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We live in a wireless world and every day, we send huge amounts of information through the airwaves. However, thanks to the innovation that Modern technology has come up with, we can now charge wirelessly as well. No, this is not a sci-fi rip-off, but in reality, it is possible now.

Wireless Charging

How does it work?

When we talk about wireless charging, we are referring to inductive charging. With this technology, a charging station creates a magnetic field around it when plugged in. If a device has proper induction coil, it will start receiving energy from that alternate magnetic field created when placed on the charging pad. This eliminates the need any physical connection for charging, makes your wireless devices truly wireless.

To make sure that wireless charging works properly, you need the specific hardware to be built into the device. If a device does not have built-in inductive charging coils, you might be able use an adapter or a sleeve depending on the device.

Earlier, there was no common standard for wireless charging and hence it never really was that popular in consumer electronics market. Things have changed a lot though after introduction of Wireless Power Consortium and Qi. Wireless Power Consortium is sponsored by numerous companies that seek a global standard for wireless charging.

Different Devices with Wireless Charging Enabled

For a long time, cordless toothbrushes and other bathroom devices have been using the wireless charging technology. The initial problem was that the efficiency was low and it used to take long time to get charged. Among the latest ones, Nokia Lumia 920 is known to be having the feature of wireless charging. Even, Intel is currently working on a magnetic device that can supply power to different peripherals.

Wireless Charging

Wireless charging is definitely safe as the conducting material is not exposed in this case. So you don’t need to worry when you touch it with your wet hands. Not to mention the trouble of carrying charging wires that it eradicates.

I will request you all to share your thoughts on wireless charging through the comments feature.

Today I will share two Windows 7 tricks; How to Search the Internet from the Start Menu, and How to Customize the Shutdown Button.

Searching the Internet from the Start Menu

Windows 7 Search Internet

The search box functionality in Windows 7 (from the Start Menu) is a great way to find any file, folder or document located on your computer or any attached drives. There is a little known secret you can enable that will also make your life easier- you can use that same functionality to perform Internet searches as well. How you might ask? Its simple…

  • Go to the search box in your start menu and type GPEDIT.MSC, then hit enter and the Group Policy Editor should open. (Note this will not work on Windows 7 Home Editions, only Pro and Ultimate)
  • From there, select User Configuration, Administrative Templates, then Start Menu and Taskbar.
  • You should  see “Add Search Internet link to Start Menu.” Select this.
  • You have now enabled Internet Search.

From now on, whenever you start typing in the search box, a link titled “Search the Internet” will now appear above . When you click on that link your default browser will open a search.

Customize the Shutdown Button

When you click the shutdown button, by default, it turns off your computer. However, you can change this to any of the other shutdown functions you like quite easily.

Right click on the start button and select properties. You will not have a window with three tabs- Taskbar, Start Menu, and Toolbars. Click the Start Menu tab. You will see a drop-down titled “Power button action.” Select the action that you will like to show up as default. The choices are: Shut Down, Log Off, Lock, Restart, Sleep and Switch User. Once you make your selection click OK- and you should be all set.

Wear and tear takes a toll on your body over time. Tension and stress in the workplace can compound this problem and RSI can become a serious problem over time. Repetitive stress injury is a real concern for anyone doing repetitive tasks on a daily basis- such as typing, data entry, and research.

Frequent usage of conventional mouse is unavoidable nowadays, no matter what your job entails- odds are it involves using a computer at some point. Most of us type and scroll a mouse quite extensively in our daily routine and the nature of this repetitive injury can cause repetitive stress injuries over time all by itself- with no other outside factors. We can’t stop working; it puts bread on our table- however it might be a good idea to look into alternatives for the conventional input devices you use every day. The time has come to look for alternatives to the modern scroll mouse.

Dorsiflexion is the main reason for your mouse hand developing RSI. So what can be done?

First of all, try using keyboard shortcuts more. Keyboard shortcuts reduce the time it takes to accomplish common tasks, which in turn makes you more productive. Also, try to keep your wrist in a neutral position when using a mouse. Alternating hands doesn’t help much in the long run; instead, both of your hands then run the risk of developing RSI.

