Useful software and tips
The network icon we've had since Windows 7 is useless because all it does is tell if you're connected to the internet or not, which you probably figured out because you've been searching Google for 55 Chevy alternator brackets. But man, Windows XP had a network icon that did something. Like what? Oh, it blinked in time with your network traffic, and you could right click on it and see how much tractor-parts-related (or whatever) data you've used.
Fear not, we can fix this, and for free.
The awkwardly named GabNetStats not only gives us back our blinking network icon, but it also graphs our data usage. In color.
Here's the link: http://www.gabsoftware.com/products/applications/gabnetstats/
Under the hood
Don't remember how much RAM your computer has? Or your BIOS version or what video card you have?
No worries, if you don't remember (or even if you've never known,) Speccy can tell you.
From the same folks that brought you Tech Talk favorite CCleaner, comes Speccy. Speccy scans your computer and gives you all of your computer's specifications – models numbers, processor info, RAM, BIOS version, serial numbers, temperatures, hard health - the whole shootin' match.
Here's the link: http://www.ccleaner.com/speccy (Get the FREE version.)
Who's on my network?
If you need (or want) to know the IP address of every device on your network along with the type of hardware at that IP address, Wireless Network Watcher is for you. It works on wired networks too, so maybe they should rename it?
Whatever they're calling it, it's free and here's the link: nirsoft.net/utils/wireless_network_watcher.html
Faster DNS servers
Because we all know the internet runs on numbers, not on words, the whole thing needs Domain Name Servers (DNS) to work. DNS servers are the computers that take care of translating what you type into your browser (Amazon.com) to the IP address of the server you're trying to get to (184.108.40.206.)
Most of the time your internet provider (AT&T, Spectrum, Race, or someone else) provides your computer with a DNS server. Of course, any company providing DNS services also knows a lot which sites you visit on the internet and even how long you spend on a site. Naturally, they can (and do) package and sell this data.
A couple of new DNS service providers promise not only not to collect your data but may even prevent you from visiting malicious websites.
Quad9 is nonprofit founded by IBM Security, Packet Clearing House (PCH), and The Global Cyber Alliance. Quad9's DNS service will detect and automatically block access to known malicious websites. And they promise not to collect, store, or sell any information about your browsing habits. Their free DNS servers are at 220.127.116.11
The other new guys are Cloudflare DNS. Cloudflare also promises not to log your IP address or your traffic. They don't seem to offer the malicious address blocking of the Quad9 folks, but they are fast and private. Cloudflare's free DNS servers are at 18.104.22.168 If you click the link below, Cloudflare has excellent instructions on how to change your DNS settings for many operating systems.
• If you download what's supposed to be a .PDF file and see that the file extension is .EXE instead of .PDF, delete it immediately. It's a virus. And cross whoever sent it to you off your Christmas card list.
• If you can't see file extensions - Open a new File Explorer window by holding down the Windows key on your keyboard and pressing E, now select the View tab - Check the box labeled File name extensions.
• The next time you close a Microsoft Word file, or any Microsoft Office file, without saving it first and if you don't have Autosave turned on, search for '*.ASD' in File Explorer in This PC and it'll be there.
• When copying text from the internet, press CTRL + Shift + V to paste it into your document without the original formatting.
The struggle is real
If you eat standing up at the sink in the kitchen, your room is always clean, you call friends and family on the phone, and you go to sleep at 9 o'clock; it probably means your internet is down.
Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org.