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Friday, July 29, 2011

Back-to-BIOS Button

This is a feature on some Intel motherboards, and as of January 2011, the boards are including this option are: DP55WG and DP67BG.

The PowerSpec Models that use these motherboards are:

  • G157
  • G158
  • G159
  • G160
  • G210
Location of the Back-to-BIOS Button on the back of the computer:
b2boff---insert.jpg b2bon-2---insert.jpg

What it does
  • When it is active (it will glow RED), the computer starts and goes directly into BIOS.
  • There is no need to press F2 to enter BIOS when the button is active.
  • It can also be used if the customer is having problems pressing the F2 key to enter BIOS.
  • It is used to force the board to power on into the BIOS Maintenance Menu using default values.
  • The system will retain all previously saved BIOS changes.

What it cannot do
  • It cannot be used to override passwords set in the BIOS.
  • It cannot be used to invoke BIOS recovery mode.
Using the Back to BIOS button does not set the board to the factory BIOS defaults.
To restore settings to the factory defaults, use the F9 key once BIOS setup mode is active.

When Back-to-BIOS is active, there is a message at the top of the screen -


Settings can be changed if a BIOS setting is preventing the system from starting normally.

NOTE: Be sure to set the Back-to-BIOS button back to the normal setting when saving and exiting BIOS (the F10 key).

If the system enters BIOS every time it starts, try checking the rear of the system to see if the Back-to-BIOS button is RED. If it is, press the button (it should stop glowing) and restart the system.
The system should now start normally.

Backups and Archiving

CD media

1) Plan your backup
The first step is to determine what needs to be backed up. How and what to backup are personal decisions based on how you use your computer. The following are some examples.

Basic system: Data only
Do you use your computer for personal use with its original factory configuration and perhaps an additional program or two? Consider a Data Only Backup Solution. Frequency of Backups would depend on how often information is added or changed. The more often you add or change files, the more often you should back them up. For programs like Outlook and Quicken, where it’s not obvious where their data are kept; their help files usually describe how to back them up.

Complex system: Hard drive imaging plus separate data backup
Do you have a large number of programs installed and/or complex configurations that would take many hours to recreate? Would you or your business suffer if you had to take the time to set everything up from scratch? Consider a disk imaging solution. A disk image, created with a program such as Symantec’s Ghost, is an exact copy of an entire hard drive. Create a new disk image every time a major system change is made. Then Backup your data as needed.

Business system: Automated, complete system backup
Does your computer contain real-time business data that changes frequently? Consider an automated software backup solution and redundant hardware systems. Implement a backup media rotation system and rotate a set off site. Super critical systems warrant complete backup computers and even entire off-premise facilities, called hot-sites.

Things to consider
Try to implement the simplest plan possible which will still accomplish your goals. The less effort it takes to back up your computer, the more likely you will have a current backup when you need it. For example: configure your applications so they keep their data in a central location. By doing this, a backup can be accomplished by simply copying that one folder to a blank CD.

The programs and operating system on your computer are interconnected. A portion (Just the OS or a single Application) will not function apart from the whole. Data files, on the other hand, are portable. Backup (and restore) either the entire computer or just the data; anything else won’t work. In addition, operating systems are unique to the machine on which they were installed. If you restore an OS onto a different computer, it most likely will not work. There are ways around this problem, but they are difficult to implement. If you are dealing with irreparable or stolen hardware, your most straightforward option is to install your programs onto a replacement computer and restore only data.

Even if you choose a complete disk backup solution, not all the files need to be backed up. Some commercial music or video files are encoded so they will only work on the unit where they were originally downloaded. Whether they can be used on a different or recovered system depends on the Digital Rights Management (DRM) scheme used. Also, things like the Internet Cache and temporary files folders have no value. Backing them up will only waste your time and space on your backup media.

2) Determine if backup software is necessary
For most basic backups, simply copying the files to external media is adequate. For more complex situations, backup software can provide added flexibility. Backup software allows you to specify what parts of your computer you wish to include and exclude from the backup. They allow you to make Incremental or Differential backups, where only the files that have changed since the last backup session are copied, speeding the backup process.

Most backup programs also have a schedule or timer feature, which can perform the backup after office hours. If the selected media cannot contain the entire archive, some programs allow backups to span multiple pieces of media. The resulting media can contain the following: Plain files (copy), disk images (Ghost), and archive files (backup programs). Everything except for the plain file copy requires using the creating program to restore files.

In order to restore a backup, you need a functioning computer. Some backup programs come with bootable disks, which will allow you to use a computer with a corrupted (non-bootable) operating system. Many programs even support performing a data restore over network connections.

3) Select where you are going to put your backup
Once you know what needs to be backed up and how you can select appropriate media, some things to consider include the following:

  • Will the media hold the entire backup, or will you have to "babysit" and swap in blank media as needed?

