Thursday, November 27, 2014

How to replace or install RAM in an HP G60-445DX laptop

On most computers, replacing RAM is a pretty straightforward process. It's also one of the most effective ways to increase a system's performance. However, the replacement procedure varies from computer to computer. This article describes how to replace the RAM in an HP G60-445DX laptop computer.

The first thing to do is to figure out what kind of RAM you're replacing the existing RAM with. Typically, the G60-445DX comes with 3 GB of RAM -- a 2 GB memory stick and a 1 GB stick. If you're running a 32-bit version of Windows Vista, that's pretty close to the maximum amount of RAM the system can make use of, but if you're running a 64-bit operating system (and you have a chipset that can support it) you may be able to take advantage of a memory increase. To find out more about the kind and amount of RAM your system needs, visit Crucial.com and run the free memory scanner.

Once you have the new memory sticks and you're ready to install them, power down the computer (using the Shut Down option from the Start menu), unplug it from any power source, and remove the battery. To remove the battery, flip the computer over (after you've closed the computer, of course) and push the tab located just below and to the side of the battery (the long skinny rectangle) all the way to the side away from the battery. When the tab is pushed over, the battery should pop up a little bit. Remove it and store it somewhere safe.

Next, remove the memory compartment cover. This cover is squarish in appearance and is located pretty much in the center of the bottom of the laptop. With a small Phillips screwdriver, remove the two screws securing the cover.  Once the cover is off, you'll see the memory sticks.

Before touching the memory, you should discharge any potential static electricity you might have built up. If you're using an ESD wrist strap or anti-static mat, you should be okay, but most people don't have either of those. Touch something metal, such as a grounding pipe in your basement or a doorknob, before touching your computer's electrical components.

The G60-445DX comes standard with two sticks of memory. To remove each one, release the retaining clips (one on each side) holding the memory in by pushing them away from the RAM to either side. Once they are both released, the memory stick should pop up a little bit. Pull it up to a 45-degree angle and gently remove it from its slot. Repeat the procedure for the second stick.

Be careful when handling both the old and new memory. Avoid touching any part of the stick if possible other than the upper edges -- do not touch the contacts (the gold stripes on the bottom) or the memory itself (the raised black rectangles), and store the old memory in anti-static bags. (The new memory should have come in them -- they are plastic and generally clear blue.)

To install the new memory, insert the sticks just like you removed the old ones -- at a 45-degree angle. Slowly push each one in until you see it slide into place.  (For the interior slot, you may still see the top of the electrical contacts showing when the stick is fully inserted.) Then push it down so it is flat and make sure the retaining clips snap closed. When both sticks are installed, reattach and screw down the cover, then put the battery back in and boot up the computer.

If the computer doesn't turn on, or doesn't start up normally, one or both of the sticks is probably not seated correctly. Turn the computer off, remove the battery, and try it again. (Having to seat the RAM more than once is not uncommon.)

Once you've gotten Windows to load, open the system properties screen. (In Vista, right click on Computer and select Properties.) Verify that the amount of RAM showing is the correct amount. (In 32-bit operating systems, if you have 4 GB installed, all 4 GB will probably not show up.) If the amount of RAM listed is correct, your job is done.

If you've increased the amount of RAM, you'll hopefully notice a boost in system performance. Sometimes you might get a bad RAM stick, so keep the old memory just in case. If you begin to experience system instability problems or memory address errors, there's a good chance one of the new memory sticks is bad.

(Originally published on Helium.com, May 2010)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How to replace a Brother MFC-240C ink cartridge

The Brother MFC-240C printer uses an individual ink cartridge for each color (black, yellow, cyan, and magenta).  When one of the cartridges is empty or near empty, the printer will tell you to replace that ink cartridge.  The product codes for the different cartridges are as follows:

* Black = LC51BK
* Cyan = LC51C
* Magenta = LC51M
* Yellow = LC51Y

You can buy each of the cartridges individually, or you can get a pack of the three color cartridges together.  To replace any of the ink cartridges, follow the steps below.

