Category: Computing Tips

How to “save as” on Mac OS X Lion and newer versions

Article

How to enable “Save As” in Mac OS X Yosemite | AppleWorld.Today

My Comments

Those of you Mac users who worked with a previous version of Mac OS X may have been able to use the “Save As” command to save that document under a different name or in a different Folder. But this feature is missing on Lion and newer versions of Mac OS X and may confuse those of you who “climbed the operating-system ladder” by installing subsequent versions of MacOS X on your Macintosh.

But you can bring back this function through a procedure that is very simple. Here, you bring up the File menu as normal then press the Option key on your keyboard where the option that was previously “Duplicate File” becomes “Save As”. Click on this or subsequently press CommandShiftS together to bring up the Save As dialog box so you can save it under a different name.

This function is important if you have to create a new different version of that document or wish to save it in a particular location like a removable drive or a special folder and you realise you needed to do this after the fact.

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Windows 10 Start Menu–not your father’s old station wagon

Windows 10 Start Menu

Start Menu in Windows 10 – the pop-up look from Windows 7 with the tiles from Windows 8

Windows 7 and its predecessors had a traditional pop-up start menu with an option to see all the programs or the frequently-used programs on your computer. This was presented in a list rather than a cluster of icons or tiles.

But Windows 8 headed down a totally different path with a dashboard-style layout hat has all of the programs or a user-defined set of programs represented as tiles. This had thrown many computer users off the operating system and caused some unnecessary worry.

The Start Menu

Windows 10 brought back the pop-up Start Menu that looks like a combination of the traditional Start menu and Windows 8’s tile-based look. This includes the famed “Live Tiles” that are always updated with new content thus working like a dashboard.

In the early days of your experience with Windows 10, you can mess around getting that tile-based Start Menu area looking how you want. If you run Windows 10 on a touchscreen laptop or a computer with a touchscreen monitor, this menu style can work just as well for you.

Getting it right!

You can organise your tiles in to groups by dragging them in to the space between two groups to create a group or dragging them in to a group to have them part of that group. This can be done in both the traditional pop-up view and the Tablet Mode view mentioned later on at the end.

Then you can name each group by right-clicking or “dwelling” your finger on the group name then typing in the name you want to give it.

Browsing for that program

Windows 10 Start Menu - All Apps highlighted

Looking for that program – click All Apps on the Start Menu

This will be a situation for those of you who have held out with Windows 7 or its predecessors, where you will be wanting to know where all of your programs have gone even though they aren’t on the Start Menu or Taskbar.

Browsing for that particular program? Click on “All Apps” to see a list of all programs on your computer. Then, click on any of the letters to bring up a list of alphabetical letters. Subsequently, you just need to click on the first letter of the program’s title to be sent straight to a list of the programs beginning with that letter.

You then have two options to have your program readily accessible. One is to “pin” your program to the Taskbar so it is always accessible and this setup may remind you of the station-preset buttons on your car radio. On the other hand, you could “pin” your program to the Start Menu where it will appear as a tile which you shift around until it is in the right place for you.

Tablet Mode

Windows 10 Tablet Mode

How Windows 10 looks when you use Tablet Mode

The Tablet Mode gives you a view that is not dissimilar to how you have operated your Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 computer. It is automatically selected if you detach a keyboard from your detachable-style “2-in-1” tablet or fold over a convertible notebook so the screen becomes a tablet. But you can manually select this mode on any Windows 10 computer.

Windows 10 Notification Menu buttons wiht Tablet Mode highlighted

How to select Tablet Mode manually

As I have said just before, this doesn’t just those of you who work with tablet computers or 2-in-1 devices. You can use it with a laptop or desktop computer and it doesn’t need a touchscreen to benefit from this function. Rather you would use your mouse or trackpad to navigate around the screen and a scroll-enabled mouse earns its keep by allowing you to scroll downwards. In the Notification Menu, you have a button labelled Tablet Mode which you can use to toggle between this mod and the regular Desktop Mode.

I would recommending having your screen in the Tablet mode if you are trying to sort out the Start Menu groups after an upgrade because you can use the whole of your screen’s real estate to do this.

Search Bar

There is an always-visible Search Bar on the Taskbar which you can fill in your search requests for local or Web-hosted resources. This works with Cortana which is the personal digital assistant in the same vein as Siri or Google Now.

Here, ordering a search is as simple as clicking or tapping on the search area and typing in what you are after.

Conclusion

Anyone who has worked with any of Windows’ incarnations will find the Windows 10 Start Menu as something that doesn’t daunt you but allows you to get more out of the operating system.

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Making it easier to safely remove that USB flash drive in Windows

Safely Remove Hardware icon in Notification area

Notification area space where hidden icons exist – click on Customize to determine how they will appear

You may want to be sure you are doing the right thing when it comes to properly and safely removing that USB flash drive, external hard disk or SD card but it may be hard to find the “Safely Remove Hardware” icon in the Notification bar at the bottom right of your screen.

