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20 Great Google Secrets

Google is clearly the best general-purpose search engine on the Web (see

www.pcmag.com/searchengines

But most people don't use it to its best advantage. Do you just plug in a keyword or two and hope for the best? That may be the quickest way to search, but with more than 3 billion pages in Google's index, it's still a struggle to pare results to a manageable number.

But Google is an remarkably powerful tool that can ease and enhance your Internet exploration. Google's search options go beyond simple keywords, the Web, and even its own programmers. Let's look at some of Google's lesser-known options.

Syntax Search Tricks

Using a special syntax is a way to tell Google that you want to restrict your searches to certain elements or characteristics of Web pages. Google has a fairly complete list of its syntax elements at

www.google.com/help/operators.html

. Here are some advanced operators that can help narrow down your search results.

Intitle: at the beginning of a query word or phrase (intitle:"Three Blind Mice") restricts your search results to just the titles of Web pages.

Intext: does the opposite of intitle:, searching only the body text, ignoring titles, links, and so forth. Intext: is perfect when what you're searching for might commonly appear in URLs. If you're looking for the term HTML, for example, and you don't want to get results such as

www.mysite.com/index.html

, you can enter intext:html.

Link: lets you see which pages are linking to your Web page or to another page you're interested in. For example, try typing in

link:http://www.pcmag.com


Try using site: (which restricts results to top-level domains) with intitle: to find certain types of pages. For example, get scholarly pages about Mark Twain by searching for intitle:"Mark Twain"site:edu. Experiment with mixing various elements; you'll develop several strategies for finding the stuff you want more effectively. The site: command is very helpful as an alternative to the mediocre search engines built into many sites.

Swiss Army Google

Google has a number of services that can help you accomplish tasks you may never have thought to use Google for. For example, the new calculator feature

(www.google.com/help/features.html#calculator)

lets you do both math and a variety of conversions from the search box. For extra fun, try the query "Answer to life the universe and everything."

Let Google help you figure out whether you've got the right spelling—and the right word—for your search. Enter a misspelled word or phrase into the query box (try "thre blund mise") and Google may suggest a proper spelling. This doesn't always succeed; it works best when the word you're searching for can be found in a dictionary. Once you search for a properly spelled word, look at the results page, which repeats your query. (If you're searching for "three blind mice," underneath the search window will appear a statement such as Searched the web for "three blind mice.") You'll discover that you can click on each word in your search phrase and get a definition from a dictionary.

Suppose you want to contact someone and don't have his phone number handy. Google can help you with that, too. Just enter a name, city, and state. (The city is optional, but you must enter a state.) If a phone number matches the listing, you'll see it at the top of the search results along with a map link to the address. If you'd rather restrict your results, use rphonebook: for residential listings or bphonebook: for business listings. If you'd rather use a search form for business phone listings, try Yellow Search

(www.buzztoolbox.com/google/yellowsearch.shtml).




Extended Googling

Google offers several services that give you a head start in focusing your search. Google Groups

(http://groups.google.com)

indexes literally millions of messages from decades of discussion on Usenet. Google even helps you with your shopping via two tools: Froogle
CODE
(http://froogle.google.com),

which indexes products from online stores, and Google Catalogs
CODE
(http://catalogs.google.com),

which features products from more 6,000 paper catalogs in a searchable index. And this only scratches the surface. You can get a complete list of Google's tools and services at

www.google.com/options/index.html

You're probably used to using Google in your browser. But have you ever thought of using Google outside your browser?

Google Alert

(www.googlealert.com)

monitors your search terms and e-mails you information about new additions to Google's Web index. (Google Alert is not affiliated with Google; it uses Google's Web services API to perform its searches.) If you're more interested in news stories than general Web content, check out the beta version of Google News Alerts

(www.google.com/newsalerts).

This service (which is affiliated with Google) will monitor up to 50 news queries per e-mail address and send you information about news stories that match your query. (Hint: Use the intitle: and source: syntax elements with Google News to limit the number of alerts you get.)

