Helping computers with people problems since 1996
Compute This Online
Dear Sean McCarthy,                                                             09/24/2009

Welcome to the fifth edition of this newsletter - it's a companion edition to my popular Compute This... newspaper column in the Home Town News and I truly hope that you find it helpful.

Seminar update: 2 weeks ago I announced that I was thinking of resurrecting
my old computer seminars. As of today (9/24/09) I have only Deter, Detect, Defendhad 6 people respond in favor of the idea so that probably won't happen in October as I had planned.

However, on October 3rd. from about 10:00 am to about 2:00 pm I invite you to join me at the Indian Sheriff's Dept. sub station in Vero Beach at the Outlet Mall on 60 just west of 95 for our second Protect Your Identity Day!

I was invited by D/S Roberta Hall of the Crime Prevention Unit to deliver a presentation on identity theft. We did this in March and it was a great success. We had a lot of fun!

Join us and learn how you can "Deter, Detect, and Defend" against identity theft.

This weeks newsletter was put together from reader comments and suggestions; I rely on reader comments to figure out what to include in each newsletter.

This week I had reader requests that I touch upon "resizing images" (for you Steve!), on "how to know if that free antivirus or spyware software is legit," "how to get into safe mode" and Marianne asked me to include a list of "common computer terms."

Go ahead! Keep the comments and suggestions coming - I couldn't do this with out you!

And as always I hope you enjoy this weeks newsletter.


Sean McCarthy
In This Issue
Is that "free antivirus" offer really safe?...
Safe mode?
10 Computer Terms...
Featured Article - Re-size those pictures before sending!...
Is that "free antivirus" offer really safe?
Is it safe?

That is a question that everyone needs to ask before downloading a piece of free anti-spy software that promises the world.

However, how does someone find out if something is safe before installing some piece of garbage onto her machine?

You could go by a friend's recommendation, "well so and so is running it and they aren't having any problems so it must be safe." But maybe your friend's machine is a wreck and he doesn't know it yet.

Some people install software assuming it's safe just based on what that software promises to do. It's an anti-spyware program, so it must be safe, right?

Just because the software you are about to install promises to keep you safe doesn't mean it doesn't come with its own bit of nastiness.
Determining if a piece of software is safe, based on what the download page promises, is one way many people are duped into installing harmful stuff onto their machines.

In fact, one of the most sinister ways spyware authors trick people into loading their junk is by throwing a pop up window onto the screen warning users that their "machine is already infected."

People fall for that all the time, only to find their machines infected by something that they thought was going to help.

Continue reading >>>>
Safe mode?
Safe Mode

Computers, just by the very their very complex nature, are prone to failure.

Ask anyone who has used a personal computer for any length of time, and you will hear stories of system lockups, general protection faults, missing .dll, blue screen errors and even more cryptic messages. Most of the error messages that pop up are so technical in their wording that even seasoned professionals have no idea what they mean. (Computer failure is also the No. 1 reason why it's so very important to backup your system; problems occur all the time, and without your data backed up, you risk losing everything.)

Usually, a simple reboot will cure system lockups and errors, but Windows also has built into it a tool called "safe mode," which is specifically for troubleshooting and correcting reoccurring problems. Perhaps you've seen it before; Windows will sometimes boot up (load) into safe mode after a power failure or an improper shutdown to give you the opportunity to correct whatever problem is going on. You can tell the system is in safe mode because the resolution and color depth is reduced (the icons all look bigger and the colors are all fuzzy) and the words "safe mode" appear in all four corners.

But what is it for? What's the difference between booting a machine in safe mode versus a normal startup, and how does one get into safe mode deliberately?

Booting your computer in safe mode allows Windows to load with only the essential items necessary for the system to run. All of the "extra" stuff that loads on startup is ignored, and just the core operating system loads. It does this because nine out of 10 times, system problems are not caused by the operating system itself but by items or programs that load after Windows. By bringing the system up with minimal overhead, it makes troubleshooting a finicky system all the more easier. In fact, often all that is necessary to correct many problems is to bring the system up in safe mode and then do a normal shutdown to let Windows clean itself up and then boot normally.

