December 29, 2011

Working Quickly while Taking Care of your Vista Computer

Over the years, I have accumulated a few useful practices in working with my Vista laptop either for me to be able to work faster or to protect my computer from any trouble that could render it unusable. These practices have worked for me well and maybe for you too if you want to try them. Here are some tips for working quickly with and at the same time taking good care of your Vista computer.

Wait Until Hard Disk is Not Busy Before Starting Work

I have frequently noticed that my Vista laptop's hard disk gets busy for a few minutes after starting the computer or after I logon to the Vista operating system. Perhaps the anti-virus program or maybe the indexing program is working or whatever it is that Windows wanted to take care of before I start using iit. I usually let the hard disk do its work first before starting to work on my Vista laptop. This is to make sure that my hard disk does not unnecessarily work too hard to its own detriment. Too much workload may unwittingly cause damage to the disks that are spinning inside so I stop from doing anything for a little while and wait until the hard disk busy light turns off. This will hopefully extend the useful life of my hard disk.

Open Frequently Used Files Automatically at Boot Up

Don't you get bored with doing the same thing over and over again after you have logged on to your Vista computer? Perhaps you have a spreadsheet that contains important data and that needs to always be open so that you can refer to it every now and then. You can make this file open automatically whenever you turn on your Vista computer by making a shortcut pointing to them on the Startup folder of your laptop.

Open your Windows Explorer and look for the file that you use as reference while you're working on your laptop, right click the file and click on Copy. Close your Windows Explorer window and search for Startup on the search space immediately above the Vista button when you click it. Click on Search Everywhere so Windows could find the file that you're looking for. Look for C:\Users\Your Logon Name\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu and double click it. Right click anywhere on the right panel of the Windows Explorer window and click on Paste Shortcut. Close your Windows Explorer window. Now, every time that you logon to your Vista computer, the file will automatically open so you save on time and you avoid getting bored with doing the same activity again and again.

Have a Notepad Copy of User Names and Passwords for Favorite Sites

If you regularly visit a number of websites and you're not using Facebook or Google to logon to those sites, you have to memorize the user names and passwords that you're using to logon to those sites. You might not want either for your browser to memorize those user names and passwords because it would not be safe if someone else is using your laptop. What you can do is to type these user names and passwords in your Notepad and save the file to an external media like a USB pen drive or SD card. Now whenever you want to visit those sites, just open the Notepad file and copy and paste the user name and password whenever you visit those websites. By doing this, you save a lot of time and your passwords are relatively safe because they are not saved on your hard disk. Now if someone else will be using your laptop, don't forget to remove the removable disk from the laptop.

Use the Title of the Document as File Name

You might be creating a lot of files in your computer and maybe you're having a hard time looking for a particular file because you have forgotten the file name that you have used in saving the file. It will be a good practice for you to use the title of the document when saving the file to your hard disk. When you're ready to save the file, just copy the title and paste it on the Save As window of your Vista laptop. Now, when you look at your file list in your Windows Explorer, you will be more sure of what each of the document shown there contains because you can deduce it from the file names listed. Thus, you may save some time in looking for the right document.

Put Frequently Used File on Top of the List

When looking for files in your Windows Explorer window, you may want one particular file to be shown on top of the list so you don't have to scroll down to find it. This may be a file that you refer to frequently so you want to easily find it when you need it. In your Windows Explorer, look for the file and right click its file name. Click on Rename and put a special character like a # or an @ in front of the file name. Now, whenever you open that folder in Windows Explorer, that particular file will always be on top of the file list.

Remove Deleted Files from Recycle Bin At Once

When you delete files from your Vista computer, make sure that you remove it from the Recycle Bin at once. This is to make sure that the space the file is using becomes available for the next file that is to be saved. This is one way of ensuring that your hard disk does not become too fragmented. When you delete a file, it is not really deleted but only moved to the Recycle Bin folder. It remains there until you empty your Recycle Bin. Hence, disk space is wasted for a file that you no longer needs. So make it a habit to remove a deleted file from the Recycle Bin immediately after it is deleted.