Rather than using the old scroll mouse day in and day out, an good alternative might just be the USB heated mouse. These are relatively inexpensive nowadays, and the heating pad can offer potential relief for one’s RSI affected hands. Be careful however; as some reviews of these products have been underwhelming. The buttons sometimes do not function properly and occasionally get stuck. So it might just be one of those products that is hit or miss.

The ideal position for your hands while operating a mouse is one where you dont have to twist your wrist fllat on the desk.  The handshoe mouse does just this for you; allowing a slight angle between your hand and the desk you are working on so your wrist need not twist. Your wrist supports your hand’s weight and it is not bent into an awkward angle thus saving your wrist. The curvature helps to also relieve pressure on your hands. The first time you use this sort of mouse there is slight discomfort; however with time it gets quite a bit easier.

Handshoe

Fully ergonomic mice were originally designed to reduce strain on hand muscles and prevent RSI. These mice fit into your hand naturally, and you wither hold them, or cradle them, and they are known as vertical mice, cradle mice, and presenters.

Vertical Mouse

A vertical mouse or cradle mouse allows you to hold the mouse- keeping it in the handshake position.  This is a much more natural position for prolonged use of a computer mouse. Your thumb acts as a brace and you simply move the mouse by moving your arms. This in turn means much lower stress on your wrist and hands. These types of mice are more expensive than traditional mice, however they often come in wireless and Bluetooth versions, and with many extra features.  Plus think of all the future hassle and pain you are saving yourself!

These are just a few of your many options for preventing RSI. If you know about additional alternatives, or other remedies please share. Also if you have experience with any of the products mentioned above- please feel free to share that as well.

Memory test software runs a thorough test on your computer’s RAM and helps you to identify any potential issues in such.  Often called a RAM test, memory test or free RAM scan, this is likely a program you will want to run after making any recent memory changes or adding additional RAM. Below, I have listed some free memory test programs that do their job well and work with a variety of operating systems:

Windows Memory Diagnostic

RAM

This is a Microsoft program and it performs a series of tests on your computer’s memory to identify any potential issues or errors. You can find the program free of charge on Microsoft’s website; then its a simple matter of installing the program and following the on screen instructions.

The program will essentially walk you through burning an ISO image to a  CD or DVD. Once you boot from this disc you have just created, it starts a RAM test automatically. The testing will may take some time and will run until you stop it manually. Usually after the first test you can stop the program yourself- assuming the program hasn’t found any memory errors.

M2K MemScope

Have you heard of Micro-Scope? If you haven’t, just FYI – they have created many professional computer diagnostic tools. M2K MemScope is a recent product from the same company. There are many advanced testing options available within it; however, if you are a novice user it’s recommended to stick to the “Run All” feature. You can easily download the program from their official site; however you will need to fill a questionnaire before you can download it.

Computer Chip

Memtest86

This is a standalone program from BradyTech Inc. and is extremely easy to use. You will again need to download the ISO image and then burn it to a disc. Once burned, just simply boot from the disc ans begin the free test. The free basic version is good enough for a normal user, however;  if you want advanced options you can easily order a CD with Memtest 86 pre-installed. The CD will contain detailed documentation on how to use the advanced features.

These are my top 3 choices when it comes to free memory tests. If you use a free RAM test not listed here, please feel free to share in the comments.

Sometimes you want to delete files quickly and securely.  The default setting on most computers places all deleted files into a isolated holding area, known as the Recycle Bin. If we don’t want those deleted files to be stored in the Recycle bin we must manually delete them. Unless we disable the recycle bin or remember to use the SHIFT+Delete command while deleting a file, we generally need to put in some extra effort to delete files manually from the Recycle bin (Clearing the Recycle Bin isn’t much trouble, however forgetting to regularly clear the recycle bin can cause a buildup of large files and sensitive data, potentially causing performance and security concerns).

Here are two simple tips illustrating how to disable the Recycle Bin (You should only do this when you are positive that you won’t need to recover the deleted files in future):

Disabling the Recycle bin

Recycle Bin Registry

  • Right click on the recycle bin icon on your desktop and click on properties.
  • A new dialog box should appear and there you will see a radio button that states “Don’t move files to the Recycle Bin. Remove files immediately when deleted” (Under “settings for selected location”).
  • Check that radio button and click Apply.
  • Finally, click on OK to close the dialog box.

