Monday, February 27, 2012

Ultimate Laptop Owner's Guide Part - 2

                                   In the last post I covered on the topics of applications useful for laptop and laptop care. In this post i'll be covering on some useful apps that could be used for both laptop and desktop tuning purposes. The following are some of the most useful tuning tools available in the market and are proven to be resourceful and are capable of of boosting your windows from zero to hundred in the least time.

Tune Up Utilities : The All Rounder :

                                                              Tune Up Utilities is a complete suite that covers all types of tuning utilities and offers a useful feature for restoring your system settings called the "Rescue Center". It offers tools for both beginners and advanced users. If you don't wish to carry out individual maintenance tasks manually, it takes only a single click with the 1-click maintenance feature. although tuneup utilities performs maintenance tasks automatically every week, you can schedule the task manually as per your convenience. The changes made to the registry can be tracked easily. If tuning also meas upgrading the look and feel of windows for you, it can be done using the tuneup styler which offers numerous options for the customizing the appearence of the visual elements including the icons and boot and login screens. 

For :
  • Easy-to-Use.
  • Registry Editor with bookmark.
  • Integrated data recovery tool.
  • De-fragmenting tool.
Against :
  • Expensive.

CCleaner :

              The best tool for recovering disk space is CCleaner, which is free of cost. The tool removes temporary files as well as unwanted data in a quick and reliable manner. It can clean up components such as temporary internet files, browser history, clipboard, recent documents, run history, memory dumps, and so on. It also repairs the registry and smoothly uninstalls the applications that are not needed any more. However, CCleaner does a thorough job with basic settings. Thus before cleaning, its advisable to exclude cookies that are required for logging on to the frequently visited websites. Before you initiate the clean up process, click analyze button in order to find out how much storage space will be freed up.

For : 
  • Free.
  •  Also takes less known programs into consideration.
Against :
  • It also cleans the prefetch folder, which is used for faster windows start-up.

RSW : Fine tune the Registry :

                                            It makes sense to make the registry lighter by eliminating invalid items or entries that are no longer required, and that's exactly what the Registry System Wizard (RSW) does. It does not actually have anything to with tuning windows, but it does make a difference indirectly. On starting RSW, it displays a whole lot of windows tweaks suggested by WinFAQ on their website. You first have to select the version of your windows and then change the parameters you wish to. A detailed description of the selected tweaks is shown in the information window. Using RSW you can view and edit registry keys, modify the registry over the network, backup and restore the registry and search the registry using keywords. The only drawback with this software is that it doesn't have an english user interface. So you will have to translate the description from German to English using online translation tools before trying them out - a bit cumbersome but worth trying out.

For :
  • Easy to use.
  • Network Support.
  • Ideal for Beginners.
Against :
  • Does not remove any invalid entries.
  • No English interface.

Rivatuner : Blazing Frame Rates :

                                      GPUs can also be overclocked but it can be risky. Therefore Nvidia and ATI have hidden the overclocking options deep in their drivers. However you can access the settings for core and memory speed using Rivatuner. The software offers two modes for overclocking your GPU. The list of settings under the power user tab is meant for beginners who want to play safe. This mode only makes changes to the registry and the drivers.
                                      To overclock your GPU expand the section called "Rivatuner\NVIDIA\Overclocking\Current device" and choose a preset. You can also tweak the fan speed from the section called "Rivatuner\NVIDIA\Fan\Current device". If your familier with overclocking GPUs click on the "Customize" drop down list in the "Driver Settings" field and select "System Settings". This will bring up the system tweaks dialog box which has settings for adjusting thee core, shader and memory speeds. Check the "Enable driver-level hardware overclocking" box and click on the "Detect now" button in the dialog box that pops up. Select "Performance 3D" from the drop down list and then drag the sliders to adjust the speeds. Start with increasing the core speed by 50 MHz. Apply the settings and use 3DMark or a game benchmark to ensure that the system is stable. If everything goes fine, then increase the core speed in increments of 5MHz until the system becomes unstable during benchmark. At the next reboot, set the core speed to the maximum value at which the system was last runnign without any problems. Use the same method to determine the maximum memory speed. On my computer I managed to get the GeForce 8800GTS running at 570 MHz from 515 MHz.

