Thursday, February 26, 2015

Product review: MT-201UK Two-Port USB KVM Switch

KVM switches vary greatly in quality and in price.  The MT-201UK two-port USB KVM switch is one of the cheapest switches you can find, and its performance matches its price tag.

The switch makes a good first impression.  It's small, smaller than a typical paperback book, and it's very easy to set up.  It comes with its own VGA/USB cables for connecting two computers together to the switch.  The cables should be sufficiently long for most desktop setups.  There are three empty USB ports that you can use for your mouse, keyboard, or other peripheral.  (Note that if your mouse or keyboard uses a PS/2 connector, you won't be able to use it with this switch.)

Once you've got all the cables connected, using the switch is as easy as pressing the big gray button.  A red LED lights up on either side of the button to let you know which computer is currently active.  When you press the button to switch displays, it only takes a few seconds to make the other computer fully active.

For around ten bucks, the switch sounds pretty good so far.  But its positive features end there.

"USB 2.0" is printed right on the switch's face, so you'd think it would run well and not impede your desktop's performance.  But I constantly found the switch slowing my mouse down to the point where the pointer would freeze up for a couple of seconds before slowly dragging a little farther across the screen.  This temporary lag would last ten seconds or so, then everything would run well for a while, until it happened again.

The mouse that I used with this switch was a Dynex wireless mouse, which I'd used on both computers many times before the switch was installed and never encountered a problem.  I also found that I would often have to repeat-click on something to get the computer to recognize that I clicked on it, because the first (or sometimes even second) time, nothing happened.

The first day I set up this switch, it worked fine for a while and then suddenly the USB ports stopped responding.  I plugged the mouse and keyboard variably into all three ports, but couldn't get either of them to work.  Every time I plugged the mouse receiver into a port, the active computer would switch as if I had pressed the switch's button.  Rebooting both computers resolved this problem, and it hasn't recurred since.

When the computer hooked into the left side of the switch is active, the display will go black every now and then for a couple of seconds.  The screen will reappear, then go black again, then reappear.  This happens several times an hour, but only on whichever computer is hooked into that side.

If a few inconsistencies don't bother you, and you don't need a switch that performs optimally, then you might want to consider this switch.  (It's currently only $10.51 on Amazon.)  But if you get frustrated easily or you can't afford the wait times and hassles that this switch could potentially create, then you might want to consider buying a slightly pricier switch made by a reputable brand.

(Originally published on Helium.com, June 2011)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

How to change where Google Chrome saves your downloaded files

By default, when you download a file using the Chrome web browser, the file is saved in a special download folder. Many users don't know where this folder is without hunting for it. But you can change the location where downloaded files are stored, and you can even force Chrome to prompt you for a location each time you download a file, which is handy if you save different types of files to different locatio
ns. To change Chrome's default download location, follow the steps below.

In Chrome, click on the Menu button in the upper right corner of the browser window (the one with the three horizontal lines). Select Settings when the drop-down menu appears. On the Settings screen, type "download" into the search bar. When the search results appear, find the heading labeled Downloads toward the bottom of the page.

The folder shown in the Downloads section is the location where downloaded files are saved. To change this location, click the Change button to the right of the folder path. In the window that pops up, browse to the location where you want your downloaded files to be sent, then click OK.

If you want all of your files saved to the folder that you specified in the step above, then you're already done. However, if you want Chrome to ask you where to save files each time you download something, then click the box to the left of the line that says "Ask where to save each file before downloading" (right below the download location).

Now just click on the X in the upper right corner of the window to close the Settings window.

(first published in a similar version on Helium.com, May 2011)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

How to empty the waste toner bottle on a Ricoh copier or printer

Emptying the waste toner in a Ricoh copier or printer is something you can often do quickly that will get your machine up and running again so you don't have to wait for your service technician to come by.  The steps vary depending on which model you have (and some models are designed only for replacement, not for emptying) so this post is broken down into sections for the various Ricoh waste toner system designs.

For whichever model you have, always be careful when emptying the waste toner.  One slip and you could end up spilling toner all over your floor, your wall, your clothes, and the copier.  Always hold the bottle as level as possible when removing and installing it.  Toner tends to dust up when it's dumped, so try to keep the trash bag held tight around the waste toner container.  If toner spills on your clothes, wipe it off with a dry cloth; using water can cause the toner to set into the fabric.  If the dry cloth won't remove the toner, wash with cold water (not hot water).

If your model isn't listed below, open the copier or printer's front cover and look for a gray plastic container.  If you see one, that will likely be the waste toner bottle.


For small Ricoh color copiers:

Models:  C2030, C2050, C2530, C2550, C2051, C2551

This family of smaller color copiers actually uses two waste toner bottles.  Waste toner bottle #1 is located in the front of the copier, directly behind the copier's main front cover.  Open this cover and you will see the wide plastic waste toner container, directly below the four toner bottles.

