Google Adsense non contextual ads

Google Adsense no offers Ads that are based on your search history too. Formerly the ads were more focused on context. You could define areas for the bot to look for keywords in your webpage. For example on this site you would see more ads related to Computers Software etc. Not anymore though. Google has started showing ads in a different way now.

Instead of contextual ads, Google will now show ads based on your Google search history and Youtube history. Here is a screenshot of the ads shown to me on this site.

Ads shown to me on this site was based on the Youtube history

The page is about how to save protected images from Flickr, but the ads are all about electronics. That is because I had viewed a lot of videos on Youtube related to electronics and done some searches too.

Google voice rates.

Skype has been around for so long that people take it for granted. Well, Google has decided to change the whole scene with their own low tariffs and other features. Right now Google also offers free calling to numbers in the US and Canada. Google has been offering Voice services for quiet sometime now. Only recently did it open restricted. You can find out the Google voice tariffs here.

Running a command, applying changes and other Windows Techniques

If you frequently RUN Windows System Utilities and apply changes to your profile, then you may know most of the tips given here. If you are only starting out, then you definitely need to know these small tips that can make your life easier. These tips constitute a series. Please read all the series posts.


In this article, we will discuss the different ways by which we can RUN a Windows utility. In order to run a program directly (by typing its name in the RUN box) it should be in a folder specified in the PATH variable. We will come to the PATH variable in a later post. While one can always run a program by double clicking on it, there are always easier methods to do it. Using keyboard shortcuts is second nature to anyone who has been working with a computer for a reasonable amount of time.

The easiest and quickest way to run a program or command is to type it directly into the Start Menu of Windows 7. This trick will only work if the item is part of the start menu. For example, you can open the Command Prompt by typing “cmd” and pressing ENTER or you can open Microsoft Word by typing “Office Word” and pressing ENTER. Do remember the functionality is limited and the program that will start will be the first item that appears in the Search.

RUN a command using Quick Search
Running a Command using the Start Menu

Using WIN+R – Run

The most popular of all is the normal RUN dialog box method. You press WIN+R and then type in the command name into the box that appears. You can only run a program which can be found using the PATH system variable. (Type in “echo %PATH%” in a Command Prompt and see for yourself). You need to type the name of the program without the extension (the .exe part)

Running a command using the RUN dialog box.

Using the Command Prompt

You can run any command/program by typing in its name in the command prompt. The command prompt can be opened by typing “cmd” after pressing WIN+R or clicking on the “Command Prompt” icon under “START>>All Programs>>Accessories” The rules that apply for WIN+R applies here too.

Comamnd Prompt
Running a command from the command prompt.

From Task Manager

This is same as the RUN dialog method. You can see a similar box dialog if you open “File>>New Task” under task Manager. You can type in all the things you could do in a WIN+R dialog. Why do you need to use this method then? If Windows Explorer has crashed and you don’t know what to do, press ALT+CTRL+DEL and open the Task Manager. Now go to File>>New Task and type “explorer” and press Enter. Windows Explorer will open again. (Windows explorer is the program that you use to open My Computer or My Documents)

Taskmanager>>File>>RUN
Running a command using Task-manager File menu

How to open TaskManager

TaskManager can be opened using multiple ways.

  1. PressSHIFT+CTRL+ESC
  2. Press ALT+CTRL+DEL and click on the Start Taskmanager button
  3. Type in taskmgr into RUN(WIN+R) dialog
  4. Right click on the Task bar and selectStart Task Manager

If you didn’t already know, you can close any program or system process using Taskmanager.

Restarting Windows Explorer to apply settings

Many of the Windows System changes require you to restart Windows. This can be avoided in most of the cases just by restarting Windows Explorer. Please make sure you have Taskmanager or Command Prompt open while closing windows explorer.

  1. Open Taskmanager
  2. Goto Processes tab
  3. Select explorer.exe from the list and press End Process
  4. Wait a second until it closes
  5. Now goto File>>New task, enter explorer and press ENTER

Another technique can also be used to close Windows Explorer. Press WIN+D to show the desktop. Now bring up the shutdown dialog by pressing ALT+F4. Press ALT+SHIFT+CTRL and click Cancel.

Open Shutdown options dialog box.
Press ALT+CTRL+SHIFT and 'Cancel' in the Shutdown Dialog

any command that can be used in Run box can also be used in the command prompt and the New task option of Taskmanager. In the next post, we will be discussing the programs and commands that can be run using these techniques.

Free parental control software for Windows, MAC and iPhone

The most popular article on this blog is about the time restriction parental control method in Windows. That article explains how you can restrict the login time for a user under Windows. The hot topic being parental control, I have decided to write about a software that is easy to use, allows you to block websites based on content and restrict the time people can use the internet! The best part is it is FREE and is available for Windows, Mac OSX as well as iOS.

