Tuesday, December 15, 2009

New Ghost Master Game Guide

I've published a new game guide for Ghost Master a fun game that makes a good spoof out of being haunting people and slowly scaring a town into submission and belief of the paranormal. The version of the game that I played was the newest PC version that included the Epilogue & Class Of Spook'em High assignments. Also included are detailed instructions to complete all assignments in the game including comprehensive screenshots of the important locations.

If you like the Ghost Master game, or are thinking about buying it, check it out. You'll find a lot of tips to make your career as a Ghost Master as fun and efficient as possible.

You can find the Ghost Master game guide and Ghost Master walkthrough here:

Have Fun!

Friday, December 4, 2009

New Parts or Store New Parts & The Mystery of RMA

While I do try to support local business, a lot can be said for getting your tech parts online. But what about your warranty options? How does an RMA work?

To explain how it works I'll give you an example of a hard drive I just replaced. It was a Hitachi Deskstar 1tb hard drive. I picked it up about 6 months ago online. The reason I went for the online option was that the price for the performance 1tb drive was the actually within $10 of a 500mb low performance hard drive in town.

And this hard drive from the online shop was brand new. Like recently from the factory new. Not new in the box from 3 years ago new like in many retail outlets. The advantage other than the price and quality was the manufacturers warrant.

The store would have given me a nice warranty for $30 or so. But because this drive was brand new I had the warranty from the manufacturer. 3 months old, and its dead. Like you put it in your computer and the computer just beeps at you when you turn it on kind of dead.

At first I didn't bother with sending it in. I let it sit on my desk annoying me, not too sure just what the result of trying an RMA would be these days. But finally I looked. This drive still had a good 2.5+ years on the warranty. And sending it in would cost me like $15 in shipping.

Well, the $15 to ship it back was half what the in store warranty would have cost me. And that would have cost me $7 in shipping if I hadn't gone for the 'really fast you're sure it gets there' option at the post office.

Now they said it could take 2-3 weeks depending. Needless to say being down a hard drive was rather painful. And for a while I was beginning to think that I might just as well buy a new one. Status said clearly 'we got the defective one, but we haven't shipped your new one yet'.

Then bang they shipped it off and it arrived very quickly. Can't knock the shipping or the packaging. And the sticker on the hard drive placed it at about 2 weeks old. This replacement came straight off the factory line.

What most people don't realise is that they should check RMA policies for any hardware they have before they throw it out. If its fairly new, and from a decent company, the RMA options may well be very good.

For me it only took me about 20 minutes to find the proper form on the website and have my RMA submitted, and within a day I had my RMA number and shipping information. Then it was simply a matter of sending it off.

This pretty much convinces me that the whole idea of getting parts online works very well. New technology, low prices, and really good warranty services as long as you buy good parts from good manufacturers.

So before you throw out your next part as a loss, check to see what the RMA policy is. You may just be pleasantly surprised. And in case you are wondering, RMA is short for Return Merchandise Authorization.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ways to kill your Windows and how not to! Part 5

Another common problem that can quickly lead to data loss or os failure (your computer won't boot, or missing files) is a corrupted hard drive.

As you work with your computer, not only does the drive fragment, but often files get damaged. Crashing a program or windows itself can cause damage to files as can power outages and pressing the reset button.

Luckily there is a good tool included with windows that can help you keep your files in top condition.

This utility is called Check Disk and is easy to find. Simply open Computer or My Computer, and right click on any hard drive in your system. Then click on Properties.

You should be presented with a window that has a few different tabs. The one that we are looking for is called Tools. Once you click that tab you should be presented with three options. In this case we want Error-checking.

Click Check Now, and on the next screen that pops up make sure you have selected Automatically fix file system errors by putting a check mark in the box next to it. Then click Start.

This may take a while, and depending on the condition of your drive it could take a few hours if you have tons of stuff on a corrupted drive.

Also note that it may tell you that the disk can't be checked while it is in use. Should you get this message you will want to click on Schedule disk check. That will cause the check to be executed the next time you turn on or restart your computer.

If this is the case make sure you save and close all of your work and open files, then restart your computer. It will run the check automatically and may restart your computer a few times. While this process can take a while it is also necessary to ensure your computer keeps running properly and to help ensure you don't damage or lose files.

With the five tips in this series you should be able to keep your system running and performing well.

Remember to take care of your computer and to give it the regular maintenance it needs. It will save you time and money, as well as helping to make your computing experience more of a pleasure than a torment.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ways to kill your Windows and how not to! Part 4

Disk Cleanup is one of those utilities that should be run at least once on every installation of windows. This tool is most useful for taking care of temporary files such as those created when windows and other applications are installed.

The best times to run this utility are:
  • after windows is installed
  • after any large installations
  • after any large uninstalls
  • after and large updates or service pack installations
You can find this by following this click path:
  • Start
  • All Programs (Programs)
  • Accessories
  • System Tools
  • Disk Cleanup
Especially after the installation of windows you can often recover several Gbs of hard drive space. And while you may think that's a good deal, add onto that the fact that all your defrags will be faster. Not to mention you can speed up disk performance by reducing clutter!

