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Windows XP: Clean Up Your PC p.28 

Review: Photo-Editing Software p.21 


In Plain Enqlish 


Vol.20 lss.13 
$5.99 U.S. 
$7.99 Canada 


Stuff Stockings With New: 

Desktops & Notebooks 
Keyboards & Mice r^ 
Printers | 

Monitors & TVs 


Home Theaters r - 



& Camcorders 

Goodies & Gadgets 

Windows 7 

Connect To A /* 
Network p.30 

Homemade Gifts 
Go Digital p.34 

Work With Gmail 

Try Google's 
Email Service p.47 

What To Do When \ 

Your Notebook Is Too Hot p.80 









//V 11/ 


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^M| £ 


I In Plain Fnalkh *J 


In Plain English 

Volume 20 . December 2009 . Issue 13 

Copyright 2009 by Sandhills Publishing Company. Smart Computing is a 
registered trademark of Sandhills Publishing Company. All rights reserved. Reproduction 
of material appearing in Smart Computing is strictly prohibited without written permis- 
sion. Printed in the U.S.A. GST # 123482788RT0001 Smart Computing USPS 005-665 
(ISSN 1093-4170) is published monthly for $29 per year by Sandhills Publishing 
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News & Notes 

10 Technology News & Notes 

15 News From The Help Desk: 
Our Most Common Tech Calls 

We tell you the most common 
problems we're hearing about each 
month and provide straightforward 
solutions for each one. 



Tech Diaries 

Our Smart Computing columnists 
spent some quality time with com- 
puter and computer- related hard- 
ware and software to get beyond the 
benchmark scores, statistics, and 
marketing hype. Find out what 
they liked and disliked about 
their choices. 

17 Marty Sems: Plextor Blu-ray Disc 
Combo PX-B320SA, MotionDSP 
vReveal 1.1 


Plextor PX-B320SA 

18 Blaine Flamig: Nikon D5000 

19 Tara Bantam: Sony Reader 
Pocket Edition PRS-300 

20 Linne Ourada: 

Epson PictureMate Charm 

Photo-Editing Software 

We review the latest from Adobe, 
Corel, Google, Serif, and 19th 

24 Software Reviews 

24 Manage Your Media 
Roxio Creator 2010 

25 All-in-One Design 

25 Organize Your Life 
Google Calendar 

Windows Central 

26 Windows News, Views & Tips 

Microsoft Releases Security Essentials 

28 Windows XP: Time For A Cleanup j. 

Tidy Up With Built-in Tools L0J 

30 Windows 7: Networking With The New OS 

Simple & Reliable 

Computers & Electronics 

32 DIY Project: Install A Drive Image 
34 Now That's Crafty 

Homemade Gifts Straight From Your Computer 

37 Readers' Tips 

Our readers win very cool (OK, moderately cool) Smart Computing T-shirts 
by sharing great ways to solve problems and accomplish PC-related tasks. 

38 A Slice Of Apple: Free Mac Software 

Smart Computing columnist — and Mac guru — Seth Colaner provides tips, 
tricks, and commentary for the Mac fanatics among us. 

39 Mac Corner 

Debunking Compatibility Myths 



Plugged In 

41 Web Tips 

42 Find It Online 
44 Opera 

Make Friends With An Innovative Browser 

47 Google Gmail 

Start With The Basics 

50 Mr. Modem's 

Cruising Down Memory Lane 

In which Mr. Modem, author of several books — 

none of which has won the Pulitzer Prize — and co-host of the weekly 

"Gutsy Geeks" radio show, looks back at the good ol' days. 


78 Notebook Cases 

94 Ovation 

This month we feature these products: 
DigiGone Secure Mobile 
Mimo Monitors iMo Foto Frame Printer 

,li, «»ilUl 

80 What To Do When 

Your Notebook Runs Hot 

A hot notebook may indicate that a com- 
ponent is malfunctioning. We help you 
spot damaged fans, batteries, and more. 

82 How To Fix Problems With 

84 Pest Control 

87 Fast Fixes 

88 Q&A 

90 FAQs 

91 Action Editor 

Can't seem to get a response from a vendor 
or manufacturer? If you need help, we're 
here for you. 

92 Tales From The Trenches: 
Skip The Trapeze 

Real-world tech support advice from PC 
guru Gregory Anderson. This month, he 
finds programs that create PDFs. 

Quick Studies 

72 Excel 2007 

Paste Special Options 

73 Roxio Creator 2009 

Troubleshooting CinePlayer 

74 Browsers 

Avoid Falling For Phishing Sites 

75 Online 

Read All About It Tomorrow 

76 Word 2007 

Work Faster With Macros: Part I 

77 PowerPoint 2007 

Work With Tables: Part I 




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December Web-Only Articles 

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Computer Support 1 

Editor's Note 

The holidays are upon us, 

and with them, the sales. 

Electronics retailers took a 

beating in this recession, but 

those left standing have 

given every indication that their 

tactic this year is the same as in years past: 

lure customers with slashed prices. 

That's good news if electronics are on your list this year. Desktops 

and notebooks look particularly good 
to me, due to their low prices and, 
more importantly, Windows 7. 1 find 
the new operating system to be very 
easy to use. 

In fact, I recommend it even to people 
who don't plan to buy a new com- 
puter this year. Win7 will give your cur- 
rent PC a fresh new personality. (Of 

course, you'll want to visit to check the system 

requirements before you take the plunge.) 

We've lined up desktops, notebooks, and tons of gadgets that 

ought to be on your radar this year. Some of them will appeal 

to just about anyone, and 

others will strike a chord with 

the geekiest among us. Enjoy 

this gift bonanza, whether 

you're checking off a list or 

doing some modern-day 

window shopping. 

%£&«* 6 CA( 

Joshua Gulick 

Customer Service 

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Smart Computing / December 2009 9 

Technology News & Notes 

Compiled by Christian Perry 


TouchSmart PCs Put The 
Power In Your Fingers 

There once was a time when 
people dreamed of having a 
television in every room. But that 
dream is now old hat, replaced by 
a popular desire to place PCs 
throughout the home. Touch- 
screen PCs make that plan plau- 
sible with displays and applications 
designed specifically for quick, 
easy touch input, whether you're 
standing or sitting. 

HP's new TouchSmart PCs com- 
bine an all-in-one design with a 
massive slate of touch-tailored ap- 
plications. The TouchSmart 300z se- 
ries (starts at $799.99; 
and TouchSmart 600t series (starts 
at $1,049.99) let you pinch, rotate, 
arc, flick, or press and drag items on 
their touchscreens, or you can just 
use a traditional mouse and key- 
board. These PCs use a self-standing 
design that lets them easily stand on 
a kitchen counter, in a media room, 
or on a desk. 

The TouchSmart 600 base model 
has a 23 -inch 1080p widescreen dis- 
play with adjustable base, Intel Core 
2 Duo T6500 (2.1GHz) processor, 
4GB DDR3 (double-data-rate 3) 
RAM, 320GB hard drive, and Nvidia 
GeForce G200 integrated graphics. It 
also includes five USB ports, inte- 
grated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, a slot- 
loading DVD drive, 6-in-l digital 
media card reader, integrated stereo 
speakers, built-in adjustable-tilt Web 
cam and microphone, and a wireless 
keyboard and mouse. The Touch- 
Smart 300 base model has most of 

HP's TouchSmart 600 is an all-in-one 
dynamo packed full of touch-friendly 
applications designed to streamline 
tasks in almost any room in the house, 
including the kitchen. 

the 600's features, except it has a 20- 
inch widescreen display, an AMD 
Athlon II 235e (2.7GHz) processor, 
and AMD Radeon HD 3200 inte- 
grated graphics. 

Using HP's TouchSmart Home 
interface, you can easily launch your 
favorite applications or even "write" 
search criteria using the search inter- 
face. The TouchSmart's technology 
also lets you touch to edit photos, 
choose songs, create playlists, and 
create and share collages. You can 
even use some voice commands, 
thanks to voice-powered photo 
zooming, rotating, and inverting. 

As expected, the TouchSmart is 
heavily media-centric, providing 
tools to create professional-looking 
videos, slideshows, and movies 
and (of course) watch DVD movies 
and burn and edit home videos. 
Owners planning on using the 

TouchSmart in their kitchen will 
find food-specific tools, as well, 
including the ability to import 
recipes from the Web or enter their 
own into the HP Recipe Box. 

A long line of built-for-touch 
online applications also graces the 
TouchSmart. These include Hulu 
Desktop, for access to Hulu's li- 
brary of TV shows, movies, and 
video clips; a touch-enabled Net- 
flix program that lets you touch 
the screen to watch a movie from 
your Instant Queue and man- 
age your account; touch-enabled 
Twitter; TouchSmart Live TV for 
watching and recording live local 
TV (with optional TV tuner); 
TouchSmart Link for transferring 
photos from a mobile device to the 
PC via Bluetooth; and others, in- 
cluding Rhapsody and Pandora 
Internet Radio. I 

10 December 2009 / 



WD TV Continues Its Evolution 

Last year, Western Digital turned the external hard drive 
into a home entertainment extraordinaire with its WD 
TV HD Media Player, a small digital storage box that lets 
you watch HD (high-definition) movies and other digital 
content on your TV. Now, the next generation of the WD 
TV has arrived with impressive changes. 

Perhaps the most useful addition to the WD TV Live HD 
Media Player ($149.99; is network capa- 
bility, which lets you stream or transfer movies and other 
digital files from your computer or a network- attached 
storage device (such as WD's My Book World Edition) over 
a standard Ethernet connection directly to your HDTV. 
Another big addition is DTS (Digital Theater System) de- 
coding, which means you won't need a receiver to hear the 
audio in movies using encoded content. Also new is a com- 
ponent output for improved picture quality. 

The WD TV Live supports several online services that de- 
liver Internet content directly to your TV, including 
YouTube, Pandora, Flickr, and Live365. The device con- 
tinues to provide support for a wide range of video and 
audio files. I 

The WD TV Live represents the newest generation of Western Digital's 
nifty media player, now complete with Ethernet network capability, DTS 
decoding, and component output for better picture quality. 


Samsung's XL2370: Energy-Efficient & Stylish 

With increasing environmentally conscious efforts of 
LCD manufacturers, it's possible to splurge on a mon- 
itor without feeling overly guilty about it. Take Samsung's 
XL2370, for example, which boosts brightness through the 
use of an LED (light-emitting diode) edge-lit backlight that 
uses less energy than a typical CCFL (cold cathode fluores- 
cent lamp) backlight. It also contains no halogen, mercury, 
or lead, commonly found in CCFL backlights. 

The SyncMaster XL2370 ($299 estimated street price; is a 23-inch widescreen LCD monitor 
geared toward multimedia enthusiasts. It has full-HD 1,920 x 
1,080 resolution, HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia 
Interface) and DVI (Digital Visual Interface) connections, a 
5,000,000:1 contrast ratio, and a 2ms (millisecond) response 
time. During typical use, the monitor uses only 28 W (watts) 
of power and less than 1.3W of power when in standby mode. 

Samsung hasn't focused only on energy-saving perfor- 
mance, but also on style. The XL2370 measures just 3/4- 
inch wide at the top. Also included is Samsung's Touch of 

Color gray finish that reflects a different color depending 
on the light (black in ambient light, charcoal gray in 
brighter light). This design concept extends to the crystal- 
like acrylic neck and bezel trim. On the bezel, Starlight 
Touch Controls appear when you touch them and fade 
away when not in use. I 

With an 
backlight and a 
style fit for any 
room, Samsung's 
SyncMaster XL2370 
aims for the perfect 
match of form and 

Smart Computing / December 2009 11 



A Keyboard For Ritzy Fingers 

If your fingers spend hours every day working tirelessly to 
type memos, letters, or even instant messages, why not 
treat them to something a little better than a bargain-base- 
ment keyboard? For some luxury of the keyboard variety, 
check out Das Keyboard's Model S Professional. 

Most of Das Keyboard's models, including the Model S 
($129,, are known for the distinct 
"clicky" feel and sound of their keys, reminiscent of IBM's 
legendary Model M keyboards. This is due to the German- 
engineered, gold-plated mechanical switches used for each 
of the keyboard's keys. 

The Model S isn't jam-packed with separate media keys, 
but instead integrates standard media functions such as 
mute, volume, play/pause, stop, and others into the key- 
board's function keys. Also included is a two-port USB 2.0 
hub designed for charging devices, a 6.6-foot USB cable, 
and n-key rollover that's useful for fast typists and gamers. 

If the distinct clicky noise of the Model S isn't quite com- 
patible with your home or work environment, Das 
Keyboard also offers the $135 Model S Professional Silent, 
which has significantly softer key clicks. Despite the softer 

sound, the Model S Silent retains its distinct tactile feel, 
thanks to the inclusion of the key switches found in the reg- 
ular Model S. I 

The Das Keyboard Model S Professional might not look like much more 
than a sleek keyboard, but there's plenty of precision engineering beneath 
the hood that provides a unique feel and sound when you' re typing. 


AMD Rolls Out Bountiful Low-Power Harvest 

Just in time for the release of Microsoft's Windows 7 op- 
erating system, AMD ( has rolled out a 
bevy of new Athlon II processors, including both standard- 
and low-power models designed for desktop systems of al- 
most any size. 

The standard-power (95W) additions to the AMD 
processor family are triple-core Athlon lis running at 
2.9GHz (model X3 435) and 2.7GHz (X3 425). The com- 
pany also launched six low-power (45W) Athlon II CPUs, 
including two quad-core versions running at 2.3GHz 
(model X4 605e) and 2.2GHz (600e); two triple-core ver- 
sions running at 2.3GHz (405e) and 2.2GHz (400e); and 
two dual-core versions running at 2.8GHz (240e) and 
2.7GHz (235e). 

According to IDC research, SFF (small form-factor) PCs, 
which typically use low-power CPUs, are growing at the ex- 
pense of the standard minitower PC. In fact, by 2013, the 
research company expects that AIO (all-in-one) and SFF 
PCs will account for the majority of PC client shipments in 

the United States, as minitower and tower shipments con- 
tinue to decline. I 

With experts predicting that SFF (small form-factor) PCs are set to 
overtake traditional PC towers in the near future, AMD is already 
unleashing plenty of low-power multicore CPUs that can be used in 
these smaller PCs. 

12 December 2009 / 



Anytime, Anywhere Access To Wikipedia 

For a go-to source of basic information covering 
practically every known topic, it's tough to beat 
the convenience of Wikipedia. But what if you're on 
the go without online access? With the WikiReader, 
you can take the online encyclopedia with you, re- 
gardless of Internet availability. 

Om's WikiReader ($99; 
is designed to provide anywhere, anytime access to 
Wikipedia in a handheld device that's much like an 
electronic dictionary. A touchscreen lets you easily 
enter a word or phrase to search more than 3 mil- 
lion topics and scroll through results. The device 
has just three buttons — for searching, viewing your 
browsing history, or selecting a random search. 

Thanks to the WikiReader's extremely low-power 
CPU, it runs for roughly 12 months of normal 
usage using two standard AAA batteries, according 
to Om. The company has also taken other environ- 
mentally conscious steps in the WikiReader's de- 
sign, including the removal of paint from the 
manufacturing process. The company provides free 
quarterly updates that can be downloaded from its 
Web site, or you can purchase a $29 yearly subscrip- 
tion plan that provides updated microSD cards. I 

The handheld WikiReader holds more than 3 million topics found in the 
standard online Wikipedia database, so you can access Wikipedia 
information anywhere, anytime without Internet access. 


Why does Windows keep checking 
my hard drive for consistency? 

If Windows occasionally recom- 
mends that you let it check your 
hard drive for consistency, there's 
no need to panic. But if this recom- 
mendation appears every time you 
boot your PC, take a close look at 
the results of the scanning test. If 
Windows reports that it found bad 
sectors, this could be an indication 
that your hard drive is failing. 
Check your hard drive manufac- 
turer's Web site for a downloadable 
diagnostic tool to perform a more 
thorough test. 

Why does my LCD monitor display 
shadows next to letters and other 

Although shadowing isn't as com- 
mon as it used to be, it still happens 
with certain hardware and when using 
certain configurations. First, make 
sure that you're using the monitor's 
DVI connection if it has one, instead 
of the VGA (Video Graphics Array) 
connection. Next, make sure you're 
using the monitor's native resolution 
instead of a custom resolution. If 
you're not sure what the native resolu- 
tion is, check the monitor's manual or 
search for the specifications online. 
The USB port on my printer is 
broken. Can I replace it? 

If any of your printer's hardware 
breaks, first check to see if it can be 
replaced or repaired under warranty. 
If the printer is out of warranty, you 

can find inexpensive replacement 
parts, including USB connectors, on- 
line. However, you may need sol- 
dering experience (or know someone 
who does) to complete the replace- 
ment task. 

Why does my computer never wake 
from Sleep mode? 

In a properly configured PC, Win- 
dows should wake from Sleep mode 
when the power button is pushed, or 
when you use the mouse or keyboard, 
depending on the power settings. If 
none of these options works, check 
that your motherboard is using the 
most current BIOS (Basic Input/ 
Output System) version. Outdated 
BIOS versions are notorious for caus- 
ing Sleep mode problems. I 

Smart Computing / December 2009 13 



Storm2 Delivers A Hurricane Of Enhancements 

When RIM's BlackBerry Storm 
hit the scene in late 2008, 
smartphone fans were excited for what 
appeared to be a solid iPhone alterna- 
tive. Instead, they were greeted with a 
touchscreen that acted as a giant 
button itself, ultimately resulting in 
customers seeking Apple-like touch- 
screen elegance. But now, RIM has 
"stormed" back with the next iteration 
of the smartphone, and improvements 
are here and plenty. 

Highlighting the Storm2 ($179.99 
after a Verizon Wireless mail- in rebate 
and two-year service agreement; is RIM's new Sure- 
Press electronic touch system, which 
provides tactile feedback when you 
touch the screen. The system recog- 
nizes gentle pressure anywhere on 
the screen and eases typing on the 
Storm2's virtual keyboards. The 
smartphone also lets you type a key 
with one thumb while another thumb 
is touching another key, allowing 
better performance for fast typists or 
for the use of key combinations. 

Unlike the first iteration of the 
Storm, the new version includes Wi-Fi 
support (802.11 b/g). Also onboard 
are a built-in GPS (global positioning 
system) for maps and location-based 

Also on the hardware side are a 
3.25-inch 480 x 360 display; 3.2MP 
(megapixel) camera with image stabi- 
lization, autofocus, flash, and video 

No longer does RIM's Storm use the 

interface itself as a button. Instead, 

the Storm2 relies on an electronic 

touch system that's highly 

pressure-sensitive and delivers 

tactile feedback whenever you 

touch the screen. 

recording; 256MB of flash mem- 
ory; 2GB of onboard storage and a 
microSD/SDHC (Secure Digital/Secure 
Digital High- Capacity) slot with an in- 
cluded 16GB card; a 3.5mm stereo 
headset jack; Bluetooth; and a remov- 
able, rechargeable battery that provides 
up to 5.5 hours of talk time. 

The Storm2 uses BlackBerry OS 5.0, 
which includes improvements for 
typing accuracy and selection, as well as 
additions such as inertial scrolling, spin 
boxes for setting dates and times, 
gradient shading on buttons, and 

increased animation. Also improved is 
the BlackBerry browser, which features 
faster JavaScript and CSS (Cascading 
Style Sheet) processing, along with sup- 
port for Gears and BlackBerry Widgets. 
The phone's media player handles 
music, videos, and pictures, while 
BlackBerry Media Sync works to sync 
Windows Media Player music with 
the Storm2. The phone's owners will 
also have access to BlackBerry App 
World, which offers third-party mo- 
bile applications tailored for Black- 
Berry smartphones. I 


"A poke is a very deliberate action. You have to select 
the person and say, c This is what I want to do.' " 

— Ryan Calo, a residential fellow at Stanford Law School's Center for Internet & Society, 

describes Facebook's "poke" feature in response to the arrest of a Tennessee woman for violating 

a legal order of protection by sending a Facebook poke to another woman. 


14 December 2009 / 


News From The Help Desk 

Our Most Common Tech Calls 

Compiled by Kris Glaser Brambila 

Each month, we receive numerous technical support calls and 
email messages. Some computer problems are fairly common, 
and we find that many callers struggle to resolve the same issues. 
In this article, we cover some of the most common or timely tech 
support questions and provide our solution for each of them. 

Ql recently installed Microsoft Office 2007 on my home 
computer and want to start using Outlook for my email. 
I currently use Gmail, but I'd like to be able to manage my 
Web mail account within Outlook. How do I set this up? 

A In order to manage your Gmail messages in Outlook, 
you must first enable IMAP (Internet Message Access 
Protocol) in Gmail, which is used to make your Web mail 
messages available for download to an email client, such as 
Outlook, on your computer. Sign in to your Gmail account, 
click Settings at the top of the page, and choose Forwarding 
And POP/IMAP. Select Enable IMAP from the IMAP 
Access section and then click Save Changes at the bottom of 
the page. 

Next, you must configure Outlook to receive messages 
from your Gmail account. Open Outlook, go to Tools, and 
select Account Settings from the menu. Under the Email 
tab, click the New button to add a new email account. 
Select the radio button next to Microsoft Exchange, POP3, 
IMAP Or HTTP, and click Next. Enter your name and your 
Gmail address, followed by the password you use to log in 
to your Gmail account. Before clicking Next, be sure to 
checkmark the box next to Manually Configure Server 
Settings Or Additional Server Types. Select Internet Email, 
and then click Next. 

Under Server Information, choose IMAP from the 
Account Type drop -down list. In the Incoming Mail Server 
field, type In the Outgoing Mail Server 
(SMTP) field, type In the User Name 

You can manage your 
Gmail account with 
Microsoft Outlook by 
adding a new IMAP 
email account. 


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field, type your full Gmail address and then your password. 
Click Next and Finish. 

Next, go to Tools, Select Options, and choose Mail Setup. 
In the Email Accounts section, click Email Accounts. Select 
your account and click Change. Choose More Settings and 
then click the Advanced tab. Change the Incoming Server 
(IMAP) to 993 and choose to use an SSL encryption. 
Change the Outgoing Server (SMTP) to 587 and choose 
TLS encryption. 

Finally, click the Outgoing Server tab and ensure that the 
box next to My Outgoing Server (SMTP) Requires 
Authentication is checkmarked. 

Ql would like to change the color of the text under each 
icon on my Desktop to something other than white. There 
doesn't seem to be an option for this in the Display Properties 
menu in Windows XP. How can I change icon text colors? 

A The color of the text below your Desktop icons de- 
pends on the color of your background. For example, if 
your background is a dark color, the text will be white, and 
vice versa. Even if you set an image as your wallpaper on the 
Desktop tab in the Desktop Display Properties window (go 
to Control Panel, Appearance And Themes, and Display), 
the text will reflect the dominant color in the image. 

If you're looking for more control over your Desktop's 
settings, you can use the third-party tool Iconoid. Point 
your browser to and click Download at 
the top of the page. Click the link and save the 
file to your hard drive. Once the download is complete, lo- 
cate the file and double-click it to begin the installation. 

To change the color of the text on your Desktop icons, 
open Iconoid and choose the Colors tab. You may have to 
disable drop shadows on your computer by following 
the on-screen directions or clicking the Disable Drop 
Shadows button. Change the icon text color by clicking 
the color box next to Text Color. You can also change the 
color behind an icon's text by clicking the radio button 

Iconoid, a free download from SillySot, 
gives you more control over the settings 
of your Desktop. 

'% Iconoid \T 


Colors j Hiding] Positions] Desktop] Tray ] Options 

Text Color 1 



r Automatic Text Color 

Enable Drop Shadows 

ebPage FAQ Reset Tab | Hide | Help | 

Set desktop icon text and background colors 

Smart Computing / December 2009 15 


If you're sharing your computer with other users, having an 
account password isn't a bad idea. However, if you'd rather 
your computer booted up without having to enter a password, 
you can easily change your account's password settings. 

next to Solid Color under the Icon Background section 
and choosing a color with the color box. By default, 
Iconoid will hide your icons when your cursor isn't on 
the Desktop. If this makes configuring your icon colors 
difficult, click the Hiding tab and choose Never Hide in 
the Icon Hiding section. 

QWhen I try to add a word to the custom dictionary in 
Word 2003, a message pops up that reads "The custom 
dictionary is full. The word was not added." Is there a way to 
increase the size of the dictionary so I can continue to add 
new words? 

A This error message usually appears when you attempt 
to add a word to the custom dictionary while you are 
within the Spelling And Grammar box. Most often, the 
error occurs because the custom dictionary is corrupted, 
and a new dictionary must be created. 

First, open Word 2003, go to the Tools menu, and click 
Options. Under the Spelling & Grammar tab, click Custom 
Dictionaries and choose your custom dictionary from the 
Dictionary List box. Make note of where your custom dic- 
tionary is saved, and then close the Options box. 

Next, you must rename your custom dictionary. Open 
Windows Explorer by right-clicking My Computer 
(Computer in Windows Vista) and choosing Explore. 
Browse to the location of your dictionary (that you made 
note of in the previous step), and then right-click it and 
choose Rename. Change the file's extension to .old (for ex- 
ample: custom.old). 

Lastly, you'll need to create a new dictionary. Start Word 
and return to the Spelling & Grammar tab (click Tools and 
Options), and then click Custom Dictionaries. Click the old 
dictionary and choose Remove. Click New to create a new 
dictionary. Type a name for your new dictionary and then 
click Save. The new dictionary will be added to the list. 

For additional help with this issue, such as importing the 
words from your old Custom Dictionary to your new one, 
check out this Microsoft help page: 

I recently bought a new Windows Vista computer, and 
as I was configuring its settings, I was asked to set up a 

password. Now, whenever the computer boots up, I have to 
enter a password to access my account. Is there a way to get 
rid of this extra step? 

A If you're sharing your computer with other users, 
having an account password isn't a bad idea. However, 
if you'd rather your computer booted up without having to 
enter a password, you can easily change your account's 
password settings. 

In Vista, go to the Control Panel and choose User 
Accounts And Family Safety. Select Change Your Windows 
Password under the User Accounts section and then click 
Remove Your Password. You must enter your password to 
confirm that you are the owner of the account, and then 
click the Remove Password button. II 

Feature Package Topics 

Each Smart Computing issue includes tips, reviews, and in- 
formation about a variety of topics. However, each issue 
also has a featured group of articles about a selected topic. 
Below is a list of the Feature Packages from the previous 
year. As a Smart Computing subscriber, you have access to 
all of our archived articles at 

January 2009: 

Did You Really Back Up? 

February 2009: 

Solve Windows Problems 

March 2009: 

Clean Out Old Software Clutter 

April 2009: 

Save Money On Your PC 

May 2009: 

Restore Windows 

June 2009: 

Get More Mileage Out Of Your PC 

July 2009: 

8 PC Emergencies 

August 2009: 

Stay Safe Online 

September 2009: 

Master Your Browser 

October 2009: 

Driver Updates 

Fall Issue: 

Upgrade Your PC 

November 2009: 

Windows 7 

16 December 2009 / 

Plextor's Burner That Also Reads Blu-ray 

And A Good \^deo 
Enhancer Gets Better 

Marty Sems \/ou may not share my sentiments, but I'm 
I actually looking forward to the doldrums 
of winter. With more video-related hard- 
ware and software showing up every week, 
I'll have more than enough projects to keep 
me occupied. 

Send your comments to 

Plextor Blu-ray Disc Combo PX-B320SA 

Plextor is an optical drive maker known 
for high quality. It's generally known for 
high prices, too, but 
there are relatively few 
Plextor owners who be- 
come vocally dissatis- 
fied ones. 

This SATA drive can 
read BDs (Blu-ray Discs) 
at 8X speed and play 
high-def movies. It can 
also burn DVDs at 16X 
and CDs at 48X, and read them, too, of 
course. Moreover, it can etch professional- 
looking text and photos on the top sides 
of LightScribe-compatible discs. Some 
users have decided that the LightScribe 
process takes too long to be of interest, but 
I like it. 

I installed the included CyberLink BD 

Suite software on a system running 

vReveall.1 Windows 7. The Suite comes with a ver- 

$49.99 sion of the PowerDVD 8 movie player that 

MotionDSP can make DVDs look sharper and better 

(650)288-1164 with TrueTheater video enhancement fea- tures. I'm a TrueTheater fan, mostly, so see 





my column in the June 2009 issue 
if you'd like to know more. The 
drive also comes with various 
utilities such as PlexErase, which 
securely deletes the data on any 
CD or DVD so that no one can 
recover it after you throw the 
disc away. 

Using CyberLink Power2Go, 
the PX-B320SA filled a Verbatim DVD+R 
with 4GB of data in 5:30 (minutes:sec- 
onds) and wrote 700MB to a Memorex 
CD-R in the exact same amount of time. 
That's fairly speedy DVD work for a drive 
that's also a BD-ROM, although I'd have 
to try other brands of CD-R before I 
would call the Plextor unequivocally slow 
in that area. 

Of course, the PX-B320SA also played 
Blu-ray and DVD movie discs just fine. Now 
if only I had more time to sit and watch 

MotionDSP vReveal 1.1 

"And there was much rejoicing. (Yay.)" 
Like most geeks, I still tend to quote Monty 
Python when necessary. What prompted 
this particular outburst was a long-awaited 
update to the easy video sharpening/en- 
hancement tool vReveal. Among version 
1.1's improvements are smarter video 
thumbnails (now they're scenes from 
the middle of each clip, not the first 
frame that's often just a black rectangle), 
DivX support, and Facebook and YouTube 
HD uploading. 

Even better from my perspective is 1.1's 
CUDA graphics card acceleration for 
Nvidia's GeForce 8800 GTS, GTX, and other 
cards based on the "G80" chip. This tweak 
more than doubled my 3-year-old home 
PC's video processing speed. 

"We know very well that there's still a 
healthy contingent of 8800 enthusiasts out 
there," says MotionDSP's Mike Sonders, "so 
it was worth our building a £ hack' to our 
CUDA code to get (them) on board." 

If you're a current user of a paid copy of 
vReveal, don't bother using the Check For 
Updates feature, which won't work. Simply 
uninstall vReveal, download the new ver- 
sion, and install it. It should automatically 
locate your product key without any effort 
on your part. I 

Smart Computing / December 2009 17 

Nikon D5000 

Step Up To 

A Digica m D-SLR 

We've reached the point where most people 

Blaine Flamig 

Send your comments to 


$679.95 (estimated street price) 



now reach for a digital camera vs. a film 
camera to snap photos. In fact, many of you 
probably have at least a few years of digicam 
experience under your belt, possibly having 
started your digicam journey with a low-end 
point-and-shoot model that pretty much han- 
dled all picture-taking decisions automatically. 
From there you might have advanced to a 
more versatile midrange camera offering more 
manual freedom over shutter speeds, expo- 
sure, focus, etc. At some point, however, some 
amateur photographers grow into avid enthu- 
siasts with loftier photo aspirations and decide 
to step up to a D-SLR (digital single-lens re- 
flex) camera, which is harder to use than a 
compact digicam but better constructed and 
more powerful in what it lets you do. 

Skill- wise, I'm not proficient enough yet to 
take full manual control over my photos and 
get consistently good results or to effectively 
use all the bells and whistles a full-fledged D- 
SLR offers with ease. Conversely, I've out- 
grown the performance, speed, and other 
limitations that are typical of midrange digi- 
cams. That's why I was excited to use Nikon's 
new D5000, a D-SLR far more feature-packed 
than my aging Kodak Z712 IS but not so fea- 
ture-packed it's priced over $850. 

D-SLRs are almost always more expensive 
than compact digicams and are generally 
more intimidating and frustrating for new- 
comers. What you generally get in return, 
however, is a camera with better components 
working more quickly to output consistently 
better results. In Nikon's stable of consumer 
D-SLRs, the D5000 falls between the D60 
(about $500) and the well-regarded D90 
(about $900). The D5000 is about $679.95 
with detachable lens included. The camera 
borrows traits from the D60 and D90, using 
the same AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5- 
5.6G VR (vibration reduction) lens as the D60 
and the same 11 -point autofocus system and 
12.3MP CMOS image sensor as the D90. 

The D5000 is unique, though, in that it's 
Nikon's first D-SLR with a swiveling Vari- 
angle LCD — a handy ability for framing phys- 
ically challenging shots. Although the 2.7- 
inch, 230,000-dot LCD lacks some sharpness, 
it's bright, and color reproduction is accurate. 
The D5000 can also record 5-minute HD 
movies at 720p at 24fps, offers a great Active- 
D Lighting mode that I used to improve the 
detail in shadows and ward off overexposure, 
and bundles a rechargeable EN-EL9a battery 
rated to pop 510 shots per charge. 

Like other D-SLRs, the D5000 is littered 
with buttons that seasoned shooters appreciate 
but new D-SLR users often feel overwhelmed 
by. The D5000's button layout, however, is log- 
ical. The Mode dial sits within thumb distance 
on the camera's top right while a convenient 
strip of one-touch buttons sit at the left of the 
LCD covering delete, playback, zoom, menu, 
and information duties. There's also a four- 
way jog dial, AE (auto exposure)/AF (auto- 
focus) Lock and Fn buttons, and a Live View 
button that starts the camera's Live View Mode 
for viewing and composing shots on the LCD 
almost exactly as you would through the 
viewfmder. Six exposure modes, 19 auto-expo- 
sure Scene modes, in-camera photo editing, 
and SD/SDHC card compatibility are just 
some of the D5000's numerous other features. 

My past experiences with Nikon cameras 
have ranged from good to great. The D5000 
leans toward great. There's a definite learning 
curve to climb in using the camera, especially 
if you're new to D-SLRs, but the D5000's 
menus are logical, and the details available on 
the LCD related to photos you're setting up or 
have already shot are excellent. More impor- 
tantly, image photo quality was top-notch, 
even in outdoor shots taken on dreary, rain- 
soaked days. Further, the camera starts up, 
snaps, and processes shots in a hurry, letting 
me capture well- focused, intriguing action 
shots taken indoors at a basketball game. 

Although it would likely take me months to 
really get to know the D5000, problems I 
found (using a tripod essentially negates the 
LCD's swiveling ability, and video quality 
wasn't as sharp as I'd expected) were minimal. 
Overall, using the D5000 was a pleasure, and 
the results were certainly worth the time I put 
into learning my way around it. Better, I'm 
certain I only tapped into a small amount of 
what the D5000 is capable of. I 

18 December 2009 / 

A Pocketful Of Books 

Sony Reader Pocket 
Edition PRS-300 

Tara Simmons Bantam 

Send your comments to 


ggi Continue Reading 
M Books by Title 
Q Books by Author 
ra Books by Date 
ill Collections 
rro All Bookmarks 

uirKy « ut (DKwpt) 


^ Settings 


® ® 

Reader Pocket Edition PRS-300 




It seems everyone has a new ereader on the 
market lately. Barnes & Noble, Creative, 
and others have entered the ereader arena, 
with Amazon's Kindle remaining a staple in 
the category. Though the market is still 
developing, predictions of a rise in 
the devices' popularity make it easy 
to see why so many manufacturers 
are getting in the game. Forrester 
Research recently raised its predic- 
tion for ereader sales for 2009 from 2 
million to 3 million. That's a lot of 
digital readers. 

