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Those pop-up balloons usually become a nuisance while browsing the internet on certain sites. When you accidentally hover over a green double-underlined word with your cursor, a pop-up balloon, usually displaying an ad, is displayed. You can prevent most of these pop-up balloons from appearing by adding the following websites to your browser’s block list.

  • intellitxt.com
  • vibrantmedia.com
  • kontera.com

When you visit a page that contains content from the above sites, the tagged words will no longer be green and double-underlined, preventing the pop-up balloons from appearing.

If you have a Compaq Presario with that huge bright green power light, it probably drives you crazy. Here are some tips for customizing the power light and making it less distracting.

Make a Diffuser Using Scotch Tape
When the power LED shines though the plastic lens, it may not distribute the light evenly, or a beam of light may hit you in the eye at a certain angle. To fix this insert a diffuser made of Scotch tape in between the LED and lens. (See picture 1)

  1. Remove the computer cover and the front panel.
  2. Using Scotch tape with a matte finish, pull out about 3 inches of tape.
  3. Fold the tape in half with both sticky sides together. Make sure there are no creases or air bubbles in the tape.
  4. Remove the last screw in the first row of spare mounting screws and line up one end of the diffuser to that screw hole. Make sure the other end completely covers the power LED and clears the power button.
  5. While holding the diffuser, take a toothpick or a small screwdriver and punch a small hole though the diffuser and screw hole.
  6. Insert the screw though the diffuser and reinstall the screw back on the computer case.

Can’t See HDD Access Light
The hard disk drive access light may be hard to see because the brightness of the power light beams down into the access light lens, drowning out the access light. To fix this, you need to cover the HDD access lens with electrical tape. (See picture 2)

  1. Remove the computer cover and the front panel.
  2. Cover the entire HDD access lens with electrical tape. Do not cover the part where the HDD access LED shines directly into the lens.
  3. Apply some additional tape at the base of the lens.

Changing the Power Light
Replacing the power LED is very easy to do. You may want to replace the factory LED with one of a different color or brightness. The power LED is held in place with a fan connector, making replacement or upgrading easy. (See picture 3)

  1. Remove the computer cover and the front panel.
  2. Remove the retaining clip that holds the power button, power LED and HDD access LED.
  3. Remove the old power LED by straightening the one leg sticking out from the rear of the plug.
  4. Install the new LED

If the LED doesn’t light up when the computer is turned on, remove the LED from the plug, rotate it 180 degrees and reinstall it.

On April 24, 2012, Microsoft updated its free anti-virus software from version 2 to version 4, jumping over 3 in the process. Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE)  has been a good alternative for Norton. It is very fast and uses very little resources. Version 2 has been my favorite so far, and after the update, it still is.

That’s because I am disappointed that Microsoft degraded the look of MSE in version 4. The background image is gone, leaving a rendered gray to blue background in its place, similar to the first version.  The icons in the tabs are now gone, and the status bar at the top is now a solid color bar, with no gradual fading or “glossiness”.

  

Under the history tab, the same options remain. They are, however, moved around a bit.

   

Under the settings tab, the real-time protection section is now left with one setting; turn on real-time protection. The scan all downloads, monitor file and program activity on your computer, and enable behavior monitoring have all been removed. I don’t know if the removed options are integrated into the real-time protection option. The Microsoft SpyNet has been renamed to MAPS.

  

Finally, MSE now refers “computer” to PC. Other then that, MSE 4 works the same as version 2.

Most media players allow you to insert the album art for your digital music collection through its library. If you can’t find the album art on the internet or the album art that you find is of poor quality, the next step is to scan the album art from your CD collection. In the following, I will describe how you can scan your own album art and give you tips on how to make the scan look professional.

(By album art, I mean front cover.)

