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Are There Healthy Halloween Treats 

by on October 31, 2007

Q: I have been wondering if there is actually a somewhat healthy treat that I could give out for Halloween without getting my house egged?

A: I completely understand where you are coming from because my wife is really into watching fat grams and calories in what we eat but during Halloween it is not reasonable to give out fruits and probably not a good idea to give out cash so what are the alternatives? You can find one great alternative down a different isle of the grocery store, as my wife found out and wrote about here at Halloween Treats.

She wrote, “I went down the snack isle to find myself staring at fruit snacks. I was reading the label and much to my surprise they actually have nutrition value, and with 100% vitamin C to boost the immune system, that is what every kid needs. In a whole pouch they have 100 calories and 1 gram of fat (a heck of a lot less that a couple of those mini candy bars) and the kids can bring them to school the next day instead of the candy.”

So all you have to do is go down the snack isle and look for the Halloween packaged fruit snakes and you will have some happy trick or treaters at your house tonight and no eggs!

 
 

Getting a dropped laptop working again 

by on October 31, 2007

Q: I dropped my laptop from about 3 feet in the air. The computer seems to boot up and there is power to the screen but it is blank. The computer is a HP nc6400 with Windows XP professional.

A: I’m sorry to learn of the accident that occurred to your laptop. As I explain in greater detail below, you will almost certainly have to send your laptop in for repairs. You should Contact HP if you purchased your laptop directly from them. Talk with the IT department at your work if your laptop is owned by your employer. Otherwise, take the laptop to the store where you purchased it, and their repair department will make the necessary arrangements with HP. Don’t forget to use your extended warranty (also called service agreement or protection plan) if you purchased one. Some extended warranties will cover damage caused to your laptop in a fall — that is your repair could be free. Otherwise such repairs are very expensive! Please read the details below: Read the rest of this entry »

 
 

Daughter Joined Multiple Dating Sites. 

by on October 31, 2007

Q: My underage daughter has joined multiple online dating sites. I need to know if there is a way to search multiple single sites at the same time using her username. Please, if you could help me, I’d be most grateful.

A: I share the concern that you must be feeling for your daughter’s wellbeing. The internet can indeed be a dangerous place for unsuspecting young people — boys and girls alike. Let me start with some common-sense advice. If your daughter’s computer is currently in her bedroom or another secluded place in your house, move it! Relocating the computer to a public area such as a living room or den will drastically reduce your daughter’s ability to get herself into trouble online, if there is someone such as you home to watch her that is.

If you haven’t done so already, you may want to create a password for your daughter’s computer and do not tell her the password so that you can control when she accesses the computer and therefore the internet. Furthermore, you may even want to go so far as to give your daughter her own user account with limited privileges — again, you control the password. In Microsoft Windows, you will use something known as the Control Panel to accomplish these tasks. Microsoft provides a guide entitled How to create and configure user accounts in Windows XP. The procedure will be similar in almost every version of Windows.

If you are using a Mac with OS X, you will go to the Blue Apple symbol and then System Preferences -> Accounts. As in Windows, you can create user accounts with limited privileges on the Mac. It is pointless to discuss disabling the internet on your daughter’s computer, as most young people today can bypass locks on specific programs in mere moments. Of course, there is not any substitute for a concerned parent having a good old-fashioned conversation with his/her daughter about right and wrong, or at the very least legal and illegal. It is, of course, illegal for a minor to join most dating websites.

Now, regarding your original question, what I have discovered about online dating sites is that most of them are very protective of their users’ privacy. Chances are basically zero that you will ever be able to steal your daughter’s usernames from these dating websites. I’m guessing that your daughter is not going to give you her usernames and passwords. So, what this means is that you will have to create a user account for yourself on all of the websites your daughter has joined in order to access her profiles. Furthermore, even joining the websites yourself will probably not give you full access to your daughter’s profiles. For instance, I doubt that you will be able to see the profiles of those who have been communicating with your daughter on these sites, or gain access to the content of their conversations.

