Monday, June 29, 2015

How to compress an image in Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is a versatile and highly-capable graphics editing program.  In addition to all of the graphical features it has, it also allows for a wide range of compression options when saving a file.

There are various reasons for using file compression, and how tightly you want to compress an image depends on what you are going to use it for.  Compression reduces an image's file size, which can help it to load faster on a web page, transmit faster in an email, or download faster to someone's computer.

Using Photoshop, you can easily compress your images to whatever size you need.  This article describes the process for compressing an image in Photshop.  (These instructions were written using Photoshop Elements 7, but the compression options for other versions of Photoshop will be similar, if not identical.)

Open Photoshop and load the image that you want to compress.  Click File on the menu bar and choose "Save for Web."  Two versions of your image will appear on the screen; the original will be on the left and the compressed version will be on the right, so as you change compression options you can see how it affects the image quality.

You have a lot of control when it comes to compressing an image in Photoshop.  On the right side of the window are all of your compression options.  First you can choose the file type that you want to save your image as, which will give you a baseline compression.  (For example, JPEG images are compressed more than GIF images.)

Once you've settled on a file type (which will typically be JPEG, GIF, or PNG) you can choose to compress your image by quality or by pixel size, or both.  By changing the number in the Quality field, you will reduce the quality of your image as well as reduce its file size.  You can choose a quality setting by number (0-100) by using the sliding scale or by typing in a number, or you can use the preset quality settings to the left -- Low, Medium, High, Very High, or Maximum.  Selecting one of these settings will fill in the corresponding quality number.  For example, selecting High will set the quality to 60.

You can also choose to compress the image by reducing its pixel count.  Under the Image Size header below where the quality settings are, you can see your image's current pixel count.  Beneath that, you can alter the pixel count by either typing in a new pixel count that's lower than the current count, or by using a percentage (from 0.01% to 512%).  If you check the "Constrain Proportions" box, the image will retain its current dimensions, no matter how small you make it.  Once you've found a pixel count or percentage you like, click Apply to see how it will affect the image quality as well as the file size.

At the bottom of the screen, under the view of the right-hand image, you'll see how much disk space your file will take up using the current compression settings.  You can play around with the numbers to see how they affect file size, as well as estimated download speeds which are also displayed below the file size.

Once you've found the compression level that you're satisfied with, click OK at the top of the screen to save the file.  Keep in mind that this image will be saved with the new compression settings, so it's a good idea to keep a copy of the original image in case you need a less-compressed version of it later.

(Originally published on, January 2011)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How to find your IP address in Mac OS X

On a computer running the Mac OS X operating system, you can quickly and easily find your IP address:

- Click on the Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen
- Click on System Preferences on the drop-down menu
- Select Network in the System Preferences window

Your computer's IP address will be displayed in the Network window.  (In some older versions of Mac OS X, the exact wording may vary.)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Free Android apps for network technicians

For network technicians, whether you are working on a small home network or a large business network, it can be handy to have access to certain information right from your smart phone, as well as the ability to perform tasks from your phone.  The free Android apps below can all be worthwhile for a network technician to have.

- Wifi Analyzer

This little app can be helpful for improving network performance due to wireless interference issues.  The app will analyze the Wi-Fi channels around you and display graphically the amount of traffic and noise on each channel.  You can then determine the best channel to use to get the least amount of interference.  Wifi Analyzer works with Android version 2.3 or higher, and it has a user rating of 4.4 out of 5.

- Router Passwords

When working with many different customers (especially residential customers) you'll probably see all different brands and models of routers.  With this app, you can have a good database of default usernames and passwords for just about any router.  If the customer forgot their password or can't find their documentation, just look up the router model and find its default credentials.  This app takes up 4.5 MB of space on your phone, and it is compatible with devices running Android version 2.1 or newer.

- Linksys Connect

With Linksys Connect, you can easily manage a customer's Linksys E-Series, X-Series, or Valet router right from your smart phone.  You can access and change router configuration, as well as add new devices and even reboot the router remotely.  Linksys Connect will work with Android version 2.2 or higher, and it requires 2.4 MB of free space on your phone.  (There is also an Apple version of this app for the iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch.)

- Network Discovery

For a quick overview of the network you're working with, try Network Discovery.  You can see computers and other connected devices, as well as scan ports and view IP addresses.  This app has a user rating of 4.2 out of 5 and it only takes up 256 KB.  It works with Android version 1.5 or higher, and now includes support for Android 3.0.

