Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sweet Gadget Deal : Dell SX2210T 21.5"W Multi-Touch Monitor w/ Webcam for $300 with free shipping

Now this looks super cool.  And at $170 off the original price of $499, it looks like a pretty good price for a 21.5" touch screen monitor.  Now if only I had $300 to throw at a monitor...

Dell Home has Dell SX2210T 21.5"W Multi-Touch Monitor w/ Webcam for $300 or $291 using DPA with free shipping.

If paying with Dell Preferred Account (DPA) you may save an extra 3% here is how:

During checkout, select Credit Card as method of payment

Checkout, enjoy your 3% savings

Click "Change Payment Type"

Click "Choose" link under Credit/Debit Card (again)

Under "Save 3% with Dell Preferred Account! (Discount applied at Final Checkout)" click "Click Here to Take Advantage of this Offer" link

Click "Choose" under "I already have a Dell Preferred Account" if you have one, or sign up for a new one if you don't




The Magic Touch

With vivid color and detail, the new DellTM SX2210T 21.5"W Multi-Touch Monitor with Webcam brings your HD entertainment to life when using Windows® 7 Home Premium and above. And it lets you explore multimedia like never before. Multi-touch capabilities for systems with Windows® 7 Home Premium and above

  • Full HD (1920 x 1080) experience with 16:9 widescreen display
  • Optimal brightness (220cd/m2) and 50,000:1 (max.) dynamic contrast ratio
  • Integrated 2MP webcam with dual microphones for video chats





Upgrading Windows XP Home to Windows XP Pro

Many home PC users have Windows XP Home edition installed on their PC instead of the more robust Windows XP Professional.  For most home PC users, this is not an issue.  However, you may run into some programs that will not install on Windows XP Home edition, or find that when you try to do some home networking, that Windows XP Home just doesn't allow you to do what you need to do.  Do not despair, you don't have to go buy a new computer.  There are options.

You may chose to upgrade Windows XP Home to Windows XP Pro.  To do this, simply buy Windows XP Pro Upgrade. You probably will not be able to find this in retail stores anymore as of the date this article is published, so you will probably have to go to Ebay to find it. If you own a fairly new computer however, I'd recommend simply going straight to Windows 7.

If you have installed any service packs, you MUST uninstall them first and reboot before installing the upgrade


Things You'll Need:

Windows XP Professional CD
Product key

Step 1 - Insert the Windows XP Professional disc into the CD/DVD-ROM drive on your computer. Restart your computer.

Step 2 - Press any key to start Windows XP from the installation CD when you see the "Press any key to boot from CD" message.

Step 3 - Press "Enter" on the Welcome Screen to begin the Windows XP setup. Read the Microsoft Software License Terms, and press "F8" to confirm. Follow the guided prompts and select the partition (drive) to install the operating system to. Windows formats the partition. Click "Next."

Step 4 - Type your name and your organization name if your system is a work computer. Click "Next." Enter the 25-digit Windows XP Professional product key that came with your disc and click "Next."

Step 5 - Type the computer name and an administrator password. Type the password again to confirm and click "Next." Select the date and time zone on the "Date and Time Settings" window and click "Next."

Step 6 - Click "Next" again on the "Network Settings" window and click "Next" again on the "Workgroup or Computer Domain" window. Windows XP spends about 20 to 30 minutes configuring and setting up your computer will automatically restart when finished. Click "OK" when you see the "Display Settings" dialog box.

Step 7 - Click "OK" again when you see the "Monitor Settings" dialog box. Follow the final guided prompts to activate your Windows XP system.


There is also a supposed hack, which I have not tried and would not recommend unless you are willing to take the risk.  This hack is for advanced users or very adventurous ones! The details are here in this link:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Windows Performance Tune up: Msconfig

MSCONFIG is a wonderful little tool built into almost all versions of Windows.  You can use it to remove some unnecessary programs from loading when your computer starts up to really get a performance boost.  It was designed to help you troubleshoot problems with your computer and MSCONFIG can also be used to ensure that your computer boots faster and crashes less.

The more programs you have running on your computer at once, the more likely it is that your computer will either run slowly or even crash. However, every time you boot your computer a whole mess of "hidden" programs load in the background. Some of these hidden programs are essential, but most aren't. In fact, many viruses will load themselves into "startup".  Turning off some of these hidden programs can significantly increase your computer's performance and reliability. 

Here are the steps to run MSCONFIG

1.  Click Start => Run

2.  Type "msconfig" (no quotation marks)

3.  Click OK

4.  Now the System Configuration Utility will launch

5.  Click the Startup tab.

6.  You can safely remove almost any item by unchecking it, though I'd leave anything associated with the antivirus program on the computer checked. 

