Tag Archives: Microsoft

Windows 10 – Should I Take The Plunge?

I have a feeling Windows 10 is going to be a recurring theme on “Trube on Tech” Tuesday for a little while, but the one question that probably needs to be answered first is: Should I install Windows 10?

Let’s back up. If you own a Windows 7 or Windows 8 (or 8.1) machine, you probably noticed a little app a couple of months ago in the bottom right of your screen asking if you’d like to reserve a free copy of Windows 10. If you didn’t see this app, you’re not alone, but don’t worry, you’ve got about a year to reserve your free copy and Microsoft is here to help.

Should I Reserve My Free Copy of Windows 10?

For my money, there’s no harm in reserving the free copy. The pre-setup download is a couple 100 MB (not a big chunk of most hard drives) and you can always decide not to upgrade. If you’re on the fence, free isn’t bad. Just don’t install until you’re ready. Install speeds have been slow since a lot of people are upgrading now, so you can always wait until Microsoft’s server traffic is a little lighter.

What Am I Getting?

This is a complicated question but from playing with the new OS the high-points are:

1) The new Edge browser which looks more like a tablet browser to me both in functionality and features. It’ll probably be good for casual use, but businesses will still want to use IE11 (or better yet Chrome).

2) A new start menu, the bastard child of the Metro screen and the old program menu. This is certainly an improvement, but many people have already solved this problem on Windows 8 with tools like ClassicShell. And for my money, the new menu still has too much of the Metro screen look and feel.


3) Longer support. Windows 8 support ends in 2023, Windows 7 in 2020. New features for Windows 7 stopped earlier this year, and Windows 8’s should stop in a few more. So theoretically, you’re set till 2025. On the other hand, your laptop probably won’t last that long.

Otherwise what you’re getting looks an awful lot like Windows 8. There’s some subtle changes to the file windows, but they’re still not as pretty as Windows 7.

I have Windows 7, should I upgrade?

If you bought your laptop today, maybe. Otherwise I’d say Windows 7 is more like the Windows we all know and love. Eventually it’ll go the way of XP, but that’s a long way off. For context, most open-source Long Term Support operating systems (Ubuntu for one) have only a five year support cycle. So you’re still doing pretty good.

I have Windows 8.1, should I upgrade?

Aside from the Start Menu I’m not convinced yet you’re getting something drastically better than what you have. A lot of people don’t like upgrading simply because they’re worried about losing files or programs will stop working. And that is always a risk, though the Windows update says it will maintain files and programs, I doubt this is completely seamless. If your Windows 8 machine is new, then maybe go ahead. If you’re used to how Windows 8.1 works, even if you don’t love it, this isn’t going to be enough of an improvement to justify the hassle.

I like new things and want to do the install, what’s your advice?

DO NOT let Microsoft choose the default settings for the device. There have already been some security concerns raised about the WiFi sharing capability of the new OS, and there seems to be even more ways the OS tracks where you are and what you do. My advice … choose “customize my settings”, then click NO to everything.

As always when doing an upgrade, backup your files. And of course leave the computer plugged-in. Also be sure you’re ready because this is a one-way trip. The only way back I can think of is a factory reformat and a restore disk. Trust me, that is a BIG hassle.

If you have Word 2007 you may be in for some bad news. Windows 10 may or may not support it, and Microsoft support for 2007 ends in a couple of years. You may need to buy a new version of Word, though have you tried OpenOffice?

I’ve got a copy of Windows 10 Pro in a virtual machine that I’ll be playing with for the next few weeks. Feel free to ask me questions. Despite my reservations, I’m probably going to upgrade one of my laptops to 10 to get a feel for real-time performance, though that’ll be a while.

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What’s this I hear about IE going away?

You may have heard from some of the more hyperbolic news sources that Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is dead.

Would that it were so.

Here’s the truth as I understand it. Microsoft is developing a new browser, code-named “Project Spartan”, designed to work on the modern web and built from the ground up. It’ll be geared to both mobile and computer views, and have options for distraction free viewing (because apparently Microsoft finally heard of Evernote’s Clearly plug-in). Older sites that run only in IE11 should run in the browser and will run on the IE11 rendering engine behind the scenes, with newer sites running on Spartan’s engine.