Google on the telephone? Yup. This service is brought to you by the folks at Google Labs

(http://labs.google.com),

a place for experimental Google ideas and features (which may come and go, so what's there at this writing might not be there when you decide to check it out). With Google Voice Search

(http://labs1.google.com/gvs.html),

you dial the Voice Search phone number, speak your keywords, and then click on the indicated link. Every time you say a new search term, the results page will refresh with your new query (you must have JavaScript enabled for this to work). Remember, this service is still in an experimental phase, so don't expect 100 percent success.

In 2002, Google released the Google API (application programming interface), a way for programmers to access Google's search engine results without violating the Google Terms of Service. A lot of people have created useful (and occasionally not-so-useful but interesting) applications not available from Google itself, such as Google Alert. For many applications, you'll need an API key, which is available free from
CODE
www.google.com/apis

. See the figures for two more examples, and visit

www.pcmag.com/solutions

for more.

Thanks to its many different search properties, Google goes far beyond a regular search engine. Give the tricks in this article a try. You'll be amazed at how many different ways Google can improve your Internet searching.


Online Extra: More Google Tips


Here are a few more clever ways to tweak your Google searches.

Search Within a Timeframe

Daterange: (start date–end date). You can restrict your searches to pages that were indexed within a certain time period. Daterange: searches by when Google indexed a page, not when the page itself was created. This operator can help you ensure that results will have fresh content (by using recent dates), or you can use it to avoid a topic's current-news blizzard and concentrate only on older results. Daterange: is actually more useful if you go elsewhere to take advantage of it, because daterange: requires Julian dates, not standard Gregorian dates. You can find converters on the Web (such as

CODE
http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/JulianDate.html

excl.gif No Active Links, Read the Rules - Edit by Ninja excl.gif


), but an easier way is to do a Google daterange: search by filling in a form at

www.researchbuzz.com/toolbox/goofresh.shtml or www.faganfinder.com/engines/google.shtml

. If one special syntax element is good, two must be better, right? Sometimes. Though some operators can't be mixed (you can't use the link: operator with anything else) many can be, quickly narrowing your results to a less overwhelming number.

More Google API Applications

Staggernation.com offers three tools based on the Google API. The Google API Web Search by Host (GAWSH) lists the Web hosts of the results for a given query

(www.staggernation.com/gawsh/).

When you click on the triangle next to each host, you get a list of results for that host. The Google API Relation Browsing Outliner (GARBO) is a little more complicated: You enter a URL and choose whether you want pages that related to the URL or linked to the URL

(www.staggernation.com/garbo/).

Click on the triangle next to an URL to get a list of pages linked or related to that particular URL. CapeMail is an e-mail search application that allows you to send an e-mail to google@capeclear.com with the text of your query in the subject line and get the first ten results for that query back. Maybe it's not something you'd do every day, but if your cell phone does e-mail and doesn't do Web browsing, this is a very handy address to know.

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10 Fast and Free Security Enhancements

Before you spend a dime on security, there are many precautions you can take that will protect you against the most common threats.

1. Check Windows Update and Office Update regularly (_http://office.microsoft.com/productupdates); have your Office CD ready. Windows Me, 2000, and XP users can configure automatic updates. Click on the Automatic Updates tab in the System control panel and choose the appropriate options.

2. Install a personal firewall. Both SyGate (_www.sygate.com) and ZoneAlarm (_www.zonelabs.com) offer free versions.


3. Install a free spyware blocker. Our Editors' Choice ("Spyware," April 22) was SpyBot Search & Destroy (_http://security.kolla.de). SpyBot is also paranoid and ruthless in hunting out tracking cookies.

4. Block pop-up spam messages in Windows NT, 2000, or XP by disabling the Windows Messenger service (this is unrelated to the instant messaging program). Open Control Panel | Administrative Tools | Services and you'll see Messenger. Right-click and go to Properties. Set Start-up Type to Disabled and press the Stop button. Bye-bye, spam pop-ups! Any good firewall will also stop them.

5. Use strong passwords and change them periodically. Passwords should have at least seven characters; use letters and numbers and have at least one symbol. A decent example would be f8izKro@l. This will make it much harder for anyone to gain access to your accounts.