There are two tabs on the top of the container; push down on these tabs and you can pop the waste toner container straight out.  (If the machine is turned on, it will probably beep at this point.)  There is a plug on the rear side of the waste toner container; with that plug facing up and the container held level, remove that plug and then dump the waste toner into a trash bag.  If you have tape, you can temporarily tape up the four input receptacles on the waste toner container so that toner doesn't accidentally spill out of them while you are dumping it.

Waste toner bottle #2 is located on the left side of the copier.  Emptying this waste toner container is slightly more involved, and you may want to leave this to your service technician.  If you're going to do it yourself, turn the copier off before removing this waste toner bottle, or at least open the front cover so that the machine doesn't run.

There is a rectangular plastic cover on the left side of the machine, with two screws on the top holding it in.  Remove these two screws and the cover will swing down.  Now you'll see the transfer cleaning unit (a long black unit) with the waste toner bottle attached to the bottom of it.  Remove the one screw on the top left of the transfer cleaning unit and the one screw on the top right, and the transfer cleaning unit can come out.

There is a plug on one side of the waste toner bottle.  Turn the unit up slightly so that the plug is higher than the rest of the bottle, so that when you remove the plug the waste toner doesn't spill out.  Pull the plug out, then dump the waste toner into a bag.  Be careful not to tip the transfer cleaning unit on its side; if you do, toner may spill out from around the blade and brush.


For 35cpm to 50cpm black and white Ricoh copiers:

Models:  1035, 1045, 2035, 2045, 3035, 3045, 3500,  4500, 4000, 5000, 4001, 5001, 4002, 5002, AP4510

The waste toner container on these copiers is not a separate unit.  It is a reservoir located inside the transfer unit.  Emptying the waste toner on these models is best left to your service technician.


For 51cpm to 80cpm (and some 90cpm) black and white Ricoh copiers:

Models: 1060, 1075, 550, 650, 551, 700, 2051, 2060, 2075, 6000, 7000, 8000, 9000, 5500, 6500, 7500, 6001, 7001, 8001, 9001, 6002, 7502, 9002

On these copiers, the waste toner bottle is located in the lower right area of the machine.  Turn the copier off and open the front door.  You will see the large waste toner bottle to the right of the three main paper trays.

There is a black plastic pin holding the waste toner tray in place.  Remove this pin upward, then slide the waste toner bottle straight out.  The rear side of the waste toner bottle has a black plug; remove this plug, then carefully dump the waste toner bottle into a trash bag.


For the Ricoh MP C300 and MP C400 models:

These two models use a waste toner bottle that is designed to be replaced, rather than emptied and reused.  It is possible to empty the waste toner bottle, but it can get messy, and Ricoh does not recommend it.  The waste toner bottle is located just behind the front door; it is the big plastic container with the fold-out handle.


For older Ricoh color copiers and printers:

Models:  2228c, 2232c, 2238c, 3224c, 3228c, 3235c, 3245c, AP3800C, CL7000, CL7100, CL7200, CL7300

These models have a user-replaceable waste toner bottle that is very easy to get to.  Open the copier's front cover and you will see the waste toner container in the lower left corner, below the PCUs and image transfer belt.  (If your model has an oil collection bottle in front of the waste toner bottle, pivot the oil collection bottle out to the left to gain access to the waste toner bottle.)  Slide the waste toner bottle straight out, then either empty it or replace it.  If you are disposing of the waste toner bottle, insert the plug into the toner hole before throwing the container away.


For modern Ricoh color copiers and printers:

Models:  C2000, C2003, C2500, C2503, C2800, C3000, C3001, C3002, C3003, C3300, C3500, C3501, C3502, C4000, C4500, C4501, C4502, C4503, C5000, C5501, C5502, C5503, C6003, C820, C821

On these models, the waste toner bottle is located to the left of the first paper tray.  For the copier models you'll probably have to remove a screw above the plastic cover to open it; for the printer models, that cover should just swing out.


For higher-volume Ricoh color copiers:

Models:  3260C, 5560, C6000, C6500, C6501, C7500, C7501, Pro 550EX, Pro 700EX

The waste toner bottle for these copiers is located in the same place as the waste toner bottle for the comparable black and white models; to the right of the main paper trays.  Open the front door and slide the waste toner bottle out to empty or replace it.


For desktop Ricoh color printers:

Models:  CL4000, C410, C420, C430

For these printers, the waste toner bottle is black instead of gray.  To get to it, open the cover on the left side of the printer.  The waste toner container is attached to the cover.  To remove it, slide the green lever to the side so it unlocks, then pull the container away from the cover.  If you are replacing the bottle, the new bottle should come with seals; attach these seals to the holes on the old waste toner bottle so the toner doesn't spill.