Read an article on how to ensure that you can easily restore your Gateway Vista laptop after a hard disk crash at: http://laptopwriting.blogspot.com/2011/03/ensure-that-you-can-easily-restore-your.html

Read my other article on troubleshooting Vista connection problems in a wireless home environment at: http://publishtoweb.blogspot.com/2012/01/troubleshooting-vista-connection.html.



December 27, 2011

Simple IP Addressing Scheme for Using DHCP on your Home Wireless Network

Most small routers being sold today for wireless home networking use a set of 254 Internet Protocol (IP) addresses in the 192.168 number series for assigning network numbers to home computers that wish to access the Internet. If you are using one of these routers and had not setup some sort of security for your router, then you may be unwittingly letting your Internet connection open to a good number of devices that may connect to your network. When there are too many users connecting to your network for accessing the Internet, then you may suffer from slow network connection and it may cause your network speed to grind to a halt.

There is a way for limiting the number of devices that can connect to your network by customizing a set of private IP address numbers and letting the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server in your router allocate these numbers to the computer devices in your home network. Using a customized IP addressing scheme can make your network less attractive to would-be hackers who may have the additional work of determining what IP addresses you are using on your network.

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) has reserved blocks of IP addresses that can be used for private networks that are using IP for computer to computer communications. These addresses are considered non-routable and are filtered out by routers transmitting packets in the Internet. One of these blocks of numbers is the range 10.0.0.0 to 10.255.255.255 which had been designed for big companies that use a lot of computers in their networks. But by using an appropriate subnet mask, it is possible to carve out a very small subset of this large address block and use it for assigning numbers to home networks.

To come up with a customized IP address scheme, you first need to determine the maximum number of computers and gadgets that may be connected to your network at any one time. Then look for a table of IP address numbers for the 10.0.0.0 IP address series from the Internet and find out which subnet mask to use that is appropriate for the number of users you have in mind. Then input the numbers on the DHCP settings in your wireless router configuration page. The information that you need to input are the router's IP address, its subnet mask, and the first and last number that the DHCP server is to distribute to the computers in the network.

The subnet mask is a series of four numbers similar to IP address that functions as a means of dividing a large network into smaller ones. By combining the IP address of a machine with its subnet mask, routers are able to find out to which network a computer belongs. Once the router knows the network number, it looks at its routing table to find out to which router the packet is to be transmitted next.

By using a correct subnet mask with an IP address, we can identify to which network number the computer belongs, the valid IP addresses that may be used in that network, and the broadcast address for that network. Looking up an IP address table can give us the starting valid IP address number and the last IP address number. The first address in the valid address range will be considered as the network address and the last one in the range will be treated as the broadcast address.

Say I have decided that there should be no more than six computers accessing my network at any one time. So I refer to the IP address table available in the Internet and finds out that I need to use the 255.255.255.248 subnet mask. I can use any number between 0 and 255 for the remaining next two numbers after 10 and then look up the table for a network number which is the first in the range of valid numbers for the subnet. So I can come up with a new network address number say, 10.29.35.16. The valid network numbers for this subnet is the range from 10.29.35.17 up to 10.29.35.22. My network's broadcast address will be 10.29.35.23. I can now use the number 10.29.35.17 as my router's IP address with the subnet mask 255.255.255.248. I can then tell my router's DHCP server to distribute the rest of the numbers starting from 10.29.35.18 up to 10.29.35.22 to the remaining five computers in my network.

You may on the other hand feel that you need at least 14 computers connected to your network simultaneously. As per the IP address table, you need to use the subnet mask 255.255.255.240. The table also gives us a number of possible address ranges that we can use. Say you have chosen to use the address range that starts from 48. So you can come up with a new network number say, 10.22.33.48. Your valid address range will be from 10.22.33.49 to 10.22.33.62 and your broadcast address will be 10.22.33.63. So in this case, your router's IP address will be 10.22.33.49 and its subnet mask will be 255.255.255.240. You can then give the address range 10.22.33.50 to 10.22.33.62 to your router's DHCP server for distribution to the computers in your network.