A better way to proceed is probably to report your daughter as a minor to the various sites she has joined. Provided that she joined these sites from a computer in your home, it should be easy for you to prove to these websites that your daughter is a minor. Presuming that you live in the USA or a country with similar laws in place to protect young people, the websites will have no choice but to suspend your daughter’s accounts. Indeed, you may even be able to request that these dating websites ban the creation of future accounts from computers in your home. To do this, you will also need to consult with your internet service provider (ISP) to request what is called a static IP address. You will also want to request that your account ID remain the same. A static IP address and an account ID that never changes may allow the dating websites to identify your computers in such a manner as to block connections from them. A dynamic IP address, on the other hand, changes often. Some ISPs use account IDs that are related to your IP address to identify your computer on the internet. Others use account IDs that are totally unrelated to your IP address. Contact your ISP for more information. Also, be aware that your daughter can bypass such a block by connecting to something called a proxy server. A web-based utility such as Shields Up will allow you to identify your current IP address and account ID.

 
 

Record To MP3 With A Portable Digital Recorder 

by on October 30, 2007

An Into Tomorrow listener submitted the following question!

Q: I am looking for a portable digital recorder that will actually record in the MP3 format. I want to connect it to our sound board (1/4 inch connecting line) at church to record our sermons. I then want to bring it home and connect it to my PC via USB and download it to my PC to put on our website. We currently use an Olympus VN-3100PC recorder, which only records in a 4 bit WAV format. I then have to use conversion software to make it MP3, which degrades the already so-so quality of the recording. Any suggestions as to a good TRUE MP3 recorder we could purchase?

A: Your Olympus VN-3100PC is what’s known as a digital voice recorder. These units emphasize quantity over quality. That is, it is better to record thousands of hours worth of audio at low quality than just a few hours at high quality. Additionally, the processors in these units are usually incapable of encoding the audio in high quality. In other words, you would do best to say away from digital voice recorders for professional quality recording.

You mention MP3 and WAV files. MP3 files are lossy by nature. Lossy means that data from your audio will always be lost when recording or converting, no matter how high your quality setting. WAV files (sometimes called WAVE) are actually lossless. The consequence of lossless is that all audio information is preserved. But your 4-bit WAV files sound bad…? There are two reasons why your 4-bit WAV files sound bad. First, 4-bit is a very low setting for audio. The accepted standard for CD audio is 16-bit WAV; higher qualities are also available for WAV files. Second, when converting a lossless format to a lossy one, there will always be data loss.

Taking all of this into consideration, what should you shop for? First, be prepared to pay extra money for the better audio quality and processing power of professional-grade audio recording. Units that may meet your needs include: Roland Edirol R-09, M-Audio MultiTrack II, and the Samson H4 Handy. Other units of various shapes, sizes, and prices can be found on the internet.

 
 

Editing PDF Files And Creating Magazine Layouts 

by on October 30, 2007

Q: I am designing a magazine and have been using Print Shop. I am not able to upload a PDF to Print Shop, which I need to do. I also don’t have the software to unlock a PDF and change it on its own. I am looking for something much more useful than what I am using. I am looking for the ability to adjust a PDF, the ability to create layouts of the magazine. Any ideas?

A: Some versions of Print Shop contain a program called Broderbund PDF Converter. It seems that this program is more for exporting than for importing. Nevertheless, you should make sure that it is installed. You can the Unable to Initialize PDF Converter guide to help you install the PDF Converter from your Print Shop disk.

If the PDF Converter does not meet your needs then I would recommend that you consider purchasing software from Adobe, the creators of the PDF file-type. Adobe PageMaker and Adobe Illustrator are considered to be among the best programs for graphic design, magazine layout, etc. Adobe software tends to be rather expensive. However, it is also the most compatible with PDF because Adobe controls the PDF specification.

One final solution is to search for software in a specialized search engine, such as softpedia.com.

 
 

Windows XP Installer Problems 

by on October 29, 2007

Q: I recently reformatted and reinstalled Windows XP Pro with SP2, which came bundled on a CD from the University I attend. Once I installed Windows XP Pro I ran Windows Update and ever since I have been having issues installing programs. I believe the issue is with the new Windows installer that was installed because when I try to install anything I get an error message saying, “msiexec.exe has encountered a problem and needs to close”. Is there anything I can do besides reformatting and reinstalling?