Sony isn't new to the market, but it 
has introduced new editions of its 
ereaders. The smallest and least ex- 
pensive of the offerings is the Reader 
Pocket Edition PRS-300. This 6 1/4- x 
4 1/4- x 13/32-inch (HxWxD), light- 
weight ereader is also a bit light on ex- 
tras, but forgoing some fluff means 
you can have the ereader for less than 
$200. Its small size also means the 
PRS-300 uses less juice. One charge 
can last up to two weeks or 7,500 contin- 
uous page turns. 

The PRS-300 performs the basic tasks you 
should expect from an ereader. It holds 
about 350 books (depending on the size of 
the book; internal memory is 512MB with 
no memory card slots for expansion) in for- 
mats you're most likely to encounter, in- 
cluding ePub, BBeB Book, PDF (Portable 
Document Format), TXT, and RTF (Rich 
Text Format). It can't handle photo formats, 
such as JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts 
Group), or music files, but it can house 
Microsoft Word documents. The PRS-300 
lumps everything, including PDFs and Word 
documents, into a single books category, but 
if you name documents clearly, organization 
isn't a problem. 

Setting up the PRS-300 is simple. When 
you first connect the ereader to your PC, an 
AutoPlay window prompts you to install 

the eBook Library, where you can purchase 
digital books, import various documents, 
and make other changes. I had no trouble 
importing and then loading and reading 
books purchased from Sony's eBook Store, 
PDF documents, and Word documents on 
the PRS-300. 

The buttons and menus used to navigate 
the PRS-300 are arranged logically, which 
made it easy to find my way around the 
simple menus. I was able to make selec- 
tions with the numbered buttons along the 
right edge of the ereader or by moving 
around with the four-way navigation 
wheel at the bottom of the device. The 
only other buttons on the PRS-300 are 
the Home, Back, Zoom, and the very 
handy Bookmark buttons. Turn pages by 
pressing the right or left side of the naviga- 
tion wheel. It's as simple as that. 

Reading, even for extended periods, was 
quite comfortable on the PRS-300, thanks 
to its paper-like screen and visually pleas- 
ing contrast and brightness. Sony attrib- 
utes this to the E Ink Vizplex technology 
behind the screen. It was easy to make out 
the text on-screen in both low-light and 
bright settings, though the lack of back- 
light means you can't use it in the dark. 
Response time for page-turns and other 
button commands could be quicker, but 
because I didn't navigate through menus as 
often as I would on something like a cell 
phone, I didn't mind. 

At 5 inches (diagonally), the screen can 
only hold about 20 lines of medium-sized 
text, but that's a sacrifice you make for 
such a compact device. Three zoom set- 
tings let you adjust the text size to a com- 
fortable level. 

The PRS-300 comes with a USB cable for 
connecting it to your computer and a 
medium-weight foam sleeve; it's available in 
pink, blue, or silver. Some might find the 
ereader's lack of support for music and 
photos and missing features, such as search 
and note-taking, a drawback, but those 
looking for an ereader that does just what 
ereaders do best — hold a bunch of books 
for easy portability — will find a lot to like 
about Sony's Pocket Edition. Carrying 
around 350 books on a device no bigger 
than most wallets will certainly appeal to 
many book lovers. II 

Smart Computing / December 2009 19 

Epson PictureMate Charm 

A Photo Lab 
A t Your Fingertips 


Send your comments to 

PictureMate Charm 




Sometimes, you snap a photo that's so great 
you want it right now. Not one week from 
now as you wait for an online photo service to 
snail mail you your prints. Not later that 
evening when you get home and upload the 
photos to your computer. Not tomorrow when 
you pick them up from the drop-off photo lab. 
Not even one hour from now while you wait 
impatiently for the photo attendant to print 
your images behind the photo kiosk counter. 

You want those photos. In your hands. 
Right now. 

The Epson PictureMate Charm is the com- 
pany's latest addition to its PictureMate 
f line of compact photo printers, and it's 
designed to print 4- x 6-inch quality 
photos anywhere in as little as 37 seconds. 

According to Epson, the PictureMate 

Charm offers the highest resolution in its 
category, featuring 5,760 x 1,440 dpi (dots per 
inch) resolution, and photos are smudge-, 

scratch-, fade-, and water-resistant. It has a 

carrying handle so you can conveniently tote 
it along everywhere you go, and you don't even 
need a computer to print photos. 

The PictureMate Charm is a great com- 
panion for photo enthusiasts who want to 
share their photos on the spot at special 
events, social gatherings, or during travels. 
It's fun and easy to use, and its itty-bitty de- 
sign is downright cute. And, it takes your 
photos from your camera or memory card 
and puts them in your hands "right now." 

Setting up the PictureMate Charm took 
less than 10 minutes, and Epson makes it a 
breeze by displaying step-by-step instruc- 
tions on the 2.5-inch color LCD. Simply 
plug in the included power adapter to an 
electrical outlet, flip open the lid (which 
doubles as a paper input tray), press the On 
button, and the on-screen instructions guide 
you the rest of the way through the initial 
setup. Easy breezy. 

As mentioned, the Charm does not re- 
quire a computer. Sure, you can install the 

included software on your computer and 
connect the printer via a (not included) USB 
cable. But for PC-free printing, you can 
print directly from PictBridge- enabled cam- 
eras, Bluetooth-enabled devices (requires a 
separate Bluetooth adapter), or from 
memory cards. The Charm features two 
built-in slots that support popular memory 
cards, although you'll need an adapter for 
some card formats. 

I connected my digital camera to the 
Charm to print pictures I had taken the pre- 
vious weekend. I used my camera's menus to 
select photos and the Charm's LCD and 
simple navigation buttons to select layouts, 
enhancements, and effects. I printed beau- 
tiful, high-quality photos that featured 
sharp details and vibrant colors, and — best 
of all — they finished in less than a minute. 
Worked like a charm. 

The Charm's menu options are pretty 
basic; don't expect to make major adjust- 
ments to images like you could with a photo- 
editing program. However, using the Charm's 
menus, you are able to select among different 
layouts (borderless, classic border, wallet, and 
mini- wallet); choose effects (black-and-white 
or sepia); and make basic editing corrections, 
such as reducing red-eye and adjusting con- 
trast and sharpness levels. 

One note: The PictureMate Charm ships 
with a "starter pack," which is only enough 
for about 20 prints. When you need to re- 
place the ink cartridge and refill your 
paper supply, Epson offers the PictureMate 
Print Pack, which includes one ink car- 
tridge and either 150 sheets of glossy 
photo paper for $37.99 or 100 sheets of 
matte paper for $32.29. Epson also offers 
an optional rechargeable battery ($49.99) 
for true on-location printing (Epson says 
that you can print about 100 photos on a 
fully charged battery). If you have an up- 
coming family vacation or regularly end 
up on unplanned road trips, investing in 
the battery is worth considering. 

So, the next time you have photos that 
you want to print and share almost in- 
stantly, consider a compact photo printer, 
such as the PictureMate Charm. During the 
upcoming holiday season, you can send 
your family members home with one final 
memorable gift — snapshots taken just 
hours earlier. II 

20 December 2009 / 

Head-To-Head: Photo-Editing Software 

Make Your Pictures Pop 

There was a time when you needed 
several hundred dollars and a de- 
gree in graphic design to edit digital 
photos, but not anymore. Today's 
photo editors put an immense amount 
of power at your fingertips but harn- 
ess it in a way that makes it man- 
ageable — even fun — to wield. 

The main problem you'll have 
with photo editors is choosing 
one that suits your needs because 
there are so many excellent op- 
tions available, both commercial 
and free. We looked at several of 
the top packages and highlighted 
our favorites here. 

Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 

Photoshop Elements 8 is an 
outstanding choice for home 
users who want much of the 
power of the professional version 
of Photoshop CS4 without having 
to spend heaps of cash or learn a 
complex interface. 

Establishing a media library is 
blazing fast. The software im- 
ported more than 6,500 pictures 
and a few hundred video files in 
less than five minutes. A new 
auto-analysis feature also scans 
images for faces, making it easy to 
tag individuals and call up pic- 
tures that include them. 

You can organize pictures in 
separate albums, and the interface 
makes it easy to browse any 
number of pictures. This software 
comes with many of the filters 
that make its big brother so much fun 
to use. You can do anything from 
turning a photo into a pencil drawing 
to fine-tuning color and contrast in 
just a few simple steps, and most tasks 
are fully automated. 

One of many things we liked about 
the software is the ability to change the 

interface based on your needs and 
level of expertise. For example, in the 
Edit tab you can select Edit Full, which 
provides access to all features; Edit 
Quick, which provides just the most 
oft-used options; or Edit Guided, 

Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 Ultimate 

which lets you select what you want to 
do from a list and then walks you 
through it, step by step. 

Photomerge is back, letting you 
combine several shots into a single 
picture (so you can make sure 
everyone is looking at the camera, for 
example), but it still suffers from the 

obvious limitation of needing nearly 
identical source pictures to work 
properly. It now also lets you merge 
several photos with different expo- 
sures, and a new Recompose feature 
also lets you pull subjects (generally 
people) in a photo closer together 
without distorting the image. 

Photoshop Elements offers a variety 
of post- editing things to do with your 
photos, such as applying artistic 
frames or making calendars. You 
can upload images to a variety of 
social networking and photo 
storage sites. The software also 
comes with 2GB of online storage 
at Adobe that can be accessed 
using a personal URL, making 
sharing even easier. Photoshop 
Elements 8 is a strong package for 
both organizing and editing 
photos, and the sharing features 
add an extra level of value. 

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo 
X2 Ultimate 

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 
Ultimate combines decent photo 
organization tools with advanced 
editing tools to offer a fairly com- 
plete photo management suite. 

One nice new feature is the 
Express Lab, which lets you batch 
edit photos so that you can ac- 
complish common fixes (such as 
red-eye removal) very quickly 
instead of laboriously loading im- 
ages one by one. The full editor 
lets you access everything from a 
simple one -click fix to advanced 
manual settings that can be ad- 
justed with great precision. 

A new HDR (High Dynamic 
Range) Photo Merge feature lets 
you combine pictures of different ex- 
posures to obtain a final image that 
has the extreme contrast HDR is fa- 
mous for. Other new features such as 
Thinify (which automatically makes 
people look thinner) are fun for 
laughs but not nearly as useful as the 
software's no-nonsense editing tools. 

Smart Computing / December 2009 21 




When comparing software, 
try to find products that 
work directly with the social 
networking or online storage 
services you already use. 
This makes it much easier to 
share your edited photos 
with others. 

Software that displays an 
instant preview of a change 
you are about to make is 
superior to software that 
requires you to make an 
edit and then undo it if 
things didn't turn out as 
you'd hoped. 

Professionals love to roll up their 
sleeves and manually tweak photos to 
perfection, but that's tedious for most 
people. Find software that has a lot of 
completely automatic editing tools like 
instant red-eye reduction, contrast 
adjustment, and color balancing to save 
a lot of time and trouble. 

The only problem with this 
package is that there is often a bit 
of lag between clicking a new set- 
ting and seeing the results on your 
screen. This isn't a big deal when 
making simple edits but is aggra- 
vating when testing out a number 
of different editing tools to see 
what effect they'll have on a photo. 

19th Parallel LightBox 2 Plus 

Proper editing is all about ma- 
nipulating light and color. Light- 
Box 2 puts those options right 
where you need them and ex- 
plains them in a way that makes it 
easy to get great results with very 
little experience. 

LightBox encourages experi- 
mentation. Previews are updated 
immediately and any edits you 
make can be cancelled or undone 
by one step in an instant. You can 
also view side-by-side images to 
compare the original with the ed- 
ited version in a variety of ways. 

One nice feature is the undo 
brush. This lets you make an edit 
to the entire image, then select the 
undo brush to paint away the 
changes from certain areas to ex- 
pose the original image. Tradi- 
tional masks are also available for 
preventing certain areas of an 
image from being edited, and it's 
incredibly easy to set up masks 
using this software. 

Overall, LightBox is a fantastically 
useful editing package that does a 
good job of putting all the tools you 
really need right where you most 
need them. 

19th Parallel LightBox 2 Plus 

Google Picasa 3.5 



g , « | *— 

Serif PhotoPlus X3 Digital Studio 

Google Picasa 3.5 

Picasa is one of the easiest photo 
editors to master. Although it isn't the 
most powerful in terms of raw fea- 
tures, its interface is outstanding. 

One of the program's major 
strengths is the speed with which 
it can root out all the photos on 
your PC, generate thumbnail pre- 
views, and automatically organize 
them. You can go in and tell the 
software where to look for pic- 
tures (or tell it to stay out of cer- 
tain folders), but any way you set 
things up, you'll be hard-pressed 
to find a program that can pull 
everything together this quickly. 

Picasa excels at letting you tag 
photos and arrange them into 
multiple themed albums. You can 
then store the albums on your 
computer or upload any of them 
to the Picasa Web Albums service 
or nearly any other online photo 
hosting service or social net- 
working site. You can also easily 
print photos, generate a collage, 
or make a photo movie to share 
with others. 

With version 3.5, Picasa intro- 
duces Name Tags. This technology 
recognizes faces in photos so you 
can easily label photos by people's 
names and quickly call up all 
photos that contain a particular 
person. There are some draw- 
backs in that the face detection 
catches everything, which is a 
problem for pictures taken in an 
area teeming with strangers. 

The software offers basic but 
essential editing capabilities, in- 
cluding a Fill Light slider that can 
save underexposed photos in a pinch. 
Editing is definitely secondary to or- 
ganizing with this package, so you 
will probably want to use this along- 
side a more robust photo editor. For 

22 December 2009 / 



Fortunately, figuring things 
out is simplified thanks to a 
useful help bar that can be 
popped out or hidden at will. 
Novices can also use QuickFix 
Studio to make common and 
simple adjustments to photos 
without having to deal with 
the more advanced tools, but 
once you're ready, there's 
plenty to play with. There are 
many filters for instantly 
changing the look of a photo, 
an Instant Artist feature that 
lets you turn pictures into 
paintings, and a variety of 
tools for making all manner 
of manual adjustments. 
Serif doesn't offer a trial 
version, but it provides a 
trimmed-down version at 
This is some powerful soft- 
ware for the price. 

Try Before You Buy 

managing and sharing, however, 
Picasa 3.5 is just about perfect. 

Serif PhotoPlus X3 Digital Studio 

PhotoPlus X3 has a somewhat diffi- 
cult interface to master. It works much 
like professional software, and once 
you get past the steep learning curve 
you'll find that the software has every- 
thing you need to make your photos 
look their best. 


All of the editors reviewed in this 
article excel in their particular areas, 
and there's a strong argument to 
be made for using more than one 
of them. 

All but PhotoPlus X3 have a free 
trial available (Picasa is free), so be 
sure to try all of them out so you can 
decide which combination works best 
for you. II 

by Tracy Baker 

Editing in the Cloud 

A number of excellent online photo edi- 
tors have cropped up that let you edit 
photos in a Web browser window. This 
lets you edit from any machine that has 
Web access, no matter where you are. 
Better still, many of these editors can 
pull photos directly from online services 
and communities such as Photobucket, 
Flickr, Facebook, Picasa Web Albums, 
and MySpace, among others, eliminating 
the need to re-upload pictures. Here's a 
quick rundown of two of our favorites. 


Want a dose of Adobe Photoshop on 
the go? This site offers a lot of the ed- 
iting functionality of Photoshop 
Elements from any computer with Web 
access. The editor is unique in that it 
doesn't show a constantly updated pre- 
view as you move sliders around. 
Instead, it generates a number of pre- 
view thumbnail images based on the 
tool you selected so you can eyeball all 
of the thumbnails and click on the one 
that's closest to the effect you are trying 
to achieve. A free ac- 
count includes 2GB of photo storage. 


The service is notable for its terrific inter- 
face and also its incredible speed. 
Previews and edits are updated so 
quickly that it's practically like working 
with software installed on your PC 
Many editing tools and filters are avail- 
able, although some require subscribing 
to one of the site's premium services. 

Price OSes Notable 

(Download) Company Contact Information Supported Features 

LightBox 2 


Photoshop Elements 8 $99.99 

Paint Shop Pro $99.99 

Photo X2 Ultimate 

Picasa 3.5 

PhotoPlus X3 
Digital Studio 



19th Parallel 

[/'XP ©Vista 


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Puts useful features (that are generally 
buried in other programs) at your fingertips 

Outstanding interface that 
adapts to your level of expertise 

Good combination of easy 
and advanced editing tools 

Excellent organizing abilities and 
works extremely quickly 

Many professional-level editing 
tools for a reasonable price 

Smart Computing / December 2009 23 


Manage Your Media 

Roxio Creator 201 

$99.99 I Sonic Solutions 
(877)697-6946 I 

tSy WinXP ^Vista 

With the release of 
Creator 2010, a solid 
multimedia software suite 
has become even better. A 
revamped interface, opti- 
mized for commonly used 
tasks, facilitates navigation. 
For novices, a new, built-in 
Learning Center offers a 
plethora of video tutorials 
and step -by- step guides. 

From The Start 

Installation of Creator 
2010 is easy, if a bit long 
(30 or so minutes, depending on your 
system), with the user basically 
needing only to select a language and 
whether he wants to change the instal- 
lation location. Because there is no 
free trial of the product, Creator 2010 
asks for the product ID almost imme- 
diately. Upon first run, the suite 
prompts the user to register. After- 
ward, the main interface launches for 
initial use. 

The interface features icon buttons 
for seven popular tasks (three burning 
options, plus disc copy, video copy and 
convert, video edit, and DVD cre- 
ation). However, these seven tasks only 
scratch the surface. On the left side of 
the display are five category buttons — 
Data/Copy, Video/Movies, Music/ 
Audio, Photo, and Learning Center — 
that let users dig into the offerings for 
any particular medium. 

Special Merit 

Creator 2010 is far too feature-laden 
to fully discuss here, so we'll focus on 

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Key Features: This power-packed content 
capture, editing, management, and sharing suite 
sports more than three dozen useful programs, 
plug-ins, and tools. 

some of its most compelling func- 
tions. For those with stacks of old 
VHS tapes collecting dust, Creator 
2010 offers a VHS-to-DVD converter 
(requires special equipment and a 
functioning VHS player). 

Are you a hopeless video tweaker? 
Roxio's new smart encoding feature 
will re-encode only the frames in a 
video you have edited and changed, 
reducing encoding time and poten- 
tially preserving quality. Do you store 
and play videos on your mobile de- 
vices? Creator 2010's simplified output 
interface makes it easier to create and 
transfer device-optimized files. 

Even the photo features (a classifica- 
tion that users often overlook in media 
suites) are impressive and optimized 
for busy users. From a single interface, 
you can create slideshows, panoramas, 
and disc labels; perform edits upon 

multiple photos at once; 
and more. Similarly, from 
the video/movie interface, 
you can capture, edit (au- 
tomatically or manually), 
play, convert, and share 
video with a few clicks of 
the mouse. In the music/ 
audio category, you can 
perform the expected tasks 
(edit tracks, track informa- 
tion, batch convert, etc.) 
and also capture audio 
streaming to your PC over 
the Internet. 

Caveats & Comforts 

Although Creator 2010 incorporates 
several Blu-ray functions, you'll need 
separately sold Blu-ray plug- ins to au- 
thor or edit high- definition content on 
Blu-ray discs ($19.99) or play them on 
your PC ($29.99). If Blu-ray is your 
gold standard, consider Creator 2010 
Pro ($129.99), which bundles the au- 
thoring plug- in with additional appli- 
cations that create custom soundtracks, 
remove background noise, provide en- 
hanced photo editing, and more. (No 
version of Creator 2010 includes the 
Blu-ray playback plug- in.) 

Despite these minor drawbacks, 
Creator 2010 is a comprehensive, well- 
executed multimedia suite. From 
backing up data (by category, location, 
date, and other criteria), to preserving 
and sharing family movies and photos, 
to creating your own video master- 
pieces, the program will help you obtain 
great results with minimal effort. II 

by Jennifer Farwell 

24 December 2009 / 


All-in-One Design 


$297 I 
(858)225-3300 I 

^/WinXP ^ Vista 

If you frequently need to generate any 
sort of chart, diagram, room layout, 
flyer, or other visual aid, SmartDraw 
may be able to save you a lot of time 
and effort. Not so much a freehand 
drawing tool as it is a consumer- and 
small business -grade CAD (computer- 
aided design) program, SmartDraw 
can handle just about any graphic de- 
piction you might need. 

Want to design a new garden? 
SmartDraw will help you organize the 
layout; keep track of measurements; 
and stage your design, complete with 
icons for a gas grill, a patio umbrella, 
rocks, ground cover, and more. Need 
an organizational chart of who is 
bringing or doing what for the family 
reunion? A bit of information and a 

Key Features: This broad-based 
drawing program makes quick 

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room layouts and maps to family 
trees and timelines. 


few clicks later, and voila, 
you have it. 

SmartDraw doesn't make 
decisions for you in the way 
that time or project man- 
agement software might do, 

and it doesn't get down to a 
deeply detailed level. (In the landscape 
design, for instance, SmartDraw 
offers general plant and furniture 
shapes but doesn't have icons to repre- 
sent specific plant species.) Never- 
theless, its breadth of coverage is 

amazing, and it's reasonably easy to use 
(allow time to fully master it). The 
company offers a free trial so you can 
give it a spin. II 

by Jennifer Farwell 

Organize Your Life 

Google Calendar 

Free I Google 
(650)253-0000 I 

^/WinXP © 





Do you seek more organization and 
need access to your schedule wher- 
ever you are? If the answer is yes, give 
Google Calendar a try (requires an ac- 
tive Google account). With a few flicks 
of the mouse, you can create events and 
tasks; establish parameters such as date, 
time, and location; request reminders 
(email, pop-up, or text message); invite 
others to your events; and more. 

Your calendar is available on the 
Internet when you need it, and you 
can sync your Google calendar with 
Outlook, Apple iCal, or Mozilla Sun- 
bird as well as your iPhone or iPod 
Touch, BlackBerry, or Windows 
Mobile device. (Syncing requires the 
free add-on utility, Google Sync, and 
you may need to enable calendar 

Key Features: This 
feature-rich Web-based 
calendar syncs with 
Microsoft Outlook and other 
calendars — plus many mo- 
bile devices — keeping you 
apprised of your schedule. 

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syncing after installing 
the program.) 

Google lets family, 
friends, and associates 
see each others' calendars, so you can 
be kept up-to-date on who else is 
doing what, and when. It also offers 
other calendars you can import (holi- 
days, moon phases, sports teams, and 
more). As a final bonus, if Google rec- 
ognizes anything in an open Gmail 

message as date-related, it will gen- 
erate an Add to Calendar option (to 
the right of the open message) and 
prepopulate your new event with the 
info it recognizes. That's pretty nifty. II 

by Jennifer Farwell 

Smart Computing / December 2009 25 


\ Jews, Vk?ws & Tips 

Windows Tips 

Install Windows 7 On A Netbook With Microsoft Utility 

Compiled by Joseph Moran 


I Microsoft Store 


Step 1 of 4: Choose ISO file 

Ternis of use Online help 

Netbooks are extremely popular, but very few of them come 
with DVD drives, a fact that makes installing Windows 7 some- 
what problematic. But you can get around this problem courtesy 
of Microsoft's Windows 7 USB DVD Download Tool, which is 
available as a free download from Microsoft's online store at . 

The Windows 7 USB DVD Download tool, which requires at least a 4GB USB Flash memory 
or hard drive, will use an image (.ISO file) of a Windows 7 DVD to create a bootable USB drive, 
which in turn can be used to install Windows 7. If you purchased and downloaded Windows 7 
online, you more than likely already have it in the form of an .ISO file. 

If you have Windows 7 on DVD, you can make your own .ISO file from it, though not directly 
from Windows. Many third-party disc-burning utilities can create .ISO files from discs, and a 
free utility called ISO Recorder ( makes it a breeze. (After installing it, right- 
click the Windows 7 disc in My Computer and select Create Image From CD/DVD.) 

(NOTE: To use the Windows 7 USB install drive, you 11 need to boot your netbook from it, so look 
for a boot menu when starting the system or check your 
netbook BIOS [Basic Input/Output System] boot settings.) 

Change File Associations 

& Default Programs (Vista/Win7) 

Microsoft's free utility 
will create a bootable 
USB drive to install 
Win7 on a netbook or 
other system lacking a 
DVD drive. 

From time to time, you may find that a particular 
type of file that once automatically opened a specific 
program (known as the default program) now opens 
a different one. (This often results from an inadver- 
tent change made when installing new software.) 
Fortunately, both Vista and Win7 make it easy to 
view and adjust default programs and file association 
settings so you can maintain control over which pro- 
grams open which files. 

Click the Start menu, choose Default Programs, and 
then select Associate A File Type Or Protocol With A 
Program. After a few seconds of load time, you'll see an alphabetical list of all the file types on 
your system along with the default program for each one. To change the default program for a 
file type, highlight it and click Change Program. A list of compatible programs will appear; 
just double-click the one you want, and from then on, the file will always open with the se- 
lected program. (For a shortcut directly to this window for a given file type, right-click it in 
Windows Explorer, select Open With, and click Choose Default Program.) 

Another way to make this kind of change is to choose Set Your Default Programs from 
the aforementioned Default Programs menu. Here you'll be presented with a list of in- 
stalled programs rather than individual file types. When you highlight a program, you'll 
have two options; the first, Set This Program As Default, will instantly configure the pro- 
gram to automatically open every type of file that it supports. The second, Choose Defaults 
For This Program, will display a list of all the program's supported file types, allowing you 
to pick and choose which ones it will automatically open. 

In Win7 and Vista, you can 
view and change all your 
system's file association 
and default program 
settings from one place. 

26 December 2009 / 


Microsoft News 

Microsoft Releases Free Security Essentials Software 

Microsoft Security Essentials, the company's free security utility 
(formerly code-named Morro), has been officially released and is 
available for download at for genuine copies of 
Win7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP SP2 (Service Pack 2) or higher. 

Microsoft Security Essentials is designed to provide basic antivirus 
and anti-malware protection; it replaces Microsoft's Windows Live 
OneCare paid subscription service and omits many of OneCare's fea- 
tures, such as a firewall and backup and restore capabilities. 

Microsoft Opens First Two Retail Stores 

The first brick-and-mortar Microsoft 
Store opened its doors inside a 
Scottsdale, Ariz., mall on Windows 7's 
launch date of Oct. 22, 2009. A second 
store opened the following week in 
Mission Viejo, Calif. 

The new Microsoft Stores are divided 
into four "zones" featuring different 
types of technology, including a gaming 
zone that sports a 94-inch widescreen 
display. Microsoft says it plans to open 
additional retail outlets in 2010. 

In related news, Microsoft's online 
store (, which pre- 
viously sold only Microsoft products, 
has expanded its lineup to include 
computers and third-party hardware, 
software, and accessories. 

Customers gather for the 
opening of the first 
Microsoft Store in a 
Scottsdale, Ariz., mall. 

Windows News 

Burger King Sells Windows 7 Whopper 

Burger King cus- 
tomers (in Japan only) 
recently had the op- 
portunity to com- 
memorate Microsoft's 
newest OS (operating 
system) by downing a 
special Windows 7 
Whopper. The pro- 
motional burger was 
available for the first 
7 days after Windows 
7's release and cost 
111 yen (about $8.50) 
to the first 30 cus- 

Burger King's Windows 7 
Whopper had 7 patties and 
sold for 777 yen. 

Microsoft Office 201 Starter To Replace Microsoft Works 

Microsoft says it will be replacing its consumer-focused 
Microsoft Works productivity suite with a new "Starter" edition 
of the forthcoming Office 2010. Microsoft Office 2010 Starter 
will only be available preinstalled on new PCs, include only 
Word and Excel, and provide a basic set of features for creating 
and editing documents. 

Office 2010 Starter will also be advertising-supported so it can 
be used indefinitely, as opposed to Office's current full- featured 
trial version that expires after 60 days. Those wishing to upgrade 
from Starter to a full version of Office 2010 will be able to purchase 
a Product Key Card from retailers, which won't include a DVD but 
rather a code to unlock the software already on the PC. 

Microsoft also announced a technology it calls Click-To-Run, 
which will allow those with existing PCs to quickly download and 
run a trial version of Office 2010 that will install alongside, rather 
than over, an existing version. Office 2010 is currently in beta testing 
and scheduled for release next year. 

tomers each day. The Windows 7 Whopper 
had — you guessed it — seven patties, was more 
than 5 inches tall, and contained a whopping 
2,120 calories. 

Windows Cafe Opens In Paris 

As part of its promotional blitz for the Win 7 
launch, Microsoft unveiled its first (and only) 
"Windows Cafe" at 47 Boulevard de Sebastopol 
in the heart of Paris. The unique cafe, which is 
a temporary setup, offers visitors coffee and 
pastries, Wi-Fi access, and, of course, a chance 
to try — though not buy — Win7 and other 
Microsoft products. 

Microsoft's Windows Cafe gave Parisians the 
opportunity to sample Windows 7 along with 
coffee and pastries. 

Smart Computing / December 2009 27 

Windows XP 

Time For A Cleanup 

Just like your house and your car, your computer needs to 
be cleaned out and organized often. When you don't 
clean up your computer, unused files and programs eat up 
precious space on your hard drive, and fragmented data can 
slow down your computer as it searches for files. Lucky for 
you, tidying up your computer won't take long. And though 
your computer won't smell citrusy fresh at the end of the 
day, you'll still be pleased with the results. 

Uninstall Programs & Empty The Trash 

Do you have an instant messaging program you never 
use? How about the music downloading software you no 
longer want? Those programs are taking up space on your 
hard drive, so it's time to chuck them out. 

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To uninstall a program, open the Start menu and select 
the Control Panel. Double- click Add or Remove Programs 
(in Classic View). When you see a program you want to 
uninstall, click to highlight it and then choose the Remove 
button. Follow the on-screen prompts to finish the job. You 
may have to restart your computer at the end of the process. 

Believe it or not, when you send a program to the Recycle 
Bin, it hasn't truly been disposed of yet. This is good news if 
you accidently threw away a precious file but bad news if 
you were hoping to free up drive space. To ensure your 
trashed files are eliminated from your drive, right- click the 
Recycle Bin and click Empty Recycle Bin. For your protec- 
tion, Windows will ask you if you are sure you want to per- 
manently delete the item. Click Yes. 



Empty Recycle Bin * 
Create Shortcut 

Disk Cleanup 

To get rid of the files 
you deleted long ago, 
empty the Recycle Bin. 

The Disk Cleanup utility offers another 
way to gain space on your hard drive. Disk 
Cleanup is designed to eliminate and 
compress all the unused and unnecessary files on your hard 
drive, such as temporary files, and files in your Recycle Bin. 

To run Disk Cleanup, open your Start menu and select My 
Computer. Right- click the drive you want to clean up and 
then choose Properties. This will bring you to a pie chart that 
shows used space and free space. Click the Disk Cleanup 
button next to the pie chart to start the Disk Cleanup utility. 

Once Disk Cleanup completes its calculations, you will 
be given a full list of files and file locations to clean up. 
Carefully review this list and click the boxes to select or des- 
elect files. Highlight an item by clicking it, and you'll see a 
description of the item below the list. For example, when 
you click Temporary Internet Files, the description tells you 
that it "contains webpages stored on your hard disk for 
quick viewing." Click OK to start the cleanup process. 

When you click the More Options tab in Disk Cleanup, 
you'll see options to get rid of Windows Components (op- 
tional, possibly unused components of your operating 
system) and unused installed programs. You can also clean up 
System Restore, which is a built-in component designed to 
protect your system. It makes copies of your operating system 
(called restore points) and then saves them as files for you 

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Disk Cleanup will delete and com- 
press unused and unneeded files. 

to use if your computer 
crashes. When a new restore 
point is created, the old re- 
store points aren't neces- 
sarily deleted. By choosing 
to clean up System Restore, 
you will delete all but the 
most recent restore point, 
which will free up space on 
your hard drive. 

Defrag Your Drive 

It's harder to find specific 
files you're looking for when 
your desk is unorganized 

28 December 2009 / 


and you have files scattered around your workspace, right? 
Well, the same thing happens to your computer. As it per- 
forms all the different tasks you command, files and data start 
to get scattered around and make it harder for your computer 
to quickly find specific things you are asking for. Defragging 
your hard drive will organize the data on your hard drive, so 
your system can find data faster. 

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The Startup tab under the System Configuration Utility will 
show you all the different programs that boot along with 
your operating system. 

To open and run the WinXP Disk Defragmenter tool, 
open the Start menu and click My Computer. Right- click the 
drive you want to defrag and then choose Properties. Click 
the Tools tab and then select the Defragment Now button. 
Click the Analyze button, and Disk Defragmenter will show 
you what your drive will look like before and after it's de- 
fragged. Click the Defragment button at the bottom of the 
box to begin the process. Once the process is complete, you 
will be able to view the report to see the details of your drive's 
fragmentation after the process. 

Organize Your Desktop 

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If it often takes you awhile to 
find a single document located 
on your Desktop, it must be time 
to organize and clean it up. If 
you are accustomed to heading 
to your Desktop each time you 
need to find something, create 
new folders that house particular 
types of files. For example, you 

can make a Photos folder for image files and a Documents 
folder for your Microsoft Office files. To create a new folder, 
right- click an empty space on the Desktop, select New, and 
choose Folder at the top of the expanded list. Then you can 
drag and drop files into the folder you've just created. 

To eliminate unused shortcuts, run the Desktop Cleanup 
Wizard. This moves unused shortcuts to a folder titled 
Unused Desktop Shortcuts. To run the Desktop Cleanup 

Wizard, right-click the Desktop and then click Arrange 
Icons By. Find Run Desktop Cleanup Wizard in the resulting 
options and select it. Click Next. 

The Desktop Cleanup Wizard will have the shortcuts it 
plans to move selected. To leave a shortcut on your Desktop, 
deselect it by unchecking the box. If you see other shortcuts 
you want to clear off the Desktop, click the shortcut's box. 
Click Next. The next box will list the shortcuts you plan to 
hide in the Unused Desktop Folder. To make changes to the 
list, click Back. If the list is fine, click Finish. 

To further clean up your Desktop, you can also create 
new folders in your My Documents folder with the same or- 
ganizational intent. To create a new folder in your My 
Documents folder, open My Documents and click the Make 
A New Folder link in the sidebar. To rename these folders 
and the new folders on your Desktop, click the title of the 
folder one time and press F2. Then, just type the new name. 