6. If you're using Outlook or Outlook Express, use the current version or one with the Outlook Security Update installed. The update and current versions patch numerous vulnerabilities.

7. Buy antivirus software and keep it up to date. If you're not willing to pay, try Grisoft AVG Free Edition (Grisoft Inc., w*w.grisoft.com). And doublecheck your AV with the free, online-only scanners available at w*w.pandasoftware.com/activescan and _http://housecall.trendmicro.com.

8. If you have a wireless network, turn on the security features: Use MAC filtering, turn off SSID broadcast, and even use WEP with the biggest key you can get. For more, check out our wireless section or see the expanded coverage in Your Unwired World in our next issue.

9. Join a respectable e-mail security list, such as the one found at our own Security Supersite at _http://security.ziffdavis.com, so that you learn about emerging threats quickly and can take proper precautions.

10. Be skeptical of things on the Internet. Don't assume that e-mail "From:" a particular person is actually from that person until you have further reason to believe it's that person. Don't assume that an attachment is what it says it is. Don't give out your password to anyone, even if that person claims to be from "support."

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10 reasons why PCs crash U must Know

10 reasons why PCs crash U must Know

Fatal error: the system has become unstable or is busy," it says. "Enter to return to Windows or press Control-Alt-Delete to restart your computer. If you do this you will lose any unsaved information in all open applications."

You have just been struck by the Blue Screen of Death. Anyone who uses Mcft Windows will be familiar with this. What can you do? More importantly, how can you prevent it happening?

1 Hardware conflict

The number one reason why Windows crashes is hardware conflict. Each hardware device communicates to other devices through an interrupt request channel (IRQ). These are supposed to be unique for each device.

For example, a printer usually connects internally on IRQ 7. The keyboard usually uses IRQ 1 and the floppy disk drive IRQ 6. Each device will try to hog a single IRQ for itself.

If there are a lot of devices, or if they are not installed properly, two of them may end up sharing the same IRQ number. When the user tries to use both devices at the same time, a crash can happen. The way to check if your computer has a hardware conflict is through the following route:

* Start-Settings-Control Panel-System-Device Manager.

Often if a device has a problem a yellow '!' appears next to its description in the Device Manager. Highlight Computer (in the Device Manager) and press Properties to see the IRQ numbers used by your computer. If the IRQ number appears twice, two devices may be using it.

Sometimes a device might share an IRQ with something described as 'IRQ holder for PCI steering'. This can be ignored. The best way to fix this problem is to remove the problem device and reinstall it.

Sometimes you may have to find more recent drivers on the internet to make the device function properly. A good resource is www.driverguide.com. If the device is a soundcard, or a modem, it can often be fixed by moving it to a different slot on the motherboard (be careful about opening your computer, as you may void the warranty).

When working inside a computer you should switch it off, unplug the mains lead and touch an unpainted metal surface to discharge any static electricity.

To be fair to Mcft, the problem with IRQ numbers is not of its making. It is a legacy problem going back to the first PC designs using the IBM 8086 chip. Initially there were only eight IRQs. Today there are 16 IRQs in a PC. It is easy to run out of them. There are plans to increase the number of IRQs in future designs.

2 Bad Ram

Ram (random-access memory) problems might bring on the blue screen of death with a message saying Fatal Exception Error. A fatal error indicates a serious hardware problem. Sometimes it may mean a part is damaged and will need replacing.

But a fatal error caused by Ram might be caused by a mismatch of chips. For example, mixing 70-nanosecond (70ns) Ram with 60ns Ram will usually force the computer to run all the Ram at the slower speed. This will often crash the machine if the Ram is overworked.

One way around this problem is to enter the BIOS settings and increase the wait state of the Ram. This can make it more stable. Another way to troubleshoot a suspected Ram problem is to rearrange the Ram chips on the motherboard, or take some of them out. Then try to repeat the circumstances that caused the crash. When handling Ram try not to touch the gold connections, as they can be easily damaged.