You can disable the recycle bin from your system registry as well. To do so, follow the below mentioned steps:

Recycle Bin Disable

  • Click on Start Menu and on Search box write “Regedit.”
  • Hit Enter and the Registry Editor window should appear.
  • Now, locate this key from the left menu of Registry Editor Window: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\BitBucket
  • Now, select the value name “NukeOnDelete” and change its value to 1 (0 means that recycle bin is active, that is the default value in general).
  • Make sure the data type is “DWORD” before you exit the Registry Editor Window.
  • Finally, you need to reboot your system so that the changes are reflected.

The aforementioned steps are for Windows 7. That being said, the steps will be more or less the same for older operating systems as well, if you run into any problems I will be happy to help you through the comments section.

What is Ivy Bridge?

April 23rd, 2012 | Posted by admin in I've Always Wondered... - (0 Comments)

What is Ivy Bridge?

The Ivy Bridge line of processors will succeed the Sandy Bridge line, and is expected to be released on April 23rd 2012.  The first microprocessors to be released will be a line of 14 quad core processors.

What is better about Ivy Bridge?

Ivy Bridge will be Intel’s first 3-D microchip.  Promising to deliver increased performance where it counts both in reduced power consumption and increased processing power.  Ivy Bridge processors are expected to be backwards compatible with the previous Sandy Bridge platform as well.  A number of other features are also expected to come standard; such as native USB 3.0 Support, and decreased system standby power consumption.

By creating a “3-D” microchip, Intel claims that it has created a cooler, faster, and more efficient chip.  Intel’s main competitor, AMD, has also been working on similar chip developments.  While AMD hasn’t claimed to have developed a 3-D chip yet; they are continuously exploring the limits of processing power and efficiency, and are not likely to fade away anytime soon.

ARM

Ivy Bridge development has taken place rather quickly, as Intel is under intense fire from Britain’s ARM.  ARM has a large share of the mobile processor market; a share that Intel is gunning for.  Both Intel and AMD predict increased demand for more power efficient processors in the future, and are positioning themselves to capitalize on this growth.  The wave of the future, it seems, is mobile devices that can last all day, and several days in a continuously connected standby mode.  Providing users with the capability to stay connected all day without sacrificing battery life is where market share will be either won or lost.  Mobile users want more battery life, and an eighteen hour laptop it seems is just a few years around the corner.

Haswell

Intel has already publicly stated it has begun work on its new line of processors “Haswell” as a direct replacement for both the Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge line of processors.  “Haswell” will be significantly more power efficient in both standby and regular modes.  Intel has even hinted that it will be toying with the idea of “Power Recycling”, reusing heat generated by the chip to power the chip itself.  This could offer significant power savings, and perhaps one day the capability to run your laptop for days at a time.

All about Graphics Cards

Computer graphics come in two flavors; integrated graphics and dedicated graphics processing units aka GPUs.

Integrated graphics are commonly found in less expensive and more basic computers.  Integrated graphics refers to a small graphics chip co-located with the CPU.  This method is cheaper and consumes less power, which is preferable for less graphic-intense applications and adequate for most uses.  Integrated graphics are not nearly as capable as a dedicated graphics card; however still should likely be sufficient for most tasks.  Surfing the web, word processing, e-mail, and music will work just fine with integrated graphics.  In fact, you likely won’t notice a difference between the two with these activities.

A dedicated graphics card frees up the CPU from processing graphics and greatly improves computer speed in graphic-intensive applications.  A card is usually required for gaming, high-definition movies, graphics editing and 3D modeling software.  Any program which is graphics intensive is going to benefit from dedicated graphics as this reduces the load on the CPU and frees it up for solely processing calculations and not handling any of the graphics.  Adding a graphics card is usually as simple as undoing a few screws and dropping it in however this greatly depends on what type of computer you’re using.  If you’re using a laptop you are probably out of luck as most laptops are not designed to handle intensive graphics.  Some laptops nowadays do come with dedicated graphics cards; however these are the exception not the rule and these notebooks are generally more expensive.  If you are using a desktop computer you’re in luck because these are the type of computers that graphics cards are designed for.

