Tech Tip

Windows 7 commands for every administrator

In Windows 7, lots of administrative features are harder to get than in Windows XP. Administrators of small organizations may have to work on a computer locally, not using a manage service type software. Here are some command prompt programs you need to know. Please note that some of these commands need to be run in administrators mode.

  •  ipconfig: will show you the IP address of the computer.ping: Can verify if that machine can see the internet/network, sometimes browsers have cache pages.
  • sfc: Will scan your core files for changes that may have been changed by malware.
  • nslookup: Can verify if DNS services are working and if that severer is pointing to the right place
  • sigverif: Will scan the signature files of your system and check to see if they are digitally signed. Most vendors will digitally sign the software for their hardware, but may not sign their drivers.
  • driverquery: Will list all the drivers installed on your machine.
  •  tasklist: will show you the task that are running on your computer just like task manager.

You can always add the switch /? At the end of any of the above commands to see what other options you can select, i.e., “sfc /?”.

If your computer responds with too much data to be able to read through, you can always run the program with a > FILE.txt at the end, i.e., “driverquery > drivers.txt” and open the drivers.txt file in notepad.

Tips for browsing the Internet

computer_key_BackspaceIf you want to go back a page, don’t use your mouse to go back, just hit the Backspace key.

(Alt+left-arrow key also works for Back, and Alt+right-arrow for Forward. In this article, if you have a Mac, substitute the Alt key with Option.)

If you are searching for something, you can type a word or phrase into a Search box, and then hit  Enter. This also works with searching inside of Windows Vista and above.  When hitting Enter, it works just like the “Go” button when you type it in an address/search bar.

On brand-name web sites like Seattle.gov, Facebook.com, Amazon.com, etc., clicking the upper-left logo to return to the site’s home page.

Capturing error messages

When there is an error on your computer, it is helpful to be able to show what you see.   You can capture the images on your computer screen to show someone else the error message or give visual examples of how to do something.

In Windows, use the Print Screen key (normally on the top right hand side of the keyboard) to copy the screen image into a graphic. It will go onto your invisible Clipboard, then you can paste it into an email or other type of program, such as Word. You can also use the Alt Print Screen key, which copies only the window.

On the Mac, press Command-Shift-3. (Command is the key with the propeller on it, next to the Space bar.) You’ll hear a snapshot sound, and you get a graphics file on your desktop—a picture of the entire screen image. If you press Command-Shift-4 instead, you get a crosshair cursor.  You can draw across just one portion of the screen. Or, if you now tap the Space bar, you turn the cursor into a little camera icon. You can now click on just one window or toolbar that you want to copy.

Enable power saving mode when battery is dying

As you may have noticed, smartphones and tablets use a lot of power, and their batteries only last a few hours.  This, at times, leaves you searching for a power outlet. And that only works  if you remembered to bring your power cord.

If you have an iPhone, you can also save your battery life. Here is a link that will show you 26 ways to help you conserve your battery life.

If you have an Android phone, you can simply select the “power saving mode” that is part of the drop down menu when you slide the menu to the left. Just turn it on and it will instantly throttle things down to use the least amount of power. This includes turning off haptic feedback, the vibration your phone does when things happen. It throttles the CPU of the device to be gentler on the battery. Lastly, it reduces the frame rate of the screen and lowers the brightness, since the display is the worst offender.

Warning: It is best not to plug your phone directly into your computer.  Today’s malware can be transferred from your computer to your phone when you do.  If you plan to do this it is best to make sure both your phone as well as the computer you’re connecting to have malware software as well as an antivirus on it.

Quick tips when using windows 8.1

When using Windows 8, the layout is quite different than what you expect.  Windows 8 was designed to be used with a touch screen following the layout of most Smart Phones today.  To switch back and forth quickly from the new screen to a more familiar  screen, press the windows button:

button

How to find things

In windows 8, if you move your mouse to the bottom right hand corner of the screen, a window with five items will come up. Selecting the search option will allow you to search for anything on your computer.

Free Conference Calling

Free Conference calling has been around for many years as a way for small organizations to get users together that are located in different areas around the US. Most free service providers do not offer a toll free number, because there is an expense with each user that calls into that number. Free conference providers also get a piece of the long distance revenue for the calls made to the service. With new FCC laws and phone providers offering unlimited service, the way that these companies can stay sustainable are changing but I believe that there will continue to be some form of free conference calling that would be available.

For small organizations that want to offer meetings or trainings with remote users, here are a few options for you. Understand that there are many options out there but these are some of the well talked about and supported options along with some pros and cons about them.

Google Hangouts
• Screen sharing for up to 10 users
• Requires a Gmail or google account
• Need internet.

Skype
• Screen sharing for up to 10 users
• Requires a Microsoft account for video, i.e., hotmail.com/live.com/outlook.com
• Can accept landline/cell phone users
Below are conference services that do not require the participants to have an account. The conferences are audio only conferences.

Free Conference
• Easy setup and verification
• Schedule event for up to 150 people
• Random number provided.

Free Conference Calling

• 1,000 Callers
• 6 Hours maximum session
• Can setup one number for access
• Don’t have any fee services, not sure how long they will stay sustainable.