  • How long it will take to run the backup?

  • Do you want multiple sets of backup media to rotate off-site? (This can be difficult with an external hard disk drive, but easier with tapes or recordable DVDs if the amount of data is not too great.)

Some people opt not to use removable media at all and instead synchronize their data across multiple computers, such as between their home and office. Others choose on-line data warehouses on the Internet where they can store their backups. And still others put their trust in redundant (mirrored) drive systems. In the end, it’s up to you to decide what’s right for you.

MediaAvg. CapacitySpeedPros and Cons
USB "Thumb" Drives2GB and upFastSmall, easily lost or damaged
Recordable Optical Disks650MB (CD)

4.7 - 9.4GB (DVD)
MediumInexpensive, easily damaged
Removable Disks1.4MB (floppy)

500MB+ (MO)
VariesMedia can be expensive, availability issues
External Hard Drives80 - 1TBVery FastHuge capacity, fast, may not be very portable
Local Area Network (Shared server storage)VariesMediumRequires network, ties up network bandwidth
Internet-Based BackupVariesSlowOff-Site, accessible anywhere, requires broadband; ongoing cost
Network Attached Storage (NAS)

Stand-Alone Storage (SAS)
VariesMediumRequires network, can tie up network bandwidth
RAID (mirroring)VariesVery FastReal time, requires no user intervention, no off-site storage or history

4) Make a recovery plan and recovery kit
The best time to determine how to restore a system is not in the middle of a crisis. Consider making a written plan of the steps necessary to restore your computer before it is needed. Keep this plan updated and, if possible, test it to make sure it works. In addition, test your backups, making sure the media is readable and that it contains everything it is supposed to.

hard drive

If your hard drive fails catastrophically, having a current backup can be

Be aware that viruses and other malicious programs are just files on the
hard drive and can inadvertently be included. A comprehensive anti-virus package should be used on every computer.

Create a recovery kit and keep it in a secure, but accessible, location.
If your backup contains critical Business information, two copies are suggested, keep on on-site for immediate access, and a second copy off-site as a precaution against catastrophic events.

Your recovery kit should contain the following:

  • An up-to-date copy of your recovery plan

  • Operating System or restore CDs and product key

  • All application installation CDs and their product keys

  • All programs needed to recover the backup data

  • Anything else needed to make this or another computer functional


Windows XP includes a backup utility that can save your files to removable media, a different hard drive, or a network drive.

Note: It does not directly support burning to recordable CD or DVD media.

Windows 7 Backup application adds an option to create an emergency boot disk and can make a complete system backup or incremental backup either at a scheduled time or on demand.


Backup 2.0.2 is available to .Mac members by selecting the Backup icon on the .Mac website and via Automatic Software Update to .Mac members who have already installed a previous version of Backup.

If you use OS X 10.5 or 10.6 and are a subscriber to MobileMe, download the current version of MobileMe Backup to keep items in your Home folder in sync across multiple computers and devices. This includes email, contacts, calendar, bookmarks and other content. To backup items outside of the Home folder, Apple suggests using Time Machine, which can back up your entire hard drive to a Time Capsule, hard drive, or network volume.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

How to Check the Security Status in Windows 7

This is a how-to article on checking the Security Status in Windows 7. This can be useful to verify that the system is protected.

  1. Click on the Start button in the bottom left, then choose Control Panel.

    Open control panel

  2. In the top left corner underneath System and Security, click on Review your computer's status.

    Review your computer's status
  3. If there are any security issues, they will show here under Security. In this example, the firewall in the ESET Smart Security program has been turned off.

    Security menu
  4. If there are no issues, it sill be minimized and will show no information as in this example:

    Review recent messages and resolve problems

  5. To view additional information, click on the down arrow to the right of the Security option.

    Security options
  6. Here are some examples of what shows on a system with ESET Smart Security:


BYO BSOD: Build Your Own "Blue Screen of Death"

blue screen

(Micro Center Random Access Newsletter, January 2009)

Prices on hard drives, video cards, and processors continue to fall, and memory prices aren't too bad either. I assembled what should be a decent performance system, using an EVGA 780i motherboard, an Intel 9600 series CPU, 6GB of Corsair 1066 DDR2 memory, a pair of NVIDIA 9800 SLI video cards, and a couple of 1 TB hard drives. What occurred during the OS setup phase were a series of minor annoyances, resulting in enough delays to prevent me from documenting the system for our December newsletter. On the other hand, it allowed me to document few tips that might make your next BYO task just a bit easier.

Some of the features I wanted to include in the system were on-board RAID, eSATA (external SATA) support, SLI dual-video card support, and enough slots to handle both current and legacy technology. Making legacy hardware work with the newer systems can be as frustrating as getting old OS versions like Windows XP to support some of the new hardware; sooner or later, you will find things that just don't play well together.