A: There is a Microsoft article entitled Error 1719: The Windows Installer service could not be accessed” error message when you try to add or remove a program. Basically, the article gives you two options. The first is to “re-register the Windows Installer.” The second option is to “Reinstall the Windows Installer. Both of these procedures are rather technical. You might find it to be less difficult to reinstall XP. Usually, I prefer to summarize Microsoft articles because it is easier for users to understand. In this case, due to the highly technical nature of these procedures, I am providing the original text. I have edited the text only slightly for clarity and to eliminate instructions not for 32-bit Windows XP:

Method 1: Re-register the Windows Installer

Verify the location of the Msiexec.exe file on your hard disk. To do so:

  1. Click Start, and then click Search.
  2. Click All files and folders.
  3. In the File name box, type msiexec.exe and then click Search.
  4. In the search results, make a note of the location of the Msiexec.exe file. The location of the Msiexec.exe file should be similar to C:\Windows\System32.

Verify the location of the Msiexec.exe file in the Windows Registry. To do so:

  1. Click Start and then click Run.
  2. In the Open box, type regedit, and then click OK.
  3. Locate, and then click the following registry key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\MSIServer.
  4. In the right pane, double click ImagePath.
  5. In the Edit String dialog box, make sure that the string in the Value data box contains the correct path of the Msiexec.exe file on your hard disk that you determined earlier. For example, if the Msiexec.exe file is located in the C:\Windows\System32 folder on your hard disk, the correct path of the Msiexec.exe file in the Value data box is the following path [without the period], C:\Windows\System32\Msiexec.exe /V. If the Value data box does not contain the correct path, make the appropriate changes to correct the path, and then click OK. Quit Registry Editor.

Start your computer in safe mode and then register the Msiexec.exe file. To do so:

  1. Shut down, and then restart your computer.
  2. Press F8 [as the computer is restarting]
  3. On the Windows Advanced Option menu, use the arrow keys to select Safe Mode and then press ENTER.
  4. If you use a dual-boot or multiple-boot computer, select the appropriate operating system from the list that is displayed and then press ENTER.
  5. Log on to the computer.
  6. Click Start, click Run, type msiexec /regserver, and then click OK

Shut down, and then restart your computer in standard mode [should be selected automatically during restart]. If the issue persists and you still receive the error message then follow the steps in Method 2.

Method 2: Reinstall the Windows Installer

To reinstall the Windows Installer, rename the damaged Windows Installer files, and then reinstall the Windows Installer. To do so:

  1. Click Start, and then click Run.
  2. In the Open box, type cmd, and then click OK.
  3. At the command prompt, type attrib -r -s -h c:\windows\system32\dllcache, and then press ENTER [This assumes that your hard drive is letter C and the path to the Windows Installer files is C:\windows\system32].

At the command prompt, type the following lines, pressing ENTER after each line:

  1. ren msi.dll msi.old
  2. ren msiexec.exe msiexec.old
  3. ren msihnd.dll msihnd.old

At the command prompt, type exit, and then press ENTER. Restart your computer. Update the Windows Installer files on your hard disk to the latest version. [The latest for Windows XP appears to be Windows Installer 3.1 Redistributable (v2)]. Shut down your computer, and then restart it in standard mode.

I hope that you have had “fun” following these procedures! If either of these methods fail, it is probably best for you to reinstall Windows XP. In my experience, MSI errors usually appear after installing and/or uninstalling older versions of Microsoft Office. I recommend that you apply all updates to Windows XP before installing any programs.

 
 

Recording With A Digital Video Camera Straight To Your Computer 

by on October 29, 2007

Q: Is it possible to hook up a digital video camera (Canon zr200) to a computer (HP laptop) and have the camera record directly to the computer? How do I do that? Is there a certain program I need to get? I want to be able to record for several hours straight and review it on the computer.