What tends to happen if you haven’t been doing anything regarding removable storage is that icon becomes sidelined and available behind the up-arrow on the Taskbar. This is more so if other applications have claimed space on the Notification Bar and seldom-used icons exist behind that up-arrow.

Notification Area Icons customisation screen - when you click on Customize

Notification Area Icons customisation screen – when you click on Customize

There is a way to work around this problem by customising the Notification Bar icons to make sure that certain icons appear always.

To do this, click on the up-arrow at the left of the Notification Bar to pop up all of the icons. These will appear in a white square and you will also see the word “Customize”. Click “Customize” to see a list of the icons with each icon having its own drop-down box that determines how and when it will appear.

Options available for each icon in the Notification Area Icons customisation screen

Options available for each icon

The different modes are:

  • Show icon and Notifications. This will have the icon appear at all times and “pop up” any notification messages. Here, you may want to have the icon always visible and accessible especially if you instigate tasks from that icon.
  • Hide icon and Notifications: The icon won’t appear at all in the Notification Bar even if there is a relevant notification or it changes state. This may be useful where you find an icon always popping up messages
  • Only show notifications. The icon pops up when there is a relevant notification and will show that notification. In some cases, this icon may appear if it changes state. It may apply to “sentinel” icons that appear to crowd out the Notification Bar even though they seldom yield a notification or change state.
Preferred seting for Safely Remove Hardware And Eject Media icon

Preferred seting for Safely Remove Hardware And Eject Media icon

Here, having the “Safely Remove Hardware” icon set to “Show icon and Notifications” means that while there is a USB storage device connected to the computer or an SD card inserted in the computer, this icon will appear. This will make it easy for you to know what to click when you need to remove the USB hard disk USB memory key or memory card.

You may also find this of us with other Notification Bar icons where you are always instigating tasks from or needing to keep an eye on incase they change state like the Skype icon.

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Using Bluetooth audio devices with your laptop computer

Braven BRV-X outdoor Bluetooth speaker

Braven BRV-X outdoor Bluetooth speaker – another of many Bluetooth speakers with speakerphone functionality

There is an increasing number of Bluetooth-connected wireless audio devices available for  use with smartphones and similar devices. But you may want to use these headsets, audio adaptors, Bluetooth speakers or Bluetooth-integrated audio devices with your laptop instead of those tiny speakers that are the norm for these computers. The best example for the speakers would be the Bose SoundDock speakers, especially the SoundDock 10, due to its good bass response, when used with the Bluetooth adaptor. As well, I ran a test setup with the Motorola DC800 Bluetooth adaptor connected to an older Sony boombox and had the review-sample Fujitsu LH772 laptop being fed through this Bluetooth adaptor.

Similarly, there are those of us who may want to use a Bluetooth headset like the Plantronics BackBeat Pro with a laptop computer so you can roam around the office or home listening to your favourite tunes or podcast or as a contingency measure to avoid missing that important VoIP call.

How a Bluetooth audio setup would function for a laptop

You can achieve these setups with Bluetooth-equipped laptops that run Windows 7, MacOS X Snow Leopard and Linux and newer versions of these operating systems. This is due to the supply of a class driver for the Bluetooth A2DP audio profile  and Hands Free Profile as part of the operating system distributions.

Initial setup

First, you have to set up the Bluetooth A2DP-capable audio device to become discoverable. The method for this is explained in the instructions that come with the device but you typically may have to hold down a setup button to achieve this goal.

Plantronics BackBeat Pro Bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones

Headphones you can treat your laptop to

Then you have to put the computer in to a “Bluetooth setup” mode in order to annex the device to the operating system. In WIndows 7, you would have to click on “Devices and Printers”, then click “Add Device”.

After you complete these procedures, both the device and the computer start to pair up and identify themselves to each other. The computer would then find and install the A2DP audio-device class drivers that are part of the operating system. In some cases, the class driver may be fetched from Microsoft’s or Apple’s Website. The same thing will also happen with the Bluetooth Hands-Free Profile or Bluetooth Headset Profile when you initially connect a Bluetooth headset, headphone audio adaptor or other device equipped for communications functionality.

Now the Bluetooth audio device is defined as a sound device and some Windows setups may have it run as the default audio device for all of the laptop’s sound output.

Which sound device

Bluetooth device listed alongside default audio device

List of audio playback devices including the Bluetooth audio device

But you may want to have a split setup so that music and video sound go to the Bluetooth speakers and all of the notification sounds come via the laptop speakers. Here, you would have to set the integrated sound subsystem as the default audio device. Then you would have to set iTunes, Windows Media Player or other media-management software to use the Bluetooth A2DP audio device.

This latter setup may not work well with software like games, the Spotify desktop program or Web browsers where there isn’t an option to specify the sound output device for that application. Here, you would have to specify the Bluetooth audio device as your default audio device to have the soundtrack from video on demand including YouTube videos, or your Spotify playlist coming through that device.

