July 3, 2011
Tech Tips first reviewed Facebook back in 2009 . At that time there were “only” 200 million Facebook users and was pretty straight forward in terms of a social media tool. Fast forward two years and we find that Facebook has grown to 700 million users worldwide, is a major Internet player about to go IPO, host to a Presidential Town Hall Meeting and an instigating factor in the Spring Uprisings in Tunisia and the Middle East. Its impact on the world stage cannot be denied. It has saved lives of those who posted medical emergencies, alerted to potential suicides, rallied around animal causes, charitable issues. And yes, there’s even been the criminal posting his stand-off with a SWAT Team as it unfolds.
In fact, it has become so ubiquitous that you cannot read any magazine, visit any web site or watch any commercial without seeing the Facebook logo in some form. That’s a long, long way from the little web site initially conceived in a college dorm room for geeky guys to rate their female classmates.
Most Recent/Top News
So you think you’re hot stuff because you have 4,396 “friends”. Wow, your news is reaching a lot of people. Not. Facebook doesn’t necessarily serve up everything you post to everyone on your friends list. In the top right hand corner of your News Feed you’ll see Top News/Most Recent. The default is Top News.
Using its own blend of secret sauce, Facebook serves up what it determines is most noteworthy for you to view – which friends are indeed the most engaged with you and Facebook in general. If they post quite often, “like” things and share, chances are you’ll be seeing them in your feed. If you want to be seen, interact and engage with your Facebook community. We’ll uncover more about this secret sauce in the next Tech Tip.
If you’d like to see everything that is being posted by your friends, then click the Most Recent tab. To have some control over what appears, click the drop down tab there and you’ll be able to select from Status Updates, Pages, Photos, Links and more. The Edit Options link will let you choose who you’d like (or not like) to see posts from.
Another way to pare down what you see is to organize your friends into Lists which is one of the options on that drop down menu. Start by going to http://www.facebook.com/friends. Click create a List and add the friends you want to group. If you then go to Edit My Profile and click on Featured People. Under Featured Friends you can now add the group or list you just created. Save your changes and return to your profile. You’ll see your Lists on the left hand nav bar for easy access.
In addition to tagging people in photos, you can tag your friends or pages that you follow in your status updates. The great thing about this is that your status post will then appear on the Wall of that person or page. It used to require first using the @ sign, as in Twitter, to tag someone else. Facebook will now intuitively offer suggestions for you to choose from. If that doesn’t happen, you can still access the list by using the @ symbol. Once you’ve made your choice the name will be highlighted and hyperlinked to their Facebook profile or page. If you don’t want to show the person’s full name, you can always delete the last name and the hyperlink will remain.
One new controversial Facebook tool is facial recognition in photos. This simplifies the somewhat tedious tagging process that enables you to connect a face in a photo with an actual Facebook friend. Again, Facebook provides suggestions for individuals in photos for you to choose from.
Some privacy advocates have concerns that this feature is enabled by default. here’s how you disable it:
1. Go to your privacy settings.
2. Click “Customize settings.”
3. Scroll down to “Things others share.”
4. Find “Suggest photos of me to friends.
5. Edit accordingly.
You do have the option of untagging photos you've been tagged in by going to the photo and then click your name. There is no option to prevent friends from tagging you in photos, but you can prevent others from seeing the photos via your tagged name by adjusting your privacy settings.
Banner Me Up
You’ll notice a row of 5 images at the top of your profile. They are 97×68 thumbnails of pictures that you’ve been tagged in. If there is an image that you don’t want displayed, simply hover over it until you see an ‘x” in the top right hand corner. Click the “x” and the image is hidden but not deleted. This feature allows you to control your “banner”, so to speak. You can create your own using Photoshop, Picnik or some other image editing software. You start with a 485 x 68 banner and divide it into five 97×68 images. You will then tag yourself in each image but the key to remember is that the last image tagged will show on the left hand side. There are apps out there to help you create something fun or representative of you such as Profile Banner or Banner Maker .
Much like Yelp, Gowalla and Foursquare, Facebook Places lets you “check-in” to locations using a smartphone. You can tag yourself or other friends as well. We haven’t heard much about Facebook Places yet but stay tuned.
