Article 68: WinDirStat

 WinDirStat

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to another edition of the Modern Nerd. Every week I try to bring you something cool and innovative in technology, and readers of my posts will no doubt know of my affinity for desktop computing. It’s a worthwhile investment that lasts you many years if done properly. This week, I want to share with you one of the best tools that I have for hard drive maintenance. Come check this out.

Windows Directory Statistics

Keeping your hard drives running smoothly, whether they are Solid State Drives or conventional Mechanical Drives, depends on knowing what is on them, what doesn’t need to be, and what is taking up space. The basic graphic that you get in the My Computer window is fine as an overview, but wouldn’t it be nice to expand it in the same way that you expand Windows Explorer folders?

WinDirStat is a free, open source program that you can download on CNET, or by searching it online. It provides a graphical representation of the files that are on your hard drive, and works for multiple hard drive systems just as well. You can see the types of files on your machine sorted by color, see percentages of the space that’s being occupied by certain files, move, edit, or delete files.

 

Here you can see a screen capture from my Solid State drive, after I got finished cleaning it up and removing my hibernation and page files. The sortable options are great and I love the ability to see what is taking up the most space. Large files like Windows files and games files are most obvious in the boxes. Each one of those boxes represents one file, arranged to scale by size.

You can see the most recent change dates, subdirectories, items, size, and percent, all sortable. This is a great and versatile tool, available for free. Keeping enough free space on your hard drive is important, and I hope you find this as helpful as I have.

Thanks for reading. Check out the Computer Fixer’s RSS feed and Like our page on Facebook to get all of our updates. The Modern Nerd returns every week with tips, tricks, free software, and reviews to improve your computing experience.  

Article 67: Roku

 Roku Box : Streaming Goodness for your TV       

Hey guys, welcome back to another edition of the Modern Nerd. This week, I am bringing you a review of another streaming system for your TV that I have tested out, and definitely approve of. The Roku box is an affordable, powerful streaming tool that allows you to watch TV and movies from the internet, and if you haven’t invested in a streaming solution yet, then this is worth a serious look, Let’s look a little bit deeper, and get the inside scoop.

The Good, The Bad, The Obvious.

It’s a streaming box. You will get best results with fast internet that is pulled directly into the box, which is one of the features that stood out to me immediately. The Roku is a small package that can integrate easily with any entertainment setup, but it includes an Ethernet jack. Wireless internet is all the rage and fantastic, but if you want to reliably stream HD video, there’s no substitute for hardwired internet.

The box allows streaming up to 1080p HD with an HDMI cable, which is great, but it also includes a multimedia cable that can integrate with legacy TV’s.  I felt like this was a great feature for what they were going for, which was an affordable solution to streaming shows to your TV.

Wireless Radio Remote

The Roku has an advantage over the Chromecast, and that is the included remote. You might want another remote for your collection of remotes, and you might not. But this system includes a remote that does not require line of sight, instead operates in the same manner as a video game controller. This is because some versions of the Roku come with Angry Birds, and the potential for more games.

Services Available

After you get set up and create an account, you can look at all of the channels that are available with an easy to read layout that is simplistic and user-friendly. Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video are the main headliners on the Roku. They all integrate seamlessly, and it just takes a few minutes to set them up. Roku also has its own channels that are similarly available to subscribe to for many different interests. If you want to watch streaming news or work out in your living room, you have choices for that.

Price Tag

When  we reviewed the Chromecast, I noted that a major selling point was its price. The Roku gets similar points, with more adaptability and more features than the Chromecast, but for around 75 dollars. This is a pretty cool piece of kit, and I don’t have much bad to say about it. If you are considering a streaming solution, the Roku box is worth a look.

Thanks for reading everyone. Take a look at our content on Facebook and subscribe to our RSS feed to get all of our updates. The Modern Nerd returns every week with tech content.

Article 66: Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 Brings Needed Help            

Welcome back to the Modern Nerd ladies and gentlemen, and I have some cool news about Windows. It’s getting better. There are some really great things about Windows, and it remains the most versatile operating system that is mass-marketed for everyone, but Windows 8 has some problems. It stepped away from Windows 7 very quickly, and it alienated a fair number of people that were comfortable in their operating systems. So let’s take a look at the changes and you can decide for yourself if Windows 8.1 is going to help out your computing experience.

The Desktop is Back

Desktop computer users can rejoice. The major change that everyone noticed when Windows 8 dropped was the start screen. Tablet users and touchscreen lovers were totally fine with it, but there was some backlash when the start button and the desktop went away. You log into Windows and have to press another button to get back to your desktop, and the buttons are huge.

Now, there will be an option to go straight to the desktop. Your Windows 8 will feel more like 7 if that’s what you want, and that Microsoft is listening to the feedback that they received is awesome. And in the same vein of changes, the Start Button is back on the taskbar to take you right back to their splash screen, but it also has a great right click menu that allows shutdown and Control Panel options easily accessible. Mouse controls are still very important for desktops and I approve of this change.

Better Screen Customizations

The splash screen has more options as well. Finally you can customize the background picture to whatever you want, rather than the bland and boring options that are just given to you. Windows Splash Screen is not in any danger of going away, so it is nice to see that more customization for something that you have to look at is available.

The mouse functionality is back on this screen too with more options for the size of the buttons on your screen. Tablet users and desktop users alike will agree that we are big enough boys and girls that we don’t need buttons sized for someone that is pressing them with their toes. So now you can make them even smaller, and less intrusive. On the complete flip side from that, you can take better advantage of the livetiles for sports and news and weather by making them larger, which displays more and better information.

How To Support Gets an Upgrade

With all of the features of Windows, there is a problem with the point of integration of new users. I get that you don’t spend all day learning the intricacies of the systems, and it is process to get really good at it. Microsoft has added a bunch of new videos to 8.1, showcasing features and telling users how to get to where they need to go.

Release Date??

The upgrade is available for free right now. It is however still in Beta, so there may be bugs in it. Full release will be available for free soon enough, but no official date has been given. Rumors put it somewhere in October. Not all  computers will be able to install it until full release, which is why my laptop seems to have some trouble with it, which is a pain. However I am really pleased with the changes made and I endorse checking them out if you are a Windows 8 user.

Thanks for reading as always. If you want to subscribe to the Computer Fixer’s blog, then check out the RSS feed, the Facebook page, and our content on the site, updated every week.

 

Aaron Krick
Blog Contributor at the Computer Fixer
aaron@flyingparrotcomputers.com
www.thecomputerfixer.com

Article 65: Internet Maintenance

Internet Speed – Optimize your Network!

Welcome back to the Modern Nerd. This week’s article comes after a long struggle with a friend’s internet, who wasn’t getting any speed on loading videos and downloading files. I am going to share with you some tips and tricks for home network maintenance, so you can make sure that your home system is working up to its full potential.

There’s No Place Like 192.168.1.1

If you are not a tech guru, you might not be familiar with some of the terminology that I’m about to throw around. So try to stay with me and I promise to use small words. Well, smaller than terminology at least.

The 4 numbers that are separated by periods are your IP address. IP stands for internet protocol, and it is your digital mailing address for data. When you connect to the internet, anything and everything is found with the address.

If you have more than one computer on your network, there is a central router that connects to the larger internet. This is the difference between LAN (your Local Area Network) and WAN (Wide Access Network). Still with me? Good.

In order to fix problems, change settings, set up passwords, or in general perform maintenance on your router, you need to go to the settings page. However, it’s not as easy to get to, since it is not connected to your computer directly. Fire up your favorite internet browser and go to the home page for the router, 192.168.1.1. There’s no place like home.

Keep your Firmware up to Date

Router software is small and it is simple, but it gets updates like everything else. If you have never updated your router, then there could be optimizations and transfer protocols that you are missing out on. Recently there were statements released by Verizon and other major companies about working on fixes to their software to improve the streaming video quality of services like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and more. It is very important for your highest possible quality of service to stay up to date. This is a simple process once you get yourself to the homepage of your router, and often doesn’t require more than a few clicks.

Customize your Internet Security

Wireless routers mean wireless security, and if you want to make sure that you and only you are accessing your internet connection, then the router page is also where you want to be. Most modern routers offer a list of all computers that are connected to your gateway. If you don’t know what one of these are, then you can block it’s connection regardless of password. This is just as easily undone if you make a mistake.

Passwords and encryption methods can also be customized on your router, so instead of a bunch of gibberish numbers and letters, you can replace them with your easier to remember, but no less cryptic, grouping of letters and numbers.

 

Thanks for reading as always. If you want to subscribe to the Computer Fixer’s blog, then check out the RSS feed, the Facebook page, and our content on the site, updated every week.

Aaron Krick
Blog Contributor at the Computer Fixer
aaron@flyingparrotcomputers.com
www.thecomputerfixer.com

                                                                                                                           

Article 64: Chromecast

The Google Chromecast: 35 Bucks?!?

Welcome back to the Modern Nerd. This week I am going to give you guys the real scoop on a new piece of kit that is out there, and is making splashes. The Google Chromecast is the new HDMI dongle that is cheap and promises great things for your TV. It has gotten mostly mixed reviews, and this post won’t be much different. Let’s look first at what it is, what it does, and then you can decide if it is right for you.

An HDMI Dongle?

USB dongles have been around for years. Now this technology has been repurposed for the HDMI slot in TV’s. HMDI stands for High Definition Multimedia Interface, and carries video and sound at high resolutions up to 1080p. Google’s latest invention promises to allow streaming of YouTube, Netflix, and other sources of video with an Android remote or an Apple App.

No Remotes, Just Phones

Google has marketed this device as an ultra-modern, tech savvy, stream from the Cloud device. There is no included dedicated remote, so you need a smartphone or a tablet that has the ability to control it. Android operating systems and Apple iOS both have apps, or you can use a computer to control it. There is a definite appeal to not adding another remote control to the bin, but if you are not as up on the latest tech gear, than this might not be for you.

Simplified Streaming Options

Currently, Google Chromecast supports YouTube, Netflix, Chrome, and Google Play. There are rumors of Pandora coming too, but these four are all for now. You can access your personal movies on your computer with Google Play and a bit of setup, and cast tabs of your internet browser to the TV to share with everyone in the room. There are some cool features to work with, and I am always on board for making computers and TV a more social experience.

35 Bucks.

It’s a very very cool thing, and at a really good price. 35 bucks makes this worth considering by itself, and then you remember that there are no membership fees or usage costs besides what you already pay for. The one thing that the perfectly lit images on the internet do not show, is the fact that Chromecast requires power. You can get it from the USB service jack on your TV or a wall socket with the adapter that they include with it. But it is not a one piece assembly, even if it’s very close.

 

Thanks for reading guys. I am unsure whether I am going to get one of these myself, not because I don’t want it, but because everything I own is already pretty connected. Getting a simplified and modern interface would be pretty cool though, for just 35 bucks. Follow all of the Modern Nerd content on the Computer Fixer’s RSS feed and through Facebook, and be sure to check us out every week for fresh stuff.

Aaron Krick
Blog Contributor at The Computer Fixer
aaron@flyingparrotcomputers.com
www.thecomputerfixer.com

Article 63: Spotlight Continued

Spotlight on: Yoga 13 by Lenovo



Hey there guys, I’m back to finish my review on the Yoga, my brand new laptop. I have had it for a week now, and I have to admit that I am in love with it. Let’s go over some really cool features and discuss the pros and cons of having an ultrabook versus a conventional laptop.

What I Like

The form of this machine first and foremost, is great. Not just because it is thin and light, because it is smaller and lighter than any textbook that I had to lug around, but because of how seamless the entire thing fits together. Folding the screen around is solid and it stays where you put it. I did not expect to be using the stand feature as much as I do, but I have to admit that having a small pop-up TV that follow me around while I’m working with the tablet is really great. The recessed keys make me feel better about propping it up, and the sleeve that I have for the machine alleviates that worry altogether.

The keyboard layout is also spot-on. If you do a lot of typing, then you need not only the keys, but easy access to the delete key, home key, end key, and the arrows. They have managed to include these functions without being intrusive to the design, and the keys feel responsive and easy to type with. It’s no mechanical keyboard, but I have high standards. I appreciate the function key row as well, as it has simple computer functions like volume and brightness and external projectors, and holding the function key will give you access to the traditional F1-F12 keys. This makes a bunch of sense because of the infrequency of pressing them in the first place, and I hate the help menu popping up every time I accidentally find F1.

Windows 8 also makes tablet mode pretty simple. The navigation through the home screen makes a lot more sense now than it ever did on a desktop system, and I am happy to have access to the app store where before I was wondering what the point was. I now have a Kindle and notebook and sketchpad, all I have to do is fold the screen over. Taking a whole library of books is going to be much simpler now.

My battery life is sitting at 26% right now, and the machine tells me that I have 2 hours of life left. I am really happy with that too, powerhouse machines are great when plugged in, but the ultrabook is the way to go for mobility and battery life. The solid state hard drive performs as expected, you open the book and it is ready to go.

What Could Be Better

There are a few things that I would consider to improve upon. Using the machine as a tablet leaves a lot of fingerprints on a glossy screen, so I am thankful that I have access to microfiber cleaning cloths, and I will be carrying one with me. The screen finish is very bright and clear, but could use some work is the cleanliness retention. I am also not as much a fan of the trackpad, they placed a marker to show right click versus left click, but there is no tactile response when you cross the marker, so you are forced to look down to make sure that you are choosing the right click. I will be experimenting with the settings more to see if I can make it a bit more like Apple’s second click for right click. It is a very minor concern, and can easily be chalked up to user learning curve. I will be used to it in another week. There is a volume slider on the side of the machine that is quite nice, but it could be moved closer to the headphones port, and it feels a little clunky when not in tablet mode. This is offset by the function keys which allow for easy control of the volume when using the keyboard.







Windows 8 Connectivity

The one other feature that I think that I will be using regularly is the ability to connect to my desktop and access all of my files there, right from Windows. I have tried it a few times on LAN, and it seems great. Windows 8 Pro on my desktop allows me to remote access from any version of Windows 8, so I don’t have to worry about lost files ever again, especially if I forget to throw them into my Dropbox folder.

Do I recommend this…

Yes! This is a great laptop so far, and I am very pleased. Lenovo did a great job with the design and preinstalling all of the software. I did a fair amount of setting up everything that I need on the first day, but the machine was fully functional right out of the box. The RAM and processor are great in a package this small, and I am glad to have a mobile platform added to my tech arsenal again.

Thanks for reading. Check out all of our blog content at the Computer Fixer, and subscribe to our RSS feed and Like our page on Facebook to get all of the updates. The Modern Nerd will return again next week with more tips and tricks for making the most out of your tech.

Aaron Krick
Blog Contributor at The Computer Fixer
aaron@flyingparrotcomputers.com
www.thecomputerfixer.com

 

Article 62: Spotlight: Lenovo Yoga 13

Welcome back to the Modern Nerd ladies and gentlemen. This week I am bringing you a spotlight on a computer that I am very excited about, because I have ordered it for myself. It is currently in the mail, so this will be the first of a two-part article. I will highlight some decision making points, go over some really cool features, and show you how a new piece of technology can integrate seamlessly with what you already own.

The Lenovo Yoga 13 Ultrabook is a really, really cool piece of tech, and is going to be my next computer. If you missed the first Modern Nerd article on Ultrabooks, it is a good read, linked for you below.

http://www.thecomputerfixer.com/blog/the-modern-nerd/article-17%3A-ultrabooks

As an ultrabook, the computer conforms to several standards laid down by the gods at Intel. The battery life for 2013 models is a minimum of 5 hours. Ultrabooks also have specific size requirements, which are all publicly available on Wikipedia, but because of those restrictions they rarely include DVD Optical drives. There are also requirements on the data transfer speeds, so typically these computers will include a solid state disk drive.

How fast you want?

The Lenovo Yoga 13 has a battery that will last 8 hours, includes a 256 GB SSD, and can be customized in the processor from the i3 platform to the i7. This is the first major decision point, and a very important one. You need to decide on your speed requirements, based on what you do. There is no possibility of a gaming graphics card on an Ultrabook, graphics are supplied by the onboard Intel Graphics 4000 processor. If you use higher-CPU requirements programs like CAD modeling, Photoshop, video production, or rendering, then you  need the higher-power CPU.

An Ultrabook is a portable extension of what you do already with workstation machines, but should be able to stand on its own when needed. An i5 processor can be a great go-between if you are looking to be more budget-minded about getting a mobile platform. The processor is the only major decision and can be made based on your budget and requirements. RAM, Hard Drive Space, and other features are much more standardized across the platform.

Tablet? Laptop? Why Choose!

Another strong selling point for Lenovo on their computer is the flexibility to use it as a tablet or as a laptop. The screen hinges are of a proprietary design, and travel all the way around so you can fold the screen into a tablet. The screen features ten-point multi-touch, so all of the gestures that you are used to from your smartphone will control screens on the computer. Windows 8 is included to take full advantage of the touchscreen, and the keyboard and mouse on the reverse side is shut off to prevent accidental button presses.

A serious concern that I had was if the computer keys were going to get scratched or dinged around in tablet mode, but the Yoga has 2 great answers to that. Not only do they create a recessed keyboard to ensure that when placed on a flat surface none of the keys are pressed, but they offer a sleeve that can serve as a case for when it’s not in use, and in use to protect the keyboard further. The screen can be positioned in any spot and its special hinges will hold it through touching. This is a feature I am looking forward to testing and reporting on.

I am very excited to add this computer to my arsenal of tech. Look out for my review when it gets here. I’ll go over remote desktop applications, as well as general performance of this model. Be sure to Like our page on Facebook and subscribe to our RSS feed to get all of the updates from the Modern Nerd and The Computer Fixer.

 

 

Aaron Krick
Blog Contributor at the Computer Fixer
aaron@flyingparrotcomputers.com
www.thecomputerfixer.com

 

 

 

 

Article 61: Steam Summer Sales

Steam Sales: Summertime Gaming for Cheap!

Hey guys, welcome back to the Modern Nerd. It is my pleasure to be bringing you some insider information on one of the best deals around for PC gamers, the Steam Summer Sale. Whether you are a casual gamer yourself or need a gift idea for the gamer in your life, then you have come to the right place. Let’s take a look at the possibilities.

What the heck is Steam?

For those of you who may not know, Steam is a game client service offered by Valve Entertainment. Valve is the gaming company that created such iconic games as Half-Life, Portal, Counter-Strike, and others. Their online matchmaking system, similar to Xbox Live or PlayStation Online, is called Steam.

Steam is far more than just online matchmaking however. Their system has evolved to be a complete online gaming store, that will allow you to purchase, download, install, manage, play, share, and play together with friends all of your PC games. All for no subscription fees, or strings attached.

Get to the good part!

The good part is the sales. During major holidays, and in the summertime, you can get games for your computer at 50 to 80 percent off. Games that are normally sold for 60 dollars can be found for 10. If you have a game that you want to play, this is the time to look for it. Up until July 22nd, the sale will continue to run. Games are rotated and picked by the users in the rotation. You can find deals that range from $2.50 or so up to half off a game that just released, making it $25 or $30 down from 60.

But I don’t play games!

Then I weep for you. BUT! You can still take advantage of this for the gamer in your life, because gifts are never unappreciated. If you have a Steam account, which is totally free to sign up for, you can purchase a game as a gift, and send it to an email address connected to the steam account that your friend uses. Steam makes it simple, and gives you two bright yellow buttons to choose from when buying, either for yourself or as a gift. If you buy something as a gift, and then later change your mind, you can gift it to yourself as well and play.

Sign Me Up!

First things first, you need a steam account. Head over to www.steampowered.com or Google “Steam” to get started. This is totally free. Installing the steam client, which is only a few megabytes, will give you access to the Steam Store, and you can check out all of the amazing prices for games right now. Steam connects games to your account, not your computer. That means you can play any of the games that you own on any computer, you just need to download and install them. Steam makes this simple and does most of it automatically.

 

Thanks for reading as always. Happy gaming this summer! Subscribe to our RSS feed and Like our page on Facebook to get all of the updates from our blog and the Modern Nerd. Thanks!