Bluetooth headsets and speakers with speakerphone functionality will cause Windows to purpose the Bluetooth Hands-Free Profile or Headset Profile as a Communications Device and may cause Windows 7 to determine it as a Default Communications Device.

The controls on these Bluetooth devices should map through to the applications’ controls courtesy of operating system support for Bluetooth AVRCP control profile for media navigation and the call-control functionality of the Hands-Free and Headset Profiles. This will apply to applications that currently have the focus for media playback or communications.

Multipoint Operation

The Sony SBH-52 Bluetooth Headphone Adaptor - supports multipoint operation for two devices

The Sony SBH-52 Bluetooth Headphone Adaptor – supports multipoint operation for two devices

An increasing number of communications-capable Bluetooth devices have support for “multipoint” operation where they can work with two different source devices. This function is typically to support people who use two mobile phones such as a “personal” one and a “work” one.

As I discovered when reviewing the Sony SBH-52 Bluetooth headphone adaptor, I fund that this function can also work with a computer. This can be of use if you are maintaining a playlist or listening to Web content on your laptop.

Here, you have to determine which device is your “priority” device which allows the headset to primarily control that device. This is something you would do either through the device’s setup menu, a desktop or mobile control program or a certain keypress sequence depending on the device. You may be able to at least use the call-control button to answer and end calls when you are using your secondary device. It is a good idea to set the laptop as the priority device when you are playing content from it or are wanting to use a VoIP app that may come across as being rickety.

Conclusion

Once you know what your Bluetooth-capable laptop can do with those Bluetooth audio accessories, you can then let it perform at its best with these devices and they don’t need juhst to be considered for mobile phones anymore.

Updates

This is to reflect newer Bluetooth hardware that I have reviewed along with highlighting the Bluetooth Hands-Free Profile used for communications purposes and multipoint operation offered by an increasing number of Bluetooth devices.

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Why do you need to safely remove or eject removeable media?

USB memory key

USB storage device

As you use a computer, you will have to get in to the habit of removing or ejecting external or removeable media safely and in a proper way rather than just unplugging the device or pulling out the card.

What is this about safely removing or ejecting removeable storage?

Mainframe and similar large computer setups required the operating system to logically mount a tape or disk pack after the system operator installed the medium in the appropriate drive. This procedure makes the files on the medium available to the operating system and computer programs

USB external hard disk

USB hard disks are more critical with this procedure

Then when the medium was finished with, the system operator had to logically unmount the disk or tape which forced all files to he written back to the medium and the operating system to deem the files on the medium to be unavailable. This procedure was also simplified when the tape and disk-pack drives used electromechanical readiness detection like sensing when a lid or door was closed or a tape was past the heads to let the host computer know that they had media on board and were ready to work with it. It would then require the operator to logically mount the medium and make it available to the system’s programs, typically by typing a special “mount” command.

Desktop operating systems like MS-DOS did away with this to simplify the operating procedures for most people especially as they were used just by one user compared to the previous mainframe systems that were used by multiple concurrent users. It also allowed the use of low-cost disk and tape systems on these computers.

Here, these operating systems immediately wrote back all file changes to the disk when a file was created, modified or deleted. As well, if a program was after a file, it would perform a directory search to determine if the file was there on that disk and the operating system didn’t cache the removeable medium’s directory structure in to the host’s memory. In a lot of cases, the act of closing the disk drive’s door or inserting a 3.5” floppy disk cause the operating system to start reading the disk’s directory in to memory.

But the Apple Macintosh maintained a similar operating requirement to the larger computer systems where you had to logically remove a floppy disk or CD from the system typically by dragging the disk’s icon to the Trash before the computer ejected the disk. This was facilitated with these computers having floppy drives that implemented electromechanical load-eject mechanisms and no hardware “eject” button ever since the platform was created.

This was carried through with Zip drives and other similar removeable-media drives that used any form of electromechanical load-eject mechanisms. The presence of an eject button on these drives typically worked as a way of telling the operating system about an intent to remove the medium so it is logically unmounted and was also implemented with newer iterations of the MS-DOS / Windows operating system along with driver programs for earlier iterations of that operating system.

Similarly, those of you who have used the MiniDisc format, especially with an MD deck or a music system that has an integrated MD recorder, may notice this taking place when you are recording to these discs. What will happen with these decks is that a message will flash up on the unit’s display screen that it is writing all the changes to the disk when you press the eject button or power off the unit before the disk is available or the unit switches off. This makes sure that all of the recording and editing activity is properly committed to the disk and is intact.

Why was there a need to tell the operating system that you were intending to remove the medium

If removeable media is removed by surprise, there can be problems with the quality of the data that is written to the medium because the operating system and applications think that certain files on the medium are available to be worked with.

This can lead to corrupted files because all the changes to the file being worked on haven’t been written to the medium completely. There are also issues with the files being locked by programs that are writing back the necessary changes so that other programs can’t interfere with this process, and if a program hasn’t released these locks or committed all of the changes, the files may not be available for other programs to work with. In the worst cases, your computer can go in to a headspin if it is working with a file that exists one minute and doesn’t exist the next.