A: Yes, it is definitely possible! Since your laptop is an HP, I will assume that you are using Windows XP. Microsoft provides instructions for recording live from a digital camcorder in an article entitled Recording Video into Windows Movie Maker (Part 2 of 3). Windows Movie Maker is a program that should have come free with your computer. Microsoft states that you should be able to record audio as well as video from the camcorder. You may possibly be able to use similar procedures in Windows Vista, Mac OS X, and other computer operating systems. These instructions should work on other digital camcorders as well. You may also wish to consult the Canon zr200 Owner’s Manual while trying these procedures. It may also interest you to learn that your camcorder can function as a webcam in Windows XP using Canon’s DV Messenger 2 software! Here is a short summery in case the Microsoft article cited above disappears from the internet.

Connect your camcorder to your computer using FireWire (sometimes called IEEE 1394 or iLink). Next, put your camcorder into Camera Mode, or whatever mode your camcorder uses for recording using the appropriate switch on the camcorder. The camcorder will be ready to record at this point, but should not be recording yet. According to Microsoft, many camcorders will automatically turn themselves off after being in this mode for a certain amount of time. Microsoft suggests removing the digital tape from your camcorder to prevent this. There may also be a related option in your camcorder’s menus. Please consult your owner’s manual if you encounter problems.

In Windows Movie Maker, go File -> Record. A new “dialog box” should appear and when it does you want to click Change Device. According to Microsoft, you can then select your camcorder. Make sure that you have the correct camcorder selected. This should happen automatically if you have never used another camcorder with your laptop. Make sure that the Create clips checkbox is empty. This will enable you to have Movie Maker recognize your recoding as a single clip when you are finished recording. Also make sure that the Record time limit checkbox has been cleared. This gives you additional control over the starting and stopping of the recording process.

Microsoft suggests the Medium quality setting in its instructions. The lower the quality, the less likely it is that Movie Maker will encounter an error during recording. Experiment with the various quality settings until you are satisfied. You should now be able to click on Record. The video appearing will be your confirmation that your recording is being made. You can change the color and brightness settings directly from your camcorder. When you are ready to end the recording, click Stop. Everything else from here on in Movie Maker should work as if you have imported the video from a digital tape.

 
 

Alternatives For Creating An Editable PDF Form 

by on October 28, 2007

Q: I would like to create a form in PDF that could be opened by Acrobat Reader, filled and saved in the computer. What software would you recommend other than any Adobe software? Could you please tell me the cheapest one?

A: Adobe has retained tight control over what it calls LiveCycle Reader Extensions (Wikipedia has a related article here). As I understand it, LiveCycle Reader Extensions are what allow for the creation of a PDF form that can be filled-in and saved in Adobe Reader. As far as I can tell, none of the programs in this Wikipedia list of PDF software are able to create a PDF form that is directly savable in Adobe Reader.

I use the word directly because Adobe Reader does provide two indirect ways of saving a form. Both of these methods have limitations, however. The first method is to save the form as a PostScript file (.ps file extension). Adobe Reader users can accomplish this after completing their entry of data into your form by going File -> Print -> Print to file. This should preserve the layout of the form and all of the data. The use of this technique is ideal for archiving documents. The downside of the PostScript method is that data cannot be easily extracted or searched. For example, you cannot easily copy text from the PostScript file and paste it into a spreadsheet. Mac OS X and most popular Linux distributions now support the viewing of PostScript files by default. If you are using Microsoft Windows and cannot view PostScript files, use a website like softpedia.com to search for a PostScript viewer of your choice.

Another limitation is that users of Adobe Reader who do not have a printer will probably not be able to use the PostScript method without installing a virtual printer first. Incidentally, some virtual printers are able to save documents as PDFs. None of the free virtual printers for Microsoft Windows that I have tried are able to print a PDF form that will allow for “copy and paste” functions. Some of the virtual printers that cost money are able to print PDF forms that allow copy and paste. But, I assume that you need a free solution for the recipients of your form.

Using Adobe Reader 8.x, it is possible to enter data into a form and then go File -> Save as Text. This results in a text file (.txt file extension) that preserves data but not formatting. In other words, the data could be very difficult for you to interpret. This method does not preserve data entered into the form if used in Adobe Reader 7.x. This leads me to believe that the Save as Text method will only work in Adobe Reader 8.x or newer. Even with the newest version of Adobe Reader, this method may or may not work for all forms.