If you are unsure, check this huge list of startup programs at this link here:

7.  Click Apply => Click Ok

8.  Now you will be prompted to reboot for these changes to take effect.  You may reboot now or later if you wish.

When your computer comes back up, be prompted about changes made if it's the first time the utility was run.  Simply accept the changes.

If you find that you've disabled something that you needed, such as DVD burning software that needed to load, simply run the utility again and check the box that loads it.

Managing Junk Mail in Microsoft Outlook

Microsoft Outlook includes a handy tool called a Junk E-mail folder to help manage the junk mail that will over run your inbox if you're not careful.

The Junk E-mail Filter in Outlook is turned on by default, and the protection level is set to Low. This level is designed to catch only the most obvious junk e-mail messages. You can make the filter more aggressive, but if you do it may catch legitimate messages sometimes. Any message that is caught by the Junk E-mail Filter is moved to a special Junk E-mail folder. You should review messages in the Junk E-mail folder from time to time to make sure that they are not legitimate messages that you want to see.

You can manually add and remove addresses and mail domains to the Junk E-Mail filter.  Here are the steps to do this:


  1. In Outlook, open Tools menu, click Options.
  2. On the Preferences tab, under E-mail, click Junk E-mail.
  3. Click the Safe Senders, Safe Recipients, or Blocked Senders tab.
Do one of the following:

-Change a domain name or e-mail address

  1. In the list, click the domain name or e-mail address you want to change. 
  2. Click Edit.
  3. Enter the new text in the Enter an e-mail address or Internet domain name to be added to the list    box.

-Remove a domain name or e-mail address

  1. In the list, click the domain name or e-mail address you want to delete.
  2. Click Remove.


Microsoft also releases updates to help with the process that will include well known junk email.  To get Junk E-mail Filter updates and Microsoft Office 2003 Service Packs, go to Downloads on Office Online.

Under Office Update, click Check for Updates.

Tips for Tackling One Time Projects

I recently ran across an article that gave tips on tackling one time projects.  Though this is an IT article, I thought it was a great article that could be applied to many things whether you work in IT or don't even work at all.  We constantly run into things that we've never run into before, whether it's a new and unfamiliar work project or a new and unfamiliar home project.

Don’t let a one-time project derail your career or you in general. Here are some tips on how to successfully manage a ‘once in a career’ or the first time you come across the event.


Here is the scenario:

Your boss informs you that you’ve been selected to lead a special project that will impact your IT organization. When your boss reveals the focus of the special project, you realize that you have no knowledge or experience related to the project. Everyone is watching, and many of your colleagues are not on board with the new direction your project will take your organization. To avoid derailing your career, here are five ways to tackle the project.

1:     Make the project a priority from the start. 

Even if you do not want to run the project, go ahead and accept the job; the faster you embrace the challenge, the faster you can make a realistic assessment of what you will need to do to be successful or to at least avoid failure. Also, the time you spend resisting the assignment is time you’ll need to get up the learning curve on your new challenge. You have been given the job, and taking on the tough projects is one of the key hurdles to advancing.
Look at your planned professional activities in the immediate future and consider which activities you can delete from your calendar. You will need to delegate some noncritical activities to your managers and staff. You staff may not like it, but everyone has to pitch in to navigate this specific career challenge. Maximize the time you can commit to your project because you’ll need every minute.

2:    Commit talented people to the project.

Managers and staff available in organizations commit to special projects may not be high performers. They are available for a reason, and other managers are often willing to assign their least desirable staff to your special project. You do not want a poorly staffed team for a career critical project. You will need to make some hard decisions early on to free up some of your top talent to commit to the project. If you cannot control the project staffing, carefully interview each person assigned to the project to understand what they can contribute.

When a new project requires knowledge you do not currently possess, you will need to make managers and staff who work best in unstructured environments available for the project. While you will eventually need to carefully structure, plan, and execute your project, your initial project time will involve some level of unstructured learning. You need your team to be able to adjust quickly as you form a vision for the project and take this vision into tactical execution.

3:    Get up the learning curve as fast as possible.

We all see our special projects as unique, but your project has likely already been executed at numerous companies, government agencies, non-profits, or universities. While the Internet provides access to a vast variety of information, it is also a data landfill where you can lose critical time sifting through mountains of raw information to get to the critical knowledge you need to succeed.

You should use your professional and personal contacts, as well as publicly available information, to cull lessons learned on how other organizations tackled similar projects. Social networking tools, such as LinkedIn, provide a forum where you can ask questions in specific communities to quickly gain knowledge.

