Category: Articles

Can my machine run xxx game?

I get asked “Can my machine run this game?” almost daily. Well, an online program from System Requirements Lab has made it so that you can answer that question yourself without knowing your system specifications or the minimum & recommended requirements.

http://www.systemrequirementslab.com/cyri/intro.aspx

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You can select your game from the drop down box or just type it in. Hit run, and it will install a small program to find your system specifications and show you a graph of where your system stands with the requirements. It will go through each one and show you how your machine stacks up. If it’s too low for the game, it will show you a recommendation on what you need to do to get up and running.

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For this little laptop, I’m way off on the built in video card. Otherwise, I look pretty good!

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If you have any doubts on whether your machine is good enough for a game, check out this site. It’s free, extremely fast and works excellent.

Can You Run It?: http://www.systemrequirementslab.com/cyri/intro.aspx

Hotfix: Computers that are running Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 stop responding at a black screen if a screen saver is enabled

Microsoft has released a new hotfix that fixes a problem with Windows staying at a black screen when coming from a screen saver and a sleep option. This appears to be that the computer just doesn’t wake up after going to sleep. Make sure you apply this patch if you suffer from the issue.

Consider the following scenarios:

Scenario one

  • On a computer that is running Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2, you enable a screen saver.
  • You enable the On resume, display logon screen option for the screen saver.
  • In Power Options, you set the Turn off the display option and the Put the computer to sleep option to the same length of time. Additionally, the length of time that you set is longer than the time that you set for the screen saver to trigger.
  • The time for the Turn off the display value elapses and the display is turned off automatically.

Scenario two

  • On a portable computer that is running Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2, you enable a screen saver.
  • You enable the On resume, display logon screen option for the screen saver.
  • After the screen saver starts, you close the lid of the portable computer.

In both scenarios, the computer is still running. However, you cannot turn on the display by using the keyboard or the mouse. You may be unable to turn on the display until you force the computer to restart.

Note When you set the Turn off the display option to less than 10 minutes, the Turn off the display option automatically changes to the value of the Put the computer to sleep option.

Download Microsoft Hotfix: Article Page 976427

Keep Computer Awake With Insomnia

Microsoft has released a program called Insomnia, including source code. Many times when watching a movie, a PC will try and go to sleep, interrupting the movie. Insomnia fixes this issue by making the computer appear “busy” so that it does not go to sleep.

But what about those times when the computer is busy doing something and the relevant program doesn’t suppress the default sleep behavior? For example, it might be downloading a large file, re-encoding a music collection, backing up the hard drive, or hashing the entire contents of the disk. You don’t want the machine to go to sleep for now, but are otherwise happy with the default sleep behavior. Unfortunately, the easiest way I know of to temporarily suppress sleeping is to go to Control Panel, open the Power Options page, change the power plan settings, commit them – and then remember to undo everything once the task is finished. It’s not hard; but it’s kind of annoying…

Download Here: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/delay/archive/2009/09/30/give-your-computer-insomnia-free-tool-and-source-code-to-temporarily-prevent-a-machine-from-going-to-sleep.aspx

Microsoft Official Social Network Accounts

Microsoft is active in many social networks, from Facebook to Twitter. However, finding their correct, official accounts can be a chore at times. This is a compilation on Twitter and Facebook accounts for the REAL Microsoft Corporation. If anyone has any more that should be added to this list, please feel free to let me know!

Twitter:

