How do I boot into Safe Mode?

2009 December 1
by Andy

If you are fighting a virus/malware on your computer, it is best to boot in safe mode before you start removing things and running scans.  If you don’t, it is likely that the malware will likely just re-install itself.  I’m not going to go into a whole tutorial on virus fighting (maybe in a future post) but the basics are as follows:

1) As soon as you notice you are infected, unplug your internet connection or turn off your wireless.  This will prevent the infection from spreading, and will isolate the offending program from its source.

2) Boot into Safe Mode

3) Run your favorite antivirus/anti-malware program.

This post is really about Safe Mode – how do you get there?  There are a couple of ways depending on the operating system you are using.  Here’s the Microsoft Page on the topic.

Windows XP

If XP is the only operating system installed on your computer, boot into Safe Mode with these instructions.

  • If the computer is running, shut down Windows, and then turn off the power
  • Wait 30 seconds, and then turn the computer on.
  • Start tapping the F8 key. The Windows Advanced Options Menu appears. If you begin tapping the F8 key too soon, some computers display a “keyboard error” message.  If this happens, resstart the computer and try again.
  • Ensure that the Safe mode option is selected.  If you are trying to clean a machine that is virus laden, choose Safe Mode Without Networking.
  • Press Enter. The computer then begins to start in Safe mode.
  • When you are finished with all troubleshooting, close all programs and restart the computer as you normally would.

If you don’t want to bother with function keys, you can use the System Configuration Utility method.

  • Close all open programs.
  • Click Start, Run and type MSCONFIG in the box and click OK
  • The System Configuration Utility appears, On the BOOT.INI tab, Check the “/SAFEBOOT” option, and then click OK and Restart your computer when prompted.
  • The computer restarts in Safe mode.
  • Perform the troubleshooting steps for which you are using Safe Mode.
  • When you are finished with troubleshooting in Safe mode, open MSCONFIG again, on the BOOT.INI tab,  uncheck “/SAFEBOOT” and click OK to restart your computer.  THIS STEP IS CRITICAL.  If you don’t change this back, then the computer will continue to boot in Safe Mode until you do.

Windows 7

Safe Mode in Windows 7 is basically the same as XP – use F8 to get to the Safe Mode startup screen.  MSCONFIG is slightly different – Safe Mode is called Safe Boot, but otherwise the process is the same.

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10 Facebook Privacy Settings You NEED to Know.

2009 September 2
Comments Off on 10 Facebook Privacy Settings You NEED to Know.
by Andy

I will summarize here, but the full article by Nick O’Neill from is a great read, and something I wish I had written.  Facebook is a great tool, but in a world where information and identity theft is rampant, you need to know how to protect yourself from, well, yourself.

1) Use Friends lists to group your friends into logical groups.  This allows you to grant different access rights to different groups of people.

2) Remove yourself from Facebook search results.  Like the author, my family is chock full of teachers.  For the most part, they don’t want their students to randomly find their personal information from a Facebook search, but still want to be on Facebook for family and friends.  The solution?  Remove yourself from Facebook search results.  You do this from the “search privacy settings” page.

3) Remove your Facebook self from Google search results.  As you know if you Google yourself (doesn’t everyone do this?) your Facebook profile will come up pretty quickly.  You can remove yourself from Google searches from the “search privacy settings” page – uncheck the “Create a Public Search Listing for me …” check box.

4) Control who sees your tagged photos – You can do this from your profile privacy page.  The cool thing is if you’ve set up your friends groups right, you can allow access to tagged photos by group.  That way the photo of you that you don’t want your boss to see won’t get you fired.

5) Control who sees your photo albums – as with tagged photos, not all pictures are for all eyes.  Check out the Photo Privacy Page.  From there you can control who sees what.  Very handy.