Clean Up Your Startup 

It may seem as if your computer is taking longer to start 
up than it used to, and it probably is. Some applications will 
add themselves to the startup sequence without your knowl- 
edge when you download them to your computer. This bogs 
down the process and makes it take longer. 

You can choose which programs boot along with your oper- 
ating system by tweaking the settings. Open the Start menu, 
choose All Programs, and then click the Startup folder. Right- 
click the program you don't want as part of the booting process 
and then click Delete. Next, open the Start menu, click Run, 
and type msconfig into the text box. Click 
OK. Select the Startup tab when the 
System Configuration Utility box opens. 
Here you will find a list of programs that 
load during the startup sequence. Uncheck 
the box of any programs you want to take 
off of the list. If you are unsure about a 
program on the list and would like a good 
description of the programs, try searching 
for the name of the program on Google 
( or Bing ( 
.com). Once you have finished editing the 
list, click Apply and then OK. 



Undo Delete Ctrl+Z 

Creating new 
folders on 
your Desktop 
will help 
you organize 
it better. 

Keep It Clean 

You don't have to wait until spring to do all your deep 
cleaning. Your computer should be cleaned out using these 
tools and techniques several times a year. It will improve 
your computer's performance, make your time on the com- 
puter more efficient, and help you and your computer con- 
tinue a long, healthy, and happy relationship together. II 

by Tessa Warner Breneman 

Smart Computing / December 2009 29 

Windows 7 

Networking With The New OS 

Connecting to wireless networks in Windows XP and 
Windows Vista hasn't always been the smoothest 
process. In Windows 7, Microsoft has made it easier to log 
in to Wi-Fi hotspots. For example, you can now connect in 
a few clicks, rather than the numerous dialogue boxes you 
had to open in Vista. Network setup is also more intuitive 
than the complicated steps in WinXP. Here, we'll take a tour 
of the new networking features in Win7 and show you how 
to connect to wireless networks using Microsoft's newest 
operating system. Note that the instructions in this article 
are based on a prerelease edition of Win7, so the actual 
steps may vary slightly in the final version. 


When you click the networking icon in Win7's Taskbar, it 
displays wired and wireless connections your PC can detect, 
including Wi-Fi access points, mobile broadband connec- 
tions, dial-up, and even corporate VPN (virtual private net- 
work) options. To help you select among multiple wireless 
networks, Win7 displays the network name and signal 
strength for each connection. Click 
the network you want to log in to, 
and Win7 displays a Connect but- 
ton. A pop-up window below the 
listing also displays the Security 
Type, such as WEP (Wired Equiv- 
alency Privacy) or WPA2 (Wi-Fi 
Protected Access 2), type of Wi-Fi 
signal, such as 802. llg or 802.1 In, 
and the network's name. 

Note that if you want your PC or 
laptop to connect at boot-up to a 
particular network, place a check 
mark in the Connect Automatically 
checkbox. If a particular connec- 
tion requires a security key or passphrase, Win7 brings up a 
Connect To A Network window, where you can manually 
enter or copy and paste the authentication information. 
Once you enter the key or passphrase, Win7 connects to the 
network, and the Taskbar icon will change from grayed- out 
to white bars that display the strength of the signal. 



The Libraries folders in Windows 7 make it easy to share 
your content. 

Another improvement in Win7 is that it's easier to con- 
nect to networks that don't broadcast the SSID (Service Set 
Identifier). Whereas previous Windows versions displayed 
only networks that were broadcasting SSIDs, Win7 lists 
nonbroadcast signals as Unnamed Network. To connect, 
click the listed option and when prompted, enter the SSID 
and security key. Comparatively, in Vista, you'd click Start, 
select Control Panel, choose Network And Internet, and 
click Network Sharing Center. Then, you'd select Set Up A 
Connection Or Network and run through Vista's network 
wizard setup utility. In terms of security, most hackers are 
capable of detecting the nonbroadcast SSIDs using freely 
available snooping tools, so the Unnamed Network listing 
doesn't hurt your network defenses much. 


One of the new features in Win7 is HomeGroup, which 
Microsoft designed to simplify the process of sharing images, 
songs, movies, documents, and printers on your PC. When 
you first set up your network connection in Win7, you'll 
create a "HomeGroup," which is a 
single utility where other Win7 
computers on your local network 
can access your files and share their 
files. Thus, you'll no longer need to 
search the network or double- click 
a PC to remotely access the files, 
and you can view files from several 
Win7 computers at the same time. 
In short, the shared content from 
all your Win7 PCs can be found in 
the HomeGroup. 

To make the process effortless, 
Win7 features checkboxes for 
Pictures, Music, Videos, Printers, 
and Documents. Once you select what you want to share, 
Win7 generates a password for the HomeGroup. The ini- 
tial password is a random group of letters and numbers, 
but you can change the password to one that you and your 
friends can remember. To do so, click Start and type 
HomeGroup in the search box. Press ENTER and then 


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click Change The Password. At the Changing The 
Homegroup Password Will Disconnect Everyone window, 
click Change The Password. Win7 will 
display another long, complex pass- 
word, but you can delete the password 
and enter one of your own choosing. 
If other Win7 PCs have already joined 
the HomeGroup, you'll need to in- 
form the users of the new password. 

In terms of the content you share, 
the Pictures, Music, Videos, and Doc- 
uments checkboxes match up with the 
folder libraries in your User Profile for 
Pictures, Music, Videos, and Doc- 
uments. If you didn't choose media 
files to share in Win7's library folders 
when you first set up Win7, you may not have any files 
shared in the HomeGroup. To add files, open Windows 
Explorer, click the item, whether it be a folder or files, click 
the Share With button, and se- 
lect HomeGroup (Read) or 
HomeGroup Read/Write. The 
Read option only allows users to 
open the file, while the Read/ 
Write option also lets them 
modify or delete the file. 

On the flip side, there may be 
some files that you'd prefer not 
to share with everyone in the 
network — or files that you'd like 
to make available only to specific 
people. To prevent a folder or 
certain files from being shared 
over the network, select the 
folder (or file, if necessary) you 
want to conceal, click Share 
With, and select Nobody. If you 
want only certain PCs to have 

access, click Share With, select Specific People, choose the 
privileged computers, and click Add. You can also create 
your own libraries, such as Work Files or Scrapbooking 
Project, to further break down content and make the shared 
files easier for everyone to find and contribute to. 

Calm Streams 

With HomeGroup as a common location for storing your 
media, Win7 takes advantage of the integration to give you 
the ability to easily manage and stream shared content 
through Windows Media Player 12 and Windows Media 
Center (included in the Home Premium, Professional, and 
Ultimate editions). For example, Windows Media Center in 
Win7 features a new Shared section, in addition to items such 
as Recorded TV, Pictures, and Music, where you can stream 


HomeGroup makes it simple to select which 
types of files you want to share. 

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Play To allows you to send music and other digital libraries to 
networked Win7 PCs and media streaming devices. 

content from HomeGroup computers. Additionally, 
Windows Media Player 12 can automatically stream content 
in your HomeGroup to a set-top box, 
gaming console, or other streaming de- 
vices; whereas before you had to sync 
devices with Windows Media Player and 
set up playlists from your file libraries. 

To turn on streaming in Windows, 
click the Start button, select All 
Programs, and click Windows Media 
Player. If Windows Media Player is in 
the Now Playing Mode, click the Switch 
To Library button, which is in the 
player's upper-right corner. Click 
Stream and select Turn On Home 
Media Streaming. People with two 
computers running Windows 7 can also use Windows 
Media Player to remotely access shared content. To allow re- 
mote access over the Internet, open Windows Media Player 

12, click the Stream button, and 
select Allow Internet Access To 
Home Media. Next, click Allow 
Internet Access To Home Media 
and provide an administrator 
password. Then, on a Win7 
laptop, open Windows Media 
Player 12, click Other Libraries 
to locate the player library for 
your home PC, and search for 
the files you want to play. 

You can also send photos, 
music, and movies to other net- 
worked streaming devices that 
support the DLNA (Digital 
Living Network Alliance) stan- 
dard, such as the Xbox 360 or 
Roku Soundbridge, and re- 
motely control the playback 
from your Win7 PC. The feature is ideal when you want to 
play movies or photos you have yet to share on your home 
network for friends and family. 

Play Around 

Networking in Win7 is certainly different from previous 
versions of Windows, but rather than being a chore to learn, 
Microsoft has enhanced your ability to quickly connect and 
find nearby networks. And the HomeGroup feature means 
that you'll also spend much less time setting up and locating 
shared files on your home network. Take some time to 
check out these features and you should appreciate the net- 
working improvements in Win7. II 

by Nathan Lake 

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Smart Computing / December 2009 31 



Install A Drive Image 

Last month, we took an 
in-depth look at CMS' 
BounceBack Ultimate 
software ($69; www.cmsprod as an example of 
how you could go about cre- 
ating a drive image — a com- 
plete copy of your primary 
disk volume. This month, 
we're back to answer the ques- 
tion of what to do with that 
image once disaster strikes. 

When Disaster Strikes 

There are many types of data loss. 
Individual files might become dam- 
aged. Folders might be accidentally 
erased. Viruses could delete critical 
system files. Or drives might simply 
choke and die. When most people 
think of "catastrophic data loss," drive 
failure is the scenario that most often 
comes to mind, but in fact, according 
to CMS, this only accounts for 15% of 
actual data loss cases. Human error is 
most often to blame. 

In the instance of file or folder 
damage, the versioning function 
within BounceBack will allow you to 
revert to an earlier instance of those 
files, even if their current status is 

deleted. However, our concern here is 
for the entire drive image. A destruc- 
tive virus will often wreak havoc 
within moments of being contracted. 
(This is why it's a good idea to set your 
incremental backup periods to at least 
one hour, so your backup images 
stand less chance of being infected.) 
Similarly, a drive failure can be instan- 
taneous, although media damage can 
also seem to spread throughout the 
drive in a cancer-like fashion. In either 
case, you need to take that damaged 
drive offline as quickly as possible. 

From there, you want to do two 
things. You want to obtain a replace- 
ment drive onto which you can restore 
your system image. But you also want 
to keep using your system and stay 
productive. With nearly all backup so- 
lutions, you're dead in the water until 

you get a replacement drive in- 
stalled. However, CMS spent 
nearly two years developing the 
software needed to let users 
boot straight from their back- 
up drives, whether internal or 
USB, so you won't have a lot 
of downtime. 

To enable this functionality, 
you'll need to configure your 
motherboard BIOS (Basic 
Input/Output System) to look to the 
BounceBack drive when the primary 
drive fails. Because all BlOSes are dif- 
ferent, you may need to consult your 
manual and/or system vendor for in- 
structions, but the core idea is to 
modify the boot sequence of your 
system. Make your first boot drive 
your primary drive, and the drive with 
the BounceBack system image on it 
the second. If you're dealing with an 
internal drive, this is pretty straight- 
forward. Merely confirm the order of 
drives in your boot menu. If you're 
using a USB external drive, as we did, 
you'll need to enable the ability to 
boot to USB devices, then make sure 
that USB drives boot immediately 
after your primary drive. If you are 
loading a BounceBack image from 
USB, you might reduce potential 

32 December 2009 / 


problems by disconnecting any other 
USB storage drives. 

The Restoration Process 

We tested BounceBack Ultimate's 
image restore capabilities on an open 
bench system. Our original drive was a 
256GB Samsung SSD (solid-state 
drive) and a 20GB system image made 
up of Windows 7 and a handful of ap- 
plications. We used BounceBack Ulti- 
mate to create a full backup on a 
500GB CMS USB hard drive, and then 
we brought in an 80GB Intel SSD as a 
replacement drive. 

1 Remove the victim. Once disaster 
strikes your primary drive, your 
system should look to the BounceBack 
drive, if you've configured it as previ- 
ously instructed. To ensure your 
system doesn't try to boot from the 
damaged primary drive, take it offline. 
You can do this in the BIOS by in- 
structing the system not to boot from 
that drive and/or disabling its port. 
Alternatively, power down the system, 
remove the PC's cover, and disconnect 
the data and/or power cables leading 
into the drive. With this done, make 
sure the backup drive is attached to 
the system and the BIOS has been set 
to boot from it. 

2 Get back to work. Power up the 
system. You'll notice that the boot 
time takes a bit longer, but everything 
loads exactly as it used to. Once you 
drop into Windows, you'll see that your 
Desktop wallpaper has changed to a 
sort of blue seascape with an Instant 
PC Recovery badge hovering above the 
horizon. On our Win7 system, we al- 
most immediately saw a Taskbar pop- 
up informing us that our new SATA 
drive had been detected. Bringing up 
Computer, we saw that the external 
CMS drive had been assigned the C: 
volume letter, while the new SATA 
drive had been assigned E:. (Our op- 
tical drive remained unchanged as D:.) 

After a moment, BounceBack spawns 
an orange Instant PC Recovery box 

Here's our test system in action.You can see 
that our primary drive's red data cable has 
been disconnected.The system is now running 
from the CMS external drive (via a USB 
extension cable).The Instant PC Recovery 
wallpaper can be seen on the monitor. 

BounceBack Ultimate gives you the option to 
continue working from your backup image. 
Many functions will be slower if you' re using 
an external drive, but at least you can 
stay productive. 

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BounceBack Ultimate shows you the progress of 
your restore process as it's happening. Expect a 
restore to take roughly as long as a full backup. 

with two buttons: Launch Recovery 
Process and Continue. The latter will 
drop you right to the Windows Desk- 
top, whereupon you can get back to 
work as normal, with the system 
looking (except for the wallpaper) just 
as it did upon the last backup. 

3 Launch the restore. If you click 
Launch Recovery Process, the 
BounceBack Control Center appears 
and immediately starts scanning for 
backup drives. On our system, Bounce- 
Back correctly reported that it found a 
single 80GB E: drive. This is significant 
because it differs in size from our orig- 
inal 256GB drive and demonstrates that 
BounceBack isn't picky about matching 
volume sizes; it only needs enough 
space on the replacement drive to hold 
the original backup image. 

4 Start transferring. Highlight the 
target drive you want from Bounce- 
Back's Backup Device List and click 
Next. BounceBack will then proceed to 
partition and format the target drive. 
With this done, it then transfers the 
"bootstrap," or collection of files that 
make the target drive bootable. 

5 Finish the transfer. With the boot- 
strap transferred, BounceBack 
proceeds to analyze your many thou- 
sands of source files. Finally, it begins 
to copy your files from the backup 
drive to the internal replacement 
target. Once the files are done, 
BounceBack copies the Windows 
Registry . . . and that's it! You'll see a 
Restore Complete message along with 
some statistics about the session. Our 
restore process took just over 12 min- 
utes, averaging 794MB per minute. 

6 Enable the new drive. All that's left 
to do is reboot the system, go into 
the motherboard BIOS, and make the 
new drive the first drive in the boot se- 
quence. Save the settings, reboot, and 
you're finished. All told, our restore 
process took less than 15 minutes. II 

by William Van Winkle 

Smart Computing / December 2009 33 


Now Thaf s Crafty 

Homemade Gifts Straight From Your Computer 

A homemade gift doesn't 
have to be a hand-knit 
scarf or hand- crafted 
birdhouse. You can create 
plenty of gifts without 
being "handy" in the 
least, and you can do 
it from the comfort of 
your home computer. If 
you have photo or video 
files, a computer microphone, 
or even something written you'd 
like to share, you can digitally 
create both a unique gift and 
lasting memories. Here are some 
ideas for using your computer 
to put a personal touch into 
gift giving. 

Photo Books 

A photo book is one of the 
most popular computer-made 
gifts around, and with good 
reason. When you assemble a 
photo book, you have all the 
fun — picking out photos, ar- 
ranging them, choosing color schemes, 
adding text — and someone else does 
the work (physically putting it to- 
gether). One of the most convenient 
ways to create a photo book is to use a 
Web site that lets you upload your 
photos and assemble the book online, 
such as Kodak Gallery (www.kodak Other services, such as 
RocketLife (, let you 
download software, create the book on 
your PC, and then have the book 
printed and bound. 

Photo books allow for great flexi- 
bility in design. Unlike with a tradi- 
tional album, you can enlarge, shrink, 
and crop photos to fit the desired 
format, and most programs will alert 
you if the image resolution isn't high 

enough to produce a clear picture in 
print. Themes range from travel to 
wedding to seasonal and more. Of 
special note is Snapfish's (www.snap Picture Me Photo Book, a 
series of laminated paperboard books 
that let you insert a child's face onto 
characters, including a baby chick or 
flying dinosaur. Prices typically are 
based on the size of the photo book, 
and you can create one for less than 
the cost of a couple paperback novels. 


If you like the idea of designing a 
book, but you'd prefer to share some- 
thing that pleases the taste buds as well 
as the eyes, you'd do well to consider 

creating a recipe book. As with photo 
books, you have the option of down- 
loading software and designing the 
book on your desktop or submitting the 
information to an online service. For 
example, Blurb ( lets 
you download its free software, add 
your recipes, add other text and photos 
to its templates or to a layout of your 
own design, and then have a cookbook 
printed and shipped within a little more 
than a week. (Blurb also offers tem- 
plates for photo books, portfolios, busi- 
ness books, wedding books, and more.) 
Or, consider 
(, which 
lets one or many individuals upload 
recipes, choose a cover, and personalize 
the book with text and photos. 


For those who want to create a gift 
where recipients can also be creative 
by adding their own "content," per- 
sonalized stationery might be just the 
ticket — and it works for almost any 
budget. For instance, for less than 
$10, you can create notepads with 
Shutterfly ( You 
upload photos onto one of the more 
than 100 templates offered, and you 
can choose from a range of themes. 
Other stationery products you can 
create with Shutterfly include photo 
notecards and spiral-bound photo 


You don't have to spend hours cut- 
ting cloth, piecing together scraps, and 
sewing intricate patterns to make a 
unique quilt. Instead, have a seat at your 
computer and begin browsing any of 
the numerous memory quilt Web sites. 
One such site is Photo Quilt Creations 
( You 
email photos to the company and then 
select the other elements of the quilt: 
the size, colors, photo style, design, and 
text. If writer's block strikes, you can 
even choose from a long list of quotes 

34 December 2009 / 


and sayings. (Be sure to keep in mind 
that quilts are more expensive and take 
significantly longer to create than many 
of the other digital gifts in this article, so 
this is one gift for which you'll need to 
plan ahead.) 

Quilts aren't the only textiles you can 
"make" with your computer. You can use 
your digital photos to create blankets, 
afghans, pillows, beach towels, and cloth 
totes with the help of BlanketWorx 
( BlanketWorx 
weaves the item with yarn that recreates 
the digital image rather than printing, 
embroidering, or silkscreening the 
image onto the cloth, so your photo 
truly is integral to the gift. 

Mural Tile 

This item is a bit outside the tradi- 
tional gift category, but it is so cool 
that we had to include it. If someone 
you know wants to add a little color to 
their kitchen or bath, or if you want to 
surprise a family member with a bit of 
home decor, be sure to check out the 
ceramic mural tiles in the RocketLife 
digital catalog. As with the other 
RocketLife products, first you down- 
load the RocketLife software. Within a 
minute or so you begin creating your 
collage, which will appear on a half- 
dozen tiles. You choose the photo or 
photos on your hard drive, select the 
mural project, customize it, and then 
order the tiles, which are shipped 
within the week. 

(NOTE: Even though you are cre- 
ating items on your desktop and not 
through a Web site, RocketLife executes 
within Internet Explorer and is not 
compatible with any other Web browser, 

so you 11 need to use IE to create your 
mural tiles or other photo items.) 


Making personalized jigsaw puzzles 
is almost as enjoyable as putting them 
together, and it takes only a fraction of 
the time. The process is simple: You se- 
lect the photo, and a third party takes 
care of the rest. is 
one such business that offers help with 
puzzle creation. 
The company lets 
you choose from 
a variety of op- 
tions, from num- 
ber of pieces (30 
to 1,500) to puz- 
zle shapes (rec- 
tangular, round, 
oval, and heart-shaped) to prices ($15 
to $160). also offers 
a photo collage puzzle, where you 
choose a dozen or so of your favorite 
photos, and the company arranges 
them into a montage. 

Calendars, Posters & Other 
Photo Projects 

Crafting items over the Internet 
isn't the only way to create digital gifts. 
Photo- and video-editing programs 
often include project templates that let 
you make unique gifts, with no 
Internet connection required. Roxio 
Creator ($99.99; is a 
music, photo, and video suite that 
walks you step-by-step through cre- 
ating dozens of projects. For example, 
it has templates for monthly, quarterly, 
and yearly calendars, and you can edit 

the photos and customize text from 
within the project. We designed a cal- 
endar in 20 minutes and took the tem- 
plate to our local print shop, which 
produced it in a couple days. Or, if 
you have a high-quality printer, you 
can complete the calendar without 
leaving home. 

Other projects you can create with 
Roxio include posters, gift tags, and 
collages. The individual project cost 
will be based on whatever media you 

Digital photos 
can appear on 
almost any 

use to produce it. You don't have to 
have specific photo -editing software to 
create these items, either. Some office 
and stationery stores will accept a disc 
of your photos and do the production 
work for you. For instance, wall photo 
calendars at FedEx Office (formerly 
FedEx Kinko's; start 
at $19.99, and desktop calendars start 
at $14.99. 

If none of the above photo -related 
ideas is exactly what you're looking 
for, be sure to check out the other of- 
ferings at the photo book sites. At 
Shutterfly, for example, you can create 
mugs, mousepads, magnets, desk or- 
ganizers, keepsake boxes, stickers, or- 
naments, coasters, pendants, luggage 
tags, playing cards, and more. 

Audio Stories 


Here's a gift that costs little to pro- 
duce, but one that can end up being 
\ an invaluable treasure. With a 
computer microphone, built-in 
Windows software, and some 

Online sites such as Shutterfly 
help you create visually 
stunning photo books. 

Smart Computing / December 2009 35 


blank CDs, you can preserve 
family history, stories, and other 

First, write down the stories 
you'd like to record. (Or, if you're 
feeling adventuresome, just wing 
it.) Then, plug a microphone into 
your PC. In Windows XP, click 
Start, All Programs, Accessories, 
and Entertainment. Select Sound 
Recorder and begin recording. (In 
Vista/Win7, click Start, All Pro- 
grams, Accessories, and Sound 
Recorder.) The software is intu- 
itive to use, but the Help menu 
can guide you through any unfa- 
miliar commands. After recording, the 
file or files are saved in the common 
WAV format. To transfer the files to 
CD, launch Windows Media Player or 
another media player and follow in- 
structions for burning 
the files. 

You can spice up the 
project in several ways. 
Improve the sound qual- 
ity by investing in a 
higher-end microphone 
and/or using audio re- 
cording software, such 
as the Audacity open- 
source freeware (audac And, a free pro- 
gram such as Disketch Disc Label 
Software ( lets 
you create snazzy jewel case covers and 
CD labels. 

Home Movies 

Nearly every family has them: 
home movies that are stored in a 
closet or attic because you no longer 
have the means to view them. But 
you can turn something old into 
something new and produce your 
own movies in the process. iMem- 
ories ( is one 
service that will help you update 
your home movies. You send your 
videotapes (Betamax, VHS, VHS-C, 
mini DV or 8mm) or film (Super 8, 
8mm, or 16mm) to the company, 
and iMemories cleans them up and 

Photo puzzles come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. 

converts them to DVD. The company 
then loads the files onto the Web. 

So far, iMemories has done most of 
the work, but now you have the op- 
portunity to put your artistic touch 
into the project. That's 
because you choose what 
files to put onto DVD. 
Watch them online, select 
the ones you want and 
the order you want them 
in, and then compile the 
files into personalized 
DVDs. Your project will 
be based on two costs: 
the cost of the digital 
conversion ($19.99 per videotape or 
50-foot film reel) and the cost of the 
DVD you create ($14.99 per DVD). 
You can also store the videos online 
for a fee, which allows you to create 
additional DVDs in the future. 

The Windows Sound 
Recorder utility can help 
you create a memorable 
audio gift. 

Wrapping Paper & Cards 

You don't have to stop at the gift it- 
self when creating digitally; you can 
present it in wrapping paper or a gift 

box that you've designed yourself, 
as well. Businesses such as South 
River Trading Company (www let you insert 
your own photo, image, or logo 
onto more than 100 wrapping 
paper background styles. If you 
prefer to work from scratch, you 
can design and produce wrapping 
paper with your word processing 
program and a quality printer. 
The HP Website ( 
/5fnmee) provides steps for start- 
ing with a blank Microsoft Word 
sheet, inserting an image, add- 
ing background colors, choos- 
ing photo borders, selecting text, 
using clip art, and experimenting 
with specialty paper. And the HP 
Community Wiki (expressioncenter is packed with other 
ideas for projects you can make with 
your computer. 

Finally, top off your gift with a 
homemade card. You can use any 
of the aforementioned methods, 
including photo-editing software 
projects, photo gift services, specific 
photo -card software (be sure to check 
out, or 
your own word processing program. 
As an added benefit, these cards are 
nice enough that they can stand alone 
as gifts themselves. 

These are just a few of the gifts 
you can create with the help of your 
computer. The next time you think 
"homemade," you just might be ex- 
changing those woodworking tools 
and knitting needles for your mouse 
and keyboard. II 

by Heidi V. Anderson 

Create Your Own Custom Gift Wrap 

interactively online in just 5 minutes 
Select a Gift Wrap Background 

Upload your Photo, Logo or Image file 

I Design your Gift Wrap 

■ Place your Order 

Custom Gin Wrap for all occasions 
Select from over 100 styles 
Shipping in 5 business days 

Tell Me More 


Present your 
gift in another 
computer-made gift: 
wrapping paper. 

36 December 2009 / 

Readers' Tips 

Compiled by Nathan Lake 

Many of our readers 
come across fast, 
easy ways to solve 
a problem or 
accomplish a task. 
Well, we'd like to hear 
about it! If you have 
a great tip you'd like 
to share, email us at 
readerstips@smart If we 
print your tip, we'll 
send you a free Smart 
Computing J -sh\x\.. 
You'll be the envy of 
all (well, some) of 
your friends. 

Please include your 
first name, last name, 
and address, so that 
we can give you credit 
if we print your tip. 
(And so that we can 
send your T-shirt to 
you, of course.) Please 
limit your tip to 200 
words or fewer. Not 
all tips received will be 
printed, and tips may 
be edited for length 
and clarity. 


Short & Simple Tips 
To Make Things Easier 

Optical Mouse Cleaning 

My mother's mouse cursor seemed to randomly 
move back and forth, which was caused by dirt 
in front of the optical beam. To prevent debris 
from blocking the beam, I took a small piece of 
clear Scotch tape and placed it over the mouse's 
optical opening. Ever since, the mouse has stayed 
clean and worked like brand-new. 

Jeff W., Lebanon, N.H. 

Smart Computing Tips Folder 

I like to try out many of the tips from fellow 
Smart Computing readers, but I sometimes don't 
remember how to use them. To help me recall 
the advice, I visit the Smart ComputingWeb page 
( for the "Readers 
Tips" article, copy the tip, and paste it into a doc- 
ument on my PC, which I save in a folder titled 
"Smart Computing Tips." This way, 
I always have the reference on hand. 

Madeline S., Lake Worth, Fla. 

Time-Saver For Service Issues 

When I buy an electronic item, I usually find 
that the serial number is toward the back 
or bottom of the unit. In some cases, it's 
very difficult to unhook the wires or 
turn the device over to obtain 
the serial number when you 
need to contact the man- 
ufacturer about a 

question or service. I 
use a label maker and 
print a label with the 
purchase date, serial 
number, store where I bought 
the item, customer service 
number, and Web site. I stick the 

label toward the front of the item so I can 
easily reference it, if need arises. 

Daniel R., Las Vegas, Nev. 

Netbook Case Alternative 

Some netbook cases are expensive. However, 
many cases for portable DVD players are about 
the same size, generally more affordable, and 
often have more pockets. I picked up a portable 
DVD case for $5 on clearance for my Asus Eee PC. 

Joel F., Stone Mountain, Ga. 

How To Enable Graphic Equalizer 

Windows Media Player 12 comes with Windows 
7, and when I searched for the equalizer, I couldn't 
find it in any of the application's menus or prefer- 
ence options. Eventually, I found that Microsoft 
has a tricky way of hiding the equalizer feature. 
Open Windows Media Player 12, press the ALT 
key on your keyboard (to open the menu), select 
View, and click Skin Chooser. Select Revert from 
the left side of the skins list and click Apply Skin. 
With the Revert skin, there's a graphic equalizer 
button in the lower-right corner that you can 
click to customize the sound of your music. 

Keith B., Melbourne, Fla. 

FM Transmitter Fix 

Do you prefer to listen to your iPod over the car 
radio but have to constantly change frequencies 
due to interference from radio stations? Try re- 
moving the antenna from your car radio, and then 
place your FM transmitter right next to the car 
radio and see if you get better results. 

Roger E., Findlay, Ohio 

Smart Computing / December 2009 37 

A Slice Of Apple 

by Seth Colaner 

Free Mac Software 

Where To Find It & Why It's Perfectly Legal 

One of the most common Mac questions I 
get concerns where to find 
good Mac software. Al- 
though it's true that you can find a 
Mac version of virtually any app, I think 
the subtext of the question points toward a 
desire to find a cache of Mac apps that aren't 
simply "Mac versions" of popular applications, 
but are specifically designed for Macs. Indeed, there 
are thousands of applications available for Macs. 
Astonishingly, most of these applications are also free. 
But the question remains: Where can you find them? 

Finding Good Applications Online 

Rather than hunting for good software one company or 
search keyword at a time, I prefer to use Web sites that aggre- 
gate lists of the best (free) Mac software available. Two of my 
personal favorites are Open Source Mac (www.opensource and FreeMacWare ( 

Open Source Mac does not have an exhaustive list of pro- 
grams. Rather, the site maintains a much smaller list made 
up of what they consider the best free Mac software available. 
Thus, there may be only one or two entries under a given 
category, but you can bet those one or two applications are 
rock-solid. Categories include everything from office applica- 
tions to audio and video tools to personal finance software. 

Although FreeMacWare's Web site is somewhat clunky 
compared to Open Source Mac (try it, you'll see what I 
mean), it has an astonishing number of applications available 
for download. The number of software categories alone is 


Open Source Mac 


A simple list of free, open-source software for Mac 


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tha world. Tlila la tha best fraa Mac software that we know of. 

Also see - Open Source iPhone jnewll 


Web Browsing 

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Video Player, Torrents, Pod tasting 

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Open Source Mac ( is a site where you can 
find some of the best free software for Macs around. 

staggering — 44 in all by my count, with anywhere 
from two or three applications per category up to 
well over a hundred. 

If you just want to poke around and see what's 
hot on the free Mac software market, check out 
Open Source Mac; if you know what type of 
app you're looking for, try FreeMacWare. 

Like A Thief In The Night? 

There are some conscientious folks who 
(admirably) are concerned about the legality 
of any "free" software. Their hesitation is certainly 
warranted; software piracy is a huge problem for soft- 
ware companies, and it's a dishonest practice. Further, it can 
sometimes be dangerous for people who acquire pirated soft- 
ware, as some clever anarchist may include a nasty virus or 
Trojan horse with the pilfered goods. 

The Web sites mentioned above, however, are completely 
legal and do not include pirated software. These products fall 
under the category of "open-source" software, which is soft- 
ware that is free to distribute by design. 

Open Source 

Open-source software is easily defined by its name — open 
source — meaning that the source code for these programs 
(the code that makes a program run) is available for all to see 
and edit. The result is that instead of a few programmers 
working on a project, anyone and everyone can offer their ex- 
pertise to edit, improve, or fix a given software application. 

Although it sounds like a recipe for chaos, this formula has 
worked for decades and has brought us untold treasures in 
the form of hordes of free software. Open-source projects can 
be tiny startup projects, such as a widget or a simple game for 
your computer, or they can be as huge an endeavor as an en- 
tire operating system, such as Google's Android project. 

Because the intellectual property of a given open- source 
application by nature belongs to the public, open-source of- 
ferings are free for users. It's a beautiful thing. 

The Catch 

So what's the catch with all this free and legal software? 
There is no catch. Sure, your first thought is that this free 
stuff must be rife with errors and other oddities with so many 
different people contributing their own ideas and editing the 
code; after all, most of us have learned by now that you get 
what you pay for. 

But open-source projects, miraculously, are generally ex- 
ceptions to that rule. By the time an open-source application 
makes it to a Web site such as the ones indicated above, it's 
probably in fine shape, ready for general consumption. II 

38 December 2009 / 


Mac Corner 

Debunking Compatibility Myths 

It's almost a universal response from 
people who are hesitant to switch 
from a PC to a Mac: "All my files and 
applications are for a PC, and they 
won't be compatible with a Mac." 
Although even in recent years, file 
compatibility between the two plat- 
forms has caused a few headaches for 
computer users, these days, the above 
argument against switching platforms 
is almost entirely moot. 

True, switching platforms is going to 
be slightly tricky and may involve is- 
sues such as migrating all your old data 
to a new computer and learning your 
way around a new operating system, 
but it seems that many people erro- 
neously see the task as insurmount- 
able or, at best, tedious and fraught 
with uncertainty. Others who do make 
the switch feel the need to hang on to 
their old PC "just in case," and as a re- 
sult, end up juggling two computers 
unnecessarily. Those other issues 
aside, however, one thing that's more 
straightforward than ever 
is file compatibility. 

Apple (and to an ex- 
tent, Microsoft) has gone 
to great lengths to ensure 
file compatibility and in- 
teroperability between 
Macs and PCs. In fact, if 
there are occasions that 
you find that a file created 
on one platform may 
not open on the other, 
chances are your compati- 
bility issue stems from 
something other than a 
Mac/PC problem. Rather, 
it more than likely in- 
volves a conflict between 
different versions of the 

same software (such as trying to open 
a [software 2009] file with [software 
2004]), a corrupted file, or some other 
minor error. Macs and PCs are more 
compatible than ever. 


© U» v> 

One way to ensure 
compatibility between 
a Mac and a PC is to 
get the Mac version of 
the software you need, 
such as Microsoft Office 
2008 (Mac; $149.95 


Usually, if you're look- 
ing for a particular piece 
of software, you can find it 
for Mac or PC, and, in 
some cases, for Linux, as 
well. Therefore, if you mi- 
grate from a PC to a Mac 
and you need, for ex- 
ample, the Microsoft Of- 
fice suite (which includes 
Microsoft Word, Excel, 
and PowerPoint), you can 
just buy the Mac version 
of your PC software and 
keep working with your 

files seamlessly. Granted, you need to 
make sure you get compatible ver- 
sions — Microsoft Office 2007 on the 
PC is the same as Microsoft Office 
2008 on a Mac, for example — but 
that's not such a tall order. 