In the next and final part we will take a loot at what might be the most important disk tool around. Check Disk.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Be Aware Or Be Robbed Blind

I often hear horror stories about people being taken advantage of by technicians and companies with no moral standards, but this one takes the cake.

One of my clients, a small business owner, had a sudden issue with her hard drive. The issue having the symptom of a BSOD shortly after starting to load windows. Ok, so she called the company she had purchased the computer from, one of the largest in the North America, and they said 'You could run scan disk, but you might be better off sending it for data recovery.'

Well, she called me, and all I could think was that if she was going to get a free estimate, that wasn't so bad. And when she told me the name of the company, I knew the name instantly. One of the biggest in North America. So hey, free estimate, no hassle, lightening service. Why not send it in?

So they respond after a few days saying that she could get a real good deal since the data recovery would be very easy. 'A very good recovery' they called it. Ok, so it was going to cost $1475! Plus, a 250Gb hard drive at $140. Now around the same time I had picked up a 1Tb hard drive (1000Gb) for $108.

Here is the real kicker. She said, 'Nope, the data isn't worth it. The information can be re-entered, and the files redone for drastically less.' But I said, hey bring it by, I'll look at it.

The next day her friend dropped off the drive. I plugged it in, booted my computer. Hey, I just copied via copy paste all of her stuff. Bang, like that. Nothing wrong with that drive at all.

Then I ran Scan Disk on it, and it found some problems with the file system, and fixed them. All that had ever been wrong with that drive was that it needed a simple 8 minute diagnostic and repair routine run on it. Drive was fine. Computer ran. End of story.

Oh, the big company she got her sys from, well, they did replace the drive free under warranty. And in fact she is still happy with that company.

But think about that for a second. The copy paste to recover her data took maybe 20 minutes, it was a lot of stuff. Oh, let me clarify that for you. It took me about 45 seconds to start the copy, then I worked on other things while it ran. And the Scan Disk, well, 8 minutes to run, and it took me about 15 seconds to start it. And again, I worked on other things while it ran.

And an expert company, one of the top in the field, wanted to sell her a disgustingly over priced hard drive, and charge her $1475 for 1 minute of human time, and 28 minutes of computer background time. Do the math, that's $50.86 per minute! And only the scan disk was needed!

Now, I have to say that this incident was quite sickening, and I am quite certain that it is also common place. The problem is, technically, the data recovery company probably didn't do anything legally wrong. They could have said 'Ain't nothin wrong with that drive baby, just run a scan disk and you're good to go'. But they were asked 'Recover this.' So they estimated. Still an outright ignorant price, and morally, its disgusting. Legally... well... I think we all know how that one goes right?

The moral of this story is simple. Learn a little about your computer (or more) and find yourself a techie you can trust. Someone with a soul, and a heart, and not just a lust for money. Protect yourself by knowing. Or else, the system will burn you. That is the only warranty.

This is also why I prefer to say I'm a programmer, and don't bother saying I'm a technician. I'm proud of the work I do, but I am so ashamed of what others do in the industry, I'd rather not be branded in the same pack.

To all of the good technicians out there, I salute you. Now I'm not religious, I'm just a spiritualist, and I like to sleep well. That means, I have to deal clean and even in all I do. For those like this data recovery company, I hope that before you really burn, you actually grow some humanity, and a little moral understanding, maybe some ethics, and goddess help us, maybe a soul?

Watch your back my friends, because sometimes, you are swimming with the sharks, and if you lack knowledge, that is a gaping wound that will get you eaten whole. (at least financially)

Take care, and know your pc!


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ways to kill your windows, and how not to! Part 3

Hi Again, and welcome to the last installment of this series. In the previous two episodes (I have them often, shhhh), we covered the slow death by desktop overload, and death by fragmentation. In this episode we will take a look at the Internet explorer cache. Please note that this can be useful and applied to other web browsers too!

The cache itself is a simple thing, but most useful. When you visit a web page you download not only the text in the page, but the images etc. These are put in a cache, and they usually have file names so obscure only the browser could figure it out. But the reason is that this way, every time you visit pages more than once, they load much faster because the images etc, which are often the heaviest part of the page are already in the cache and do not need to be downloaded again.

Therein we find the problem. After a while the cache can become bloated, and it can start to become both a problem with disk load and sorting (when surfing), as well as chewing up a lot of memory. So every now and again, or more like on a regular basis, we should clear this cache.

One the cache is cleared, the pages we access the most often will perhaps be a hair slower to load the first time we go back, but overall, the performance of the web browser will improve greatly.

In fact, if you surf a lot, say you're a surf-a-holic, then you can even notice that just opening the browser can become much slower and at times it could freeze. Oh, even history can be a lag inducer after a while, so you will have to decide if you want to get rid of that as well.

The browsing history is simply a list of links to the last boat load of web pages that you've visited, and can cause similar problems to those caused by the cache.

