Sunday, December 28, 2014

Smart phone review: Blackberry Bold 9650

The BlackBerry Bold 9650 smart phone is one of the several models in the Bold series. It is very similar to the BlackBerry Tour (9630) in both appearance and function and users who are upgrading from the Tour will have little trouble adjusting to the Bold 9650.

The 9650 is a rectangular black phone, about four and a half inches tall, about two and a half inches wide and about half an inch thick. It has a 480 x 360 display screen (not a touch screen) above a full QWERTY keyboard. For graphical navigation, it uses a squarish trackpad -- similar to the Tour's trackball or a laptop's trackstick. The trackpad does not get "stuck" like a trackball sometimes does, but it is extremely sensitive and some users may find its sensitivity frustrating.

In addition to the standard 3G connection, the 9650 can connect to both Wi-Fi (802.11b or 802.11g) and Bluetooth networks and devices. Both of these options will drain the battery quickly if they are enabled for long periods of time, so they can be turned on or off as needed.

The 9650 has all of the standard features of a smart phone -- a web browser, a media player that supports both audio and video, a camera (3.2 megapixels) and video camera, GPS capability and much more. It has 512 MB of standard memory and it comes with a 2 GB microSD card. Many BlackBerry apps are pre-loaded (such as BlackBerry Messenger, Maps, MemoPad and Calendar) as well as popular third-party apps like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. BlackBerry App World allows you to download any other apps you might want or need.

Two convenience keys (one located on either side of the device) allow you one-touch access to programs or features that you use most often. The 9650 can connect to a computer via its USB cable for either data transfer or tethering (to use the phone as a modem).

Since it's not a flip phone, you'll probably want to get a holster or case for the phone. But if you just want to stick it in your pocket, the keyboard can be locked to prevent accidental dialing. Locking and unlocking the keyboard is easily accomplished and the power button lets you quickly turn the phone on or off with one touch. Those who are used to the BlackBerry Tour will find the Bold 9650's boot time to be much quicker.

The BlackBerry Bold 9650 is a highly-functional, easy to use smart phone that is versatile enough to act as either a personal or business phone. Users who are familiar with the BlackBerry operating system and interface will feel comfortable with the 9650 and new users won't find it hard to learn. Depending on your wireless carrier and the plan that you choose, the price of a 9650 will vary, but if you wanted to buy one independently, sells several different unlocked models starting at $89.95.

(Originally published on, January 2014)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

How to replace the power supply in a desktop computer

The power supply is one of the most common components to fail inside a desktop computer. If you don't mind turning a screwdriver, you can replace a bad power supply yourself and save on repair costs.

Before purchasing a replacement power supply:

- Make sure to buy a power supply that is rated for at least the same wattage as your current power supply.
- Verify that the new power supply has all of the necessary connectors that your current one has. You can either check this visually by looking at the connectors that you have, or by making sure your computer is listed as one of the models that the new power supply is compatible with.
- Make sure the new power supply will fit inside your computer's case. (If the new power supply is compatible with your computer, that won't be a concern.)

To install the new power supply:

- Turn your computer off and unplug it from its power source.
- Unplug all of the cables leading from your computer, including the power cable.
- Open the computer's case. (If you're not sure how to do this, you can probably look it up online. Most computers either have screws in the back that come out, a side panel that slides off, or they open up like a clamshell.)
- Disconnect all of the cables leading from your power supply. Note what component each connector plugs into. You should have connectors for your fan(s), hard drive(s), optical and/or floppy drive(s), motherboard (may be one or two connectors), and the front power switch.
- Unscrew the power supply from the system case and remove it.
- Set the new power supply in the case facing the same way as the old power supply and screw it in.
- Attach all of the connectors. (You may have more connectors than components, but make sure each component that was connected before is connected again now.)
- Close the system case and reattach any screws.
- Plug the power cable into the power supply and then into the wall outlet.
- Reattach all other cables.
- Make sure the power switch on the back of the power supply is on.
- Make sure the voltage switch on the back of the power supply is set to the correct voltage (115 volts in the United States).
- Turn on the computer and verify that it boots up correctly.

(Originally published on, January 2011)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Product review: TRENDnet TU2-ET100 USB to 10/100Mbps adapter

Most new PCs (be it laptop or desktop) come with an Ethernet or RJ-45 network port built in. However, Ethernet ports sometimes go bad, and when they do, it's much cheaper to get an external network adapter than to replace the whole motherboard (or the whole computer). One good network adapter that you can plug into your computer through the USB port is the TRENDnet USB to 10/100Mbps adapter (model #TU2-ET100).

The TRENDnet adapter is a simple device that plugs into any USB port on your computer. The adapter can run at USB 2.0 speeds, but it's also backwards compatible with USB 1.1 or 1.0. Installing it is easy - just pop the CD in and run the auto installer, and then the first time you connect the adapter the driver will be installed. The adapter is Plug & Play compliant, and is compatible with current 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows (7, Vista, XP, 2000, ME, and 98SE) as well as Mac OS X 10.1 to 10.6. It can also be used with the Nintendo Wii game system.