For Ricoh C305:

On the C305, the waste toner bottle is also black, as it is for the printers listed above.  To remove the waste toner bottle, first slide out the main paper tray and set it aside.  Then open the front cover.  The waste toner bottle is the big black plastic container across the front of the copier; slide it straight out to remove it.  If you will be replacing it with a new container, use the plastic caps attached to the old bottle to seal up the toner input ports so that toner doesn't spill out.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

How to lock a Samsung Intensity cell phone

Unlike flip phones, cell phones like the Samsung Intensity are subject to accidental keypad-pressing and dialing when they are in your pocket, purse, or even a holster. To avoid unintentionally using up your voice or data minutes, you can lock your phone and temporarily disable the keypad.

There are two ways to lock a Samsung Intensity -- the standard keypad lock and the security lock.

To use the standard lock:

You can lock your phone at any time from the main screen by holding down the "0" key for about two seconds. The keypad will immediately lock, and you won't be able to use any functions or make any calls (except for calling the local emergency number). To unlock the phone, press the right option button (in the upper right corner of the keypad, next to the End button) followed by the Menu / OK button.

You can also set up Auto Key Lock, which will automatically lock your keypad after the backlight turns off. The Auto Key Lock setting can be found in the menu under Settings & Tools > Phone Settings > Auto Key Lock.

To use the security lock:

The security lock also prevents your keypad from being used, but it requires a code to be entered in order to unlock the phone. To enable the security lock, go into the main menu and select Settings & Tools > Phone Settings > Security > Lock Phone Now. (You'll need to know your phone's security code in order to access this setting; by default it is typically the last four digits of your phone number.)

To unlock the phone, press the right option button and then enter your phone's security code, followed by the Menu / OK button.

You can set your phone to go into security lock mode as soon as you turn it on by enabling Phone Lock Setting under the Security menu. Every time you turn your phone on, you'll need to enter the security code in order to unlock it. However, once you unlock it, it will remain unlocked until you either manually lock it or turn it off and then back on.

(Originally posted on FixYa.com, March 2011)

Friday, February 6, 2015

How to troubleshoot scan to email problems from a scanner or multifunction printer

Many scanners and all-in-one printers (or multifunction printers) offer the ability to scan documents or images to an email address.  Depending on the device and your email server, this process can range from seamless to stressful.  If you're having problems setting up scanning to email, or if it worked before and it's not working now, here are some places to start the troubleshooting process:

- Check Your Settings

Sometimes settings can get entered incorrectly.  Other times, a power outage, power spike, or other event can cause the scanner to "lose" certain information, and you may need to enter it again.  Make sure the email server settings are entered correctly, including user name and password (if applicable), email server name, port number, and any protocols being used (SMTP, SSL, etc.)  If the password for that email account has recently been changed, it will need to be updated in the scanner's settings.  If your email server doesn't require a user name and password, make sure the authentication setting on your scanner is turned off.

If you're not sure what your email server settings are, this article lists the common settings for some popular email servers.

- DNS

If your scanner is connecting to your email server by its host name (such as smtp.gmail.com) rather than its IP address, you will need a valid DNS server in order to translate the name to an IP address.  Check to be sure your DNS server IP address is stored in your scanner, and also make sure that server is up and running.  If you don't have a DNS server, you can use Google's DNS server (8.8.8.8) or Comcast's DNS server (75.75.75.75).

- Gateway

In order to be able to communicate with devices outside your local network, the scanner will need to know your gateway IP address.  Typically, this will be the IP address of your router.  If you don't know your gateway address, this article can help you find it.

- Network Connection

Check the network connection from your scanner.  If the scanner is a multifunction device, you can check the connection by printing something to it.  Otherwise, you can try pinging it from a computer or other device on your network.  If the ping isn't successful, there may be a problem with the network cable, the scanner's network interface card (NIC), or an intermediary device on the network such as a hub or switch.

- Email Server

The problem may lie with your email server, rather than your scanner.  Try to send an email from your computer, using the same email account the scanner is set up to use.  If you don't have access to send emails from that account, ping the email server from your computer.

- Internet Access

Make sure you can get online from your local network.  If you can't, reboot your router or contact your Internet service provider.

- Gmail Authentication Issues

Gmail sometimes requires users to verify who they are when they log into their Gmail account.  It's a good security feature, but it can prevent automated devices (such as a scanner) from logging in.  Log into your Gmail account from a computer and see if you are required to verify your identity.  If so, you may need to turn the verification feature off in order to be able to send emails from your scanner.  Sometimes, if Gmail won't let you authenticate from the scanner, try logging into your Gmail account from a local computer and then log right back out, and that will correct the issue.

