How To Close Applications in Windows 8

This is the fifth video in our new series on Windows 8.

Closing applications in the Desktop view of Windows 8 behaves just as we would expect. However doing so on the Metro side is different.

This video demonstrates how to close applications in both views of Windows 8.

Here is Video Number 5:

Link to Download the Reference Card

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Windows 8 How To Series – Creating a Shortcut

This is the fourth video in our new series on Windows 8.

Windows 8 has made creating a shortcut to an application more difficult. It now involves switching between the Metro and Desktop views.

This video demonstrates how to use a hotkey combination to locate an application. Then you will learn how to pin a shortcut to the task bar or place one on the desktop.

Here is Video Number 4:

Link to Download the Reference Card

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Windows 8 How To Series – Restore Familiar Desktop Icons

This is the third video in our new series on Windows 8.

Windows 8 removes the Start Button from the desktop. This means that shortcuts and icons will be back in vogue again.

The method to put icons on the desktop is basically the same as in Windows 7 but you might not have used it because it was so easy to go places with the Start button and the menus.

This video will refresh your memory on how to do this simple task.

Here is Video Number 3:

Link to Download the Reference Card

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Windows 8 How To Series – The Charms Bar

This is the second video in our new series on Windows 8.

Windows 8 introduces a new concept called the Charms Bar. The bar is common to both the traditional Desktop view and the new Metro view.

This video introduces the new Charms Bar and the Charms located on it. It also demonstrates new shortcuts that will make things easier for you.

Here is Video Number 2:

Link to Download the Reference Card

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Windows 8 How To Video Series – Show the Desktop

This is the first video in our new series on Windows 8.

When you first see Windows 8, it may seem very unfamiliar to you. In this video series we will be showing you tips and techniques to use so Windows 8 becomes much more comfortable for you to use.

The first video introduces the new Metro Start screen and the Windows 8 version of the desktop. You will learn how to easily switch between the two screens.

Here is Video Number 1:

Link to Download the Reference Card

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Up Again and Looking to the Future

Greetings to all!

I’m sorry that I have been neglecting this for some time now. That is about to change.

I have started to be more involved with videos and will be turning this blog into a combination of the written word and YouTube videos.

I have just released a new video on Protecting Your Computer from Threats hosted on YouTube.

It will lead you to our recommended software to keep threats off of your computer and introduce you to a wonderful website where you can download over 90 free software programs and install all of them with a single click. Here is the video:

Link to gain access.

Since Windows 8 is now out, I will be creating several tutorial videos that will help you get familiar with the new look and feel of Windows. I will start posting them in December of this year.

It is great to be back.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!


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Cloud Computing

Up in the Clouds

There is a lot of buzz today about the “Cloud.”   What is this exactly and how can it work for you?  This article will answer those and other questions.

The History

For decades now the Internet has been depicted in drawings as a cloud:


Every time you use your browser to explore the Internet you are connecting to this “Internet Cloud.”  A server somewhere in the world is hosting the website that appears on your computer screen.

So why use the cloud symbolism?  Since you don’t know exactly where the server is located (and don’t really care) the cloud represents the mysterious connection between your computer and that server.

In the years before telecommunication satellites, our telephone system was a huge wired network that connected the whole country.  A call placed in Seattle to a phone in New York City would travel a route across the country that might pass through Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha, Chicago, and Cleveland before reaching New York City.  The next time it might first connect to Los Angeles and then follow a completely different route.  We could have used a Cloud to represent this network as well.

What Can You Do in the Cloud?

Since you are reading this article, you are already using the cloud. If you use a backup service such as Mozy ( ) or Carbonite ( ), you are storing that backup data in the cloud.

Traditionally, you have bought software that you install locally on your computer and create files that are also stored locally.

You can now purchase something called Software as a Service (SaaS) which means you connect to the cloud and run software located there.  This is a pay-as-you-go type of system with a monthly fee instead of up front expense.  You also don’t need to install updates or buy new versions in the future. Google Apps ( ) and Microsoft Cloud Computing ( ) can give you a good overview of this concept.  Businesses can use a product like QuickBooks Online ( ) to handle their accounting needs.

You can also share information stored in the cloud with others.  This usually comes in the form of photographs shared on a website.  You can use a free product called Dropbox ( to share any type of file.  This is helpful when you have a large file that e-mail might not handle adequately.

Things to Consider

This sounds great but are there things that should concern you?

All of this depends on a high-speed internet connection. I advise getting the highest speed connection available, if you want to pursue this technology. However, when your connection goes down, you are dead in the water until it returns.

