Tips and Tricks

From the meeting of Branch 129’s SIR Computer User’s Group for January 2006

Fred Skill, Chairman

Here are the Tips and Tricks and solutions we covered...


A cool site that was found to be interesting

Does it Work? Product Testing…

There are a lot of products that are sold on TV, and I often find myself wondering if they actually work. Don’t you? Well, thanks to the news team at KRBC, we can find out with their “Does it Work”? section. They test the products and let you know how they really work.

Not only do they review "As Seen on TV" items, they also test things you can find in your local grocery store like Glad Wrap Press ‘n Seal, which I could not live without. We’ll start our exploration of this site on the archive page. It will be easier to surf through the entire site this way, plus you can see the newest editions to each section here.

Everything is neatly divided into these categories for your easy exploration: Automotive Care, Cleaning Products, Cooking Helpers, Electronics, Garden Hardware, General Products, Household Products and Personal Care.

Automotive Care – Here you will find reviews on Ding King, Fix a Flat and GS 27, just to name a few.

Cleaning Products – Here you will find reviews on products like Easy Off Microwave Wipes, Power Paste, Greased Lightning and Zap.

Cooking Helpers – From knives to cookware to kitchen gadgets, you’ll find it here. Find out if they really work.

Electronics – See what they have to say about the Universal Ink Jet Refill Kit, the CellPod and the EZ CD Scratch Remover. Plus, read reviews on several other products that are supposed to make your life easier, but do they?

There are a lot of great product reviews waiting for you at this site. Find out if it really works before you even think about buying.


Quick E-mail Sorting and yes we have covered this before...

How many e-mails do you get in one day?  I get about 50 to 60 every day, so I definitely use this tip, and I’m sure you can probably put it to good use as well! So you sit down at your computer, preparing to sort through a huge list of e-mails while wishing you knew of a quick way to find the specific one you need, right?

Well, put on a happy face and smile because there is!

To get MS Outlook or Outlook Express to sort e-mail, all you have to do is click!

When you're looking at your inbox, do you see the column titles at the top, the ones that label the columns From, Subject, Received, etc?

Simply click on the column title you wish to sort by.

You should notice a little arrowhead appear in the title bar, which indicates the direction of sorting.

An arrow pointing up will sort messages ascending (A to Z or oldest date to newest).

An arrow pointing down will sort messages descending (Z to A or newest date to oldest).

One click and you're on your way to finding that one specific e-mail ASAP!


Second Sort Criteria in MS Outlook...

Most of us know how to sort e-mail messages in Outlook by clicking on the column heading of the field to use as the sort criteria (see Tip above).

An up arrow is sorting messages in ascending order and a down arrow sorts in descending order based on the data in the column you chose.

But did you ever find yourself wishing for a way to sort by two criteria instead of one?

Maybe you receive a lot of messages from the same person and you want your messages sorted not only by who sent it, but also by when it was received, so you can quickly find the newest message. If you've tried to do this before, you've probably clicked on the From column heading then clicked on the Received column heading, only to be disappointed that it doesn't allow for a two column sort…or does it?

Actually, Outlook will allow for a multiple column sort if you know about the magic key. (OK - so it's not magic but when you get one of these programs to easily cooperate, it sometimes feels that way).

Anyway, what you're looking for here is the Shift key.

To do a multiple column sort of your messages in Outlook, click first on the column heading of the primary sort criteria. (Double-click if you need to switch between ascending and descending).

Now, hold down the Shift key and click on the column heading of your secondary sort criteria. (Clicking multiple times will switch the sort order back and forth).

Voila! You can sort a little bit of this and a little bit of that in MS Outlook with just a little help from the Shift key!

                                                                                       Or 1-800-free-411

This is for free phone information either from your phone with the 1-800-free-411 or via the internet with these allow you to get a phone number free anywhere in the United States.  As 411 assistance cost from $1.25 to $2.25 this is a real cost saver.  And you can use it via your cell phone and they will connect you also.


Scroll wheel for Power Point Presentations...

As we seem to be getting more and more Power Point Presentations via e-mails I thought this little tip might be helpful.  Instead of waiting for the time to pass to have the presentation go forward you can click anywhere in the image area to flip forward or look at the bottom left of the screen for control buttons.  Even better use the scroll wheel on your mouse to go back and forward through the presentation.