Another alternative is to create a PDF form on your computer using a free program like OpenOffice Writer, then send the form to another company for conversion into a document that can be saved by Adobe Reader users. FormRouter is one such company that I was able to find during my research. Finally, you might want to consider using Microsoft Word or OpenOffice to create forms in the .doc file format. While some of your users may encounter layout problems using forms in the .doc format, it is a more cost-effective solution than PDF in many ways.

If none of these options are satisfactory, you must use Acrobat 8 Professional or better to create forms that can be saved by users of Adobe Reader.

 
 

Contrast Message Errors 

by on October 27, 2007

Q: When I start my desktop system, after some time I get a message of “contrast”. This message is same as when we press the “Menu” button on the monitor to adjust contrast/brightness/geometry of monitor. When this message appears it starts adjusting all the options randomly on its own. This occurs repeatedly after some time. I even formatted my system many times but problem persists. I am using Windows XP and IBM desktop machine. Maybe it occurred because of some virus?

A: While it is remotely possible that your computer has a virus, I think that you are probably dealing with an entirely different problem. It sounds to me like your monitor, video cable, or your computer’s graphics have been damaged. Such damage can happen as the result of a power surge, physical damage to the circuits, or even through normal use. Regardless, it is always a good idea to use a surge protector.

To determine which piece of hardware is malfunctioning, you should do some tests. I recommend doing all of these tests in a different building from where the computer is currently located, as this will enable you to rule out most electricity issues as the source of your problems. If you determine that the power coming to your computer is the source of your problems, consider repairing the problem and/or purchasing an uninterruptible power supply (UPS):

  1. Connect your monitor to another computer with a new video cable. If the problem exists in this setup, then your monitor has become defective and you should replace it.
  2. Connect your computer to another monitor while using a new video cable. If the problem exists here, then it is your computer causing the problem. Solutions to this problem include searching for a software update to your computer’s current graphics and replacing the current graphics with a new graphics card. If you’ve never put a new graphics card in your computer, then you should be able to find an update to your graphics using IBM.com. New graphics cards are available at major retail stores and online. Consult the owner’s manual for your computer before purchasing a replacement graphics card.
  3. If the problem does not present itself in either test #1 or test #2, then your original video cable is most likely defective. Replace it with the newer cable that you used in the previous tests. If your video cable is built into your computer monitor, you will need to replace the monitor.
  4. If you use a new monitor, new cable, and new graphics card but the computer still malfunctions, you will need to send the computer in for repair.

Be sure to recycle all of your electronics instead of throwing them away. Electronics contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment.

 
 

Download Videos From YouTube And Google 

by on October 26, 2007

Q: I’m trying to download videos from YouTube or Google onto my laptop for presentations and cannot figure out how to do so. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

A: It is possible to download from Google Video and YouTube using any of the three major operating systems: Windows, Mac, and Linux. Let’s assume that you are using some flavor of Microsoft Windows and examine some of the basics for downloading internet videos.

Downloading from Google or YouTube won’t work very well without using some extra tools to help you. The best kind of tools for downloading fit into a category called browser plugins. These miniature programs cooperate with your browser and are thus easy to use most of the time. If you are using the Internet Explorer browser, you might want to search the Download Managers section of Microsoft’s Add-Ons for Internet Explorer. If you would prefer to use the Firefox internet browser, you should look at Firefox Add-ons: Browse Download Management (I recommend a Firefox plugin called DownloadHelper).

Google Video videos come in a wide variety of formats. And YouTube is currently in the midst of switching its videos to a different format. To guarantee that the downloaded videos work in software such as Microsoft PowerPoint, you should probably convert them into a friendlier format. While you can certainly install a program capable of converting videos to different formats – softpedia.com is a great resource for finding such programs – these kinds of programs are often extremely complicated to configure and use. A website called media-convert.com has a very simple interface that allows you to convert videos into many formats. For most PowerPoint uses, MPEG-1 is probably the best choice for you, since works on virtually any computer in use today.