Graphic cards plug directly into the PCI express slot on your motherboard.  They are then usually held in place with a metal bracket on the back of your computer.  AGP is an older graphics slot that can also accommodate a video card; however these are becoming obsolete.

Graphics cards usually come with their own fans as well, as they can get quite hot when operated for hours at a time.  In fact, if you have a smaller computer case it is generally recommended to add an additional small fan to aid in airflow and cooling.  Small cases have notoriously poor airflow and cooling efficiency.

One of the main advantages of a dedicated graphics card is the ability to choose the specific type of graphics output.  Many video cards come with VGA, DVI, and HDMI outputs.  The advantage of this is clear, as all three outputs give you several options.  In this case you would have the ability to connect dual monitors if you wanted as well as a third HDMI output (video and audio) to a TV.  This would give you the ability to re-purpose your main computer as a home theatre pc.

It is also relatively common to find video cards with dual DVI or VGA outputs.  Two monitors are great for business or multi-tasking.  VGA however is quietly being phased out, as it is the old analog standard; in lieu of DVI and HDMI which are both digital.  Digital outputs offer a crisper picture and support higher resolution settings.

If you have the budget, dedicated graphics cards are great and offer increased flexibility; on the other hand if you are on a budget, you can probably get by with integrated graphics just fine.

What Does a Computer Power Supply Actually Do?

What is the purpose of your computer power supply and why is it so important?  The power supply in your computer is responsible for converting AC power from an outlet to DC current that your computer can actually use.  The power supply is rated by the maximum wattage output it is capable of producing.  To put things in perspective, the average laptop power supply might have an output of 200 or 300 Watts.   The average desktop computer might have an output of 500 to 700 Watts.  Most power supply units will automatically flow any required wattage up to their maximum rating.  Typically, the motherboard determines power allocation for the internal computer components.  Some other internal components such as fans or graphics cards may be connected directly to the power supply.  This method is generally reserved for higher power consuming components, as this method bypasses the motherboard completely.

The power supply is usually easily identifiable as it is likely the metal box in the corner with the power cable plugged directly into it.  You may note the colored wiring to and from the power supply.  When you push the power button on your computer, this sends a message to the motherboard to turn on the power supply, and supplies the other necessary components with power.

The power supply is generally regarded as a cheap component; therefore they are not usually repaired, simply replaced should they ever break.  Over the years power supplies and gotten greener and are now around 70% efficient. Anything a power supply doesn’t convert to power is thrown off as heat.  Heat is waste, so the less heat you have, the greener your power supply.  In other words if your power supply is consuming 700 Watts however only supplying 550 Watts total to your components, the missing 150 Watts is lost as heat. In this scenario, our power supply is over 78% efficient which is slightly above average.  Generally speaking, the more expensive the power supply, the more efficient it is.  For example, some power supplies designed for large servers (running 24 hours a day) can be over 90% efficient.  These aren’t cheap power supplies however, and with a normal desktop computer, the power supply isn’t likely to produce an excess of heat.

The average power supply has a lifespan rating of around 100,000 hours.  This corresponds to around 10 years of continuous operation.  However; as with any product individual mileage may vary, but your power supply should still outlast your other computer components.  If for some reason it doesn’t however, luckily they are pretty cheap.

What is the BIOS?

April 9th, 2012 | Posted by admin in I've Always Wondered... - (0 Comments)

What is the BIOS?

BIOS stands for basic input output system.  The BIOS is the underlying software system on your computer.  Any operating system on your computer is launched from the BIOS, and any hardware you use will communicate with it.  The BIOS is the linking component allowing hardware to see and interact with other hardware.  The BIOS is critical for successful computer operation, and if you ever make any changes to the BIOS you should write them down so they can be easily undone if the computer doesn’t boot properly the next time.  It is not recommended to make changes to the BIOS unless you are an experienced user, primarily due to the fact it is very easy to make a mistake as the BIOS is not always intuitive.

The BIOS isn’t something you normally interact with; however if you have ever tried to boot your computer in safe mode you’ll know what the familiar blue and white screen looks like.  Occasionally, BIOS drivers may be updated to fix a problem or a known issue.  Updating the BIOS is as easy as downloading and installing the new version from the computer manufacturer’s website.  To perform a BIOS update you will typically need a USB drive, Disc, or some other bootable media (maybe you have a blank floppy lying around…).