Requirements:

  • A color scanner capable of scanning at 600dpi or higher
  • A graphics program that is able to crop, resize, features a cloning/stamp tool & has an auto color corrector feature (enhance, auto adjust)

First scan the album art at 600dpi. When scanning is done, save the image as a bitmap (.bmp)

Open the image in a graphics editor with the following features as described in the requirements section above. Using the crop tool, adjust the mask to cut out any edge marks (white area) that may still be present from the scan while keeping the length and width of the mask at the same amount. (2200×2200)

After cropping, resize the image to 500×500 pixels. If your graphics program has a maintain proportions option, make sure it is selected. After typing 500 in the width box, the height box should automatically display 500. If it displays a number other then 500, undo your crop and repeat the previous step.

Using the cloning/stamp tool, touch up dirt spots and scratches for a cleaner image. Refer to your program’s documentation on how to use the cloning/stamp tool.

Use the auto corrector feature (enhance or auto adjust) djust the color of the image for a more vivid look. In most cases, auto adjust should give you satisfactory results. If it doesn’t, you can manually adjust the color.

Save the image as a JPEG (.jpg) with a medium-high compression setting. The size of the saved file should be around 90 – 140 KB.

Insert the image in your library with the associated music.

Activation is a technology used by Microsoft to ensure that you are following the end-user license agreement (EULA). Activation makes sure that the software is installed on the number of computers allowable and minimizes piracy from copying and lending installation CD’s. Here are some questions about activation.

Can I install a Microsoft product that has already been activated?
Yes, but you have to uninstall the software from the original computer and wait at least 90 days from the last activation before activating again. If activation fails, you can try the activate by phone method. (OEM copies are NOT transferable).

Can I activate a Microsoft product on more than one computer?
That depends. You should read the EULA to determine how many computers that product can be installed and activated on. Windows 7 and some Microsoft Office editions offer a 3-user license which entitles you to install the software on up to 3 computers at a time. Some editions of Office allow you to install a second copy on a portable device, as long as you ae the primary user of that device.

What happens if Microsoft detects the same activated product key on two or more computers?
The software may “phone home” at times to make sure that the same product key isn’t actively being used on more than one computer or what the EULA/product key allows. If it does find a violation, the software may ask you to re-activate the software on both systems. At that point, you must decide which computer you wish to activate the software on.

Is Windows Genuine Advantage the same as activation?
No. Windows Genuine Advantage verifies that you are not using a counterfeit copy of Windows, although it can send activation status of Microsoft products verifying that the software isn’t actively being used on more than what the EULA/product key allows.

My Dell Dimension 4600, a really good, stable and fast computer that I got for an incredible price! Before I go on with my story, I want to list its original specs.

  • Intel Pentium 4 processor – 2.66 GHz, 533 FSB, 512 KB cache
  • PC3200 memory – 256 MB total (2 sticks of 128 MB)
  • IDE hard drive – 40 GB, 5400 RPM
  • CD drives – 1 DVD/CD reader, 1 CD-RW
  • Power supply – 250 watts
  • 3 PCI slots
  • 1 AGP 8x
  • 56k modem
  • Integrated peripherals – PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports, printer port, serial port, video port, 5.1 sound card, network interface, and 8 USB 2.0’s (2 in front, 6 in back)

Back around March of 2008, I found the used Dell Dimension at my local Goodwill store. The price… $3.00! Don’t get too excited, a lot of parts were removed from the system. Main parts that were still included with the system were:

  • The two original optical drives
  • The CPU (surprisingly was there, but not in the socket)
  • The motherboard (plastic bracket that held the heat sink on the processor was broken)
  • 56k Modem

The computer was well worth $3 dollars for the two CD drives, assuming that they worked. If the motherboard didn’t work, then I would just throw the whole machine out. So I went ahead and bought the computer.

Back at home, I removed the CD drives from the computer and hooked them up to my IDE-to-USB adapter. Both CD drives worked perfectly without any problems. After I was done with the CD drives, I wanted to see if I could get the entire computer working. If I could, it would be a nice replacement for my aging and not-so-upgradable Dell Optiplex GX100. I didn’t have the available parts that were compatible with the motherboard, but I was able to barrow some parts from school (college).