The adapter works as a fully-functional Ethernet port, and can connect your computer to a 10Mbps (Ethernet) or 100Mbps (Fast Ethernet) network. It will work in either full-duplex or half-duplex mode, and it has two LEDs that show at what speed the current network is running as well as when data is being transferred. The adapter draws power through its USB cable from the device it's connected to, so no external power supply is needed.

Inside the box, in addition to the adapter itself, you'll find an installation CD that includes the device driver and the user guide, and a paper copy of the quick installation guide. The adapter is not very heavy and it can easily be packed inside most laptop bags or cases.  It consists of the actual adapter box (a small blue rectangular device) and a short USB cable. You can wrap the USB cable around the box with a rubber band for storage. The adapter is a bit bulky for use with a laptop, especially when not used on a flat surface, but if you need an Ethernet port, its functionality will outweigh its awkwardness.

The TRENDnet USB to 10/100 Mbps Adapter can be purchased online from for $13.00, which is less than many comparable adapters. It comes with a three-year limited warranty as well as 24/7 tech support from TRENDnet.

(Originally published on, January 2014)

Monday, December 15, 2014

How to set up a static IP address in Windows Vista

Static IP addresses are often used for computers that host specific services, or for computers on small, manually managed networks. To set up a static IPv4 address on a Windows Vista computer, first find an IP address that is not currently in use and is outside the DHCP assignable range (if applicable). Then follow either of the procedures below.

From the taskbar:

1. Right click on the network connection icon in the system notification tray.
2. Select Network and Sharing Center.
3. Under Tasks, select Manage network connections.
4. Right click on the network connection that you want to set up the IP address for (Local Area Connection, Wireless Network Connection, etc.)
5. Select Properties.
6. If the User Account Control window pops up, select Continue.
7. Click on Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4).
8. In the Properties window, click the circle next to Use the following IP address.
9. Enter the IP address that you want to assign to the computer.
10. Enter the subnet mask and default gateway. (For small or home networks, these will typically be and, respectively.)
11. Enter the IP address of the DNS server next to Preferred DNS server.
12. If you have an alternate DNS server, enter that IP address as well.
13. Click OK to save the changes.

From the Start menu:

1. Click the Vista orb.
2. Right click on Network.
3. Follow the procedure above, starting with step #3.

Reserving an IP address under DHCP is different from setting up a static IP address, but if you are setting up a static IP address that is within the DHCP range you will need to reserve it too. To reserve an IP address, log into your router's configuration utility and look for a heading such as DHCP or IP Address Distribution. You will probably need either the computer's Windows name or its MAC address in order to reserve an IP address for it.

(Originally published on, January 2011)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

How to adjust the page file size in Windows Vista

The page file (or swap file) is a portion of the hard drive that Windows reserves to use as additional memory when necessary. You can make the page file smaller or larger than its current setting, or you can disable it completely.

To change the page file size:

1. Click the Vista orb.
2. Right click on Computer.
3. Select Properties.
4. Under Tasks on the left hand side, select Advanced system settings.
5. If the User Account Control window appears, click Continue.
6. Click the Advanced tab.
7. Under Performance, click the Settings button.
8. Click the Advanced tab.
9. Under Virtual memory, click the Change button.
10. Select the hard drive that you want to adjust the page file for. (Typically this will be the C: drive.)
11. If Custom size is not already selected, click the circle next to it to select it.
12. Enter an Initial size and Maximum size for the page file in megabytes. The maximum size must be equal to or larger than the initial size, and both values should be at least one and a half times the amount of physical RAM that is installed in the computer.
13. Click the Set button.
14. Click OK to save the changes.
15. Click OK again in the Performance Options window.
16. Click OK in the System Properties window.
17. Reboot your computer for the change to take effect.

If your computer performs erratically after changing the page file size, go back into the settings and either change it back to its previous value or try a new value. Virtual memory errors are a good indicator that the page file is not large enough to handle what Windows needs it to do.

(Originally posted on, January 2011)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Android app review: Bubble Level

There are times when you find yourself without the right tool for the job. Or maybe you have the right tool, but you can't find it (or get to it). But with the Bubble Level app for your Android device, at least you won't have to worry about finding a level when you need one.

This app lets your Android phone act as a spirit level. You can use any of the four sides of your phone, and a bubble level graphic will appear on the screen, showing whether the surface you are inspecting is level, plumb, or at an angle. The app will even display the degree of angle or incline.

You can also lay your phone flat on a surface and Bubble Level will become a 360 degree level, showing in which direction (if any) the surface is not level. There are portable pocket-sized levels you can stuff in a toolbag or even your pocket, but Bubble Level is with you anywhere your phone goes.  If you feel like it's not giving an accurate reading, you can recalibrate it at any time.