When you change your router's IP address, you will lose connection to your network so you will need to restart your laptop if you want to connect to your network again. But if you have setup your laptop with a static IP address, then you have to manually input a valid IP address to your laptop before you can use it in your network. In addition, you will no longer be able to access your router using the old IP address that you have been using before. You will have to use the new one that you have given to your router.

Changing the settings in your router can be tricky so before making any changes, be sure to save your router's configuration settings in your laptop. if you mess up the settings, you can always restore the router to its factory settings through a switch at the back of the router. Then access your router as you have been doing before and upload the settings that you have saved in your computer.

Read my other article on how to maintain connectivity with your wireless router when changing its IP address at: http://publishtoweb.blogspot.com/2012/01/how-to-maintain-connectivity-with-your.html.



December 23, 2011

Internet Protocol Addressing for Setting Up DHCP on your DLink DIR-300 Wireless Router

Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) is an Internet standard that defines a method by which computers in a network are automatically given Internet Protocol (IP) addresses for them to effectively  participate in network activities. For you to be able to safely use DHCP, you need to understand a little bit of IP addressing.

If you're using a wireless network in your home, you are probably using a default IP address that allows a lot of computers to be included in your network. For example, if you're using a DLink DIR-300 wireless router, your router address is 192.168.0.1. This means that your network address is 192.168.0.0 and your broadcast address is 192.168.0.255. A total of 254 computers can theoretically join your network so in this sense, it is not so safe.

The network 192.168.0.0 belongs in a set of network addresses that are not routable in the Internet. These networks have been set aside for use in private networks. The total number of IP addresses included in this allocation is called the private address space. There are many addresses that can be used depending on the number of computers that needs to connect to your network.

The subnet mask is a nifty little trick that is used to divide a big network into smaller ones. If for example, I use the IP address 192.168.0.1 and use the subnet mask 255.255.255.0, then my network address is 192.168.0.0 and my broadcast address is 192.168.0.255. In between these two address numbers are the numbers 1 to 254 which we can use to distribute to the computers that are inside our network. Routers are not really concerned about the address of each computer in the network. All they want to know is the network address. By using the subnet mask, the router is able to determine what the address of a network is.

We can divide our big network consisting of more than 200 computers into two subnetworks by using the 255.255.255.128 subnet mask. Here we have two networks, one ranging from 192.168.0.0 up to 192.168.0.127 and the other ranging in addresses from 192.168.0.128 to 192.168.0.255. The lowest address in the network is considered the network address and it cannot be used to assign to any device inside the network. The broadcast address is the highest address in the network and it also cannot be assigned to any computer. Thus we are left with 126 addresses that we can use in each subnet.

One way of making your network relatively safe is to limit the number of computers that can access your network. You don't need more than 200 addresses if you are doing wireless home networking in your house. There is a subnet mask that you can use that would allow you to limit the number of addresses that can be assigned inside your network.

Suppose that you think long and hard and came up with the idea that there can be no more than 30 computers connected to my home network at any one time. You hit exactly the right number because you can use the subnet mask 255.255.255.224 to divide the large 256 member network into eight little subnets. Each of these subnets can then include a total of 30 computers. You can then choose one of these eight network address space as the valid IP address range for your home network.

One address space that you can use is from 192.168.0.0 up to 192.168.0.31. Your network address in this case is 192.168.0.0 and your broadcast address is 192.168.0.31. You can then use the address range 192.168.0.1 up to 192.168.0.30 as addresses for the computers in your network. You still can use the IP address 192.168.0.1 for your wireless router and assign the remaining 29 addresses to the computers in your home network.

Say I have chosen to use the IP address space 192.168.0.160 to 192.168.0.191 for my wireless network at home. Here, I will assign the IP address 192.168.0.161 to my wireless router and leave the remaining numbers except the last one to the DHCP server of my router for assignment to the rest of computers in my network. Now I have 29 more addresses that can be used in my network. So if I hold a party with friends and relatives, a total of 29 laptops, tablets or smart phones can be hooked up to my network.

