Back It Up

Do you store anything on your PC’s hard drive that’s important to you and would be hard to replace? The answer to this can be very subjective and is certainly a matter of personal opinion. But if a disaster should strike, what would your loss be if you couldn’t restore these files or documents?

People are storing more and more vital information on their PCs without the thought of what could happen if this information was lost. If you store any of the following, you need to think of how you can safely retrieve this information in case of an emergency:

  • Bank records or other financial information
  • Digital photographs
  • Music you’ve purchased and downloaded
  • Software purchased online
  • Email history, address books and calendar data
  • Browser bookmarks

You probably don’t need to perform daily backups with offsite storage of the backup medium, but there are alternatives that are easy to implement and can give you some peace of mind.

System vs personal data

A different strategy is used for backing up your Operating System files than for backing up your personal data. If you suffer a system crash, you can reload the OS from the install disks or restore from what is called a disk image and I’ll cover that in another article.

If you’ve followed Microsoft’s suggestions, all of your personal data should be contained within special folders that are designed for your documents. It is a simple matter to determine how much storage the files in these locations use and this will help you decide how you want to back them up.

For the home PC user, there are 3 good choices for performing backups of your personal data:

USB Flash Drives
The low cost of USB flash drives (thumb drives) makes them an ideal choice for backup media. I’ve seen 16GB flash drives for $30 (USD) and there are free utilities that make the backup process easy and reliable. Check for a solution that performs backup and sync functions

External Hard Drives
External hard drives have also reached a price point that make them a good choice if you want to have something even more transparent.

Online Backups
This method that is quickly growing in popularity. Several companies are offering this strategy without charge for the first couple of Gigabytes. Online backups may be good for true archival copies of important documents that you won’t need to modify, since even with a relatively high speed internet connection, it could take you several days to upload just 10 GB of data.

Don’t get caught without a backup if disaster strikes. Reliable backups can be performed cheaply and easily and I’ve only presented three possible methods here. Be Safe!


Keeping Up with Technology

For many of us the first exposure to new technology is during the Holiday advertising blitz. Whether it’s some new game console, PC device or household appliance, the first time we hear about this technological achievement is when the product comes to market. The technologies behind these new products are really not new, and in some cases, have been in development for years, and there’s really no trick to staying on top of them.

It used to be that you had to subscribe to many trade publications to keep current, but now you can use technology to stay abreast of technology. By using a relatively simple method, you can have the latest articles and opinions delivered to you for free. The method I’m referring to is called RSS which stands for Real Simple Syndication. In its basic form, RSS allows a user to subscribe to a website’s “feed” which makes the content available to a RSS reader. Many national news sites, mainstream online journals and most Blogs have RSS feeds available that anyone can subscribe to. The hardest part for you is to pick a reader and the feeds you want.

I have tried all of them. I use Google Reader because it is very simple and integrates into my other Google online applications. When I fire up my browser, it automatically loads in a tab as part of my Home Page Tab settings in Internet Explorer 8, so all I have to do is click on the tab and I have new content ready to read.

The best technology-related feeds are:

Once you get up and running with a RSS reader, you can search out feeds in your other interest area. You will be surprised at how much content is available.


Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts provide a quick and convenient ways to use keystrokes to perform tasks or commands that otherwise would require you to access a menu with your pointing device.

Keyboard shortcuts are usually entered as a combination of 2 or more keys that, when pressed simultaneously, perform some action. 

Windows Key shortcuts press and hold the key with the Windows logo on it and then press the following key:
F : Opens the search dialog
R : Opens the Run dialog
U : Opens Utility Manager (screen reader etc) dialog
E : Opens the My Computer Window
D : Displays the Desktop (minimises all open windows)
L : Switches user to the logon screen – Useful if you use a password and want to quickly lock your machine.
B : Displays the start menu bar
M : Minimises all windows to display the desktop

Windows system shortcuts.  Most Windows-based applications use these.
F1 : Help
CTRL + ESC : Open Start menu
ALT + TAB : Switch between open programs
ALT + F4 : Quit program
SHIFT + DELETE : Delete item permanently
CTRL + C : Copy
CTRL + X : Cut
CTRL + V : Paste
CTRL + Z : Undo
CTRL + B : Bold
CTRL + U : Underline
CTRL + I : Italic

Mouse click/keyboard modifier combinations for shell objects
SHIFT + right click : Displays a shortcut menu containing alternative commands
SHIFT + double click : Runs the alternate default command (the second item on the menu)
ALT + double click : Displays properties
SHIFT + DELETE : Deletes an item immediately without placing it in the Recycle Bin

