Archive for the ‘Windows’ Category.

The harsh reality about aging computers

In preparing for Software Freedom Day (September 19, more details in this post), my dad and I began evaluating the stash of donated computers he has (he’s waiting on a call from the local Computers for Kids program donee), and installing Ubuntu on them to be demo machines.  As we began installing Ubuntu, we hit a snag:  Ubuntu 9.04 will not install on pre-2000 computers.  Version 8.10 wouldn’t install either.  There were only three, and one of them was only 366 MHz, but I figured I’d give it a try anyway since they each had at least 256 MB of RAM.

I have a friend with a warehouse full of computers that he donates to another giveaway program.  He gets donations, like my dad, evaluates them, categorizes the parts, etc, and puts together systems with Windows XP on them (from TechSoup).    He told me last year he isn’t accepting any more computers with less than 1.0 GHz processors, because current software has too many problems with slower computers.

Well, yeah, you can get software to run on the older machines (see some previous posts), but increasingly, it’s a question of why?  I did it for the challenge.  But for machines going to others to use, why make it a challenge for them (unless, of course, they want that)?  For the Ubuntu folks, anything older than 2000 just isn’t worth the effort anymore.  For my warehouse friend, 1 GHz is the cutoff (which is post 2000).

On one hand, culling the older ones makes it easier for us.  On the other, my conscience cringes at adding to the number of computers and parts to be recycled (and the decidedly un-green effect most of those recycling shops have).  But that’s the reality: software installation and maintenance on dinosaur machines is a beast few are willing to wrangle with.

Changing Menu Text Size

O.K., upfront disclaimer: This is not for experts. But I have been getting a lot of questions lately about how to change the text size for menus in Windows.

This is a way to increase the size of some of the text without changing the screen resolution, which is a way to increase the overall size of everything, including text. These are instructions for WindowsXP, but they should work in Windows Vista as well.

First, right click on a clear part of the computer’s desktop, to open the context menu. Click on the last option, “Properties.”

Right click Context Menu on the desktop

In the Display Properties window, click on the “Appearance” tab at the top.

Appearance tab in the Properties Window

In the Appearance section, click on the “Advanced” button at the bottom.

Advanced button on the Appearance tab section

Click on the downward pointing arrow to open the drop down menu:

Drop down menu button on the Advanced Windows page

Select the “Menu” option from the drop down menu that opens.

Menu option selected in the drop down menu

Change the Text size in the box next to the Font selection box.

Text Size box

Notice the preview pane at the top of the window, which will display the proposed changes. The Font can also be changed here, if desired, as well as the color and bold or italic embellishments. Other Windows appearances can be customized here as well (use the drop down “Item” menu).

Click the OK button at the bottom when you are satisfied with the changes. This will take you back to the Appearance tab of the Display Properties window. Click on the “Apply” button at the bottom of the window for the changes to take effect.

Apply button in the Display Properties window

When you are satisfied with the changes, click the OK button at the bottom of the Display Properties window to close it. Note that if you make any changes in the Appearances tab (such as changing the style), it will override the changes you made in the Advanced section.

(Note: this won’t change the menu text size in Firefox (version, but it will change the text for the tabs, toolbar labels, and the bookmark toolbar).

How to do that visual stuff in handouts (

Here is an example of a handout created in Writer, using screenshots:


The post on how to do this in MSWord is here. This particular post applies to 2.0 on Windows. Although most of the handouts on the ncrlab eSnips page were done in MSWord (a few are in WordPerfect), I actually use for handouts now instead of MSWord. It’s just more portable. It’s also easier in some ways (although there are a few minor gripes I have).

Since this is Windows, get screenshots using the Print Screen key and the Paint program, as described here. Once you have the images saved, open the Writer (select “Text Document” from the options). Click on the View menu, then go to the Toolbars submenu and click on the Drawing option to make the drawing toolbar available:


The toolbar will be visible at the bottom of the page. To insert an image into the page, click on the button on the draw toolbar to insert an image from file.