6) Control how your relationship status is displayed in news feeds.  Everyone likes to tout their relationship, but do you really want everyone (boss, business contacts) to know?  Uncheck the “Change relationship status” box on the News Feed and Wall section of your Privacy settings.  This will prevent people from seeing changed to your relationship status in their news feeds.

7) Be sure that applications don’t publish embarrassing news feed posts.  Many applications you sign up for post items to your news feed that are potentially embarrassing.  Be sure that you scan your profile every time you install an application, or better yet, avoid applications completely.

8) Control who sees your contact information.  If you use Facebook for business and for personal contacts, you can control who sees what contact information from you using your Friends Groups.  You can add multiple email address and phone contact items, then edit the custom privacy settings for each to control who sees them.

9) Avoid embarrassing wall posts.   Facebook lets you control not only who posts to your wall, but also who can see those posts.  In the Profile section you can change who posts to your wall by choosing “custom” from the “Wall Posts” drop down.  From there you can use your Friends groups to control who posts and who sees what.

10) Like your hands, keep your friends to yourself.  I love seeing who is friends with my friends, but some people don’t want to share, and in some cases, it’s probably not a good idea to share.  Once again, you can customize who can see your friends list using your friends groups.

There are endless ways to control your privacy on Facebook, but you need to take the time to sort through the settings.  Friends Grouping is a great place to start and ensures that you have separation of your business and personal contacts.  Get to know your privacy settings!!

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2009 August 20
tags: , ,
by Andy

Another question I get asked a lot is on Wireless security.  People get very confused by the security options out there, and the industry doesn’t help by adding acronym after acronym.  So what do you do?  The answer is fairly simple – secure your network with WPA!!

There are lots of methods to use to secure your wireless network.  The most common is WEP, but that is being replaced by the newer (and better) WPA protocol.  You can also secure the network by allowing only specific computers on the network.  This is simple to do, and doesn’t require security keys and messy settings.  The problem with it is that the data you send wirelessly is not encrypted.  With WEP and WPA, the data is encrypted.

What are these things anyway?

WEP or Wired Equivalent Privacy (see the Wiki for more info) is an encryption protocol developed in the late 1990’s to secure wireless networks.  It offers 64bit and 128 bit encryption using a key generated by a passphrase you enter, but is easily cracked.  Despite this, there are a ton of people who still use WEP since it is the default protection on many routers.

WPA (WiFi Protected Access) is the next generation encryption algorithm that replaced WEP.  WPA uses 256bit encryption keys, and is far more secure than WEP.  It’s not the be-all-end-all, but is very good.  As with WEP, you have the option of generating a security key using a passphrase so that you don’t have to remember a string of random hex digits.  This is great, BUT you have to be careful about the passphrase you use.  DON’T use things like your pets name, your kid’s name, your street, or anything that can be guessed.

The clear answer is to secure your network with WPA.

BUT – do you have to secure your network at all?  The safe answer is yes.

What happens if you don’t secure your network?  That depends on where you live, how close your neighbors are, and how you secure your computers.  Most wireless routers have a range of 150 feet.  That means that if your neighbors are more than 150 feet away, they will not be able to get on your network unless they are standing outside your house with their laptop.

If you don’t change the default security settings on your computers, chances are that even if someone did get on your network, they wouldn’t be able to do much.  By default settings I mean:

  • No shared hard drive locations
  • Remote control disabled
  • Firewalls up and running on every computer
  • Anti-Virus up and running on every computer

Of course, this is not always realistic – I have lots of shared directories, and remote control enabled on my machines because I like to be able to work on any machine from anywhere if I need to.  For that reason, I like to secure the network so that if someone manages to get on they won’t get to my personal files.

The bottom line on security for wireless networks is best practice is to secure your network using WPA.  That said, if you live in a remote area where no one will likely be in range of your wireless, it’s not really necessary, just a good idea.

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Twitter is mostly useless drivel

2009 August 17
by Andy

A couple of recent studies on Twitter and people who tweet point out that over 40% of all tweets fall into the category of “pointless babble”.  Pear Analytics put out a report with these and other interesting findings.  I’m sure it comes as no surprise that 75% of all tweets come from just 5% of people who tweet. 