Memory issues are the first to appear during the OS install, not necessarily because it is incompatible or that there are timing issues, but when there is too much of it. After installation, 32-bit versions of Windows XP and Vista will not see all of the memory when you have 4 GB or more installed. This is due to the memory map used by the OS, and that there are a certain range of addresses reserved by the OS.

The result is that the OS typically reports somewhere between 3.2 GB and 3.4 GB of memory, and ignores anything more. 64-bit versions of Windows are needed to access 4GB or more. But even 64-bit versions of Windows Vista can have problems during the installation process, causing the Setup program to terminate abnormally and display a "Blue Screen" error message...

memory error
A search of the error message includes service pack updates, hot fixes and other solutions, but I finally came across a mention of too much memory. (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/929777)

The work-around is simple: remove memory to take it to 3GB or less, install Windows, and then once installed, replace your extra memory. By pulling one or more memory modules, you should then be able to install Windows Vista or XP. In my case, Windows XP still has a problem, but no longer with the memory...

When installing Windows to drives configured in a RAID array, the simple approach is to configure the drives in the hardware before installing the OS. Some RAID configurations can be implemented after the install, but this is usually an exception. To be able to install an OS to a target RAID array, the setup program must either support the RAID chipset or you must load the drivers as part of the Setup process. Once drives have been configured as RAID, they will not appear as a standard IDE or SATA storage device, causing you to see something like this:

blue screen
To correct this under a Windows XP Setup, try to load the SATA IDE and or RAID drivers from a floppy disk by pressing F6 at the first setup screen to specify additional drivers. (Even after loading the NVIDIA IDE-SATA driver and the SATA RAID drivers, XP still did not see my array. It turns out that was apparently due to something in my SP3 slipstream image; the original SP2 media worked fine.) One workaround is to use a standard IDE drive or to install a secondary storage adapter and load its drivers during setup. There are reports of setup errors if RAID is set to use "AHCI" instead of ATA mode
in the BIOS. If the driver load does not work, check the BIOS setup to see if there are options available for the onboard RAID configuration or if RAID setup itself has any options. You may also find SATA settings that can impact how Windows Setup sees the drives. Most SATA drives will appear to be just another IDE device reported by the BIOS, but not always.

Remember, XP only supports adding drivers from floppy during Setup. You should be able to use a USB floppy drive if you do not have one attached to the floppy controller of the motherboard. Windows Vista setup allows you to add drivers from CD or other detected storage device including optical disk, hard drive, etc.

There is another potential issue as well: The original install of Windows
XP (pre- Service Pack 2) only supports up to 128 GB drives. The result may be that Setup reports a drive much smaller than the physical capacity, or the resulting installation is not bootable. You must have SP2 or higher to access drives larger than this.

Another installation problem with storage can be triggered by using a SATA optical drive to install from. This may generate a message about the boot device not being available or something like:

Windows XP (32-bit)

blue screen
A Windows Vista (64-bit) message looks almost identical except for the 64-bit

The quick fix is to attach an IDE optical drive during the installation process.
Once the OS has been installed and the chipset and storage drivers have been loaded, you can remove the drive and use the SATA optical drive instead.

Other BYO suggestions:

  • If planning a Windows multi-boot configuration, install the "oldest" OS version first. Newer versions usually will detect the previous install and give you the option for a new install or to upgrade the previous version. A new install should give you your multi-boot with the fewest issues. (Check compatibility as well - if you can't find chipset or other drivers for your OS, your system may detect, but cannot use device features without them.)

  • When selecting a processor for your system board, be sure to check the vendor site for compatibility. If the processor model was released after the system board was manufactured, you may need a BIOS update for it to support the new CPU. In some cases, you must install a supported CPU to flash the BIOS before the system can boot with the newer CPU installed.

  • As with the CPU, check your specifications for memory, drives, video, etc. I find nothing worse than sitting down to build a system only to find one or more components are incompatible. For example, many older modems, SCSI adapters, and other hardware that works fine under XP have no support under Windows Vista.

  • Build your system with a minimal configuration to install the OS, this makes for fewer things to go wrong or conflicts to occur. When you get to the OS install phase, fewer devices means fewer drivers will be requested. As you
    add new hardware, you will know exactly what drivers Windows (or any other OS for that matter) is requesting.

  • Make sure to power off the power supply or surge strip when installing or changing system components. ATX power supplies feed minimal power to the system board as soon as they are connected and turned on.

  • Don't forget your anti-static straps when handling components out of their packaging. I have been sparking to every doorknob and piece of electrical equipment, even with the humidifier on "high". Even if you don't feel the spark, static voltages can destroy or shorten the life of your new system if you don't take simple precautions.