Navigate through the dialog box to the picture you want to insert (in this case, the large one from the Print Screen exercise), and open it. Notice the Grahics toolbar that automatically appears docked at the top of the page. Right click on the image and click on “Picture” to get to the picture properties dialog window:


It is not necessary to change the image wrap; the default works just fine. However, if you have problems shifting the image on the page, change the image wrap to “Optimal.” The best way to resize the image is to check the box to keep the image ratio then adjust the height or width by typing in the target size or using the arrows beside the boxes to adjust the size. With the “Keep ratio” box checked, the size will stay proportional as you increase one side (either height or width). This is also an easy way to make sure similar images are the same height or width.


Click the OK button to get back to the image. Now reposition the image by clicking inside the image and dragging it to where you want it on the page:


You could also resize the image by clicking on one of the corners and dragging diagonally, but the aspect ratio will not be automatically preserved as it is when changing the size in the picture properties dialog window, so it may end up stretched in one direction or the other.


Insert the smaller image using the same steps, arranging the two images on the page beside each other. Now add a box to the larger image. Click on the box shape button on the toolbar and select the rounded rectangle from the popup display.


Click and drag across the part of the larger image that was copied to create the smaller image. An opaque box will overlay the image:


Next, remove the fill by clicking on the “color” drop down menu in the graphics menu at the top of the page, and selecting “invisible.”


Now change the line width, and color (if desired), by clicking on the related drop down options on the graphics toolbar:



Do the same for the smaller image, creating a box around the whole image, and changing the line width and color to match the box on the larger image.

Now draw lines connecting the two boxes: Click on the line tool on the Drawing toolbar at the bottom.


Now click on a corner of one of the boxes and drag the cursor to the corner of the other box, creating a line between them. Then change the line width and color, just as you did with the boxes.


Create another line between the two opposite corners, adjusting the color and width as with the first line. The final effect should look something like this:


The boxes and lines can be moved by dragging when the cursor turns into a four-way arrow over them.  If the box is snapping to a grid rather than staying precisely where you move it, hold down the Alt key while dragging.  This will override any grid restrictions.

How to do that visual stuff in handouts (Windows MSWord)

I have told a lot of people, and posted advice here, to use handouts with visual cues, like this one:


Someone asked how to create this type of handout with screenshot images, so here’s a rundown on how I do it in Windows. I have used, Word and WordPerfect, but this post will only cover MSWord; I’ll do and WordPerfect posts next.The first step is to get screenshots. If you don’t know how to do that, see the instruction page for Windows.Once you have the images saved, you are ready to put the images into the handout document. Open MSWord. I usually do this in Word 2000 or Word 2002, but these steps should work in Word 97. Make sure the Drawing Toolbar is visible; if it isn’t, go to the View menu, select the Toolbar option, and click on Drawing if there isn’t a check by it already. It should appear at the bottom of the window.


Type whatever text or instructions you are going to use, and move the insertion point a couple lines below the text (by pressing the “Enter” key). Click on the “Insert Image” button on the Drawing Toolbar:


Navigate through the dialog box to the image you want (in this case, the larger image saved in the Print Screen exercise), and select it to open. If the Picture Toolbar is visible (notice it “floating” above the image in the example?), click on the text-align button. (If it is not visible, right click on the image and move the cursor to the align option.) Choose the “Tight” option in the menu that drops open.


Resize and reposition the image where you want it (notice the enclosing box disappears and the black square “handle” boxes have been replaced with circles) by clicking and dragging on one of the corner dots (to resize) and clicking inside the image and dragging (to reposition).


Click on the “Insert Image” button again, and navigate to the smaller image to insert it. Change the image alignment as with the larger image, and position it where you want it. Click on a corner and drag to enlarge the image when the cursor turns into a double arrow.Click on the Auto Shapes button at the bottom and choose the rounded rectangle from the Basic Shapes options.


Now move the cursor to the part of the image you copied earlier and drag across what you had copied. An opaque box will overlay the image.


Move the cusor back to the Drawing toolbar and click on the “Fill” button. Select “No Fill” from the pupup menu.


Click on the “Line” button and select a wider width.


Click on the “Color” button and select a different color, if desired.