Spam Filter...

Check out this software, it is free.

 If you don't have a spam filter, I can recommend SPAMfighter. It is a highly effective free spam filter for Outlook and Outlook Express.   John Aubuchon passed this one on to me and boy is this neat.  It uses a data base of spam to find and block spam in you incoming e-mails and place them in a spam fighter file so you can review them at your leisure and decide if you want to unblock them or delete them.  And it you receive an e-mail that you want to block just go up to the menu at the top of the screen and chose the block button and voila it drops to the spam fighter file and so will all the future e-mails from that sender.

You can get the free SPAMfighter here:


Magical maps…

The Internet is a convenient place to get maps and driving directions. I've been using online map services for years.

But lately, map sites have improved dramatically. And if you're not using these services, you're really missing out.

The other day, I needed to give a friend directions to my house.   Rather than do it over the phone, I went to Microsoft's Live Local site. After I generated driving directions. I e-mailed a link so she could pull them up.

My friend was amazed by my powers. I wonder when he'll realize that Live Local puts these powers at anyone's fingertips.  The next thing that I did was go to the site and find my sister’s house in Ventura, CA and put a “Push Pin” in the location on the map and label it as her house and then send her the link.  I got any e-mail back wondering how I did that as she just tapped on the link and there was a map with a push pin where her house sat and a label saying here name lives here.



Clever is good…

Let's face it. We all could use a little extra help sometimes. This is especially true when it comes to finding information.

That's why I use CleverKeys. It's a nifty little tool that puts definitions, synonyms and facts at your fingertips. You can also use it to search the Web or find products on

Once you install the free program, it runs in the background. When you find a word you want to look up, highlight it. Then press Ctrl + L. Your Web browser will take you to the word's definition.

If you need more options, press Ctrl + M after highlighting the word. Then you're presented with a few choices. Now that is clever, isn't it?



Here are some things we didn’t go over as time was running out...



Getting Help With Specific Malware...

Although I'd love to help you with your malware problem, I’m not the expert in that field.  When people ask, I recommend one of these websites; the people there can probably help:


Digital Photos....

Now that Christmas is over and you have a new digital camera or you have a digital camera full of photos here is four great (and free) photo programs to help you share them with others.

Most digital cameras come with basic software that helps organize and manipulate photos. However, those programs tend to be limited. Before you spend a fortune rectifying that problem, check out free programs.

Some are excellent.

Here are four to get you started:

1. Photo organizer. So where did you put that picture of the elephants? You may have thousands of pictures on your computer's hard drive. Finding the one you want without a good organizer like Google's Picasa2 can be problematic.

When you start Picasa2 ; Windows only), it will search your hard drive or just designated folders. In addition to pictures, it searches for video. The process is quick, even on large hard drives.

Captions and labels are easily added to pictures. This helps you go back later and find particular shots. The search function is powerful. You can search for a date, a name, a label, a keyword, the kind of camera you took a picture with and even a color.

You can also browse pictures by using the timeline. A button on the bottom of the screen allows you to scroll across folders organized by date. Double-clicking on any album found in the timeline automatically starts a slide show.

Picasa2 also has other functions. It contains basic image-editing tools and the ability to create slide shows. And it will burn your pictures onto CDs. But Picasa2 is strongest as an organizer.

2. Advanced image editing. Adobe Photoshop CS2 is extremely popular with professional and serious amateur photographers. However, its $650 price tag leaves it out of range for many. That's where GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) comes into play.

GIMP (; Windows, Mac OS X) is an extremely powerful digital image-editing program. By adding layers to an image, you can radically alter an image's original state. It also has a host of filters. These will remove dust or scratches from a scanned image, sharpen or blur an area, and more. There are dozens more tools, too numerous to describe here.

GIMP has a steep learning curve and its manual is not deep. Advanced users might be happiest with it.

3. Easy image editing. Advanced editors are great, but sometimes all you want to do is click a button to remove red eye. Paint.NET (; Windows only) makes it easy to Remove red eye, crop images, change image size and create really cool effects. And you won't have to take a class to figure it all out.