How do you safely remove USB removeable media?

Windows Explorer (File Explorer) eject option

Eject option in Windows Explorer

With a computer, you make sure that you have closed the files you are working on if you were using a program to work with them. Then you perform a safe-removal procedure that is dependent on your operating system.

Macintosh users simply drag the icon representing the removeable storage to the Trash icon at the bottom right of the Desktop screen. Then there will be a message to say that it is safe to remove the medium.

Windows users can do this in two ways. They can open Windows Explorer (File Explorer) or My Computer and right-click on the removeable storage which will be represented as its own drive letter. They then select the “Eject” option to begin safely removing the storage device.

Safely Remove Hardware icon in Notification area

Safely Remove Hardware icon in Notification area

The other method requires you to click on the Notification Area on the Taskbar and right-click on the “Safely Remove Hardware And Eject Media” icon. Here, you are presented with a list of USB storage devices that are connected to your computer. Click on the one you want to remove to begin safely removing it. In some cases, a physical device may represent two or more logical volumes (drive letters) because it has been partitioned as such. Here, you select the physical device’s name to safely remove that device.

Safely Remove Hardware devices list

Devices available to remove

USB-based removeable-media adaptors like floppy-disk drives, Zip drives and memory-card readers have the ability to safely remove a particular medium or the whole device. Here, you can click on the medium to remove the card or disk or click on the physical device name to remove the device before you unplug it.

Safely remove hardware devices list

Two logical devices in one physical device – the one that is written clearly is the one to remove

This is more important with those devices that handle multiple media types like some multi-slot memory-card readers or devices that have a combination of fixed and removeable storage options like some digital cameras and camcorders that have internal storage along with an SD or microSD card slot. In the latter situation, these devices would have fixed storage greyed out while the removeable storage is written in black.

I have prepared a PDF reference sheet about the procedure needed to safely remove your removeable media from your Windows computer. Download and print this and keep it by your computer if you or others need to know how to do this properly.

Android users would go to the Storage menu and select the “Unmount SD Card” option for the SD card or “Unmount Mass Storage” for storage devices connected to their mobile devices via USB “On The Go” connectivity.

Safe to remove notification

It is safe to remove

For other devices like A/V devices that write to an SD card or USB memory key, you would have to go to the device’s menu and select the “Unmount”, “Remove” or, more likely, “Eject” option. This process would be analogous to ejecting a tape, CD or MiniDisc so you can work with another medium.

Of course, powering off the equipment properly such as selecting a logical shutdown option would prepare any media or removeable devices attached to the equipment for safe removal.

Conclusion

Once you know how to properly and safely remove media or detach USB storage devices from your computer or similar device, you can avoid situations which can place your computer’s reliability or the data on that medium at risk.

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Moving those games to another hard disk without breaking them

Article

Windows Explorer (File Explorer) - two or more hard disks

Two or more hard disks or partitions on your computer may make you want to move games to the larger disk

How To Move A PC Game To Another Hard Drive (Without Re-Downloading It) | LifeHacker

My Comments

You may have two hard disks in your tower-style desktop computer, or the main hard disk is partitioned in to two spaces and you want to move your games to the secondary disk or partition. Or you are running a laptop with a small hard disk and want to use a USB external hard disk for your games.

External hard disk

An external hard disk could be useful for offloading games from your laptop

This may come across as being very difficult for games based on game managers like the Steam or Origin systems, which typically put all the software on the main disk or partition i.e. Drive C: . But how can you move an existing library out to the other disk or partition or to an external hard disk?

Steam startup screen

Steam – one of the most common games managers

One way is to use a utility like the “Steam Mover” utility to move the files and create symbolic links (system references) to them.

Another way would be to use the game manager to logically move the games across to the other storage location. This is simply by redefining where the game library should be for each of the games.

Steam

  1. Steam - Settimgs - Downloads menu

    Steam – Settimgs – Downloads menu

    In Steam, you use the “Add Library Folder” option in Settings>Downloads>Steam Library Folders to create the new library folder on the disk or partition you are moving your library to.

    Library Folders list in Steam

    Library Folders list in Steam

  2. Then you would need to add a “steamapps” folder to that folder you created in the previous step and insert in to that a “common” folder using File Explorer (Windows Explorer in Windows 7 and earlier). Then you copy the game folders using File Explorer from the existing steamapps\common folder to the newly-created steamapps\common folder.
  3. Using Steam, you then right-click on the game and select “Delete Local Content” to logically uninstall the game at its old location, then click the Install button to logically install the game at its new location. This routine is about creating new logical references to the game’s new location.

Origin

  1. In Origin, you just create a folder in the new location for the games using File Explorer then copy the games over to that location.
  2. Then you start Origin and go to the “Application Settings>Advanced” menu and update the Downloaded Games option to reflect the games’ new locations. This step tells Origin where to download games files for newer games purchases.
  3. Then you would have to go to the My Games view and tell Origin to re-install the games by clicking “Download”. Here, the games aren’t being drawn down from Origin’s servers but are having logical changes to point to the new location.