Repeat these steps to put a rounded rectangle around the smaller image. You can resize the rectangle at any time by clicking and dragging its corner. If the boxes or lines seem to be snapping to a preset grid (they won’t change position to exactly where you want them), hold down the Alt key (next to the spacebar) while you click and drag.Now click on the Line button and move the cursor back onto the document.


Click on one of the corners of one of the drawn rectangles and drag across to a corner of the other drawn rectangle so there is a line from one box to the other.


If the line is not the right thickness or color, change it now using the line width tool and color tool you used for the boxes. You can also change the length of the line by clicking and dragging one of the ends.


Draw another line from an opposite corner of one box to another corner of the other box.There is only one thing left to do: “glue” them all together. Click on one of the lines or boxes. Hold down the shift key and click on each of the drawn units until they are all selected. Keep holding down the shift key and click on the images as well, so that everything is selected.Click on the “Draw” button on the Draw toolbar. Click on the option that says “Group.” Now the images and boxes will stay together as one group as you continue to add to or edit the page.


Network printing

Somewhat off-topic, but one of the issues going on here.

I have 3 Epson printers here. I’ve spent about $100 on ink for them, and none of them will work. I’ve since found out that Epson printers are so bad there’s a class action lawsuit. Meanwhile, we needed something more than the Canon photo printer that’s left. So I figured I’d get (1) a laser printer and (2) a wireless print server so we can all use the same printer. Staples had a great deal on a Samsung laser printer, and a Netgear wireless print server on sale as well. Together they cost about what I’d spend on Epson ink in a year.

We’ve got a Linksys wireless network, with an iMac connected by ethernet (doesn’t have a wireless card in it) and a Windows machine connected wirelessly. There’s also an Apple Powerbook and an Apple G3 without wireless cards. Both have OS X and Linux on them, but only the laptop, being portable, can be connected to the router, via ethernet.

The print server has extra ethernet ports so computers like the Apple G3 can get a wireless connection through the print server. Seemed like a good idea to me: set up the printer and print server where the Apple G3 is and get networked printing with a bonus wireless connection for one of the Apples. The Samsung has drivers for Windows, OS X, and Linux. The Netgear print server only has a Windows setup option. Of course, once it’s set up, it doesn’t matter where it’s connected.

I almost succeeded in getting the Netgear print server set up on my own. I ended up spending about 4 hours on the phone with tech support before we figured out what the problem was: the MAC address listed on the back of the box is for the ethernet connection. The wireless MAC address is different, and can only be found by accessing the print server after it’s set up. Once that was cleared up, the networks talked nicely to each other (I have restrictions on the wireless network by MAC address, as well as WPA).

Next was getting the Apple G3 connected. No problem there, except that, even though the computer had a wired connection to the print server, and had the Samsung drivers installed, it couldn’t find the printer. I found instructions at Netgear for connecting on Apple OSX version 10.4 (Tiger), and got the iMac printing, but the other two Apples are running OSX version 10.3, and the printer setup is different. I booted the notebook into Linux, popped in the Samsung CD, and started the “Autorun” I found on it. It installed all the drivers and asked if I wanted to set up a printer. So I went through its setup wizard, which was easier than the Mac setup, and printed a test page! (Cheers for Samsung!)

I’ll get the printer set up in Linux on the other Apple. I’m not sure I want to take the time any more to get it working on the older Apple OS. Samsung made it so easy on Linux, but Netgear can barely accommodate one Mac OS version, much less Linux. So kudos for Samsung, and black marks for Netgear! If you’re looking for a print server for a mixed network like mine, you should probably investigate other brands, even if Netgear does have a better price. And if you’re looking for a basic laser printer, you should definitely look at Samsung.

Update (Sept.9, 2007):

After almost a year with the setup, the biggest problem has been the Netgear device arbitrarily deciding when to accept connections. It seems almost random. Print jobs will fail to go through (and sit in a queue on the computer). I try connecting directly to the Netgear device, but when it’s “down” it doesn’t respond to anything, even from the computer that is connected via an ethernet cable. But then a new print job will go through successfully and everything works fine (including printing the backed up print jobs), for a few days, anyway. Then it’s back to trying to figure out a way to wake up the printserver.