All four of the cartridges are located on the right front side of the printer, behind a gray plastic cover.  Pull the cover forward from the side, where there is a slight cutout for your finger to grab.  When the cover falls forward, you'll see the four ink cartridge holders, coded by color.

For the ink cartridge that you need to replace, push down on the purple handle for that color.  The ink cartridge holder will open and fall forward, revealing the ink cartridge itself.  Push down on the cartridge holder and the cartridge should pop out toward you a little bit.  Grasp the cartridge and remove it.

Open the new cartridge and remove it from its wrapper.  Discard the yellow cover, unless you plan to save it for the old cartridge.

Insert the new cartridge into the correct slot (from left to right, they go black, yellow, cyan, magenta) so that the word "brother" is right-side up and located toward the top of the cartridge.  Once the cartridge is most of the way in, push the ink cartridge holder up by the purple handle until it snaps into place.

If you are replacing more than one color, repeat this procedure for each cartridge.  Then, when you are finished, close the ink cartridge cover.

If you were out of ink or low on ink, the machine should recognize the new cartridge and perform the calibration process.  If it doesn't automatically recognize the new cartridge, it will ask if you have changed one or more of the cartridges.  Press "1" for Yes when it asks about a color that you replaced, or "2" for No if it asks about a color you didn't replace.

Once the printer comes back up to the ready state, print a color test page to verify that everything is working.  If the test page comes out okay, the new cartridge is fine and you can either discard the old cartridge in the trash or save it to recycle.

(Originally posted on Helium.com, June 2010)

Friday, November 21, 2014

QBasic tips & tricks

QBasic, Microsoft's version of the BASIC programming language, isn't widely used by any stretch of the imagination.  However, some people still use it, and it can come in handy for designing simple programs (especially if you have a compiler).  Below are some tips and tricks for getting more done with QBasic.

Microsoft's QBasic editor is smarter than a normal text editor, so you can save some time by letting it do a lot of the formatting work for you.  For example, if you type "10 print a$:input c$:goto 20" you'll see the following line when you press <Enter>:

10 PRINT a$ : INPUT c$ : GOTO 20

Another shortcut is to use a question mark instead of typing out PRINT.  QBasic will translate a question mark (?) as PRINT, as long as you don't put it in quotation marks.  So typing "?number" would become "PRINT number".  (In this example, QBasic would assume "number" is a variable.)

When using the INPUT command, QBasic typically inserts an end-of-line character after the user's input, so anything you want the program to print will automatically start on the next line.  But if you use a semi-colon with INPUT, you can bypass the end-of-line insertion and keep the program on the same line.  So if you wrote a program that consisted of these two lines:

INPUT ; a$
PRINT a$

QBasic would print whatever the user typed in right next to where they typed it, rather than skip to the next line.  If you're using a prompt with INPUT, however, this tip won't work; QBasic will still skip to the next line, even with the semi-colon present.

If you don't use subroutines, you are probably writing a lot of redundant code.  QBasic lets you call subroutines and then return to where you were in the program, so that commands that you would run often can just be typed in once and then accessed as many times as necessary.

Subroutines work well for tasks that must be repeated over and over again without any change.  As an example, if you were writing a self-test program to study for an exam, you could write one subroutine that would get the input from the user, and another subroutine that would take the user's answer and compare it to the correct answer to see if the user was right or wrong.  That way, for each unique question you would only have to give the program the question and the correct answer, and the subroutines could do the rest.  To call a subroutine, use the syntax "GOSUB <line number>", and then putting "RETURN" at the end of the subroutine will give control back to the line that called it.