@MSWindows – Microsoft Windows.
@WindowsLive – Microsoft Windows Live.
@MajorNelson – Major Nelson, aka Larry Hryb of the Xbox 360 group.
@liveframework – Live Framework.
@livemesh – Sync, share, and access the information you want.
@SharePoint – SharePoint product group – managed by @LLiu.
@bizspark – Microsoft BizSpark for startup companies.
@zunemarketplace – Zune Marketplace for the Zune media player.
@wmdev – Windows Mobile development
@microsofttag – Microsoft Tag
@ch9 – listen to the cockpit, help us fly the plane
@ch10 – Channel 10 is Microsoft’s online community for the technology enthusiast.
@ch8 – Microsoft’s community for students.
@mixonline – Come check us out at www.visitmix.com
@MicrsftTech4All – News from the Microsoft accessability crew.
@MSDN – Updates from the MSDN site team.
@adCenterBlog – News, Tips, Tricks & Best Practices From Microsoft adCenter
@MVPBuzz – News and information from the MVP team (Microsoft Most Valuable Professional)
@Bing – Bing Search Engine
@MSFTnews – Official news for MSFT Corporation
@Microsoft_EDU – Microsoft Education
@msdynamicscrm – Microsoft Dynamics
@msftdynamicserp – Microsoft Dynamics ERP marketing team
@msdyncomm – Microsoft Dynamics Community
@MSproductivity – Productivity tips from the Enterprise team
@MSPlatformReady
@office365 – Microsoft’s online Office 365
@teched – TechEd, Microsofts annual conference
@mspartner – For Microsoft Partners
@msdn – Updates from the MSDN Site
@windowsphone – Windows Phone updates and tips
@sharepoint – Sharepoint Team
@ie – Internet Explorer
@windowsazure – Windows Azure
@visualstudio – Visual Studio
@WP7Expert – Windows Phone 7 information for retailers

Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/Microsoft – Microsoft US
http://www.facebook.com/MicrosoftCanada – Microsoft Canada
http://www.facebook.com/MSSharePoint – Microsoft Sharepoint
http://www.facebook.com/MicrosoftCareers – Careers at Microsoft
http://www.facebook.com/MicrosoftStore – Microsoft Store
http://www.facebook.com/sinofsky – Steven Sinofsky, head of the Microsoft Windows team
http://www.facebook.com/MicrosoftExpression – Microsoft Expression
http://www.facebook.com/microsofttag – Microsoft Tag
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Microsoft-NET/22354871088 – Microsoft .Net Developers
http://www.facebook.com/Office – The Microsoft Office page
http://www.facebook.com/MVPAwardProgram – The Microsoft MVP Program
http://www.facebook.com/Bing#!/pages/Microsoft-Community-Contributor/113784705335192 – Microsoft Community Contributor Page
http://www.facebook.com/Bing – Bing Search Engine

Outlook.com IMAP Support and Reddit AMA

In a recent AMA (Ask Me Anything) session on Reddit, and grabbing some nice karma in the process, the Outlook.com team has made the announcement that they now support IMAP and OAuth. While it already supported EAS (Exchange Activesync), it now allows more devices and applications to access the service, giving you more options to use your email.

There are several applications that have taken advantage of the new feature, including TripIT, Slice, motely*bunch, Unroll.me and several others.

There were a lot of questions answered in the AMA, with 947 questions. It is nice to see that the team has a great sense of humor and are pretty humble. Seems like a great bunch of people.

How to set up IMAP

To configure your client to use the new IMAP feature of Outlook.com, use the following settings:

Incoming IMAP
Server: imap-mail.outlook.com
Server port: 993
Encryption: SSL

Outgoing SMTP
Server: smtp-mail.outlook.com
Server port: 587
Encryption:  TLS

Thanks to the Outlook.com team for the AMA and for the great new IMAP feature, as well as other smaller but very welcome additions.

* I’m an Outlook.com Insider, ask me about Outlook.com or click to learn more about the Outlook.com Insiders program.

Recover Windows Password

Forgetting your password in Windows can be troublesome at the least. Windows Vista and 7 have a place to backup your password and make a recovery disc, but that usually hasn’t been done. Most people don’t think they will forget a password. Of course, there comes a time in your life when your brain doesn’t rememberwhat it used to, as you get older…. Or, you just forget a password after you try to set it to something hard to guess!

Here are a couple programs that can find or reset your password in any Windows NT based operating system (From Windows NT, 2000 – 7). You need to have the computer physically available, meaning you cannot do this over the network to try and “hack” a password.

1. Ophcrack

The first program, and often called “the best”, is a very fast and easy to use password cracker. I’ve used the boot disk often enough with excellent results. There is also another version that can run on the local machine if you happen to lose the password of a different user, but still have access to another local user.

Download: http://ophcrack.sourceforge.net/
Ophcrack is a free Windows password cracker based on rainbow tables. It is a very efficient implementation of rainbow tables done by the inventors of the method. It comes with a Graphical User Interface and runs on multiple platforms

2. Offline NT Password & Registry Editor

The second program is another boot disk that is quite a bit smaller of a download and can fit on a floppy if needed. It works good, but has a few more caveats and is text based, rather than a GUI, like Ophcrack. This is also available on the UBCD (available: http://www.ultimatebootcd.com), if you want a more feature rich CD for fixing a lot of other PC problems.

