on the lines in my area. I have stopped calling them (as it gets me nowhere), and I just wait for a few hours and try again.

Recently, I called to upgrade from DSL Basic to regular High Speed. The operator said it would take 5 business days. Then, when I called 5 business days later to ask why it wasn't upgraded, I got a recorded message that it would be a MONTH (not 5 business days) before they would have my service upgraded.

When I first signed up for Sympatico (years ago, in the late 1990s, after Interlog had gone down the tubes), the service was reliable and they seemed quick to help. Now, the service is unreliable and the support is atrocious and deceitful. I've thought of switching to Rogers, but I've heard similar horror stories from their customers.

Oh well.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Green Tips For Electronics

Treehugger has a great green electronics article.

Although you might get something cheap and save it from going into landfill, still, you get what you pay for and remember, the practical life of a computer is about 5 years. The physical life of some computer components is shorter, especially if they are poorly made to begin with, or have been well-used. If you are getting a computer for something that is mission-critical, buy new, good-quality gear. It will last longer and be more reliable (and cost you less in the long run, instead of having to buy a number of cheap computers.

This is a great section on rechargeable batteries.

Linux and the near Future?

I almost forgot about this comment I posted with Free Software Magazine, until I was testing the Younanimous meta-search engine (that combines Google, Yahoo and MSN), and found the comment page as the top-ranked listing for my tech support web site Thor Tech Support.
It's about Linux and how I think it may find the opportunity to get more of a foothold into the desktop market as new operating systems costs rise.

And here's a review of Younanimous, which, surprisingly, is only a few days old. Now, when they fix it so you can customize your search preferences, like - show 100 results on a page - among other things, they will have a winner.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

The Neural Impulse Actuator

OCZ has come up with a device that senses brain activity and uses this to control computer software. The device is called the Neural Impulse Actuator. They hope to bring it to market by the end of the year for about $300.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Recommended Thunderbird Extensions

Here are some core Thunderbird extensions that I frequently use. Most of them (if not all) can be found at the Mozilla Thunderbird Add-ons page.

Contacts Add BCC Button
If you use the Contacts side bar when you are writing an email, this extension can be handy. On the side bar, there are Add to and Add CC buttons. This extension adds a Add BCC button to the side bar.

Signature Switch
You need to set up html signature files first. But once you do, in the extension's Options, you can add them in. Then, when you are writing an email, you can chose which signature to use via the icon on the toolbar. Handy if you have a polite one to use when writing to your parents and a less-polite one for when you write to friends.

This extension is great for if you receive a lot of emails that contain a lot of attached pictures. Instead of scrolling down to see each picture, you can click on the slideshow button (bottom right of the email - beside the list of attached files) and a slideshow viewer will pop up. Expand it to full screen and then click through the pictures one by one. The viewer window includes options for saving individual pictures or all pictures at once to your hard drive.

Provides a timestamp you can place anywhere in your email. Fully customizeable. This is handy for if a server delays your emails, or if a server puts the wrong time on your email. Make sure you have your computer set at the right time and time zone to start with though!

Update Notifier
Same extension can be used for Firefox or Thunderbird. Set it to Check for updates when Thunderbird starts, Install updates when they become available,and un-check all the other boxes in Options. With these settings, all your Thunderbird extensions will update themselves in the background and you won't have to update them manually.

How to install a Thunderbird Extension

Go to the page with the extension. Right-click on the install button and save the file to your hard drive. Once saved, open Thunderbird, click on Tools, Extensions, and Install. Once installed, restart Thunderbird and open Tools, Extensions again and right-click on the new extension, chose Options and configure the new extension.


Here is a site with some beautiful nature wallpapers.

If you have a slow connection be patient as it may take some time for things to draw out on the screen.

One of my favourite wallpapers sites is
Type in wallpaper in the search field (or whatever you are looking for). If you have a laptop with an wide screen resolution, when you search for wallpaper (in this site and anywhere else), if you type in your resolution, the search will come up with wallpapers that will fit your particular screen. Don't know what your resolution is? In Windows, open Desktop Properties and click on the Settings tab. In the bottom left of this window you will see your screen resolution.

Google Image Search Tip
To search for wallpapers of certain things, use the Google Image Search and then chose Large Images.

Organizing Wallpaper
If you like to collect a lot of wallpaper and use these pictures for your desktop, a handy way to organize this is to create a folder inside My Pictures called Wallpaper. Then, in Windows, when you want to change the wallpaper, in Windows, open Desktop Properties, go to the Desktop tab, click Browse, look in My Pictures, Wallpaper and chose your wallpaper.

Firefox Updates

Firefox will update itself again soon. Just wait for it and when it asks, allow it to update. All good. The update includes 6 security bug fixes.
The updates are (for those of you with version 2), and for those of you still using version 1.5.