K9 webprotection on iOS
K9 web protection screenshot from iPod

K9 web protection is an easy to use parental control internet restriction software from Blue Coat. It is free for personal use but you need to provide an email address to get the license key. I have used K9 for testing purposes and found it to be very impressive. You get to block web sites based on Categories, keywords, URLs or even URL keywords. The time that a user can browse the net can also be set.

I have tries only the Windows version. The iOS version is available from iTunes. More tips on using k9 as well as other tools to secure your computer will be updated on to my blog. Please subscribe to the RSS feed to keep updated.

K9 website | Download Page | FAQ

Digital Camera buying tip

Buying a new digital point and shoot camera can be confusing. If you are an amateur photographer, you will be bewildered by all the funky terms used for marketing. This is a concise and brief guide on how to narrow down your choices into the one digital camera that best suits your need. Make sure you get a basic idea about camera settings before you buy any camera.

Budget

You should fix your budget first. This will help you narrow down your options very much. By setting a budget do not assume you should just set an upper limit. Go for a price range and search for a good camera in that range. Being a starter it is safe to set a $50 range. For example look for cameras in the $150 to $200 category. Once you have set your budget, stick with it.

Which brand?

It is always better to put your eggs in a reputed brands basket. Go for brands like Canon, Nikon, Sony etc. All are pretty good. Once you have narrowed down by price, go to a store front and take pictures on those cameras, see for yourself how they look. In my personal experience which includes around 50 cameras from different brands, Canons have been found to have much better image quality in the point and shoot segment. But do not take my word, go and try some cameras for yourself and find out which is the best one for you.

Ergonomics

As a beginner, ease of use is going to be a primary concern. When you are checking out cameras, switch them on and check for ease of use. Note how easy it is to take pictures in automatic mode, setting flash, setting macro mode, deleting pictures, playing slide show etc. Use the camera to feel where the switches are placed.

How many Megapixel do I need?

Megapixel count is one of the most popular marketing gimmick used in point an shoot segment. People tend to fall for the bigger numbers for obvious reasons. Think about what your primary use of the pictures would be. If your main use would be to share pictures online, you definitely do not need that 12MP camera. Higher megapixel are primarily aimed for printing. There are chances that you will never print 99% of the images you take. Another thing with the higher megapixel count is that as the size of the sensor remains same and more and more megapixel are crushed in, the amount of light per pixel will reduce and can lead to higher noise.

Optical/Digital Zoom

Always look for how much Optical Zoom the camera has got. Do not give a damn about the digital zoom. Always go for a  higher optical zoom. When the optical zoom is more than 3X, its a good idea to have a camera with Image Stabilization (IS). There are two types of image stabilization, Optical and Digital. Most of the time, optical is better.

Movie Capture

If you are going to be capturing videos frequently, get a camera that captures HD movies. The good thing bout cameras that can capture HD movie is that they will also support lower resolutions such as 640x480px and 320x240px. Make sure the camera can zoom and auto focus while the movie is being recorded. If the camera doesn’t have these two features, the HD movie feature is pretty much useless.

Extra Features

Features like extended shutter delay, extended ISO, water proofing and the like can be found in many cameras. Give them necessary points if they help your purpose. Many of the Canon cameras can be feature enhanced with CHDK. You can check it on their website. They allow you to unlock features of your camera without voiding the warranty. And they do not make any permanent changes, it can be reverted any time you need.

Always remember, that great pictures are taken by great photographers, not necessarily with great cameras. The camera is only a tool, you are the one who is taking the pictures. If you have a buddy who is into photography, ask for his help.

First step to a cleaner and faster Windows – understand the Registry

(Please make sure you read all the pages linked under the Links section after you finish this article)Microsoft Windows Operating Systems starting from Windows 3.1. Before the registry was introduced, each application program used “ini” files to store their configuration. This was rather messy. Windows registry was first used only to store the OS core configurations only. Later this was changed and the application program configuration were also saved in Registry.

The first step in knowing the registry is of course seeing it. Registry is ordered hierarchically and consists of six main “hives” which get their names from API definitions :

HKEY_CURRENT_USER (HKCU)
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE (HKLM), HKEY_USERS (HKU)
HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG, HKEY_PERFORMANCE_DATA
HKEY_DYN_DATA

each of these hives are further divided into sub-directories (sub-keys) in a hierarchical order. You can see these sub-keys when you click expand (+). These sub-keys contain other sub-keys and so on. This is shown in the above image.

