Bob and Joy Schwabach
 

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  April 2008, Week 3

SIMULATE THIS!

Wow your friends, impress you boss, be a tech support hero. 

We can’t possibly provide tech support for the hundreds of problems that plague PC users, but we found a simulation program that can turn almost anyone into a professional trouble shooter. It’s “Windows Simulator, Exam Cram” from Que Publishing. 

This is a simulator, not an emulator. An emulator would let you run Windows on a Macintosh, for example. What Exam Cram does is simulate Windows problems. It runs on any computer using Windows 98 or higher and can Windows Simulator simulate many Windows scenarios. As you learn how to solve each problem, following the instructions from the program, it looks and feels like you are working on another computer. 

For any problem – like how do I get rid of the annoying “enter your password” requirement every time the computer is restarted, you can choose to place yourself in “student mode” or “tech” mode. In student mode, you get hints that will lead you to the solution to the problem. In tech mode, the program becomes a kind of exam to test whether or not you know how to do it.  

You get a report on how many good clicks you made as you worked to solve the problem, how many bad clicks, and how long it took you to solve the problem. This simulates an experience we have had many times with our own conversations with tech support people. Some techs solve the problem almost immediately, with very direct instruction on what to do. Others go through seemingly endless struggles and  finally give up. In fact we have noticed huge differences in the competence of tech support helpers, and if we get a really bad one, we are inclined to hang up and call in again in hopes of getting someone who actually knows what they’re doing. We recommend you adopt the same  technique when frustrated by bad support. 

The Windows Simulator has hard and easy problems. The steps for killing the “enter your password” requirement were easy: all we had to do was open the “Control Panel,” click on “User Accounts,” and “remove password.” Another easy one is how to enlarge the text on your screen: click on the “Start” button at the bottom of the windows home screen, and go to “Accessories.” There’s a choice called “magnifier” under accessibility options. That’s the one to click. 

A harder problem is for business network users:  your sales force needs to tap into the company network from remote locations but there is no security established for doing this. So your job is to set up a virtual private network (VPN); the simulator will take you through the required steps. The Windows Simulator is a combination CD and book that has more than 200 problem solving scenarios. The list price is $68 from examcram.com.  

NOTE: We’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating: Windows itself has many solutions to common problems if you go to the Windows help file. Click on “Start” from the main startup screen and select “Help and Support” from the menu that pops up. Type in a keyword and you will get instructions on how to solve many Windows quirks and questions.   

mishareiPod Face-Off 

MiShare  quickly solves the sometimes balky task of transferring tunes from one iPod to another. It connects them head to head, so to speak, or brain to brain or shoulder to shoulder, or socket to socket. The device is slightly smaller than an iPod and has plugs on each end. These match the input sockets on the iPods and you just plug them together, sort of like an electronic tinker toy.  

A typical song takes about 10 seconds to transfer; a short video takes about half a minute. You can connect the Apple Mini, Nano, Video and classic iPods together with the MiShare but it doesn’t work with the very oldest iPods or the Shuffle, because they have different docking sockets. MiShare is $100 from mishare.com. 

Internuts 

--  CoverPop.com  contains collages of hundreds of magazines, books, album covers, video cover art, YouTube videos, musical instruments, and on into the night. What you see is a screen that looks like a mess of stuff dropped on a floor. When you hover your mouse pointer over any of the tiny pictures, that picture expands. If you click on it you get more information and sometimes a link to where to buy it. We had fun with the collage of Sci-Fi magazine and MAD Magazine covers. This is a fa scinating site. 

-- Coudal.com  is another fascinating site. Click on the “Museum of Online Museums” for a look at some really odd museums. We bet you haven’t seen theNurse Novel gallery Museum of Old Soviet Radios, the Virtual Absinthe Museum, the Museum of Fred, the Big Things of Canada, the Gallery of Nurse Novels, or the Museum of Japanese Vending Machines. Of course you might have visited the Museum of the History of Science at Oxford University, but in case you missed it, you can take a look here.  

Got Fast Game? 

They call it GameNet, and say it’s designed to speed up the fun for players who use a wireless connection to the Internet. What it is, actually, is a home wiring network device that transfers an Internet connection to any wall plug that is part of a home or office wiring system. These have been around for several years, and they work pretty well.  

The $170 package from Corinex.com is targeted at game players who have poor wireless connections in some parts of the house. Like any other power-Gamenetline networking system, it can be used to connect computers as well as game machines. The kit comes with two adapters that plug into electric sockets and the computers or game machines are in turn plugged into those. Set-up was a snap and took us about two minutes. The kit come with a disk of software that appears to be totally useless; drop it in the circular file, you don’t need it. 


NOTE: Readers can search several years of columns here at oncomp.com or seven years worth of columns at oncomp2.com 

 
 
 
           

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