(Originally published on Helium.com, May 2010)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

How to configure Internet connection sharing (ICS) in Windows XP

Internet connection sharing (ICS) is a method by which you can allow more than one computer on your network to access the Internet by using the connection set up on a single computer.  If you have a router or a wireless access point, ICS is unnecessary, but for those who only have an Internet connection through a single computer, ICS can allow multiple computers to get online at the same time.

To set up ICS, log into the computer that has the active Internet connection.  This computer must have the ability to connect to other computers as well, typically through an Ethernet cable connected directly to another computer, or connected to a hub or switch.

Click the Start button, and from the Start menu right click on My Network Places and select Properties.  If you don't see My Network Places on your Start menu, it should be on your desktop.  If it's not in either of those places, select Control Panel from the Start menu and double click on Network Connections.

In the Network Connections window, find the icon for your Internet connection.  It should be located under the "LAN or High-Speed Internet" heading, and it should say "Connected" underneath the name if you are currently able to get online.  Right click on this icon and select Properties.

Under the Advanced tab, there is a section labeled "Windows Firewall" and then beneath that, a section for "Internet Connection Sharing."  Put a check in the box labeled "Allow other network users to connect through this computer's Internet connection."  In the box beneath that one ("Allow other network users to control or disable the shared Internet connection") remove the check mark, unless you want to give other users that much control over your connection.

Now all you have to do is click OK, and your Internet connection will be available to other users on your network.  (It may take a minute for the settings to take effect.)  When you look at your Internet connection's icon in Network Connections, you'll see an open hand under the icon, indicating that the connection is being shared.

If you have additional services that you want network users to be able to access, you can enable them by clicking the Settings button in the ICS section.  You can choose from the list of services (such as FTP Server, Remote Desktop, or Web Server) or you can create a new one by clicking the Add button.

The other users on your network can now access the Internet from their PCs by opening up My Network Places on their Windows XP computer (or Network, if they're running Windows Vista) and looking for the icon for your Internet connection.  It may not show up right away -- if it doesn't appear, advise them to click Refresh under the "View" menu.

(Originally posted on Helium.com, January 2011)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Windows command prompt tips and tricks

Even though DOS is an operating system of the past for most people, it still lives on in the form of the Windows command prompt.  There are many things you can do from the command prompt -- some of which are simpler to do from there than by going through Windows' graphical interface.

If you use the command prompt often, there are many little tips that will make the command prompt easier to use.  For example, when you are typing out a path or a file name, you can abbreviate the name if it is longer than eight characters.  Instead of typing "CD\program files" you could type "CD\progra~1" and save yourself some time.  This may not seem like much of a tip, but it comes in handy when you type a lot of long file names.  The "~1" is used to truncate the file or directory name, so you only need to type the first six characters.

Older versions of DOS did not allow you to use spaces as part of a file name, but newer versions do.  Sometimes when you try to run DOS commands, the spaces will confuse the system, causing the command to not be performed or to be performed incorrectly.  To avoid this problem, use quotes when typing file or directory names, like this:

DEL "test file.dat"

Without the quotes, some commands will look at the second part of the name as a switch or parameter, rather than part of the file name.

There are several DOS commands that display or list information, including DIR and IPCONFIG.  It can be a hassle to have to scroll back up to read information that you missed.  With DIR, you can use the "/p" switch to display one page's worth of info at a time, but other commands don't have this option.  However, you can use the universal "|more" switch.

After any command that displays a lot of information (such as "IPCONFIG /all") add the pipe symbol (|) by pressing <SHIFT> and the backslash (\) and then type "more".  So your command would look like this:

IPCONFIG /all |more

The information displayed by the command will be shown one page at a time.  You can either press the space bar when the system pauses, to display another page's worth of data, or you can press the <ENTER> key to advance the data one line at a time.  The "|more" switch can be used immediately after a command, or with a space in between.