For enterprise users (i.e. businesses that run software that only works in Internet Explorer) IE will still be available though the exact nature of that is unknown. And since we don’t have a version of Spartan to play with there’s not a whole lot we know about that browser either.

Also, Microsoft is ending support for all IE versions lower than 11 in January of 2016. IE11 runs on Windows 7 and 8 and is probably what you have installed if you’ve been doing regular updates. Given Microsoft’s extended support patterns IE11 may be supported until 2023 (and given how long IE6 was around it could be longer).

So why should you give a hoot? Well, if you don’t use software that only runs in IE and you’ve been using Chrome for a long time, you shouldn’t. I doubt Microsoft, no matter what Spartan ends up being, is going to come up with something so good that it’s worth switching if you have something you like already.

If you’re like me and you have to write software that’s supported in IE as well as other browsers, well, good luck. Cross-browser programming is a pain, and all this really means is that you’ll probably have to accommodate both. Hey, at least you probably finally got to drop support for IE6 recently, right?

I switch browsers every 3-5 years. I used IE at first (maybe actually Netscape), I adopted Firefox in college (2004), Chrome sometime later (2009) and Opera a few years ago (2013). I like early versions of browsers because they don’t tend to be bogged down with all of the features these companies think I need. I like the plug-in and extension model. I add a couple of specific features I actually want and will use, and take the rest out. Even Opera, which I generally like, has been getting a little slower since it started adding synchronization features (which I’m not going to use), and did something to slow-down my speed-dial (which was one of the reasons I switched to them in the first place).

Personally, I’m not sure why Microsoft is wasting its time. I think there’s a case to be made for Microsoft taking all of the engineers working on the browser and instead focusing on improving their other products: Surface, Windows, Visual Studio, App Stores, etc. I know it seems like Microsoft needs to be a player here, but I doubt they’re going to turn the head of anyone who’s happy with Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Opera (and countless other fringe entries). Sure it might mean cutting off a data stream, or an ad-stream. But it’s not like Windows can’t track your every movement and beam it back to the mother-ship if it wanted to.

Take the bold step, Microsoft, and admit you can’t write a good browser. Then get back to being really good at the things you actually know how to do (and yes, these exist).

I probably have to try Spartan. You, on the other hand, stick with Chrome.

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XPocalypse Next

Well, you’ve survived the XPocalypse, but you’ve only got a few years to prepare for Microsoft’s next disaster, the end of Vista. We’ve got the XPocalypse, but what should we call the last days of Vista?


Here are a few suggestions. Feel free to submit your own in the comments:

  • eVisteration
  • Vistactomy
  • God help the Vista who gets between me and my sista
  • Visteria
  • Vistopia
  • Hasta la Vista, Baby
  • And God help the Vista who gets between me and my man
  • Vistastrophe
  • Die Die Die
  • Vistacular
  • Vistalitus
  • Alta Vista
  • C’est la Vista

Any thoughts?


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After the XPocalypse: How to take the Vista out of 8.1

Windows 8.1 is Microsoft’s latest operating system, but it’s hardly the greatest. It has little business adoption, switching between apps and real programs is frustrating and disruptive, and it made all the visuals flat and boring so that they could maintain a consistent look between their laptops, desktops  and the partial OS they run on the Surface.


But all is not completely lost. You can make Windows 8.1 into a system you’ll love, or at least won’t hate quite as much. And hey Microsoft’s gonna support you for another 9 years so if you can get used to it, you might learn to love it.

Get Office all the time, not 365 days a year

For starters buy yourself a copy of Office 2010 or 2013. It’ll cost between $85 to $139 for Home and Student, and into the $200s for anything pro or multi-user. But trust me, if you need Office, and unfortunately for a lot of you OpenOffice doesn’t quite cut it, this is a far better solution than Office 365. Don’t be seduced by fancy words like “Cloud” and”Your documents on all your devices” or “always up to date”. Since when has Word really gotten all that better? I like the equation editor they added in 2007 (used it extensively for my fractal book), but other than that and maybe native save as PDF support, I’m unimpressed. Unless you’re a student Office 365 is going to cost you $99 A YEAR! Where does Microsoft get off charging something like that?

Have you met Windows 7?

You could downgrade to Windows 7, if you owned Windows 8.1 Pro, which if you don’t know, you probably don’t. There are ways to try to do it yourself. This guide from PC Magazine might help.