After getting permission, I was able to barrow some memory, a heat sink, and a power supply. I was also able to keep a heat sink bracket (to replace the broken one) and a Dell-style fan. During installation, I noticed the CPU had a few bent pins, possibly from laying in the case. Carefully, I was able to bend the pins back into place. I removed the old heat sink bracket and installed the new one before installing the heat sink. After making all the connections and installments, I was able to boot the computer to the BIOS. I installed an old hard drive and attempted to install Windows XP on it. After installing Windows and the drivers, the computer seemed to work fine with no problems.

After running the computer for several days, I decided that the motherboard was in good shape. I returned the parts that I barrowed and spent about $50 on memory, a power supply, and a copper heat sink. Since I didn’t get the fan assembly with the shroud, and the motherboard had only one fan connector, I had to buy a fan adapter that tapped into the power supply. I was able to request the recovery CD’s from Dell so that I had a licensed copy of Windows XP on the computer. I was also able to find a spare hard drive that I had lying around.

Success! All that hard work and I got a decent computer working again! All for under $60! For over 3 years, it has been running perfectly. Very fast and powerful. After being used as a secondary computer, I decided to replace my main desktop with the Dimension to help stay up-to-date with newer software. I also decided to upgrade its components…

Current Specs (As of June 2013)

  • Intel Pentium 4 processor with Hyper threading – 3.00 GHz, 800 MHz FSB, 1 MB cache
  • 2 GB of memory – PC3200 400 MHz
  • 160 GB, 7200 RPM, 8 MB cache hard drive – Serial ATA (1.5 GB/s)
  • Both optical drives write to DVD double layer discs, one has Lightscribe
  • NVIDIA GeForce 6200 AGP video card with 256 MB of memory, VGA and DVI out
  • Internal floppy disk drive
  • Creative Sound Blaster Live! 5.1 Value (CT4780) Dell OEM

The other day I was having an issue with the Windows XP AutoRun feature. When inserting a disc that utilizes the autorun.inf file, the drive acted like it was going to launch the program on the disc, but never displayed anything on the screen. Discs without the autorun.inf file worked fine displaying the AutoPlay dialog box. (Note: There is a difference between AutoRun and AutoPlay. Scroll down to the end of this post for more details.)

After using Microsoft’s AutoFix program, verifying registry settings and such, I wasn’t getting anywhere with the problem. After restarting and logging into Windows, I immediately inserted my disc. The autorun feature worked fine. But after a few moments, I reinserted the disc and got nothing, just like before. That told me that there was a startup program that was possibly interfering with the AutoRun feature.

Using Sysinternals’ Autoruns program, (which has nothing to do with the AutoRun feature) I disabled one startup entry at a time and restarted the computer until the problem disappeared. Sure enough, I found the conflicting program.

As the title of this post suggests, the problem was a startup program related to PowerDVD.  PDVDDXSVR.EXE was the program blocking the AutoRun program from executing. Although it is still disabled on my computer, PowerDVD DX seems to run fine without it. I’m still not sure what the purpose of PDVDDXSVR.EXE  is other then blocking AutoRun feature.

AutoRun – A program that automatically executes when a disc or other removable media is inserted.
AutoPlay – A dialog box that lists a number of commands based on the content that’s on the removable media.

NOTICE: The following has been tested with a HP & Compaq machine, both manufactured in 2003. Later years and systems with Windows Vista/7 most likely won’t work due to software changes.

IMPORTANT! For the following to work, the computer MUST have the original recovery partition from the factory. Recovery partitions created from a recovery disc do not include the additional files needed for disc creation and will display a “partition not found” error message when the CD creator program is launched.

