15 Must Have Windows Programs

When it comes to anything (especially computers), I’m a very efficient guy. I need to maximize my time so I can get things done faster and more efficiently. For example, I run a lean mean machine and probably spend 4+ hours tweaking and slimming down my computer after a fresh install of Windows. It may sound silly but I’d rather just have a vanilla install of XP or Vista.

It’s rather annoying that computers like Dell and other big brands always give you extra junk which I never use. There is talk that Dell will soon offer a slimmed down version of XP or Vista without the AOL sign-up links or other stuff nobody really uses.

So here’s a list of 15 programs I can’t live without and immediately download after a fresh install (which I do once a year) . Continue reading 15 Must Have Windows Programs

5 Steps to Speed Up Your PC

In continuing with my previous post, here’s a list of 5 quick ways you can turn your machine’s speed up a notch:

  1. Turn off all uneeded windows servicesBlackviper.com is a great site that lists all the Windows services and tells you what’s needed. Disabling several of the default services will free up your memory and also speed up your computer. Fair warning: Be careful when playing with your services since disabling certain ones can cripple your computer. Blackviper however, gives you great detail so as long as you follow his list, you’ll be fine.
  2. Check “startup” folder – This folder is what Windows loads and is usually a bunch of junk (i.e. MS Office Fast Find, Acrobat, etc). Removing these from your startup folder doesn’t mean they won’t run, it just might take a little longer to load if you ever use them. Compukiss.com has a nice article on this.
  3. Choose “Advanced or Custom” installation – Most software you install almost always adds a bunch of bloatware or creates shortcuts, new home pages, etc which I can’t stand. If I wanted to make Yahoo my home page after I install Yahoo IM I’d do it on my own.
  4. Unclutter your “Start –> Programs Menu” – Whenever you install a new program, it creates a new folder in your programs folder. That’s great but what happens once you’ve got many many programs installed? Your programs menu becomes a mess and you’ve got to scroll to find anything. Here’s my secret: I create a “Misc” folder and drag all program folders I rarely ever use like Nod32, Yahoo IM, etc and plop them in there. That way you keep your main programs folder clean and still have all folders!
  5. Tidy up the Taskbar – I’m not a fan of the XP default Start Menu so I make several changes including the following:
  • Turn on the Classic Start Menu – cleaner look and easier usability
  • Uncheck “Group similar taskbar buttons” – I don’t like how XP stacks my windows into one item.

How To Setup PayPal Subscription & Recurring Payments

If you need an easy way to accept credit card and bank account payments for content site subscriptions, newsletter fees, club dues, or recurring donations, PayPal offers an easy way to do it. I recently started selling private advertising spots on my blogs and needed a way to automate the monthly hassle of recurring payments. Luckily I already had a PayPal account so all I needed to do was figure out how to set it up.

To be honest, it was a real pain to read and try to figure out how to set it up via PayPal. Their site has too much information and it’s very clear what features come included with my current account setup. I spent a few hours searching Google and the PayPal website only to eventually find the best solution which I’m not sharing with you. Continue reading How To Setup PayPal Subscription & Recurring Payments

My Painful Expedia Refund Process – Never Use Expedia

Expedia SucksThis is a writeup of my experience of having to deal with an airline ticket refund I purchased via Expedia.com. If you know me, I’m a very patient and understanding guy but after dealing with such a poor and ridiculous customer experience with Expedia, I felt it was worth documenting the steps I painfully went through in my attempt to collect the refund/credit I rightfully deserved.

I’ve read other horror stories on the web from people who had similar problems so I know I’m not the only person having to deal with such crap. I am actually writing this post as I wait on hold with Expedia (one of the many many times). I have also attempted to collect each persons name and call center location I speak with from Expedia. So here’s how the story goes….

On December 30th, 2006 I purchased a round-trip ticket from San Francisco to Tokyo on Japan Airlines (JAL) from the Expedia.com web site for $876.52. My flight was scheduled for January 25th, 2007 but I had to cancel the ticket because I could no longer go. I called Expedia in January a week before my flight and let them know I needed to cancel. I spoke to someone in their Philippines call center and they had no problem canceling the ticket. They informed me I had 12 months to reuse the credit of $871.52 and there will be a $100 re-booking fee per the airlines ticketing rules. Fine with me…I’ll just re-book the trip next time I plan on going to Japan. Continue reading My Painful Expedia Refund Process – Never Use Expedia

How to Get Discounts With Online Purchases

The Internet is a wonderful tool and I love saving money while purchasing things online. The beauty about it is in order to save money or find coupons you don’t have to cut them out of your Sunday paper or print them out from specific websites. Nowadays all you need to do is type in a promo code when you’re checking out on that website and your discount is applied.

