Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Toys for Xmas

I've listed some "must have" goodies for the geeks among us for 2013. Probably, most of you have these goodies already, but in case you don't, it may be a good idea to put on your Xmas list.

* USB3 & USB3 & more USB3
If you're planning to buy a new PC or laptop or anything else with USB ports, please make sure you have at least 1 or 2 USB3 ports. While USB3 was released in November 2008 already, we now start to see more units with USB3 ports/support. USB3 is much faster than USB1 or USB2 and they are still backwards compatible with older USB ports. Basically, it's almost 10 times faster than USB2. If you want to buy a flash drive, get a USB3 flash drive. It's still more expensive than USB2, but it's really worth the price (which will drop soon anyway). Ofcourse, you gain most from this if you connect from a USB3 port. Most (if not all) new units are supported/have USB3 ports now anyway, so this is one of the reasons why you should stop buying USB2 flash drives or anything else USB2-ish :D
* Replace old drives with an SSD (Solid State Drive).
Many of you probably have old PCs/laptops and you want to give it some boost/power. Adding RAM is a good option, but you may want to consider to replace your HDD with an SSD. Solid State Drives are faster than conventional spinning drives because they have no moving parts. The storage on an SSD is handled by flash memory chips. Advantages are less power usage, higher reliability and faster access to your data. They are also less resistant to shocks and vibration.
In general, when you install an SSD, the first immediate benefits are faster application load time and faster boot time. SSDs aren't cheap, but really worth the price. Disadvantage is, you have less data storage than a conventional HDD (comparison size/price with HDD), but if storage isn't a real problem for you - then you really might want to consider an SSD. After all, you can still combine it with an internal or external HDD to store your data. SSDs have dropped in price to the point where it's affordable to replace your laptop or PC HDD. Normally, a 128GB SSD should suffice your storage needs (just compare with the current storage you need/have) - but a 256GB SSD is even better. You can have larger SSDs as well ofcourse. You can read more about SSDs here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solid-state_drive and here: http://lifehacker.com/5932009/the-complete-guide-to-solid+state-drives
You can also easily migrate your Windows installation from an HDD to an SSD without losing any data or reinstalling Windows. There are a lot of tutorials on the net for that.But I personally prefer to start from scratch to avoid any issues. In either way, there's a good tutorial here: http://lifehacker.com/5837543/how-to-migrate-to-a-solid+state-drive-without-reinstalling-windows
* Get a docking station for your SATA drives with USB support
This is really a MUST HAVE! I am sure many of you have come in situations where your HDD wouldn't boot, or you want to mount a drive that has failed.
For many (inluding me), it's a hassle to mess around with adding the drive as a slave to your PC in order to get access to the data and transfer/alter/delete. This is exactly one of the reasons why I bought this. Just slide in your SATA hard drive, connect via USB to your PC/Laptop and power on in order to see it as an external drive. You have them in all types and flavours - support for 2,5" drives AND/OR 3,5" drives, SSD, dual docking SATA station (for quick/easy cloning)... Ofcourse, I also recommend to get one with USB3 ports/support.
If you have any other MUST-HAVE! for Xmas, please let me know - I still haven't decided yet what to get (I have above already) :)
images courtesy of http://blog.laptopmag.com, http://www.sharkoon.com, http://www.datapro.net

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Unwanted Toolbars

While I know this is old news and has been blogged/posted about a thousand times already - I still notice a lot of users having problems with an overload of toolbars they don't want/need.

More and more software (mainly free software) bundle their software package with a toolbar since it's an extra source of income.
While in some cases, a toolbar *can* be necessary or useful, always ask yourself if you really need/want this toolbar.

Additional Toolbars can slow down your browser since it takes longer to start them up, can interfere with certain webpages you want to view, can have compatibility issues with other toolbars/add-ons already installed or can even crash your entire browser.
Apart from a toolbar/BHO, some toolbars also add additional loading points (run key, service, appinit_dlls..) which may cause an extra slowdown of your computer in general.
Toolbars also take up extra space in your browser, leaving you with less content of the webpage you want to view.

Do you really want your browser to look like this?

If the answer is Yes, then I suggest you check with your eye specialist or stay away from computers and find another hobby.

Also, not all toolbars are as harmless as they look. Do you want them to monitor your browser activities? What sites you visit? Collect other info from your computer?
Do you want them to redirect searches? Change your startpage? Display Advertisements (targetted Ads)? If the answer is No, then uninstall them or don't install them in the first place.
In most cases, legit software with a toolbar bundled, offers the user the option to uncheck the toolbar during install. Too bad most have these toolbars pre-checked already, so many users who install the software just click through the installation screens (next) in a hurry and end up with toolbars they don't want or need.
And that's still the biggest mistake users make.

That's why it is always a good practice to read every part of the installation screens the software displays, so you don't miss the option where you can uncheck the toolbar or other junk during install.
Also, it's a good practice to always read the EULA/Privacy Policy when you want to install certain software.


Unfortunately, not every software bundled with a toolbar/other junk offers this option to uncheck during install. This is bad practice and such software should be avoided in the first place.

In case you have (accidentally) installed a toolbar you didn't want/need in the first place, use the Windows’ built-in "Add/Remove Programs" in the Control Panel ("Programs and Features" in Vista/Win7) and look if it's listed there so you can uninstall it.
Or, in case it's not listed there, you can disable or remove them them via your browser:
For Internet Explorer: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/dd364987.aspx or http://mintywhite.com/windows-7/7security/5-easy-ways-uninstall-toolbars-internet-explorer-8/
For Firefox: http://kb.mozillazine.org/Uninstalling_toolbars
For Google Chrome: http://support.google.com/chrome/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=113907
For Opera: Click Tools > Preferences > Advanced Tab > Toolbars (listed on the left). There you can select and delete the toolbar.

In general, if you don't use/need toolbars, uninstall them or don't install them in the first place.