You can try this on your DLink DIR-300 wireless router if you're using one. I must remind you that this can be tricky so you must know before you do this how to reset your router physically to its factory setting. Typically, there is a button at the back of your router that would enable you to reset the router to its factory setting if you messed up your router configuration. If you reset your router, you will have to redo all the configuration settings that you have made before.

To avoid having to perform your router configuration once again, save your settings first before you make any changes on your router. Open the DIR-300 router configuration page on your browser and click on Maintenance at the top portion of the window. Click on Save and Restore on the top left hand side of the page. Click on the button Save and save the config.bin file on your laptop. Then if something goes wrong, reset your router to factory settings, access it using the default IP address of 192.168.0.1 and then go back to the Save and Restore page of your router's configuration settings, click on the Browse button and select the config.bin file on your hard disk, and then click on Upload Settings.

I must also remind you that if the network address of the laptop that you're using had been set manually, you need also to assign to it a new address that is within the range of the valid addresses for your subnetwork. You can no longer access your wireless router once you have changed its setting if you're still using your old manually configured IP address. If, on the other hand, you're using DHCP in your network, you have to reboot your laptop for you to be able to connect to your network again. If done correctly, the DHCP server in your router is going to assign a new IP address to your computer.

To use the new address space in your DLink DIR-300 wireless router, open your router configuration page on your Internet browser. Click on Setup near the top of the window and then click on LAN Setup on the left hand side. Enter 192.168.0.161 on the blank opposite Router IP Address and type 255.255.255.224 opposite the Default Subnet Mask. On the DHCP Server Settings, check the Enable DHCP Server and on the two blanks opposite DHCP IP Address Range, type 162 on the first blank and 190 on the next blank space. Double check that you have entered the correct numbers and then click on the Save Settings button at the top or bottom of the window.

Let the router make configuration changes for a couple of minutes. After a few minutes, restart your laptop and open an MS-DOS prompt. Type ipconfig /all and press the enter key. Verify that the IP address of the wireless adapter in your laptop has a new IP address that belongs in the range 192.168.0.162 and 192.168.0.190. Test if you can access the Internet by browsing for websites. If you have done it correctly, computers that are using the 255.255.255.0 subnet mask settings will not be able to access your network. Outsiders will have one more hurdle to pass and that is to guess correctly the network address and the correct subnet mask for your network.

From now on, if you want to check up the status or configure other settings in your DLink DIR-300 wireless router, you will have to use its new IP address: http://192.168.0.161.

Read my other article on how to setup DHCP in your DLink DIR-300 wireless router at: http://publishtoweb.blogspot.com/2012/01/how-to-setup-dhcp-in-your-dlink-dir-300.html.

Read my other article on surfing the Internet faster by using OpenDNS on your DLink DIR-300 wireless at: http://publishtoweb.blogspot.com/2011/12/surf-internet-faster-by-using-opendns.html

Read my other article on using DHCP to minimize unauthorized connections to your DLink DIR-300 wireless router at: http://publishtoweb.blogspot.com/2012/01/use-dhcp-reservation-to-minimize.html.



December 7, 2011

Surf the Internet Faster by Using OpenDNS on your DLink DIR-300 Wireless

You may not be aware of it but you can use free public DNS on your DLink DIR-300 wireless router. It's very simple to do this and you only have to enter one set of Internet Protocol (IP) address on the Internet setup page of your DLink DIR-300 wireless router. To remove the settings, you just have to delete those two IP addresses and save your settings.

Symptoms of the Problem

If your problem is slow speed, meaning there are just too many users for your limited bandwidth, this approach will not have any appreciable effect on your surfing. The solution in such a case is to rewire your connection to a larger bandwidth.

This workaround will only work if you're experiencing long times during DNS look-ups, that is, when you notice that your browser is getting stuck on the status of looking for the web page that you want to display on your browser. Your browser will provide you with messages on what is happening while you're surfing so try to read those messages. If you frequently experience getting stuck with such an error message in your browser, then this solution could be of help. Another error that you may observe is the timeout error when your browser basically gives up looking for the web page that you want displayed on your browser.