Download: http://pogostick.net/~pnh/ntpasswd/bootdisk.html
I’ve put together a single floppy or CD which contains things needed to edit the passwords on most systems. The CD can also be installed on a USB drive, see readme.txt on the CD.

Either one of these programs will recover or reset your password in Windows. If you have any others you’ve had experience with, or have any suggestions, please feel free to comment!

The iPad Challenge–30 days (Day 1)

I’ve set upon a personal challenge: try 30 days with an Apple iPad. This doesn’t seem too bad, until you find out this will be my first personal Apple purchase. I don’t have anything against Apple, it’s just finding a use for the device. I’ve always had a problem that required a tool. This is the first time I’m buying a tool without having a problem.

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I’m a lifelong Microsoft user, having used Apple products very rarely (Apple 2e, Mac Classic and recently a Hackintosh). I’ve played with other peoples Apple products (iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone 4), but never got too deep into the workings of them. So, I am a complete newbie when it comes to Apple products. I’m an IT nerd, but I am completely in the dark with iOS or Mac OSX (other than the BSD based core).

I’m coming from a modded Nook Color (using Cyanogen Mod 7.1), which has served me very well. I love Android OS and it’s openness, modability, and the plethora of options available. This is also why I was hesitant on an iPad, it’s pretty much the opposite. Windows 8 tablets aren’t available right now, not that they weren’t on the list for a future purchase. This was more of a “buy it now, ask questions later” purchase.

I bought a black 16 GB version with Wi-fi (not ready for the commitment of a 4G plan yet). Accessories are incoming via Amazon (I didn’t even consider a Kindle Fire). It’s nice and light, very simple packaging. Just minimal packaging and graphics.

So, after a day of using it, I don’t know if it’s the new gadget feelings or the actual device, but it’s a very spectacular device. I won’t go into detail on the retina display as I’m sure it’s beaten to death many, many times. It’s good. It’s excellent. I’ll leave it at that. The iPad is a lot faster and more responsive than my Android, which is expected for the specifications and that the Nook Color was designed to be an e-reader and not a tablet. Also, a huge price difference ($200 vs. $500). But, even with basic reading of PDF’s or ePub books – the iPad is much faster at rendering, and the 10” screen allows me to read a page without zooming or scrolling to view the full page. The rendering is excellent, the text is extremely easy to read and the pictures are clear.

The touchscreen is extremely accurate and responsive. It is a huge improvement from the Nook Color. It is a night and day difference.

Battery life is good so far – I charged it once yesterday when I bought it to 100%. I’m at 75% now after using it quite a bit.

iTunes. Well, I found a weakness of the iPad. iTunes on Windows crashes, locks up, becomes unresponsive, and is generally a pain in the ass. Sometimes, it takes 2 or 3 times of connecting the iPad to get iTunes to recognize it. Windows can see it fine, but iTunes just is blind to the fact that it’s there.

Another thing that I am having difficulty adjusting to is the lack of a file explorer. I would like to have folders that hold the various files I have on the iPad. I’d like to move files over and then decide which application opens the file. Instead, I use iTunes to move my books, music and files over. Some other apps require me to use Dropbox to store them and open them from there. This is something I’ll have to get used to.

Using the thing is pretty easy once you figure out how things are laid out and where to find things. I spend a good 5 minutes looking for the browser (tip: it’s not in the scrollable icons by default: it’s in the dock at the bottom). Chalk that up to a newbie problem. Other than that minor problem, I’ve had nothing but fun with this thing. I’ve downloaded a bunch of apps (any suggestions on must-have’s?), including Microsoft’s OneNote, StreamToMe, Angry Birds, Flipboard, Twitter and TeamViewer. I’d like a nice SSH/Telnet application, but I’m not paying $10 to find out that I don’t like it. My Windows Phone allows me to “try” an application before I commit to buy the full thing. I’ve been misled in the past with a crappy paid for app, and I don’t want it happening again.

So, after 1 day, I’d say I’m a fan. The iPad isn’t magical, though. It’s just a good tablet and excellent e-reader. But, I’ll report back after 15 days and again at 30. Let’s see if this satisfaction can last a month. Now, if I can just figure out how to get rid of iTunes, I’d be happy.