  • If you are building a system with a USB card reader, don't connect the device before installing Windows. Many Setup programs will support the reader as a removable drive and shift all of the hard drive and optical drive letters up, placing these devices in the first positions along with any floppy drives. On some older system boards, if you have the BIOS boot sequence configured to "Boot Other", card readers have been known to hang at system startup, waiting for the "removable drive" to report it's "ready".

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How to Create and Save an Access Database

This articles will demonstrate how to create a basic database using Microsoft Access.

  1. Open Microsoft Access.

  2. Click File » New » Select Blank Database.

    File menu

  3. In the bottom right, input the name of the database and click Create.

    Select a file name 

  4. Click File and Save Database As.

    Save database

  5. Select the file location and save the database.

    If a window appears asking to close all open databases, click Yes to complete the save.

Troubleshooting: Power-On-Self-Test Failures

Over the years, many customers have come to us after assembling their new computers and finding that their system will just not start up. Here are some things to double-check that we have found wrong before:

  • Did you read the motherboard manual or Quick Start guide?

  • Is the 115/230 Volt switch on the back of the power supply set to 115 Volts?

  • Is the system getting power?

    • Do the fans start to spin when you press the power button?

    • Is there a power-indicator on the motherboard that lights up as soon as the power supply is connected and the power supply switch is turned on?

  • Are all of the power supply plugs inserted into the motherboard? -- even that square one next to the processor socket?

  • Does your video card require additional power connections?

  • Is the RAM properly seated? If you are only using some of the available slots, are the modules in the same bank / channel?

  • Is it the correct speed RAM?

  • Is the heat sink firmly attached? (Many no-start or lockup problems have been found due to this error.)

    • Has heat sink compound been properly applied? (Stock heat sinks usually have phase-change compound pre-applied to the base. Many after-market heat sinks include a tube, bottle, or squeeze-packet of thermal compound. If no compound was applied, the CPU will overheat, even with the cooler correctly mounted.)

    • If your heat sink came with a protective film over the compound, did you remove it before installing?

    • If you have an after-market heat sink, is it seated squarely on the processor? Make sure it clears any system board components, connectors,
      or other obstacles that may be located near the CPU socket. If it has more than one or two lock-down points, make sure all are securely fastened down.

    • Intel stock coolers have lock-down pins that rotate 1/4 turn counterclockwise to release. These should be in the clockwise (locked) position.

  • If you are using a separate video card with a motherboard that already has  integrated video -- is your monitor attached to the correct video connector?
    (The video card in the expansion slot should disable on board video automatically.
    If you don't see the POST screen or graphical splash screen at power-on, you can check this by attaching the video to the onboard connector. To test the base hardware, pull the video card and test with just the onboard video connected.)

  • Did you double-check the front panel switch connections to make sure that they attach to the correct pins on the motherboard?

  • If you have a reset switch, try removing this connection at the motherboard if there are separate connectors. Check for stuck reset or power buttons on the front of the case.

  • Did you skip installing the standoffs and screw the motherboard directly
    to the chassis pan? (Don’t laugh; it’s been done more than once.)

  • Try disconnecting any drives, USB, or other devices not specifically required for basic power on testing. You don't need to boot to a hard drive or optical disk, and USB devices may appear to be bootable media to the system. Once you have a successful boot with minimum hardware, then connect additional devices one at a time until you identify which one caused the POST failure.

  • Are you getting any beeps? How many and what kind? Check your motherboard manual.

Only after thoroughly investigating these issues should you start suspecting one or more bad components.

Remember - check the obvious things first...
power button 

  • Is it turned on, plugged
    in, and set to the correct line voltage?

power cables

  • Are all power cables

  • Is the heat sink installed correctly and seated flat on the CPU with
    thermal compound?

  • Is memory seated correctly?

Power cables

  • Are the front panel connections on correctly?

  • Try removing the reset button connection if these are separate connections.

user manuals 

  • Check your user manual for troubleshooting tips.

  • Verify that the components
    like memory and CPU are compatible.

  • Look for a table of POST beep codes if you get startup error signals.

The following table shows some of the more common beep code sequences generated by certain BIOS manufacturers. This is not all-inclusive, and may be different from your specific system board version or manufacturer - check your documentation to be sure.

Award / Phoenix BIOS beep codes:
One short beep when displaying logoNo errors during POST
(This is normal!)
Long beeps in an endless loopNo DRAM installed, DRAM
not detected, or base 64MB memory bad
One long beep followed by three
short beeps
Video card not found
or video memory bad. (Note: Some video cards can generate this code if the
monitor is not attached and/or turned on.)
High frequency beeps when system
is working
CPU overheated. System
running at a lower frequency.