Further, many applications you use 
may have been downloaded free from 
the Internet. In those cases, you can 
usually just go back to the site where 
you got the software and download 
the Mac version instead — there's al- 
most always a Mac version available. 

Even if there isn't a Mac version of 
your favorite PC software (or if you 
simply don't want to pay for a Mac ver- 
sion of software you already own), 
there are plenty of applications that 
serve the same purpose as most any 
software you have. For example, if you 
need something to replace Microsoft 
Office, consider (www, a free open-source 

Smart Computing / December 2009 39 


suite of Microsoft Office-type applica- 
tions that is fully compatible with 
Microsoft Office. In fact, software of 
this type (that is, applications that 
mimic other software) is often open- 
source, offering you free versions of the 
software you use every day. (And free, 
open- source software is perfectly legal, 
in case there is any doubt.) 

True, there are sometimes going to 
be proprietary files that are made to be 
used on a certain system, but even 
then, you can usually find a way to 
make it compatible. For example, 
WMA and WMV (Windows Media 
files) don't play on Macs naturally, but 
you can get software that will let you 
play them with no trouble at all. 
Additionally, you can always use soft- 
ware on your PC to convert those files 
from a proprietary format to a generic 
one that will open on any platform. 

There is another category of software 
that may cause a problem for you when 
transitioning to a Mac from a PC. These 
are professional applications, such as 
software used by graphic designers, ar- 
chitects, researchers, and more. These 
programs are often so complicated and 
specialized that there exists only one 
version — often, for a PC. Because of the 
specialization of these applications, 
there usually isn't a free or even a sim- 
ilar paid application available. So what 
is one to do in such a situation? The an- 
swer is simple: Look to Boot Camp. 

Boot Camp & Virtualization Software 

Boot Camp is probably the greatest 
innovation in terms of ensuring a 
smooth transition between Macs and 
PCs. Boot Camp lets you partition 
your Mac's hard drive and install a 
Windows operating system on that 
partition. Thus, your hard drive can be 
split in two, with a Mac OS on one 
partition and a Windows OS on the 
other. This allows users to boot into 
either operating system when they 
need to. For example, if you come 
across a Windows-only application 
you like or need but are using a Mac, 
you can simply install the program on 

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good example of an application that "mimics" 
another application (in this case, the Microsoft 
Office suite) and works on multiple platforms. 

your Windows partition and boot into 
that partition when you want to use it. 
Boot Camp comes as a standard, built- 
in feature on every new Mac. 

Of course, you still need to use Boot 
Camp to partition the hard drive, and 
you need a Windows operating system 
to install on that partition, but Boot 
Camp is integrated with Mac OS X, so 
it's not difficult to do. 

Virtualization technology is another 
huge leap forward for Mac/PC compati- 
bility. Virtualization software lets you 
install and run a Windows operating 
system within the Mac's operating 
system. There are several virtualization 
products available, including Parallels 
($99.99;, Wine 
(free;, and VirtualBox 

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Create a Partition lor Windows 

Each operating ivstem requires its own ojnklon on the dlik. 
at Che button*. 

. 'Mac' will the partitioned i< 

} ( Hit 32 GB ^ 

Boot Camp solves a lot of PC-to-Mac problems 
by allowing users to create a second hard drive 
partition and install Windows on that second 
partition; it's like having two computers on 
one machine. 

What differentiates Boot Camp from 
these products is that a Boot Camp 
partition runs Windows applications 
natively, which means that Windows 
will run on the Mac exactly as it would 
on a PC. You just have to restart the 
computer and boot into the other oper- 
ating system. It's like having two com- 
puters, but on just one machine. 

By contrast, virtualization software 
runs from inside the Mac OS, which 
means that the virtualized Windows 
operating system has to share the 
computer's hardware resources (such 
as processing power and memory) 
with the Mac OS. Effectively, then, 
your computer would be running two 
different operating systems simultane- 
ously, sort of like having a computer 
within a computer. (If you're per- 
forming intensive computing tasks, for 
example, your computer will see a lag 
in performance with a virtualized 
Windows OS running.) 

With Boot Camp and reliable virtual- 
ization technology available, you don't 
need to worry about whether your files 
and applications will transfer to your 
Mac because when you get there, you 
have a Windows option you can exer- 
cise if need be. You're doubly covered. 

Fear Not 

If you're interested in migrating to a 
Mac but are wary of possible issues, 
don't sweat it. The transition may have 
a few small bumps along the way, but 
you'll likely find nothing that can't be 
quickly and easily resolved. 

There are multiple ways of working 
with files between different platforms, 
including software designed for both 
systems; third-party software that can 
read and write various file types; Boot 
Camp; and virtualization technologies 
such as Wine, VirtualBox, and Parallels. 

Even if you're not looking to make 
the move to a Mac, chances are you 
know someone who uses one. Luckily 
for both of you, sharing files across 
platforms can be seamless. II 

by Seth Colaner 

40 December 2009 / 

Web Tips 

Enhance Your ~nme Online 

Combine Many Links 
Into One 

Problem: It's a hassle to 
share multiple links and to 
open one link at a time in 
new windows. How can I 
easily share and open mul- 
tiple links simultaneously? 

Solution: LinkBunch (link is a service that 
makes this possible. Copy 
and paste each link into the 
LinkBunch box. Next, click 
the Bunch button, and Link- 
Bunch produces a new URL 
that leads to a list of the 
URLs you pasted. Click the 
Open Entire Bunch link, 
and you'll see every URL 
available in its own window. 
The URL LinkBunch pro- 
duces is small enough to 
post on Twitter or easily 
communicate to others, so 
you can easily share the 
collection of links you've 
bunched together. 

Craiglist Alerts 

Problem: Craigslist is a great 
resource, but I have trouble 
browsing it efficiently. 

Solution: Craigslist can seem 
overwhelming at times, es- 
pecially when you need to 
browse numerous pages of 
postings. Instead of working 
hard for Craigslist, make it 
work hard for you by us- 
ing Craigsly (www.craigsly 
.com). At Craigsly, you start 
by entering one or more 
search terms and your e- 
mail address. Then enter the 

cities you would like to 
search. (Craigsly helps you 
auto -populate this field by 
providing location sugges- 
tions.) Lastly, enter the cat- 
egories you would like 
to search, separated by com- 
mas. Click the Bring It! 
button; Craigsly redirects 
you to your Craigsly alert 
page for your specific search 
queries. You'll receive notifi- 
cations of the latest Craigs- 
list posts of the item(s) 
you've searched. 

Fix Your Display 

Problem: I keep experiencing 
monitor display problems. 
How do I know if my mon- 
itor is working normally? 

Solution: Screenfix (www is a helpful 
Web site that uses six tests to 
check the quality of your 
monitor display: the gamma 
checker, phasing checker, 
brightness checker, flick- 
er fixer, dead pixel fixer, 
and TN monitor check- 
er. Along with each of 
these instructional tests are 

troubleshooting tips or 
steps to show you how to 
correct display malfunc- 
tions. For instance, the 
gamma fixer shows you 
what you should expect to 
see during a test and what 
you can do to enhance the 
display, such as change the 
gamma in the Windows 
video card control panel. 
The phasing checker tests 
the clarity of your display 
by opening a page that in- 
cludes white text on a black 
background — if it appears 
clean, then your video con- 
nection is working properly. 

Old Applications 

Problem: I'm more com- 
fortable using older ver- 
sions of some programs. Is 
there a way to download 
and use these applications? 

Solution: Sometimes it's dif- 
ficult to keep track of all of 
the latest and greatest ver- 
sions of the programs you're 
already familiar with. For in- 
stance, you might prefer 
Real Player Alternative or a 
helps you 
evaluate and 
adjust your 

previous version of Win- 
dows Media Player, rather 
than learn new features and 
functions. OldApps (www provides a 
database of currently avail- 
able and older versions of 
useful programs. Older pro- 
grams are more ideal for 
anyone operating with a 
slow Internet connection or 
leaner PC. Statistically, Old- 
Apps currently offers 2,843 
old versions of 194 pro- 
grams, divided into cate- 
gories such as Messengers, 
File Sharing, Web Browsers, 
Music Utilities, and Video 
Utilities. If you're a Mac user, 
click the Old Mac Versions 
category to access messen- 
gers, browsers, and image- 
editing and office programs. 

Decipher Idioms 

Problem: Sometimes I'm 
confused by phrases I hear 
or read. I want to be able to 
understand and use idioms 
and phrases. 

Solution: You don't have to 
be lost when it comes to de- 
ciphering colloquialisms, 
idioms, or jargon, because (www.phrases 
.net) will help explain many 
of them. You can search for 
both common and obscure 
phrases or click on a letter 
to browse through phrases 
you may want to learn, 
such as "make a go of it," 
"vote with one's feet," or 
"painting rocks." Phrases, 
net is part of a larger net- 
work of "word help" tools, 
including Abbreviations, 
com,, and II 

by Joanna Safford 

Smart Computing / December 2009 41 


Find It Online 

Shop 'Til Your Mo 

• Elegant Roots 

Elegant Roots sets itself apart from other gift retailers by 
giving you a close-up look at its eco-friendly merchants. 
Check out a Dreamsacks baby outfit, for example, and you'll 
learn about the family behind the company name. Each 
product description also includes information about the 
materials used and where the item was created. Elegant 
Roots provides free recyclable/reusable gift boxes so that 
your entire gift is environmentally friendly. 


It's hard to go wrong when you're giving food as a gift, but it 
seems impossible to do so at, with its mouth- 
watering pictures. Meats, cheeses, nuts, and wine fill various 
gift baskets to the brim — and that's just a smattering of the 
foods and beverages can deliver to U.S. and 
European residents. This is also the place to go for special 
foods, including organic, gluten-free, kosher, reduced-fat, 
and reduced- sodium treats. 

Environmentally friendly, reusable gift boxes give 
your gifts a classy finishing touch at Elegant Roots. 

• Fat Brain Toys 

We tried to think of a better name for an educational toy store, 
but we came up short. That's a clear sign we need to spend more 
time playing with Fat Brain's lineup of toys that let kids learn 
(and squeeze, pull, break, build, and smush) to their hearts' con- 
tent. The Gift Wizard does an excellent job of whittling down 
the store's many great toys to the few that belong on your list. 


Someday, a few months or a few years from now, a fellow 
golfer is going to find that ball you knocked into who- 
knows-where off the 7th tee. And now, thanks to a marvel of 
modern technology, he'll know exactly who couldn't keep it 
on the fairway. That's right, can stamp your 
name and a short message on your Titleists and Top -Flights. 
Put it on your wish list and start thinking of clever epigrams. 
Remember, less is more. 

• Hayneedle 

Hayneedle is the answer to "It's so tough to find 
something for her/him/fluffy." The Web site pro- 
vides a window to Hayneedle's more than 220 
stores, each of which sells a particular category 
of product. For example, is a 
Hayneedle store that focuses exclusively on . . . 
you guessed it. Hayneedle's main page has pictures 
and tabs that help you find the site that matches 
your interests. 

• Lego 

Ask any kid (but please, not her parents) and she'll 
tell you that one can never have too many LEGOs. If 
you haven't been down the aisles of a toy store lately, 
you'll find that, when it comes to LEGOs, every- 
thing's changed and everything's the same. On the one hand, 
there are new spaceships, castles, and pirates, but on the 
other, there are still spaceships, castles, and pirates. Finding 
the right LEGO kit is a snap at this Web site, thanks to the 
Age, Category, and Theme tabs. 

• Saks Fifth Avenue 
LEGOs make great Christmas 
presents for only so long. If 
your favorite person is a 
Burberry fan, Saks Fifth 
Avenue's Web site is a good 
place to start your online shop- 
ping trip. Saks has shoes, hand 
bags, apparel, and jewelry, 
among other gifts, and it offers 
24/7 customer service via 
phone, email, or live online chat. 

42 December 2009 / 


( SAY IT witti BOOKS ) 

a gift b< every chapter of your life 

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ke-vv-'ora cr iteni c:a; 

r ^ 


The Artist 

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The History Buff 

The Hobbyist 

The Localvore 

The Music Lover 

The Nature Lover 

The New Parent (to-Be) 

The Pet Lover 

The Puzile (and Card) Fanatic 

The Romantic 

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The Sci-Fi'Fantasy Fan 
> The Teacher 

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i BOOK ,,, 



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^ helps you find just the right book for your recipient 
and then handles the gift wrapping for you. 


Think about all the time you've spent in bookstores 
hunting for the perfect gift among thousands of gifts 
you're not looking for. Yes, there's a better way to shop for 
books, and it's waiting for you online. 
offers books that make great gifts and wraps each gift with 
custom gift wrap (and a snazzy bookplate). You can search 
for books in several ways, including browsing by interest. 
Smart Computing readers can save 25% on a purchase 
by entering SMARTCOMP in the Activate Your Special 
Offers Here field (from now until January 1) in the 
Shopping Cart. 

• Sur La Table 

We're not sure what makes the better gift: a present 
bought at Sur La Table or a gift card from the well-known 
cookware retailer. After all, Sur La Table is something of a 
toy store to anyone who spends much time in the kitchen. 
If you scoff at gift cards, click the Gift Shops link at the 
bottom of the main page. There, you can browse the site's 
selection of gift ideas. Sur La Table offers gift wrapping 
for a fee. 



If you have a teacher in your family or circle of friends, 
you probably already know that many spend their own 
cash to supplement their classroom's resources. A gift cer- 
tificate to a makes an excellent 
gift. The site has tons of teaching and learning materials as 
well as furniture for students and teachers. Once you buy 
the certificate, you can print it out and send it to your fa- 
vorite teacher. If you are a teacher, check out the site's ac- 
tive Teachers' Lounge forum, which lets veteran teachers 
share tips and tricks. 

• Wishwrap 

We're not saying that mall shopping is never fun, but it's cer- 
tainly less so as the holidays approach and throngs jam 
aisles. Wishwrap 
is the perfect an- 
swer for those of 
us who decide to 
stay home and 
shop in comfort. 
Point your 
cursor to a petal 
on Wishwrap's 
dandelion, and 
Wishwrap sug- 
gests gifts that 
relate to the 
petal's sentiment 
(such as Love, 

Laughter, Romance, or Wisdom). Wishwrap packages your 
gift in its own environmentally friendly packaging. 

It's time to change 
the way you give. 


Give tola I well-being. 

Pick a petal and fulfill your recipient's wish 
at Wishwrap. 

I want 

• Woot! 

Woot! Isn't for the shopper who likes 

to deliberate, unless said shopper is 

trying to overcome that tendency. 

Woot! puts a new product on the main page each day and 

sells only that product until its stock (or the day) runs out. If 

that digital barbeque thermometer is the perfect gift for 

Uncle Steve or Aunt Stevie, click the I Want One! Button 

(fast, if it's bouncing, because that signals low stock) and 

check out. Woot! 

Compiled by Joshua Gulick 

Smart Computing / December 2009 43 


Opera has always been a 
browser other browsers copy. 
Since its inception in 1994 as a 
research project inside Norway's 
largest telecom company, Telenor, the 
upstart browser has been a ground- 
breaker. For instance, Opera was the 
first browser to introduce a tabbed in- 
terface, now a standard feature set in 
Internet Explorer, Firefox, and other 
browsers. Opera Mobile, launched in 
2000, was the first mobile browser to 
make the full Web experience available 
on small mobile screens. 

In fact, the Internet is littered with 
blogs praising Opera and its pio- 
neering nature. Most of them note 
that with each new release, Opera de- 
buts a radical new feature, interface, or 
other improvement. Ironically, Opera 
10 is more about enhancements to ex- 
isting functions than new landmark 
features. Even so, the program is a 
pleasure to use, and many people find 
it very compelling. Some of its opera- 
tional aspects are positively addicting. 

Why Opera? 

With a browser market share of 
2.19% (as of September 2009, according 
to research firm Net Applications), one 

might wonder if Opera is worthy of 
consideration. Though the mainstream 
adoption of some trend-setting features 
made it slightly less cutting-edge, there 
is plenty here over which to salivate. 

In particular, Opera has always been 
fast — one of the key reasons users of 
other browsers make the switch. Now, 
it is even faster. In some Windows tests 
(including startup and multitab load 
tests we conducted on a Windows 
Vista machine), it ran much faster 
than IE8 (on subsequent restarts, IE is 
a bit faster). 

Opera's unique feature set is an- 
other reason IE users switch to this 
browser, and with the latest release 
(version 10), its developer has im- 
proved some of those key features. In 
addition to our exploration of basic 
Opera functions, we've included a 
quick rundown of key enhancements 
(see the "Beyond The Basics" section 
at the end of this article). 

Complimentary Tickets 

Opera is a free program, and down- 
loading it is fast and easy. Visit www and click the 

Download Opera button. When the 
Run dialog box opens, you can click 
Run (install from the download) or 
Save (store on your hard drive and 
install it from there). Saving is 
a good idea in case you 
need to reinstall Opera. 
Note where the pro- 
gram goes (or select the 
folder of your choice). 
After the download 
completes, navigate to 
that spot and double- 
click the Opera Setup 
.exe file to start the in- 
stallation. Depending on 
your download man- 
ager, you may also be 
able to initiate setup by 
double-clicking the 
file directly from the 
download window. 

Opera gives you a choice of Stan- 
dard or Custom installations. How- 
ever, options with the Custom in- 
stallation are limited to where you will 
install the program (by default, a new 
folder nested inside the main pro- 
gram folder on your hard drive) and 
whether you want icons created on 
your Desktop, All Programs menu, 
and Quick Launch menu. 

If you want these and have no 
reason to change the program's loca- 
tion, opt for Standard installation. 
Note that during setup, Opera will not 
automatically make itself the default 
browser. However, it will prompt you 
to make that choice on subsequent 
launches unless you click the checkbox 
to turn off the notice. 

Right At Home 

At the completion of the installa- 
tion, Opera will auto-launch unless 
you unchecked the box in front of 
this option at completion of setup. 
By default, Opera opens to its own 
portal page, but you can change this 
to anything you like. To do so, click 
Tools on the menu bar and select 
Preferences. Click the General tab if 

44 December 2009 / 


it is not selected. There are two 
options that determine what page 
Opera will display at startup: Startup 
and Home Page. 

To change your home page, enter a 
new Web address into the Home Page 
field or click Use Current if you are al- 
ready browsing that page. If 
you always want Opera to 
start with that page, click 
the Startup drop-down 
menu and select Start With 
Home Page. 

However, before you do 
that, note the other options. 
One we especially like is 
Start With Speed Dial, a 
great alternative for those 
who frequently browse a 
specific pool of sites (more 
about Speed Dial later). If 
you select this option, you 
can set your home page to 
be the first link on the 
Speed Dial interface, fol- 
lowed by favorite sites for 
searches, banking, shop- 
ping, and other activities 
you conduct online. 

By The Book 

If we have one gripe with 
Opera, it is that the program 
does not offer to import 
your existing bookmarks 
(Favorites in IE) during 
setup. Furthermore, while 
Opera makes bringing in 
IE Favorites easy, import- 
ing bookmarks from oth- 
er browsers takes a little 
more work. 

To import bookmarks 
and Favorites, press CTRL- 
SHIFT-B or select Bookmarks on the 
menu bar and select Manage Book- 
marks. When the Bookmarks display 
opens, click the File (diskette icon) 
menu and select the program whose 
bookmarks you want to import. If 
you select Import Internet Explorer 
Favorites, Opera will navigate to 
your default Favorites folder. Unless 

you have intentionally stored your 
Favorites elsewhere, you can click OK. 
If you have moved your Favorites, 
or if you want to import bookmarks 
from other browsers, you'll need to 
show Opera how to find them. If 
you've moved your IE Favorites folder, 

\J Opera Portal 

Opera Portal beta - 


eo add a Web page Click to add a Web page 


crick to add a Web page Click to add a Web page 

Speed Dial lets you display representative icons of between four and 25 
favorite Web sites on any blank page tab. 

Opera 1 O's default home page is the Opera portal, a site filled with a variety 
of information. 

that shouldn't be difficult (assuming 
you noted and can navigate to the lo- 
cation where you moved it). 

For other browsers, such as Fire- 
fox or Google Chrome, things be- 
come trickier. Both the well-known 
Firefox and Google Chrome store 
bookmarks, passwords, and other 
personalized data in a profile file. 

Opera cannot extract data from 
Firefox or Chrome profiles. 

You can export Firefox or Chrome 
bookmarks to a file Opera can read. In 
Firefox, open the program and press 
CTRL-SHIFT-B. Click the Import And 
Backup button. Select Export HTML 
and navigate to a conven- 
ient location to save the 
file. In Chrome, press 
CTRL-SHIFT-B, click the 
Tools menu, and select 
Export Bookmarks. Save 
the bookmarks file as we 
detailed for Firefox. 

Return to Opera, press 
follow the earlier instruc- 
tions to import book- 
marks (select Import 
Netscape/Fire fox 
Bookmarks from the File 
diskette icon). Then, nav- 
igate to the new file you 
just exported and saved. 
Opera will import your 
bookmarks and place 
them in a folder called 
Netscape Bookmarks. If 
you haven't alphabetized 
your folders, Opera will 
do it for you. 

Take Them With You 

When you're ready to 
download files from the 
Internet, Opera keeps 
things simple. The down- 
load interface resembles 
that of IE, presenting you 
with Open or Run (de- 
pending on whether the 
file can be played/opened 
or executed), Save, Cancel, 
and Help buttons. If you see an Open 
option, Opera will also present your 
PC's default compatible program, pre- 
selected. (Click the menu to navigate 
to another program option.) 

You can tweak the Opera down- 
load experience slightly through the 
Downloads interface (select Tools 
and Downloads or press CTRL-J). 

Smart Computing / December 2009 45 


Here, you can view download 
history and details, such as size, 
file type, and origin, and stop or 
restart downloads. To change 
Opera s default download desti- 
nation, select Preferences on the 
Tools menu (or press CTRL- 
F12), click the Advanced tab, and 
click Downloads. You can also 
adjust how Opera addresses var- 
ious file types from this inter- 
face. (The Advanced Preferences 
tab is your key to many impor- 
tant tweaks in Opera.) 

Beyond The Basics 

Visiting Web sites, 
bookmarking, and 
downloading may be 
the most common 
uses for a browser, 
but they are not Op- 
era's only appeals. Its 
newest treat is the 
Turbo feature, which 
compresses pages to 
accelerate Web brows- 
ing (great for use 
with not-so-speedy 
mobile broadband cards). To turn it 
on, click Tools, select Preferences, and 
click the Web Pages tab. Using the 
drop-down menu next to Opera 
Turbo, select On and then click OK. 

Another key feature is Speed Dial, 
an interface tweak originally debuted 
by Opera Software. On the blank dis- 
play of new tabs you open, Speed Dial 
displays a grid of representative icons 
that link to Web pages of your (or 
Opera's, until you change them) 
choice. With Opera 10, you can set the 
size of the grid to display as you pre- 
fer (the default is a 3 x 3 grid). You 

interface is 
simple but 

General Forms Search Web Pages Advanced | 

Opera can start with your favorite Web pages or continue from last time 
Startup raj 

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Pop-ups Block unwanted pop -ups 

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Language | English (US) [en-US] 

3 C 

Changing your startup and home pages takes only a few 
clicks of the mouse. 


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4.2 MB) 
? vou want 

Run [ Save [ Cancel | 


Opera doesn't import bookmarks at 
setup, but it is reasonably easy to 
import them afterward. 


Edit View Bookmarks 

Vidgets To 




Downloads T 

Q Stop © Restart 


' nload 


." 40daydream,mp3 


smartdraw_l 1E_E AZ8T_se . 
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2.0 MB 

can also assign a dig- 
ital image from your 
hard drive to use in 
the background. To 
configure Speed Dial 
in this fashion, click 
the plus symbol ( + ) 
to the right of your 
last tab to open a 
blank tab. To con- 
figure the grid lay- 
out, click Configure 
Speed Dial at the bottom right of 
the page. To assign Web sites to your 
grid icons, click a blank 
number or right-click 
and select Edit. 

Opera also offers an 
excellent Password Man- 
ager. To enable or dis- 
able Password Manager, 
establish personal auto- 
fill data, and delete 
stored sites (and their 
associated passwords), 
open the Tools menu, 
click Preferences, and se- 
lect the Forms tab (click 
Password Manager to 
delete stored sites). You 
can also set a master 
password and a timeframe after which 
you will be asked for the master 
password (do this through Preferences 
by clicking the Advanced tab and 
selecting Security). 

Opera also offers widgets — 
miniature programs that enhance 
your Internet functionality. For 
example, the Facebook widget 
creates a window to the popular 
social networking site, with a 
summary and links to your wall 
posts, messages, and more. At 
press time, Opera widgets re- 
quired Opera to be installed and 
running, but the developer was 
testing a version that would let 
widgets operate outside of Opera 
(it must still be installed). 

Other nifty Opera perks in- 
clude a vertical panel with hot 
buttons that let you access lists of 
bookmarks, downloads, widgets, 
and other stored elements. To enable it 
and select the options you want dis- 
played in Panels, select Appearance 
from the Tools menu and click the 
Panels tab. The Appearance option is 
also your gateway to Opera's "skin- 
ning" feature, which lets you change 
the look of the interface. 

The full list of features is longer 
than we can detail here. This list in- 
cludes the option to have voice-con- 
trolled browsing (visit the Advanced 
tab in Preferences), a free personalized 
file-sharing site (visit, 

File Edit View Bookmarks Widgets Tools 



|y|| Add T ,o«. Open T 1^,1 Properties _ Delete (r-j File T iJ^View T ^ 

Lj Bookmarks 

*Na New.,. 
• C Open... 

Sr.eSeected As.,. 

Import Opera Bookmarks. . , 

"-■00": ;.s's:52e. , F.: , efC'X Boc-:- a"-:;-.., 


I"3j' : -:■-■:. e-o- :•:■:-:■ r--s... 

-xoo-: Ope-.? ioc-r'-f'-'i... 
Export 4s HTML.., 

The vertical Panels feature in Opera puts your choice of options 
at your fingertips 

and free Web mail (visit www.opera You can explore these and 
other bonuses at your leisure. II 

by Jennifer Farwell 

46 December 2009 / 


Google Gmail 

Start With The Basics 


mail ( 

I wasn't the first free, ad- 

I supported, Web-based 
email service, but it has 
certainly become one of 
the more popular op- 
tions. Invented and 
maintained by Google, 
Gmail started out with 
a bit of exclusivity cachet 
because would-be users had 
to wait for existing users to ex- 
tend them a precious invita- 
tion. Today, however, anyone 
can sign up. 

Like its competitors Hotmail 
( and Yahoo! Mail 
(, you access Gmail 
with your Internet browser instead of 
an email client installed on your PC, 
such as Microsoft Outlook or Windows 
Mail. Because Gmail is Web -based, it's 
easier to set up than these traditional 
messaging applications. More impor- 
tantly, you'll be able to easily access 
your Gmail inbox from any computer 
or Web -enabled phone, with virtually 
any browser, anywhere you are. 

Gmail is generally reliable, but the 
service has suffered its share of tempo- 
rary outages over the years. Fortu- 
nately, according to 2008 data from 
Google, the service is only unavailable 
for an average of about 10 to 15 min- 
utes per month. Of course, Gmail is 
also inaccessible if your Internet con- 
nection is down — but that goes for 
most other types of email, too. 

In this article, we'll give you a quick 
tour of Gmail's major features. After 

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like other 
email services, 
is accessible 
from any 
PC Mac, or 
enabled cell 

that, we'll walk you through common 
tasks such as setting up your own 
Gmail account, as well as reading, 
sending, and organizing messages. 

A Gtour 

As with Google's home page (www, Gmail has a dis- 
tinctive look. Gmail shares its 
parent's white background and 
colorful fonts, although its in- 
terface is busier than the one 
for Google's search engine. At 
first, Gmail can be a little confusing 
for new users who are used to other 
email applications or services. Still, it 
doesn't take long to acclimate yourself 
to its quirks. 

The inbox is the first thing you'll 
see after you log in to your Gmail ac- 
count (see the "How To. . ." section 
below for directions on how to create 
one). The biggest part of the interface 
shows you the email awaiting you, 
sorted by the date and time of the ar- 
rival of the initial message in each 
thread (a series of related messages 
sent using primarily the Reply or 
Reply To All commands). Messages 
you haven't read yet appear in bold. 

Each message entry lists the sender, 
plus a few additional participants in 
the thread, if any; the subject line; and 
a few words from the beginning of the 
most recent email in the thread. Unlike 
most email apps, Gmail doesn't add a 
new entry at the top of the inbox for 
every received message. Instead, new 
mail causes the existing entry to reap- 
pear in bold as an unread message. 

Gmail periodically updates its display 
to show new mail, but you can click its 
Refresh link to check anytime. If you have 
several pages of emails in your inbox, 
click the Older or Oldest links to view 
threads started days or weeks ago. 

If you need to find a specific mes- 
sage, use the Search Mail button at the 
top of the window. Type a search term 
in the adjacent field, such as Mom, and 
click Search Mail. Gmail will almost 
instantaneously produce a list of mes- 
sages with the word "Mom" in them. 

Smart Computing / December 2009 47 

displays email by 
threads instead 
of individual 
messages, so it can 
show you more 
conversations on a 
single page than 
most email clients 
or services. 

Along the top of the inbox are a few 
buttons, such as Delete and Report 
Spam. At this point, these buttons 
apply only to message threads that 
you've selected by clicking their check- 
boxes. For example, if you put a check 
mark in the first thread's box and then 
click Report Spam, you'll simultane- 
ously tell Gmail's junk mail filter to re- 
consider the message and send it to 
Gmail's Spam folder. 

Speaking of folders, you'll find typ- 
ical email categories along the left 
side of the screen. These include 
Inbox, Sent Mail, Trash for deleted 
messages, Drafts for messages you've 
composed but haven't sent, and 

others. Gmail calls these Labels, but 
they act much like the folders in 
other email clients. 

Under the labels, the Contacts link 
leads to Gmail's address book fea- 
ture. Farther down is a Chat section 
in which you can initiate an IM (in- 
stant messaging) session with other 
Gmail contacts currently logged in to 
their accounts. 

How To... 

Time to dig into those common 
Gmail tasks we mentioned. Here are 
some step -by- step instructions to help 
you get started. 

Gm iJ <=< 

reate a Google Account - email 

Get started with Gmail 


It's easy to 
sign up for 
a Gmail 
even helps 
you pick a 

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Set up an account. If you don't yet 
have a Gmail address, point your 
browser to Next, 
click Create An Account. You'll need to 
fill in the fields in the Get Started With 
Gmail online form. 

After you enter your first and last 
name, type in a Desired Login Name. 
This is the place to enter the username 
you would like to use for your Gmail 
address, as in 
(leave out the part). Next, 
click Check Availability to see whether 
someone else has already claimed 
that username for his own. If not, 

Next, enter a password. It must be at 
least eight characters long and can 
have letters, numbers, and other char- 
acters. The more varied your pass- 
word, the better; with the Password 
Strength graphic, Gmail attempts to 
show you how difficult your password 
would be to crack. 

If you want to automatically log in 
to Gmail whenever you visit it, leave 
the Stay Signed In box checked. If 
you would rather keep your inbox 
private, such as on a PC with mul- 
tiple users, uncheck the box. As for 
the Enable Web History option — 
which is selected by default to let 
Google track your browsing history 
in order to give you more relevant 
search results (and ads) — you might 
want to click the Learn More link be- 
fore you make a decision. 

The Security Question you choose 
will help Google authenticate you 
when you've forgotten your Gmail 
password. Choose among the prof- 
fered questions or click Write My Own 
Question and type it in. When you're 
ready, type its Answer in the next field. 
The Secondary Email field lets you 
specify where Google should send the 
password reminder, assuming you 
have another email account. 

Next, if you can read the distorted 
letters in the Word Verification area's 
Captcha, type them in the field next to 
the wheelchair accessibility icon. The 
Captcha's purpose is to reduce the 
chances of spammers using software 

48 December 2009 / 


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to automatically sign up 
for Gmail accounts. 

Finally, read the Google 
Terms Of Service and 
click I Accept. Create My 

Log in. If you didn't 
leave the Stay Signed In 
checkbox enabled when 
you signed up for your 
Gmail account, you'll need 
to log in to your first ses- 
sion at 
In the blue Sign In To 
Gmail With Your Google 
Account box, type your 
username (not your whole email ad- 
dress) and password in the indicated 
fields. Next, click Sign In. 

Read email. Gmail's reading pane 
layout can give you pause at first. Once 
you get used to it, however, you may 
appreciate how space- saving and con- 
venient it is. 

In the inbox, click a message thread. 
Rather than displaying the latest mes- 
sage on top of earlier email in the 
thread in a single, scrollable body of 
text, Gmail takes a different tack. It 
shows you only the last received mes- 
sage. However, above it, like cards in a 
recipe box, you'll see tabs labeled with 
the senders, initial words, and time 
stamps of earlier messages in the se- 
ries. Click a tab or the Expand All link 
along the right to read earlier email. 

Also unlike most email clients and 
services, Gmail even includes forks in 
the thread in which you replied to one 
person instead of to all, or which you 
forwarded to another recipient, and 
so on. In a traditional email applica- 
tion presenting individual messages 
instead of threads, each will only con- 
tain the emails within a particular 
branch of the conversation. In other 
words, with Gmail, you won't have to 
hunt for related messages that diverge 
from the main thread. 

At the bottom of a message, you'll 
find Reply and Forward links. There's 
another Reply button in the upper- 
right corner of the reading panel. 
Click the downward-facing arrow next 

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id A 1:44 PM (II minutes agoj 

The Compose Mail link lets you type a new 
message to someone. 

to it to uncover a drop-down menu 
with other useful commands, such as 
Print and Report Phishing. You would 
use the latter to tell Google that you 
suspect a message of pretending to be 
from a bank, PayPal, or some other 
site in order to trick you into revealing 
your login information. By the same 
token, the Report Spam button on the 
main interface helps Gmail's antispam 
filter learn about junk messages that 
have slipped through the cracks. 

There's a Delete button above the 
reading panel; click the Trash label 
along the left if you need to retrieve a 
message you've unintentionally de- 
leted. In a similar but less destructive 
vein, click Archive if you want to cut 
down on your inbox's clutter. You'll 
find your archived messages behind 
the All Mail label on the left. 

To view other threads in the reading 
panel, click the Older or Newer links 
near the bottom-right corner. When 
you're done, click the Inbox label or 
the Back To Inbox link. 

Compose. To send a new message, 
click Compose Mail. Type someone's 
email address in the To field; Gmail will 
begin to suggest addresses from your 
previous correspondence as soon as 
you enter the first letter. If you would 
like to CC (carbon copy) or BCC (blind 
CC) another recipient, click the appro- 
priate link and enter his or her address. 