General keyboard-only commands
F1 : Starts Windows Help
F10 : Activates menu bar options
SHIFT + F10 : Opens a shortcut menu for the selected item (this is the same as right-clicking an object
CTRL + ESC : Opens the Start menu (use the ARROW keys to select an item)
CTRL + ESC or ESC: Selects the Start button (press TAB to select the taskbar, or press SHIFT+F10 for a context menu)
CTRL + SHIFT + ESC : Opens Windows Task Manager
ALT + DOWN ARROW : Opens a drop-down list box
ALT + TAB : Switch to another running program (hold down the ALT key and then press the TAB key to view the task-switching window)
SHIFT : Press and hold down the SHIFT key while you insert a CD-ROM to bypass the automatic-run feature
ALT + SPACE : Displays the main window’s System menu (from the System menu, you can restore, move, resize, minimize, maximize, or close the window)
ALT + – (ALT+hyphen) : Displays the Multiple Document Interface (MDI) child window’s System menu (from the MDI child window’s System menu, you can restore, move, resize, minimize, maximize, or close the child window)
CTRL + TAB : Switch to the next child window of a Multiple Document Interface (MDI) program
ALT + underlined letter in menu: Opens the menu
ALT + F4 : Closes the current window
CTRL + F4 : Closes the current Multiple Document Interface (MDI) window
ALT + F6 : Switch between multiple windows in the same program (for example, when the Notepad Find dialog box is displayed, ALT + F6 switches between the Find dialog box and the main Notepad window)

General folder/Windows Explorer shortcuts
F2 : Rename object
F3 : Find all files
F4 : Selects the Go To A Different Folder box and moves down the entries in the box (if the toolbar is active in Windows Explorer)
F5 : Refreshes the current window.
F6 : Moves among panes in Windows Explorer
CTRL + X : Cut
CTRL + C : Copy
CTRL + V : Paste
CTRL + G : Opens the Go To Folder tool (in Windows 95 Windows Explorer only)
CTRL + Z : Undo the last command
CTRL + A : Select all the items in the current window
SHIFT + DELETE : Delete selection immediately, without moving the item to the Recycle Bin
ALT + ENTER : Open the properties for the selected object

Windows Explorer tree control
Numeric Keypad + * : Expands everything under the current selection
Numeric Keypad + + : Expands the current selection
Numeric Keypad + – : Collapses the current selection.
RIGHT ARROW : Expands the current selection if it is not expanded, otherwise goes to the first child
LEFT ARROW : Collapses the current selection if it is expanded, otherwise goes to the parent

New Windows 7 Keyboard shortcuts
Win + Space : operates as a keyboard shortcut for Aero Peek which hides all application windows so that you can see the desktop
Win + Up and Win + Down : are new shortcuts for Maximize and Restore/Minimize.
Win + Shift + Up : vertically maximises the current window
Win + Left and Win + Right : snap the current window to the left or right half of the current display; successive keypresses will move the window to other monitors in a multi-monitor configuration.
Win + Left and Win + Right : move the current window to the left or right display.
Win + + and Win + – (minus sign) : zoom the desktop in and out.
Win + Home : operates as a keyboard shortcut for Aero Shake.
Win + P : shows an “external display options” selector that gives the user the choice of showing the desktop on only the computer’s screen, only the external display, on both at the same time (mirroring), or on both displays with independent desktops (extending).

Windows 7 Taskbar
Shift + Click, or Middle click : starts a new instance of the application, regardless of whether it’s already running.
Ctrl + Shift + Click : starts a new instance with Administrator privileges; by default, a User Account Control prompt will be displayed.
Shift + Right-click : shows the classic Window menu (Restore / Minimize / Move / etc); right-clicking on the application’s thumbnail image will also show this menu. If the icon being clicked on is a grouped icon, the classic menu with Restore All / Minimize All / Close All menu is shown.
Ctrl + Click on a grouped icon : cycles between the windows (or tabs) in the group.

How to display the Quick Launch Toolbar in your Taskbar

(2000/XP/VISTA Only)
- Right click on taskbar, hilight toolbar and click on Quick Launch to make sure that there is a check mark next to it. 

WIN7 Only
Windows 7 uses a hybrid taskbar/quick launch arangement so it is not necessary to enable the Quick Launch toolbar.

How to place shortcuts on your Quick Launch Toolbar

2000/XP/VISTA Only
The easiest way to do this in 2000/XP/VISTA is a 2-step process. 

- First, right click on the Windows Explorer icon found in Start>All Programs>Accessories and select ‘Send to’ and choose Desktop.  The shortcut will show up on the desktop. 

- Now just drag and drop onto your quicklaunch section of the taskbar.


WIN7 Only
Windows 7 uses a hybrid taskbar/quick launch arangement, and it is much easier to get shortcuts on the taskbar. 

- Simply right click on any application in Start>All Programs and select “Pin to Taskpar”