Intel desktop beep codes:
1 beepNo errors - normal startup
2 beeps (beep, beep, <pause>...)No video detected (add-in
card) or unsupported CPU
3 beeps (beep, beep, beep, <pause>...)Memory error
High/Low beeps (warble)CPU overheat or no CPU
fan detected

Intel server board (SE7505VB2) beep codes:
Beep sequence:Meaning
4, 3, 1, 2 beepsNo memory modules detected
4, 3, 1, 3 beepsMismatched memory installed
(usually size of RAM modules, but can also be single-side vs. double side
or configuration of RAM chip access)
4, 3, 1, 4 beepsPaired memory required,
not found. Check to make sure pairs of modules are installed in the same
bank or channel.
4, 3, 3, 1 beepsMemory error - row address
4, 3, 3, 2 beepsMemory error - Internal
4, 3, 3, 3 beepsMemory error - Timing
4, 3, 3, 4 beepsMemory error - Registered
4, 3, 4, 1 beepsMemory error - Registered
/ NonRegistered mix
4, 3, 4, 2 beepsMemory error - CAS Latency
not supported
4, 3, 4, 3 beepsMemory error - memory
size not supported
1, 3, 4, 3 beepsMemory error - base
4 MB

Monday, July 25, 2011

Backing Up Files and Settings with Windows 7 Backup

This is a walk-through on backing up files in Windows 7.

  1. Click on the Start button and type "backup" in the search programs and files field.

    Start button
  2. Select Backup and Restore from the results.

    Backup and restore
  3. Click on Set up backup option.

    Set up backup
  4. Select the destination drive for the backup. Click Next.
    Select backup destination
  5. If unsure which option to select, choose the Let Windows Choose (Recommended)
    option and click next. If the exact folders to be backed up are known, select the
    Let Me Choose and click Next.

    Let Windows Choose

    Note that this tutorial details the Let Windows Choose option, and not the Let Me Choose option.

  6. By default the backup will be run weekly, on the date and time displayed on the screen. If another schedule is required, select Change schedule and change the schedule as desired.

    Schedule backups
  7. Click on Save Settings and Exit.

    Save settings
  8. Here is what it should look during the backup process.

    Backup in progress
  9. After the backup is completed the screen will look similar to the one below indicating that the backup is complete.

    Backup or restore files

Friday, July 22, 2011

What is ODBC?

ODBC Stands for Open DataBase Connectivity. This was developed by the SQL Access group in 1992. This is a standard database access method.

ODBC allows access to any data regardless of the database management system that handles the data. This process is managed by inserting a database driver. This driver is in between the application and the database management system. This layer translates the application’s data queries into commands, and these commands can be used in the Database management system. The ODBC allows programs to read from Microsoft Access, Paradox, dBase and FoxPro formats. It can also connect to external database servers like Oracle or Microsoft SQL Server and can use ODBC to move data from one database to another database.

ODBC eliminates the need for corporate developers and software manufacturers to learn multiple programming applications. ODBC provides a universal data access interface.
This tool can be found in the Control Panel, Administrator Tools, Data Sources (ODBC), in Windows 7.

Microsoft Support. ODBC--Open Database Connectivity Overview. http://support.microsoft.com/kb/110093

Using Extended Character Sets in Windows

Windows includes a handy utility for previewing, selecting and transferring special characters to most applications that support pasting from the Windows clipboard. This is the accessory called Character Map. If it has been installed it is usually found in the Accessories list under your Start Menu (Start, Programs, Accessories, Character Map.)

[caption id="attachment_359" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The Character Map tool in Windows XP"]Character Map tool[/caption]

Using the Character Map accessory: Select the same font you are using in your other Windows application from the pull-down list. If you do not find the symbol you are looking for as part of the font table, you may need to select a different font and change to that to display or print the desired symbol. Different fonts will have different character sets and symbols in their tables. Clicking once on a character displays a larger view of the symbol. The status line at the bottom shows the description and the keystrokes necessary to create the symbol within your application.

Double-clicking on a symbol copies it to the box at the bottom of the window. You can also click on the "Select" button after clicking once on the symbol. Once you have all of the characters listed in the copy box, click the "Copy" button to transfer them to the Windows clipboard. You can then use "Paste" from your file menu to insert them into your application.

Using the ALT key: At the bottom right corner of the window is information for inserting the character from the keyboard. In this example, you would press and hold the ALT key, then enter four numbers - 0,1,7 and 4 from the number pad (not the regular keys above the "qwerty" row). Once you have entered the four digit number, release the ALT key. If this is blank, you must use cut & paste.

[caption id="attachment_360" align="aligncenter" width="77" caption="The complete Times New Roman character set map."]character set map[/caption]

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Windows Keyboard Shortcuts

Use shortcut keys as an alternative to the mouse when working in Windows. You can open, close, and navigate the Start menu, desktop, menus, dialog boxes, and Web pages using keyboard shortcuts. Keyboard shortcuts may also make it easier for you to interact with your computer. Menus may have an Underlined letter in a command name on an open menu; with the menu list open, pressing the letter will carry out the corresponding command.