Microsoft’s Family Filter

For most computer labs that serve visitors under the age of 18, or that just want to keep all the adult content from being viewed in your lab, it is best to have some sort of content filtering on the computers. Microsoft offers free content filtering with Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1, which can be used by labs or individuals.

For networks that are peer-to-peer, the software is easy to set up. Before installing the software on a domain, make sure each filtered profile has been created on the computer. The best way of doing this is to log in once with each user name. Then log in as administrator and install the program.

Note that you should use the same log in profile for each computer. You will need a Windows Live, Hotmail, MSN, or some other Microsoft account to install.

Go here for instructions on how to set up Family Safety.

Can I buy the cheapest computer?

If you are purchasing for a computer lab, you should NOT purchase the cheapest computer you can find.  Most computers that are marketed at a discounted price are for home use.  When you find a great deal where the computers are priced unbelievably low, that is because the parts are being phased out or they are substandard parts.  Deep deals are normally great for home users with low usage, but if you use them in a lab you will quickly learn that the deal was not that great.

When purchasing computers for a network:

  • Make sure you get the professional version of the operating system.
  • Make sure the network card is a 10/100/1GB card.
  • Hard drive size does not have to be large, get a network attached drive.

When purchasing computers for a lab:

  • Always buy a computer that has a standard three year warranty.
  • You should get monitors with 19-inch screens or bigger.
  • Expect the equipment to last for at least three years.

With all computer configurations, always have up to date antivirus software running on your computer.  Most purchased computers only come with a trial version and some will stop updating without notifying you.  In a multi-user lab environment it is best to run Deepfreeze to protect the computer as well.

Windows 7 vs Windows 8

With Windows XP coming to an end, you may be wondering operating system is best. Both Windows 7 and 8 will be supported by Microsoft until after 2020, but both operating systems’ user interfaces are  different from each other and from Windows XP.

Windows 7: Having installed this operating system in a computer lab, I have found that it’s easier to administrate, as most of the functions are not hidden.  The layout closely resembles that of Windows XP and it is best for network of computers like a computer lab.

Windows 8: This OS has a tile format like cell phones.  This is helpful if you want to use a touch screen monitor.  Using a touch screen monitor is best use if your plan us to have just a KIOSK type computer lab where users click on web pages or graphics and where there will be no true data entry such as typing.

I would recommend  Windows 7 for your lab, even though it is the older of the two systems.  Most users will be comfortable with the layout and it would be easier for you to manage, even if the user has used other products like Linux or MAC.

In either case, when you choose an operating system for your lab or network, you should choose the “professional” or better version of the operating system.  The home version, which comes with most computers, have limited network networking functionality.  If you plan to have a server in your network, then you must have the professional version.

Computer lab network standards

Every computer lab and network should have standards that administrators must follow. If you’re a small organization with no IT staff or you know  little about your technology, you should make sure that whoever helps you follows some of the basics here.  These recommended basics  are good standards, regardless of the computer lab/network type.

Network Type

Be aware of how your network is configured.  When troubleshooting, it is helpful to know what is on your network and how those devices interact. There are two main types of networks: Peer to Peer (P2P) and Client Server (CS).  If you plan to manage or share more than just files it is best to use the Client Server model below.

Peer to Peer

To configure this, you must have a router to provide network access.  Each computer will be managed on its own.  You can have one of the computers become a file server so you can share data.  Username and passwords are not shared throughout your network causing every device that connects to have to enter their information each time.  If you have a really low budget, this is best, however you will spend more time  managing your computer lab and network.

Client Server

To configure this, you would need a server.  With a server you can allow access from both outside and inside your network.  Things a server can do are  username and password, file sharing, email, resource permissions, and much more for both inside and outside of your network.  You would then need to configure the server to provide network access through it to the Internet, or have a router on the same network that has access.

Printers

Printers can be set up where you print through a network resource or directly.  The advantage of printing through a resource, such as a server, is that it would have administrative rights by default to delete large print ques and it can store the drivers, making it easy to install a new computer.

BACKUP, SECURE, BACKUP!

Regardless of which option you choose, make sure you back up your data.  Each computer or device on your network should have antivirus software running on it.  Please note that most free antivirus software are not legal for labs.  For KIOSK type of workstations, I would recommend you install DeepFreeze on those computers.

User types

Most administrative things should be handled by an administrator account.  Each user should have the rights of the previous user.

Users
Normal or shared users of your network:

  • Have access to the computer
  • User access to application but no install rights, i.e., MS Word
  • Internet access
  • Print & and delete their own print jobs

Staff
It is best to have a different user account that has administrative rights that are used only to make administrative changes.

  • Power user
  • Install access of applications
  • Add printer

Admin
You should not have the administrator account be a normal user.  You want to ensure backdoor access to your network that you are aware of,  in case your primary account is compromised.

  • Full rights to computer

Drive Sharing
In a P2P network you can share a computer so that others can access resources.  You would have to manually map each one of these drives.  In a CS environment you can use active directory to auto configure the directories.  For organizational purposes you create drive maps that make sense for your organization.