Next, type a Subject. 
Click Attach A File if you 
need to. Use the pop-up 
Explorer window that ap- 
pears to locate and select 
the file(s) you want to 
send with the email. 

Finally, type your mes- 
sage in the main white 
part of the panel. Click 
Send, Save Now to move 
the unsent message to the 
Drafts label, or Discard to 
delete the unsent email. 

Organize. Without a 
little organization, your 
inbox can quickly turn into a compli- 
cated place. To mark a thread you 
need to deal with at a later time, click 
the faint star icon between its check- 
box and the sender's name. The star 
will turn yellow. Note that you can 
highlight the Starred or Unstarred 
items (put check marks in their boxes) 
all at once with the related Select links 
just above the inbox. 

To move a thread or a group of se- 
lected threads into a label, or folder, 
click and drag the eight dots just to the 
left of one thread's checkbox. Drop the 
message on a label. To automate the 
process, use the Create A Filter link at 
the top of the page to tell Gmail to cat- 
egorize messages into particular labels 
based on the sender, keywords in the 
subject line, and more. 

You can make your own folders, too. 
In the More menu under the labels area, 
click Create New Label. Type a name for 
the new label and then click OK. In the 
same menu, there's a Manage Labels 
link, which takes you to the Labels tab 
in Gmail's Settings menu. Here, you can 
Show (all the time), Hide (in the More 
menu), and Remove (delete) labels. 

With a little exploration, you can 
harness other Gmail features, too. 
Click the Help link at the upper right 
for more information. Don't forget to 
use the nearby Sign Out link or to 
close your browser when you're done 
using Gmail. II 

by Marty Sems 

Smart Computing / December 2009 49 

M r . 

Modem's Desktop 

Cruising Down Memory Lane 

In my October column, I referenced a recent garage- 
cleaning project — performed under marital duress, I 
might add — during which I entered a technological 
time warp. Rediscovering a treasure trove of old gadgets 
and gizmos, including my first training modem, 
the adorable "L'il Geekster" model, triggered a wave 
of nostalgia. 

Despite the swirling clouds of 
noxious dust and minty-fresh as- 
bestos, I rekindled my relationship 
with old reel-to-reel tapes; a box 
of 8-tracks; a brick-like, bolt-be- 
tween-the-seats car phone; a 
stack of 5.25-inch diskettes from 
an era when floppy meant floppy; 
a Zenith CPU; several brittle 
rolls of thermal paper for a pri- 
mordial fax machine; and an assort- 
ment of cables, adapters, and tools for 
items that have faded into history and 
the local landfill. 

In that column, I wistfully reflected 
on a number of other items from that 
era that are also gone forever, such as 
pay phones, telephone booths, tran- 
sistor radios, drive-in movies, manual 
typewriters, phonograph records, and 
uniformed attendants at full-service 
gas stations. I concluded with an in- 
vitation to email me your warm- 
and-fuzzy memories of other tech- 
nologies and services that have simi- 
larly vanished from the landscape. To 
paraphrase Bob Hope, thanks for 
your memories. 

"Decades before iPods, 

iTunes, and downloading songs, 

we played LPs on the hi-fi or got 

three plays for a quarter on the juke 

box at the diner. Remember those little plastic insert 

adapters for 45rpm records?" 

"I grew up during a period when all phones were party 
lines that you cranked to ring up the operator. 'Hi, Betty. 
Could you ring 4-7, please?' Betty would say, £ Hold on a 
minute. I just saw him walk by.' There would be a pause, a 
muffled yell, then £ I got him! I'll connect you now.'" 

"Long before email, I remember a time when our mail 
carrier would let himself in our house and leave the mail on 
the table. We never gave it a second thought." 

"Before we all became fat, I remember having to actually 
get up off the couch to change the channel on the TV." 

"It wasn't very high-tech, but I loved the Pez dispenser. I 
had a collection of them. I don't even want to think about 
what was in those Pez pellets. I must have eaten a million 
of them." 

"Almanacs and encyclopedias. They used to be a great 
reference for just about anything — long before Google." 

"I miss Mr. Wizard. He was a nerdy guy who did little 
science experiments on TV. I'm sure if there were com- 
puters back then, he would have had a computer show. He 
might have even been Mr. Modem!" 

"Nobody had a house key because we never locked any 
doors. The only key I carried was my roller skate key." 

"I drove a Nash Metropolitan convertible. I paid $1,200 
for it new, but I didn't spring for the optional radio or 
heater. Big mistake here in North Dakota. It got 40mpg and 
gas cost 24 cents a gallon. Do the math." 

"I remember TV test patterns that came on when broad- 
cast programming stopped for the day. We only had one 
station, but it would start and end the day with 'The Star- 
Spangled Banner.'" 

"Since our local newspaper went under, I miss the 
morning paper and reading it with my coffee. Getting the 
news from the Web is OK, but there's nothing like reading a 
newspaper. Maybe I need to try the Kindle." 

"I miss 8mm home movies. After the film was 
processed, families would gather and watch them on a 
small screen. Today, everything is instantly viewable 
on camcorder or you visit someone's Facebook page. 
Big deal." 

"It wasn't quite online banking, but I remember blank 
checks located on store counters. You selected your bank, 
wrote your name, address, and account number, if you had 
it, and paid for your merchandise. Identity theft? Nobody 
even thought of such a thing." 

Thanks to all of you who emailed your recollections. 
While there wasn't nearly enough room to publish all of 
them, if what appears above served as a catalyst for any ad- 
ditional recollections, please share them with me and we'll 
do this again next year. 

From Mrs. Modem, myself, Willy, Nilly, Bertie, and Lilly, 
we wish you a happy holiday ahead. For my last computing 
tip of the year, I'm going to go out on a limb here, but I pre- 
dict that Y2K10 is not going to be a problem — even for 
Vista users. Have a great New Year, and I'll meet you back 
here in January. I 

Mr. Modem (Richard Sherman) is an author, syndicated 
columnist, radio host, and publisher. "Mr. Modem's Weekly 
Newsletter" provides personal responses to subscribers' computer 
and Internet questions, plus weekly computing tips, Web site 
recommendations, virus alerts, hoax warnings, and more. 
For additional information, 

50 December 2009 / 


Check Out The Tech Support Center! 

The Tech Support Center at has always been the place to find 
helpful information for all of your computing troubles. Check out the Networking & 
Communications area to find out how to install and configure your home network 
properly. You'll find out how to set up your wireless network, fix wireless connection 
problems, and much more. Be sure to take a look at the Backups & Data Recovery 

section, as well. This area contains articles 
that explain the ins and outs of creating 
system backups, recovering lost data, and 
other backup basics. Check out these articles 
at SmartComputing. corn's Tech Support 
Center today. 

1 Go to and click the 
Tech Support Center link on the home page. 

Smart [tMW iifn 

Click Backups & Data 
Recovery or Networkin 
& Communications. 

Click View ALL Backup 
& Data Recovery 
Articles or View ALL 
Networking & 
Articles to view 
articles within 
those departments. 

From 's Daily Tip Archive 

Consider the environment where you will be recording your video. The light 
should be on each subject's face, making them clearly visible in the video, so 
avoid locations and situations where there could be potential for backlight 
problems. When the light is at someone's back (for example, if they are 
standing in front of a window), it creates shadows over their face and makes 
them appear dark in the recording. 

This month in 1941, 
Frederico Faggin was born. 
According to the Smart 
Computing Encyclopedia, "he 
helped develop the first CPU, 
called the 4004, in 1971." 

Cover The Basics 

Brush up on basic trou- 
bleshooting tasks at the 
Smart Computing Tech 
Support Center. In the Basic 
Troubleshooting Articles sec- 
tion, you'll find info on how 
to solve common problems 
with email, Internet connec- 
tions, and more. 

Call In The Experts 

If you need some professional 
help with a tech issue, give 
the Smart Computing 
SmartPeople a call. 
Subscribers can call (800) 
368-8304 from 8 a.m. to 8 
p.m. Monday through 
Friday to get 
free advice 
from the 


Computer Support 1 

SmartComputing / December 2009 51 

Desktop & Notebook Computers 56 
Keyboards & Mice 58 

Printers 60 

Monitors & TVs 62 

Home Theaters 64 

Cameras & Camcorders 66 

Goodies & Gadgets 68 

52 December 2009 / 


The "Nice" List 

Get The Right Gift 

Holiday gift- giving decisions can 
be difficult. Even after making 
a list of people to buy for and 
setting your budget, there's a lot of 
pressure involved in finding the per- 
fect pairing. When it comes to com- 
puting and consumer electronics 
gift-giving, though, we have a little 
something for you. Our Holiday Gift 
Guide highlights desktop and note- 
book computers, keyboards and mice, 
printers and multifunction devices, 
monitors and televisions, home-the- 
ater systems, as well as cameras and 
camcorders. In addition, we've put to- 
gether a Goodies & Gadgets section 
that features ideas for that hard-to- 
shop -for person who seems to have it 
all. So, make your list and check it 
twice — we might have just what 
you've been looking for. 

Desktop & 

Notebook Computers 

Buying a computer for someone 
else is never easy. So many personal 
preferences and individual needs go 

into the decision, and it's such a long- 
term commitment that the prospect 
can be daunting even when you're 
buying for those you know well. We 
can help. From entry-level PCs to 
higher- end systems, we'll recommend 
this year's best buys in desktops. We 
have the world of notebooks 
covered, as well. 

For desktops, pay 
attention to speed and 
software packages. 
Make sure any system 
you consider is future- 
proofed with plenty of 
memory and processing 
power. Then, review the 
software that comes with 
the machine, looking for stocking 
stuffer opportunities in anything im- 
portant that's missing. In addition, 
hard drive capacity is important if 
your recipient does a lot of photog- 
raphy or video work, while a powerful 
graphics adapter is essential for any 
gamer or design artist. 

When it comes to notebooks, you'll 
have to make some trade-offs between 
performance and power management. 
Though much improved from note- 
books past, battery life still comes at 
some expense to computing speed and 
functionality. Road warriors and coffee 
shop mavens often value long battery 
life and light weight over big screens 
and speedy processors. On the other 
hand, power users more concerned 

Image courtesy of Apple 

with space savings than everyday 
portability will require more speed and 
flexibility for customization and add- 
on hardware than the lightest note- 
books provide. 

Keyboards & Mice 

They might sound like 
mundane gift ideas, but 
keyboards and mice 
make for surpris- 
ingly good gifts. 
They are inex- 
pensive commod- 
ity products and 
have been thrown 
in with just about 
every computer system sold 
during the last decade. Isn't that a per- 
fect reason to spice up someone's 
system with an upgraded model or cool 
replacement? Because we use them 
every day, they make a big impact at a 
low price. 

First, consider wired vs. wireless op- 
tions. Wireless keyboards and mice are 
convenient but also require batteries 
and can lose their connections occa- 
sionally. If your intended recipient 
doesn't have the patience or the incli- 
nation to replace batteries and resync 
or troubleshoot connectivity every 
once in awhile, you may be better off 
sticking with wired models. 

Also, think about which multimedia 
and browsing bells and whistles are 
the best fit. Anyone with an ancient 
mouse missing the middle scroll wheel 
will be eternally grateful for an up- 
grade. If someone on your list isn't yet 
hooked on the "browse back" left side 
mouse button, you have a great oppor- 
tunity to improve his computing. 
Keyboard multimedia buttons, on the 

Smart Computing / December 2009 53 


other hand, can be a mixed bag. The 
ability to control volume and bright- 
ness and launch common applications 
from the keyboard is a wonderful 
timesaver. But make sure your recip- 
ient has a tolerance for an abundance 
of buttons and features before drop- 
ping the money on a model with 50 
specialized shortcuts. 

Finally, consider ergonomics. Casual 
browsers don't have to worry much 
about repetitive stress injuries and may 
actually be annoyed by "funny" shapes 
on keyboards and mice. Enthusiasts, 
on the other hand, will benefit from 
ergonomic designs, even if they take a 
little time to get accustomed to new 
typing or clicking positions. 


Choosing a printer involves a lot 
more than just guessing how well a 
given model prints out birthday party 
invites. Reliability and longevity are 
important with any technology, but 
they are of particular interest with 
printers. Inexpensive "giveaway" ink- 
jets are notorious not just for chewing 
through cartridges (and thus budgets) 
but also for developing mechanical 
problems early in life. Unless you're 
buying for someone with very infre- 
quent printing needs where image 
quality is of little concern, combine 
your own experiences with advice 
from others about which makes and 
models are most efficient with their 
inks and have the longest life spans. 

Then, you'll have to decide between 
models dedicated solely to printing 
and multifunction devices that print, 
copy, scan, and fax. Multifunction 
printers are great if you have use for 
the included functions, but they can be 

overcomplicated for people who just 
need to print driving directions or 
term papers every once in awhile. 
Specialized photo printers also offer a 
compact and convenient alternative for 
people generating a lot of pictures in 
hard copy. Next, determine whether 
inkjet or laser printing technology is a 
better fit for the person on your list. 
Inkjets are cheaper up front, but on- 
going printing costs are much higher 
per page than for laser printers. 

Monitors & TVs 

We cover computer monitors and 
televisions in one piece because the 
differences between the two have 
never been so small. Almost all TVs — 
large and small — will pull duty as a PC 
monitor, and many monitors can 
function as a small- office television if 
connected to a computer with the ca- 
pabilities and proper connections. 

Flat screens will dominate your op- 
tions, but there's no shortage of choice 
when it comes to size, connectivity, or 
price. The best advice, in general, is to 
avoid getting caught up comparing 

tech specs and measurements until 
you think about your gift recipients' 
needs and how they'll use the screen. 
There's no need to overwhelm a 
desktop used primarily for generating 
status reports and sending email with 
a 50-inch plasma, no matter how good 
the deal. On the other hand, a less- 
expensive, 19-inch monitor probably 
won't satisfy the needs of an aspiring 
film student or a budding videophile. 

Connectivity options matter for 
more than just quality. Sure, HDMI 
(High-Definition Multimedia Inter- 
face) produces better images than 
S-video (Separate-Video) or com- 
posite cables, but compatibility is even 
more critical. Make sure that your re- 
cipient's hardware (whether computer, 
home theater, or both) has outputs 
compatible with any display on your 
list and that the display has enough of 
the right kinds of inputs. No one 
wants to play musical HDMI slots 
with a BD (Blu-ray Disc) player, Xbox 
360, and DVR (digital video recorder). 

When it comes to size, don't get car- 
ried away. Non-HD content (which in- 
cludes most cable TV and online media) 

54 December 2009 / 


Connectivity options matter for more than just quality. Sure, HDMI (High-Definition 
Multimedia Interface) produces better images than S-video (Separate-Video) 
or composite cables, but compatibility is even more critical. 

often looks worse on massive screens. 
And the closer the viewer has to sit to 
the screen (something to remember for 
desktop displays and dorm rooms), the 
less he benefits from larger screen sizes. 

Home Theaters 

HTB (home theater in a box) sys- 
tems have come a long way. Originally, 
consumer systems mostly consisted of 
five cheap satellite speakers bundled 
with an entry-level AV (audio/video) 
receiver. The breadth and depth of 
today's offerings, not to mention the 
quality, far surpasses that of even a few 
years ago. The other side of the great 
selection coin, however, is that choos- 
ing among good options is tough. 

We'll suggest some worthy candidates, 
but, again, it's important to assess your 
recipients' needs first. What kind of tele- 
vision and which components do they 
have? A state-of-the-art receiver with 
HDMI switching and Fire Wire inputs 
won't do any good for your uncle who's 
wedded to his analog projection screen 
and VCR. Furthermore, someone with a 
wide-open floor plan may not look for- 
ward to stringing wires across the floor 
just to add surround channels, so a wire- 
less setup might be worth considering. 

Speaker size and number are the 
most visible differing features of HTB 
systems. How many speakers and how 
big are questions you'll need to answer 
during the buying process. Consider 
tolerance for complexity as well as 
available space. Just because a system 
includes six speakers, a receiver, cables, 
and a programmable remote doesn't 
mean that your friend wants to set it 
all up and figure out exactly where 
each speaker should go. Likewise, a set 
of bookshelf speakers probably won't 

have enough power to fill a large 
family room with surround sound, but 
they are just the right size for a small 
apartment or dorm room. 

Finally, avoid lending too much cre- 
dence to published specs about 
wattage or range, particularly when it 
comes to HTB systems. If possible, 
listen to each system yourself to get a 
feel for sound quality and clarity and 
gauge whether the system has enough 
power for its intended purpose. 

Cameras & Camcorders 

From point- and- shoot digital cam- 
eras to SLR (single-lens reflex) 
and HD models, the pos 
sibilities for cameras 
and camcorders are 
legion. Remember 
these simple facts: 
Megapixel measure- 
ments and shooting 
in HD aren't the 
only things that 
matter. Picture qual- 
ity is an important 
feature of any camera, 
of course, but not 
all pixels are created 
equal. Plenty of other 
features matter as much, 
if not more. 

Once again, when choosing among 
features and options, stop and consider 
your recipients' habits and needs. 
You're wasting money and time buying 
expensive models with professional- 
level manual controls if they're for har- 
ried parents who just want snapshots 
of Junior's milestones and playdates. 
Your brother who struggles with navi- 
gating Google is going to be better off 
with a straight-to-DVD camcorder 

than one which requires video transfer, 
editing, and conversion in order to 
generate viewable home videos. 

Pay attention to recording formats and 
media, as well. It's important to under- 
stand where and how each model stores 
its images and how they get from camera 
to audience. Digital cameras can use any 
of several common media card for- 
mats — make sure that any camera you 
give as a gift also includes sufficient 
storage. Camcorders have even more 
variability, with many offering several op- 
tions, including DVD recording, remov- 
able flash memory, and hard drives. 
Again, make sure that your recipient has 
the necessary hardware and media 
to produce videos in a usable 
form, whether on tape, on 
disc, or on-screen. 

Fun Extras 

We'll also include 
suggestions for stock- 
ing stuffer accessories 
or add-ons in each cat- 
egory. Even the smallest 
accessories or mobile tools 
can make an existing com- 
puter more productive. Every 
home theater can benefit from 
new cables. What amateur shut- 
terbug wouldn't appreciate an extra 
memory card or a new camera bag? 
Plus, be sure to check out our Goodies 
& Gadgets section, where you'll find fun 
gizmos for just about anyone on your 
gift list. No matter who you're shopping 
for, a prudent consideration of their 
needs combined with our suggestions is 
sure to produce a holiday hit. II 

by Gregory Anderson 

Smart Computing / December 2009 55 


Desktops & Notebooks 

Compiled by Joanna Safford 

Shopping for a tech-related gift requires some serious deliberation, unless you have a head start by knowing what the recipient 
loves and what type of device will match his interests or lifestyle. If you're positive that a computer is the way to go, then you can 
start with the list we've compiled for you — it includes both desktop and laptop computers, with everything from high-end 
graphics to lightweight enclosures to touchscreen controls. With a holiday shopping list like this, you can find the best computer 
to place under the tree and some accessories to fit inside the (large) stocking. 

Lenovo IdeaCentre Q700 30151 CU 

$549.99 • 

This year produced a slew of new home media-related PCs. The Q700 

multimedia hub is a good example of a feature-packed entertainment 

PC inside a compact form factor. We like that you can hook up the 

Q700 to your home-theater system and view HD (high-definition) 

content (in 1,920 x 1,080 resolution) on your HDTV. Roughly the size of a 

standard DVD player, it's designed to be stored practically anywhere, whether 

stationed vertically or horizontally. The 30151CU model comes equipped with a TV tuner and 

remote, so you can access your favorite television series via the Q700 and back up that content to the 

640GB hard drive. Imagine viewing and editing digital video and images on your TV screen from the comfort of your couch. 

• Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch 

$1,699 • 

• Sony VAIOL Series 

$1,299.99 • 

The 15-inch MacBook Pro is part of Apple's line of aluminum 
unibody notebooks, constructed for durability. We can't get 
over the multitouch trackpad that doubles as a button— with 
a swipe of two, three, or four fingers simultaneously, you can 
efficiently move windows and applications about the desktop 
with rapid fluidity. The left panel of the MacBook Pro has 
ports for MagSafe power, Ethernet, FireWire 800, Mini 
DisplayPort, two USB 2.0, SD (Secure Digital) cards, and audio 
jacks. If you want your holiday notebook purchase to be en- 
ergy-efficient, you can feel 
good knowing that the 
MacBook's battery lasts up 
to seven hours, and its life 
span can last up to five 
years. Moreover, the 
entire enclosure is con- 
structed from recy- 
clable materials. 

Image courtesy of Apple 

The VAIO L Series is an all-in-one touchscreen PC that gives 
you control of your system via the keyboard or the 24-inch 
widescreen display. Not unlike the MackBook Pro's multi- 
touch features, the L Series lets you apply touch techniques 
such as drag, 
zoom, flick, 
rotate, press, 
tap, and scroll 
to access your 
PC's content. 
Unique fea- 
tures include 
built-in wire- 
less 802.11 
b/g/n, an 
Web cam and 

1TB (terabyte) of storage, and a Blu-ray disc drive. Any visu- 
ally oriented person will appreciate the glossy, pitch-black 
design, complemented by a wireless keyboard, mouse, and 
remote control. If you intend to utilize the L Series touch- 
screen PC as an HDTV, the adjustable stand will let you 
tweak the angle of the display to your ideal viewing position. 

56 December 2009 / 

• MSI Wind Nettop CS 120 

$319.99 • 

If you're interested in a PC that takes 

things back to the basics (or puts a twist 

on basic), the Wind Nettop CS 120 might 

be right for you. Barely larger than an 8.5- 

by 1 1 -inch piece of printer paper, the 

Wind Nettop is designed for reduced 

power consumption, consuming just 

35W (watts) during full-speed operation. 

(It also includes the ENERGY STAR-certi- 

fied stamp of approval for overall energy 

savings.) You can store the Wind Nettop 

practically anywhere, whether it's be- 

tween two books on your bookcase or 

behind a large monitor. We like that the 

Wind Nettop comes with a slot-loading CD/DVD burner for recording and 

playback. The Wind Nettop includes an Intel 1.6GHz Atom 230 processor, 

up to 1GB (configurable up to 2GB) of memory, and Windows XP Home. 

This PC would make an efficient companion to a primacy PC or laptop. 

• Samsung R620-63G 

$899.99 • 

Although you might be more familiar with Samsung's flat-screen TVs or cell 
phones, the company also produces a quality line of notebooks. The R620- 
63G is a thinline, lightweight (about 6 pounds) laptop designed for quick 
online communication and high-quality multimedia entertainment. It's 
specifically optimized for producing HD video content and games (with a 
16:9 aspect ratio and 3D graphics 
processing), so you can view stun- 
ning movies, videos, and TV 
shows in true high definition. 
And thanks to its four USB ports, 
Bluetooth 2.0 connectivity, and 3- 
in-1 memory card reader, you'll 
have access to your media files no 
matter where you keep them.The 
Samsung R620-63G also 
includes the 
Samsung Noise 
system, which 
minimizes hard 
drive vibration noise 

Honestech F0T0B0X Plus 

$79.95 • 

Loading pictures from your digital camera 
to your PC can seem like a chore, but 
takes the hassle 
out of the pro- 
cess of transfer- 
ring, organizing, 
and sharing im- 
ages. You'll 
simply remove 
the SD card from 
your digital 
camera, insert it 
into FOTOBOX Plus, and plug the entire 
device into a USB 2.0 port on your Win- 
dows XP/Vista laptop or desktop PC. As 
soon as your PC recognizes the FOTOBOX 
Plus, you can quickly upload photos and 
create a slideshow in either Easy Mode or 
Advanced Mode. The best part: You can 
convert your photo show to playback on 
DVD, iPod, and YouTube. 

Western Digital 500GB My Passport 
Elite With USB Dock 

$159.99 • 

With your choice of five capacity options 
(250GB to 640GB), automatic backup, and 
a sleek design, the Western Digital My 
Passport Elite is a smart 
storage choice to 
back up important 
data on your note- 
book or desktop. We 
gravitate toward 
portable hard drives 
that make the 
backup process 
streamlined, and 
the My Passport 
Elite does this well. 
It also comes 
with a conven- 
ient grab-and- 
go USB dock for 
easy drive con- 
nection to your PC. 

Smart Computing / December 2009 57 


Keyboards & Mice 

Compiled by Blaine Flamig 

There's at least one really good reason a mouse or keyboard makes a great holiday gift (and for other occasions, for that matter): It's 
a gift that should keep on giving years after it has been unwrapped. Although it's not guaranteed you won't run into the occasional 
clunker, the owner of a solidly constructed new mouse or keyboard can generally expect it to give many years of faithful service 
without much maintenance required. Further, recent mice and keyboards offer plenty of choices in terms of wired and wireless 
models; customizable buttons and keys; and designs geared toward ergonomic, multimedia, gaming, mobile, productivity, and 
other specific applications. The following are mice and keyboards we wouldn't mind seeing under our Christmas tree this year. 

• Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX 

$79.99 • 

There's a reason Logitech 
and Microsoft dominate 
the mouse and keyboard 
markets: The companies 
build durable and versatile 
input devices that are typi- 
cally ahead of the curve 
where new features are con- 
cerned. Logitech's Anywhere 
Mouse MX is a perfect example. 
Featuring two side buttons for zip- 
ping back and forth through Web pages, the mouse is com- 
pact enough to snugly fit in a notebook bag, and it boasts 
Logitech's new Darkfield Laser Tracking technology, meaning 
the mouse will work on virtually any surface, including glass 
(provided it's 4mm thick or more). It's ideal for left- and 
right-handed business travelers, students, and anyone else 
who regularly computes on the go and prefers a mouse to a 
notebook's touchpad. This wireless rodent (two AA batteries 
provide power) is undeniably expensive at nearly $80, so you 
should expect a lot in return. Thankfully, Logitech delivers. 

• Logitech Performance Mouse MX 

$99.99 • 

Considered by some as the best consumer mouse available at 
the time of this writing, the Performance Mouse MX is the 
Anywhere Mouse MX's big brother on the desktop. Like its 
smaller mobile brethren, the Performance Mouse MX carries a 
stiff price tag, integrates Darkfield 
technology, and packs 
Logitech's new Unifying 
driver technology. The last 
feature lets you simultane- 
ously pair up to six compatible 
mice and keyboards to one 
quarter-sized USB transceiver. 
What sets the Performance 
Mouse MX apart is its sculpted; 
contoured design, which makes it pretty 
much a right-hander's mouse only. Elsewhere, the Performance 
Mouse MX includes a new software-enabled feature that allows 
for force-sensitive side-to-side scrolling (great for Web surfing) 
and a convenient battery-recharging feature by way of a Micro- 
USB input at the mouse's front that connects it to a computer 
USB port or an electrical outlet for rejuicing. 

• Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 4000 

$39.95 • 

Available in graphite, white, teal blue, berry pink, 

and lime green colors, the Wireless Mobile Mouse 

4000 gives mobile users arguably the best bang for the 

buck of recent notebook/netbook-flavored mice. The 4000 integrates 

Microsoft's new BlueTrack Technology, which lets the mouse work on essentially all 

the same surfaces as the Anywhere Mouse MX other than glass. Symmetrically designed for 

righties or lefties, the 4000 connects to systems wirelessly via a tiny 2.4GHz USB Nano Transceiver that tucks 

away in the 4000's bottom when not in use. You'll also find an On/Off button underneath the 4000 that helps save 

AA battery provides. At just 2.39 inches wide x 4.04 inches long, the Wireless Mobile Mouse 4000 is an ideal match 

regularly shuffle a netbook or notebook from room to room, home to office, or dorm room to classroom. 

power a single 
for those who 

58 December 2009 / 

= - 

% ; : i 

= - ■ 


1". - = 

• Das Keyboard Model S Professional 

$129 • 

Our initial encounter with Das Keyboard's original Keyboard Professional 
was an unmitigated typing pleasure. Still, you should know two things 
about the company's newly enhanced Professional, which uses mechanical, 
Cherry MX-style key switches. One, Das Keyboard's models are loud in an 
old-school "legendary IBM model M" kind of way. The company acknowl- 
edges this, self-proclaiming the Professional as "one of the loudest, clickiest 
keyboards on the planet." Second, the board is expensive. If price and noise 
aren't deterrents, however, in return you'll get an excellent board for heavy- 
duty typing that produces way-above tactile feedback and offers a two- 
port USB 2.0 hub, 6.6-foot cable, and superior long-lasting craftsmanship. 

Microsoft Wireless Comfort Desktop 5000 

$79.95 • 

For the all-day, everyday typists on your holiday list, give Microsoft's Wireless 
Comfort Desktop 5000 mouse-keyboard combo consideration. In addition 
to the keyboard being designed specifically to encourage "natural wrist pos- 
ture with a slight six-degree curve," the board features a soft-touch palm rest, 
quiet-touch keys, and space-saving shape (18.1 inches wide x 8.29 inches 
long). Further, for those moving to Windows 7, the keyboard includes handy 
Taskbar Favorites buttons to launch a user's most-used applications as well 
as scores of buttons dedicated to multimedia functions. Both the keyboard 
and five-button Wireless Mouse 5000 connect wirelessly via one USB mini- 
transceiver and include a Windows Flip button to display thumbnails of 
open applications. The mouse includes BlueTrack Technology and a sym- 
metrical design to match right- and left-handed users. 

Raptor Gaming Mouse Bungee 

$9.95 • 

Available in multiple models that slightly 
vary from one core design, the Mouse 
Bungee is aimed primarily at gamers but is 
still an effective 
and affordable 
"snag-free, drag- 
free, battery-free" 
ment mechanism 
for those who 
prefer wired mice 
to wireless mod- 
els but want to 

prevent a pesky mouse cord from getting in 
the way. Using a flexible, spring-loaded arm 
that's connected to a triangular base, the 
Mouse Bungee holds the cord upright in the 
air while a built-in steel ball allows for fluid 
mouse movements. The Mouse Bungee will 
make a great stocking stuffer for anyone 
who needs help keeping his mouse cord 
from snagging a keyboard's edge, loose pa- 
pers, and other items on a desktop. 

Razer DeathAdder Gaming Mouse 

$59.99 • 

Within gaming circles, the Razer name is 
synonymous with speedy, accurate, and 
highly capable mice. Available in PC and 
Mac versions, the DeathAdder sports 3,500 
dpi (dots per inch) precision via a 3.5G in- 
frared sensor that's touted to provide four 
times the precision a typical 800 dpi mouse 
can offer. Further, 
you get five pro- 
buttons to bol- 
ster gameplay, 
Teflon feet de- 
signed for ultra- 
quick mouse 

movements, and a 7-foot braided fiber 
cable with gold-plated USB connector on 
the end. Although the mouse is only for 
right-handers, it's ergonomically designed, 
meaning you can game all you want in 
stylized comfort. 

Smart Computing / December 2009 59 



Compiled by Tracy Baker 

The latest crop of printers must be making printing services a bit nervous. Print quality has improved dramatically in the past few 
years, prices are coming down, and many printers come with networking capabilities so they aren't tied to a single computer. 
Whether you want to print at home or on the go, with the help of a computer or without, there's a perfect printer for any job. 

• Brother MFC-495CW 

$129.99 • 

The MFG495CW distinguishes itself from other inkjets with a rela- 
tively slim profile that is made possible by Brother's ink tube tech- 
nology. Ink tubes are smaller and flatter than are traditional ink 
tanks, allowing for the printer's svelte looks. This all-in-one has 
integrated Wi-Fi for easy printing from any network-equipped 
device, and you can also print directly from the printer using the 
3.3-inch color LCD. It prints with extremely fine detail, making it 
ideal for photos, and a photo bypass tray lets you keep up to 20 
sheets of 4- x 6-inch photo paper loaded even when you have stan- 
dard paper loaded for printing, faxing, or copying. The built-in scanner 
also lets you scan documents directly to PDF (Portable Document Format), removing a 
tedious step normally performed once the scan gets to your PC. 

• Canon Selphy CP790 

$179.99 • 

• Epson Artisan 810 

$299.99 • 


The Selphy CP790 comes 
with a handle for a 
reason: It's designed 
to print from any- 
where, so you'll want 
to take it everywhere 
you go. Just insert the 
memory card from your 
camera into the 
printer's integrated 
reader and select the 
images you want to print 
using the 3-inch color dis- 
play. Additional connector 
ports are available for directly connecting a digital 
camera or camera phone, and it also works wire- 
lessly with Bluetooth devices. The CP790 features 
automatic red-eye correction, and a 4- x 6-inch bor- 
derless water-resistant photo prints in less than a 
minute. So what's with the bucket? You don't have 
to use it, but it's designed to hold all the paper and 
extra ink you need to print and then keep your 

photos in a safe place while you're traveling. 

The Artisan 810 does pretty much everything you'd ever need a 
printer to do, including copying, scanning, and faxing in black and 
white and color. It has integrated Wi-Fi hardware so you can print to 
it from any network-connected device, and auto-duplexing lets you 
print on both sides of the same page without having to reload paper 
manually. The printer is controlled using a 7.8-inch touch panel that 
has a large 3.5-inch LCD embedded in the middle, letting you pre- 
view and edit photos directly from the panel before printing them. It 
also includes an Auto Photo Correction option to automatically ad- 
just contrast and color while removing 
red-eye. The inte- 
grated USB 
ports for 
digital cam- 
eras double 
as chargers 
for devices 
that can be 
charged via 
USB, and it 
can print directly to compatible CDs and DVDs, so you don't have to 
muck around with labels. 

60 December 2009 / 

• Brother MFC-990CW 

$229.99 • 

Never mind the scanning, faxing, copying, and photo-printing capabilities 
of the all-in-one MFC-990CW — the real showstopper is the huge 4.2-inch 
color display positioned front and center. It's a touchscreen, so menus are 
easy to navigate, and the printer has integrated editing features accessible 
right from the LCD. The MFC-990CW prints directly from PictBridge- 
enabled devices, Bluetooth-enabled devices, memory cards, and USB flash 
drives, so you can preview, tweak, and print photos without even touching 
a computer. Color faxing is supported, and if you want to print from a 
computer, it doesn't even need to be connected, thanks to the printer's 
built-in wireless. Also, this printer is fast, rated for up to 33ppm (pages per 
minute) in black and white or 27ppm in color. 

• Canon Pixma MP990 

$299.99 • 

Wireless. As in, you don't even need to connect a computer to the Pixma 
MP990 to print from any computer in the house. If you want to print di- 
rectly from a camera 
or memory card, the 
printer's 3.8-inch 
color screen will help 
you preview photos, 
and it spits out bor- 
derless 4- x 6-inch 
prints in about 16 
seconds. One of the 
printer's best features 
is built-in duplex 
printing, meaning it 
can print on both 

sides of a sheet of paper instead of forcing you to duplex print manually. 
It also has special photo black and gray ink tanks that help it produce 
stunning black-and-white prints. 