Different game installers may use different methods for shifting the logical position of your game library or allowing to move games between one or more libraries.

A problem that may surface with this kind of routine is that if Windows decides to allocate a different drive letter to your removeable storage device every time you connect it, you may end up with unreliable operation. Here, you may have to run the “Download” or “Install” routine to logically update the game manager to the current drive-letter location.

This situation could be easily redressed by integrating library management functionality in to game-manager or app-store software so you can determine where to shift games or other programs. As well, the game manager could reference volumes by volume-names as well as drive letters.

Similarly, game managers or app stores focused on games could simplify the process of setting up games to run entirely from USB memory keys or USB hard disks in a manner to facilitate portable play. This could include installing a copy of the game manager on the medium, managing multiple titles on one medium along with storing the state of play on that medium.

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Simplified hand-switching for pointing devices

What is the problem?

Work needs to be done to make it easier for left-handed and right-handed users to use the same computer

Work needs to be done to make it easier for left-handed and right-handed users to use the same computer

A feature that I notice is sorely missing from Windows is the ability to switch between left-handed and right-hand use of the mouse without having to go to the Control Panel and select the Mouse option there.

It would be OK for a person who has a normal hand to “switch” the computer to work to their hand using this method, but would be difficult in some circumstances.

One of these circumstances would be where a computer is shared amongst multiple users with one of the users being left-handed and others being right-handed. Examples of these include workplace, school or public-access computers or computers shared amongst members of a household including houseguests such as the common “his ‘n’ hers” setup.

Windows mouse control panel

Mouse Control Panel dialog – Windows 7

Another circumstance is where a user has to switch between left-handed and right-handed operation as part of a physiotherapy requirement for their hands or simply to keep their hands supple. It is something that is becoming common with older people who want to stay active with their hands.

But having to head to the Control Panel or similar preference settings in your operating system each time you have to do this can bewilder people who don’t have much confidence with technology.

There are ways that Apple, Microsoft and the open-source community could facilitate this.

What are the possible solutions?

Hot-key selection

One would be to use something like a hot-key combination or a simultaneous-mouse-button combination to switch between the operating modes. This could be an option that one could enable in the preferences settings for the pointing devices.

Having this feature would earn its keep with shared computers, workplace computers and public-access computers because users only need to press a certain key combination or operate the mouse buttons in a certain way to “switch hands”. It would also earn its keep with users who find navigating dialog boxes very bewildering and intimidating.

Maurice Tejado wrote an “add-on” utility for Windows (available through CNET Download.com) that allows you to “switch hands” using a hot-key routine.

Set preferences on a pointing-device basis

Another way that could work even better would be to set the operating mode for different pointing devices. Here, you could have two mice connected with one sitting on the left hand side of the keyboard and one on the right hand side. Or you could resolve to use your laptop’s integrated trackpad as a “left-hand” device and a Bluetooth mouse as a “right-hand” device or vice versa. Here, you could set one device to be left-handed while another device is right-handed.

This function is supported by some desktop Linux distributions but isn’t supported on Windows or Mac OS X. But there is a third-party free utility that can support this in the form of EitherMouse which supports multiple pointing devices in use at the same time with different settings.  This can cater also for users who are slow with trackballs and trackpads but quick with mice.

How can this be done better?

Having to use add-on programs to achieve this goal can become awkward, especially when it comes to computer performance and stability and operating systems could go better by baking this kind of functionality in to their pointing-device code.

As well, some computer users and IT departments don’t have confidence in the use of add-on programs because of the fact that these programs can be poorly written or can contain questionable code that can jeopardise computer stability and security. This is more so with those of us who had passed through the “bulletin-board” / “download-site” / “CD-ROM” era of computing where there was a lot of poor-quality software for download.

Rather, operating system developers could write this functionality in to a subsequent version of their products to answer these needs more effectively and especially cater towards older users who are still using today’s technology.

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Keeping your portable equipment safe through the summer

Beach shotThrough the summer, we are likely to take our portable equipment with us more frequently as we spend more time outdoors. This is whether to play music off an MP3 player in the car, use our smartphones on the road more frequently, take heaps of pictures with our digital cameras at the beaches and beauty spots we visit, or entertain our kids during the long road trips using a tablet or laptop.

Device security

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 smartphone

Smartphones are so well used during summer yet misfortune can happen to them

When we are on the road, we are likely to carry our gadgets with us more frequently. But this becomes a temptation for light-fingered thieves to get their claws on our stuff. This has ranged from gadgets like smartphones disappearing at the beach to cars being broken into and possessions being stolen.

You can store your devices securely in your car. As well, making sure you don’t leave handbags, backpacks, laptop bags or similar luggage lying around in the car. This is because thieves can deduce that these bags contain items of value and break in to the car to steal these bags.