Sysomos also does research into twitter usage and in their blog report  that 24% of all tweets are bots and other programatic postings.  Not surprising since the top contributors are posting 150 tweets and more a day.  Interestingly, they also put together a list of the top posters who have 5000 or more followers, and less than 50 posts per day.  The assumption is that these are reall posters, not bots.  Chris Brogan tops that list.  Who is he?  He’s a guy that helps businesses use social media.  Practice what you preach I guess.

Lots of other interesting facts.  55% of tweeters are women, 78% are caucasian.  The number of African American twitter users is well above the average for African American internet users.  I have no idea what that says about African American internet users, but there it is. The demographic information on Twitter is from quantcast.  A very cool stat site for websites.


So what does this all mean?  Be careful who you follow, and don’t feel bad about dropping the people who post too much – they are likely just a bot anyway.

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35 best iPhone apps of the year so far

2009 August 16
by Andy

AppVee ( has released their list of the 35 best iPhone apps of the year so far. If you don’t know about AppVee, they are awesome. Basically, they look at every (well almost every, they do ignore the nonsense) iPhone app published and winow out the good from bad. They seemingly impossibly review more apps that I thought possible, and they do a really good job.

The list of apps they like so far is here.

Notable inclusions are TweetDeck, Skype and Kindle – three of my personal favs.

Thanks AppVee!!

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Outlook 2007 tips

2009 August 13
by Andy

While I’m on the subject of tips, here are a few tips for Outlook 2007.

1) Stop Outlook from suggesting names in the TO field.

This is related to the .nk2 file I blogged about awhile ago.  If you don’t like that outlook suggests names for you, then you can turn this off.  Go to Tools, then Options.  From there choose the Preferences tab, then click the e-mail options button.  In the e-mail options dialog, click the Advanced E-mail Options button.  Uncheck the radio button for “Suggest names while completing To, Cc, and Bcc fields”.  Click “ok”.

2) Configure Outlook to NEVER send read receipts.

Personally, I think read receipts are annoying.  Some people love them, and who am I to judge, but I’d prefer to keep when I read your mail to myself, so I turn this “feature” off.  To do this, go to Tools, then Options.  From there choose the Preferences tab, then click the E-mail options button.  In the E-mail options window, choose the “Tracking Options” button.  Look for “Use this option to decide how to respond to requests for read receipts. Only applies to Internet Mail accounts.”   There are a couple of radio buttons – choose “never send a response”.  Click “ok”.

3) Remove the System Tray icon for new email

Another love it or hate it item.  I like this one, but when the system tray gets cluttered, out it goes.  To remove the icon, once again go to Tools, Options and from there choos the Preferences tab.  On the Preferences tab choose the E-mail Options button.  In the E-mail options dialog choose the Advanced E-mail Options button.  Under the “When new items arrive in My Inbox”, uncheck “Show an envelope icon in the notification area”.  Click “ok”.

4) Configure Outlook to empty the deleted items folder when you exit.

This is really helpful if you have limited mailbox space.  Deleted items count toward your mailbox space limits, so you either need to remember to empty your deleted items, or have outlook do it for you when you exit the application.

To configure Outlook to empty deleted items on exit, go to Tools, the Options, then choose the “Other” tab.  Under “General”, check “Empty the Deleted Items folder upon exiting”.  Click “ok”.  Your sysadmin will love you ;)

5) Add Holidays to your Calendar

Outlook support iCal, so there are thousands of calendars you can add to Outlook.  To add holidays from the default list, go to Tools then Options, then choose the Preferences tab.  In the Calendar section, click the Calendar Options button.  In the Calendar Options window, click the “Add Holidays” button.  Scroll through the resulting list, click the radio button next to the ones you want, then click “ok”.