- Ping & DNS

With this network app, you'll have the ability to run ping and traceroute from your phone.  You can also do DNS lookups and reverse lookups.  The app can combine ping with GPS tracking for troubleshooting spread-out networks such as college campuses.  The app requires minimal space and it has a user rating of 4.3 out of 5.

(Originally published on, November 2011; updated June 2015)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

How to view the network map in Windows 7

The network map is a handy feature in Windows (Vista and newer versions) that allows you to see a graphical representation of how your local network is laid out.  On domain networks, the network map is disabled by default, but for non-domain networks, you can see computers, routers, switches, and other devices, and see how they are connected to each other.

To view the network map, first click on the Start button (the Windows orb button in the lower left corner of the screen).  In the search bar that comes up, type "sharing" and then in the list of results, click on Network and Sharing Center.

The Network and Sharing Center window will open, showing your current network configuration.  In the upper right corner will be a text link labeled "See full map" -- click on this link.

Now you should see the network map.  (On some computers, this function may be disabled.)  Your computer and any other network devices may be displayed.  By hovering over a device's icon, you can see some information about that device.  For some icons, only the device's name or the type of device that it is will be displayed -- for example, "switch" or "Internet."  For other devices, you may see a lot of information, including IPv4 address, IPv6 address, and MAC address.

Some devices may also be listed along the bottom of the map.  These are devices that are on the network, but Windows isn't sure exactly how they connect to the other devices.  You can hover over those devices as well.  If you are connected to multiple networks, you can toggle between the various network maps by selecting the other networks from the drop down list at the top of the window.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

How to set shortcut keys on a Samsung Intensity cell phone

Like many cell phones, the Samsung Intensity has a set of four directional buttons (up, down, left, right) that can be programmed as shortcut keys to open specific programs from the main display screen.  By default, the keys are set to launch the following programs:

Up:  Mobile Web
Down:  Calendar
Left:  My Verizon

The right directional key brings up the My Shortcuts menu, which has four additional shortcuts programmed on it (which are chosen by pressing a number from 1 to 4): new text message, new picture message, enable or disable Bluetooth, and the Alarm Clock.

Any of these shortcuts can be changed, so you have a total of seven shortcuts you can program on your phone.  You can program just about any menu item or application on your phone as a shortcut, from the Calculator to the Sounds Settings menu to the email client.  Depending on which programs and functions you use most often, customizing your shortcuts can save you a lot of time hunting through the phone's various screens looking for a certain option.

To reprogram any or all of your shortcuts keys, press the Menu button (the center of the directional pad) and go to Settings & Tools (which is typically in the lower right corner).  Choose Phone Settings from the menu, and scroll down to option #2, Set Shortcuts.  From here, you can choose to change a shortcut on the My Shortcuts menu (option #1, Set My Shortcuts) or to change a shortcut for one of the three directional buttons (option #2, Set Directional Keys).  The only thing you can not change is the function of the right directional button, which brings up the My Shortcuts menu.

Once you've chosen one of the two options, click on a shortcut to change it.  A list of possible applications, options, and menu items will appear -- just scroll to the one you want to use and select it.  You can change as many of the shortcuts as you want.

If you ever want to go back to the original configuration, you can reset your shortcuts by pressing the upper right option button in either of the shortcuts menus (it will be labeled Options on the screen).  You can choose to reset just the specific shortcut that is highlighted, or the whole group of shortcuts that you're currently viewing (either My Shortcuts or the three directional keys).  To reset all of your shortcuts, you'd have to go into each of the two shortcut menus and reset that group, then go to the other group and do the same thing.

(Originally published on, August 2010)

Friday, June 5, 2015

How to enable or disable the wireless feature on a Dell Latitude E6420 laptop

On a Dell Latitude E6420, like on many laptops, you can turn the wireless function on or off with the flick of a switch.  If you don't know this switch is there, it can cause headaches as you try to troubleshoot why your wireless connection isn't working.

The switch is located on the right side of the laptop, and it is pictured here.  Pushing the switch toward the rear of the laptop (away from the user) turns the wireless function off, and pushing the switch toward the front of the laptop (toward the user) turns the wireless function on.  You can tell by looking at the switch whether the wireless connection is enabled or disabled by the color; if you see red (or orange) then the wireless has been switched off.

Turning the wireless on or off with this switch is almost instantaneous; there is virtually no lag time when you enable the wireless with the switch, other than the time it takes to connect to whatever wireless network you are set up to connect to.  Turning the switch off immediately disconnects the laptop from any wireless network that it was in communication with.