The provider’s service must be up and running.  You will be out of luck until it comes back online.

Performance is determined by the connection speed.  For example, backing up your entire computer can take up to several days to complete.  Bringing back the information can be equally slow. For this reason, I recommend maintaining a local backup on an external drive as additional protection.

Since your information is “out there” somewhere that is not under your direct control, be sure to investigate and be comfortable with the security provided by the supplier.


This technology is changing every day and is well worth checking into regularly to see what is new and if it would work for you.

Disclaimer:  I do not receive any compensation from products mentioned in this article.

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Perk Up Your Hard Drive

Perk Up Your Hard Drive

Is your computer slowing down?  Is it acting sluggish?  This article covers some simple steps you can take to take to speed things up a bit.  You can remove some unneeded files and also optimize the storage on your hard drive.

General File Cleanup

As you use your computer, many temporary files are created that do not need to remain on the system.  To clean these up:

  1. Open My Computer on your desktop.
  2. Right-click on the Local Drive C:  icon and select Properties.

  1.  You will now see this dialog box:

  1. Click on the Disk Cleanup button.  After a few minutes, you will see:

  1. This box shows you what files can be safely removed. Check the boxes you want and click the OK button.
  2. If you have other Local Disks listed, follow these steps for those drives.

You should do this periodically to free up disk space on the PC.

Temporary Internet Files

If you browse the web a lot, a great many temporary files will accumulate on the hard drive.  To deal with this, you must open Internet Options from either the Control Panel or by selecting it from the Tools menu in Internet Explorer.

  1. When you open it, you will see this dialog box:

  1. Click on the Delete… button. In Internet Explorer 8, you will see the following:

  1. Check the boxes that you want to remove and click on the Delete button.

If you use the Internet heavily, you should do this every week or so.


So what does this term really mean?

When Windows stores files on the hard drive it breaks them down into small blocks that are then stored on the drive. When you open a file, the system gathers up all the pieces and puts them in the correct order for you.  When a drive is brand new, these blocks are all adjacent to one another and gathering them is quick.  However, as you add and delete files blank spaces open up on the drive.  This is where the problem starts. Windows tries to fill open spaces first before going to a new area on the drive where the blocks can be stored next to each other.

If that sounds confusing, let’s use a simple analogy to clear things up.  Picture an old time post office with 100 boxes arranged 10 boxes wide by 10 boxes high.  We want to store a file that is 5 boxes big.  On a new drive, they would go in boxes 1 through 5. However time has passed and we have been adding and deleting files.  This time the system puts the pieces in boxes 1, 33, 75, 22, and 99. You can see that more time and effort is needed to gather them.  This is what we call file fragmentation.

So what is defragmentation?  There is a utility in Windows that will take the blocks of all the fragmented files and put them in the proper order next to each other.  This is defragmentation.

Windows 7 and Vista automatically defragment the hard drive on a regular basis but Windows XP does not.  So how do we find this utility?

For Vista and Windows 7, click on the Start circle and type defrag in the search box that appears. Click on Disk Defragmentation in the list to open the program. Here you can change the schedule, analyze, or manually defragment the drive.

In XP, click on the Start button, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and finally Disk Defragmenter.

This would be a very good candidate for a shortcut on the desktop.  To do that, right-click on Disk Defragmenter, select Send To, and then Desktop (create shortcut).

When you open the utility in Windows XP, you will see this screen:

You can click on the Analyze button to view a status report and then choose to defragment the drive. You could also click on the Defragment button to run the process immediately.  You need at least 15% free space to properly run the process.  This is why we must clean up the unneeded files first.

I would run this at least every month or so to keep things running smoothly.  If the fragmentation is 25% or greater, you will see a marked improvement in performance afterwards.


If you have never done this on your PC, you will be amazed at the results.  When you do this regularly, the computer will run much more smoothly and efficiently.

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Android Smart Phone

Droid Does

About six months ago I made a couple of major changes in the area of my business cell phone.  I changed carriers and also switched from a Pocket PC platform to a Motorola Droid on the Android platform.  I have been very pleased with the result and will share some of my experiences and purchases in this article.


Six months ago when I started with the Droid, there were fewer than 10,000 applications for the platform.  There are now over 100,000 and it just keeps growing.  Here are some of my favorite apps that I use regularly.

Advanced Task Killer lets you stop programs from running in the background. This saves on battery consumption.

Adobe Reader lets you read PDF files.

Amazon lets you order and track purchases on your phone.

AndroidTapp RSS Reader lets you keep up on current events on their web site (see Information Resources below).

ASTRO lets you see and manage the files on your Droid.