Editing the registry

You can access registry by two methods, using RegEdit GUI tool or using “reg” command through Command Prompt. Since RegEdit method is easier, we will be discussing that method first. To open the graphical registry editor go to Start»RUN (WIN+R) , type “regedit” and press ENTER (You can find out more shortcuts in – Keyboard shortcuts for Windows). You can see the registry editor showing the two panes, one on the left showing a folder like structure (keys) and one on the right which will show the values saved in each key.

Regidtry with Hives/Keys values marked
Registry editor screen capture with Hives/Keys, Sub-keys and Values marked.

Using command prompt this process is not very straight forward. To open a command prompt, go to START»RUN (WIN+R), type cmd and press ENTER. In the command prompt type “reg /?“. ( Any command followed by /? will show a help for that particular command). You can start using command prompt for automating registry editing.

Screen capture of reg command help
reg /? will produce a small help for the command line registry editor.

Since we have two tools built-in to edit registry, we can use both of them to take a backup as well. Easier one first.

Editing the registry can be tricky. If you change some value to the wrong ones, your OS may get configured wrongly and may not necessarily be recoverable (something of a joke, but still need to warn some poor souls). Having said that it should be obvious to you that taking a backup of your registry is the best way to prevent future disasters. So we will first learn how to take a backup of the registry, even before we have learned how to edit it!

Taking a backup

Taking a backup of the registry will produce a “.reg” file, which,when opened is capable of writing the values stored in it to the registry. One thing to know is that System Restore will also create a backup of the whole registry, but this is not directly accessible.

Screen capture of opening a reg file
Opening a registration entry file prompts you to add it to the registry.

Here is the easy way. Go to registry editor “regedit” navigate tot he key you are about to edit (or not edit) and click on the KEY not not he value. You can either right click on the Key or Select File menu and then “Export”.

Screen capture of two ways to export/backup the registry
Select Export after clicking on a Key from Context or file menu.

Select the option to backup either the selected key or the whole registry. Give a name to the backup file and save. A good practice would be to give a date based name and add a bit that allows you to remember what settings you changed. You can double click on this file and restore it anytime you want. Please make sure you take a backup or a restore point before any editing.

Screen capture of options when saving a reg file
You can opt to save whether to save the whole registry or selected key

Since the easy way was fast, lets go to the slower and harder way. The command prompt command. reg command has got a command line switch which will allow you to take backup of the specified Key. the format is

reg export FULL_KEY_NAME FILE_NAME.reg

Screen capture of registry backup via reg command
Using reg command to export a registry Key - check out the crappy file name

It is pretty useless to copy each and every available command options here. Microsoft has got a really good documentation on reg command. You can read abut Registry commands and advanced techniques in the Links section. If you have any doubts or issues, post a comment and I will get back to you soon.

Good Practices

There are some easy ways to revert to a previous setting if you get screwed up changing a setting. Like when editing important files, make a copy first, name it to something like older_VALUENAME under the same Key itself and name the new Value as the original one. If anything goes wrong you can just rename the backup and save the day.

Registration entry file | Basic read on windows Registry | Recover from corrupt registry

How to shutdown, restart, logoff using command prompt?

Windows provides a builtin command to shutdown, restart as well as logoff a user from the command promptne. This and many other options are provided by the “shutdown” command. In order to find out more options of any command, type :

shutdown /? – command name followed by a forward slash and a question mark.

in Command Prompt ( WIN + R » cmd – here are some more Windows Keyboard shortcuts. You can run any command from Command Prompt or typing the command with full option into the RUN Dialog ( WIN + R ) The main use of all these commands come in batch files and task scheduling. All of these commands are pretty easy to use, please read the article completely before complaining ;)

Basic form of “shutdown”

The most basic form of the command is :

shutdown -OPTION
OR
shutdown /OPTION

Both perform the same thing – execute shutdown command with option OPTION. OPTION can take many values, only the ones of interest to us are mentioned here.

-l – Logs off the current user
-s – Shutdown the computer
-r – Restart the computer

-a – Aborts a current shutdown command execution

-t XX – if this is added with any of the above ones, you can specify after what time ( XX seconds ) the system should execute the OPTION.

A Simple example and a Screenshot

Here the OPTIONs specify that shutdown command should shutdown the command after 120 seconds.

RUNning “shutdown” command with options -s -t 120

shutdown -s -t 120

The screen result will be something like this :

Before shutdown, the logged in user is warned about the event and the time frame.

Canceling a shutdown

If you have given the time parameter -t XX you will have sometime before the command kicks you out. In that time, if you want to cancel the event just type :

shutdown -a -Abort a shutdown

shutdown Aborted – notification

Add a message

You can add a custom message with shutdown so that, instead of the time frame warning, the user will be presented with your message.

shutdown -s -t 120 -c “You are so screwed”

will present the user with the message – “You are so screwed” as below :

Custom message with “shutdown”

More about shutdown on Microsoft KB | Built in parental control in Windows XP

Protecting your childs online prescence

Children today are far more ‘exposed’ to technology than once their parents were. Along with the benefits of the internet, more and more websites pop up each minute that could get them in trouble. Pornography, contact with strangers, Social networking addiction and games are just a few of them. With the curiosity of a kid he likes to know ‘what it is?’. So I am starting a series of posts on parental control and internet security.