Cables To Go DB25 IEEE-1284 
Parallel Printer Adapter Cable 

$19.99 • 

Connectivity ports have changed a lot over 
the years, and nearly all printers manufac- 
tured today interface with a PC via the USB 
port. In fact, many PCs don't even come 
with the parallel ports old printers used to 
connect to, leaving you out in the cold if 
you have an older printer, right? Wrong. Get 
a DB25 IEEE-1284 Parallel Printer Adapter 
Cable from Cables To Go, and you can con- 
nect any parallel printer to a modern PC. 
Just attach the parallel adapter end to the 
printer and the USB adapter end to the 
computer. The cable itself does all the work 
of translating the signal from the printer 
into something your computer can use, so 
there's no special software to install. 

Linksys WPSM54G 
Wireless-G PrintServer 

$99.99 • 

Do you have a nice 
printer you'd 

like to share 
across your 
home net- 
work, but it 
doesn't have 
network compati- 
bility? The 

WPSM54G is the answer. It is a print server, 
meaning you connect it to your network 
via an Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi and then at- 
tach it to the printer so any device on the 
network can print directly to the printer. 
This particular model also lets you remotely 
take advantage of the scanning, copying, 
and faxing features of your printer if it is a 
multifunction model. 

Smart Computing / December 2009 61 


Monitors & TVs 

compiled by Christian Perry 

For modern displays, quality is quickly trumping quantity. No longer is the focus primarily on the size of monitors and TVs but in- 
stead on how the displays handle video content, how they blend into the design of home theaters, and how they work to conserve 
energy. For the consumer, this presents a potentially baffling buying experience, but some displays helpfully stand out among 
others. Here's a look at the monitors and TVs that represent the brightest of this year's holiday display bunch. 

• Samsung P2370HD 

$299 (estimated street price) 

• Sony BRAVIA KDL-46XBR10 

$4,499.99 • 

Today's displays increasingly blur the line 
between TV and discrete computer mon- 
itor, but that line isn't about size alone. 
The 23-inch Samsung P2370HD sits com- 
fortably on a desktop, and it also has a 
built-in 1080p digital tuner that lets you 
watch HDTV and Blu-ray movies or play 
high-definition games. This 1,920 x 1,080- 
resolution monitor also includes an 
HDMI (High-Definition 
Multimedia Interface) 
connection, so you can 
connect your other dig- 
ital devices and poten- 
tially use the P2370HD 
as the primary display 
in any room. We also 
like the included op- 
tical port, so if you do 
decide to use the 
can connect it to your receiver 
for theater-like sound. 

You expect plenty of bang for a big buck. That's pre- 
cisely what you'll get with Sony's BRAVIA KDL- 
46XBR10, a 46-inch LCD TV that delivers high-quality 
HD (high-definition) video in a seamless package. The 
XBR10 removes the wired muck from mounted con- 
figurations with an included wireless 1080p media box 
that lets you place your components away from the 
TV. This TV's 1,920 x 1,080 panel also features an edge- 
lit LED (light-emitting diode) backlight and a dynamic 
contrast ratio of more than 
1,000,000:1. With its ability 
to connect to the Internet, 
the XBR10 grants you 
access to thousands of 
online movies, videos, 
music files, and other 
media, including con- 
tent from Amazon Video On Demand, Sony Music, 
and other providers. You can even connect your USB- 
enabled mobile or storage devices directly to the TV 
to stream videos or display photos. 

• LG Electronics 42SL90 

$1,999.95 • 

Making a statement with an LCD TV has grown more difficult as today's 

models get bigger and less expensive, but new designs still make it possible. 

LG's 42SL90 is a fitting example, with a seamless edge-to-edge glass panel that 

stretches across the TV's entire 42-inch expanse. But this TV doesn't stop with 

eye-catching design, as it delivers plenty of high-quality visual performance. 

The 42SL90's TruMotion 120Hz technology eliminates motion blur by adding 

interpolated frames to achieve 120Hz (without TruMotion, the display would 

remain at 60Hz). Along with less motion blur, TruMotion improves the TV's picture quality at various viewing angles. 

This TV also includes an intelligent sensor that gauges the lighting conditions in the room and automatically optimizes 

the picture for those conditions. 

62 December 2009 / 

• Toshiba REGZA 46SV670U 

$2,299.98 • 

A common complaint 
surrounding LCDs is 
that they lack the deep 
blacks that other dis- 
play technologies can 
achieve. Toshiba's 
46SV670U 46-inch LCD 
works to eliminate 
those nagging criti- 
cisms through the use 
of its Focal Light system, 
which uses a full-LED 

matrix with local dimming to create simultaneous deep blacks and bright 
whites. Similar to an infinity pool that provides the look of never-ending 
water, this TV has a seamless front face that extends the display to the 
edges. For high-motion video content such as sports or action movies, the 
REGZA features ClearScan 240 technology, which combines 120 frames 
per second with a new backlight scanning system to create a 240Hz effect 
that helps to ensure picture clarity throughout high-motion scenes. 

• NECAccuSyncAS191WM-BK 

$189 • 

Although LCDs already use less electricity than their CRT (cathode-ray 
tube) predecessors, some users desire even greener solutions that save as 
much energy as possible, particularly if they tend to leave their monitors 
on for long periods of time. NEC's AccuSync AS191 WM-BK fills the bill 
for these users, thanks to several included eco-friendly features. This 19- 
inch monitor has an ECO 
Mode feature that conserves 
energy by letting you define a 
50% or 75% brightness level 
for the backlight— and the 
mode will even calculate your 
power savings in watts per 
hour. Also included is an 
Intelligent Power Manager 
system that shifts to a lower 
power consumption level or 
even switches off the monitor 
when the display is not in use. 
The AS191 WM-BK also in- 
cludes technologies such as 

Rapid Response, which optimizes full-motion video, and XtraView, 
which provides wide viewing angles with less color shift and no glare. 

Peerless PA740 
Articulating Wall Mount 

$248 • 

After shelling out some serious coin for a 
new flat-screen TV, you can't just plop it 
down on an ugly old TV stand. Your display 
deserves to be mounted on your wall for 
both convenience and attraction, and 
there's no 
better way 
to do that 
than with an 
wall mount. 
The Peerless 
PA740 pro- 
vides the ultimate in flexibility, so you can 
situate your screen however you see fit. The 
PA740 supports displays weighing up to 80 
pounds and can extend 15.6 inches from 
the wall (or retract to 2.93 inches against 
the wall). Further, this mount swivels up to 
180 degrees, and it provides continuous 
one-touch tilt for various viewing angles. 
Integrated cable management works to 
keep all the cords bundled and neat, so 
there won't be a virtual rat's nest behind 
your flat screen. 

AmazonBasics HDMI & AV Cables 

Starts at $5.31 • 

For years, Amazon has been selling quality, 
inexpensive third-party cables for connect- 
ing receivers and other components to 
your TV. 
But now 
the online 
giant is 
selling its 
own ca- 
bles — and 
they're a 
great deal. 
They don't 

look as fancy as more expensive cables, 
but AmazonBasics cables deliver good 
performance without breaking the bank. 
Amazon offers HDMI, HDMI-to-DVI, 
Toslink digital audio, and component 
cables in various sizes. 

Smart Computing / December 2009 63 


Home Theaters 

compiled by Marty Sems 

This is the absolutely, positively best category of gifts for this holiday season, hands down. In fact, you can skip reading every other 
article in this gift guide, because you won't need to. 

Why is home-theater equipment tops, you ask? Because as the long winter sets in, you'll be ready for months of diligent, intense 
laziness with your favorite movies and TV shows. More to the point, the holiday season is the one time of 
year when you're willing to splash out on fairly expensive items your family will love. 

Treat yourself. Treat your loved ones. And have a happy New Year. 

• LG 42LH90 

$1,799.95 • 

Because this THX-Certified LCD HDTV is backlit by a full array of LEDs (light-emitting 
diodes), it can use a technique called local dimming to lower or turn off the back- 
lights behind dark parts of the picture. That's why LCDs that merely have LEDs lining 
the edges of the screen can't match the deep, rich, 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio of LG's 
42-inch 42LH90. Nor can an edge-lit model approach the evenness of lighting you'll 
find in this array-lit display. Another benefit of the 42LH90's LED backlights is lower 
power consumption than a comparable LCD or plasma TV. This LG features Full HD 
1080p (1,920 x 1,080 progressively scanned) resolution for sharp detail and 
TruMotion 240Hz for smoothness of motion. Other LH90 sets on the market include the 
47-inch 47LH90 ($2,099.95) and the 55-inch 55LH90 ($2,999.95). 

• Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8100 

$1,599 • 

For those of us who want our entertainment big and bold but without the 
price and bulk of a big, bold TV, there are home-theater projectors. The far- 
ther you set a projector from a screen, the larger the picture will be. Not 
every model boasts 1080p resolution, let alone a widescreen aspect ratio, 
but the PowerLite Home Cinema 8100 does. In fact, with this home-theater 
model, Epson demonstrates that Full HD doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. Using the com- 
pany's long-lasting E-TORL lamp, this PowerLite is bright enough (1,800 lumens) to use even without 
dimming the lights. Its Fujinon OptiCinema lens keeps the picture sharp, while support for Deep Color 
and other technologies add realism and vibrance to the video. 

• Sony BDP-N460 Network Blu-ray Disc Player 

$249.99 • 

Not long ago, features such as the BDP-N460's would have been reserved for much pricier BD players. First on that list is 
Wi-Fi connectivity, which lets the player access the Internet through your existing wireless network (it can use a wired 
connection instead, if you prefer) with very little setup effort. Once online, the BDP-N460 can stream movies and other 
content from services such as Netflix, Amazon Video On Demand, YouTube, Dailymotion,, and Slacker 
Internet radio. BD-Live support also lets this Sony player tap into online bonus content for compatible BD movies. 
Moreover, the BDP-N460's ability to decode all of 
Blu-ray's advanced audio formats in 7.1 -channel 
surround sound is a capability that's fairly new to 
this price segment. The player supports Full HD 
1080p video, of course, and can upconvert DVDs 
to HDTV resolutions. 

64 December 2009 / 

• Klipsch HD Theater 300 

$399.99 • 

If you would rather build your small home theater's audio system one 
component at a time than simply accept whatever's in an HTB (home 
theater in a box), lend an ear to the HD Theater 300. Klipsch says it's 
the most affordable set of surround-sound speakers the company has 
ever made. It comes with adjustable wall mounts, and its satellites are 
threaded for speaker stands, too. You can connect the HD 300 to a 
suitable audio receiver (not included) for a 5.1 -channel sound experi- 
ence with most movie DVDs and BDs (Blu-ray Discs). Klipsch endows 
each speaker with its signature feature, horn loading, which yields 
crisp audio clarity even at 
lower wattage levels, the 
company says. Meanwhile, 
the powered, 6.5-inch sub- 
woofer comes with 
controls for 
and phase 

• Samsung HT-WS1G 

$349.99 • 

Sanus ELM102 Screen Cleaning Gel 


Nice, shiny HDTVs seem 
to be dust magnets. 
However, you have to be 
careful to clean their 
screens with safe prod- 
ucts. This gentle gel 
sprays on as a mist. 
It comes with a 
microfiber cloth. 

Altra Slim Fit TV Stand TV280 


OK, let's say you have a really big stock- 
ing to stuff. This compact stand is less 
than 19 inches deep, so it's perfect for a 
flat-panel HDTV. Cable management holes 
keep your A/V (audio/video) equipment's 
cords from showing. 

Some rooms just don't lend themselves to conventional surround-sound 
speaker installation. For example, if the sofa in your home theater has its 
back to a stairwell, or if the room itself is irregularly shaped, you might find 
the "best" locations for rear or side speakers too awkward to be practical. 

This soundbar set from Samsung 

gives you most of the benefits of a 

surround-sound system without the 

setup hassle. Using audio tricks such 

as sound wave reflections from the 

walls, the bar of speakers can enfold 

you in a convincingly immersive audio experience. It comes with a wire- 
less subwoofer, which you can place anywhere in the room without 

worrying about running a cable to it. 

Smart Computing / December 2009 65 


Cameras & Camcorders 

Compiled by William Van Winkle 

Sweaters come and go. And nothing says "I love you" quite like a Mr. Coffee. 

If you want to give someone a memorable gift, why not have it be one able to capture memories? Today's cameras and cam- 
corders are more compact and higher quality than ever before. The products themselves may not last forever, but the images they 
capture can, so you want to make sure your equipment has the right blend of features. We've experimented with a lot of cameras 
and camcorders over the years, and we feel confident about putting these few models on our short list this holiday season. 

• Canon PowerShot SD940 IS 

$299.99 • 

Having 12.1 megapixels from a camera the 
size of your palm is mind-boggling, but 
Canon pulls it off in style. All of that resolu- 
tion helps to overcome the less-than-crys- 
talline clarity typical of pocket point-and- 
shoot cameras. SD940 images can look a little 
fuzzy at 100%, and the sensor tends to favor 
details in shadows over highlights, but at 
print or Web size, the results are impressive. 
More impressive is the SD940's ease of use, 
face detection, extensive menu options, out- 
standing help screens, and excellent 720p HD 
video mode. The camera features USB and 
mini HDMI outputs, 4X optical zoom, and a 

bright 2.7-inch LCD that's perfectly viewable in direct sunlight. Even the bun- 
dled battery charger, made flat with fold-in outlet prongs, is clever and conven- 
ient. Choose from blue, black, silver, or brown colors. 

• Canon VIXIA HF200 

$749.99 • 

• Flip Video MinoHD (120 minutes) 

$229.99 • 

The VIXIA HF100 was widely heralded as a breakthrough, delivering profes- 
sional-class HD image quality at consumer prices. The HF200, fueled by a 1/4- 
inch sensor, continues this, offering some of the best optics, color, and clarity 
available in a consumer camcorder. The two 1,920 x 1,080 shooting modes are 
MXP (24Mbps [megabits per second]) and FXP (17Mbps), and unless you're 
an experienced editor or a perfectionist, it's hard to see the difference. The 1 5X 
optical zoom is helped by Canon's optical image stabilization. Photo-friendly 
features such as face detection and 3.3-megapixel still captures during video 
shooting are great bonuses, and the cam- 
corder's low-light performance 
rocks. There's no internal 
memory, so you'll need to 
buy Class 4 or higher SDHC 
(Secure Digital High- 
Capacity) cards, but a 
16GB card will record for 
over two hours in FXP mode. 

Current "tube cams" (palm-sized camcorders 
ideal for capturing YouTube high-definition 
clips) lack image stabilization, so know that 
handheld video will look shaky. This aside, 
the latest MinoHD is today's tube cam flag- 
ship. The improved design is much more 
solidly built than its predeces- 
sors, outfitted with 8GB of 
flash memory for capturing 
up to 120 minutes of 1,280 x 
720 (720p), 30 
frames per 
second video. 
For overall 
color and 
image quality, 
this is without 
question the 
best Flip 
camera yet. 
The unit now 
features re- 
markably im- 
proved stereo 
microphones, a 
mini HDMI 
tion Multi- 
media Inter- 
face) port on 

the bottom for exporting to a TV or receiver, 
an upsized 2-inch LCD, and a simpler, re- 
designed flip-up USB port. Just plug the 
camera into any PC or Mac USB port, and 
the preloaded FlipShare software makes 
video transfer, management, and/or up- 
loading to sites such as Facebook, MySpace, 
or YouTube a snap. 

66 December 2009 / 

• Fujifilm Finepix F70EXR 

$279.95 • 

For those who want a pocket camera with SLR (single-lens reflex)-like per- 
formance, the F70EXR delivers. With 10X optical zoom and a wide-angle 
lens, Fuji's optics are as flexible as they are impressive. Movie recording 
tops out at 640 x 480, 
but the array of still 
shooting modes 
makes amends by 
concentrating on res- 
olution, noise, or dy- 
namic range in the 
EXR modes. The D- 
Range mode takes 
two bracketed expo- 
sures and combines 
them to create a wider dynamic range (capturing details in bright areas 
and shadows simultaneously) than any other camera in this class. If you 
want photographic precision melded with point-and-shoot convenience, 
this is the camera to get. Admittedly, the controls have an extra degree of 
complexity, but it's not bad and well worth the hour to learn. 

• Panasonic HDC-SD20 

$549.95 • 

When you want an easy-to-use HD camcorder that can "get it done," the 
SD20 deserves attention. The SD20 features an excellent iA (Intelligent 
Auto) mode that handles practically every setting and even tracks sub- 
jects as they move. The 16X optical zoom is supported by improved 
antishake stabilization. The camcorder offers a maximum 17Mbps bit 
rate and 2.1 -megapixel still shooting while recording. The 2.7-inch LCD 
features a decent touch-based menu system 
that's handy for novices. In fact, 
the SD20 is built for 
high-def new- 
bies and 
priced ac- 
Don't look 
for expan- 
sion or ad- 
vanced fea- 
tures; just 
enjoy the ease 
and simplicity. 

Lowepro Photo Runner 

$49.99 • 

If you don't have a ton of photo gear, belt- 
packs are a smaller, lighter alternative to 
backpacks or conventional cases. The 
Photo Runner can fit an SLR and two lenses, 
and its padded inner walls can be quickly 
reconfigured for your camcorder, charging 
bricks, or anything else you need to throw 
in. The bag fea- 


tures two front 
pockets, two ad- 
ditional pockets 
inside the zip- 
pered lid for flash 
cards, and com- 
pression straps on the bottom to hold a 
jacket or tripod. If you're feeling self-con- 
scious about wearing a "fanny pack," just 
convert the Photo Runner into its shoulder 
bag alter ego. This is a tough but comfort- 
able camera bag for all occasions. 

Vanguard VS-82 

$28.99 • 

Need a tripod (yes, you do) but don't 
want the weight and bulk of a conven- 
tional model? 
VS-82 is a quick- 
setup table tripod 
that provides a 
solid base 
for cam- 
eras or 

camcorders weighing up to 
5.5 pounds. Folded, the VS- 
82 measures only 9 inches and weighs less 
than a pound, so it's great for purses or 
even the center box of an SUV. With two 
sections, its legs quickly extend via quick- 
twist leg locks and provide an impressively 
wider, more stable base compared to most 
compact tripods we've seen. The two-way 
pan head enables smooth 360-degree pan- 
ning, and its central column height is 
quickly adjustable with a contoured ring 
on the canopy. It also features rubber- 
gripped feet for no-slip stability on 
any surface. 

Smart Computing / December 2009 67 


Goodies & Gadgets 

Compiled by Nathan Lake 

PC peripherals and components may make for fine gifts, but if you're looking for something more on the fun side, this is the article 
for you. We've got cool accessories for music, wireless gadgets, handy products for mobile gear, and electronics that'll make your or 
your gift recipient's life easier. 

• MM Design Studio DiscSox Pro Sleeves 

$22.95 for 25 DVD pack • 

The DiscSox Pro Sleeves let you keep all the DVD's artwork, in- 
serts, and discs, but the sleeves take up much less space than the 
original cases. For example, MMDesign indicates you can put 60 
discs and artwork into the space of 13 single-disc DVD cases. 
You'll like that the matte, polypropylene sleeve is clear to let you 
view the artwork, while the black internal 
fabric prevents the discs from being 
scratched. The DiscSox Pro Sleeves 
are also environmentally friendly 
because the material is made up 
of polypropylene that is 100% 
recyclable. The slide-out, la- 

• 2XL 4 Corners 

$19.99 • 

beled design makes the 
DiscSox Pro Sleeves an 
easy way to both save 
space and organize the 
discs in your collection. 
MMDesign Studio of- 
fers a variety of styles 

and sizes to suit your CD, DVD, Blu-Ray, videogame, or photo 

disc collections. 

Do you have a teenage son or daughter who's always 

looking for a way to stand 

out in the crowd? The 4 

Corners headphones 

from 2XL offer a 

unique design with 

square over-the-ear 

muffs available in 

seven color patterns. 

You'll also like that 

the colors and styles 

are a mix of current 

and retro fashion so 

you can purchase a 

style that matches his or her 

style. Additionally, the head- 

phones feature a frequency 

range of 20 to 20,000Hz and 

an impedance of 32ohms to 

deliver high-quality sound. 

• Pro Membership 

$24.99 per year • is a Web site that helps you edit, share, back 
up, and create DVDs of your home movies, whether the 
movies are stored on your computer or on tape. With a 
Pro Membership, you have unlimited uploads, unlimited 
archival storage (as long as your account is active), and ad- 
free use of the applications on the Web site. In terms of dig- 
ital content, supports many video formats and 
lets you upload up to 768MB of video at one time. The team can also convert video from your VHS, 
Digital8, Hi8, Betamax, miniDV, 8mm, and Super 8 tapes to 
a digital format if you ship the tapes to it. Your shared 

video memories are secured behind password protection on the Web site, and you can create DVDs and order 
digital copies of your home videos. 

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• CarMD Handheld Automotive Device & Software Kit 

$98.99 • 

This portable device from CarMD connects to your car's DLC (data link connector; a 
small port usually located under the dashboard found on all 1996 and newer vehicles) to 
tell you about possible problems. When connected to the car, the handheld device uses 
built-in LEDs (light-emitting diodes) to tell you how serious the issue is (green, yellow, and 
red). When you connect the included USB cable to your PC, you can upload the data to 
the CarMD database and find out what the problem is. From that point, you can deter- 
mine what you'll need to do to fix it or get an estimate for the cost of the repair. The 
Handheld Automotive Device & Software Kit is also ideal when you want to check your 
vehicle before a long road trip or examine a used car before purchase. 

• JabraHALO 

$129.99 • 

This wireless headset features Bluetooth technology to wire- 
lessly connect to your mobile phone and stream audio or 
make and receive phone calls. 

OJabra also includes an audio 
cord to let you listen to 
portable music players 
k without Bluetooth tech- 
I nology. For call quality, 
Jabra integrates its 
I Noise Blackout tech- 
f nology, which is de- 
I signed to block out 
background audio 
without reducing the 
quality of your voice, and 
two microphones to deliver 
crystal-clear sound. There's a touch-sensitive remote control 
to let you leave your phone in a pocket or protective bag 
while you control the playback and calls from the remote. 

• Pangea Brands O.T.R Checkpoint Friendly Laptop Bag 

$129.99 • 

Pangea Brands' O.T.R. messenger bags 
meet the TSA's "checkpoint-friendly" 
designation, giving you the freedom to 
leave your laptop in the bag when 
going through the security 
screening at the airport. 
Additionally, you can add a 
logo from any of the 30 
Major League Baseball teams 
to support your favorite 
baseball franchise. There are 
individual compartments for 
pens, cards, and mobile 
phones as well as two ad- 
justable water bottle holders. For further ease, you can unzip 
the laptop compartment from the bottom of the bag, meaning 
you won't have to rummage through the rest of your travel gear 
to reach the laptop. 

• iLive Wireless Music System 

$129.99 • 

The iLive Wireless Music System includes an iPod dock, an auxiliary 

input, and two wireless speakers that are weather-resistant, so you can 

enjoy music from your portable music player indoors or outdoors. The 

dock will charge your iPod, and there's an LCD that displays the time and 

song information. You can control the volume for each wireless speaker, and the sound from the 

speakers can also be configured to produce left-, right-, or mono-channel audio. The Wireless Music System 

has a 90-foot indoor range, and as long as the speaker is within line of sight of the dock, you can place them 

up to 200 feet from the dock. For placement convenience, the wireless speakers are battery-powered. 

Smart Computing / December 2009 69 


• VTech IS9181 

$174.95 • 

The IS9181 receives over 1 1,000 Internet radio stations, ranging from the 

genres of music, sports, talk radio, and many others using only a wireless 

Internet connection. And because the IS9181 is powered by six AA batteries, 

you can use it anywhere with Wi-Fi, such as your patio or a friend's house. We 

like that you can also stream the music stored on a networked computer (it's compatible with Windows PCs and Macs) or connect 

your portable music player using the auxiliary input and included cable. The unit includes two stereo speakers and a 10-watt sub- 

woofer with an amplifier for each speaker. The IS9181 accesses to display the five-day forecast on the LCD. 

• Edifier iF500 

$249 • 

• iHome iP47BR 

$179.99 • 

Looking for a gift for the audiophile in your life? The 
iF500 iPod Speaker is a single unit with five internal 
speakers that feature vibration and resonance control to 
produce smooth audio from your iPod, iPhone, or MP3 
player. Edifier also built in cavities to reduce the oversatu- 
ration of bass and midrange 
sounds. There's a digital FM 
radio so you'll have something 
to listen to when you want 
to take a break from your 
downloaded collection or 
refresh the music on your 
player. The dock is compat- 
ible with iPods and iPhones 
for charging and playback, 
while the auxiliary input on 
the back of the unit lets you 
connect any portable music 
player, laptop, or MP3-enabled 
mobile phone. 

Designed to shield noise when your 
iPhone or iPod is docked next to 
speakers, iHome's Bluetooth 
Clock Radio & Speakerphone 
For iPhone & iPod lets you 
charge your phone, listen to 
music, and make and receive 
phone calls. The iP47BR also 
offers a Bluetooth receiver with 
A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution 
Profile) to let you hear music from other 
Bluetooh-enabled devices. The iP47BR features 
two active and two passive speakers for rich stereo sound that fills 
the room, rather than limiting your audio to the tiny speakers in 
your iPhone. You can switch among audio from your docked 
iPhone or iPod, a paired Bluetooth device, AM radio, or FM radio. 
The dual alarm lets you set up two wake times, and there's a re- 
mote control with a snooze button, so the iP47BR doesn't have to 
be located by your bed. 

Silicondust HDHomeRun Dual ATSC/QAM Digital TV Tuner 

$149.99 • 

With the HDHomeRun digital TV tuner, you can pipe HDTV (digital cable or over-the-air) to computers running popular DVR 
(digital video recorder) software, such as Windows Media Center, BeyondTV, and SageTV. The Dual ATSC/QAM Digital TV tuner 
features two inputs for cable or over-the-air signals so you can watch one program while recording another, or you can record 
two programs at the same time. The HDHomeRun records broadcasts in HD quality up to 1080i, and it connects to your home 
router via Ethernet cable, so you don't need to run any special cable 
to reach your media PCs. If you have a computer on your 
home network that doesn't have any DVR software in- 
stalled, you can download the VLC media player 
(, which is an open-source multimedia 
player for Windows and Mac, to play the recorded video. 

70 December 2009 / 


Ambient Devices Weather Wizard 

$85 • 

With five-day weather forecasts from, you won't need to install any 
outdoor sensors to check the weather outside or watch a TV forecast to see what the 
weather will be like in upcoming days. The Weather Wizard automatically detects 
your location and shows you forecasts for five nearby cities. You can also cus- 
tomize it to display forecasts from any U.S. ZIP code or major worldwide city. 
Weather condition icons, such as a cloud, rain, or the sun, make it easy to prepare 
for the day, and at the bottom of the screen, highs and lows are displayed for each 
day of the week. The Weather Wizard is battery-powered, and Ambient Devices adds a 
magnetic panel to the back so you can stick it to a fridge for convenient reference. 


$119.99 • 

La Crosse Technology WT-5220U-IT 

$34.95 • 

The Vibe II is a pair of high-quality headphones that also fea- 
ture a microphone that's built into the cord, so you can 
listen to your music or field phone calls from a BlackBerry or 
iPhone. You can switch between music and calls using the 
integrated call/music button. In terms of sound quality, the 
Vibe II includes V-Moda's V-MASQUE dynamic driver to de- 
liver a directional 
soundstage with accu- 
rate bass, midrange, 
and treble. The head- 
phones are noise-can- 
celing, and V-Moda 
includes four sizes of 
medical-grade silicone 
fittings. There are also 
two sizes of ear hooks 
that are flexible to let 
you wear the head- 
phones when running or performing other activities. Kevlar 
reinforced cable also improves the Vibe ll's durability. 

This little device includes a projector to display the time and 
outdoor temperature on your wall or ceiling. The WT-5220U- 
IT also functions as 
an alarm clock, 
which references 
the atomic time 
and date to give 
you the most accu- 
rate information. 
On the device's 
LCD, you'll see the 
time, outdoor tem- 
perature (delivered 

from the included remote transmitter), and the indoor tem- 
perature and humidity. The remote transmitter has a range of 
up to 330 feet so you have the freedom to place it far away 
from the house. You can rotate the projector arm 90 degrees, 
as well as side-to-side, to orient the projection for ideal visi- 
bility. Two AA batteries power the unit, or you can connect it 
to a wall outlet using the included AC power adapter. 

Digital Group Audio Livespeakr 

$99.99 • 

A little larger than an iPhone or iPod touch, the LiveSpeakr is an extremely portable speaker 
system that features a dock that supports the iPod classic, iPod touch, iPod touch 2G, and all 
versions of the iPhone. You can expand, contract, or rotate the speakers so that the Apple de- 
vice is displayed in portrait or landscape orientations. The Livespeakr is powered by a wall 
outlet or via USB, but you'll likely be using the rechargeable Li-Ion (lithium-ion) battery while 
on the go. Digital Group Audio indicates the battery will stand up to 16 hours of use. There's 
a handy stand to let you set the speaker on a desk or other flat surface. 

Smart Computing / December 2009 71 

Microsoft Excel 2007 

Quick Studies 


Paste Special Options 



Use the Paste 

Special options 

to break a 

highly formatted 

cell into its 

components and 

paste only the 

parts you want. 

Everyone mastered copying and pasting as soon 
as they started using software. Or did they? 
There's a good chance you could get more from 
this seemingly simple tool. This month, we look at 
a variety of ways the Paste Special option wrings 
more productivity from copy-and-paste opera- 
tions, often saving you a 
few steps in the process. 

Paste Special options 
basically fall into two cate- 
gories: operations that 
copy specific parts of the 
original data and opera- 
tions that perform some 
kind of calculation with 
the data in the copied and 
destination cells. To start, 
select your source data in 
one of the three traditional ways after you highlight 
the source cells: press CTRL-C (to copy, or CTRL-X 
to cut); right-click and choose Copy or Cut; or click 
the Cut or Copy button on the Ribbon's Home tab. 

Formatting Options 

The basic Paste operation that most people 
stick with copies everything about the source cell, 
including its data and formatting aspects such as 
font size, cell color, and cell border, to the desti- 
nation cell. If you right- click the destination cell 
and click Paste Special, you can choose specific 
aspects you want to copy. The following summa- 
rizes some of the key options that appear as radio 
buttons in the Paste Special box. 

Formulas. This option pastes the formula from 
the source cell. The results won't be transferred, be- 
cause Excel adjusts the formula so that its references 
change in relation to the destination cell. If the orig- 
inal formula summed up cells in the B column, for 
example, copying the formula to a cell in the G row 
changes all the B references to G references. 

Values. This pastes data only, leaving details 
such as formatting behind. You also can use this 
option to copy the results of a formula cell 
without copying the formula itself. 

Formats. This is the opposite of Values. Use 
the Formats option when you want to paste only 
the cell's look. You can use this option on cells 
that already hold data. The existing value re- 
mains, but takes on the look you're pasting in. 

Formulas and Number Formats/Values and 
Number Formats. These are slightly different 
variations on the same theme. Both copy number 
formatting, which is the setting that determines 
whether a cell's values are currency, dates, etc. 
The difference in the options, as the name im- 
plies, is that one brings only formulas from the 
source cell and the other brings only values. 

Math & Other Operations 

Once you understand the basic operation of the 
math section of the Paste Special dialog box, the 
specific options are mostly self-explanatory. When 
you choose one of the math operations, Excel per- 
forms the specified action between the source and 
destination cells. For example, copy cell A10, 
right-click cell CIO, and choose Paste Special. If 
you choose Add and click OK, Excel adds the 
values of the two cells together. You can figure out 
Subtract, Multiply and Divide from there. Keep 
one fact in mind: The destination data comes first 
in the process, meaning the copied data is sub- 
tracted from the destination cell's data. And the 
destination data is divided by the copied cell's data. 

You can use these operations on a range of 
cells, understanding that operations are executed 
over a range, applying one source cell to one des- 
tination cell. For example, if you copy a range of 
five cells (H5 through H9) and execute a Paste 
Special Add command on one highlighted cell, 
the range's top cell is added to the destination 
cell. The values of the other four cells are added 
to the cells below the destination cell. 

A couple of the Paste Special box's other opera- 
tions require quick explanation. Checkmark Skip 
Blanks if your range of source cells includes some 
blank cells you don't want to overwrite existing 
data. For example, you may have set things up so 
that you only want to copy over destination data 
when new data exists. If a cell in the source is blank, 
you want to keep the destination cell's data intact. 
If you choose Skip Blanks, whenever Excel goes to 
paste a blank cell over a cell that contains data, it 
stops and leaves the destination data in place. 

Checkmark Transpose to switch a range of 
rows (a vertical range) to columns (a horizontal 
range) and vice versa. II 

by Trevor Meers 

72 December 2009 / 

Quick Studies 

Digital Media 

Roxio Creator 2009 

Troubleshooting CinePlayer 


As we wrap up our time with Roxio Creator 
2009 — we'll be updating our coverage and 
moving to Creator 2010 in our next article — we're 
going to focus on CinePlayer, Creator's DVD 
player. It is designed to let you watch DVDs and a 
few other types of video files on your computer 
screen. As with any application, errors or conflicts 
sometimes arise, so here are a few troubleshooting 
tips to help you get CinePlayer running smoothly. 

Region Control 
Playback Options 

■^j Shown On Mute 
_. Always £ro'.vn ;\"n- Av=i 5 tie 

Video Stretch [CirieView) 
O Wide 

Hardware Acceleration (DXVA) 
•,. Use If Available 

Video Stretch 

lets you change 

a DVD's 

aspect ratio. 

Error Launching The Player 

If you see a message that your 
computer does not have sufficient 
resources available to launch the 
player, your best course of ac- 
tion is first to look at Creator's 
minimum system requirements 
(found at 
and compare them to your sys- 
tem's resources. If you don't 
meet the minimum system re- 
quirements, there's little point in continuing 
reading this article. It's unlikely you'll be able to get 
CinePlayer to run even if you're able to use other 
parts of Creator 2009 because it takes up more re- 
sources than, say, the PhotoSuite component. 

If your computer meets the minimum system 
requirements, and the player still doesn't work, it's 
possible you can get the player to work if you shut 
down or disable other programs that are using 
system resources. We were unable to launch 
CinePlayer but were able to finally run it by ending 
unneeded processes via the Task Manager and 
manually turning off our virus protection software. 
However, this is recommended only if: a) you do 
thorough research to obtain guidance on what 
processes are safe to disable, and b) you're certain 
the disc or file is safe, and you are sure you will re- 
member to turn the virus protection software back 
on when you are finished using CinePlayer. 