When you click the Windows (Start) button, then Shutdown, Windows goes through a bunch of "housekeeping" chores that clean up its working environment, so the next time it boots up there is not a bunch of stuff left over from its last session. Temporary files (Windows' notes to itself), open files and running processes all get closed during a normal system shutdown, meaning when the system comes back up, it's not all cluttered with "yesterday's stuff." That's why the system usually pauses a minute or two after you click "Shutdown" and before it actually shuts down. It's also the reason your system may boot up into safe mode if you just hit the power button instead of doing a proper shutdown - the system didn't have a chance to clean up after the last session, so it may come up into safe mode to clean up.

But cleaning up an improper shutdown is not all safe mode is for...

Continue reading >>>>
10 computer terms that everyone should know
10 Computer Terms
  1. Byte: the standard size of data in a computer; 8-bits
  2. BIOS: System that loads on boot up to prepare the machine so other software can load, execute, and control the PC
  3. GB (gigabyte): unit of information or computer storage equal to one billion bytes
  4. OS (operating system): interface between the application (word processor, spreadsheet, etc.) and the computer hardware
  5. Firewall: Hardware or a set of security policies to screen incoming and outgoing messages
  6. FTP (file transfer protocol): System used to transfer a copy of a file from one computer to another computer with one acting as client and the other as server
  7. CPU (Central Processing Unit): the brain of the computer system where calculations and decisions are made; also referred to as the processor
  8. Wireless router: device that connects to your broadband internet service and creates a "cloud of internet" that can be connected to wirelessly.
  9. Link: Words, pictures or buttons on a web page that, when clicked, open another page
  10. TCP/IP: Communications protocols used for the Internet and other similar networks. It is named from two of the most important protocols in it: the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP)
Thank you for reading. I hate spam as much as anyone so please, if you don't want to receive my newsletters, use the "SafeUnsubscribe" link at the bottom of this email and you will be removed from my list.

I also appreciate your feedback. Feel free to respond to this message with any comments you may have and I promise to reply to you as soon as possible.

An lastly, if you find my information helpful and you overhear someone complaining about their computer, please mention my name or forward this newsletter to them by clicking here. Most of my business is referred to me by word of mouth so without you I would not be in business. Thank you for your support.
Sean McCarthy
"The Mouse Whisperer"
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Featured Article
Resize those photos!
Re-size those pictures before sending!

If you've ever received photos through e-mail, you may have run into this weird phenomenon where the picture is so incredibly big all you see is the top left hand corner of the picture and to see the rest you have to scroll left and then down.

That's great if you want to look at a close up of someone's nose (just scroll around till you find it), but how do you "zoom out" so you can see the whole picture?

In order to do that, you have to take steps to save the picture then re-open it with another program.

Today I thought I would cover why this happens and how to cope with it.

When you open an e-mail and the picture is so big, it's important to keep in mind that it's not your fault. You aren't doing anything wrong at all. Your e-mail program is working properly it's just a matter of "what you see is what you get."

So what does that mean exactly? Well, quite simply that means whoever sent you the picture didn't take the steps (or didn't know how to take the steps) to "optimize the picture for e-mail."

In English that means that whoever sent the e-mail didn't take the time to shrink the picture first before sending it. They likely just attached the picture as is to the e-mail and sent it off.

So what do you do when you open an e-mail and the photo is so big you have to scroll from side to side and up and down to see it all? Wouldn't it be nice if your e-mail program automatically resized the picture for you? Well, it would be nice, but unfortunately, it doesn't.

What you have to do is save the picture to a folder on your hard drive and then open it with some type of picture viewer to see it in its entirety.

To do that (again, we're using Outlook Express in this example, other e-mail clients like Windows Mail have similar functions), click on the little paper clip that represents the picture that's attached to the e-mail and click "save as." That opens a standard "save as dialogue box" where you select the folder you want to save in and either change the name of the file or at least make a note of what it's called...

Continue reading >>>>
Compute This... 

The Home Town News

I prefer Windows XP

or Vista if that's what you got...

Or, for the brave, how about Windows 7?

and AVG Free for your antivirus

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$52 Fall Tune Up Special!
Fall Tune Up Special!

Don't throw that old computer away, for just $52, I can connect to your computer, check it out, tune it up and get the machine running as fast (or faster!) than when it was new!*

To get started, first go to
and then call:
888-752-9049  or  772-408-0680

*if I can't fix it I will at least be able to tell you what is wrong with it and recommend corrective actions.
Offer Expires: 10/07/09