Just a few things for now.  I’ll add more another time.

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10 Windows 7 Tips

2009 August 13
by Andy

So far, Windows 7 is the bee’s knees.  The more I find out, the more I like, which is saying a lot – with operating systems, it’s usually the other way around!

Here are a few things that make Windows 7 neat.  Big thanks to Tim Sneath for most of these.

1) Windows Management – in XP, your choices on what you could do with arranging windows on your screen was somewhat limited.  You could maximize a window to take the whole screen, you could manually shrink it to the size you wanted and move it to the side, iconize it, etc.  In Windows 7, several “docking” features were introduced that make moving things around on your screen really easy.  If you press the Windows key, then the left arrow, the current window will dock to the left side of the screen.  WIN+right arrow will dock to the right, WIN+up arrow will maximize the window, WIN+down arrow will restore the window.  In addition to the WIN shortcuts, you can drag windows to the top to maximize it (double clicking the title bar still works too), or you can drag the window to the left or right to dock the window there.

On a related note, in a multi monitor setup, you can move windows from one screen to the other using WIN+SHIFT+right or left arrow.  Now were talking!

2) Get rid of the noise – Have you ever been working on a document and been annoyed that all of you other open windows are just in the way?  Press WIN-Home in Windows 7 and all windows but the current are minimized.  Press WIN-Home again to restore the windows.

3) Browser load times – This is really an IE8 tip, but I’ll include it here.  If IE is taking a long time to load, it may be because of the add-ons you are running.  Go to Tools/Manage Add Ons and you will see  a list of what IE loads at startup.  The neat thing is if you scroll to the right in the list, you can see the load times for the Add Ons.  This is a great way to see where the bottle necks are.

4) Quick start for taskbar apps – you can use WIN+1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 to quickly go to or start any of the first 5 apps in your taskbar.

5) Look at the desktop – Another helpful feature is WIN-space bar.  This combo lets you look at the desktop and see any icons or widgets you have.  You can also click on the rectangle all the way in the lower right hand corner – this is the old “show desktop” icon.

6) Additional instance of an open application – there are a couple of ways to do this, but by far the fastest is to hold the shift key while left clicking on the taskbar icon.  Way better than going through the start menu again, or right clicking and choosing to open the app.

7) Running with elevated rights.  If you hold CTL-Shift while clicking on a taskbar app, you will bring up a new instance with full administrator rights (assuming your account has permissions).  When Windows 7 is deployed in an enterprise, this will be GREAT.

8) Specialized Window switching – this one I love.  If you are like me, you have tons of windows open all the time.  In XP if you want to switch between windows you can ALT-Tab through them all, or you can click on the taskbar icon and guess which window is the one you want.  In Windows 7, you can essentially Alt-Tab through all of the open windows associated with a specific application without scrolling through every open window.  You do this by holding down the CTL key, then clicking on the taskbar icon for the application you want.  Windows will “scroll” through the open windows as you click the icon.  This is great if you want to scroll through all of your open Outlook windows, for example, but don’t want to run through everything you have open.

9) Move focus the taskbar – this is neat keyboard shortcut.  If you press WIN-T you will move focus to the taskbar.  You can then use the arrow keys to move through your taskbar apps to choose the one you want.  For keyboard shortcut junkies, this is great.

10) Open windows explorer keyboard shortcut – Press WIN+E.  This will open up and explorer window at the Computer Node.  Note that SHFT+click on the explorer icon opens at the Document Library Node.

More to come –

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Send mail from another address without the “on behalf of” message in gmail

2009 August 2
by Andy

From the Gmail blog

One of the neat features of Gmail is that you can use it to aggregate all of your email addresses to one inbox.  You add the email addresses to your gmail account, and they connect via POP or IMAP to your other accounts and everything is in one place.  Until this past Thursday, when you replied to a mail that was not to your mail account, Gmail would put your main account in the “Sender” field so that your mail would not be kicked as spam.  What the recipient would see is a message that the mail was send “on behalf of” the intended address “from” your main account.  While this is ok in most instances, if you are trying to mask that Gmail is the tool you are using for all of your mail, then this can be annoying.