On windows vista you can clear your cache and history very easily. Just follow the click list below and you shouldn't have an troubles.(Xp users see the note just below the click list) These click lists are for users of Internet explorer 8, for other browsers, you should be able to find the directions in the help for your browser. If you have a different version of Internet Explorer, then there will be slight differences, but you should be able to find your way.
  1. Click on the round windows logo on the bottom right of your screen.
  2. Right click the internet explorer icon in the menu that pops up.
  3. Left click 'Internet Properties'.
  4. In the little window that pops up, click the 'Delete Button'
(Xp User: In step one you will be looking for the 'Start' Button)

Now another window pops up (windows eh? name fits!), and a few default options are selected. The first one 'Preserve favorite website data' means that it won't touch anything from your favorite websites. That's a rather useful one, but sometimes I do wipe it just to keep down on the clutter. After all, I've many favorites, but I don't necessarily surf often. In fact my favorites list is more like a directory of the web! So that could be a big issue on the cache. You have to choose there. Either way, the worst thing is that your favs load like a fraction of a second slower than usual on the first visit after clearing the cache.

The next option is 'Temporary Internet Files'. These are the ones of the biggest interest (unless your favs are like mine!), and you'll want to make sure this box is checked.

The final default option is 'History'. This one is also one that can be important to clear. But hey, wait a sec on this one!!! The history is often a bloated monster especially for super-surfers, yet at the same time it can be rather use full for the absent minded (I've picked through my history to find things before!). So ponder this one for a minute.

Once you have the options you want selected, simply click delete. It may take a bit, but its worth the effort. I'm doing this as I write, and from how long its taking, I can tell I've spent the last several weeks scouring the web!

After the delete is done, just click 'Ok' to close the window. And you're done!

Hope this was helpful!


(PS: I said 3 parts, but I'm adding two bonus episodes! Disk Cleanup, and Check Disk.)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ways to kill your windows, and how not to! Part 2

In part one of this 3 part little blurb on how to keep your windows alive and healthy we covered the woes of a slow death by desktop overload. In this installment we will talk about disk fragmentation, and the life saving process of defragmentation.
First of all, let's address the obvious question. Fragma-what? Disk fragmentation is the computers version of my dresser. When windows opens a file, it loads it up from where it finds it. But guess what, just like me and my dresser, when windows puts things back, it just shoves them in the first empty spot it can find.

You may not see a big deal here, but think about this. When it saves the file, the whole file is actually broken into a ton of little pieces. Depending on the size of the file, that could be many thousand pieces.

So think about this one, I take files out of your filing cabinet, and then put them back page by page in the first open holes I can find. Now good luck trying to find all of the parts of that file! Sure, windows almost always will succeed, but how long does it take?

The process of defragmentation is kinda like sorting out your cupboards. Windows goes through and sorts all of the files and puts them in order. Bang, much faster computer.

To just stress this point a little further let me tell you about a real incident. I got a call from Mom, her computer was sick. In fact, it couldn't even open her favorite card game. Yeah, she likes solitaire etc. But it wouldn't open. In fact, her computer would barely open at all.

So I asked her 'When did you last defrag your system?' Her only answer was 'Well, your father always took care of that.' I could only answer with one question, 'How long has dad been dead now?' We both kinda laughed.

After telling her over the phone how to defrag, she was off. It took several hours (hey, windows xp and a few card games was all she had, not even internet), and I didn't talk to her again for a few days. But when I did, she was bouncing for joy! 'My computer runs like brand new, and all my games work again!'

So how long does defragmentation take? That depends on many things, but one rule remains the same. The more frequently you do it, the less time it takes. I would recommend once a week. If you find it takes a long time, do it twice or three times a week. By defragging often enough, you can help keep your pc in great shape, and as a bonus it will take very little time to run!

Now we will get into how to do it. First we will start off with the windows xp users. Click the following:
  1. Start
  2. All Programs
  3. Accessories
  4. System Tools
  5. Disk Defragmenter

Or if you want to make your life easier you can also do this:

  1. Right click the 'My Computer' icon on your desktop
  2. Left click 'Manage'

When you initially open Manage, then you may want to check out the second screenshot to find your way to the defrag panel. As is circled in green, the button for the defragmentor is on the left.

Once you have the defragmentor open you can select the drive you wish to defragment by click on it in the list at the top. I have circled the list in the top screenshot, and I also circled the most important button from below, which is the defragment button.

Simply make sure you have the drive selected, and say defragment.

This may take a long while, but it is worth the effort.

For windows vista users, its a slightly simpler process. Click like this:

  1. the little round windows logo at the very bottom left, which replaced the start button
  2. All Programs
  3. Accessories
  4. System Tools
  5. Disk Defragmenter

There may be a box that pops up requesting permission to continue, click allow. After that all you have to do is click on Defragment Now, then when the little box comes up, click make sure all of the drives have a check mark in their boxes and click ok.

All that you have to do now is wait...

A note for windows xp users. If you analyze and it says you don't need to defrag, it doesn't really know what it's talking about. It seems under xp the defrag system waits until its really bad before it says you should defrag. Don't wait. Do it.

A note for windows vista users. Windows Vista has a scheduler for the degrag and is probably already set. Well, this is the story. If you want something done right, do it yourself!

Have a good one, and I hope this helps!