Facebook is currently testing a new feature called the “Happening Now” feed on a very small percentage of Facebook users. It allows you to see what your friends are commenting on and “liking” in real time. Facebook has a habit of rolling out new features with no warning, so you never know what you might see when you log in. Rumor has it that Happening Now is going to replace the Most Recent tab we discussed earlier. Some changes aren’t always well accepted but let’s face it, it’s free and Mark Zuckerberg can do whatever he wants.
It’s a little known fact but Facebook does offer secure browsing (https) as an opt-in feature. When you enable this, all of your activity on Facebook becomes encrypted, making it harder for anyone else to access your information without your permission. (Not yet an option for mobile) The only possible downside is that this feature MAY impede your ability to access iframe content on Facebook pages. Turn on secure browsing by going to your Account Settings page.Click the "Change" link next to Account Security, check the box under "Secure Browsing (https)" and then click the "Save" button.
No matter what your privacy settings, as recent news events have demonstrated, what’s posted on Facebook doesn’t stay on Facebook. Exercise some caution and good judgement. If you have second thoughts and want to cancel a post, or if you “drunk posted”, you can delete it by hovering over your comment and clicking the “x” in the top right hand corner. The movie was called “Social Network” for a reason, it allows you to share just about anything and everything within your community. It’s your responsibility to oversee what limits you want to place on that sharing of information. If you don’t want Facebook to share your phone number or home address, then don’t give it to them. There’s no requirement for such personal data to have a Facebook profile. Do yourself a favor and periodically review your privacy settings to make sure they are in alignment with your comfort zone for sharing.
The Job You Save May Be Your Own
Security and Privacy take on a whole new meaning when you learn, as reported by Forbes, that in June 2011 the Federal Trade Commission gave its stamp of approval to a background check company that screens job applicants based on their Internet photos and posts.The FTC determined that Social Intelligence Corp. was indeed Fair Credit Reporting Act compliant.This means a search of what you’ve said or posted on Facebook/Twitter/Flickr/blogs etc., may become a standard part of job application background checks.
If that doesn’t make you reconsider posting those f-bombs, bong pictures and semi-nude images, I don’t know what will.
You’ve Got A Friend and a Friend and a Friend…
Let’s say you’ve maxed out at the 5,000 friends that Facebook allows you to have. Do you really know that many people? There are instances of Facebook cutting you off even before you hit the magic number. Once you’re done, you’re done. No amount of deleting “friends” will free up space for new people. So choose wisely when accepting that next friend invitation.
If you’re really using Facebook to promote yourself or your business then you should consider setting up a Facebook page where you can have an unlimited number of fans.
The 2011 Electronic Entertainment Expo wrapped up in early June and like every year, it was filled with excitement for the video game industry and its fans. If you missed this year’s show, not to worry; photos, trailers, demos, and more are available to watch from the comfort of your own home, safe from the crowds and the noisy show floor.
In this Tech Tip, I’ve chosen Five Things From E3 2011 You Have to See!
(developer: Irrational Games, publisher: 2K Games) The third entry in the Bioshock series is not due for release until some time in 2012, but if the trailer debuted by Irrational Games is any indication, it will be more than worth the wait. The first-person shooter’s setting is the floating city of Columbia and the latest trailer showed off the city’s Skyrail system; a cargo transit system that you, as the player, can use to move throughout the city. Riding the Skyrail has the look and feel of hanging off a roller-coaster, and with the added elements of the chaos and combat you see in the trailer, you definitely get the sense of being on an explosive thrill ride. A comforting line at the end of the trailer reads: “This trailer was made entirely from in-game footage”, so you know it’s not just pre-rendered cinematics; that is what the game will look like.
Sony PS Vita
Sony’s next portable console, the PS Vita , was announced in January as the “NGP – Next Generation Portable”, months before E3, but the hardware, along with its new name, made its debut in the physical realm for the first time at the expo. The Vita boasts front and rear multitouch screens, high-quality graphics, WiFi and optional 3G connectivity, and PlayStation 3 integration, which Sony promises will be a seamless transition from home console to mobile and back. The PS Vita has a similar look to the original PlayStation Portable, but incorporates modern technology and is competitively priced starting at $249, roughly the same price as Nintendo’s 3DS.
Nintendo’s Wii-U , the successor to the Wii, takes the Wii-mote design a few steps further, giving you a controller that is a 6.2-inch 16:9 touchscreen tablet. The new system will let you use the screen in conjunction with your TV to give you a new interactive window into games. The Wii-U also makes the jump to full HD (1080p) output, something the Wii lacked, and will be backwards compatible with all existing Wii peripherals. The new system will be released in 2012 and will feature entries from popular franchises like Nintendo’s own Mario, Smash Brothers, and Pikmin as well as other entries from well-known franchises by third party developers.