Thursday, Google introduced a way to route your mail through the SMTP server of your choice instead of their SMTP servers, so your mail will look like it is comming from the system you choose and the “on behalf of ” messages will go away.  Neat!  If your office allows POP/IMAP and you allows remote SMTP then you are golden.  If not, well then you have to live with the “on behalf of” messages.

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Growl for Windows

2009 July 25
by Andy

Growl v2.0 beta 18 was recently released for Windows – should you care?  If you are like most people, it is getting harder and harder to keep up with everything happening around you on the web.  Twitter, facebook, email, calendar, IM – the draws on your attention are almost overwhelming.  Wouldn’t it be great is there were some tools out there to help with all the noise?  The ability to be automatically notified when things happen would be really useful – enter Growl for Windows.

What is Growl?  In their own words:

Put simply, Growl lets you know when things happen. Files finished downloading, friends came online, new email has arrived – Growl can let you know when any event occurs with a subtle notification. The rest of the time, Growl stays out of your way.

Along with letting you know when things happen, Growl also gives you full control over how you are notified and what action (if any) you want to take in response to the notification. You can choose to be alerted with a visual indicator or an audible alert, both, or neither. You can choose the type of display that is shown, whether the display remains on the screen, the importance of the notification, and even if the notification should be forwarded to another computer. You can have notifications that trigger an email, run a script, launch a program, or are read out loud.

Growl has been available as a MAC application for some time now, so their foray into Windows land is a welcome addition to help you manage your machine. All of you have Windows Update on, right?  Well now you have a tool that you can configure to notify you and/or take action on lots of other things on your machine.

How does it work?  The setup is somewhat manual, but this is a good thing, since the whole point is that Growl is unobtrusive.  Once you install the application, the software sits in your system tray waiting to be told what to do.  You download pluggins from the Growl site for the applications you want.  There are tons of apps there – Firefox, iTunes, Outlook, Gmail, even a system monitor.  You run the setup for the app you want and let Growl do the rest.  What you get is a configurable pop up window for whatever application you choose.

You get configurable reminders for things as they happen – new emails, calendar appointments, what the tune you are playing on iTunes is (they have Pandora too).  New apps are being added all the time, and there is a GNTP library and command line tools that you can use to work with almost any API.

Neat stuff.  Not perfect, but I like it so far.

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3mobile device 10 finger touch screen

2009 July 24
by Andy

Mobile screen manufacturer Synaptics (the guys who do the iPhone and Palm Pre screens) announced a new line of capacitive sensor touch screens that can have 10, yes 10 fingers simultaneously recognized on the screen.  The product is their Clearpad 3000 series, no word on when/if this will be used in mobile devices any time soon.

This is where I know I am just not a visionary – I can see this a something that is neat and probably even valuable to some, but I just don’t have a real sense of why you would need this except for gaming.  Now I love my iPhone games (Wild West Pinball rules) but they suck the life out of the already quick to drain iPhone battery, so to me, gaming is limited.  Synaptics says the new screens are designed for low power use, but the proof will be in the pudding.

Popular Mechanics points out an interesting use for the multi touch points – the ability to detect differences in touch pressure.  In theory if you press harder, your finger spreads out.  Since the touch points are designed to be smaller, you should be able to tell if lots of points are pressed close to each other – a hard press – vs a smaller number of discrete points.  Synaptics isn’t saying they can do this, but it would be nice.  I see lots of uses for this in gaming, but also in regular apps – pressing harder in a drawing app gives you darker or thicker lines as a simple example.

Innovation is good, and it is a bit of a if you build it they will come advance.  I’m sure there are really clever developers already thinking of ways to incorporate more than two fingers into their applications.

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