Q&A has gone on-line!
Due to the restrictions on group meetings, OPCUG is holding its Q&A sessions in Zoom video-conferences (see “Q&A and DYOB” in the May issue of the newsletter).
Questions on any computer-related issue are welcome, as are your answers on any of the questions asked. Also, we all find programs, add-ons, and utilities that make life easier. While you are not the only person to have discovered them, there are probably lots who haven’t. How about giving a brief presentation about, or simply just mention, your favourite software? To give us a heads-up on your issue, send the details in an E-mail message to SuggestionBox@opcug.ca.
Our next Q&A session will be at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, July 15th. Everyone is welcome to attend Q&A sessions and to ask questions about their specific computer-related problems. Join us at: https://tinyurl.com/opcug-meeting
We now have PDF versions of the PowerPoint presentations, an audio recording of the associated discussion, and a copy of the comments in the Chat window, from our most recent Q&A session. Download the following files:
What do we do at a Q&A session?
One of the strengths of computer user groups is the technical assistance provided to members – by members. The Ottawa PC Users’ Group is no exception to this general rule. Our motto “Users helping users” says it all.
We publish a wealth of useful information in Ottawa PC News, our monthly newsletter, and answer questions on the members-only forum on our web site. Following each monthly meeting, we hold a question and answer session where anyone can raise any computer-related queries and, hopefully, have them answered through the combined knowledge and experience of the members present.
The Q&A session is held at 9:00 pm, normally on the second Wednesday of the month, immediately following the club’s monthly meeting.
Articles posted on OPCUG’s web site and published in the newsletter provide tips, tricks, and (solutions to) traps related to Windows (and other operating systems) and its associated software products. Additional information is often developed as a result of our Q&A sessions. Some of these contributions are reproduced below.
Over the years, OPCUG has had a number of Special Interest Groups (SIG’s). Most recently, the Beginners’ SIG, Windows SIG, and the Linux, Free Software and Open-Source SIG have all morphed into the current Q&A session. People attending our monthly meetings are invited to join the session and ask questions about Windows, Linux, or any computer hardware or software problems. We may not have all the answers, but we will try our best to help.
Do you have questions? — We have answers!
Always show file extensions
by Chris Taylor (03-Jun-2020)
- Start with your budget and see what you can get for that
- Decide the screen size you want
- If your budget allows, go for a Core-i5 7th gen or later, or an AMD Ryzen 5 or better
- A minimum of 8 GB RAM
- 1 TB storage (HDD) or, if your budget allows 512 GB SSD
- Keep in mind the number of USB ports you want (Type-A or Type-C)
- All laptops (should) have a webcam
- Do you really need a CD/DVD? That will limit choices severely. You can always get a portable unit for under $30.
- Shop the sales; two seemingly equal computers can differ by $500!
[Don't] Pay As You Go!
by Alan German (29-Apr-2020)
WhatsApp provides free text, telephone calls, and video chats but only on a WhatsApp-to-WhatsApp connection (however, this includes international contacts). The app is smart enough to display only those in your list of contacts who are also subscribed to WhatsApp. Sending a text message provides the ability to attach photos, videos, documents, and even voice messages.
A quick look at VPNs
by Chris Taylor (29-Apr-2020)
- You can evade geoblocking, where a service is unavailable because of (for example) your country of origin. If you use a VPN server that is located in a different country, your traffic appears to originate there.
- While on a WiFi connection, your traffic cannot be sniffed by others on the same WiFi.
- If your ISP is blocking access to sites that they feel are objectionable, or if they are throttling certain types of traffic, a VPN can get around this because the ISP cannot determine the sites you are visiting, the type of traffic, or the protocols you are using.
- You could have a false sense of security if you think VPNs do anything more than they actually do.
- You have to trust your VPN provider. They have access to all the information that flows between you and all the destinations you connect to other than traffic that is encrypted separately (for example if you connect to an https:// web site). They do know all the sites you visit.
- Generally, a VPN service will cost money. There are some VPN services that will give you some VPN for free (TunnelBear – https://www.tunnelbear.com/ – will give you 500MB per month for free.) You can also use the Opera browser which will allow you to toggle free VPN-like services while browsing.
- A VPN might slow your access. All your traffic is being routed through the VPN server and if it is congested, everything could bog down.