4:    Plan the project work but adjust quickly.

You are committed to the project; you have gathered a good team; and you have a handle on some good lessons learned from similar projects executed at other organizations; the next step is to treat this project like any other project you have executed. Develop a charter to define the project; support the charter with a detailed project plan with committed organizational resources; develop key milestones; and have a clear vision for what success would look like at project completion.

As you begin to execute the project, unexpected challenges will occur despite the initial project planning; be willing to quickly adjust to these challenges as you go. You’ll gain knowledge as you progress in the project, and you’ll probably realize that you made some faulty assumptions at project inception that need correcting. Adjust your project plan, and keep moving.

5:    Keep communicating

Many managers derail their once-in-a-career projects by failing to communicate with any of the various groups who are impacted by, or directly involved in, the project. Senior leaders do not want to be surprised by a project that has gone off track from the original project plan and is failing. Senior leadership should not learn of any challenges or potential failure from anyone other than you. Be proactive in communicating successes and challenges to the leaders of your organization. You also need to keep managers and staff who are potentially impacted by your project informed. If this group will ultimately be responsible for executing the outcomes of your project, the earlier you engage them in the process, the better. Many project managers fail to keep up timely, focused communication while executing a project, and the project flounders in implementation.

Once-in-a-career events represent opportunity, as well as risk, to your career. Embrace the challenge, and you will give yourself the best opportunity for success!

Microsoft Office Alternative - Open Office

Need the functionality of Microsoft Office but can't afford the price tag? 

Download the feature rich Open Office 3.1 free of charge from aims to compete with Microsoft Office and emulate its look and feel where suitable. It can read and write most of the file formats found in Microsoft Office, and many other applications; an essential feature of the suite for many users. has been found to be able to open files of older versions of Microsoft Office and damaged files that newer versions of Microsoft Office itself cannot open. However, it cannot open older Word for Macintosh (MCW) files.

Here is a quick run down of what Open Office contains:

Writer - A word processor similar to Microsoft Word and WordPerfect. It can export Portable Document Format (PDF) files with no additional software, and can function as a basic WYSIWYG editor for creating and editing web pages.

Calc - A spreadsheet similar to Microsoft Excel and Lotus 1-2-3. Calc provides a number of features not present in Excel, including a system which automatically defines series for graphing, based on the layout of the user’s data. Calc can also export spreadsheets to the PDF format.

Impress - A presentation program similar to Microsoft PowerPoint and Apple Keynote. It can export presentations to Adobe Flash (SWF) files, allowing them to be played on any computer with a Flash player installed. It also includes the ability to create PDF files, and the ability to read Microsoft PowerPoint's .ppt format. Impress lacks ready-made presentation designs. However, templates are readily available on the Internet.

Base - A database management program similar to Microsoft Access. Base allows the creation and manipulation of databases, and the building of forms and reports to provide easy access to data for end-users. As with Access, Base may be used as a front-end to a number of different database systems, including Access databases (JET), ODBC data sources and MySQL/PostgreSQL. Base became part of the suite starting with version 2.0. Native to the suite is an adaptation of HSQL. While Base can be a front-end for any of the databases listed, there is no need for any of them to be installed. Raw SQL code can be entered by those who prefer it, or graphical user interfaces can be used.

Draw - A vector graphics editor and diagramming tool, similar to Microsoft Visio and comparable in features to early versions of CorelDRAW. It features versatile "connectors" between shapes, which are available in a range of line styles and facilitate building drawings such as flowcharts. It has similar features to Desktop publishing software such as Scribus and Microsoft Publisher. Draw can also export its creations to the PDF format.
Math - A tool for creating and editing mathematical formulae, similar to Microsoft Equation Editor. Formulae can be embedded inside other documents, such as those created by Writer. It supports multiple fonts and can export to PDF.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Office 2010 Beta - free download

The Office 2010 public beta is now available for free download at

You’ll need a live id (passport) and answer a short survey to get to the download page.

I highly recommend users not install it on their “production” system. If you ignore this advice, install the 32bit version, especially if you use add-ins or sync with devices. Existing add-ins will not work with the 64bit version. There is a good chance they will work with the32bit build.

For best results, uninstall your current version of Outlook and make a backup copy of any PST in your profile. The old profile should work ok, but you should consider making a new one.

If you use the Outlook Connector uninstall it before installing it beta. Outlook should offer to download the new connector for you. If not, make a new profile and add the Hotmail/Live account to it. This should bring up the offer to download the new connector. Once installed, it will work with the account in the old profile.

Bonus tip: Look on the File tab for Options and Account settings.  Thank goodness this is back!!