General keyboard shortcuts
SHIFT+DELETEDelete selected item permanently without placing the item in the Recycle Bin.
CTRL while dragging an itemCopy selected item.
CTRL+SHIFT while dragging an itemCreate shortcut to selected item.
F2Rename selected item.
CTRL+RIGHT ARROWMove the insertion point to the beginning of the next word.
CTRL+LEFT ARROWMove the insertion point to the beginning of the previous word.
CTRL+DOWN ARROWMove the insertion point to the beginning of the next paragraph.
CTRL+UP ARROWMove the insertion point to the beginning of the previous paragraph.
CTRL+SHIFT with any of the arrow keysHighlight a block of text.
SHIFT with any of the arrow keysSelect more than one item in a window or on the desktop, or select text within a document.
CTRL+ASelect all.
F3Search for a file or folder.
ALT+ENTERView properties for the selected item.
ALT+F4Close the active item, or quit the active program.
ALT+EnterDisplays the properties of the selected object.
ALT+SPACEBAROpens the shortcut menu for the active window.
CTRL+F4Close the active document in programs that allow you to have multiple documents open simultaneously.
ALT+TABSwitch between open items.
ALT+ESCCycle through items in the order they were opened.
F6Cycle through screen elements in a window or on the desktop.
F4Display the Address bar list in My Computer or Windows Explorer.
SHIFT+F10Display the shortcut menu for the selected item.
ALT+SPACEBARDisplay the System menu for the active window.
CTRL+ESCDisplay the Start menu.
ALT+Underlined letter in a menu nameDisplay the corresponding menu.
F10Activate the menu bar in the active program.
RIGHT ARROWOpen the next menu to the right, or open a submenu.
LEFT ARROWOpen the next menu to the left, or close a submenu.
F5Refresh the active window.
BACKSPACEView the folder one level up in My Computer or Windows Explorer.
ESCCancel the current task.
Press and hold a SHIFT key when you insert a CD into the CD-ROM drivePrevent the CD from automatically playing.
Dialog box keyboard shortcuts
CTRL+TABMove forward through tabs.
CTRL+SHIFT+TABMove backward through tabs.
TABMove forward through options.
SHIFT+TABMove backward through options.
ALT+Underlined letterCarry out the corresponding command or select the corresponding option.
ENTERCarry out the command for the active option or button.
SPACEBARSelect or clear the check box if the active option is a check box.
Arrow keysSelect a button if the active option is a group of option buttons.
F1Display Help.
F4Display the items in the active list.
BACKSPACEOpen a folder one level up if a folder is selected in the Save As
or Open dialog box.
Windows Explorer keyboard shortcuts
ENDDisplay the bottom of the active window.
HOMEDisplay the top of the active window.
NUM LOCK+ASTERISK on numeric keypad (*)Display all subfolders under the selected folder.
NUM LOCK+PLUS SIGN on numeric keypad (+)Display the contents of the selected folder.
NUM LOCK+MINUS SIGN on numeric keypad (-)Collapse the selected folder.
LEFT ARROWCollapse current selection if it's expanded, or select parent folder.
RIGHT ARROWDisplay current selection if it's collapsed, or select first subfolder.
Help and Support keyboard shortcuts
ALT+SPACEBARDisplay the System menu.
SHIFT+F10Display the Help and Support shortcut menu.
ALT+TABSwitch between the Help and Support Center and other open windows.
CTRL+TABSwitch to the next pane.
CTRL+SHIFT+TABSwitch to the previous pane.
UP ARROWMove up one item in the  Index, search results, or list of Help topics.
DOWN ARROWMove down one item in the Index, search results, or list of Help topics.
PAGE UPMove up one page in the Index, search results, or list of Help topics.
PAGE DOWNMove down one page in the Index, search results, or list of Help topics.
F6Switch focus between the different panes in Help and Support Center.
UP ARROW or DOWN ARROWScroll through a topic.
CTRL+HOMEMove to the beginning of a topic.
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How to Activate Microsoft Office Product Key Card

The following article describes the processes for using your Microsoft Office Product Key Card. The first part covers the process if Microsoft Office 2010 is preloaded on your computer. The second part covers the process if Microsoft Office 2010 is not preloaded on your computer. Check to see if your PC is preloaded with Office 2010. To do so, click the Windows Start menu, and then click All Programs. If you see Office 2010, Office is preloaded.