(Image courtesy of Pixabay)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Beginner's guide to QBasic

QBasic is Microsoft's version of the BASIC programming language. Developed in 1987, it was shipped out as part of the MS-DOS operating system. Now you can usually find a copy online somewhere to download.

As far as programming languages go, BASIC is very easy to learn. And QBasic is even easier, because it runs in its own editor and formats your code for you. For example, to make the computer print the word "HELLO," the command in BASIC is:

PRINT "HELLO"

In QBasic, you could type it as follows, and the editor would automatically capitalize your command and add a space before the quotation mark:

print"HELLO"

PRINT is one of the most common commands in BASIC. It can be abbreviated with a question mark (ie, ?"HI") in QBasic, to save you time writing code.

QBasic reads code starting from the top and working its way down, unless you tell it to specifically jump to another line. Line numbers were required at the beginning of every line in older BASIC programs, but for QBasic, you only need them if you want to reference that line somehow (for instance, by telling the program later to go back to that line).

This may seem confusing, so let's take a look at a very simple program. If you have QBasic, type the following lines of code in and run them.

CLS: ?"Let's count to 10."
a=0
5 a=a+1:? a
if a<10 then goto 5
end

You'll notice that as you type each line in and hit <ENTER>, the editor will format that line (add spaces between the letters and symbols, change ? to PRINT, and make all of the commands capital letters).

If you run this program, the screen would clear and you would see the following text:

Let's count to 10.
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10

Let's break down the commands used in this program, and then we'll take a look at how line numbers are used in QBasic.

The first command is CLS. This stands for "clear screen," and does just what it says. It's a good command to use at the beginning of a program, in case there is already other text on the screen. The colon after the command tells the editor that you are putting another command on the same line.  You can put as many commands on one line as you want, as long as they are separated by colons.

The "?" is just the PRINT command, followed by what you want to print.

On the next line, we start to get into variables. Variables are what you learned about in algebra -- letters (or letters plus numbers, such as a1, a2, etc) that are assigned a numeric value. In this case, "a" is assigned the value 0. (You can also make string variables, which we'll discuss later.)

Now we come to the first line number. We make "a" equal to its value plus 1, then we print it. Notice you don't need to put quotes around the variable when printing it, because it's not a string of text -- you don't want to print the letter "a," you want to print its value.

On the next line we have the IF...THEN command. IF...THEN is a powerful tool you can use to allow your program to make choices. Say you're writing a simple game like "guess what number I picked" -- depending on whether or not the player guesses the right number, the computer can respond with "correct" or "incorrect."

In this program, the first time the IF...THEN statement is reached, the value of "a" is 1. 1 is less than 10, so the program executes the code that follows the THEN command; in this case, the GOTO command tells it to go to line 5. Line numbers can be any number, or even a word or string of words (such as BeginningLine or WrongAnswer). If you use words for line numbers, you have to follow them with a colon.

This program will keep printing the value of "a" and returning to line 5 until "a" is not less than 10. Then the program will end, and you will see "Press any key to continue" at the bottom of the screen. Once you hit a key, you will be returned to the editor.

Variables are very useful in BASIC because you can either assign them values that can be changed, or allow the user to assign them values. Numeric variables are simply letters (or letters and numbers, such as a4) but to assign a variable text (or a string of text) you would have to make it a string variable, which is designated by a dollar sign at the end of the variable name (ie, name$).

A useful command that involves variables is INPUT. INPUT allows you to get information from the user and store that information as a variable. For example, executing this line:

INPUT "What is your favorite number?", num

will print the question in quotation marks and then prompt the user to type something and hit <ENTER>. "Num" is a numeric variable (to make it a text or string variable, you would have to name it num$), so entering text at the prompt will either generate a "Redo from start" error or assign the variable a value of zero.

(The line of code above uses a comma with the INPUT command. You can also substitute a semi-colon, which will tell the program to add a question mark and a space after it prints the text.)

String variables are used the same way as numeric variables. This short program makes use of a string variable:

INPUT "What is your favorite color?", color$
PRINT: PRINT "Your favorite color is " color$ "."

The user would be prompted to enter a color, and then the program would repeat that color back to the user. (The PRINT command with no text or variable following it will simply print a blank line.) The variable "color$" is outside the quotation marks in the PRINT command, because we want to print the variable's value.

The QBasic editor is built on the MS-DOS text editor, and is similar to Windows Notepad. You can use the mouse or keyboard to navigate it, and it comes with many helpful features, including, Find, Change, and Split Screen.

Now you know some useful QBasic commands that will help you get started writing simple code and becoming familiar with the language. QBasic comes with plenty of help if you get stuck -- a list of contents, an index, and even a "Survival Guide."

(Originally published on Helium.com, May 2009)