Stuttering Video 

Your system resources may be sufficient enough 
to get you past the aforementioned error message, 
but that doesn't ensure that you'll experience 
smooth playback. CinePlayer is a bit of a system 
hog, and choppy or stuttering video often occurs 
when your computer just doesn't have the power 

needed for CinePlayer. There is another potential 
culprit, though, and the remedy is less expensive 
than, say, buying more memory for your PC. 

Not surprisingly, CinePlayer relies on your 
computer's video card, and an out-of-date driver 
may cause stuttering. Check the video card man- 
ufacturer's Web site for free driver updates and 
download the latest version. 

Distorted Video 

Do objects in video appear too wide or too 
skinny, too tall or too short? That's probably be- 
cause you're watching video with the incorrect 
aspect ratio. Movies typically are created to be dis- 
played in two common aspect ratios, 4:3 or 16:9, 
known as full screen and widescreen, respectively. 

But knowing that fact and fixing it are two dif- 
ferent things, because CinePlayer categorizes these 
options under what it calls Video Stretch. To 
change the playback ratio, open the player and 
click the Settings menu. In the Settings dialog box, 
select the Video tab. In the middle of the screen, 
you'll see four radio buttons: Wide, Cinema, Zoom, 
and Off. By far the most common fix is to select the 
radio button for Cinema if the Wide option is se- 
lected, and vice versa. Click OK. If that didn't do 
the trick, try selecting the Zoom radio button. Still 
no luck? Try your fourth option, the Off button. 

Default DVD Player 

CinePlayer may launch automatically when 
you insert a disc into a DVD drive or open a file 
via Windows Explorer. That's because you have 
the ability to choose CinePlayer as the default 
player. (If it isn't the default player, you can 
launch the software and use the Open command 
to browse to the disc or file.) 

If you want to change whether the software is or 
isn't the default player, it's easy to do albeit a bit 
hidden, because there's no Default Player com- 
mand. From the Settings dialog box, select the 
Playback Options tab. The tab contains a list of file 
types. If you insert a disc or open a file with one of 
these types, and the type is selected in this tab, 
CinePlayer will launch automatically. Simply select 
or deselect the desired file type and click OK. II 

by Heidi V. Anderson 

Smart Computing / December 2009 73 

Quick C - ,J: 


Avoid Falling For Phishing Sites 

IE 8 

Firefox 3.5 


Although viruses and other malware get most 
of the attention in the roll call of computer 
threats, all too many people turn over valuable 
private information without any sort of software 
infection to help things along. 

Phishing sites aim to convince users to enter 
credit card numbers and other financial data by 
pretending to be trusted institutions such as banks. 
In reality, your account info could be on its way to 
some fraudster's database, ready to be used or sold. 
Running a phishing operation is a numbers 
game — send out thousands of requests with links 
to fake sites, and a few people are bound to 
respond. You don't want to be one of those 
people. Thankfully, today's browsers include at 
least some protection against phishing attempts. 
Make sure these important 
safeguards are enabled, and 
pay attention to what your 
browser is telling you. 

Internet Explorer 



feature stops you 

from accidentally 

visiting known 

phishing sites 

that seek to trick 

you into turning 

over personal 


Internet Explorer 8 in- 
cludes SmartScreen, a utility 
that checks for suspicious 
characteristics as you load 
Web pages. When the soft- 
ware spots a red flag, IE does 
not display the page you 
requested but instead puts up a special red screen 
and a warning. SmartScreen tells you the site is 
dangerous and encourages you to click a link to 
browse back to your home page instead. 

A More Information link provides additional 
options, including a way to disregard Smart- 
Screen's warning and continue to the site. Ob- 
viously, that's not recommended, but in some tiny 
percentage of cases, SmartScreen might call a red 
alert by mistake. Be sure you know what's going on 
before browsing past the SmartScreen warning. 

The chief suspicious characteristic that triggers 
SmartScreen's ire is when a site has been reported 
to a third-party service that collects reports on 
known phishing pages. Most phishing schemes 
target a vast audience, so chances are you will not 
be the first person to come across a specific 
dangerous site. If someone else has already tagged 
a Web page as being up to no good, you should 
get a warning from SmartScreen. Microsoft also 

says that SmartScreen checks out sites on its own 
to protect you against brand-new phishing scams. 

IE asks whether you want to run SmartScreen 
the first time you launch the browser. You can 
check to see if SmartScreen is on by heading to 
the Safety menu and choosing SmartScreen filter. 

Along with the warning screens, IE also displays 
a reminder in the Address Bar if you're at a site that 
fails the SmartScreen test. A red "Unsafe Website" 
label appears at the top of the browser. Conversely, 
you can have some confidence in a Web page if the 
Address Bar has a green label with the name of the 
company operating the site. You will probably see 
one of these green labels when you sign in to a se- 
cure site, such as an online banking site. 

Firefox 3.5 

The latest version of Firefox includes a system 
similar to what you find in IE. To make certain it 
is enabled, go to the Tools menu and select 
Options. Click the Security tab and then check 
the boxes next to Block Reported Attack Sites and 
Block Reported Web Forgeries. Click OK. 

As in IE, if you browse to a suspected phishing 
site in Firefox, you'll see a large warning screen 
you should probably take seriously. If you think, 
for some reason, that Firefox is wrong, there's an 
option to ignore the warning and continue to the 
page you requested. In that case, Firefox displays 
a red warning banner at the top of the site, 
similar to IE's Address Bar warning. 

The folks behind Firefox say that the browser's 
phishing site list is updated 48 times a day, which 
should ensure that any site reported as a forgery 
should be blocked in your own browser by the 
time you would likely run across it. 

Hook, Line, Sinker 

Although IE and Firefox both offer impressive 
protection against malicious Web sites, you are the 
final line of defense. Online banking sites, eBay, 
online retailers, and other legitimate services never 
ask for sensitive account information through 
email. Be wary of email links in general, and keep 
an eye on the Address Bar. You might not be 
visiting the site you thought you were visiting. II 

by Alan Phelps 

74 December 2009 / 

Quick ^.j 

Read It Later 


Read All About It Tomorrow 

Web Services Remember Your Reading List 

If you come 

across an 

interesting article 

but don't have 

time to dive in 

right now, use 

Read It Later to 


keep track 

of the link. 

If you want to get anything done online, 
sometimes you have to pass up interesting 
articles, blog posts, and other pages that don't fit 
into your schedule at the moment. You might 
think you'll go back and read them later, but 
most times, you just forget. 

A couple of simple, made-to-order Web ap- 
plications, Read It Later and Instapaper, remember 
all of those intriguing pages that you don't want to 
forget. Set up a free account and keep track of every 
page crowding your back burner. 

Read It Later 

Read It Later ( comes in three 
flavors: a Firefox extension, an iPhone app, and a 
bookmarklet that works in any browser. You might 
end up using more than one of them yourself. The 
Firefox extension is a full- featured, easy way to use 
the service in Firefox. The bookmarklet, which 
requires no download, is especially handy for 
browsers at work or school where IT policies might 
prohibit installing something (such as the Firefox 
extension). If you use an iPhone, the Read It Later 
app gives you access to your list whenever you're 
between computers. This 
trio of options means you 
always have reading ma- 
terial available. 

Setting up the book- 
marklet requires you to 
choose a username and 
password. On the next 
page, simply drag the 
three bookmarks — Read It 
Later, Mark As Read, and 
Reading List — to your 
bookmarks toolbar. Each works as you might 
expect. When you come across a page you want to 
remember, click Read It Later. A box appears on 
the screen for a few seconds confirming the save. 

To view your list, click Reading List to see a 
small pop-up window with a list of all of your 
saved pages. Click the links to return to those 
articles. When you've finished reading a page, click 
Mark As Read to remove it from your Reading List. 
If you use Firefox, the Read It Later extension 
is worth using in place of the bookmarklet. The 
extension adds a small check mark icon to the 
Address Bar. Click the check mark to save a page 

for later. Alternatively, you can press a custom- 
izable key combination and then click links on a 
page, such as a newspaper site, to save the target 
articles for later without ever actually opening the 
article pages themselves. 

Another bonus feature puts the red check 
mark from the Address Bar next to article titles in 
Google Reader. If you happen to use Reader, it's a 
great way to save a few posts for some other time. 


Instapaper ( works like a 
stripped-down version of Read It Later. The site's 
lean interface provides few frills, but it works 
pretty well. Like Read It Later, Instapaper also 
offers an iPhone app for reading on the go. 

To try it out, you'll need to create an account 
with a user ID (no password necessary). Once 
logged in, you'll see the sparse main page with a 
Read Later bookmarklet just under the main title. 
Drag that to the bookmarks toolbar. 

As you browse the Web, click Read Later to add 
a page to Instapaper's list. Head back to the 
Instapaper site to see what you've saved and work 
on your reading list. When you finish reading an 
article, you can delete it from your reading list or 
move it to the Archive, a list designed as a re- 
pository for your favorites. You can also click a star 
icon by each title to add articles to the Starred list. 

Reading List 

The simplicity of both Read It Later and 
Instapaper makes them easy to use, but it also 
means some limitations. The biggest one we ran 
across involves the multipage articles found at 
many newspaper and magazine sites. Clicking the 
bookmarklet only saves the page you are looking 
at, not the entire article. This doesn't matter 
much for later reading online, but it does affect 
what you can see offline. One work- around is to 
look for a "printer- friendly" version of the article 
before clicking Read Later or Read It Later. 

That minor issue aside, these two sites make 
the Internet even more addictive. You might not 
have time to read something now, but there will 
always be time later, right? II 

by Alan Phelps 

Smart Computing / December 2009 75 

Quick Studies 


Word Processing 


Microsoft Word 2007 

Work Faster With Macros: Part II 

Last month we introduced you to macros and 
showed you the process for creating a simple 
one. This month we look at a more complex ex- 
ample: an empty, formatted table for holding 
recipe ingredients. We want to be able to use this 
macro anywhere in the document when we come 
to a place where we want to list ingredients in 
a table. 

As we said in the first column on macros, every 
action you take will become part of the macro. If 
you're creating a complex macro, you may want 

to plan out your 
moves in advance. 

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Vestibulum ante ip sum primis 
in faucibus orci rucrus et 
nltrices posuere cubilia Curae; 
Aenean gravida mattis 
condimentum. Aliquam 
interdum p orta neque at 



In nee odio nunc. Proin 
imperdietmetusjusto. Class 
aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora 
torquent per conubia nostra, 
per inceptos himenaeos. Ut 
suscipit dictum auctor. Cras mollis sagittis nunc a commodo. Duis adipiscing sapien in nisi 
;f ;:' mi puius aliquam. Duis etjusto orci. 



items, such as 

this table, in 

Word 2007 is 

simple if you 

create a macro 

to handle 

the process. 

Start Your 

Create a new 
document. Go to 
the View tab on 
the Ribbon, click 
the bottom half of the Macros button, and select 
Record Macros. Type Recipe_Box in the Macro 
Name box and write a short description of the 
macro in the Description box if you wish. Click 
OK. Don't worry about assigning the macro to 
the Quick Access Toolbar or a keyboard shortcut 
right now. 

Let's create a table with 12 rows, which should 
provide spaces for enough ingredients in most 
cases. We want two columns, one for the name of 
the ingredient, the other for the quanity. You can 
add or subtract rows to the table later as needed 
after you run the macro. 

On the Insert tab of the Ribbon, click the Table 
button and then the Insert Table option. Type 2 
for the number of columns and 12 for the 
number of rows. Click OK. The table appears in 
the document. 

Unfortunately, when the Record Macro func- 
tion is running, you can't right-click the mouse 
to bring up the context-sensitive menus. Neither 
can you use the mouse to click and drag to resize 
the table. Instead, you can use the Ribbon and di- 
alog boxes. Click the Design tab under Table 
Tools. In the Table Styles area, find and then click 
Light Shading - Accent 2. (When you use a Table 
Style, you need to apply it first, and then modify 
it. If you apply it later, it may erase some modifi- 
cations you have made.) 

Now click the Layout tab and click Properties 
in the Table group. This brings up the Table 
Properties box. We can make several adjust- 
ments to our table here, all at once. Click the 
Table tab and then the Borders And Shading 
button at the bottom. Place a border around 
the table by selecting the solid line (at the top of 
the Style list) and make sure that the Width is 1 . 
On the left, click Box, and then on the right, 
click the button that has a line running down 
the middle of its icon. The thumbnail shows a 
preview of what the border will look like. Click 
OK. Back on the Table tab, click the Left and 
Around buttons. This will cause text to wrap 
around the table. 

Adjust Column Sizes 

Now we will change the column sizes because 
we want the first column, called Ingredients, to 
be wider than the second, called Amounts. Click 
the Column tab. At the upper left, the dialog box 
should say Column 1, because that is where the 
cursor is. If it doesn't say anything, click another 
tab and then click back. Type 3 in the Preferred 
Width box. Now click the Next Column button 
(now it should say Column 2 in the dialog box), 
and type 1.4. 

Click OK and the table should show the new 
column widths as well as the borders. The second 
column may still be selected. Deselect it by 
pressing the TAB key. Type the words Ingredients 
and Amounts in their respective places. Press the 
arrow keys to move among the cells of the table. 

Click the blue square Stop button on the status 
bar at the bottom of the Word 2007 window to 
finish the macro. You now have a macro that 
will place a custom formatted table wherever 
you want. 

To add the macro to the Quick Access toolbar, 
first click the Office Button, Word Options, and 
Customize. In the Choose Commands From 
drop-down box, choose Macros. Choose the 
macro you created and add it to the Quick Access 
toolbar. You could also click the Customize 
button at the bottom of the screen to create a 
keyboard shortcut. II 

by Tom Hancock 

76 December 2009 / 

Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 

Quick Studies 




Work With Tables: Part I 

Project Team Assignments 

















Even if you've 

never designed a 

single table, you 

can insert a 

simple one like 

this into a 


slide in just a 

few steps. 

For many users, the idea of creating a grid of 
information is surprisingly intimidating. Bad 
experiences in the past have convinced them that 
tables always wind up as a maddening mess of un- 
predictable tabs and misaligned information. 
PowerPoint 2007, however, has turned tables into 
a refreshingly simple proposition. You just drop 
one into place and start entering data. This month 
and next month, we'll cover how to create tables 
and format them to get exactly the right look. 

You can insert new tables 
into PowerPoint slides via 
two different avenues. You 
can create one from scratch 
within PowerPoint itself, or 
you can import a table you 
created in Microsoft Word 
or Microsoft Excel and 
modify it as needed. 

Creating Tables 

Start by clicking the slide that will hold your 
new table and then click the Insert tab and the 
Table button. The drop -down box that appears is 
enough to give even experienced users a moment 
of pause. It looks similar to a grid of options — 
but with no options visible. What you're actually 
looking at is a pretty slick design tool that lets you 
drag the mouse to choose the size of table you 
want. Dragging over boxes in the grid indicates 
how many rows and columns you want in the 
table. Look on the active slide for a dynamic table 
that shifts in size as you highlight different num- 
bers of blocks in the drop -down window. When 
you're happy with the table's size, click the mouse 
button to insert it into the slide. 

If you're a little more left-brained, you can 
click Insert Table and just type the number of 
columns and rows you want. If you're really 
right-brained, click the Table button and choose 
Draw Table. This tool lets you create a com- 
pletely custom table with row and column 
boundaries wherever you want them. But the tool 
isn't completely self-evident. When you click 
Draw Table, your cursor becomes a pencil; drag it 
to define the overall size of the table. Then click 
Draw Table again to switch to pencil mode 
in which you can drag to create the row and 
column boundaries. 

Importing Tables 

In many cases, the table you want to show 
during a presentation already exists in Word or 
Excel. You can quickly pull the table into a 
PowerPoint slide without re-entering all the data. 
Start by selecting the table in the original pro- 
gram. In Excel, that means clicking in the table's 
upper-left corner and dragging over the entire 
table to select it. In Word, pass the mouse pointer 
over the table and look for the four-headed arrow 
that appears near the table's upper-left corner. 
Click it to select the entire table. Now right-click 
and choose Copy. Then go to the PowerPoint 
slide that will hold the new table, right-click 
again, and choose Paste. 

Editing Text & Boundaries 

Whether you created the table directly in 
PowerPoint or brought it in from another pro- 
gram, the editing process is the same. Once the 
table is in place, for example, each cell becomes a 
text box. To enter information, click in the box 
and start typing. You can move from cell to cell 
by pressing TAB. Press SHIFT-TAB to move to 
the previous cell. To change the font, size, align- 
ment, and other aspects of text, double-click it to 
select it and use the formatting palette that pops 
up beside the text. 

You can move the boundaries within the table 
by clicking them and dragging them like the lines 
in other graphics you work with. Rest the pointer 
over a border until the pointer becomes a 
double-headed arrow and drag the border in the 
appropriate direction. 

If you decide you don't need a line anymore, 
click the Table Tools tab above the Ribbon and 
click the Eraser button. Any line you click will dis- 
appear. Note that the eraser only removes the 
small segment of the line you click. If you click a 
vertical border at a point in Row 3, for example, 
the border disappears only in that row. If you want 
to change the color or line weight of a border be- 
tween cells, use the Pen Color tool on the right 
side of the Ribbon. Use the drop-down menus to 
choose your line style, line weight, and pen color. 
Then click the line you want to change. II 

by Trevor Meers 

Smart Computing / December 2009 77 

Notebook Cases 

Compiled by Blaine Flamig 
Graphics & Design by Lori Garris 

Technically, there's no rule that 
dictates notebook owners 
must also own a notebook 
case, but there probably should be. 
Beyond protecting a laptop against 
bumps, bruises, scratches, snags, 
dents, dirt, dust, and debris, a case 

can help organize and store cables, 
cords, adapters, and other accessories; 
work documents; and an MP3 player, 
a cell phone, headphones, a digicam, 
and other personal effects. Whether 
you're a student, commuter, or the 
president of a computer club, there 

are notebook cases available in a va- 
riety of materials sporting handles, 
shoulder straps, and wheels suited to 
your respective needs. The following 
are examples of several notebook 
case styles. II 

Samsonite Traditional Attaches 


Briefcases & Hard Shell Cases 

For some business users, no notebook case style can offer an im- 
provement over the good ole briefcase. Although typically more ex- 
pensive, a hard-shelled briefcase made of leather or aluminum oozes a 
worldly sophistication that also often supplies a secured locking system, 
multiple compartments for organizing work and personal items, a higl 
foam or other interior protective material, and possibly an attachment for roll 
handles. For corporate travelers, newer checkpoint-friendly briefcases, rolling cases, and 
other commuter-centric cases are extremely attractive for their ability to help their owners quickly pass 
through airport security checkpoints. I 

Tote Bags 

If you have a sense for fashion and want to show it off wherever you take your laptop, a tote bag may 
be for you. Whether you prefer fine-grain leather, canvas, micro-suede, or a faux fur print design, tote 
bags offer travel-friendly straps for easy transport along with a zipper, button, Velcro, or similar fas- 
tening system to keep your personal belongings intact. Additionally, many tote bags are designed 
specifically to slip over the handle on a rolling suitcase while simultaneously offering enough storage 
to keep pens, paper, business cards, your cell phone, and other items within easy reaching distance. I 

Hadaki Tote Around Pod 


78 December 2009 / 



Be.ez 100823 Larobe Sleeve 


If your budget is limited and you're not overly con- 
cerned about drops and other damage, a notebook 
sleeve may provide enough protection for your pur- 
poses. Also available for netbooks, sleeves don't provide 
the array of storage options that other case types do, 
but they usually offer at the least a thin, padded non- 
scratch interior made of polyurethane or another mate- 
rial that works in conjunction with a button, zipper, or 
other fastening system to form a lightweight case op- 
tion that fits snug like a glove. I 


Faux-fur Carrying Case 




Carrying Sleeve: 


Messenger Cases 


GreenSmart Horiztonal Laptop Messenger 


Besides offering a comfortable, lightweight, no-fuss, 
shoulder-strap method for carrying a laptop from point A 
to point B, messenger cases do so without the air of for- 
mality that briefcase notebook bags exude, making them 
a solid choice for commuters, students, and everyday 
users with less business-like requirements. Some mes- 
senger cases, including the ones pictured here, go the 
extra mile by offering green-conscious buyers a case 
constructed of such recycled materials as water and 
soft drink bottles, rubber bike inner tubes, rice bags, 
newspaper, and billboards. I 


Eco Messenger Bag 



Tote Couture • Pleated Laptop Tote 
$79.99 • 

There may not be a better notebook case choice 
for a student than a backpack. Beyond securely 
strapping in a laptop for extensive 
traveling, many backpacks are er- 
gonomically designed to distribute 
the packs' weight evenly while si- 
multaneously catering to a stu- 
dent's hectic lifestyle by integrating 
pockets to hold a cell phone, an MP3 
player, a flash drive, headphones, and 
other gear. Elsewhere, 
many backpacks feature water-resistant 
and environmentally friendly con- 
struction while offering plenty of 
space for cables, adapters, cords, 
sunglasses, keys, a digicam, a bot- 
tle of water, and possibly even an 
extra pair of socks just in case. I 

Targus CityGear Laptop Backpack 


Smart Computing / December 2009 79 


What To Do When 

Your Notebook Runs Hot 

Whenever you're working with 
moving parts, power, and a 
confined space, heat is natu- 
rally produced. Notebooks are a 
prime example of an internal environ- 
ment that generates high tempera- 
tures. Components such as the bat- 
tery, hard drive, and CPU run warm, 
but if your notebook is too hot to 
touch, you probably have an over- 
heating problem on your hands. The 
parts inside your notebook should 
operate at a healthy, regulated temper 
ature, which is why the design of 
notebook includes an air circulation 
system that includes intake fans and 
heat vents. We'll walk you through de- 
termining why your notebook is run- 
ning hot, how to cool it down, and 
what you can do to prevent over- 
heating in the future. 

1 . Observe The Symptoms 

As mentioned above, notebooks 
are always warm to some extent, but 
a hot notebook is not a normal note- 
book. For instance, a laptop will feel 
warm on your legs when you place it 
on your lap. But, if you can't safely or 
painlessly touch anywhere on your 
notebook or, particularly, the bot- 
tom panel, you likely have an over- 
heating issue. 

In addition to high temperatures, 
you might see smoke or even notice 
the scent of components burning. 
(This is fairly rare, but it is possible.) 
If this is the case, shut down your 
notebook immediately. Symptoms 
such as these are an indication of a 
serious internal problem. 

If your notebook is "acting up," 
overheating components could be the 
cause. For instance, you may experi- 
ence random system shutdowns, 

freezes, and unpredictable restarts. 
Other symptoms could be repeated 
rebooting, a bluescreen error, or 
memory errors. 

2. Remedy Those Malfunctions 

You don't go to the doctor to 
be told "you're ill" and leave without 
a prescription or 
advice — the same ap- 
plies to a sick note- 
book. You'll need to 
take action to help 
heal your notebook 
so it can function 
without overheating. 
The solutions below 
should give you a 
plan of attack. 

Fans and vents. 
Dust can build up 
quickly and work its 
way into any open crevice of your 
notebook. This is especially true if 
you've owned your laptop for a few 
years. Lint and other fibers can keep 

your fan from operating normally. 
Vents need room to let the hot air 
flow out of your notebook, so it's 
important not to obstruct vents by 
putting your notebook near an ob- 
ject or setting it on the carpet. 
The external ventilation system 
takes a few moments to clean or un- 
clog. Before you begin clearing any 
dust or debris from your 
notebook, be sure to shut it 
down. If you can see clumps 
of dust bunnies attached to 
the vents or fans on your note- 
book and they're accessible, you 
can use a pair of tweezers to pull 
out the particles that shouldn't 
be there. 
If either one is too clogged for 
a quick cleaning, you can pur- 
chase a pressurized aerosol can 
with compressed gas that can 
blast away dust particles and debris. 
When you use the can, point the 
narrow spout at the dusty region and 
blast short spurts of air where clogs 
are evident. 

If you're willing to try your hand 
at investigating the inside of your 
notebook, you can seek out and re- 
move dust blocking the fan that cools 
the notebook's CPU. Start by flipping 
your notebook over, so that the 
bottom is face- up. Turn the notebook 
on and determine if hot air is flowing 
out of the vents, but 
be sure to switch it 
back off before you 
begin taking apart 
the notebook. Next, 
locate the screws 
that hold the CPU 
panel in place, 
which will be in dif- 
ferent positions de- 
pending on your 
model (you'll need 
a small screwdriv- 
er). Remove the pan- 
el entirely and find the fan that rests 
on top of the CPU. Any dust should 
be evident on top of and inside 
the fan — at this point, you can use 

To clear dust from fans 
or vents, use a pressured 
aerosol cleaner that 
blasts away dust 
particles, such as the 
Innovera Compressed 
Gas Duster ($7.19; 

80 December 2009 / 


an aerosol can or Q-tip to remove 
dust. Now reattach the panel by re- 
turning the screws to their appro- 
priate place. 

Defective battery. A defective bat- 
tery can lead to a greater chance of 
overheating. If you notice that your 
battery (and your notebook) is very 
hot, remove it and give the battery and 
your laptop about 30 minutes to cool 
down. Reinsert it and test it for an ex- 
tended period of time without plug- 
ging it into its AC power adapter. If 
the battery continues to overheat, it's 
time for a replacement. 

Software issues. The firmware or 
computer's BIOS (Basic Input/Output 
System) could be responsible for an 
overheating laptop, if it's incorrectly 
regulating fan speeds. To enter a note- 
book's BIOS and make fan speed ad- 
justments, you can typically press an 
indicated key such as Fl, F2, or 
DELETE. When the BIOS screen ap- 
pears, you'll see navigation instruc- 
tions (press ENTER, ESC, etc.) to help 
direct you to the fan controls. Locate 
the controls for the fan speed and ad- 
just them to ensure the notebook is 
cooled properly. 

3. Future Preventive Measures 

Many of the problems caused by 
overheating can be prevented with 
some day-to-day care and the addi- 
tion of cooling accessories, if neces- 
sary. The simplest step you can take is 
to keep some space between your 
notebook and the surface it's resting 
upon, such as your lap or a desk. 
Additionally, you can periodically 
check your fans and vents to make 
sure cool air is flowing in and hot air 
is escaping. 

In terms of augmenting your note- 
book with an accessory that will keep 
your notebook's temperature down, a 
USB-powered laptop notebook cooler 
fan is a useful option. Some models 
feature speed and noise level control 
so you can adjust them according to 
the environment in which you're using 
your notebook. A laptop cooling hub 

or pad provides even more cooling 
power because it rests directly under 
your laptop, where most of the heat 
is generated. 

Keep Your Cool 

A notebook that continually runs 
at a very high temperature can cause 
hardware damage, ruin components, 

and prevent you from using your 
notebook normally. Even if you're 
not troubleshooting this issue at the 
moment, it's wise to know what steps 
to take if you notice your notebook is 
warmer than normal. In the mean- 
time, try to keep your notebook 
happy and healthy. II 

by Joanna Safford 

Hot air should be escaping the vents (typically on the side or back panels) in order to dissipate heat 
that builds up inside the system. If the notebook seems too warm, you' II need to troubleshoot 
using our steps. 

Smart Computing / December 2009 81 


How To Fix Common Problems With 


Some moments only come around 
once in a lifetime. When a grand- 
child sings his first solo or a 
daughter gets married, you'll want 
your camcorder to be ready for busi- 
ness. After all, moments like these 
are the reasons you bought a video 
camera in the first place. 

An Ounce Of Prevention 

The best way to prepare for events 
like these (assuming you have advance 
notice, that is) is to test your cam- 
corder a day or two ahead of time. 
Record a minute or two of video and 
play it back, just to be certain that 
everything is working smoothly. 

The night before the event, top up 
the camera's battery with the included 
AC power adapter. The reason to do 
this just before you plan to shoot your 
video is because rechargeable batteries 

that are a few years old don't retain a 
charge, even when not in use, as long as 
they used to. If you have a spare battery, 
schedule a recharging session for it, too. 

A Pound Of Cure 

If you do uncover something wrong 
with your camcorder, don't fret — it 
might be something you can take care 
of yourself. We'll tell you how to cor- 
rect, or attempt to correct, a host of 
minor problems. Your camcorder's 
users manual and the manufacturer's 
Web site can also give you good trou- 
bleshooting advice. 

Obviously, there are a lot of cam- 
corder ailments you probably won't 
want to touch. If you drop the camera 
and crack its case, for example, your 
best bet for a fix is to take it or ship it 
to a repair service authorized by the 
camcorder manufacturer. Camcorders 
are densely packed devices that are dif- 
ficult to take apart, let alone put back 
together properly with all the tiny parts 
in the right places. If you disassemble 
your camera, you'll void the warranty, 
too. Of course, if a repair bill estimate 
turns out to be more expensive than 
the cost of a new camcorder, you'll 
likely want to go shopping instead. 

Problem: The camcorder won't 
turn on. 

Solution: Usually, this is an easy 
one to diagnose: Your battery is dead. 
Try recharging it, if you have time. If 
you don't, and 
you're near 

There's a number of minor camcorder 
maladies you can correct on your own. 
Clean a smudge off its lens, for example, and 
watch its video sharpen up (JVC GZ-HM400; 

82 December 2009 / 

Many DV camcorders' ejection mechanisms are 
fragile and complex, so don't manhandle your 
camera if it won't let go of a tape. 

an AC outlet, use the camera while it's 
plugged into its power adapter. Also, if 
you have a charged spare battery, this 
is the time to use it. 

Sometimes, a camera won't work 
even with a topped- up battery. Check 
to make sure that the battery is prop- 
erly seated in the camcorder; some 
have to slide under retention tabs and 
lock into place. Try ejecting the bat- 
tery, rubbing its metal contacts with a 
clean cloth or tissue, and reseating it. 

Problem: The picture is blurry. 

Solution: Most often, blurry video 
is the result of fingerprints or dust on 
the lens. To clean off light smudges 
and particles, consider using an inex- 
pensive lens pen. Sold under various 
brand names for about $10 or less, a 
lens pen has a retractable microfiber 
brush on one end. Use it to whisk 
away dust and hair from the lens. 
Uncap the other end of the pen, and 
you'll find a soft, concave tip with a 
dry cleaning substance on it. Gently 
rub the lens with the cleaning tip until 
any fingerprints or other soil is gone. 
Alternatively, use wipes that are safe 
to use on coated lenses. 

As for cleaning the rest of the 
camera, such as a dirty LCD, follow 
the manufacturer's instructions. Typ- 
ically, they recommend using a damp, 
soft cloth. 

Problem: Video is substandard. 

Solution: If the lens is clean, but 
your camera is still shooting footage 
that doesn't look very good, check the 
video quality settings. These might be 
labeled SP (standard play), LP (long 


play), "superfine" and so on; 
look up the terms in the 
users manual if you're not 
sure what they mean. 

Generally, the video qual- 
ity option with the shortest 
recording time (such as 30 
minutes) and/or the highest 
resolution (such as 1,280 x 
720 pixels) will produce the 
best-looking video. This is 
because the shooting mode 
devotes the most storage 
media capacity to every frame 
of footage and can thus cap- 
ture more detail in the re- 
sulting file. 

If the colors are off in your 
footage, making everyone in 
the video resemble extrater- 
restrials, there are some other 
settings you should check. Set 
the camcorder's white bal- 
ance setting to automatic, so it can cal- 
ibrate itself according to the way white 
objects look in the lighting conditions 
under which you're shooting. Alterna- 
tively, adjust the white balance manu- 
ally according to the users guide. Some 
cameras have outdoor modes, too; 
make sure you're not using it when you 
don't need to be. 

Finally, if your camcorder uses tapes 
or discs, try a suitable head or lens 
cleaner. DV tape head cleaners sell for 
about $25, while lens cleaning DVDs/ 
CDs cost about $15 or so. By removing 
contaminants from the recording head 
or lens, you'll reduce the number of 
signal errors that will crop up as vis- 
ible noise. 

Problem: The picture is shaky. 

Solution: This is more of a user 
problem than a camera problem, but 
it's too common not to include here. 
Shaky video is almost always the re- 
sult of a handheld camcorder. As our 
muscles quiver and our circulation 
ebbs and flows, our hands simply 
can't remain steady while holding a 
lightweight camera with no other 
support. Mount the camcorder on a 
tripod or monopod, and the shakes 
should disappear. In a pinch, resting 

A lens pen, 
such as this 
one from 
Sima ($9.95; 
gives you an 
safe way to 
clean a 

the camera on a chair back 
or fence post will help. 

Of course, it's not always 
practical to use a tripod or 
other rest. That's why many 
camcorders come with image 
stabilization features. Also 
known as antishake, image 
stabilization reduces small 
movements in the video at the 
cost of a little picture resolu- 
tion and battery life. 

Note that a video camera 
will pick up much more vi- 
bration when its lens is 
zoomed in on something. 
Whenever possible, record 
with as wide a field of view as 
you can, meaning with the 
lens zoomed all the way out 
(IX magnification). 

Problem: There are black 
bars outside the video. 
Solution: Just like with TVs and 
DVDs, there are now camcorders with 
widescreen (16:9) and fullscreen (4:3) 
aspect ratios. You may be able to 
change your camera's aspect ratio set- 
ting to better fit your TV screen, or 
vice-versa, if you don't want to see let- 
terboxed video. 

Problem: Your camera "ate" a tape. 
Solution: This situation reminds us 
why we really don't miss VHS and au- 
diocassettes very much. If you can't 
extricate the loop of tape from the 
camcorder's mechanism without using 
force, cut it. You may be able to pull 
the other end of the tape right out. 
Next, use a tape head cleaner. 

If it's a tape you don't want to 
damage, don't cut it. Take the camera, 
tape and all, to a rep- 
utable repair shop. 

Problem: The tape 
cassette is stuck. 

Solution: DV tape 
cameras are notorious 

Although a steady rest is 

the best cure for shaky 

video, a camcorder's image 

stabilization feature is the 

next best thing. 

for having tricky, delicate carriage 
mechanisms. When you can't eject 
a tape, something in the carriage 
may be bent, in which case you'll 
need repair assistance. 

On the other hand, sometimes a 
camcorder just doesn't have enough 
battery power left to push the tape out 
of the mechanism. Plug in the camera 
with its AC adapter and then try again 
to eject the tape. 

Problem: You're experiencing flash 
and hard drive problems. 

Solution: Sometimes, these storage 
devices develop errors that you can 
correct by running the camcorder's 
Format option. Try to offload any 
video you want to save before you do 
this, however. Some file recovery soft- 
ware may help. 

If a memory card is stuck in the 
camera, such as a microSD card inad- 
vertently inserted in an SD slot without 
the proper adapter, take the camcorder 
to a service center. The same goes for a 
CompactFlash slot should the pins in- 
side it accidentally get bent. 