BatteryTime provides information on the current battery status.

COL Reminder lets you set reminders for phone calls and parking.  This has saved me numerous parking tickets.

Documents To Go lets you works with Microsoft Office Document on the Android.

Droid Life keeps you up to date with the Droid-Life web site (see Information Resources below).

Dropbox provides a repository for files on the Internet. You can share files between PCs and phones.

GbaHours works with QuickBooks for time tracking. This is great for consultants with billable hours to keep track of.

Grocery IQ is your shopping list companion.

Kindle lets you preview and read Amazon Kindle offerings.

Lookout provides security for your phone.

PdaNet lets you tether your phone to a laptop via USB or Bluetooth for Internet connectivity.

RedBoxer helps you find and reserve movies at those RedBox movie kiosks.

Remember the Milk keeps me up to date on my task lists (see my article on Productivity).

Tasker sets up various profiles for the phone. I use this to conserve battery life by turning components like wireless, Bluetooth, GPS, and screen intensity on or off depending on where I am.

Vlingo lets you use give voice instructions to the phone and dictate into it. It can also read incoming messages to you while you are driving.

Some of these are paid apps but many are free. You can find them by searching in the Android Market on your phone.


When I used a Pocket PC, I had trouble making it through the day on a single battery charge.  With this in mind, I purchased a second battery for the Droid which I have found quite useful. 


To keep my batteries charged, I bought a charging dock stand that charges both the phone and the spare battery at the same time. It also puts the phone into docked mode.


To protect the Droid I have a suede-like sleeve that also keeps the screen amazingly clean.


I want to have the phone handy while driving so I have a wonderful vehicle mount from ProClip.  You order this in two parts, one that matches your vehicle and the other matches the phone.  Best of all, this holder actually looks like it belongs in the car and wasn’t just tacked on.


Of course I also have a Bluetooth headphone so I can answer calls without pulling out the Droid. I use one from Plantronics.

Information Resources

Since the Android environment is increasing exponentially, it pays to have reliable places to go to keep up on what is going on.

Droid Life provides general information on current events with an emphasis on the Droid market.


Android Life is a new blog by the same people as Droid Life but covers the Android platform in general.


Android Tapp is a good resource with general information and reviews on software for the Android market.



I hope that some of these comments will save you time and help you to enjoy your Droid to its fullest.

Disclaimer:  I do not receive any compensation from products mentioned in this article.

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Keyboard Shortcuts

Mixing the Old with the New

Did you know there are a host of time-saving shortcuts built into their computer keyboard?  This article will introduce you to these great little tools to help you be more efficient with the PC.

The History

When the IBM Personal Computer came on the scene in the early 1980’s, the computer mouse did not exist.  All interaction with the computer was done through the keyboard.  The display screens were mostly text based with fields for data entry.  The cursor moved from field to field with the aid of the Tab key.  You navigated through parts of an application by using a series of menus. This was slow and tedious.

Since the computer keyboard had special keys like the Ctrl, Esc, Alt, and Function keys, programmers developed shortcuts using key combinations to perform repetitive tasks more quickly.

The Present

The mouse and the graphical interface are now familiar and commonplace to all of us.  Most of us take it for granted that the mouse is how you get things done.  For example, if you want to select all of the text in a document you probably do one of the following:

  • Hard Way – Click the mouse at the beginning of the document, hold down the left button, and drag the mouse to the bottom of the document.
  • Better Way – Click the mouse on the File Menu and choose Select All.

Did you know that you can do the same thing by simply pressing two keys on the keyboard?  That is what this article is about.

The Shortcuts

Most of these shortcuts involve using the Ctrl key located at the lower left corner of the keyboard.

Acting on text or files and folders:  


Selects (highlights) all the text or files and folders in a window.


Copies the selected text or files and folders to the clipboard.


  Pastes the content of the clipboard at the cursor location.


Cuts (removes) the highlighted text or files and folders and places them in the clipboard.



Undoes the last action such as copy, cut or paste.

Working with documents:


Boldfaces highlighted text.



Italicizes highlighted text.


Underlines highlighted text.



Opens the Find Text Dialog Box.



Opens the Replace Text Dialog Box.



Opens the Printer dialog box.


Saves the current document.

  Working on the desktop:

      Opens the Windows Start Menu.


Minimizes all open windows and shows the desktop.


  Opens a Windows Explorer window.



Opens the Task Manager Dialog Box.


Any of these will help you work much more efficiently and quickly with the computer.

If you happen to be in the Kalispell, MT area, please stop by our office and pick up a free reference card highlighting many of these shortcuts.

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