If your HP or Compaq system has a recovery partition, you are usually notified to create a set of recovery disc in case of hard drive failure or corruption. However, HP permits the user to create only one set of recovery disc due to licensing agreements. If you lose your recovery discs or acquire a used system that already has a set made, your best bet is to contact HP and hope that they have recovery discs lying around somewhere in their factory. Or you can try this little trick that allows you to create a second set of recovery discs.

The first step requires you to unhide hidden files and folders:

  1. Start Windows and open the Control Panel.
  2. Open the Folder Options applet and select the view tab.
  3. Select “Show hidden files and folders” and uncheck “Hide protected operating system files”.

The second step requires you to delete a file named HPCD that is found in two locations:

  • C:\WINDOWS\SMISNT
  • D:\ (Recovery partition)

Tip: You may have to right-click on the recovery partition and select open in order to view its contents.

Once the file has been deleted from the above locations, run the Recovery CD creator program. The program should now permit you create a set of recovery discs.

At the high school I use to go to, (between 2003 to 2007), there were many computers scattered across the place. Most of them, actually, all of them were Dell OptiPlex’s. Most of the computers at this time were being replaced by newer, faster computers, branding Dell OptiPlex GX240, GX270, and GX280. The older Dell models that were being replaced were the OptiPlex Gs+, GXa, GX1, and GX100. These computers were simply outdated as they had a low amount of memory and a slow processor. And although all of them except the Gs+ could just barely run Windows XP Professional, many of the students took their anger out by abusing these computers. (The Gs+ still was able to run Windows NT, which is what all the computers had originally installed for the school). Students scratched the outside of the chassis, broke CD-ROM doors, and drew on the computers and its accessories. In addition, floppy drives were ruin, eject buttons were pulled out, some CD-ROM drive trays were ripped out, Dell emblems were pried off.  This was the worst abuse to computers I’ve ever saw!

Being a computer geek, I knew the technology director at the school, and during my summer break in 2005, I helped him throw out a lot of the Gs+ to make room for new GX270’s. Almost every Gs+ in the building was scheduled to be thrown into the dumpster, but I had the opportunity to degut these systems. I grabbed Pentium processors with a speed of 200 MHz, 16 MB SIMM EDO memory, 1 GB hard drives, 16 bit ISA sound cards, some power supplies, some cables, some heat sinks, and working CD-ROMs and floppy drives. I also saved a few motherboards, most of the screws, and some drive bezels. There were some GXa’s and GX1’s that were going to get thrown out too. I grab parts out of those systems also. From the GXa’s, I grabbed the Pentium II processors (300 MHz with MMX), DIMM memory, heat ducts for the processors, 3.2 GB hard drives, fans, some power supplies, some video memory, and other stuff that the Gs+ didn’t have. In the GX1’s, I grabbed Pentium III processors (450 MHz), and other stuff which were similar to the GXa’s. Along with the parts I degutted, I also kept a keyboard, a mouse, and a couple of monitors. Most of the GXa’s that were sitting on the teacher’s desks were donated to another school, probably a school where the students respected technology.

I saved one computer from each model group and took them home. (The rescued computers). I took these computers home and blew the dust out, cleaned the outside, and started them up. After installing Windows Me on all the computers, they seem to run pretty good for a computer designed at that time. I also installed Windows 98 on all the computers. Windows 98 seemed to work fine too, but for the GX1, it appears to have some shutdown issues. For the GXa and GX1, I tossed on Windows XP Home Edition. I knew XP worked really slow at school, but here, it worked good. The setup was a little slow and starting Windows was slow too, but it seemed to work better. However, the integrated ATI graphics prevents Windows XP from going into standby. The Gs+ is about maxed out. I’ve installed the most memory it can take, (4 32 MB EDO SIMMS that equal 128 MB), the 200 MHz Pentium I switched with a Pentium with MMX, same speed, and the video memory is maxed out. In addition, I added a SCSI interface controller card, a 2 port USB card, and a 32x CD-ROM drive.