Every time that a web page is needed to be fetched from its server, a DNS look-up is performed. If your Internet service provided has too many clients that are simultaneously online, the DNS server in your network can be overwhelmed by too much demand. Thus, some requests might be dropped and if your service is on the lower bandwidth option, your packets will be the most frequently hit by this dropping action.

Your browser needs to know the IP address if the server where the web page that you're interested in is stored. Your DNS server is responsible for getting this information from the Internet. By default, your DLink DIR-300 wireless is setup to automatically get these information from your Internet service provider. However, you can choose to override this setting by changing the configuration or your wireless router.

Solution to the Problem

There are two ways by which this problem could be solved. You can either change the DNS server settings on your computer or the DNS settings on your wireless router. If you want, you can try first changing the DNS settings of your laptop's wireless adapter and see if there is any appreciable change in your surfing speed. You can use the Google DNS service by using the IP address 8.8.8.8 as your primary server and 8.8.4.4 as your secondary server. In your Vista laptop, look for the Manage network connection in the Network and Sharing Center of the Control Panel. Go to the Properties page of your wireless network adapter and change its Internet Protocol Version 4 settings. Instead of letting your computer use the automatic DNS settings, change the DNS IP addresses manually to the address I have given earlier. Don't forget to save your settings.

Google and OpenDNS are two of the free public DNS that are offered to be used in the Internet. Experts have generally observed some DNS performance problems on some networks particularly those at the end where Internet service providers operate. Free public DNS service is offered to alleviate this problem. This has the effect of decreasing substantially the work of the DNS server of small Internet service providers. It's one way of improving the traffic situation in the Internet.

If you find that it is working well on your laptop and there is significant change in your browsing speed, then it's time to adopt the solution to your home network. First, remove the manual DNS settings that you have made on your laptop if you have tried to test first how free public DNS works. You would be using the OpenDNS service on your wireless router so there would be no need to use another different free public DNS on your computer.

Type the local IP address of your DLink DIR-300 wireless router on the address bar of your Internet browser and enter your user name and password. On the middle portion of the page at the lower part, click on the Manual Internet Connection Setup button. Look at this page carefully and notice the two blank spaces in the middle bottom portion of the page. Type 208.67.222.222 on the space opposite Primary DNS address. Type 208.67.220.220 on the blank space opposite Secondary DNS Address. Click on the Save Settings button and wait for the page to come back again. Click on Status at top right-hand portion of the router configuration page. Click on the DHCP Renew button near the center of the window. Wait for the correct IP address numbers to show up. Click on the Logout button on the upper left hand side of the configuration page.

Go to your laptop and check if there has been a significant change on the speed of your browsing. Type a web address that you know of and that you have not used recently. Try to access the Internet on your smart phone or other gadget connected to your DLink DIR-300 wireless router. If you find that your browsing speed is still the same, your problem could be insufficient bandwidth, that is, your connection is too limited to satisfy the demands of the users on your network. Repeat the setup process that you have performed on your wireless router and erase the IP addresses on the primary and secondary DNS portions of the configuration page. Save your settings and log out of the settings page. However, if you found that your surfing speed has improved, then you don't have to do anything. Just leave the settings unchanged.

Maintain the new settings for a few days. If you experience delays in your DNS look-ups (long looking up message and can't find server message), OpenDNS may be experiencing congestion problems. Use the Google primary and secondary DNS addresses instead.

Read my other article on Internet Protocol addressing for setting up DHCP on your DLink DIR-300 wireless router at; http://publishtoweb.blogspot.com/2011/12/internet-protocol-addressing-for.html.

Read my other article on how you can access your DLink DIR-300 wireless router from the Internet at: http://publishtoweb.blogspot.com/2010/01/how-you-can-access-your-dlink-dir-300.html.

Read an article on how to use Google DNS service to speed up Internet on your Vista laptop at: http://sites.google.com/site/ournewapproach/use-the-google-dns-service-to-speed-up-internet-on-your-vista-laptop.