Not Metro?

Hate booting to the Metro Screen? Here’s a few things you can do:

  1. Right Click on the taskbar and click “Properties”.
  2. On the box that pops up, click on the tab that says “Navigation”.
  3. There’s two cool things you can do from here:


  • In the “Start Screen” section there are two boxes you should check. The first is “When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, got to the desktp instead of Start”. Otherwise known as “Boot to Desktop”. If you want Windows 8 to work like every other computer you’ve ever owned. Do this step.
  • The second is “Show the Apps view automatically when I got Start”. This is as close to the traditional start button as you’ll get without third party add-ons. Make sure the second box underneath is checked as well (as shown). You can click the up arrow on this screen to get to the Metro view if you ever want to.

Shut it down

You know what else the start menu had that this one doesn’t? A proper shut down button. Now you could go into the power settings and tell the computer to shut down when you close the lid. But if you want to watch what it’s doing, and bypass updates you weren’t planning on waiting for, do this instead:

  1. Right-click anywhere on the desktop and select New–>Shortcut.
  2. Type “shutdown /s /t 0” into the “location” line. This is an old DOS command Windows still recognizes. A full reference can be found here, but this line basically means shutdown this computer “/s” in 0 seconds “/t 0”.


This won’t have  fancy icon, but you can pick one by right clicking on the shortcut, selecting “properties” and clicking “change icon”.

Command your computer

There’s a surprising amount you can still do with old DOS commands and I highly recommend you learn some. But one thing’s clear, you need a command prompt (or terminal as the Linux people like to say). The Apps view you brought up has this under the Windows System line:


Right click on the icon and click “Pin to taskbar” to send this to your desktop taskbar. While you’re there you can also get the task manager if you want it or the run command.

But command prompt does it all. Type the following for a few useful commands and programs:

  • msconfig – Brings up your system configuration and allows you to change what programs are running at startup.
  • taskmgr – Brings up the task manager. Which also changes startup configuration apparently.
  • regedit – Brings up the registry editor.
  • dir /s /b > output.txt – Takes the current folder and creates a human readable text file with basic information about every file and subfolder in that directory.
  • calc – The old school desktop calculator, not the app.

Send it in a letter

Your best friend is the send to desktop icon. If your program is not listed in the Apps view (and it won’t catch them all), go the the program’s location on your computer and right click, hover over “send” and select “to desktop”. Between the taskbar and the desktop you should be able to put most of the programs you use on a daily basis without even having to bother with the start button. I use the left side for applications and the right side for games, and the task bar for stuff I get into all the time. If you’re a gamer, this is Steam and Desura’s time to shine, as one icon can get you access to a whole library of games.

&*%$! Homegroup Icon!

Noticed that, eh? Microsoft has a bug on some computers which causes the Homegroup icon to mysteriously appear on your desktop. You can’t delete it, can’t even move it. And you probably would never use it.

  1. Right click on the desktop and select “personalize”.
  2. Click “Change Desktop Icons” on the left.
  3. Check the box that says “Network” and hit apply.
  4. Uncheck the box that says “Network and hit apply.

The icon should now be gone, but probably not forever. Hopefully a more permanent solution will be released soon.

I want my Start Menu!!!

Don’t we all. Two programs to try are Classic Shell and Start8. Start 8 is $4.99 and Classic Shell is better. From what I’ve read Start8 is closer to the real experience, and works better with 8 so it may be worth the money. For the moment I’m toughing it out to see if I can get used to the current configuration, but if not I’ll probably try Classic Shell. I personally don’t like to try a lot of third party programs I don’t know until I get to know an OS a little better.

Microsoft did recently announce it was bringing back the start menu, but with no clear roadmap as to when the update will be rolled out. Also the ability to use apps in the desktop environment. Probably by the time we’re ready for Windows 9, Windows 8 will be all it can be.

I have a feeling I could write another one of these guides in another six months with a whole bunch more useful information, but hopefully this will be enough to get you started. Please post any questions you have in the comments. I’ll play around and try to solve any new problems you might pose.

Tomorrow we’ll cover Zorin-Lite for the Windows crowd that doesn’t want to spend any money, and is really new to linux.


Disclaimer: Any advice or tips given here will not be valid for all users in all circumstances. Do what makes sense to you and don’t do what doesn’t make sense. These posts are for educational, informative purposes only. Show these posts to your computer friends and have them tell you if I’m right on the money or out to lunch. In any case, please realize that anything you do to your computer is your responsibility. If you have a specific problem and need help, shoot me a comment, but if your computer bricks you were warned.


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XPocalypse XPlained


If you haven’t yet, take a look at my post #XPocalypseIsNigh for XPocalypse survival tips. And don’t forget to stockpile bottled water. It’s kinda standard procedure for these things.


Today I thought we’d cover the basics before we get into more technical tips and tricks.


Whoa, lot of acronyms there. What is EOL?

EOL is short for “End of Life”, or end of support life. It means your copy of Windows XP* will no longer get critical security patches, and may become increasingly vulnerable to attack.

*XP is short for eXPerience. And nothing is a truer Windows eXPerience than end of support.

Okay, so what does that really mean?

There’s actually a couple of parts to this:

  • XP has been in “Extended Support” mode after the end of mainstream support in 2009. Extended support means they’ll patch critical bugs and prevent against attack, but no more service packs and no more new features.
  • What ends of April 8th is patches to critical bugs and exploits. The malicious software removal tool (designed to help clean an infected computer) will still get monthly updates for at least a year.
  • Microsoft Security Essentials (Microsoft’s free virus scan) will no longer be available for download for XP users after April 8, so get the installer now from here.
  • Windows 7 Pros “XP Mode” will no longer be supported (Win 7’s built in virtual machine of Windows XP using Virtual PC).

That sounds bad, what should I do?

Well, for many people, buying a new computer is going to be the best option. Windows XP machines don’t tend to be up to running newer operating systems like Windows 7 or 8. It might be worth checking though. Microsoft has an upgrade tool to check if your system can run their new operating systems.

But I like XP, can’t I still use it?

Yes, at your own risk. It depends why you want to keep XP. If you use your computer a lot for the internet, which if you’re reading this blog I suspect you do, then you really shouldn’t keep it. If, however, you’re willing to take the bold step of unplugging, of living off the grid, and being content to transfer files on flash drives to keep your cherished programs, then go ahead.

Okay, I get it. XP won’t be that safe on the internet. But I don’t have the money for a new machine.

There are options. Later in the week we’ll be talking about Zorin-Lite, a lightweight linux solution (a flavor of Lubuntu for those of you curious). Zorin is designed with Windows users in mind and is actually surprisingly powerful. Download it here if you’d like to follow along at home.

Alright, you’ve convinced me, but I don’t like the look of 8.1. Can I still buy 7 and should I?

Windows XP was Microsoft’s most successful operating system until Windows 7. Windows 7 is used by 47% of desktop users today. Its EOL is January 14th 2020 (it goes off mainstream support on January 13th 2015). That said, it would kind of surprise me if Microsoft kept to that date, given the number of current users, and the anemic numbers for 8.1 (in the low single digits %). Most businesses passed on Vista, opting to stay with XP or wait till 7. As the XP EOL loomed, most chose to invest in a proven OS which is Windows 7. You can still buy copies at most stores or online, or you can purchase Windows 8 Pro with downgrade rights. And in my experience (if we’re talking laptops for a second) 5-6 years is a long life span for a laptop. Buy one you’re comfortable with and you’ll be happy for a long time.

I like to have the latest version, but I want to see my start menu and my desktop in 8.1.

We’ll cover how to make Windows 8.1 work as much like 7 as possible later in the week.

I have Vista should I be worried?

Vista is the next product to go out of support on April 11th 2017. Vista makes up about 5% of current PC users, and most of them bought their system years ago (the last machines with Vista pre-installed were sold in 2011 and many of these had upgrade rights to Windows 7). I hate to be blunt but, your laptop will probably die before Vista will. Buy an external hard drive, get used to backing things up and start saving. A new computer is in your future in the next 1-3 years. Upgrade to 7 if you can.

Is XP to Windows 7 or 8.1 an upgrade?