Left: Optiplex Gs+ (low-profile chassis) on top of an Optiplex GXa (midsize chassis), Right: Optiplex GX1 (mini-tower chassis).

These selected computers are now in a safe haven in my house where they are away from the students who abused them. They can continue to work at optimum performance, the way that Dell indented. As for the GX240’s, GX270’s, and GX280’s that the school currently has, they are already seeing abuse. Even though they all have Pentium 4 processors, doors are being ripped off, emblems are missing. Most commonly, the belts inside the DVD-ROM drives are being plucked off the motors that open the drive’s tray, confusing the drive when the trays are pushed closed, and wearing out the motor so that they have a hard time opening the tray when the belts are replaced. These computers will probably not see replacement for a while, unless they are really abused. But when they are finally outdated and ready to be tossed into the dumpster, I hope that someone like me will save some of these systems, fix them up, and keep them at their house where they will never see another student who can abuse them.

My RCA L37WD12 TV (possibly the worst flat screen TV ever made) started having problems powering on one morning. After pressing the power button, the TV would display the “one moment please” message and then the picture would appear as usual. At that point, the message didn’t disappear like it should and the TV wouldn’t respond to the remote or the front panel buttons. The only way to turn the TV off was to pull the power cord out. Eventually the problem got worse where the TV would shut off or freeze (sometimes with glitchy graphics) whenever the TV was turned on and the “one moment please” message was displayed, never completing its power on routine.

I traced the problem to a small capacitor located on what someone on the Internet called a standby board. Covered by a RF cage, the main power cables go to the standby board first before going to the main power supply. Replacing the 470uF 16v capacitor (CP616) on the standby board fixed my problem and the TV has been powering on successfully since.

You might also want to check the capacitors on the main power supply if you are having a power related issue with these models. I found 4 bulging capacitors (3 1000uF 35v and 1 1000uF 16v) on my main power supply. I actually replaced those capacitors first, but it didn’t fix my problem until I replaced the one on the standby board. Although the capacitors on the power supply still worked, it would have been a matter of time before they needed replacement.

Update 12/12/2014: The TV recently started to act up again. About a month ago, I turned the TV on (cold start) and all I got was a flashing green light followed by a flashing backlight. After turning the TV off and back on again, the TV powered up without any sound. After the third attempt, the sound came back and the TV worked correctly since then. After Thanksgiving, the sound (again) would not initialize on a cold start and required turning the TV off and then back on for it to work. On December 8, the TV would not come on at all and started flashing the green light and backlight again. I took the TV apart and found that one of the capacitors that I did not replace on the main power supply was slightly bulged. (The bulged 1000uF 16v capacitor measured ~150uF on the ESR meter!) After replacing the defective capacitor, I reinstalled the main power supply only to find that the new capacitor did not solve the problem. I checked all the capacitors with the ESR meter and all appeared to be good. Today I read on the Bad Caps forum that faulty capacitors can be revived temporary by warming them up. So I took the main power supply back out, placed it near a furnace vent and reinstalled it when the furnace turned off. To my surprise, the TV came on without a problem, so I still think that there’s a capacitor at fault somewhere on the main power supply. When the TV fails to power on again, I will use a hair dryer to heat up individual capacitors and find out which one(s) are at fault. It could possibly be one that I originally replaced and I wouldn’t be surprised since the TV is on almost 12 hours a day.

Update 12/14/2014: I found the faulty capacitor! It’s the 150uF 450v AC filter capacitor and it’s only reading ~78uF on the meter. Warming the AC filter capacitor up with a hair dryer on low speed/low heat for 5 seconds was enough for to TV to power on correctly. When the TV cools down and the AC filter capacitor discharges, the TV would fail to turn on. I’ve done this trick 4 times already and it works every time. I currently don’t have an exact replacement in my collection of capacitors, so it looks like I have to buy a new one online.