Paint.NET does a fine job of balancing advanced features with ease of use. For example, want to turn your snapshot of a sunset into a painting? Just click on the "oil painting" effect. And it even more creativity: You can change the brush size and coarseness of the effect.

 One of the best features is that the various windows, such as tool bars and color wheels, turn transparent when not in use. You can easily see and edit your image, no matter how cluttered your workspace.

 4. Stitch it up. Have you ever wished you could piece together a series of shots, like a parade, into one large picture? AutoStitch (; Windows only) Will take multiple pictures and create a two-dimensional panorama.

 AutoStitch does everything automatically, with surprisingly good results. Select the files you want sewn together, and the program does the rest. AutoStitch does allow you to change the output size, blending methods and quality settings. But a little tweaking is necessary to create a good panorama.


Clean up outdated bookmarks/favorites…

AM-DeadLink from Martin Aignesberger

AM-DeadLink is a handy little program that can help you clean up your Internet browser bookmarks (a.k.a. Favorites). It will check through your entire bookmark list and make sure that each one is still connected to a working Web page. Then you can erase the dead links, the bookmarks that connect to pages that have been moved or taken down.

AM-DeadLink also checks for redundant copies of bookmarks so you can clear them out as well. You can use AM-DeadLink whether you've got Internet Explorer or Firefox. It will also work with bookmarks from Mozilla and Opera.

Requirements: Windows 98/2000/ME/XP
Cost: Free


Speaking of favorites-


At a function I was asked by one of our members... The question was how can he make a back up on his Internet Favorites. He lost his Favorites in the past, and wants to make sure it doesn't happen again. So he would like to back them up.

 Well, backing up your Favorites isn't too difficult. This is a handy tool when you want to remember a Web site. The address is stored for easy retrieval later.

 In Internet Explorer, click File>>Import and Export. Click Next in the Wizard window. Select Export Favorites and click Next. Select the Favorites folder and click Next.

 Specify the name and location for your file and click Next. Finally, click Finish. A file containing all your Favorite links will be created. You can share it with others or store it – just in case.

 Restoring your Favorites is just as easy. Click File>>Import and Export. Click Next in the Wizard window. Select Import Favorites and click Next. Select the "Import from a File or Address." Use the Browse button to locate the backup file. Click Next.

 Select Favorites and click next. Click Finish to finalize the restore.  You're given notification when it is complete.


My WiFi Zone…

I have done many articles over the years on how to spot and properly defend you local area network from intruders. I have described everything from what to do with firewall hits, viewing router logs, locking down your wireless network, and even how to securely use Hot Spots. However, I have yet to run across a good program that can help you monitor what’s happening on your wireless networks. Until now...

This week I ran across a little gem of a program that will help you keep an eye on who’s using or attempting to use your wireless connection without your consent or knowledge. This issue has been the focus of many legal debates lately. Should it be legal to connect to your neighbor’s wireless network when they in fact are the ones broadcasting the signal onto your property? I don’t feel that this is right, but it goes on. In fact, it goes on everyday, as more and more end-users have WiFi capability.

Over the past two to three years, the number of wireless networks in homes is seriously on the rise, and according to McAfee, 20 to 60 percent of these networks are completely unsecured. I have personally noticed that between home and here at the office, there have been several new wireless networks broadcasting their SSID all over the place (300 to 500ft), and if you have a wireless network, there’s a possibility you're doing it right now too.

With today’s Security Article, rightly named My WiFi Zone, you can obtain the access to drop any potential wireless trespassers. Every time a new system attempts to access your network, a small balloon will pop up in the lower right hand corner of your desktop alerting you of the actions taking place. You can quickly scrutinize any connection attempts by viewing the information in this pop up and comparing it to the information of the systems you are responsible for. If you choose not to authorize this unknown entity attempting to gain access to your network, then simply select Deny from the pop up window and bingo-bango, this party crasher is stopped cold.


Everyone using a wireless router should have some sort of WiFi monitoring software on his or her system, and with My WiFi Zone, you get this protection for free. So protect yourself from WiFi interlopers with My WiFi Zone. It’s easy to use and free. Now that’s a deal.

Here are those "My WiFi Zone" raw links to check out:

-Former articles done on WiFi defense and other related links:

-Link to "My WiFi Zone" download: