3 Neat Tricks for Chrome

The last time that Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) held the majority share of browser usage was 2008 according to statistics gathered by w3schools. Currently, Google’s Chrome has the lead with 59%, followed by Mozilla Firefox at 25%. Microsoft lags behind at roughly 9%!

I tend to use all three web-browers in any given week in order to insure cross-brower compatibility of my various service offerings. It was not too long ago, though, that all of these services required IE. Times have changed, and with technology, it’s important you change with them! I should know, I’ve had some practice.

After all, I’ve been online for a while -- since before the invention of the world-wide-web, infact! In all that time, it’s been very interesting to follow the “browers wars”, and it’s a war that rages on. Some would say it’s a battle for your desktop and your doorway to all computing services!

How ever this war progresses, the facts on the ground say that Google is winning. I for one welcome our new overlords. Here are 3 tips to help you get the most out of Google Chrome.

1. Re-Open lost tabs

Don't you hate it when you accidentally close a tab? With chrome, you can easily get that tab back by pressing CTRL-Shift-T (or Command-Shift-T on mac). Press the combo as many times as necessary to cycle through your browser history.

2. Use the Omnibox as a calculator or unit converter

Chrome calls their address bar (where you'd put a www address), the "Omnibox". In may ways, this bar makes google.com's search field redundant. The omnibar contains many of the same functions that google's search bar does, including the ability to be used as a calculator or unit converter. To use the function, simple start typing your formula (or units) in to the omnibox, the sum or conversion will appear in the results preview below.

3. Open search results in a new tab

So now you're using your Omnibox to do basic math and other general google search functions. One of the drawbacks might be that, when you enter a search term and press Enter, your results open up in your current tab. If you'd like to continue browsing whatever site your currently on, you can easily open your search in a new tab by pressing the Alt (or Command, on Mac) button while you press Enter/Return.

Clean your Hard Drive the Easy Way

Whether for the PC, or the Mac, there are some great free utilities to help you keep your hard drive free of clutter.

When your hard drive fills up to the point where you need to clean it up, it's often hard to find exactly where those files are that take up so much space. These two programs give you a visual representation, making it easy to quickly remove files you no longer want or need.

WinDirStat (Windows)

There are many programs out there that provide these nice visual queues, but WinDirStat stands out due to it's mature stage of development, and it's price tag: $0.

WinDirStat gives you a file tree like you're used to, with percentages of space taken, and a reference to the total size of folders/files. When you click on a file (or a square in the visual area), you'll get loads of good information about the files location and size.

GrandPerspective (OSX)

Like WinDirStat, GrandPerspective offers different sized squares. It's not quite as in-depth with a file tree as WinDirStat. However it still allows you to see your hard drive visually, then click on a square, discover what file or files are taking up all that space, and allow you to delete them.

9 Ways to Help Protect from Viruses

Computers are weak, you are strong. Since it's inception, the computer has been susceptible to viruses and other malicious software, but it's not the computer's fault -- we made them that way!

Now, there are fans of this operating system or that who will tell you their OS is different, but it is not. Any OS that gains enough market share/usage will be a target, and no matter how robust its security measures - so long as a human can click "yes", or a machine can say "yes" automatically, there will be malicious software.

That's not to say certain OS's are not more susceptible than others by default, and if that's the case, we all know that we should take steps to "harden" our security by keeping our programs up to date. We all know we should install a firewall, antimalware, and antivirus software.

But what else can we do?

1. Use multiple passwords

Yes, this has been said to death. Yes, you really need to do this! Here's something you may not know, though: The old password method, and the one still REQUIRED by many places, isn't as effective as we think it is. The old "UPPERCASElowercase$ymb0|s#numb3r5" eesh, what a mess! Here's a common version of that method: Passw0rd!

Gimmie a break.

This xkcd comic (warning, nerd comic!) explains it best.

Instead, come up with a few passwords that are illogical four word groupings, but that you can easily remember. It doesn't even have to be upper/lower/numerical/symbol, but it can be! Here's an example: sillybiscutthundercar -- toss in capitals, numbers, and symbols as required.

2. Write down your passwords

Wait, WHAT!? Yes I knew that one would throw you for a loop. This is also advice you would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere on the net. But here's the thing, we need to work with our own behaviors, it's the only way any personal system can be successful.

So think about it. How often do you forget passwords and need to reset them? When you reset them, how often do you just end up using the one you can easily remember (aka the one you use for everything!).

Now, I'm not suggesting you write these on a sticky note and "hide" them under your keyboard or that desk drawer you're thinking about. No, instead, write them all down on a piece of paper and store them in your fireproof safe, or otherwise in a TRULY secure area. Next time you forget that password, you know right were to go to find it, and you wont end up in the vicious cycle of forgetting and resetting, which devolves quickly into Password123.

3. Browse thoughtfully

While traveling the internet we can end up in some pretty seedy areas. Sometimes we go there on purpose, sometimes we just take a wrong turn. Either way, we should come prepared! Many browsers have a "safety" features we find annoying and turn off. Turn those puppies back on if you expect trouble. Maybe turn on an ad-blocker (like Firefox's adblockplus), and turn off popups. But basically, if you're going to travel through hostile territory, bring protection, and tread carefully.

4. Don't be a pirate

Software, Movies, Music, you name it, it's out there in bootleg and pirated form. Those who frequent these back alleys are aware of the dangers they face (from malicious software or people), and they travel appropriately (if tip #3 is to lock your doors and pack pepper spray, then these guys are rolling through in an armored column with automatic weapons). Unless that sounds like your cyber persona, stay clear. Or stay clear anyway, it's illegal and it's traceable!

5. Watch out for "Free"

The best things in life are free, and you'll get to spend a lot of time offline enjoying life if you're in the habit of downloading free software! That's not to say that everything free on the internet is bad. Most open source software is fantastic -- I use many free applications in my daily work -- but these days, even major players like Oracle (specifically Java) try to insert software you had no intention of installing. See below:

I came here for Java, why am I going to automatically install Ask toolbar?

I came here for Java, why am I going to automatically install Ask toolbar?

It's not just Oracle. Skype does it, so does Adobe. It is specifically this sort of thing that is taking advantage of a persons proclivity to click "next". Did you intend to install an Ask toolbar when you come to java.com? No. Oracle just socially engineered you to accept something you don't want, without your knowledge! This may be a bit hyperbolic, but Oracle just hacked your brain!

Don't get hacked, beware of freeware.

6. Back up to the cloud

If the worst happens, and you get an infection, the last thing you want is to lose all of your data. Having any type of backup is a good decision, but cloud back ups, in particular, have a couple of key advantages.

  • Cloud backups typically scan files for viruses as you upload them. This does not protect your PC directly, but it does mean that any of your files on Google Drive, for example, will be clean if you need to re-download them.
  • Cloud backups are off-site, so you can reach them from many devices connected to the internet, extra handy if your main PC is down.

7. Have a way to restore your system

If you've got an IT Guy/Gal, make sure they are creating "images" of your machines. System images are used to quickly install operating systems, typically an image would have many of your company's common settings pre-configured, allowing for fast recovery. This is also a great way to quickly bring a new device in to your organization. If you don't have an IT Guy/Gal, make sure to set a System Restore if you use a PC, or an "OSX recovery" if on mac.

8. Be careful with email attachments

For the past few years, this has been the source of most virus infections I have cleaned for people. Most of us live and die by our inbox, so this can be especially scary. Anti-virus can help you here, but quite frankly, we're all still pretty vulnerable to "human hacking" with this one. A famous case that was making the rounds last year and early this year was CryptoLocker.

Most IT advice is "don't click on any email links or open any attachments!" and "scan all your attachments before you open them, even from trusted sources", but this clearly doesn't work in day-to-day worklife. So be careful!

9. Don't get brain-hacked

I've mentioned it a few times already, but social engineering is and will be the last great frontier of computer security. Get some savvy, and protect yourself from brain hacks!


3 Useful Free Apps in Windows

These 3 hidden gems in Windows are a great way to expand the utility of Windows, all for free!

To find all of these little apps, we are going to make it super simple and type in the commands directly and then pin these apps to the taskbar. Don't worry, it's not difficult at all!

1. Sticky Notes:

Windows+R, then type stikynot, press enter. (make sure you spell it STIKYnot)

This will bring up a virtual sticky note. You can make several notes and drag them around your desktop!

2. Snipping Tool:

Windows+R, then type snippingtool, press enter.

A great tool to use when you want to show someone a specific part of your screen. Easily snip and save the image. You can then attach it to an email, or make a how-to article!

3. Problem Steps Recorder:

Windows+R, then type psr, press enter.

Give people step by step screens. This program will take a screenshot every time you click with the mouse. It then saves all of these images in sequential order. This is a great way to create "on-boarding" documents for new employees. Maybe you show them how to use Quickbooks, or how to check a specific mailbox, or how to use your intranet.

Now if you've followed along, you have all three of these apps open on your desktop, good job! If you want to keep any of them around for quick access, just right click on their icon in the taskbar, and choose "pin this program to taskbar".


How To Boot Windows 8.1 directly to the Desktop

Step 2: Right Click on the taskbar, then click properties

Step 2: Right Click on the taskbar, then click properties

Step 3: Check the box "...go to the desktop instead of Start"

Step 3: Check the box "...go to the desktop instead of Start"

As with all things Microsoft, the launch of Windows 8 could have been better. However, with their update to Windows 8.1 (free in the Windows Store), Microsoft made great strides in turning Windows 8 into a more user friendly experience.

One of these user friendly features is the ability to boot directly in to the old "desktop" style of windows. Here's how, in 4 very easy steps!

1. Boot in to Windows 8.1 Then click the Desktop tile to enter the Desktop.

2. Right click any open spot on your taskbar, then click Properties.

3. Now click on the Navigation tab and check the box next to Go to the desktop instead of Start.

4. Click OK. You're all done!

Note: This is still not a complete "old school" solution. If you click on the "Start Button" in the bottom left of your taskbar, it will dump you right back in to the "Tiles", but there are apps that bring back the old start menu! Just go to the Windows Store and search for "Start Menu" for options.

My personal opinion is that, in a work environment, (especially one without an "IT Guy/Gal" to tend things) you want to keep machines as "stock" as possible. K.I.S.S. to reduce maintenance time/cost! Bringing back the desktop was a good step, and now you can learn Windows 8 with one major frustration out of the way!

Activate God Mode on Windows 8

Here's an easy way to quickly access.. well.. EVERYTHING in Windows 7 and 8.

Note: You should NOT try this feature on Windows Vista, as it is known to cause some issues.

Well first, what is God Mode really?

God mode is just a little shortcut the developers of Windows put in to allow them quick point and click access to 200+ actions. It's basically your control panel on steroids.

So how do you find this cool Easter egg? It's crazy simple:

  1. Right click on your desktop, create a new folder.
  2. Name the folder the following: GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}

Enjoy, but take your new god-like powers seriously and be careful in there!