Three Big Threes:
It’s impossible for me to choose which of the next three titles is a must-see for you, so I have some conditions:
If you own a PlayStation 3, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception is your exclusive must-see game. The game looks fantastic and there are some minor updates to the game play that add to an already excellent franchise.
If you own an Xbox 360, Gears of War 3 is your exclusive must-see game. At the expo, the game’s lead designer Cliff Bleszinski showed off some co-op play with musician and actor Ice-T and announced that the game would support up to four-player cooperative play.
If you have both systems or you don’t have a system preference, your must-see game is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. If you’re a real Call of Duty fanatic, this installment of the game will launch with a service called Call of Duty Elite, subscription-based service that provides extra features like downloadable maps (which are usually sold separately), an online community, and stat tracking. To see more of these games, head to their respective websites.
The Sims Social for Facebook
(publisher: EA) Electronics Arts (EA) announced The Sims Social for Facebook during their press conference. The Sims has been an immensely popular franchise and The Sims Social brings the experience to your browser for online play and lets you interact with your Facebook friends in the game. Unfortunately, due to the few details available, there’s nothing to see yet, but just think about it: The Sims on Facebook. It’s a chocolate-peanut butter situation.
It’s safe to say that among the critical software elements for any computer, Microsoft Office, Windows Updates and an antivirus/antimalware applications are the bare minimum for most people. However, if you’re looking to squeeze out further productivity, we have 12 applications that can help you get things done more quickly whether you’re a student, working professional or a hardcore gamer!
1.) Gadwin Print Screen – This neat little program allows you to print-screen shot and capture the activity happening on your system if you’re trying to document tech support issues, making a how-to guide/presentation and need illustrative pictures or show other co-workers what you’re looking at for comparison purposes. It has a host of features such as image capture format, configurable shortcut buttons, destination and capture such as whole screen, currently active screen or selective rectangular area.
2.) Log Me In Hamachi – Hamachi is great if you want to have a secure connection between your notebook and home or office network. It creates a VPN tunnel which is encrypted so all your network traffic is safe from prying eyes which comes in handy for public Wi-Fi networks.
3.) Teamviewer – Offered in both commercial and free personal-use flavors, this remote desktop application enables you to connect to your home or office computer and access your files like you’re actually in front of that computer. It works great at transferring files, helping clients or family members with tech support issues and for managing your home/office IT network from a mobile location.
4.) PDF995 Printer – Along with the PDF995 printer driver, this awesome piece of software functions as a virtual printer and allows you to physically print any document or web page as the output is a PDF file on your desktop. Saving a web page via CTRL-S or SAVE AS in HTML is hardly practical and this program does an excellent job of documenting important pages like online academic resource database articles, newspaper articles, confirmation pages and reduces the need to have 50+ browser tabs running and eating up system resources.
5.) Alcohol 120% – CDs and DVDs are so 2004. This advanced application can rip and save your optical discs as a simple image file on your computer. Instead of having to deal with the possibility of scratched and/or unreadable CDs/DVDs, Alcohol 120% functions as a virtual optical drive on My Computer. If you want to load an image, you click “Mount Ghost Recon.iso” and Windows will load the game image file as if you’re putting the CD in the actual drive.
6.) VLC Media Player – With no shortage of media players in existence, VLC proved itself to be robust and very useful when it comes to reading a wide variety of formats. Whether it’s a divx file or DVD, VLC can play it back without additional installation such as video codecs.
7.) CPU-Z – This awesome application is geared more towards gamers and computer users looking to identify and monitor their computer’s configuration. For example, it can not only identify the computer’s CPU, but will also show its current speed, FSB, clock multiplier, RAM amount and which memory bank holds what stick.
8.) WinRAR – WinRAR enables file compression and decompression, works quickly and is perfect for archiving or trying to make files smaller for quicker file transfer. It supports a wide variety of formats including traditional ZIP and even has a password encryption feature so unauthorized parties cannot extract & uncompress your important RAR files.
9.) True Crypt 7.0a – While it is free, this open-source encryption tool is worth more than its weight in gold considering its wealth of features. Its most impressive feature allows you to encrypt flash drives and your own hard drive(s) which reduce the chance of any unauthorized parties from accessing your personal or company confidential data.