Proceed With Caution 

Ask a repairman, and he'll likely 
tell you that many a salvageable cam- 
corder has been made worse by the 
owner's attempts to repair it. If you 
have any inkling that what you're 
trying to do to your camera will 
break it even more, stop. It's better to 
lose the use of your camcorder while 
it's in the shop for a few days than to 
lose it for good. II 

by Marty Sems 

Smart Computing / December 2009 83 


Pest Control 

Remove Stubborn Bugs 


Description. The bad news is that, 
once installed, Taterf monitors your 
system and records usernames and 
passwords. The good news is that these 
usernames and passwords are typically 
associated with online gaming accounts 
(better to give up passwords to an 
online gaming account than a financial 
account). Nonetheless, you should 
be concerned whenever your system is 

sending out personal information 
without your knowledge. Further- 
more, according to most reports, Taterf 
has the ability to disable some popular 
antivirus and antispyware applications. 
This worm is sometimes detected as 
PSW.OnlineGames.2.U, worm:win32/ 
taterf.b, Trojan. Packed. NsAnti, or 
Trojan.Win32.Agent.bwaa depending 
on your antivirus software. 

How to tell if Taterf is on your 
system. As with any malware, look for 
suspicious PC activity such as a slow 
system, unnecessary Internet activity, 
and unauthorized changes to your 
Internet home page. Also, watch for de- 
veloping problems with antivirus and 
other security applications. You should 
also watch for error messages such as 
ac Win32/PSW.OnLineGames.ODJ' on 
your machine which may be used to 
steal your World of Warcraft account 
name and password." 

How to remove Taterf with Micro- 
soft's Windows Malicious Software 

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Removal Tool. If you're running Win- 
dows XP, Windows 2000, or newer, then 
Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal 
Tool is likely already on your system 
(assuming you have Automatic Updates 
turned on; if not, you can download the 
software at 
rity/malwareremove). Once installed, 
the software runs quietly in the back- 
ground looking for malicious software. 
If it finds something, it will alert you in 
the Notification Area. 

Should the Malicious Software 
Removal Tool find Taterf on your 
system, it will likely prompt you to per- 
form a full scan of your system that can 
take some time to complete. When 
completed, the software will ask if you 
want to clean/remove infected files. 
Note that, in some cases, this can cause 
data loss and, in some instances, the 
tool may not be able to clean all infected 
files. Finally, you may be asked to per- 
form some functions manually. Just 
follow the instructions provided. 

How to get rid of Taterf manually. 
Warning: Manual removal of Taterf re- 
quires editing the system Registry. Some 
entries in the Registry look similar, so 
follow instructions carefully and be sure 
you're removing the proper key or 
value. Before proceeding, we recom- 
mend backing up your current Registry. 

In Windows Vista, you can start a search by typing a file name in the 
Start Search field at the bottom of the Start menu and pressing 
ENTER. You' II need to check Include Non-Indexed, Hidden, And System 
Files in the Advanced Search features to find the necessary files. 

Once found, you should unregister each DLL file before deleting it. Using 
the Windows Command Line, navigate to the directory containing the 
malicious DLL and use the regserv32 command to unregister it. 

84 December 2009 / 


In the WinXP Start menu, click Run 
and type regedit and press ENTER. If 
you're running Windows Vista or later, 
type regedit in the Start Search field at 
the bottom of the Start menu and press 
ENTER. Click Export in the File menu, 
provide a file name, choose where to 
save it, and click Save. If you encounter 
a problem, you can restore this version 
of your Registry by opening Regedit, 
clicking Import in the File menu, and 
selecting the file you created. 

As always, manual removal is difficult 
and time consuming. Note that not all 
the files below may be present on your 
system, so don't worry if you can't find 
a file or Registry entry. 

We'll start by unregistering and 
deleting related DLL files. In WinXP, 
click Search in the Start menu. Select All 
Files And Folders in the left side of the 
Search window and type pytdfse0.dll. 
Click More Advanced Options and se- 
lect Search System Folders and Search 
Hidden Files Or Folders. In Vista or 
Windows 7, type pytdfse0.dll in the 
Start Search field at the bottom of the 
Start menu and press ENTER. In Vista, 
Click the down arrow near Advanced 
Search in the upper- right corner of the 
Search window and checkmark Include 
Non-Indexed, Hidden, And System 
Files. Click Search to begin the ad- 
vanced search. To search hidden files 
and folders in Win7, click Organize in 
the search windows and select Folder 
And Search Options and the View tab. 
Then click the Show Hidden Files, 
Folders, And Drives radio button. Next 
enter pytdfse0.dll in the search box at 
the top right and press ENTER. 

When the result comes up, note the 
location of the file. In WinXP, click Run 
in the Start menu and type cmd. In 
Vista and Win7, type cmd in the Start 
Search field in the Start menu and press 
ENTER. This will launch the command 
line window. Type cd followed by the 
location of the DLL file noted earlier 
and press ENTER. Now, you can unreg- 
ister the DLL by typing regsvr32 /u 
pytdfse0.dll and pressing ENTER. Once 
you've unregistered the DLL, you can 
return to the Search window, right-click 

Unless you feel 

comfortable paying 

someone for taking over 

your PC 7 we recommend 

you download Symantec's 

Ransomlock Key 

Generator on an 

uninfected PC. Enter the 

code displayed on the PC 

and the key generator will 

return the correct string 

to unlock your PC. 

the file, and select Delete. Repeat the 
process above for the following DLL 
files: amvo0.dll, amvol.dll, avpo0.dll, 
avpol.dll, kavo0.dll, and kavol.dll. 

Finally, delete the Autorun.inf file. 
Autorun.inf is often used on CD-ROMs 
to start an application as soon as you 
insert the CD, but there should not be 
any Autorun.inf files on your system's 
hard drive. You can use the search 
process outlined previously to find the 
file. Once located, you can delete it by 
right-clicking the file name in the 
Search window and selecting Delete. 

The final step is to remove Registry 
keys that Taterf added. Open Regedit as 
outlined in the warning above. Using 
the pane on the left, navigate to the 
Run key. You should see a Taterf- related 
value on the right. Right-click this value 
and select Delete to remove it. 


Description. Unlike some malware 
applications, Ransomlock doesn't try to 
damage your system, delete personal 
files, steal usernames and passwords, 
or even log your every keystroke. None- 
theless, Ransomlock is particularly 
annoying because it completely locks 
you out of your system. Like other types 
of "ransomware," the idea is to hold 
your system hostage. Users have to pay 
for an unlock code to get back into their 
system. Ransomlock will run in Safe 
Mode and it prohibits the use of CTRL- 
ALT-DELETE, meaning your only 

options are to pay, reformat and rein- 
stall Windows, or grab a free, uninfected 
computer and download Symantec's 
unlock code generator. 

How to tell if Ransomlock is on your 
system. Ransomlock isn't subtle. You'll 
know if it's installed on your system be- 
cause you'll be completely locked out of 
your Desktop. Some reports indicate 
an unlock prompt written in Russian. 
Other sites report a gray screen. Re- 
gardless of what the "ransom note" 
might look like, the result is the same: 
You're locked out of your PC. 

How to remove Ransomlock. Sy- 
mantec offers a free key generator for 
Ransomlock. On a spare PC, download 
the Ransomlock Key Generator Tool 
from Symantec at 
Once downloaded, double-click the file 
to run it in the Windows Command 
Line. Enter the code from the infected 
PC in the command line window. 

The input code you get from the in- 
fected PC may be in one of three for- 
mats. You should enter the code as is 
unless the code starts with "K2." If the 
code starts with K2, you'll need to enter 
"4110" followed by the third, fourth, 
sixth, seventh, ninth, and tenth digits. 

After entering the input code in the 
command line window, the key gener- 
ator should provide you with an unlock 
code. Type the code into the infected 
computer. Once you've unlocked the in- 
fected computer, download the latest 
virus updates and run your virus 
scanner to remove Ransomlock. II 

by Chad Denton 

Smart Computing / December 2009 85 


Security & Privacy 

Keeping your information secure in an ever- changing technological world can be 
difficult. Malware is everywhere. Destructive viruses, worms, spyware, and adware 
are lurking in emails we open and Web 
sites we browse. 

Keep up-to-date on the latest security 
news and information with Smart 
Computing. corn's Security & Privacy 
section in the Tech Support Center. 
You'll find articles on spyware, adware, 
and other nuisances such as spam and 
pop-ups. Be sure to check out the Web 
log to find the latest news on viruses, 
worms, phishing, and other important 
security information. 




am „ beta* » ™J'Z^ ?'<*>*"» " ■TmrfTb 


'■ Oji iiliti- 

1 Go to and 
click the Tech Support Center link. 

Security & Privacy 

T """- -•IJ. '• \ - 

, M ilm'-««P nr " : * 0^^ 


| Web Log: 

**<> do »o e „ nl ,n ate malware programs from ^ Mmputer _ 


- .. . 
j a convicted spammer, "" Dated' 10/30/2009 

networking site is hoping ^^ **»« PM 

Click the Security & Privacy link. 

Search articles to find all the security 
information you need. Subscribers, be 
sure to log in so you can add the arti- 
cles to your Personal Library. 

Basic Security S Privacy 

■ ' Hiiarrkflre 

Lilies ^^ 

MaJiciousAds Seyware 

^ Viruses 


■■!'::* > 

Backups & Data Recovery 

Every disk drive in existence w 
■--- -- -.-.-,, 

nuisance— ,,,.; 6 t0l 

stop working one day; count oi 
in your life — or even just a term 's Fun Site Of The Day 

This mouth-watering food blog ( features culinary cre- 
ations from a pastry chef. You'll find enticing recipes with a fair amount of ac- 
companying info from the blog's author. This site is made all the more temping 
by the beautiful photography that highlights the goodies. 

Grace Murray Hopper 

Born this month in 1906, 
Hopper helped, "lay the 
bedrock to modern pro- 
gramming." She also coined 
the term "bug." According to 
the Smart Computing Ency- 
clopedia, upon finding a 
moth, "She and a col- 
league extracted it from 
the machine with a 
pair of 
taped it into the 
logbook, and told 
their supervisor they 
were 'debugging' the 

Q&A Board 

If you're facing a tech sup- 
port issue, you are not 
alone. Subscribers can visit 
the Q&A board at www to 
post questions and view 
answers from fellow Smart 
Computing readers. 

Error Messages 

Error messages 

usually have 



to say, but it's often hard to 

tell just what it is. Visit the 

Error Messages section of the 

Smart Computing Tech 

Support Center to browse 

our error message database 

and start deciphering the 

cryptic note. 

86 December 2009 / 


Fast Fixes 

Compiled by Tessa Warner Breneman 

Adobe Camera Raw 5.5 Update 

Update: This update replaces the initial 
Camera Raw plug-in (which lets users 
with professional cameras edit — yet 
preserve — the original image file) that 
was installed with Adobe Photoshop 
CS4, Adobe Photoshop Elements 7, 
and Adobe Premiere Elements 7. With 
this update, support for the Nikon 
D300s and D3000, Olympus E-Pl, and 
the Panasonic DMC-FZ35 and DMC- 
GF1 has been added. Additionally, it 
corrects the algorithm used to fill in 
color for images missing color samples 
(called the demosaic algorithm) for 
Bayer sensor cameras that don't pro- 
duce green equally. 

Installation: Go to the Adobe product 
updates page ( 
loads/updates) and scroll down until 
you find the Camera Raw 5.5 update. 
Click the Windows link. Once you've 
read all the information on the page, 
click the Proceed To Download button 
in the File Information box. Select the 
Download Now button on the next 
page. Once the file has been down- 
loaded, double-click it and follow the 
on-screen prompts. 
Nero BackltUp Update 5.2.9000 

Update: In addition to gaining com- 
patibility for Windows 7, this new 
update also fixes errors that caused 
application failure. A series of en- 
hancements are also in this update, 
including Autobackup to both local 
hard drives and Nero Online Backup. 
Drive Backup and Drive Restore re- 
ceived performance enhancements, 
as did File Backup, File Restore, and 
Backup Synchronization. 
Installation: To install this update, 
open the Nero home page (www, mouseover the Down- 
loads tab, and then choose Nero 
BackltUp & Burn. On the left side, 

click the Update link and then click 
the Download button. Click Run 
when prompted to do so and then 
follow the on-screen prompts. 

Security Update For The 2007 
Microsoft Office System (KB972581) 

Update: This update patches a vulner- 
ability that could allow a malicious 
program to run on your computer 
once you've opened a program trans- 
formed to cause harm to your PC. 
Installation: First, go to the Microsoft 
Download Center ( 
.com/downloads), type KB972581 into 
the search box, and press ENTER. 
Click the blue link for the update. On 
this page, select the Download button 
and then click Save. Follow the on- 
screen prompts to download the .EXE 
file. Once the file is downloaded to 
your hard drive, double-click the file 
and then follow the on-screen instruc- 
tions to complete the installation. 

iWork 9.0.3 

Update: This update fixes compati- 
bility problems, enhances stability, 
and patches a number of small 
problems with Keynote, Pages, and 
Numbers. For example, it reduces 
the size of image files with Instant 
Alpha applied, and it controls the file 
size when inserting a movie. In 
Keynote and Pages, this update 
makes it easier to work with dates 
and durations in the Chart Data 
Editor. When using the table cate- 
gories in Numbers, this update im- 
proves exporting to CSV. 
Installation: Go to the Apple menu 
on your Mac computer and open 
Software Update. You can either in- 
stall it from this program or go to the 

Apple home page ( 
From the home page, click the 
Support link and then click the 
Support Downloads button in the 
middle of the Support page. Find the 
iWork 9.0.3 update (you may need to 
click Next at the bottom of the page) 
and click the Download button. 
Follow the on-screen instructions to 
complete the installation. 

Fix Of The Month 

iTunes 9.0.1 Update 

Update: The newly released iTunes 
9 has an update designed to fix 
issues, such as problems when 
browsing through the iTunes Store 
and a bug that causes iTunes to be- 
come unresponsive. Additionally, 
the update fixes an issue that 
causes the program to quit unex- 
pectedly, a problem with synchro- 
nizing podcasts in iPod or iPhone 
playlists, and an issue sorting al- 
bums with several discs. 
Installation: From the Apple home 
page (, click the 
Support link at the top of the page. 
Select the Support Downloads 
button in the middle of the Sup- 
port page and then look for the 
iTunes 9.0.1 update (you may need 
to click the Next link toward the 
bottom of the page) and click 
the Download button. From the 
sidebar on the left, click the Down- 
load Now button. (If you use the 
64-bit version of Vista, scroll down 
and click the 64 -bit Installer link in 
the Windows Software section.) 
Choose Run and then Run again 
when prompted. When it's done 
downloading, click Finish. 

Smart Computing / December 2009 87 



Need help with your hardware or software? Looking for simple 
explanations on technical subjects? Send us your questions! 

Get straight answers to your technical questions from Smart Computing. Send your questions, 
along with a phone and/or fax number, so we can call you if necessary, to: Smart Computing 
Q&A, P.O. Box 85380, Lincoln, NE 68501, or email us at q& Please in- 
clude all version numbers for the software about which you're inquiring, operating system infor- 
mation, and any relevant information about your system. (Volume prohibits individual replies.) 


QA program called Total Security popped 
up on my computer telling me it has dis- 
covered many viruses and other problems and I 
need to activate something to save my system. I 
have a full security system that has found no 
such problems. The difficulty is that I cannot 
seem to get rid of this thing. Add Or Remove 
Programs does nothing, and it won't delete. 
How do I get it off my computer? 

A Total Security is a type of malicious soft- 
ware designed to dupe you into pur- 
chasing unnecessary software. Despite the 
alerts it issues, your computer is probably clean 
of any viruses except for the ones that were in- 
stalled by Total Security. Unfortunately, one of 
the actions that Total Security does is termi- 
nating antimalware applications that might be 
useful in blocking or removing this application. 
Because Total Security prevents access to 
many tools that might be useful in cleaning 
your system, you'll need to dive a bit under 
the covers to remove this malware. First 
download Malwarebytes' Anti- Malware (free; You can try to run it 
immediately, but Total Security will probably 

block it. We'll get around this by booting your 
computer into Safe Mode. 

To boot Windows Vista in Safe Mode, 
restart your computer, and while it's re- 
booting, press and continuously tap the F8 
key on your keyboard. Eventually, the 
Windows Advanced Options Menu will be 
displayed. Select Safe Mode, and when 
Windows has finished launching, you should 
be able to run the Malwarebytes' Anti- 
Malware application. Let it clean up your 
system, and then reboot back into normal 
mode by clicking Start, selecting Shut Down, 
and restarting your computer. 

This should result in a system free of Total 
Security. However, your work isn't done! 
Total Security was installed on your system 
because you didn't have a robust enough 
antivirus/anti-malware protection suite. 
Fortunately, protection is becoming more ef- 
fective and inexpensive. Microsoft has recently 
released their excellent Security Essentials suite 
that will protect your system from most types 
of malware. Best of all, it's a free download. 
to download a copy for your computer. I 




I am planning on purchasing a netbook 
but was wondering what changes 
Sows 7 will bring. I also read about Nvidia 
working with the Atom processors to make the 
graphics a little better. Are there changes I 
should wait for before purchasing? 

A We're firm believers in buying com- 
puters when we need them instead of 
waiting for eventual improvements. Com- 
puter technology changes so frequently, that if 
you stood on the sidelines, you'd never find 
"the right time" to purchase a computer. 
With that caveat, here's where we see the net- 
book market progressing. 

First, most netbooks will be using a flavor 
of Linux or Win7 in the near future. Win7 is 
leaner than Windows Vista, and because net- 
books are typically underpowered compared 
to full-fledged notebook computers, the im- 
provement in performance is noticeable. 

Next, netbooks will become larger, more 
powerful, and more "notebook" like. This is 
due to two factors; more powerful compo- 
nents that are simultaneously cheaper and 
user demands for more functionality. One of 
the driving forces behind netbooks was cost 
and portability; now users expect more than 
what the original models delivered. This leads 
inevitably toward the notebook market. 

88 December 2009 / 



Carefully evaluate the array of netbooks 
available, preferably in a hands-on fashion. 
Reading specifications will give you a compar- 
ison between different models, but there's no 
substitute for actually using the netbook. You 

may find that even the most robust netbooks 
have too many tradeoffs for you. Or that the 
latest "whiz-bang" features that push the price 
up aren't as necessary as the manufacturer's 
marketing department would have you think. I 


Ql just got a new Dell desktop with Win- 
dows XP, and I use Outlook Express. 
When I go to spell check, it is in French. I tried to 
change it, but the only language there is French. 

A With the introduction of Office 2007, 
Microsoft has charted a new course away 
from Outlook Express. Outlook Express uti- 
lizes spelling checker files, and these are 
shared with Office. Unfortunately, the 
spelling checker files included with Office 

2007 are incompatible with Outlook Express, 
and the Office 2007 installation process re- 
moves the original files that would have 
worked with Outlook Express. 

Microsoft's recommendation is for users to 
switch to Microsoft's new Windows Live Mail 
application ( If 
you wish to keep using Outlook Express, you 
can download Vampirefo, a free spelling 
checker ( that should re- 
store most of the functionality you'll need. I 


Ql have a system (WinXP) that was in- 
stalled in 2004. 1 wanted to protect all my 
data and programs, so in 2006, 1 bought an 
80GB Seagate external hard drive. I also got 
Acronis Home version 10. 1 have been backing 
up ever since then, but for the first time a week 
or so ago, I did a "verification." In the long veri- 
fication log I found the following message: 
"Acronis True Image Home/' The archive is cor- 
rupted. Image corrupted. Operation has com- 
pleted with errors. 

I have tried to access the Acronis Web site 
but found that because my version is so old, 
there is not a lot of help here. 

A The verification log indicates that your 
backup is corrupt. This doesn't mean 
your data on your computer is damaged, just 
the backup copy on your external hard drive. 
Delete the backup copy and create a new 
backup with Acronis. If problems persist, it 
might be an issue with the Acronis software or 
your external hard drive. 

If you're interested in upgrading to the 
newest version of Acronis' True Image (True 
Image Home 2010; $49.99;, 
Acronis gives existing users a $20 discount. 
You could also try out Todo Backup 1.0 (free; I 



QWhat should I do with old 1.44MB diskettes 
that I no longer need? Some of them have 
personal data on them. I no longer have a floppy 
diskette drive, so I can't erase them or reformat 
the disks. How can I safely get rid of them? 

A Protecting your data is an important 
task for all computer users. And your 
caution with the old "floppy" diskettes is 
warranted. Clever miscreants can easily re- 
trieve data from floppy diskettes, CDs you've 
burned, and hard drives. 

Fortunately, floppy diskettes are easy to de- 
stroy. Simply expose them to a magnet to wipe 
as much data as possible and then physically de- 
stroy the disks. Another option is to break them 
in half and shred the insides. Some paper shred- 
ders can also shred floppy diskettes, but be sure 
to read the shredder manual so you don't inad- 
vertently break it. You don't need to scatter the 
pieces to the four corners of the earth, but it's 
wise to be protective of your data; even old data 
has value and could be used by someone in- 
volved with identity theft. I 

Smart Computing / December 2009 89 




Answers to users' most common questions about GPS 




are usually 



49 feet. 



on your 


you may 

see results 

within 1 6 to 

33 feet. 

p A f>k Why does my GPS device some- 
l/A v^times seem to lag? 

GPS receivers rely on signals coming from 
a system of satellites orbiting above Earth. 
The receiver times how long it takes the 
signal to reach it and determines the distance 
from the satellite to the receiver. Once the 
receiver has done this for at least three satel- 
lites, the receiver can triangulate its latitude 
and longitude. With measurements from 
four satellites, the receiver can determine its 
elevation, as well. 

The problem is the satellite signals require a 
clear line of sight. That means anything that 
gets between you and the satellite can degrade 
the signal. This includes cloud cover, leaves, 
and tall buildings. Tall buildings can pose an 
additional problem called multipath. This oc- 
curs when the signal from a satellite bounces 
off a building. The signal takes longer to reach 
the GPS unit than it should, so calculations 
are thrown off. Degraded signals and multi- 
path problems cause a loss in accuracy. Many 
GPS receivers can give an updated accuracy 
reading based on current conditions. 
p A f*\ Does my GPS know which direo 
l/A v/ tion I'm facing? 

Not really, but it can fake it. A GPS receiver is 
constantly updating your position. By com- 
paring your current position with your past po- 
sition, your GPS has a pretty good idea which 
direction you're facing. If you're able to turn 
around, however, without changing latitude or 
longitude, your GPS won't be of much help. 
Q A (~\ Can a GPS receiver be used to track 
l/A v/ my location? 

GPS- enabled mobile devices with a wireless 
data connection could, in theory, send your 
current location over a wireless network. 
Most GPS receivers, however, only track data 
in local memory. This data can later be trans- 
ferred to a notebook revealing not only where 

you've been, but where you stopped and how 
far you traveled. 

Q A /^\ Is it true the U.S. military intention- 
r/\ V^ ally decreases the accuracy of civilian 
GPS units? 

This used to be true, but it's no longer the 
case. Prior to 2000, the U.S. government 
used a process called SA (Selective Avail- 
ability) to introduce random errors in civil 
GPS units. This resulted in inaccuracies of 
up to 328 feet. In 2000, however, the Clinton 
administration ordered SA turned off, al- 
lowing much greater accuracy in civilian 
GPS receivers. Today, most receivers are 
usually accurate within 49 feet. However, 
depending on your receiver, you may see re- 
sults within 16 to 33 feet. 
p A i^v What is WAAS, and can I use it? 
r/\ V^ WAAS stands for Wide Area 
Augmentation System, and it's composed of 
several ground-based reference stations 
across the United States and two master sta- 
tions on each coast. These master stations 
compile error rates from each reference sta- 
tion and compute a correction message that 
is then transmitted to orbiting satellites. 
WAAS receivers can combine this data with 
the general satellite signal to provide in- 
creased accuracy. Using WAAS, you can in- 
crease accuracy to 10 feet on average, but 
not all receivers support WAAS, and the 
ones that do support it may not have it 
turned on by default. 

" A ^v Are there other ways to approxi- 
r/\ V^ mate my position? 

The same basic process can also be done 
using cell phone towers instead of wireless 
access points or satellites. Some mobile de- 
vices combine all three technologies. Apple's 
iPhone 3GS ($199;, for in- 
stance, can approximate its position using a 
combination of the above technologies. II 

90 December 2009 / 

Action Editor 

Are you having trouble 
finding a product or get- 
ting adequate service 
from a manufacturer? If 
so, we want to help solve 
your problem. Send us 
a description of the 
product you're seeking 
or the problem you're 
having with customer 
service. In billing dis- 
putes, include relevant 
information (such as ac- 
count numbers or screen 
names for online ser- 
vices) and photocopies 
of checks. Include your 
phone number in case we 
need to contact you. 

Letters may be edited 
for length and clarity; 
volume prohibits indi- 
vidual replies. 

Write to: 
Action Editor 
P.O. Box 85380 
Lincoln, NE 68501-5380 

Or send an email to: 

Or fax us at: 

Nuance Issues A Refund & 
Magix Ships A Backup CD 

/ recently purchased PDF Converter 5 Professional 
by Nuance, solely to convert PDF (Portable Doc- 
ument Format) documents to Word. I bought 
the more expensive version on the recommenda- 
tion of the Staples salesman. I'm not satisfied with 
the results of converted documents. I have been in 
touch with Nuance's tech support and submitted 
the converted documents five times at their re- 
peated email requests. Both Staples and Nuance 
refuse to let me return the software. 
Do you have any advice? 

Bradenton, Fla. 

After some digging, Action Editor discov- 
ered that Thomas had been trying to convert 
handwritten notes to editable documents 
using PDF Converter 5 Professional, which 
the program is not able to do. PDF Converter 
5 lets you convert PDF and XPS files to 
Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Power- 
Point), Corel, WordPerfect, and generic 
RTF (Rich Text Format) files. This 
allows you to edit documents, 
which you are unable to do with 
PDF files. Thomas told us that he 
had contacted the Nuance cus- 
tomer service line on a few dif- 
ferent occasions, but he and Nuance 
hadn't come to the conclusion that the 
program had been trying to perform a 
task that it was unable to do until recently. 
Once Thomas had given up on Nuance being 
able to discover the problem for him, he con- 
tacted Action Editor. As Action Editor was 
working with Nuance to discover what the 
problem was, Thomas brought the issue up 
with personnel in the IT department at 
his workplace, and the problem behind 
Thomas's issues was discovered. We con- 
tacted Nuance, which confirmed that the 
PDF Converter 5 Professional is unable to 

convert handwritten documents to an ed- 
itable file. Nuance told the Action Editor that 
they have a 30-day return policy, which they 
were able to extend for Thomas, because he 
was dissatisfied with his product. They had 
his customer service calls on record. How- 
ever, they had no record of Thomas asking 
for a refund, which Nuance said would have 
been granted. Thomas decided to take the re- 
fund for the product. 

On Aug. 20, 1 purchased Xtreme Photostory 8 
Deluxe from Magix online. The download worked 
fine. At the same time, I paid for a CD backup. To 
date, I have received no CD. I have sent repeated 
emails to Magix, but I am always referred to an- 
other department. Finally, on Sep. 29, an email 
stated that I needed to contact its Toronto office as 
it was responsible for sending out the CDs. I then 
mailed a letter on Oct. 2, but have yet to receive a 
CD or a reply to my letter. 

I would appreciate any help that you could give 
to get my backup CD. Thank you. 


Action Editor was able to contact a repre- 
sentative from the Magix Toronto office by 
phone. The representative called us after he 
did some investigating and found out that 
Magix had recently received the letter Joel 
wrote and that the backup CD Joel had or- 
dered had recently been shipped to him. 
Joel let us know that he received the CD. 
According to Magix, the ordered backup CDs 
are sent once per week through the postal 
service. Because they are coming from Can- 
ada, it generally takes about two weeks for 
delivery. This particular CD had to travel all 
the way to Hawaii, which further delayed the 
shipping time. II 

Smart Computing / December 2009 91 

Skip The Trapeze 


T h 

T r e n 

We all have to view PDFs (Portable Document 
Format) from time to time, and along with 
everyone else, I use Adobe Acrobat Reader to 
open and read the documents that come across my email 
and browser. Reader works well enough that I'm willing to 
deal with its constant background presence and endless up- 
dates. I'm not here to knock Reader into the net unless, of 
course, you have suggestions for free and seamless replace- 
ments. Then I'm all ears. 

Every once in awhile, though, most of us encounter a 
need to make our own PDFs. The format is incredibly 
helpful when you want to control the formatting of a docu- 
ment, such as a resume or a newsletter. It's also useful in 
preventing casual editing of important documentation. It's 
much harder to edit a PDF (by accident or by design) than 
to change a Word document. PDFs also generally offer 
better compression than other formats for documents with 

lots of graphics, especially when you're dealing with images 
embedded in word-processing docs or spreadsheets. Finally, 
PDFs offer near-universal compatibility. Almost everyone 
has Acrobat Reader, so you won't have to worry about 
whether a client has the right version of PowerPoint to see 
your presentation. 

When the need strikes, most people either shell out a few 
hundred bucks for Adobe Acrobat, hunt down a friend with 
a copy installed, or just give up on the idea. One alternative 
I've used in the past is a scanner. Most software bundled 
with scanners offers the option to save scanned material in 
PDF format. So, if you have a party invite or budget report 
that you want to preserve or protect, you can print a hard 
copy and pass it through your scanner into PDF format. 
Make sure to print and scan at high resolutions to limit 
degradation of quality. It's not the most elegant of solu- 
tions, but for a long time, it was about the only use I got out 
of my scanner. 

A couple years ago, I discovered an even better solution: 
freeware. One nice thing about PDF is that it's an open 
format; other applications (besides Acrobat) can create PDF 
files, as well. Some, like the Acrobat application itself, offer 
premium features such as collaborative document reviewing 
and page bookmarking for a price (anywhere from $100 to 
$300). However, there are several upstarts happy to provide 
free basic functionality to those of us 
who only need to create simple PDFs 
every once in awhile. 

My personal standby is PrimoPDF 
(free; The pro- 
gram is free for personal use, it pro- 
vides a variety of output options 
(including screen, print, or high reso- 
lution), and it installs as if it were a 
printer. One nice thing about the "virtual 
printer" model is that the software only runs 
when you need it. It's as easy to use as a printer, too. 
Just select PrimoPDF instead of your normal printer. The 
program loads, you pick a destination path for the file, and 
anything you print will come out as a PDF. 

I'm sure there are other options out there, and perhaps 
even some better ones. What have you found? II 

by Gregory Anderson 

92 December 2009 / 


May I Have The Definition Please? 

Technology can be easy to use and understand, but sometimes the language is not 
so easy to decipher. Because computers and technology have become such a huge 
part of our everyday lives, the noncomputer-programmers among us need to be 
able to speak the same language. So, if you're not quite sure what a zombie or a pe- 
ripheral is, you can search's Dictionary/Encyclopedia and 

find out. This online 
dictionary provides 
plain-English defini- 
tions of hundreds of 
terms, abbreviations, 
and acronyms. This 
link also includes an 
encyclopedia that of- 
fers in-depth descrip- 
tions of terms you're 
likely to encounter. 

1 Log on to SmartComputing. 
com and click the Comput- 
ing Dictionary & Encyclo- 
pedia link on the blue menu 
on the left side and start ex- 
panding your vocabulary 

2 Search the alphabet for the 
term you're looking for or 
use the Search box to find 
words that contain, begin 
with, or exactly match the 
term you're searching for. 



Smart Computing Dictionary/Encyclopedia - 
Browse Dictionary/Encyclopedia 

View terms starting with... 

[J Ul U U U Ml ['] U I:] [.'] U LIUl L-! U I 1 [ H 1 LI L 1 [:.] [.] U L 1 U ['. J [..] [ 1 [.-■] 
[Q] El [£] [I] [[..] [v] u u U H 

Enter search informatior 

is the Search button. 

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SmartComputing' s Daily Fun Fact & Stat 

More Than They Love Coffee 

Thirty percent of respondents in a recent SPAMfighter survey reported they'd 
give up their morning coffee if it meant they could also avoid spam, and 18% 
said they'd forgo vices such as happy hour drinks to avoid the unwanted 
emails. Fifty-five percent reported they were frustrated by spam, and half ad- 
mitted that it even made them physically angry. 
One In 226 Million 

Internet services company 
Netcraft reported that the 
number of Web sites on the 
'Net surpassed 100 million 
two years ago this month. 
As of September 2009, Net- 
craft says, there are more 
than 226 million sites. 


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SmartComputing / December 2009 93 


Each month, the Smart Computing staff gets to work with all kinds of new computing and con- 
sumer electronics products. Here are some noteworthy items that recently crossed our desks. 

Compiled by Joshua Gulick 


$349.95 I Nikon 

The COOLPIX S70 takes great pic- 
tures, but what I like most about the 
camera is its display. Unlike most 
pocket cameras, the S70 doesn't have 
any buttons on its back. Instead, it 
has a larger than normal display that 
entirely fills the back of the camera. 
Thanks to the big display, I can easily 
see the picture I'm about to take. 

Of course, there's more to the dis- 
play than that. It's also a touchscreen, 
which means I can take pictures and 
edit them by taping it or gesturing with my 

fingers. Swipe two fingers across the screen, watch your pictures spin past, 
and tell me that's not fun. 

Swipe two fingers across the screen, watch your pictures 
spin past, and tell me that's not fun. 

iMo Foto Frame Printer 

$229.99 I Mimo Monitors I 

The iMo Foto Frame Printer solves a 
problem that's increasingly common these 
days. A friend or family member is enjoying 
the photos on your digital photo frame 
when she asks "Hey, can you print that 
picture for me?" 

If you have the new iMo, there's no 
scrambling to dig up that photo from your 
PC's archives. Instead, you simply press a 
button and hand your friend her new print. 
What makes the iMo particularly neat is 
that it stores the ink and photo paper in a 
single cartridge. Each cartridge produces 
36 bright, quality prints. 

What makes the iMo particularly neat is that it stores the 
ink and photo paper in a single cartridge. 

DigiGone Secure Mobile 

$299 per year I Diginonymous 

If you're looking for a way to hold 
secure calls over the phone, 
DigiGone Secure Mobile is worth 
a look. The software, which 
downloads and installs to your 
Windows Mobile-based smart- 
phone in less than five minutes, is 

the sort of thing you'd expect to 
see on James Bond's phone. It lets 
you speak to your fellow Digi- 
Gone subscribers over an en- 
crypted connection. 

During your call, you'll have ac- 
cess to an encrypted chat room, 
so you can type messages when 
you prefer not to speak. (That's a 
particularly useful feature to have 
when you're in an airport lobby.) 
You can also share pictures and 
files with the other people in your 
call, knowing that the transmis- 
sions are safe. Diginonymous also 
offers an Digigone Secure Video 
Chat for users who want to see 
their contacts. 

94 December 2009 / 

v»iw #il v f Ayr * 





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