No, in the sense that Microsoft maintains all your programs and updates completely smoothly. However, I recently did an XP to Windows 7 install on a machine for my church. I had some documents still on the machine (backed up) but was curious to see if they’d be erased or maintained after the install. To my surprise they (and the whole XP OS) was placed in a folder call Windows.old. I can’t run XP on this machine any more, but at least I have access to everything created with it. I’d assume 8.1 can do something similar, but again it might not run on most XP boxes.

What about the Surface?

Well, there you run into a few problems. For starters the included keyboard is thin and tends to break down after vigorous typing, so you’ll need to buy a better case. And the Surface Pro is pretty expensive (nearly a thousand dollars). Your onboard storage space is smaller (think 16-64 GB). And most importantly, Windows 8 RT is not a proper operating system.

By this mean I mean that it runs apps not programs.

Apps are tiny little program-lettes that do a small segment of what a full featured program can do, and even if they have the whole suite of features, tend to present them in an over-simplified or limited way.

Remember programs, those things with EXE on the end? Can’t install those on a Surface. So your games from Steam, or your favorite open source compiler, or even that copy of Office you own that still has one more activation left in it, can’t install any of them on the Surface.

I heard RT is short for wRong Turn. Sounds about right to me.

If you want a tablet, you’re better off buying an Android with Bluetooth capability and a keyboard. There are way more games and cool apps, and you can keep everything under $300.

I’ve been hearing a lot about Chromebooks, they seem pretty cheap.

There’s a reason, and for the record, they’re not that much cheaper. You can get a full featured laptop with a 500 GB hard drive, 4 GBs of RAM and a dual core processor for around $300. Chromebooks are only about $50 cheaper (if that).

Also, more importantly, they need to be connected to the internet nearly all of the time to be useful. You have very little onboard space, and you can’t install all of your favorite programs. And forget about gaming.

There’s a reason they call it getting Scroogled.

Should I be worried about businesses still using XP?

This is a toughie. My favorite Chinese place down the block uses XP to create receipts and handle credit card transactions. Some of these are a flavor of XP called embedded which will be supported for about another year. But bottom-line, if it’s connected to the internet, it might be able to be compromised, and credit card fraud and identity theft are on the rise. Might be a good time to use cash. Or, if you can have a good relationship with the business, you could always ask their plans, or even offer to upgrade their computers (maybe for some tasty General Tso’s chicken).

What about ATM’s?

Again this is trickier. Most banks are trying to catch up to the end of support, and some are even paying Microsoft to continue to support them while they make the switch. ATMs are typically older and more expensive than your average desktop, and something more painful to replace. And you probably won’t be able to notice which OS your ATM is using as easily as other kinds of business computers. Best bet is to ask a teller, and maybe withdraw or deposit some cash with a real person (though if they use a computer too you might want to ask about it as well). I know this sounds picky, and kind of a pain in the butt. But if you’re friendly, patient, and courteous, most people will respond in kind.

What’s “Zero-Day Forever”?

It’s Microsoft’s designation for end of XP support. “Zero-day” is the day someone discovers a security flaw in Windows (or any Operating System) before Microsoft has a chance to patch it, or the computer conducts a Windows Update. For XP’s which will no longer receive updates, this zero-day will be permanent.

I want to keep using XP despite all the warnings. I’m sure I’ll be okay.

You laugh in the face of danger. I can respect that. Here’s a few suggestions if you’re stubborn brave.

  • Use a limited user account for most activity. Password protect your admin account with a strong password and almost never use it.
  • Use third party virus software that will continue to support XP. Most are pledging they’ll continue to offer support into 2015.
  • Consider using Tor for web browsing. It’s anonymous, a little more paranoid than most browsers, and warns you in many ways if you’re about to do something stupid.
  • Save your money and back up your files.
  • Don’t leave your computer connected to the internet unattended.

Why is Microsoft doing this to me?

Well, to be fair, it’s not just doing it to you. It’s doing it to millions of other computer users, 27% of the desktop market to be exact (though admittedly a lot of those are in China). XP is more than 12 years old and there are better things out there. And it costs a lot of money to support legacy systems (plus you need to have a talent base that even remembers how to work with older code). Working in the software industry, I can understand the need for EOL. Things don’t last forever, even though maybe they should. If you don’t like it, consider linux (though make sure you get an LTS version which is supported for 5 years or be willing to self-perpetually upgrade). It may be free but it still costs something.