A locked car trunk (boot) can be the safest place to store your mobile technology when you are out and about

A locked car trunk (boot) can be the safest place to store your mobile technology when you are out and about

If you are using a sedan (saloon) or similar vehicle that has a separately-lockable luggage compartment i.e. the boot or, in the US, the trunk, this is the safest place for these valuables if you are not using them at your destination. This can apply to tradesmen’s utes (pickup trucks) where there is a lockable box that is securely attached to the cargo bay on these vehicles.

Volkswagen Golf hot hatch

Hey, do you know where the luggage blind is for your hatchback or 4×4?

Hatchbacks, station-wagons (estate cars) and SUVs (4-wheel-drives / 4x4s) aren’t all that secure in this context but using the luggage blind or removeable luggage shelf that may come with your vehicle can make it easier to keep the valuable items “out of sight, out of mind” but these aren’t necessarily secure. For that matter, where is that luggage blind or luggage shelf that came with your car if your car came with that?

The glove compartment in the dashboard or the box in the centre console that doubles as an armrest serves well as a secure storage location for small items like MP3 players, smartphones or small digital cameras. This is more so  especially if you can lock it with a key.

If you are at the beach, pool or beauty spot as a group, you may be tempted to keep all the smartphones, cameras and similar equipment in a pile near the drinks or picnic food especially as some of you go off for a swim or to admire the beauty. In these situations, make sure there is a trusted adult near that pile of equipment at all times to keep watch on it. Also hiding the equipment amongst bedding, towels, picnic rugs, the picnic basket or in common-looking bags may work as a way to make it less attractive to thieves.

Avoiding damage

One major cause of damage to a lot of the portable gadgets during the summer is water and other fluids; or sand getting inside the devices.

If you find that there is a greater risk of this kind of damage happening to these devices, it is a good idea to have liquid-tight containers for the devices. For cameras, you can purchase weatherproof cases from your favourite camera store. These come either as a generic case that suits cameras of the type or a manufacturer-designed case that suits a particular camera model. You may also come across weatherproof containers for smartphones and tablets like the iPad.

The common zip-lock sandwich bags that you can get from the supermarket can work well with smartphones, portable media players and remote controls that are more likely to be baptised in swimming-pool water or have a drink tipped over them.

Avoid the temptation to carry a smartphone or MP3 player in your pocket or wedged in on your swimwear when you are near the water unless it is kept in a zip-lock bag or something similarly waterproof.

The battery, SIM and memory cards have to be removed from the device if it gets wet

The battery, SIM and memory cards have to be removed from the device if it gets wet

Attention hotels and similar establishments: You could make sure that your Housekeeping department keeps a supply of the zip-lock bags of varying sizes on hand! This can come in handy with guests as a way to contain leaks from toiletry bottles or allow guests to protect their smartphones from water damage.

Water or other fluids inside device

The battery should be removed from a waterlogged camera while they are switched on so the lens doesn't retract

The battery should be removed from a waterlogged camera while they are switched on so the lens doesn’t retract

If water does get inside a device, these steps may help in mitigating the damage that this may cause to the device. Situations like the device falling in to sea water, a swimming pool or accompanying a load of laundry through the washing machine can make things worse due to chemicals being part of that water.

Shut down the device fully. In the case of a camera with a lens that retracts when it is turned off, remove the battery while the camera is on and the lens is extended. With smartphones and tablets, this may involve following the operating system’s shutdown procedure like pressing the sleep button for a long time to bring up a shutdown menu, then selecting the Shut Down option.

SIM card

Dry SIM and memory cards with a soft tissue or micro-fibre cloth

Remove all batteries, memory and SIM cards from the affected device if possible. Dry off the memory and SIM cards with a tissue or micro-fibre cloth before you consider installing them in another device like a spare mobile phone.

Shake as much of the water out of the device as you can. Avoid the temptation to run a hair-dryer over the device or run it under that hand-dryer in the public restroom. This introduces extra heat to the device which can damage some components very easily.

Smother the device in a bowl of raw rice or place it in a zip-lock bag with a dessicant pouch or plenty of raw rice. Make sure that all of the covers and doors for the various compartments on that device are open when you do this. Leave it in this bowl or zip-lock bag for three days in order for the device to dry out effectively. This procedure effectively mitigates the damage that the water does to the device’s circuitry, switches and mechanisms.

Sand or dirt in your equipment

You can get dry sand or dirt out of your electronic equipment either by shaking it out, using compressed air to blast it away from the equipment or using your household vacuum cleaner to suck it out. If you use the vacuum cleaner for this purpose, you may find that the crevice nozzle that isn’t perforated on each side may give you better results.

Before you do this with a camera, smartphone or other device that has small removable memory or SIM cards, make sure you remove these cards from your device before you clean it out.