If the computer came with a starter or trial version of Office 2010, and it is to be upgraded to the full version, follow the following steps:

  1. Locate the 25-character product key on the card.
  2. In the Start menu, find Microsoft Office and click on the title.
  3. On the Office 2010 startup screen, find the orange checkmark icon  
    Checkmark icon  , then click Activate.
  4. When prompted, enter the 25 character key from the Microsoft Office 2010 Product Key Card.
Follow the following steps if no installation of Office 2010 exists on your computer:
  1. Go to this website - https://www2.downloadoffice2010.microsoft.com/usa/registerkey.aspx?ref=pkc&culture=en-US - and enter your 25-character product key from your Microsoft Office 2010 Product Key Card.

    Enter the product key

  2. Select your language.

    Select a language

  3. Type the 6 characters in the box at the right and download your copy of Office 2010.

    Verify key code

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Media Streaming: You can take it with you...

For several years, I have been playing around with different ways to access and stream media from a TV tuner or home PC. Usually, it's just an experiment to see how much I can do with a Windows Media Center system, or to show off the capabilities of various devices, like my Windows-based PDA phone...

There are several ways to do this by using a PC or with stand-alone hardware such as a Slingbox or similar device to transmit the audio or video, and using a network-enabled PDA, phone, notebook or PC to control and receive the streaming media. You can also stream media directly from a PC to another web-enabled device with nothing much more than some software designed for the purpose, such as "orb" which can stream to any device that support Windows Media Player or RealPlayer. Another popular streaming format on many sites is Apple's QuickTime, which like Media Player can playback streaming media as it is received, or load and play audio or video files already on your system.

What is Streaming Media?
Streaming media differs from downloading and playback in that you can be viewing (or listening) to the media as the packets of data are being sent over the network. Streaming media files are generally not saved to the local computer's drive, but are "buffered" in a temporary file that contains only the immediate data required to playback the media for the next short period of time. The size of the buffer may be something you can set in the player's preferences, or be limited by the speed of the data transfer itself.

Streaming allows one to view "Live TV" remotely and on devices that have no TV tuner, just a network connection. Streaming data is transmitted by a remote "server" and played back in near real time by the receiving device. Audio or video playback can begin as soon as enough data has been received and stored in the client's buffer.

Some well known examples of streaming media that you may already be using includes video steaming such as youtube.com and hulu.com and steaming audio such as pandora.com. Streaming media may be in the form of audio or video podcasts, movie trailers,
commercials, as well as real-time applications such as educational lectures (e-learning), web meeting, Voice over IP telephone and video conferencing, and the list goes on.

Check out your local radio station websites, many offer live streaming-audio of the over-the-air broadcast. TV stations, including many broadcast or cable network site now offer clips, previews, or even the current episodes for viewing.

Streaming has been available for years, but typically required having a dedicated media server that would compress and transmit the packets of media data over the network to the remote clients. The capability became more widespread as manufacturers added streaming media functions to software used to control the TV tuner adapter along with recording and direct playback features.

Companies such as ATI offered applications bundled with their TV Tuners that could stream live TV or recorded shows to remote systems running a special streaming media client.

When Microsoft introduced their Media Center version of Windows, it included the capability for Media Extenders to remotely access, control, and view TV and other media available on the Media Center PC. These Media Extenders could be a stand-alone network device, or something like an Xbox 360. Generally, Media Center systems and Media Extenders are designed to be used on "private" networks, and don't give you much, if any, capability to access your media across the Internet.

The quality of the playback is directly tied to the data transfer speed. With dial-up-networking (remember those telephone modems?), streaming is possible, but will only support very small player resolutions, and even then, it may be "choppy" or encounter delays if you have any noise or loss of signal. Although slightly better, 802.11b wireless networking has similar limitations.

To use a Windows Media Center Extender to view live TV or video playback, Microsoft originally recommended having at least an 802.11bg or 802.11abg connection. With wired networking, the higher data transfer speeds make even remote viewing of High Definition TV possible. Again, the quality of the playback and the player resolution will be limited by the actual transfer speeds between your devices. This means that the uplink speed of your media "server" may be the limiting factor, and if you are connecting across the Internet, you may also have occasional issues with slowdowns between the various service providers.

Sling Media's Slingbox products were one of the first stand-alone devices that allow you to stream audio or video over the Internet or just across your home network. A Slingbox is designed to connect directly to your cable or satellite source, although you can attach any compatible device. The Slingbox Pro-HD not only supports High Definition signals (both incoming and streaming them to you), but also incorporates analog and HD digital (ATSC) tuners allowing you to stream your video without changing the channel on your big screen TV.