Parity error messages also refer to Ram. Modern Ram chips are either parity (ECC) or non parity (non-ECC). It is best not to mix the two types, as this can be a cause of trouble.

EMM386 error messages refer to memory problems but may not be connected to bad Ram. This may be due to free memory problems often linked to old Dos-based programmes.

3 BIOS settings

Every motherboard is supplied with a range of chipset settings that are decided in the factory. A common way to access these settings is to press the F2 or delete button during the first few seconds of a boot-up.

Once inside the BIOS, great care should be taken. It is a good idea to write down on a piece of paper all the settings that appear on the screen. That way, if you change something and the computer becomes more unstable, you will know what settings to revert to.

A common BIOS error concerns the CAS latency. This refers to the Ram. Older EDO (extended data out) Ram has a CAS latency of 3. Newer SDRam has a CAS latency of 2. Setting the wrong figure can cause the Ram to lock up and freeze the computer's display.

Mcft Windows is better at allocating IRQ numbers than any BIOS. If possible set the IRQ numbers to Auto in the BIOS. This will allow Windows to allocate the IRQ numbers (make sure the BIOS setting for Plug and Play OS is switched to 'yes' to allow Windows to do this.).

4 Hard disk drives

After a few weeks, the information on a hard disk drive starts to become piecemeal or fragmented. It is a good idea to defragment the hard disk every week or so, to prevent the disk from causing a screen freeze. Go to

* Start-Programs-Accessories-System Tools-Disk Defragmenter

This will start the procedure. You will be unable to write data to the hard drive (to save it) while the disk is defragmenting, so it is a good idea to schedule the procedure for a period of inactivity using the Task Scheduler.

The Task Scheduler should be one of the small icons on the bottom right of the Windows opening page (the desktop).

Some lockups and screen freezes caused by hard disk problems can be solved by reducing the read-ahead optimisation. This can be adjusted by going to

* Start-Settings-Control Panel-System Icon-Performance-File System-Hard Disk.

Hard disks will slow down and crash if they are too full. Do some housekeeping on your hard drive every few months and free some space on it. Open the Windows folder on the C drive and find the Temporary Internet Files folder. Deleting the contents (not the folder) can free a lot of space.

Empty the Recycle Bin every week to free more space. Hard disk drives should be scanned every week for errors or bad sectors. Go to

* Start-Programs-Accessories-System Tools-ScanDisk

Otherwise assign the Task Scheduler to perform this operation at night when the computer is not in use.

5 Fatal OE exceptions and VXD errors

Fatal OE exception errors and VXD errors are often caused by video card problems.

These can often be resolved easily by reducing the resolution of the video display. Go to

* Start-Settings-Control Panel-Display-Settings

Here you should slide the screen area bar to the left. Take a look at the colour settings on the left of that window. For most desktops, high colour 16-bit depth is adequate.

If the screen freezes or you experience system lockups it might be due to the video card. Make sure it does not have a hardware conflict. Go to

* Start-Settings-Control Panel-System-Device Manager

Here, select the + beside Display Adapter. A line of text describing your video card should appear. Select it (make it blue) and press properties. Then select Resources and select each line in the window. Look for a message that says No Conflicts.

If you have video card hardware conflict, you will see it here. Be careful at this point and make a note of everything you do in case you make things worse.

The way to resolve a hardware conflict is to uncheck the Use Automatic Settings box and hit the Change Settings button. You are searching for a setting that will display a No Conflicts message.

Another useful way to resolve video problems is to go to

* Start-Settings-Control Panel-System-Performance-Graphics

Here you should move the Hardware Acceleration slider to the left. As ever, the most common cause of problems relating to graphics cards is old or faulty drivers (a driver is a small piece of software used by a computer to communicate with a device).

Look up your video card's manufacturer on the internet and search for the most recent drivers for it.

6 Viruses

Often the first sign of a virus infection is instability. Some viruses erase the boot sector of a hard drive, making it impossible to start. This is why it is a good idea to create a Windows start-up disk. Go to

* Start-Settings-Control Panel-Add/Remove Programs

Here, look for the Start Up Disk tab. Virus protection requires constant vigilance.