- If you switch back and forth from the VPN being on and off, it can cause some services (Gmail is one of them) to think your account has been hacked, since you appear to be coming from Ottawa one minute and from Paris the next. They may lock your account.
- There are countries where using a VPN, other than one that is sanctioned by the state, is illegal. This includes countries such as China, Russia, Iran, UAE, and Iraq. If you take your laptop on a trip outside of Canada, check to make sure you won’t end up in jail and/or paying a hefty fine!
Take Control with Quick Assist
by Chris Taylor and Alan German (08-Apr-2020)
Does someone you know need help with their computer but is some distance away such that it’s not convenient to travel in order to physically access their machine? What you need is remote-control software. Fortunately, one such package is built into Windows 10. Meet Quick Assist – remote-control software that will let you see their screen, control their mouse and keyboard, and provide the ability for you to fix their problems, or show them how to accomplish tasks. All this without you needing to be at their location.
Both of you need to run the program. Navigate to Start – Windows Accessories – Quick Assist, or simply type Quick into the search box. Running the Quick Assist app will display a dialogue box (see screenshot). On your computer, press the blue Assist another person button. You will now need to sign in with a Microsoft account. For most people, the userid and password you use to login to Windows is a Microsoft Account. The person you are assisting does not need a Microsoft Account.
The system now displays a one-time, six-digit security code (which will expire in ten minutes). Provide this code to the person you are assisting, for example, by telephone or E-mail. They now enter this code into their Quick Assist box labeled Code from assistant and press the Share screen button.
A dialogue box now offers you the choice to Take full control or View screen. Full control is the default option. Press Continue. A new dialogue box is now displayed on the other person’s screen saying Select Allow to let view your screen during this session. The person you are assisting presses Allow.
The Quick Assist window on your computer now displays the other person’s desktop. Any mouse actions or keystrokes you make are replicated to the other computer. You can launch programs from the desktop icons, open the Start menu, change settings, install software, or do just about anything else on the remote computer. There is an option for annotation with which you can draw lines and circles to bring attention to the location of some feature on the desktop. Other options include selecting the screen if the other person has multiple monitors, screen scaling, and pausing screen sharing (if the person getting assistance needs to type or display something sensitive).
You, or the person you are assisting, can stop the remote session at any time by simply closing the Quick Assist window.
Freeing up More Disk Space
by Alan German and Chris Taylor (08-Jan-2020)
We have seen previously how to reclaim disk space by tweaking access to the Recycle Bin using the Disk Cleanup utility, and how to use a utility such as TreeSize Free to check what is hogging the available disk space.
The latter came in useful recently, when Windows was issuing a disk-full error. Running TreeSize Free, and selecting Drive C: to be scanned, allowed the identification of a number of large folders that were redundant. These included a 4.7 GB folder, plus a number of associated smaller folders, that were left over after uninstalling Android Studio.
Another oddball entry in the list of folders was found in the Users/toaster/AppData/Local/ directory (where “toaster” is my user name on the computer). Here, a folder named VirtualStore contained a sub-folder named XnView that was using almost a quarter of a gigabyte of disk space. This was yet another redundant folder left after uninstalling the XnView image manager.
Once identified, such redundant folders were easily removed by right-clicking on the folder name and selecting the Delete option in the context menu. It should be noted, however, that when running TreeSize Free as a regular user, the resulting disk space is not reclaimed until the computer is rebooted. To have files deleted immediately, use Shift-Delete.
Another utility that can be used to recover disk space is CCleaner. It can remove a lot of useless files. But be careful! It can also remove some really useful stuff such as saved passwords, browser history, and taskbar jump lists.
The safest way to use CCleaner is to click on Custom Clean in the left panel.
On the Windows tab, select only:
- Microsoft Edge: Internet cache
- Internet Explorer: Temporary Internet Files, and Index.dat files
- System: Memory Dumps, and Chkdsk File Fragments
On the Applications tab, select only:
- Internet Cache and Compact Databases for every browser listed
Review the list of all that CCleaner can remove and if you are sure you don’t need some category listed, select it.
Then click the Analyze button. Once the analysis completes, review what CCleaner says it will remove and, if you are happy with the list, click the Run Cleaner button.
Finally, we recommend that nobody use the CCleaner option for Registry Cleaner. If you don’t believe us, read: https://decentsecurity.com/registry-cleaners/