The Slingbox Solo does not have integrated tuners, meaning you need a way to control your cable or satellite TV tuner box to view a particular show. Like the original Slingbox, both the Solo and Pro-HD have what is called a "data blaster", which is nothing more then a pair of Infrared LEDs that can transmit the necessary remote-control signals to your tuner device, turning it on and off, changing channels, etc. remotely, using the SlingPlayer application. (To compare the features, check out http://www.slingbox.com/go/slingbox-prohd-help-me-choose)

sling box

[caption id="attachment_329" align="aligncenter" width="205" caption="The Slingbox Solo supports pass-through of composite, S-video, and component video signals."]sling box[/caption]

I had opportunity to play around with a Slingbox Solo, and experimented with some different sources and remote players. The Slingbox Solo has three different audio/video inputs; Component Video such as from a High Definition Player or HD converter box, Composite Video and S-video. The Slingbox solo does not steam HD, it just has a compatible signal input, if you want to stream 720 or 1080 HD signals, you need the Pro-HD version of the Slingbox.

Coming up with some input signals for the Solo was becoming a challenge, since I only have cable-ready devices, and don't use anything with a component video output. I do have an S-VHS camera, but to test the signal, I simply connected an S-video cable from one of my computer video cards to the Slingbox and toggled the display to include the S-video out. When I brought up the SlingPlayer software, and selected the source as S-video, I had a blurry, but recognizable view of a Windows desktop. Although S-video is crisper than a composite video signal, it's still in the 640x480 resolution range. Squishing a 1024x768 display image down to the much lower analog TV resolution signal doesn't do much for the viewing experience if you were trying to use the system normally.

Viewing a full-screen video or other media on the computer would be no worse then a normal analog TV broadcast. For a composite video test, I connected a DVD player and started a movie; selecting the composite video source in the SlingPlayer application showed the player output, although it had no support for IR remote control of the portable player.

[caption id="attachment_331" align="aligncenter" width="201" caption="Playback of a DVD through the Slingbox Solo using composite video."]movie screen[/caption]

Of course, since analog TV is essentially no longer available (maybe some low-power local stations), people with old analog devices need to use a digital-to-analog converter box to view over-the-air broadcasts. I dug out one of my converter boxes and connected the composite and audio from the converter to the Slingbox Solo inputs and attached the IR data blasters near the pick-up sensor and an old rabbit ear antenna was connected to the converter.

Using the SlingPlayer to view the output, I manually configured the converter box to scan for HD channels. Once configured to display the local stations, I was able to capture some sample video using both the SlingPlayer and through the web browser access via the sling.com web site. When I tried to view this remotely, I found a problem - the converter box has a time-out feature that turns it off if you don't change channels or otherwise provide some periodic activity.

The converter box is not one of the devices immediately supported by the Sling software; information on customizing a remote control is described in the Sling User Forums, and many custom device files have been created by users with hardware necessary to "capture" the IR remote control code sequences in a usable data format. Locating a custom driver file from the manufacturer of the converter box took some searching, and was not for my specific model. Once I got it properly installed however, it works fine and allows me to turn the box on and off, change channels, etc. through the Sling applications.

[caption id="attachment_333" align="aligncenter" width="252" caption="The browser add-in application allows you to control and view your media over the Internet, by logging into the sling.com web site."]streaming media[/caption]


[caption id="attachment_332" align="aligncenter" width="205" caption="The SlingPlayer is designed for configuring and local area network access to your Slingbox."]streaming media example[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_334" align="aligncenter" width="240" caption="On the Macintosh side, the SlingPlayer allows the user to setup and view streaming media over your local network."]streaming media[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_335" align="aligncenter" width="240" caption="The browser add-in does have one OS limitation, requiring OS X 10.5 or higher to run."]media interface[/caption]


mobile streaming mediamobile streaming media

[caption id="attachment_338" align="aligncenter" width="220" caption="Sling Media also has mobile phone applications for iPhone, iPod touch, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, Symbian, and classic Palm OS devices. You can try the application free for the first 30 days, after that, you must purchase a registration code for $29.99 to continue using the player."]streaming media[/caption]

A software-only solution can be found at www.orb.com. Orb installs a client on your home XP or Vista Media Center system (that's necessary for the live TV feature) and then, like sling.com, uses a browser login to their site to link you with your home system over the Internet. In addition to live TV, you can access media already stored on the home system, including, pictures, documents, audio files, video, etc. There is even a file browser feature that lets you explore drives and folders and download files to your remote.

If you have a data-blaster device integrated in your Media Center system or as an option to your tuner card, then you would have the same remote control capability as a Slingbox. In many cases (not all) Orb can control your Media Center tuner directly, allowing you to view live TV or remotely schedule or start the system recording a show.

If Media Center is running, Orb can give you the ability to terminate the application to take control of the tuner. Control and playback is managed through an Internet browser connection and then launches and streams media directly to Windows Media Player or Real Player. Orb recently added iPhone to the supported device list with the OrbLive today application ($9.99 in the App Store).

streaming mediastreaming media

[caption id="attachment_341" align="aligncenter" width="157" caption="Orb allows you to navigate your media through a browser window, and then view live TV or play media remotely through a supported player on the device."]streaming media[/caption]