(Originally posted on Helium.com, July 2010)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

How to enable MAC address filtering on a Westell VersaLink 7500 DSL Gateway

Wireless networks are by definition less secure than their wired counterparts.  However, there are certain steps you can take to make a wireless network more secure, including enabling MAC address filtering through your router.  If you're using a Westell VersaLink 7500 gateway to connect to Verizon DSL service, the steps below will guide you through enabling MAC address filtering.

A.  Before you can set up MAC address filtering, you'll need a list of the MAC addresses of all the devices that you want to allow to connect to your network.  In the router's web interface, you can view the MAC address of any device currently on your network by selecting that device under My Network.  This article can also you help you find MAC addresses:  How to find the MAC address of a device.

B.  Open a web browser and type in the IP address of your Westell router.  (This is typically 192.168.1.1 by default.)  If necessary, enter your username and password.

C.  From the Main screen, click the Wireless Settings link along the top of the page.  (If you didn't have to log in before, you'll have to do it now.)

D.  Click on Advanced Security Settings on the left hand side.

E.  Under "Level 3," click on Wireless MAC Authentication.

F.  The Wireless MAC Authentication screen will appear, with instructions.  There is a box about halfway down the screen labeled "Enable Access List" - put a check in the box and then click Apply.

G.  A box will appear to let you know that your wireless access will be temporarily interrupted; click OK.

H.  Click the Add button toward the bottom of the page.  On the next screen, enter the MAC address of the first device you want to allow.  (You can use MAC address filtering to block specific devices as well; if you're entering an address to block, make sure the drop down box next to Traffic is set for Blocked.)  You can enter a descriptive name if you want to, then click Apply.

I.  The address you entered will appear in the box above "Add."  To enter more addresses, click Add again and follow the same procedure for each MAC address.

Once you've added all of the devices that you want to, make sure you can get online from each of them.  A single typo when inputting the MAC address will prevent that device from accessing the Internet.

If you get a new computer down the road, or if someone else wants to get on your network, you'll need to add that MAC address to your list.  You can edit or delete an entry by clicking on the address in the box and selecting the appropriate button, Edit or Delete.  To disable MAC address filtering, go back to the Wireless MAC Authentication page, remove the check mark next to Enable Access List and click Apply.

(Originally published on Helium.com, Sept 2010)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How to set up a static IP address in Windows XP

Your computer's IP address is what identifies it on your network. An IP address is like a phone number, uniquely identifying that device so other devices can communicate with it. IP addresses can be either static or dynamic.

Most computer networks use a DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server to hand out and manage IP addresses. These IP addresses are considered dynamic, because they are only temporary -- after a set amount of time, the lease expires and that IP address is thrown back into the pool to be used by another device.

A Windows XP computer can be set up with a static IP address -- one that doesn't change, even when your computer has been off for an extended time -- with a few simple steps. However, using a static IP address can be tricky, because you need to know which IP addresses are available to use. If you pick an IP address outside the range your network recognizes, your computer won't be able to connect to any other devices, including your router or switch. If you are on a business network, talk to your network administrator before setting up a static IP address. If you are on a home network, check your router's settings to see what range of IP addresses the router uses.

If you currently have a dynamic IP address, you can use that one as your static IP address.  If you're going to pick a new static IP address, try to pick one outside the range of IP addresses that your DHCP server hands out.  For example, if your DHCP server uses the IP addresses from 192.168.1.100 to 192.168.1.150, then you could pick an IP address such as 192.168.1.170.  When picking an IP address, be sure not to pick one that's in use by another computer or device. Using the same IP address for more than one device will cause connection problems.

Once you are sure you want to switch to a static IP address and you have an address picked out, changing the settings is easy. Access the Network Connections window, either by right-clicking on My Network Places (on the desktop or in the Start menu) and choosing Properties, or through the Control Panel. Then choose the connection you want to give a static IP address to (such as "Local Area Connection").  Scroll down the list of services until you get to "Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)." Click Properties, and a dialogue box will pop up.