10.) Download Accelerator Plus – It comes in free and premium versions but I’ve found the free version to be fast enough for being free. Downloads like drivers, patches and other large files are quick for this program as it searches for the best connection and availability of download mirror sites.
11.) Evernote – While Windows 7 does come with notepad and stickypad built in, Evernote offers advanced note-taking features that ca help you remember and finish that paper or report just in time!
12.) Handbrake – Need some mobile entertainment on the go? Handbrake allows you to rip DVD movies in MPEG format to your laptop and is perfect for long airline flights, car rides or long downtime at the airport.
Of course, there are other software programs out there that are just as valuable to have that are either free or low-cost.
If you know and/or use one in particular, share it here on the Geeks Tech Tips Blog!
One of the most dreadful feelings that you can have is having a pc computer or laptop die that hadn’t been backed up recently; especially if you have valuable pictures, music, videos, documents or other files on it.
In this Tech Tip we’ll take a look at how to recover your valuable pictures from a dead computer.
Where to start
Computers are complex machines and when they work right, they are fun to use – but when something goes drastically wrong, it can feel as if your world crashed down around you. If your hard drive is still in working order, there is a very good chance that you’ll be able to recover your pictures, music, videos and valuable documents (and other data) simply with another computer; a specialized cable, a screwdriver; and a little time.
To start off, your best bet it to get a specialized USB cable that can plug directly into your hard drive that you’ll recover from the dead computer. There are several types, and I’d recommend getting one that can handle both PATA (IDE) and SATA hard drives (the two most common used in consumer computers) as well as 2.5” (laptop) and 3.5” (desktop) hard drives (Geeks.com sells several that run in the $13-16 range). You can also use a hard drive dock or external drive cases as well – but personally I find the specialized USB cable to be the easiest and most flexible option.
Next, remove the hard drive from the dead computer. On desktops it is usually held in with four Philips screwdrivers and on laptops it is usually under an access panel on the bottom of the computer. Remove any cables and caddies that the drive may have – all you need is the bare drive. Then plug in the USB cable into the hard drive (and a power cable if it is a desktop drive – also provided with the USB cable kit) and then plug the other end of the USB cable into a working computer. The computer will then set up the drive ad an external storage device and voilà! you’ll now have access to the files on that drive (provided that the drive is not encrypted or using some type of security feature).
Where to look
OK, so the drive is now plugged into your computer and seen as an external drive, now what? You have several options. One option is to simply look for the files on the drive from the dead computer that you plugged into the USB port and copy them onto the working computer. This is my preferred method personally. I like to “brute force” my way through the drive with Windows Explorer (or a similar file browsing tool) and manually copy/paste the data from one computer to the other. Another option is to follow a Windows dialog box (that usually pops up when you plug in an external drive) and have it help you copy your data from one computer to the other. If you are manually choosing to “brute force it” personal data is usually stored by default in the computers operating systems “home directory” for users.
for home directories (where <root> takes the place of the drive letter):
Microsoft Windows 95-Me <root>\My Documents
Microsoft Windows 2000/XP/2003 <root>\Documents and Settings\<username>
Microsoft Windows Vista / Windows 7 <root>\Users\<username>
Other “What ifs”
What if the files on the drives are erased? If they are, you can use a free recovery program such as Piriform’s Recuva to look for and (hopefully) restore the files. This simple, easy-to-use tool is terrific for recovering pictures from a camera’s memory card that have accidentally been erased as well!
What if the hard drive is the reason that the computer died (actual hardware failure)? If the hard drive is the part that caused the computer failure, then you may be out of luck. Yes, there are specialty recovery services that will pull apart the drives data platters and attempt to recover data (and they are usually successful – such services were used, for example, to recover data from the hard drives that were used on computers from the space shuttle Columbia after it broke apart in 2003) but such services are usually very expensive.
A word to the wise
Backup, backup, backup! Whether using one of the Internet based cloud services or a separate external hard drive – if you make it a habit of backing up regularly, chances are good that you’ll keep the loss of such a failure to a minimum if a computer fails. Of course one of the benefits of using cloud-based backup services is that you can have access to your pictures anywhere you have Internet access.
Summing it up
A computer that dies can be a loss – but don’t lose hope that your valuable pictures (and other stuff) are gone forever. With a little work, you can retrieve your data off the hard drives from a dead computer!