Alright, you’ve pretty much ruined my day. Anything else you want to tell me?

Well, I hesitate to mention it but… Office XP and 2003 go out of support as well. Better try a new version of Office, or better yet OpenOffice (if you don’t mind that it likes to count open quotation marks as words).

I’m a Mac user

That’s nice. I say good day to you, sir.



Well that about wraps it up for today’s knowledge dump. If you have any more questions please feel free to leave them in the comments. Tomorrow we’ll have an appreciation of the late great XP that was.


Disclaimer: Any advice or tips given here will not be valid for all users in all circumstances. Do what makes sense to you and don’t do what doesn’t make sense. These posts are for educational, informative purposes only. Show these posts to your computer friends and have them tell you if I’m right on the money or out to lunch. In any case, please realize that anything you do to your computer is your responsibility. If you have a specific problem and need help, shoot me a comment, but if your computer bricks you were warned.

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The death clock is nearly at 0:00:00.

On Tuesday April 8th, Microsoft will end support for Windows XP, the second largest operating system still running in the PC market. 27% of all Desktop computers running today still run XP (according to NetMarketShare). Since it became available for sale in 2001, XP has seen its support deadline extended from 5 years to 10 (bringing regular consumers up to the commercial level of support), then from 10 to 12 (in part due to Microsoft still selling XP on Netbooks as an alternative to Linux as late as 2010).

To some of you this is old news. To others Microsoft’s March 8th warning on your desktop may have been a wakeup call. Or if you’re not the automatic updates type, you may be hearing it for the first time from me.

Never fear. Ben Trube Writer has you covered.

All next week I’ll be covering XPs demise, from what you should do on the last days of support, to how to make 8.1 work for you. A not-exhaustive list follows:

  • I have Vista, should I be worried?
  • Can I upgrade from XP to Windows 7?
  • What’s this Linux thing I hear so much about?
  • Argg Windows 8!
  • Is the XPocalypse really that bad?
  • What is Zero Day Forever?
  • Why is Microsoft doing this to me?
  • Will my XP machine be safe to use?

Things you should do before next week (See I have your weekend all planned out for you. Isn’t that nice of me 🙂 ):

  • Download every Windows Update you’ve missed. Go to windowsupdate.microsoft.com (using Internet Exploder). Click custom instead of express and check most if not all of the optional updates (as well as the high priority ones). Repeat a few times until no updates are left.
  • DO install Microsoft Security Essentials if you haven’t already, or at least download the current installer.
  • DONT download Windows Live Services or the Bing Bar. You won’t be using them anyway.
  • Buy an external hard drive if you have big video files or oodles of pictures. A 32GB flash drive if not. A hard drive will run you $50-60, a 32GB flash less than $20.
  • Backup your files.
  • Download Zorin 6.4 Core LTS from here and/or Zorin-Lite 7.1 Lite from here. Burn the image to a disk. If you don’t have a CD/DVD drive download this too. Maybe go ahead and buy that flash either way.
  • Figure out how your XP machine is connected to Internet, and how to disconnect it.
  • Put a strong password (alphanumeric, upper and lower case, and special characters (!@#$*)) for your administrator account. If you don’t know which one this is, it’s probably the account you’re using.
  • Create a limited account and also password protect it. If you keep using XP, this is the one you’ll want to use most of the time. (Both these things can be done from the control panel–>user accounts)
  • Shop for a new laptop if this is within your price range or budget. Don’t buy anything that says Chromebook, or Windows 7 Starter. Windows RT (on the Surface) is probably also a deal breaker. I like ASUS and Toshiba brands if that helps.
  • For advanced users: Create a virtual XP machine with VMWare of VirtualBox.
  • Enjoy this comic from here. (It’s a bit of an ad but funny).
  • Go outside (assuming it’s not raining).
  • Take your XP netbook out for one more spin around the block. Then turn off its wireless.

Have a great weekend!


Disclaimer: Any advice or tips given here will not be valid for all users in all circumstances. Do what makes sense to you and don’t do what doesn’t make sense. These posts are for educational, informative purposes only. Show these posts to your computer friends and have them tell you if I’m right on the money or out to lunch. In any case, please realize that anything you do to your computer is your responsibility. If you have a specific problem and need help, shoot me a comment, but if your computer bricks you were warned.

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