For :
  • Also tweaks undocumented features.
  • Suitable for NVIDIA and ATI models.
  • Integrated schedular and Registry Editor.
Against :
  • Risky for Beginners.

SG TCP Optimizer : Supercharge your Internet Connection :

                                              Even tuning the internet connection requires tweaking the registry. Although you can do it manually or using RSW, SG TCP Optimizer is better suited. Moreover, its free and offers intuitive user interface for tuning and optimizing your internet connection. The easiest and fastest method is to use the optimal settings suggested by the software. But if you want to fine tune the connection, you can use the custom settings option to tweak the related TCP/IP parameters such as MTU, RWIN, QoS and so on. There are tools for determining the optimum values for these parameters. Once you have entered the values, test how many packets are lost using the Latency tab. You can also find out the modifications TCP Optimizer makes to the registry by clicking on the Registry tab. After applying the settings and restarted the PC, you can immediately test the settings by using the online speed test.

For :
  • Built in Registry Editor.
  • Tools for finding the MTU value.
  • Integrated Bandwidth calculator.
Against :
  •  Too difficult for beginners.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Request to all visitors

                            A small request from the blogger side, whoever visits the blog kindly drop in comments and suggestions to improve the blog and to put what kind of posts in it. It would be helpful to me in improving my blogging ability. That's all for now will post the part two of the Ultimate Laptop Owners guide by the end of this week. Sorry for the delay. And from the number of visitors to the post "Of Egyptian Gods and Pyramids" i guess those guys were looking for the real deal so for those who wanted to know about the various gods and myths surrounding them i'll be posting on the various cultures there gods and everything else in the upcoming posts. Thanks a lot guys for giving me something to post on. That's it for now. Ciao.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ultimate Laptop Owner's Guide Part - 1

Am sorry about the delayed post. Was caught up with life and everything else =). Now without further a do on to the post.

                                Our lives are now mobile with laptops and net books, so i dedicate this post to all the students, professionals and road warrior alike. The following as the post title specifies are some methods and steps on how to get the most out of your laptop.

Applications :
                These simple yet versatile tools not only prevent others from accessing your PC but also allow you to get that extra out of your laptop CPU, making them must-haves for your mobile PC.

1. Daemon Tools :
                                Imagine carrying all your movie and music CD's with you on a vacation. Apart from the extra baggage you will be carrying, you might just misplace them on your trip. A more viable option would be to create images of your favorite CD's and DVDs and mount them as virtual discs on demand. Daemon Tools is by far one of the best image mounting apps. The free version though allows you to create a total of four virtual disk drives. Daemon tools is available for Download.

2. Notebook Hardware Control :
                                                        Notebook Hardware Control (NHC) is a system monitoring tool that shows you exactly what lies under the hood. NHC allows you to take control of your CPU speed and temperature as well as tweak CPU voltages. CPU Speed Control allows you to automatically switch between various power plans depending on whether your laptop is connected to an external power source or running on battery. You can also exactly see how much charging capacity is left. Download.

3. USB Locking :
                             Ever been scared of losing your data to anyone who has access to your laptop without your knowledge? Well, there are various ways of keeping strangers from reading your documents and messages. Stop them dead in their tracks by locking your working environment with a USB drive using the application ID USB Lock. This program generates a unique key on the specified USB stick. You can even have the choice of using the protection when windows starts. Once locked, only the specified USB drive with the key file can unlock the laptop. The is particularly useful if you leave it unattended for long periods. You can also double your protection by password locking your disks and partitions. Disk password protection gives you that extra layer of protection if you are paranoid about data theft. Download.