Any time I make a purchase online let it be from sites like Amazon.com, 1-800-flowers.com, myfax.com, or one of the many others I almost always save money. When I order flowers online, I never pay full price. I always find a coupon for 10% off or free shipping at a minimum. I can’t tell you how many times this method has saved me a little bit of money each time I purchase something online. Now it may not seem like much, but if you shop online as often as I do, the savings add up quickly. Continue reading How to Get Discounts With Online Purchases

A Faster Way Through Airport Security

Those of you who are tired of having to wait in long lines at the airport no longer have to wait. There’s a new system called “Fly Clear” which allows you to essentially bypass the standard security lines at airports. Once you sign up with Fly Clear, you are given a biometric card which allows you to pass through security faster and with a lot less hassle. Continue reading A Faster Way Through Airport Security

San Francisco DPT – How To Protest Your Ticket

DPT CarI’ve been a loyal taxpaying San Francisco citizen for almost 4 years now but will always despise the way the city handles and abuses the parking and ticketing system. DPT which stands for “Department of Parking and Traffic” goes around the city and terrorizes the neighborhoods daily by writing tickets for expired parking meters, double parking, parking in driveways, etc. I understand the city needs to generate revenue and parking meter maids need to do their job by enforcing expired meters but I feel they severely abuse the system and take advantage of people especially the residents.

If you ever park in neighborhoods such as Cow Hollow for example, you’ll notice every street has street cleaning signs for specific times and days during the week in which you cannot park your car. Not only that but each side of the street has different hours and days. The city obviously makes it as difficult as possible for you to remember the day and time the street you actually parked on is going to be cleaned. It’s very similar to how Las Vegas casinos make it difficult to find the exit in hopes you stay longer and gamble more. Continue reading San Francisco DPT – How To Protest Your Ticket

Around the World Trip Part 2

My friend Jen Nathan has taken the last year or so off work and decided to travel around the world. She absolutely loves to travel and write about her journeys so I couldn’t think of a better place for her right now. I’ve tried to convince her multiple times to write a book and turn this into a profession but she just hasn’t taken my advice! Grrr. Well, I’ll keep trying but in the meantime I’m going to post her emails on my blog to share her experiences with everyone. She does publish some great information on her personal website www.jennathan.com but doesn’t always include the nitty gritty. This is the first email of part two of her trip around the world!

What an amazing week. Seriously.

I experienced a camel ride at sunset in the middle of some of the most amazing sand dunes ever. I experienced day turn into night on the terrace of my riad with my fellow riad peeps while looking out onto an ancient medina. I drove through palmeries. I saw Kasbah after Kasbah. I had a guy wanting me to pet his monkey (much more innocent than it sounds). I headed out for a sunrise camel ride under a starry sky while watching shooting stars and looking at the Milky Way. I had lunch with a local family ‚Äì who happened to speak only Arabic and Berber (a bit of a challenge). I got scrubbed down (in every sense of the word) by a woman vying as a wet t-shirt contest winner who afterwards changed into her burka to head outside. I read my book in a beautiful park. I found a patisserie that I loved. I heard French accents all around me. A friend and I got swooped into the home of somebody we now call ‘The Spice Doctor’.

Such is life in Morocco… Continue reading Around the World Trip Part 2

How to Upgrade Your TinyMCE WordPress WYSIWYG Editor

The WordPress blogging platform is simply the best available product out there today but it’s not perfect. I can rant and rave about how cool and customizable WordPress is but you already know that. What I’d like to talk about is the WYSIWYG toolbar and how it’s great for professionals, it’s in need of an upgrade for the average joe user.

I’ve been working with a client to build her new web site and we agreed WordPress was the best CMS available for the price she was willing to pay. As we got closer to completing the project, it was time for her to learn how to post. I walked her through a basic example and she found it very easy but wondered why the WYSIWYG editor didn’t have an H2 or H3 html tag available. Good question and so my quest began on how to customize the toolbar. Continue reading How to Upgrade Your TinyMCE WordPress WYSIWYG Editor

Yahoo IM Old Version Solution

Sometimes upgrading a software program to a newer version can be a good thing. It addresses bugs, security holes, adds new features, etc. Other times, your computer may not be compatible with the new version, the new version is bloated, or all the options you liked are no longer available. When the latter of the two is true, I use a web site called OldVersion.com.

For example, I recently had to reinstall Yahoo IM and really hate their latest 8.1 version. It comes with ads at the bottom (ads are actually pre 8.1) which blink, rotate, and drive you crazy and also seems to run much slower on my machine. So instead of installing YIM bloatware 8.1, I went on over to 0ldversion.com and downloaded YIM version 7.0. 

OldVersion.com currently offers 1910 versions of 152 programs and continues to grow. It’s a great resource so I don’t need to keep an archive of all my previous program versions.