A virus scanner requires a list of virus signatures in order to be able to identify viruses. These signatures are stored in a DAT file. DAT files should be updated weekly from the website of your antivirus software manufacturer.

An excellent antivirus programme is McAfee VirusScan by Network Associates ( www.nai.com). Another is Norton AntiVirus 2000, made by Symantec ( www.symantec.com).

7 Printers

The action of sending a document to print creates a bigger file, often called a postscript file.

Printers have only a small amount of memory, called a buffer. This can be easily overloaded. Printing a document also uses a considerable amount of CPU power. This will also slow down the computer's performance.

If the printer is trying to print unusual characters, these might not be recognised, and can crash the computer. Sometimes printers will not recover from a crash because of confusion in the buffer. A good way to clear the buffer is to unplug the printer for ten seconds. Booting up from a powerless state, also called a cold boot, will restore the printer's default settings and you may be able to carry on.

8 Software

A common cause of computer crash is faulty or badly-installed software. Often the problem can be cured by uninstalling the software and then reinstalling it. Use Norton Uninstall or Uninstall Shield to remove an application from your system properly. This will also remove references to the programme in the System Registry and leaves the way clear for a completely fresh copy.

The System Registry can be corrupted by old references to obsolete software that you thought was uninstalled. Use Reg Cleaner by Jouni Vuorio to clean up the System Registry and remove obsolete entries. It works on Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 98 SE (Second Edition), Windows Millennium Edition (ME), NT4 and Windows 2000.

Read the instructions and use it carefully so you don't do permanent damage to the Registry. If the Registry is damaged you will have to reinstall your operating system. Reg Cleaner can be obtained from www.jv16.org

Often a Windows problem can be resolved by entering Safe Mode. This can be done during start-up. When you see the message "Starting Windows" press F4. This should take you into Safe Mode.

Safe Mode loads a minimum of drivers. It allows you to find and fix problems that prevent Windows from loading properly.

Sometimes installing Windows is difficult because of unsuitable BIOS settings. If you keep getting SUWIN error messages (Windows setup) during the Windows installation, then try entering the BIOS and disabling the CPU internal cache. Try to disable the Level 2 (L2) cache if that doesn't work.

Remember to restore all the BIOS settings back to their former settings following installation.

9 Overheating

Central processing units (CPUs) are usually equipped with fans to keep them cool. If the fan fails or if the CPU gets old it may start to overheat and generate a particular kind of error called a kernel error. This is a common problem in chips that have been overclocked to operate at higher speeds than they are supposed to.

One remedy is to get a bigger better fan and install it on top of the CPU. Specialist cooling fans/heatsinks are available from www.computernerd.com or www.coolit.com

CPU problems can often be fixed by disabling the CPU internal cache in the BIOS. This will make the machine run more slowly, but it should also be more stable.

10 Power supply problems

With all the new construction going on around the country the steady supply of electricity has become disrupted. A power surge or spike can crash a computer as easily as a power cut.

If this has become a nuisance for you then consider buying a uninterrupted power supply (UPS). This will give you a clean power supply when there is electricity, and it will give you a few minutes to perform a controlled shutdown in case of a power cut.

It is a good investment if your data are critical, because a power cut will cause any unsaved data to be lost.

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BIOS Update Procedure

All latest Motherboards today, 486/ Pentium / Pentium Pro etc.,ensure that upgrades are easily obtained by incorporating the system BIOS in a FLASH Memory component. With FLASH BIOS, there is no need to replace an EPROM component. Once downloaded, the upgrade utility fits on a floppy disc allowing the user to save, verify and update the system BIOS. A hard drive or a network drive can also be used to run the newer upgrade utilities. However, memory managers can not be installed while upgrading.

Most pre-Pentium motherboards do not have a Flash BIOS. The following instructions therefore do not apply to these boards. If your motherboard does not have a Flash BIOS (EEPROM) you will need to use an EPROM programmer to re-program the BIOS chip. See your dealer for more information about this.