4. NetSetMan :
                          Changing from one network to another can be quite a pain especially when you need to remember a list of network settings. But wouldn't that require you to manually change the settings every time you move from one place to another? That shouldn't be a problem with NetSetMan installed. you only need to manually enter each set of IP addresses once and you're done at the click of a button - no more digging through network properties. You  even have the choice of exporting your settings which gives  you the flexibility of setting up multiple machines quickly. To make things easier you have the choice of renaming each preset according to your location or purpose. Download.

5. Network Stumbler :
                                       If you want to test your Wi-Fi router's reach and signal strength or discover how many other networks are in range, Network Stumbler is the tool for you. It can detect networks with SSID broadcast disabled and show you whether they're encrypted. It's an indispensable tool for making sure your router is in the perfect location, and even for auditing your own Wi-Fi network security. But remember, even if the program shows you open hotspots, it might not be legal to connect to them. Download.

Laptop Care :

1. Getting more from your battery :
  • Battery care begins right from the day you unpack your brand new laptop. New battery packs have some charge in them, so drain it completely by using it all and then charge the battery for 12 to 14 hours to fully top up the battery. Do this for the first three r four times. After that you can charge the battery normally - plug in the adapter and let the battery charge for around two hours until it is full.
  • If you want your battery to last longer, avoid unplugging the adapter when the battery is not charged completely. Also, don't put the laptop to charge until the battery level has reached less than 20 percent. Keep an eye on the battery indicator in the notification area to monitor the battery level when the laptop is running on battery.
  • Many users don't bother to adjust the display brightness and keep it set to full at all times. Lowering the display brightness to a lower level will make a difference. Also switch off the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi adapters when not in use.
  • Optical drives and 2.5-inch external hard drives consume a lot of power. If you need to access a particular CD/DVD very frequently, copy the entire contents to the laptop's hard drive. Remember to disconnect any storage devices when you don't need to access them.
  • If you will not be using your laptop for more than a weeks time, detach the battery and keep it separately.
2. Other Tips :
  • Open and close the lid gently by holding it from the middle or both the sides. Holding the lid from one side stresses the hinge of that side. The hinge can bend or snap over a period of time.
  • Avoid using your laptop on soft surfaces such as bed or sofa, as it will sink in causing the exhaust vents on the sides and base to get blocked. The hot air will get trapped within and your laptop will heat up.
  • Don't slip the laptop in the bag immediately after switching it off. Let it cool down for 15 minutes and then pack it up.
 There will be a follow up post on the best gadgets to use for using your laptop to its full potential. So watch out for it.

P.S : Kindly leave comments so that i could improve on the blog post and topics to post on. Thanks =)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ways to revive your hard drive

    Am sure this is a problem we all would be facing and why wouldn't we be cause electronics are always  unreliable and tend to crash when you need them the most well most of them anyway. So the following are methods to revive your hard disk so that you can backup the necessary data for the time being.

   Now there are, broadly speaking three classes of data recovery, Logical, Electronic, and Physical.

• Logical : Where the FAT, NTFS or other file structure has been corrupted either by accident or on purpose or individual filed or folders have gone missing. The hard drive has not suffered damage to the components of the hard drive itself.

• Electronic : Component failure on the PCB (the circuit board on the bottom of the hard drive) in the motor or internally.

• Physical : Internal damage to the hard drive, damaged platters, head crashes, damage to the motor, or head rack signal amplifier. You need a clean room and plenty of experience to have any chance of a successful outcome here.

     A few things can be performed on a crashed drive before declaring it DEAD:

1. Touch the drive (or listen to it) to feel whether it's spinning. Some drives gradually suffer from spin-up problem but otherwise work fine once spinning. If it doesn't spin at power up, gently knock on the side the drive once or twice to jump start it. This works best if you knock on the drive approx. one or two seconds after power is applied. Repeat the procedure a few times and add a little more force if necessary. Remember that too much force can permanently damage the drive, but again, you have nothing too lose at this point.

2. If drive spins normally and stays spinning, try listening for irregular sounds emitting from the drive. A series of 'clicking' sound usually signifies multiple bad sectors including the boot sector that can prevent drive from booting. If drive 'Auto Detect' is enabled, make sure that its signature is shown at boot screen. If not, drive is certainly suffered from major hardware failure.