Also, somewhat related: can you build iPad apps using Windows, or is Objective C only available on the Mac? Can’t find much information for programming apps on Windows.

Windows 8 File History

Windows 8 includes a new feature called File History, which is an advanced backup program. It can periodically create a backup of files from your libraries (which you can customize to any folder or files) to an external drive or network location. This is an extremely valuable feature, as I have been called many times asking if I can get a file back that they overwrote or lost due to a hard drive failure. There are times when I can get the file back, other times they are out of luck. With this feature, your files can be safe in case of a hard drive or machine failure, or in case you accidently delete a file and empty the recycle bin.

The File History program is located in the Control Panel, and is very easy to use.

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You can select when files are backed up and what files or folders to be backed up, as well as where you want them to be backed up. It only takes a minute to set up and is an extremely valuable feature.

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This is a great feature for home use, and I am hoping that Windows Server 8 will include a backup feature similar that does everything through Group Policy. Having it on the client side is excellent for a home environment or a small office, but managing it on a larger scale is impractical.

I am currently using a network drive for a backup. I am wondering if you could use multiple drives for redundant backups, or in case of one (network drive) being unavailable.

Windows Activation: Friend or Foe

The huge downside of Windows, in my opinion, is the activation that Microsoft uses to twart piracy. Every day, I see dozens of posts on the Microsoft Answers forums relating to activation. Their PC says that the key is not valid, it is already in use, or some other odd problem.

Read more »

Windows Parental Controls

The Internet is full of great information, and anything is available from music to movies to books and everything in between. However, with all that great knowledge and entertainment there is also the bad and the ugly. For those with children in the house that also use the family computer, this could be a recipe for disaster. Thankfully, Microsoft has seen the dark side of the Internet and being a family oriented company, they have included a set of Parental Controls within Windows 7 (it is also available for Windows Vista).

There are a lot of options available to keep your family safe while online and offline. Parental Controls can limit what sites your child goes to with a whitelist and a blacklist, limit what games they can and cannot play, limit when they can use the computer and what programs they are allowed to run. There are a few initial steps to configure before you can set all the options, however.

First, you need to make sure your main Administrator account is password protected. This makes it so that your child cannot access your account and turn off Parental Controls. Next, you need to make sure you have another account made for the person that you are going to enable Parental Controls. This can all be done from the Parental Controls icon within the Control Panel.

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Now that the hard part is over, it is time to setup the actual Parental Controls, which is pretty self-explanatory. You can access the Parental Controls through the Control Panel.

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You set time limits for computer usage for any time day or night. This isn’t the best way to control access to the PC for the kids, but if you want to make sure they go to bed on time, get their homework done, or only like to allow them a certain amount of time online, this is a great place to set a limit on when they can use the PC. The one thing that you cannot do is limit the duration of time online. You can only limit the hours and days which they can or cannot use the PC.

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Most kids enjoy gaming on the PC, from the basic Solitare to the newest Crysis. But, some games are not appropriate for all ages. You can set limits on what games can be played based on the ESRB rating. This can keep the kids from downloading and playing a Mature rated game without your knowledge.

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You can also limit or block which games have certain content, rather than the rating. If you want to have any game other than those with drugs and alcohol, that option is available. There is a long list of items you can block. This will block the entire game from running under the Kids account, not block the actual content of the game itself. You can also block individual games from running that are already installed on your computer.

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The last feature of the Windows 7 Parental Controls is the ability to block individual applications. The best way to do this is to enable all and only disable the few that you do not want them to be able to access. Some are dependent on others, and some are easily overlooked that could interfere with legitimate usage.

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After all is said and done with Parental Controls, your kids will be limited as to what they can do. But, there are weaknesses in the built in controls. Microsoft has recognized this and added an Additional Controls which allows you to select other providers to compliment the built in settings. The one that is available from the start is the Windows Live Family Safety, part of Windows Live Essentials. This allows you to monitor more of their online activities including who they can chat with, what websites they can and cannot visit, and get reports on what sites they do visit.

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While no parental control program is completely secure and able to protect your family from everything, Parental Controls definitely takes a step in the right direction. Coupled with Windows Live Family Safety, you will have peace of mind of your childs safety while on the PC.

Resources:

Windows Live Family Safety 2011: http://explore.live.com/windows-live-family-safety