Please read the following instructions in full before starting a Flash BIOS upgrade:
A. Create a Bootable Floppy (in DOS)

•With a non-formatted disk, type the following:

format a:/s

•If using a formatted disk, type:

sys a:

This procedure will ensure a clean boot when you are flashing the new BIOS.

B. Download the BIOS file

•Download the correct BIOS file by clicking on the file name of the BIOS file you wish to download.

•Save the BIOS file and the Flash Utility file in the boot disk you have created. Unzip the BIOS file and the flash utility file. If you don't have an "unzip" utility, download the WinZip for Windows 95 shareware/ evaluation copy for that one time use from _www.winzip.com or _www.pkware.com. Most CD ROMs found in computer magazines, have a shareware version of WinZip on them.

•You should have extracted two files:

Flash BIOS utility eg: flash7265.exe (for example)

BIOS eg: 6152J900.bin (example)

Use the latest flash utility available unless otherwise specified (either on the BIOS update page or in the archive file). This information is usually provided.

C. Upgrade the System BIOS

During boot up, write down the old BIOS version because you will need to use it for the BIOS backup file name.

Place the bootable floppy disk containing the BIOS file and the Flash Utility in drive a, and reboot the system in MS-DOS, preferably Version 6.22

•At the A:> prompt, type the corresponding Flash BIOS utility and the BIOS file with its extension.

For example:

flash625 615j900.bin

•From the Flash Memory Writer menu, select "Y" to "Do you want to save BIOS?" if you want to save (back up) your current BIOS (strongly recommended), then type the name of your current BIOS and its extension after FILE NAME TO SAVE: eg: a:\613J900.bin

Alternatively select "N" if you don't want to save your current BIOS. Beware, though, that you won't be able to recover from a possible failure.

•Select "Y" to "Are you sure to program?"

•Wait until it displays "Message: Power Off or Reset the system"

Once the BIOS has been successfully loaded, remove the floppy disk and reboot the system. If you write to BIOS but cannot complete the procedure, do not switch off, because the computer will not be able to boo, and you will not be given another chance to flash. In this case leave your system on until you resolve the problem (flashing BIOS with old file is a possible solution, provided you've made a backup before)

Make sure the new BIOS version has been loaded properly by taking note of the BIOS identifier as the system is rebooting.

For AMI BIOS
Once the BIOS has been successfully loaded, remove the floppy disk and reboot the system holding the "END" key prior to power on until you enter CMOS setup. If you do not do this the first time booting up after upgrading the BIOS, the system will hang.

BIOS Update Tips
note:
1.Make sure never to turn off or reset your computer during the flash process. This will corrupt the BIOS data. We also recommend that you make a copy of your current BIOS on the bootable floppy so you can reflash it if you need to. (This option is not available when flashing an AMI BIOS).

2. If you have problems installing your new BIOS please check the following:

Have you done a clean boot?
In other words, did you follow the above procedure for making a bootable floppy? This ensures that when booting from "A" there are no device drivers on the diskette. Failing to do a clean boot is the most common cause for getting a "Memory Insufficient" error message when attempting to flash a BIOS.

If you have not used a bootable floppy, insure a clean boot either by

a) pressing F5 during bootup

b) by removing all device drivers on the CONFIG.SYS including the HIMEM.SYS. Do this by using the EDIT command.

Have you booted up under DOS?
Booting in Windows is another common cause for getting a "Memory Insufficient" error message when attempting to flash a BIOS. Make sure to boot up to DOS with a minimum set of drivers. Important: Booting in DOS does not mean selecting "Restart computer in MS-DOS Mode" from Windows98/95 shutdown menu or going to Prompt mode in WindowsNT, but rather following the above procedure (format a: /s and rebooting from a:\).

Have you entered the full file name of the flash utility and the BIOS plus its extension?
Do not forget that often you will need to add a drive letter (a:\) before flashing the BIOS. Example: when asked for file name of new BIOS file which is on your floppy disk, in case you're working from c:\ your will need to type a:\615j900.bin, rather than 615j900.bin only.

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