3. Check system's CPU to make sure it's not overheating (CPU can run warm, but should not be hot) due to a failed cooling fan, etc. Overheating the CPU can cause the system to be unbootable or cause the system to reboot itself frequently.

4. You could use another system to test the problematic drive to make sure that the controller is not at fault. Try both "Auto" and "User Type" (where you manually enter the drive's parameters) settings.

5. Try booting with a floppy and run 'fdisk' to view drive information. Some drives suddenly lost all of their data possibly due to corrupted FAT, but otherwise, continue to work fine once initialized and formatted. In many cases, FAT can be restored by executing Norton Utilities from floppy. If all failed and data from drive must be retrieved, you can try swapping its hardware (drive's main board) with similar working drive. Though this procedure can void drive warranty, but your data is more important, right? Or else, you try services that can save your data from dead drive for a fee.

     And after declaring the Hard Disk "Dead" you can perform either of the three following methods to revive your hard disk for a particular amount of time and backup the important data in it.

Freeze it :

        Well, I'll give you one advice that was a nice hero moment for me. Had a drive where it sounded like the drive motor was engaging but not getting anywhere, so we stuck it in the office freezer for an hour! I'll be darned if it didn't work. The drive was up long enough to get the data ghosted to another drive and we turfed it, even though it sounded fine at that point. I can't really take credit for it though—I had heard it in some geek session but I thought it was some jedi-geek urban myth. Goes to show you that you know you're really screwed when you say something to the effect of "Okay, hold on tight, I'm gonna try something I saw in a cartoon once but I'm pretty sure I can do it"

Drop it :

     Besides the typical use of system C: to transfer back the system files deleted during "housecleaning" by typical users, I've gotten lucky by turning the drive upside down and setting it on top of the power supply (which seemed to remove "a static charge" that had built up). Also have used various Disk Manager packages to "talk" to drives with FAT/NTFS corruptions just to recover the data. If drives are being reformatted from an operating system that doesn't want to "fully go away" (can name a few!), the disk manager software has also worked in this scenario many times to get rid of the old and allow you to reformat with the new. Of course, there's always the "drop it from 4-5" onto a flat hard surface" or "smack the side of the case with the flat of your hand" approaches. Believe it or not, both techniques have worked. Rumor has it that sometimes the heads "stick" to the platters during parking/cool down.

 And the following are the bunch of steps I would take if the drive weren’t being recognized by either the auto setup or manual entry.

1) Check your Master/Slave/Standalone jumper settings and make sure they are correct and
don't conflict with another device on the same IDE channel.

2) Check for bent pins on the connectors.

3) Try a known good cable—Floppy and IDE cables often seem to go down the gurgler at the worst possible time for some unknown reason.

4) Try a known good drive on your IDE channel and check the channel. If it doesn't respond:
• Try another IDE port (if there's two)
• Disable onboard IDE and try another I/O card (one that’s known to be good of course)

5) Try the disk in another PC.

6) Here's where it starts getting tricky. By now you must be reasonably convinced you have a bad case of galloping disk rot. On some drives (not all), if you have an identical same model drive, you can swap over the logic board. This will let you know if it is the embedded controller on the logic board. With luck, your disk will roar into life and you can suck the data off onto somewhere safe.

7) If your disk is making a hideous noise like a peg-legged man with a vacuum cleaner on a wooden floor (whirrr, clunk, whirrr, clunk....), then it is likely you have a dropped head. This is where you have start making decisions about how much your data is worth, because to go any further is going to cost big time and may require factory technicians to try and repair the disk in a clean-room environment. If your data was that important, then it would have been backed up. (Of course it would have been, they all respond in loud voices)

8) She's dead, Guys. How fast can you type? In a nutshell, this is my summary of the death cycle of a hard disk.

       And a minor disclaimer that all the above steps are performed by yourself full well knowing that your hard disk might blowup sometimes... So try this only if your desperate for the data in the drive.

Monday, February 6, 2012

From Four to Six and Seven

             I've seen him on the news. Followed the stories about what happened in Ohio. John Smith, out there, on the run. To the world, he's a mystery. But to me . . . he's one of us.

                               Nine of us came here, but sometimes I wonder if time has changed us—if we all still believe in our mission. How can I know? There are six of us left. We're hiding, blending in, avoiding contact with one another . . . but our Legacies are developing, and soon we'll be equipped to fight. Is John Number Four, and is his appearance the sign I've been waiting for? And what about Number Five and Six? Could one of them be the raven-haired girl with the stormy eyes from my dreams? The girl with powers that are beyond anything I could ever imagine? The girl who may be strong enough to bring the six of us together?

They caught Number One in Malaysia.

Number Two in England.

Number Three in Kenya.

They tried to catch Number Four in Ohio - and Failed.

I am Number Seven. One of six still alive.

And I'm ready to Fight.

                And hence again begins the continuation of the Lorien Legacies. John Smith (Number Four) narrowly escaped the death in Paradise, Ohio. Now, on the run with Sam and Number Six, the trio must find the rest of the remaining six of nine alien survivors in order to fight the impending invasion. Meanwhile, Number Seven is hiding out in Spain, but the Magadorians are closing in. And her protector seems to have turned her back on their past and purpose.

                Picking up right after I am Number Four left off, this sequel revolves mainly around two characters: John Smith again and Marina (Number Seven). John, Sam, and Six become closer as they travel across America, which leads to an obvious and awkward love triangle. We get to learn more about Six and her tortured past. And we're also introduced to the young and sheltered Marina, who has been hiding out all over Europe, but has been living in Spain in an orphanage a bit too long. With her protector in denial, Marina doesn't know who she can trust now. But she knows she has to leave as soon as possible.

               I thoroughly enjoyed I am Number Four; and was surprised that this second installment was even more intense and action-packed than the first. Filled with shocking twists and surprises around every corner, the story was riveting. With interesting characters that are easy to care about and a complex and engaging story, this science fiction, action thriller for young adults is pure fun and excitement. So I've got to admit this one is "Better than the First".

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Aliens and Superpowers

                   Nine of us came here. We look like you. We talk like you. We live among you. But we are not you. We can do things you dream of doing. We have powers you dream of having. We are stronger and faster than anything you have ever seen. We are the superheroes you worship in movies and comic books—but we are real.

                   Our plan was to grow, and train, and become strong, and become one, and fight them. But they found us and started hunting us first. Now all of us are running. Spending our lives in shadows, in places where no one would look, blending in. we have lived among you without you knowing. But they know.

They caught Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
And Number Three in Kenya.
They killed them all.

I am Number Four. I am Next. 

                 This is how this book got my interest at the store. I thought what the heck and started reading it. I Am Number Four is a young adult science fiction novel by Pittacus Lore (a pseudonym for James Frey and Jobie Hughes) and the first book in the Lorien Legacies series. The book was published by HarperCollins on August 3, 2010,and spent 7 straight weeks at #1 on the children's chapter of The New York Times Best Seller list.

       I AM NUMBER FOUR, which admittedly is an awesome title, is penned by someone named Pittacus Lore, who claims to be a ten thousand year old space alien seeking to warn us of hostile other aliens currently lurking in our midst. This is cute. Except that two folks named Jobie Hughes and James Frey are the actual authors.

              The high stakes premise goes like this: Nine alien children have fled their annihilated homeworld of Lorien and have sought refuge on Earth. Having scattered to the winds, they are being hunted down, one by one, by a separate and malevolent extraterrestrial race from a dying planet. Thanks to a quasi-mystical protective charm placed on the Nine, they can only be killed in order (although, my bet is that Number One doesn't regard this charm as all that "protective"). As the book opens, three of the Nine have already been tracked down and murdered. So we come to Number Four.

