Monday, January 31, 2011

Open Office - The Alternative to Microsoft Office

Since typewriters are virtually obsolete, we all need a word processing program today.  Every computer running Windows has a program called Wordpad installed, which is the most basic word processing program you can get. The problem with Wordpad though is that it's so basic, that it lacks a lot of needed features.

Microsoft Works is another program that comes pre-installed on most new computers today.  Works is similar to Microsoft Office in that its a suite of office software. However, because it's typically free, it's not as good as the full featured Microsoft Office suite (which is still "king" in office suite software).  Microsoft Works Word is a better program than Wordpad, but still not as good as Microsoft Word.

If you can afford Microsoft Office, it's still the preferred choice for office software.  However, if money is tight, there is an alternative.  It's called, Open Office

Open Office is FREE and is a complete suite of office software.  It's very comparable to Microsoft Office.  And better yet, you can open Word and Excel documents in Open Office and edit them.  This is a HUGE plus! 

Because Open Office was designed to look and feel like Microsoft Office, it's pretty intuitive to use.  The only trick is getting used to the names of individual programs.  For example, the word processing program in Open Office is called, Writer (instead of Word).  The spreadsheet program is called, "Calc" (instead of Excel).   Open Office even has a PowerPoint counterpart called, Impress. Here's the complete suite of programs that comes with Open Office:
  • Writer (similar to Microsoft Word)
  • Calc (similar to Microsoft Excel)
  • Impress (similar to PowerPoint)
  • Base (similar to Access)
  • Draw (a graphics program which is better than Paint).
If you don't have Microsoft Office installed on your computer, I would recommend downloading and installing Open Office

Friday, January 28, 2011

Configuring WordBB to work with MyBB

WordBB is a Wordpress plugin designed to bridge MyBB and Wordpress together.  The purpose of doing this is so they work together. It's a way to integrate your existing MyBB forum into your Wordpress site. 

If you already have a Wordpress site, installing the plugin is easy.  Just log into your WP site and click the plugins link and then "add new' and search for "wordbb".  Once you find it, you can install and activate it.

Then comes the tricky part.

Once WordBB has been installed and activated, you'll have to click the links that reads, "WordBB Options" to configure it. And in order to configure it, you'll need to have some information handy (namely, the details of your database setup - that is, the database you setup during your MyBB installation).

Hopefully, you kept some notes during the installation process to make it easier to retrieve this information.  If you didn't, you'll have to log into your web host account and look up the details of your database.  Here's what you need to know:
  • The name of your MySQL database that was set up during MyBB installation. 
  • The username for that database
  • The password for the database
  • The Host Server for the database
You should keep these details in a file so you can refer back to them again if needed.  Another thing you need to know is the URL of your MyBB forum. This is pretty straight forward.  The URL would look something like:

There is one other thing you'll need to complete the WordBB configuration and this is where most people get hung up.You'll need to know is the "MyBB Absolute path on the server"

The easiest way to get this piece of information is to create a PHP file and paste some code into it and upload it to your server in the MyBB root folder (i.e., the folder you installed MyBB to).  This PHP file (when executed) will tell you what the absolute path is.  So here's what you do.

Open you're favorite web editing software (I use Dreamweaver) and create a new PHP file.  Name the file "rootchecker.php" and save it to the same folder you installed MyBB to.  I installed MyBB to a folder named, "forum" on my root directory, so that is where I saved the rootchecker.php file to.

Now copy the code below and then paste it into the rootchecker.php file just after the tag. Then save the file and upload it.

Once the rootchecker.php file has been uploaded, open your internet browser and type in the URL (being sure to replace "" with your actual domain name). :

You'll see a string of text when you're done.  That text is the path to your root folder. Copy that entire string of text and paste it on the "MyBB absolute path on server" field on the WordBB Options page and save the changes. 

If you see an error message saying, "can't find global.php file' after saving the changes, you'll have to follow the steps below. 

First re-open your "rootchecker.php" file and find the code previously pasted into it and remove it.  In it's place, copy and paste the code below:

Save the file and reupload it. Then open your internet browser again and go back to the URL mentioned above (  Once again you'll see a string of text.  Copy and paste this text into the "MyBB absolute path on server" and save.  Hopefully you won't see any more error messages.  

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Firefox Plans to Develop a New Privacy Tool

Most know their movements are tracked while they surf the web (primarily for advertising reasons) and some of us even use additional software tools to help reduce of that tracking.   One of tools I use is Firefox (instead of Internet Explorer). With Firefox, I have a little more contrrol over my privacy and advertising.

For those who don't know what Firefox is, it's an internet browser (like Internet Explorer). I've been using it for years, but only started recommending it to my clients in past couple of years.  Before Internet Explorer 7 was released, Firefox confused a lot of people.  But now that Microsoft has copied Firefox (with the release of IE7), more and more people are comfortable using it.