 

Aaron Krick
Blog Contributor at The Computer Fixer
aaron@flyingparrotcomputers.com
www.thecomputerfixer.com
  

Article 60: Power Buttons

Hey ­­guys, welcome back to the Modern Nerd. Today I want to give you a few tips about your computer, and more specifically how you can change the button functions. The power and reset buttons on your computer are rarely used aren’t they? I mean sure, everyone gets frustrated and has to hard boot the thing every once in a while (I’ll explain that one further down if I just lost you), but for the most part the power button goes unused. Let’s figure out how to use Windows settings to make them more useful, so you don’t have to go through your start menu, or lackthereof in Windows 8, to tell the computer to go to sleep.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

If you are running a Windows 7 or 8 operating system, hit your Windows key and type “Change what the Power Buttons do”. The Control Panel function is under Hardware and Sound/Power Options/System Settings. You may need to indicate to your computer to elevate your privledges to Administrator level to change all of the settings, but there will be a button with the Windows Kite Shield icon to show you where to click.

Dropdown menus allow you to select new options for your button functionalities. You can choose to make your power button initiate shut down, make the computer go to sleep, or you can turn off the functionality entirely if it is in a position where it could get pressed accidentally or to prevent shutdown of a computer accidentally that acts as a file server.

Password on Wakeup

You can also choose from this menu the requirements of a password on wake. If your account has a password, then it will default to on, but you can set this to your personal preference, if your computer goes to sleep and wakes up constantly then a password might get annoying.

Close Your Laptop’s Lid without Turning it Off

Do you want to use your laptop like a tower? Connect it to another monitor, or keyboard, etc.? This menu, if you have a laptop, will also allow you to change what closing the lid on your laptop will do. This is a really useful trick for connecting another TV or monitor, so you can set up a movie or stream and then close the laptop, turn off the laptop’s screen, and keep it running. Just don’t forget that the setting is like this, or you could lose a battery without knowing about it until it’s too late.

 

Thanks for reading as always. Check out our RSS feed and Facebook page to get all of the updates from The Computer Fixer, coming back with more blog articles every week.

Aaron Krick
Blog Contributor at the Computer Fixer
aaron@flyingparrotcomputers.com
www.thecomputerfixer.com

 

Article 59: Smart TV’s

 Smart TV’s – No Consoles Required

Welcome back to the Modern Nerd. I am always amazed a t how the march of technology never ceases, and while enjoying the coverage of a US Open tournament practically in our backyards, advertised quite heavily, were the latest televisions from Samsung, the so-called Smart TV. This is not a new concept, not even close, but it is a great new melding of existing technologies that will simplify a new entertainment system and give you more options, and it’s the focus of this week’s Modern Nerd. Let’s have a look at some of the features that are available, so you can make the best choice for you.

“Hal, turn on the TV please…”

Voice activation is becoming more and more popular, and the space that it occupies is becoming larger. From asking for sports scores or the weather on your phone to searching the TV for something to watch, using your voice is fast becoming a faster alternative to typing it out. Smart TV’s that have voice integration that can take your search for simple keywords, or even decipher simple questions and commands.

Google vs. Apple vs. Samsung vs…….

There are plenty of different varieties out there when you look at a smart TV. Google and Apple each have their own variety of add-on box that will upgrade your existing HDMI-powered television to be a Smart TV, or you can buy this functionality already built in with a new set. At this time though, to take advantage of features like gestures and voice, you need an integrated system.

Yeah that’s right. I said Gestures.

Now features like pinch zoom, swipe, and all of the others that you are used to on your phone are in the Smart TV’s. Borrowing the idea from the Xbox Kinect, with also images you to take advantage of gesture control, you don’t need to use the remote for everything, and your body can stand in.

Because Everything Needs an App  Store

Yeah, the App Store models are not going away any time soon. Connections to social media, YouTube, streaming services, and all other good things internet are found on the Samsung App Store, the Google Play App Store, and so on.

Do I need this?

There is an old saying. The more you overwork the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain. There are a lot of really cool things that you can do with a Smart TV. Ask yourself first though if you want that kind of functionality. Do you use the internet a ton? Are there shows on YouTube and other New Media that you follow closely? Can you quickly and easily pick up the details of a new operating system? There will be a learning curve associated with this and if it is something that you are not entirely prepared for, it could take you by surprise. I know that I want a system that has Internet functionality someday, but for now I am perfectly happy with my computer and television the way they are.

 

Thanks for reading. Subscribe to our RSS feed to get all of the latest from us, and be sure to check back here every week for more from the Modern Nerd and The Computer Fixer.

Aaron Krick
Blog Contributor at the Computer Fixer
aaron@flyingparrotcomputers.com
www.thecomputerfixer.com