December 5, 2011

Keep your Hard Disk Clean and Lean to Extend the Service Life of your Vista Computer

The hard disk of your Vista computer is a major component that would render your Vista computer useless if it breaks down. Taking good care of your hard disk can extend its useful life and hence prolong the useful life of your Vista computer. There are a few steps that you can take to make sure that your computer's hard disk is protected against situations that can lead to early breakdown.

If you own a laptop, make sure that it is not exposed to high temperature surroundings when in operation. Keep your laptop well ventilated whenever it is in use. Avoid using your laptop in situations where there is extreme vibration that can harm the operation of your hard disk. Don't use your laptop while riding a vehicle that is traversing a bumpy road.

When using your Vista computer, a few programs may automatically run after start-up like your anti-virus or Windows malware protection, If you see that your hard disk is busy, don't run any programs yet and wait until the hard disk busy light turns off. This is to make sure that your hard disk does not experience unnecessary heavy load immediately after start-up.

To minimize the work that your hard disk will be doing, ensure that you have a large enough random access memory on your Vista computer. This will minimize the number of times, your computer will have to access your hard disk for the data  that your computer's processor needs. Thus, the time that your hard disk will be working is greatly decreased.

However, one thing that can immensely help prolong the service life of your hard disk is keeping its contents to the minimum that you can possibly can. This means that you avoid dumping a lot of unnecessary and unneeded files on your hard disk. When you only have a small number of files, your anti-virus and malware protection programs will only have a small set of files to scan and this immensely reduce the time that your hard disk is working.

By default, the indexing service on your Vista computer is turned on. This means that a program runs in the background while your computer is on, indexing all the files that are stored on your hard disk. The more files that your hard disk contains, the longer the time that your hard disk would be spinning while the indexing programs read data on your files.

If you have time to do so, check the utilization of your hard disk space and if the free space is less than 50 percent, it is more likely that you have accumulated a lot of unnecessary files on your hard disk. Take a good look of what files are stored and delete all files that are obsolete and no longer needed. Of those that remains, check for files that you don't immediately need and move them to a backup media such as USB drives or SD cards. Files that you want to preserve for posterity should be copied to DVD disks and deleted from your hard disk. You should aim for a minimum of 50 per cent reduction in the current space utilization of your hard disk.

Video files and sound files such as music files are notorious users of hard disk space. If you own gadgets or tablets that can play these files, you can move some of them to those devices that use solid state technology for data storage. If the files are protected, you can use the synchronizing programs of your device to copy those files to your other gadgets.

More and more small screen devices are being used to read digital books and magazines that can be downloaded from the Internet. If you have a lot of ebooks in your Vista computer, you might want to transfer some of them to your other devices. This could significantly reduce the storage space that your computer's hard disk is using.

Computer programs are also big users of hard disk space. You can check your control panel for programs that you have never used and do not plan on using in the immediate future. Use your control panel tool to uninstall these unneeded programs from your Vista computer. Your Internet browser is also accumulating a large number of files as you surf the Internet. You should regularly delete these files so that they don't continue to accumulate.

Lastly, don't forget to perform disk clean up of your Vista computer every now and then. A lot of files are created and stored as you use your computer without you knowing them. Some of these are used by the operating system while others are used by your applications. The disk clean up program erases these files from your hard disk.

The less data you have on your hard disk, the less work your hard disk would have to perform to support your data processing needs. A lot of files that you do not really need tends to get accumulated in your hard disk. These files make the work of your hard disk harder. They will stay there until you remove them. Keep your Vista computer's hard disk clean and lean to give your hard disk a long and useful life.

Read an article on how you can  recover seamlessly from your laptop's hard disk crash at: http://laptopwriting.blogspot.com/2011/03/how-you-can-recover-seamlessly-from.html

Read an article on how to ensure that you can easily restore your Gateway Vista laptop after a hard disk crash at: http://laptopwriting.blogspot.com/2011/03/ensure-that-you-can-easily-restore-your.html.