The new "Do Not Track" feature (when enabled) will basically tell web sites that you've opted-out of online advertising behavior.  In response, they're not supposed to track your movements through their site for advertising purposes.

No doubt, some sites will try to counteract  this feature by posting messages that some features of their site may not function properly with the "do not track" feature enabled.  My response .... ignore the messages. As long as you're seeing and doing what want a web site, there's no reason to disable the feature.

For more information about the "Do Not Track" privacy tool in Firefox, click here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Facebook Plans to Invade Your Privacy Again

Many Facebook users are already concerned about their privacy issues, but once again, Facebook doesn't seem to care.

As if they weren't already making enough money, they now plan to use you in their ads.  So every time you "like" a certain a product or "check in" to one of your favorite local coffee shops, etc., you risk having your profile connected with that merchant and published in one of FB's ads.  In Facebook's own words ....
"Facebook said the sponsored stories are all labeled as such. Users won't get any special notification that their posts have been sponsored and used as ads, and there's no option for users to opt out of the service".
The fact that FB users won't even be able to "opt-out" of this feature is really upsetting.  It will be interesting to see if Facebook does and about face on this one as users voice their complaints.

For more information about Facebook's plans to use you in their Ads, click here.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Comparing Computer Processors

Most people know that when buying a new computer, it's important to look at the CPU speed and the amount of RAM (Memory) is installed.  But start talking about different type of processors, and confusion quickly sets in.

Intel and AMD are the two biggest manufacturers of Computer Processors (CPU's) and for the average consumer, it really doesn't matter much today which one you get.  This isn't true for online gamers where speed is very important. But for the rest of us, who don't want to spend top dollar for the latest and greatest processor and don't need nano-second speed advantages ... the average CPU is usually sufficient.

For those who do care, there is a great site with side by side comparisons of CPU benchmark tests that you may find useful. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Forcing WWW to Show in URL in Wordpress

Wordpress is a great place to host a blog, but it does have its frustrations.  I won't go into them all here, but one thing that I and others have found very frustrating is forcing the web address to show 'www' before the domain name. 

Why is this important?  There are several reasons.  First, search engines don't like it when a website's address will sometimes show as and other times it shows as  Search engines will sometimes view this as two different websites with duplicate content.  The easiest way to fix this is to force the URL to always show the www before the domain name.

Some Wordpress Plugins (like S2Member) also require the 'www' in the URL in order to function properly.  The trick, however, is getting the job done.

If you search the web, you'll find a plethora of information about how to force the www in the URL.  Some sites suggest editing the HTACCESS file.  This may or may not work depending on your setup, but it didn't work for me.

I also tried calling tech support for my host ( for help in reconfiguring the CNAME in the Domain Manager.  This didn't work either.  The good folks at GoDaddy informed me that things were set correctly to force the www on the server, but that Wordpress was overwriting their configuration. 

After hours of frustration of trying every suggestion on the web, I finally found the answer in the Wordpress settings (and you wouldn't believe how simple it was to fix)!  Here's how I fixed the problem.
  1. Log into Wordpress
  2. On the left side of the screen, scroll down to SETTINGS and click GENERAL
  3. Change the Wordpress Address URL) to (replacing to your domain)
  4. Change the SITE URL to (replacing  with your domain)
  5. Scroll down and click the blue SAVE CHANGES button
 That's it.  No need to edit the HTACCESS file, PHP files, or any other files (in this case anyway).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Check Out the New How To Section!

Although I've made an effort to give detailed instructions on how to do things on the computer in the past, I've thought it might make things easier to setup a page with links to some those posts.

You can (and should) still use the search feature on this blog, but I hope the new page will help answer some of the more common questions more quickly.

I even added the new page in the navigation menu, so all you have to do is click the "How To" button to get immediate access to the links.

I'll do my best to add to remember to add to the list every time I create a new "how to" post, but just in case you can't find what you're looking for, don't forget to use the search feature.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

What's Wrong With the iPad?

While iPads continue to be the latest craze (next to the iPhone), I've recently come across a few articles that I thought you might be interested in.  I've played with the iPad a few times and don't own one.  So my knowledge and opinion of them is limited.  At first glance, they are cool and fun to use and the portability makes them great for easy carry along.

But like anything else, once you spend some time getting to knows the ins and out of a device, you get a better feel for works great and what doesn't.  These articles share a bit more insight into problems (or complaints) about the iPad.

By the way, if you're interested in alternatives to iPad, here's an article detailing iPad's 12 biggest competitors.
Acer is also working on it's own version of the iPad.  This one (compared to the others) looks the most interesting to me.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Troubleshooting Printer Problems

Printer problems are one of the more frustrating issues we computer users sometimes have to deal with.  That's because most of us only have one printer attached to the computer and when we need to print something, we typically need it now. 