Update 7/28/2015: I finally got around to replacing the 150uF 450v AC filter capacitor. The TV powered up correctly after installing the new capacitor. But when I went to turn it on the next day, the flashing green power light and backlight was back! The results are somewhat different with the new capacitor. There are times when the green light would start flashing when the backlighting activates. Other times the symptoms are the same as before the replacement. The biggest difference is that the light will now stop flashing after several seconds and the TV may try to successfully power on. If the TV locks up, turning it off and back on is usually enough for it to successfully power on. I think that the other capacitor (10uF 400v) next to the AC filter capacitor needs to be replaced as well, but I do recall checking it with the ESR meter only to find that is was OK.

Update 8/11/2015: I installed the replacement 10uF 400v capacitor on the power supply. The TV successfully powered on with no problems. The next day, you guessed it, the power light and backlighting started flashing again. Warming the power supply up with the hair dryer brought it back to life. I am out of ideas as this now appears to be something other than a capacitor. All major capacitors have been replaced on the power supply and all off them are known to be good. If anyone has any ideas on what could be the problem, please let me know in the comments. At this point, it looks like a replacement power supply is the only thing that will fix my problem. However, new ones cost as much as what the TV is worth and used ones are likely going to have bloated capacitors which will fail soon or have already failed. Warming up the power supply with the hair dryer is the only feasible way to keep the TV running until that method no longer works or until something major breaks. I was hoping to keep the TV until the backlighing burns out.

Update 3/19/2017: Well I think I finally found the little bugger! I took another look at the power supply and tried isolating the surrounding capacitors by blowing on them through a drinking straw until the TV successfully turned on. At first I thought I found the bad capacitor, located at CS26 (680uF 16v), but replacing it did not fix the problem after the TV cooled down. I kept thinking the problem was with the 10uF 400v capacitor that I already replaced, so I went ahead and bought another one off of eBay. To my surprise, the replacement capacitor did not fix the problem. I then preceded to experiment by installing both the 10uF 400v capacitors together in parallel, with the one capacitor soldered on the board and the other routed away from the power supply. This gave me a total of 20uF. (Normally you shouldn’t do this, but a small increase in microfarids shouldn’t hurt anything.) While the additional microfarids didn’t create any undesirable operation, the TV still continued to have problems turning on when cold. I took the hair dryer and tried warming up the capacitor that I routed away from the power supply. To my surprise, the TV did not want to power on, which told me that these 10uF 400v capacitors were not the problem. I returned to the drinking straw method and for the heck of it, checked a tiny 10uF 50v capacitor located at CS44, next to the 10uF 400v capacitor. After blowing on it a couple of times, the TV started up successfully. After turning it back off, I waited for 15 minutes and tried turning it back on again, which at that point failed to power on. I blew on that same capacitor again, turned on the TV, and it started right up. I went ahead and replaced that capacitor with one of the same value from a salvaged DVD/VCR player. I waited for a couple of hours for the power supply to cool down and the capacitors to discharge. I powered on the TV and guess what… IT SUCCESSFULLY TURNED ON! That tiny 10uF 50v capacitor which I never suspected to be the problem, was the culprit! It gave me the runaround and made me replace capacitors that weren’t even bad. It just goes to show you that even the smallest of all capacitors can fail also, even if they don’t show signs of failure.

Update 2: Well I don’t know what the heck happened, but now the TV is completely DEAD! I turned it on the next day and it successfully powered on. I later turned it off and back on again and the TV came back on. I then turned it off to clean the screen, and upon turning it back on, the green light flashed a few times and… that was it. No more green light! The TV still turns on/off with the remote and the front panel buttons, but the green light does not come on and nothing happens. The hair dryer doesn’t even help revive the power supply. I have no idea what crapped out on the power supply. I’m not going to buy a used one on eBay as they are a bit overpriced and likely need to be re-capped. I am done trying to fix this TV and it’s probably going to be sent to the recycler.