Common BIOS Uses

There are a number of functions that can be performed from within the BIOS:

Change the boot sequence

Set or change a BIOS level password

Change the data and time

View CPU or RAM info

Change the CPU settings (over clock)

Enable or Disable USB, onboard audio, or any ports

Modify power settings

Modify fan settings or system voltages

View system and CPU temperature

The BIOS is also useful for determining the specs of any computer, and to check if it is working properly. The first step in determining if an old computer is functioning properly is to see if it passes the POST test.  POST stands for power on self test and is used to determine if the computer will boot to the BIOS or not.  If the computer successfully passes the POST test, it may possible to install an operating system. If not there is likely an issue with either the BIOS or the computer itself and you should not buy it.

Each BIOS version is specifically designed for each make and model of computer it is installed on, and is usually not compatible with any other system.  If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have the correct BIOS for a certain computer, you should consult the computer manufacturer’s website as they will most likely have a download available for you free of charge.

When you first boot up the computer the BIOS will attempt to identify the CPU, keyboard, mouse, graphics card, any RAM, the hard drive, and any optical drives if attached.  If there is an issue identifying any of these you will be prompted for a solution from the BIOS before the computer boots any further.

The BIOS is also entrusted with the system clock and sometimes a BIOS level password.  Time and date changes can be made at the BIOS level, as well as from within the operating system.  A BIOS password is also known as a BIOS level password, and will prevent any unauthorized users from accessing the BIOS and installing a new operating system without your approval.  In this way the BIOS also serves an important safety function safeguarding your data and operating system from any malicious users.

The BIOS has many uses and if you aren’t familiar with it, it can’t hurt to open it up and take a look- just make sure you write down any changes you make, in case you have a problem later.

What Is a Heat Sink, and What Does It Do?

Computers generate heat; specifically CPUs.  Depending upon the size of the computer case, the programs you are running, and the age of the CPU; sometimes a lot of heat.  Computers usually incorporate a number of fans, to assist in cooling.  The harder the CPU is working, the harder the fans work to try to keep pace with the processor and keep it cool.  A cool CPU lasts longer, and is much more stable.

Every computer has a heat sink; the small metal structure surrounding the CPU.  The heat sinks job is to absorb heat generated by the CPU.  The heat sink is also molded in such a way as to not restrict the flow of air, which is why it usually is made up of metal plates in rows or lines.  In the process of performing its job heat sinks get very hot, so make sure you don’t touch it after you computer has been on for more than a few minutes.  Copper is the preferred metal for a heat sink, however since it is also slightly more expensive, aluminum is sometimes used as well.

Virtually all heat sinks come paired with a fan to improve airflow and cooling efficiency.  If the fan for whatever reason stops functioning properly, the CPU can and will overheat, sometimes causing irreversible damage.  Your system will likely freeze or start clipping graphics before it gets too hot.  The blue screen of death (on windows©) might also kick in should your system start to overheat.

If you are overclocking, you will want to monitor your CPU temperature quite closely, as you will be exceeding the design limitations of the heat sink, and possibly the main fan as well.  Usually adding another clip-on fan in your case will alleviate any potential issues if you decide to over clock; just keep an eye on the CPU load and temp.

Most computers don’t over heat because of overclocking however; most computers simply overheat because of a buildup of dust.  You will want to keep an eye on the vents and any air filters, likely located in the front or on the sides of your computer; to ensure your computer is getting optimal airflow.   If any dust has built up, the fans now have to work overtime to drive the same measure of airflow.  If you may have noticed your computer fans have gotten louder over time; dust may be the culprit.  A vacuum should be sufficient to remove the built up dust, and restore proper airflow.  If however your computer has been accumulating dust for some time, you may now have dust inside the case.  If you suspect this is happening, make sure you carefully clean out your computer case and clear any hard to reach spots with a can of compressed air.

The heat sink is a vital component of any computer system, and is crucial to ensure optimal performance of your computer.  Usually a maintenance free part on a computer, it can’t hurt to take a look at your computer case and inspect the vents as well as the actual heat sink every once in a while.  Your CPU will thank you by lasting longer and you will get more out of your computer over its life.