Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dealing with Internet Explorer issues

(This item was originally written as a response to a request for help from a friend whose Internet Explorer was intermittently locking up.)

You can kill an unresponsive Internet Explorer (or any program) without having to reboot or shut down the PC. Press and hold the [Ctrl]+[Shift] key combination, then press the [Esc] key. This brings up the Task Manager window. If the Process tab is not open by default, click on it. This will bring up a list of running processes. Go down the list and find iexplore--click on it to highlight it, then click on the End process button at the bottom of the window to kill it. You may have to do this more than once sometimes if there's more than one IE tab or window open.

Someone once said, "The best use for Internet Explorer is to use it to download a better browser." This is true--I recommend either Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome as an alternative--but there are also things you should do to fix the problem with IE, as well. Once you install Firefox, you should install the NoScript add-on. There's a lot of malicious scripts out there--it allows you to run scripts on a site-by-site basis, a very good idea.
Make sure that you have the latest version of IE supported by your version of Windows--for WinXP, WinVista, or Win7 this is Internet Explorer 8. You might also install Maxthon for better security and other features--but please avoid IE in general.

You probably need to update your Java and Flash, too. Download links for everything I have mentioned here are on my Internet related Links page.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Open Disc--A Compilation of Free Software for Windows

I'm pretty used to being able to find the free software I'm looking for, as well as new software to play with. I am quite familiar with using Google and other search engines for this purpose--and I know how to find general sources for free software (and I will cover the best of those sources in a future article). Because I am so familiar with the software and my research techniques, I sometimes lose sight of the fact that the average user may not know where to start, let alone where to go, to find useful free software.

It turns out that there is a partial solution to this problem that's a very good place to start. There is a downloadable disk image available that contains a great deal of up-to-date free software in a single file, an image file that can be used to create a DVD: The Open Disc. As long as you have a broadband connection and a DVD "burner" you can create a DVD from the downloaded ISO image that will contain dozens of useful free programs, each of them installable from a menu. The software categories comprise:
Design | Educational | Games | Internet | Multimedia | Productivity | Utilities
Some of the programs on the disc include an office suite, a desktop publishing program, an Internet browser, a mail reader, and much more.

But what if you don't have a DVD writer? You can still download the file and copy the software within the image to your hard drive (or a 2GB+ flash drive) using the free 7-Zip in dual-pane mode and run the menu from that drive instead of a DVD (ironically, 7-Zip is one of the programs included on the DVD). In fact, I initially did this on my own drive instead of burning a disc.

I do have my own disc of free software that I have compiled to use or give away, but The Open Disc is better organized and menu-driven, so it's much more appropriate for the average user. It's quite a resource! I am permanently placing the download link in the right-hand column of this blog sometime before I post the next entry here.

Monday, February 15, 2010 for Windows & MS Office users

Note: I now recommend the LibreOffice (LO) suite over (OO.o) due to improved performance and licensing issues. LO is a fork of OO.o and is on a faster development track.

Microsoft Office, LibreOffice, and are roughly equivalent-- like MS Office, is a suite of applications. The main parts of each suite are similar: a word processor (MS Word vs. Writer), a spreadsheet (MS Excel vs. Calc), and presentation software (MS PowerPoint vs. Impress). The difference? is free of cost and open source software-- MS Office is neither free nor open. is also cross-platform--versions are available for Windows, Linux, Mac OSX, and others.

One has to wonder why school systems (especially in low-income areas) continue to teach Microsoft Word or Microsoft Office. Many students' families may have problems being able to afford MS Office packages costing between $100 and $350 (and more). For these users (and most others) a free equivalent like begins to look pretty good.

To a considerable extent, once you have learned any word processor, that knowledge is useful for any similar program. In fact, most Windows-using beginners would be well-served by starting with the WordPad application included with Windows and working up from there-- especially when differences between the different versions of MS Office are taken into account.

Read the full article here (My Articles page).
Go to my relevant download links page.