Dealing with insurance

Smother the wet device with dry rice and leave for a few days

Smother the wet device with dry rice and leave for a few days

When you purchase any device, make sure you have the receipt or the instruction manual for that device. In the case of a smartphone, MiFi or similar communications device that you have bought as part of a subsidised-equipment contract, keep the details about the contract that you bought this device under. These documents are useful for your insurance claim as a way of proving you own that device.

As for home / contents insurance policies along with travel insurance policies, make sure that the policy does cover for accidental damage to portable electronics while they are used on the road. Beware of those policies that require you to pay a large excess on accidental damage claims because these large excesses may be more than equipment of a similar standard is worth in the case of small devices. In some cases, an insurance policy that offers excess-free coverage for theft and accidental damage to portable equipment on the road for a modest extra on the premium may be worth its salt.

Similarly, some mobile carriers may offer a specialised policy that covers smartphones and associated devices for theft and accidental damage, usually for equipment that is part of an ongoing subsidised-equipment contract. These may be worth investigating especially if they offer coverage for associated accessories, “on-the-road” damage or “other-device” coverage; along with excesses that you pay during a claim. The main limitation with these policies is that they provide cover for specified devices, namely the smartphone or tablet that is part of a particular contract.

Conclusion

Once summer comes, it is worth making sure you don’t run in to trouble regarding your valuable electronic equipment.

This article will be published around May to coincide with summertime in the Northern-Hemisphere countries like the USA, Canada, UK and Europe, but will be re-published during November for summertime in the Southern-Hemisphere countries.

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Legacy analogue audio to today’s needs–can this be done?

Problem

Linn Sondek LP12

You can bridge the old turntable to today’s digital needs

Most of you will be wanting to link legacy audio media like vinyl or cassette to today’s needs. This will be true for people who have lived through the time period between the 1950s to the 1990s where vinyl records, tapes in the open-reel, 8-track cartridge or cassette form, or newer digital-recording formats like DAT, DCC or MiniDisc were part of one’s music-listening life and you have built up a collection of music on one or more of these formats. On the other hand, you may have started to dabble in the classic audio formats such as participating in the return of vinyl courtesy of the recent “Record Store Day” effort or had shown interest in cassettes courtesy of “Guardians Of The Galaxy” with the Awesome Mix Vol 1 tape (CD at Amazon / JB Hi-Fi, Spotify, MP3 on iTunes / Google Play ) in the Star Lord’s Walkman.

An "on-ramp" digital media adaptor for a network-based multiroom audio setup

An “on-ramp” digital media adaptor for a network-based multiroom audio setup

Similarly, you may find that it is hard to acquire particular recordings or kinds of music on anything other than the aforementioned legacy media. This holds especially true for the “easy-listening” music of the 1950s to the 1970s which has been retroactively dubbed “lounge” or “space-age bachelor-pad” music, or some world or folk music that was turned out through that same era. This leads to you rummaging through second-hand music stores, charity-run thrift stores, eBay and the like for this content and picking it up on records, musicassettes, or similar media.

But there are the new trends like network-based multiroom audio or the ability to copy the music to a file-based audio format to enjoy on your smartphone or via a DLNA-capable home media network. Similarly, you may want to use a computer-based audio-editing program to digitally salvage an old recording before it goes to waste.

Creative Labs Sound Blaster Digital Music Premium USB sound module press image courtesy of Creative Labs

Creative Labs Sound Blaster Digital Music Premium USB sound module – useful for copying old media to your home network

What you want to be able to do is bridge these classic media to the new requirements, whether by operating a turntable to play records through your network-based multiroom system or copying that old open-reel tape to your computer to digitally salvage it and have in a ready-to-play form.

The multiroom system can be catered for through the use of an “on-ramp” module which may also be part of a speaker or network-media-player module. This device takes an incoming audio signal and converts it in to a bitstream that suits the multiroom system it is designed to work with. then presenting it to that system via the home network. Then you use the multiroom system’s control app to select that input and have it play through the speakers.

Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro convertible notebook at Rydges Hotel Melbourne

A Windows laptop can be used for “digitizing” old irreplaceable media

You could use a USB sound module, PCI sound card or an integrated sound module along with a recording program like Creative Media Toolbox, WavePad or Audacity to record from legacy media to file-based media. These tools have functionality to allow you to “clean up” recordings that had come through below par such as to clean out tape hiss or clicks and pops.

Solution

The classic vinyl record

Turntables that have an integrated preamplifier could be connected directly to equipment that has a line-level input but there is an increasing number of these, typically offered for peanuts, that aren’t really kind to records. These have flimsy construction for both the plinth and the tonearm and use a cheap moving-magnet cartridge. Their “automatics” (mechanisms associated with automatic arm return, automatic stylus cueing (fully-auto setups only) and stylus lift) may not behave properly placing undue pressure on the stylus or even permitting the stylus to drop on a spinning platter rather than the record. This also applies to a lot of USB turntables that are pitched as a way to “dump” records to file-based audio media.