If you currently use DHCP and dynamic IP addresses, the radio button next to "Obtain an IP address automatically" is selected. To change to a static IP address, click the button underneath it ("Use the following IP address"). Input the IP address you plan on using, as well as the subnet mask and gateway address. (The subnet mask is most likely 255.255.255.0 if you are on a home network, and the gateway address will be your router's IP address.)

In order to connect to the Internet, you'll need a DNS (Domain Name System) server. Hopefully your router can perform this function; type your router's IP address next to "Preferred DNS server."

Once you click OK to close out any open windows and save your changes, your computer will assume the new IP address. To verify that Windows applied the change, go back into the command prompt and run "ipconfig" again; you should see the new IP address displayed. Next to the line marked "DHCP enabled" it should now say no instead of yes.

Your computer now has a static IP address. Assuming there is no conflict with any other devices, and assuming the IP address (and other information) you input is valid, your computer will now keep that IP address until you tell it otherwise. To re-enable DHCP, simply go back into the network properties and click the appropriate radio button. (You'll also want to re-enable "Obtain DNS server address automatically.")

(Originally posted on Helium.com, October 2009)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Android app review: Scantopia

There are many mobile apps that enable you to earn money by using your phone or tablet. Scantopia is one of those apps and while the money-making opportunity isn't great, it is there.

Scantopia is an Android app that you can download on your phone or tablet for free. The idea behind the app is to get you to scan in bar codes. If you're lucky, you can get paid for scanning bar codes.  In addition to cash, you can also win tokens, which can be traded in for entries to various sweepstakes.

One nice thing about this app is that it allows for a lot of freedom. You can pretty much scan anything that has a bar code -- a box of cookies, a granola bar, a printer, a spark plug, etc. It doesn't even have to be an item that you own. You can walk into a grocery store and just start scanning items on an aisle. You can even scan the same item again the next day in many cases.

What you get for each scanned bar code varies, but typical rewards include $0.05, $0.10, one token, or two tokens. You'll also get $1.00 for your first scanned item. You can cash out once you've earned $3.00, in whole dollar amounts only. Payments are made through PayPal, so if you don't have a PayPal account, you'll need to set one up in order to claim your money. Tokens can be redeemed any time you wish for entries into the Progressive Jackpot sweepstakes (with prizes up to $1,000) or various "Weird Sweeps," which offer different prizes including coffee makers and wine fridges.

There are also special products every day that you can earn bigger rewards for scanning, called Daily Super Scans. The rewards for scanning these items often are in the range of $0.10 to $0.50. However, these items often must be scanned from your Home location.

You have to enable GPS to set a Home location, and not everyone will want GPS turned on so that the app can track you. However, if you don't mind allowing the app access to your location, you will get $1.00 for setting your Home location, and you can earn double tokens for items that are scanned from your Home location.

In addition to the pennies or tokens you can earn, you will occasionally be offered a coupon as an additional prize. These coupons (often for $0.75 to $2.00 off) may or may not be for products that you actually use, and they are not really exclusive coupons. They are coupons offered by Coupons.com, which you could download anyway even if you weren't "offered" them by Scantopia.

If it sounds complicated, it's really not. You are allowed 12 scans per day, but you can get more by waiting a half hour or by requesting other people that you know to send you more "energy," which allows you to scan more items. The app uses your phone or tablet's built-in camera to scan bar codes, so other than the app itself you don't need to download or install anything.

You should take your device's data plan into account before using Scantopia. Unless you can hop on a Wi-Fi network, this app can eat up your data allowance. Scantopia can easily use over 5MB of data for one day's scans.

The idea behind the app is neat, but the earning potential is very slight. Even if you get $1.00 for your first scan and $1.00 for setting your Home location, it will still take you a while to earn the $3.00 required to cash out. The time needed to scan all those items could be better spent on other money-making opportunities which could pay far better.

(Originally published on Helium.com, February 2014)

UPDATE: Scantopia is no longer offered for download from the Google Play Store.