Calibrating or recalibrating the app is easy. Just place the phone on a known level surface and select Calibrate.  You can calibrate each side separately, in case your phone has a button sticking out on one side or a weirdly-shaped case, or something else causing a side to not be perfectly straight. Before any calibration, Bubble Level gave me fairly accurate readings; after calibrating it, it is almost as reliable as my Stanley Pro I-Beam level. Just make sure when you are using the app that the phone is at a perfect 90 degree angle (unless it's flat on its back) -- otherwise your readings will be off.  If you have an OtterBox or other protective case, you may want to remove it before using the level.

Unlike many free apps, Bubble Level is highly customizable. You can change the viscosity of the bubble, turn on eco mode to preserve battery life, enable orientation locking and even turn on sound effects so that the app plays a sound when the phone becomes level. There are no ads that pop up; the developer simply added a very unintrusive "Donate" link toward the bottom of the Preferences menu.

Bubble Level is available for free from the Android Market.  It is compatible with devices running Android version 1.6 or higher and it only takes up a measly 90 KB of space. This app has an average user rating of 4.2 out of 5, from over 66,000 users, and it's been downloaded and installed more than 11 million times.

(Originally posted on, January 2014)

Friday, December 5, 2014

How to enable or disable the Sidebar in Windows Vista

The Windows Sidebar, introduced with Windows Vista, is a way to have one-click access to websites and widgets right from your desktop. Some people love the Sidebar and some people hate it. Whichever camp you happen to fall in, enabling or disabling the Sidebar is a painless process.

To disable the Sidebar:

1. Right click on the Sidebar icon in the notification area (a computer screen with different colored blocks on its right side).
2. Select Exit from the menu.
3. If a confirmation window appears, click Exit Sidebar.

To enable the Sidebar:

1. Click the Vista orb and type "sidebar" into the Search bar.
2. From the search results, select Windows Sidebar. (If Windows Sidebar is the highlighted item, you can just hit <Enter>.)
3. The Sidebar will appear, in the same place and with the same widgets as the last time you used it.

An alternate way to enable the Sidebar:

1.Click the Vista orb.
2. Select All Programs.
3. Select Accessories.
4. Select Windows Sidebar.

To configure the Sidebar to load automatically every time you start your computer:

1. If it's not already enabled, enable the Sidebar (using either of the methods described above).
2. Right click on the Sidebar icon in the notification area.
3. Select Properties.
4. Put a check mark in the box next to "Start Sidebar when Windows starts."
5. Click either OK or Apply.

If you have the Sidebar set to load automatically and then you disable it, it will still run every time you start your computer, unless you remove the check mark next to that option in the Sidebar properties.

(Originally posted on, January 2011)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How to change the IP address on a Ricoh Aficio MP 6001 / 7001 / 8001 copier

If your Ricoh Aficio MP 6001, 7001, 8001, or 9001 copier is used as a network printer, making sure it has the correct IP address is very important. If you ever need to change the copier's IP address, either because of a conflict or for any other reason, you can do so easily by following the steps below.

With the copier turned on, press the User Tools/Counter button. (If there is currently a job being processed, you'll have to wait until it finishes before going into the User Tools menu.) On the touch screen, select the System Settings button.

A row of tabs will appear on the screen; select the Interface Settings tab. Then select the option for Machine IPv4 Address. The current IP address and subnet mask will be displayed.

To change the IP address, select Change. Selecting Clear will clear out the current IP address and allow you to input the new one. You can use the number pad to enter the digits, and the right and left arrows will allow you to navigate through the four different parts of the IP address. When you have finished inputting the new address, press # (either on the screen or on the number pad).

The subnet mask can be changed if necessary in the same way; select Change and then follow the same steps above to enter a new subnet mask. Once you are finished, select OK to save the new information. You'll be returned to the Interface Settings menu.

If you need to change the gateway address as well, select IPv4 Gateway Address on the screen. This address is changed just like the other two; Clear will erase the current address, and you can use the number pad to enter the new one. Select # when you have finished, and then OK to save the new address.

In order to apply the changes you've made, exit out of System Settings by selecting Exit in the upper right corner of the screen. The options on the screen should gray out for a few seconds as the machine processes the changes, then everything will return to normal. Select Exit again to get out of User Tools. (If the IP address does not appear to have been changed, you may need to reboot the copier.)

After changing the copier's IP address, you'll probably also want to change the IP address that the print driver is configured to use so that they match. The instructions for changing the IP address in your print driver will vary by operating system and print driver version, but in general on a Windows computer, right click on printer's icon in the Control Panel and select Printer Properties (Properties, if you're using Windows XP or Vista) then go to the Ports tab, highlight the correct port if it's not highlighted already and select Configure Port. Here you can change the IP address, then select OK and OK again in the Properties window, to set the new IP address for the print driver.

(Originally published on, December 2013)