There are many different things can cause printer problems, but regardless of the problem, the basic steps to troubleshoot the problem are the same.  Hopefully the steps below will help solve your problem.  If they don't, you may need to contact technical support for further help.

First things first .....

Look for error messages on the computer or the printer itself.  These messages can help you find the cause  immediately.  Some of the common error messages you may see include paper jam or no ink.  Some printers only have flashing lights to indicate problems.  Your printer manual should be able to help you decipher what the flashing lights mean.  If you don't have your printer manual (or can't find it), you should be able to download a copy of it on the manufacturer's website.

Listen to the printer.  If you hear the printer trying to print, then you know the computer is talking to the printer and that the problem is in the printer itself.  It may be that the printer is out of paper, or the paper isn't feeding correctly.  if you don't hear anything, the printer is either off  (or really dead) or the computer may not be talking to the printer (which requires further troubleshooting).

The next step is to check the printer queue.  Every time we click the print button, the print job is sent to the queue and when the printer isn't working, these print jobs can pile up (causing more problems).  Checking the print queue will reveal backlogged print jobs ... and if there are any, you'll want to delete them all.  Follow the steps below to check the print queue.
  1. Click the START button and then CONTROL PANEL
  2. Open the PRINTER folder
  3. Double-left click on your printer icon (a new window opens)
  4. If there are any print jobs queued, they will show up on the window.  When troubleshooting the printer, you want to delete all of these print jobs. To do this, single-left click a job (to highlight it) and then click DOCUMENT and CANCEL on the window's menu. Repeat the process for every print job. 
  5. Once the print queue is empty, it wouldn't hurt to reboot the computer as well as power-cycle the printer.

Power-Cycling the Printer is another good troubleshooting step when having printer problems.  Doing so re-initializes the printer and can clear up some issues.  You can also reboot the computer.  Sometimes it's best to shut down the computer, then power-cycle the printer, and then start the computer back up.  This helps to re-establish communication between the two.

Check the Manufacturer's web site for more help. Most manufacturer web sites have a good support section that details common problems and how to fix them.  They may also offer software patches to fix known technical issues. This step may be too advanced for some people, but this is still an option.

Uninstalling your printer's software and reinstalling is another option ... although, I typically consider this a last resort.  If you do decide to try this, be sure to uninstall through the control panel.  If you don't have your printer disk, you can download the software from the manufacturer's web site. Be sure to get the software that matches your operating system (Winy7, Vista, XP, etc.) and System Type (32 or 64 bit).

Ink Problems are another common issue all together.  Most of these problems can be solved by cleaning the print heads, removing the tape on the ink cartridge, reseating ink cartridges, or changing cartridges all together.  Your printer manual can help you accomplish these tasks. 

These steps won't fix every printer problem, but they do fix the majority of them.  And with luck, they'll fix yours as well.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Customizing Windows Gadgets

Windows Gadgets are new feature included with Windows Vista and Windows 7.  Gadgets are really Window's version of Yahoo Widgets.  Gadgets are little tools you can add to your desktop.  The more popular gadgets used include the weather, calender and clock.  

Windows displays gadgets in an invisible sidebar on the right side of the desktop.  However, this sidebar can moved to the left side of the desktop if you prefer.  You can also configure Windows to start the sidebar (and gadgets) every time windows starts.

If you don't see any gadgets on your desktop, it's most likely because the sidebar is closed.  The easiest way to re-enable it is to click the START button and type "sidebar" in the search field and hit enter. Then click the WINDOWS SIDEBAR link in the results. 

To Configure the Sidebar to Start Every Time Windows Starts, follow the steps below:
  1. Click the START button and then CONTROL PANEL
  2. Double-left click the WINDOWS SIDEBAR PROPERTIES icon
  3. Make sure there is a checkmark in the box next to "Start Sidebar when Windows Starts"
  4. Click OK
Once the sidebar is opened, you can right-click on it and select ADD GADGETS to place them in the sidebar. Double left-click a gadget to add it.  You can also try searching for more gadgets using the search field.

If you add the weather gadget, you'll have to configure it to display the weather for your current location.  If you rest your mouse on the right side of the icon, you'll see a little wrench (click it). Type your location (city, state) in the search field and then click the magnifying glass before clicking OK.

You can easily close gadgets you no longer want by hitting the X to the right of the gadget's icon ... or you can right click on the gadget itself and select CLOSE GADGET.

Moving Gadgets

By default, gadgets are placed in line with each other on the sidebar (which is usually displayed on the right side of the desktop).  But if you prefer, you can detach any gadget and move it wherever you want it on the dektop.  All you do is right-click on the gadget and select "Detach From Sidebar".  Then hold the left mouse button down the gadget to drag it wherever you want it.

For more information on Windows Gadgets, click here.