                His name used to be Daniel Jones. It used to be something else before that, and then something else before that, and so on. Ten years on Earth, ten years of hiding and staying always on the move and staying safe and alive... this is the life of Number Four and his guardian and mentor whose name is Henri (oddly, Henri's alien accent sounds very much like a French accent). Number Four has just collected a new scar circling his right ankle, this an indicator that another of the Nine has been recently slain. Three scarred rings around his ankle, and so Number Four knows he's next. And it's time to pack up the bags again, time again to get the eff out of Dodge.

                Henri and Number Four - or "John Smith," his new assumed name - have always gravitated to tiny towns, conjecturing that their hunters would stick out more like sore thumbs in tiny towns. They end up in Paradise, Ohio. For John it's another try at blending in in school but without making friends, because no one can be trusted. Except that it's a little different this time. John Smith befriends a geeky kid who is a science-fiction enthusiast. He adopts a stray mutt named Bernie Kosar (and Bernie Kosar, by the way, is easily the book's breakout character). And John Smith also meets a girl. So much for staying on one's guard.

                 My first impression, while reading the first few pages of this book, was that this whole thing is very reminiscent of sci-fi shows. But then, pressing on, I guess it's inevitable that comparisons to the X-Men would surface. The Nine teens are holing up while waiting for their superhuman powers (called Legacies) to develop. These Legacies vary, and there's no guessing as to which abilities a Nine would latch up to. Number Four is at that age when his Legacies would shortly begin to crop up. And they do start cropping up, one by one, and there is a really fun factor in watching our sympathetic alien boy try to cope with each incoming talent.

                 Gratifyingly, the alien hunters from Mogadore aren't only downright intimidating, they seem even more powerful than the Nine and their guardians (and the guardians aren't at all equipped with superpowers). This drives up the suspense. What I AM NUMBER FOUR has going for it is its irresistible sci-fi/superhero premise and a pace that really moves. Number Four is a likable protagonist, although someone needs to explain to him the exact definition of keeping a low profile. After all, dude is supposed to be in hiding and fitting in. He really doesn't do much of either. None of the supporting cast break out of their stereotypical mold, and only the scene-stealing dog Bernie Kosar seems to be an original character. I will say that John's geeky pal Sam does come up with a touching reason for why he's such a sci-fi freak and why he wears those fugly prescription glasses. And as much as I dig Sarah, her and John Smith's teen romance feels like any other teen romance in YA lit. It comes in a nice, predictable package. Sarah is gorgeous and nice... and, well, bland. Another issue I have concerns a high school bully whose turnaround comes too abruptly. Perhaps the most intriguing element in the book concerns the mystery surrounding the very peculiar Bernie Kosar (see how I keep coming back to the dog?).

                I AM NUMBER FOUR is the first book in a planned six-book series, and it reads very visual, especially in the explosive action sequences, and no wonder this is being made into a movie. Number Four performs bits of astounding derring-do throughout the book, but things get really amped up during the final 90 pages. It all culminates in one of those blistering "Release the Kraken!" Jim Butcher-type paranormal (except it's sci-fi) shoot-'em-outs. I can see why Bay and Spielberg are salivating so.

                I liked this book, and will most definitely be there when the sequels come out. But here's the thing, if you're hanging your hat on something that's on par with the likes of Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series or even Michael Grant's Gone novels, this won't suit you. I AM NUMBER FOUR isn't as immersing or resonant as those books. THE HUNGER GAMES made me well up in places. GONE reads like LORD OF THE FLIES as co-authored by Rod Serling and Stephen King. I AM NUMBER FOUR had me eating up all the "superhero without a costume" elements, and it's always nice when you can transfer yourself onto a central character who is super strong and super fast and who won't back down from bullies. I did really like that a surprise character shows up very late in the book, and it looks like she'll be heavily featured in future installments. I'll give this one 4 stars out of 5, because I'm shallow like that and big, bold, f/x-heavy fighty fights never ever fail to transfix me. And because the dog Bernie Kosar is in it. And the next post will be about the sequel till then see ya folks!!!