Sunday, 4 March 2007

Recommended Firefox Extensions

The following is a list of the Firefox extensions that I use most frequently. Most of them are available at the Firefox Add-Ons site. But some of them are available at the Mozdev Extension Room, or at the developer's home page. To find any on this list that are not in the Add-Ons site or the Extension room, just type Firefox and the extension name in Google and you should be able to find them.

MR Tech Local Install Install this one first.
This extension allows you to install extensions from within the extension window from a files on your computer (instead of off a web site). This makes it handy for re-installing if you are doing a fresh install of Firefox. It also lets you remove the installation delay, sort the extension and theme windows alphabetically, comes with a re-start button and a few other things. You can also use it to tell Firefox to ignore the version, so older extensions will work with newer versions of Firefox.


Blocks ads from loading on web pages. When it is on, it will show the word Adblock in the bottom right of your screen on the status bar. Right click on this to access the options menu. If you want to check a page with all the ads, then disable and re-load the page. To block specific Flash ads that are coming up (even with Adblock on), chose Overlay flash (for left click) on the Adblock options menu, then left-click on the ad. It will pop up with a window showing you the address for the flash file. If it has something like shoptv in the address, you can make a wild card out if it - change it to *shoptv* and then it will block all flash ads from shoptv. Once you've blocked this, reload the page and the other flash graphics that were not ads (that you don't want blocked), will re-appear.

Adblock Filterset.G Updater
Companion extension for Adblock - a big set of filters for common ads. A constantly updated database of ads and ad domains on the web.

Allows you to program various mouse gestures (using right click and drag) to do many things (instead of having to click keys or search through menus or select buttons). Examples: I have mine programmed so when I drag-right on a link, it opens in a new tab in the background. To close the current tab, I drag-down. When you right-click and drag a red line appears on the screen to help guide what you are doing.

Canadian English Dictionary
The English version of Firefox 2 comes with the American English dictionary installed by default. For Canadian English, install this dictionary.

Save your backed up extensions (see FEBE) into one extension file for easy re-installation (in case you need to do a fresh install of Firefox, or if you are setting it up on a friend's computer).

Dictionary Tooltip
Double-click on a word and up pops the meaning. Simple. You can also chose which dictionary site you use. The list also includes the Urban Dictionary, which is good for looking up slang terms.

Gives you a few more options for your Download window.

Fast Video Download
Saves embedded flash videos from many sites, including, You Tube, Google Video and many more. Just click on the icon on the status bar and the Save As window comes up. Simple.

FEBE enables you to backup your extensions as their original installation file forms.

Firefox Menu Buttons
This gives you many more buttons to use for customizing your menu toolbars, which is very handy if you also use the Tiny Menu extension.

An excellent and simple FTP program that opens up in a Firefox tab. Just create a new account, enter your ftp address, login and password and away you go. Very simple for uploading files to your web site.

I like this better than using the search field that comes with Firefox (which is limited). And I like it more than the Google Toolbar (which comes with too much stuff). This extension is very customizable. Find it at:
scroll down to Experimental Version and install the latest version.

When you run a Google search you will get the usual list of sites, but with Googlepedia running, you will also see the Wikipedia site that relates to your search on the right half of your screen. You can expand, shrink or hide the Wikipedia page.

Sometimes you will come to a page that won't load properly in Firefox (because some web programmers program sites for IE only (which does not fully support web standards)). With this extension you can open Internet Explorer inside a Firefox tab. You can also use this to program specific sites, so whenever you click on the bookmark or a link to that site, it will come up as an IE tab.

Puts the print/print preview arrow back on the Print button on your toolbar (so you can preview what will print and decide which pages you want.)

With this you can select (drag and draw a rectangle around) anything inside your browser window on a web page and save it as an image file.

Download/save an image to your computer by left-clicking and dragging on it.

Tab Mix Plus
Fully customize the way that the tabs work and appear. This includes Session Manager, which is very handy (and is more customizable than the built-in Firefox restore function) for when Firefox crashes when you are in the middle of something.

Tiny Menu
Menu-izes the text menu, so it becomes a drop-down menu - thus saving you more space on the main menu bar.

If you can't save the video with Fast Video Download, try this one. Right-click on the page, chose Unplug from the menu and the page will change to one with a list of the video in different formats. Chose the one you want and save. This extension seems better than Video Downloader and Downloaded Embedded.

Update Notifier
Currently, you can set Firefox to automatically update itself. But you can't set this for extensions. With this extension you can. You can set this so every time you open Firefox, it will check for updates for all extensions and themes, download and install them, all automatically in the background (so you don't have to worry about doing this manually).