VinylPlay - an integrated-phono-stage turntable that raises the bar for this class of turntable

VinylPlay – an integrated-phono-stage turntable that raises the bar for this class of turntable

There may be exceptions to this rule like an integrated music system like a 1970s-era “music centre” that has a turntable that you trusted with your records and have kept in good running order. Some of these systems, especially a lot of the good-quality music centres, will also have a line output, typically so you can connect an outboard tape deck. On the other hand, you may be able to have a good system modified to obtain a line output.

But you may want to use a good-quality turntable or a turntable that you have trusted with your vinyl for a long time especially when vinyl was the main audio medium. Here, you use a regular hi-fi amplifier or receiver that has a phono input and a tape loop that you customarily hooked up a tape deck to.  Even that old amplifier that used to be in your hi-fi system but you use for the computer or have left in the garage can do the job. On the other hand, you can purchase a dedicated phono preamplifier to do this job. As well, some USB sound modules like the Creative Labs Sound Blaster Digital Music Premium HD have an in-house phono stage.

You connect the turntable to the PHONO input on the amplifier and the sound module to that amplifier’s tape output and have the amplifier’s input selector set at PHONO. Here, the amplifier works simply as a phono preamplifier in the context the sound module or multiroom “on-ramp” module.

Tapes, digital media, etc

MiniDisc and cassette decks can also be used to bridge these formats to file-based computer audio or multiroom setups

MiniDisc and cassette decks can also be used to bridge these formats to file-based computer audio or multiroom setups

This is a simpler affair because you can connect the line output (playback output) of these devices directly to a line-level input on the sound module or multiroom “on-ramp” module. Most of the digital decks like that work with DAT, DCC or MiniDisc do expose a digital output which can be connected to the sound module’s digital input. For that matter, some DCC decks like the Philips DCC-900 do use this output even when playing standard cassettes.

In the context of the tape-based formats or MiniDisc, you may use them as a “workspace” when you are doing a recording effort. For example, you may find that these could work well in the “capture” context such as “how long is a length of tape” applying to reliably recording live or radio content. Then you would transfer the content to file-based media for post-production and network playback,

You may find that an amplifier can come in handy if you are feeding multiple sources of this kind to the one sound module or multiroom “on-ramp”. On the other hand, you can get away with a switch-box to select amongst the different sources of this kind. This is because they are typically used as the “switchboard” in a hi-fi system. Here, you connect the sound module up to the amplifier’s record output where you would typically connect up a tape deck to record and could even use an RCA “Y-adaptor” on the same outputs if you are serving a tape deck and the sound module from the same outputs.

Other concerns

You may have to be sure that the equipment you are dealing with is mechanically sound so that it doesn’t damage or destroy irreplaceable media. This is more so if you are playing the legacy media through the setup on a regular basis.

For tape equipment, this may also making sure that the heads are kept clean with an appropriate non-abrasive cleaning tape that is in good condition or, in the case of open-reel or some cassette equipment, using a cotton bud (Q-Tip) soaked in rubbing alcohol (methylated spirits) rubbed across the heads. For turntables, it would also mean that the stylus isn’t chipped or damaged in any other way and is kept clean; and the tonearm is set up properly to follow the record’s groove accurately with the right amount of pressure.

Conclusion

You can bridge the classic music media with today’s audio technology once you are sure that you are dealing with equipment that is in good order and know how to connect it to the modern equipment.

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Preferring highest-throughput on your dual-band Wi-Fi setup

Article

Specify 2.4 or 5 GHz WiFi bands on Surface Pro 3 | Barb’s Connected World (blog)

My Comments

A problem that Barb Bowman had highlighted in her blog was that the Surface Pro 3 was preferring to connect to her Wi-Fi home network on the 2.4GHz band rather than the 5GHz (802.11ac) band that it was capable of. This may be a problem with a lot of dual-band 802.11n/ac devices.

Here, she had ran the same SSID and security parameters for both the bands on her network and the Surface preferred the 2.4GHz band. To work around this, Barb had used the Device Manager to force her Surface Pro 3 to stay on the 5GHz 802.11ac band. With this 2-in-1’s network adaptor, there was an “Advanced” option to lock on 2.4GHz or 5Ghz or simply switch between the bands. The problem would become worse when she took the Surface on the road because of having to head to the Device Manager to set these parameters.

Another way to work around this is to run separate SSIDs for each band, having the 2.4GHz and 5Ghz networks work as separate segments. Here, the network could be set up as MY-NETWORK for the 2.4GHz band and MY-NETWORK-54 for the 5GHz band. Most simultaneous-dual-band access points and routers allow you to set this up and your can prefer to connect to a particular band using your device’s network-selection function. If you wanted to allow automatic switching, you then just set both SSIDs up on your device for automatic connection.

On the other hand, it could be feasible for operating systems to have support for “preferred” bands or operating modes for wireless networks in a similar way to how you can determine in Windows whether a network is a public, home or workplace network and adjust its sharing behaviour according. This kind of manual override could allow a device to prefer the 5GHz band for better performance but fall to the 2.4GHz band if this band works better. 

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