Sometime back I did a post on how to control the time users can log in to Windows XP. Since I added “Parental Control” to the title, there had been many visits to the article. This actually made me feel like I was cheating all those visitors. These people were coming here,expecting to find a way to prevent their children go the wrong way on the internet. And what was I giving them? A rather geeky and crappy way of controlling the log in times. That’s why after a long long time I decided to write some real and not so geeky ways of implementing a parental control.

In this article I am going to tell you some good points to note before you setup a full parental control.

  • Educate your children about the bad of getting addicted to internet, games,porn etc
  • Put the PC with internet access in a common area, so that you can always have a look
  • Make the modem setup such that it connects to the internet only on request rather than always on.
  • Its better if you can put a router in between the computer and modem.
  • Be strict about ‘when’ kids can use the computer

There are some plug-ins available for almost all browsers that will make surfing rather safe. One such plug-in is the Web Of Trust Plug-in. It is available for FireFox, Internet Explorer as well as Chrome. But the problem with all these plug-ins are that they can be overcome by some way. although the procedures can be complex, they can still be overcome. That’s why we need a much stronger method for parental control. From the third article in this series onwards I will be discussing methods by which parents can actually implement strong website filtering on their computers.

Bowser Size from Google Labs

Browser size has been integrated into Google Analytics and would soon move out of Google labs.

This handy Google Labs tool will allow you to see your website as seen by users with different screen resolutions. One of the major challenges while designing a website template is to design the template so that user can read the relevant information at the very first glance itself. Sadly this depends on the visitors screen resolution. This tool from Google Labs will overlay a transparent ruler like layout to the web address you give it, thus enabling you to see how your web site looks at  screen resolutions other than yours.

Google Labs browser Size Screen cap
Screen Shot of Simple Informations on browser Size by Google Labs

The tool allows basic settings such as transparency adjustment of the ruler. You can use Google Analytics to know what resolution is used by most number of your visitors. Then you can head over to Browser size and see what all portions of your website is viewable at that resolution. This will allow you to make your web site more accessible and improve the “page views/visit” as well as “bounce rate”.

The following is a screen shot of my Google Analytics page showing the details of this blogs visitors and their screen resolution.

Visitor by resolution chart
Statisctics of visitors to this site by resolution – Google Analytics

Link : Browser Size | Google Labs | Google Analytics

Quix – ultimate BookMarklet

Name

: Quix

What is it?

: Quix is a JavaScript BookMarklet which allows you to add functionality to your browser

Details

Quix is a simple BookMarklet that you can add to you browser toolbar by drag and drop. It is more like the “Latest Headline” in your FireFox toolbar. When clicked, it opens a prompt that accepts short commands and behaves accordingly. Commands include whois lookups, social bookmarkings, webmaster tools, URL shortening etc.

When you click on the Bookmarklet, a prompt appears.
You can type in your command to this prompt : Quix

An example is here. You are on a particular website and you need to know the whois informations of the site, What do you do? You can copy the web address, go to a domain tools site and type in the address to get the details. OR you can click on the Quix button on your toolbar, and just enter ‘whois’ to see all the required information then and there. You can also use Quix for web searches as “g Simple Informations” will search on Google for Simple Informations. Try “dict amazing” for a word meaning or “map LOCATION_NAME” for google map of the Location. These are just a few of the commands available in Quix. YOu can see the full list of commands at Quix Help.

An introduction to Quix : Video

Do I need Quix

If you haven’t yet added it to your toolbar, probably you are confused as to why you need it. Well it makes searches handy, access to other information and sharing on social networks including Twitter and FaceBook easy. If not using this button, you might end up using a single bookmarklet for each of the social networks and one bookmark each for a search. Another advantage is that you can add custom commands to Quix easily. so hurry and get yours now itself.

Pros

Does NOT slow down browser like other plug-ins. Can be used with every browser that supports JavaScript. I don’t think I can list its goods. You just need to prefix each command with a space and it will result in a new tab. All of it is just great. You can extend it with command files (see links below). Can disable the default commands – you should need some crazy reason to do so.

Cons

Haven’t seen one yet.

Verdict

This is one tool every one who uses Internet must have. The SEO and WP tools make life easier for web Admins and Bloggers. Yoast has done a wonderful job by creating the plugin.

Links

Quiz | Quix commands | Extend commands | How to add commands | Joost de Valk