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Mysticgeek

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

For those of you still running XP you might be looking for ways to improve the XP experience.  One of the better ways to add unique features to the OS is installing Power Toys.  These are add on programs that Microsoft developers have designed after the XP release.  These have been around for several years, and are proven to work.  Although Microsoft does not “officially support” them.  I thought I would highlight a few of my favorites.

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OpenDNS is an incredible alternative to your ISP DNS server.  Simply put DNS (Domain Name System) translates IP address to easy to remember hostname’s. Not only will OpenDNS make your browsing faster, there are a lot of additional features provided by this free service. 

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The first thing you need to do is download AppleWin 1.14.0  This is a zip file so just go ahead and extract it where you like.  I just put it on my desktop.  Open the folder and double click on the AppleWin.exe icon to launch the emulator.  To start the virtual machine click on the Apple button on the upper right side.

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Personally the only time I use Internet Explorer anymore is if I am downloading Windows updates or a certain page doesn’t pull up correctly with Firefox.  Speaking of that … there is a great Firefox extension for just such a situation IE Tab. 

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So you’re not able to get on the Internet or connect to your home or office network?  Here are a few basic command line tools you can use to help pinpoint the problem.

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This article was written by MysticGeek, a tech blogger at the How-To Geek Blogs.

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Since my anti-iTunes rant, I have been trying out different audio players.  I have been using Foobar2000 for a few months now and it has been pretty solid for me so far.  I have come across a new player to try out called Spider 2.0 which seems quite promising so far.  Where a lot of players EQ presets sound less than desirable, Spider 2.0 impressed me.  Of course you can always set the EQ manually for perfect tweaking.  There are a number of skins available from their website as well.  Spider 2.0 basic is free and does the only function not available is converting or ripping multiple tracks at once.  If you need to rip more than one track at a time you can upgrade to the pro version. 

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According to Microsoft’s own knowledge base there are several issues with the Indexing Service used in XP to provide the so called “faster searching”. I believe there is a good deal of resources used to run the indexing service that reduce performance of XP. Also, the benefit you get from it is questionable at best. So, lets go ahead and turn it off. If you find no noticeable improvement you can always turn it back on.

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Scanning your PC for spyware can be a boring process.  Well there is a cool “Easter egg” in Spybot Search and Destroy which allows you to play a game of removing squares to reveal a painting by Leonardo da Vinci.  This works in Spybot Search & Destroy 1.4

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Green Computing is all the rage now, I thought I would share some useful tips on saving electricity with PC’s.  I manage around 100 PC’s where I work and I set each new PC I roll out to utilize XP’s power management.  Since our company still utilizes XP Professional the following examples are using Windows XP.  The process if fairly similar in Vista as well.

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The disk defrag utility included in XP is painfully slow and the one in Vista is atrocious.  Sure sure they will do the job, but why wait around and deal with Windows’ clunky utility when you can download Auslogics Disk Defrag for free.

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Most of us already know to update Windows OS’s on a regular basis, either manually or by turning on Automatic Updates.  One of the more overlooked Microsoft updates however is Office.  One way to do this easily from an Office 2007 Word document is to click on the Office Button Word Options.

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This isn’t exactly an easter egg, because it’s actually documented in Microsoft’s knowledge base, but it’s one of those features that you just weren’t expecting so it still qualifies.

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In part one of this tutorial we stored our files and settings on a network drive.  Now let me show you how to transfer them to your new computer.

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As you know I am a huge fan of Spybot Search and Destroy as I mentioned in a previous post.  However, like everything there is always annoyances involved.  The biggest annoyance to me is when running Spybot and getting results back saying Windows firewall, security center, etc.

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My favorite application to burn ISO images is ISO Recorder V2.  I have been using this application for a couple of years and like it because it is so simple and free (although donations are gladly accepted). 

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After reformatting your computer’s hard drive and doing clean install of Windows XP, using the Files and Settings Transfer Wizard utility built into XP makes the process easy.  Also, if you have purchased a new computer you can transfer your files and settings to the new machine.  In Part 1 I will go through saving your files and settings from your old machine.

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The Scheduled Tasks feature of XP and Vista often seems to be overlooked.  This is a great tool to use for Automating Maintenance tasks for the OS.  There are a lot of things you can do with this handy utility.  In the following shots I demonstrate scheduling a Disk Cleanup in Windows XP.  Later this week I will feature the extra settings and features included in Task Scheduler in Vista.

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I have barely given this application justice with this post.  If you are a music connoisseur or looking for an easy way to convert your home recording files to mp3 you should download dBpoweramp!  dBpoweramp works great on both XP and Vista.  I look forward to hearing your experiences! 

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Since I am a guitarist and love computer technology, it would not be right if I did not include some articles on home recording.  I am by no means an expert in this area.  Music is a hobby for me and I learn from others experiences and good old fashion trial and error.   

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The new Ribbon in Office 2007 can take a while to get used to, so the Quick Access Toolbar is a great way to put your most frequently used commands on a single toolbar while you are getting used to the Ribbon.

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This will really make your Monday a different experience. Make your computer look like OS X Tiger with Flyakite OSX. This neat theme will make your entire Windows system look and act like OS X. Including the same sounds, icons, and The Dock.

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One of the more annoying default settings in Windows XP is the Desktop Cleanup Wizard.  I guess I do not need Windows telling me what I should or should not have on my desktop.  Also, I have found in IT that an employee may not use a certain icon for a few months and when they need to find that icon to run a program it may be missing.  Disabling this just saves a needless call to the helpdesk.

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A freeware tool I use many times in IT is System Info for Windows.  This small lightweight utility comes packed with a lot of power.  No need to install anything on the local hard drive … just run it from a jump drive or pop it on a disc.  If you need detail about a computer you’re working on, SIW will give you everything including the kitchen sink!

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If you need to hurriedly work on a computer in the office or at home changing a few options before connecting can improve the connection speed.  We are only connecting to the computer to fix an issue or do some troubleshooting so the graphics on the remote machine do not need to look fancy.

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