Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Temperamental Techie Is Back!

Our troubled economy is no respecter of persons. After a battle with unemployment, your favorite Temperamental Techie is back with a new look and lease on life! Please send in your questions or experiences with the temperamental techie in your office for all to enjoy.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

LCD vs. Plasma TV's

Many people come to me for advice about general electronics purchases. One of the common questions I receive is "Which is better, LCD or Plasma?" My answer? It depends on how you are going to use it. The arguments below are based on my research on the subject from sources like Sound & Vision, Consumer Reports, Cnet, and others.

The argument for LCD
  1. LCDs are brighter than plasma and their screens are less reflective. This means they'll look better in a bright room or even outside if you are creating an outdoor lounge.
  2. LCDs typically use less power, but the difference is probably not significant unless you leave your LCD on for long periods of time, like for use as a computer monitor.
  3. LCDs are less susceptible to burn-in. This remains true, although testing has shown that the new plasmas have many features to make it a very low risk for your TV. However, if you want to use it as a computer monitor or for video games where there are fixed images displayed for prolonged periods of time, LCD is probably still the way to go.
  4. Plasma TVs seem to be going by the wayside which means LCDs will probably be in the marketplace much longer and your LCD TV will still be worth something if you want to sell it down the road because you want to upgrade to the latest technology.
The argument for Plasma
  1. You get more TV for your money with a Plasma TV. A 50" 1080p plasma may cost $1000 while a 52" 1080p LCD may cost $1500. The price gap is getting smaller, however, and will continue to get more competitive over time.
  2. Plasma TVs are better than LCD at displaying the deep blacks and have better contrast which creates more realistic and natural images especially in dim lighting. This means they'll look better in dark rooms like a home theater or when watching movies with the lights turned low or off.
  3. Plasmas also produce fast motion images without blurring much better than LCD. They say 120Hz and greater LCDs are showing improvement in that area, but are still subpar compared to plasma. So if you'll be watching a lot of sports and action movies, you're better off with plasma.
  4. Plasma TVs have a virtually unlimited viewing angle. You'll want a plasma if you are planning a Super Bowl party or having a bunch of friends over to watch a movie and not everyone will be able to sit front & center.
The myth of longevity

Many people will try and tell you that the life expectancy of an LCD is 2-3 times greater than a Plasma. That may have been true with early models but is now no longer an advantage exclusively held by LCD technology. An example demonstrating the effective life expectancy of plasma televisions I read about is the use of the Panasonic Tau plasma by In Motion Pictures at major airports around the country. Although most of the earlier Tau models have now been replaced by a newer model, these plasma displays were used for 5 years and were the first generation of plasma displays to go a considerable distance. The TVs were run from 6AM until 10PM daily (16 hours), putting them in use by for about 30,000 hours. 30,000 hours equates to a life expectancy of about 25 years for a home owner that watches 3 hours of television per day.

If you still have qualms about the longevity of a plasma, remember the adage "you pay for what you get". Not all plasmas are created equal, and not all LCDs are created equal. If you want a TV that you can feel good about the quality of the product and how long you think it will last, pay a little more and you usually won't regret it.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Why techies can be temperamental...

Here are a few reasons why we techies can be temperamental. (Borrowed from

So you think you're computer-illiterate? Check out the following excerpts from a Wall Street Journal article by Jim Carlton --

1. Compaq is considering changing the command "Press Any Key" to "Press Return Key" because of the flood of calls asking where the "Any" key is.

2. AST technical support had a caller complaining that her mouse was hard to control with the dust cover on. The cover turned out to be the plastic bag the mouse was packaged in.

3. Another Compaq technician received a call from a man complaining that the system wouldn't read word processing files from his old diskettes. After trouble- shooting for magnets and heat failed to diagnose the problem, it was found that the customer labeled the diskettes then rolled them into the typewriter to type the labels.

4. Another AST customer was asked to send a copy of her defective diskettes. A few days later a letter arrived from the customer along with Xeroxed copies of the floppies.

5. A Dell technician advised his customer to put his troubled floppy back in the drive and close the door. The customer asked the tech to hold on, and was heard putting the phone down, getting up and crossing the room to close the door to his room.

6. Another Dell customer called to say he couldn't get his computer to fax anything. After 40 minutes of trouble-shooting, the technician discovered the man was trying to fax a piece of paper by holding it in front of the monitor screen and hitting the "send" key.

7. Yet another Dell customer called to complain that his keyboard no longer worked. He had cleaned it by filling up his tub with soap and water and soaking the keyboard for a day, then removing all the keys and washing them individually.

8. A Dell technician received a call from a customer who was enraged because his computer had told him he was "bad and an invalid". The tech explained that the computer's "bad command" and "invalid" responses shouldn't be taken personally.

9. An exasperated caller to Dell Computer Tech Support couldn't get her new Dell Computer to turn on. After ensuring the computer was plugged in, the technician asked her what happened when she pushed the power button. Her response, "I pushed and pushed on this foot pedal and nothing happens." The "foot pedal" turned out to be the computer's mouse.

10. Another customer called Compaq tech support to say her brand-new computer wouldn't work. She said she unpacked the unit, plugged it in, and sat there for 20 minutes waiting for something to happen. When asked what happened when she pressed the power switch, she asked "What power switch?"

11. True story from a Novell NetWire SysOp:

Caller: "Hello, is this Tech Support?"
Tech: "Yes, it is. How may I help you?"
Caller: "The cup holder on my PC is broken and I am within my warranty period. How do I go about getting that fixed?"
Tech: "I'm sorry, but did you say a cup holder?"
Caller: "Yes, it's attached to the front of my computer."
Tech: "Please excuse me if I seem a bit stumped, It's because I am. Did you receive this as part of a promotional, at a trade show? How did you get this cup holder? Does it have any trademark on it?"
Caller: "It came with my computer, I don't know anything about a promotional. It just has '24X' on it."

At this point the Tech Rep had to mute the caller, because he couldn't stand it. The caller had been using the load drawer of the CD-ROM drive as a cup holder, and snapped it off.

The Temperamental Techie's Reviews

Well, after a week's vacation and a two-week hiatus from the blogging world, the Temperamental Techie is back in full swing. Check out my new blog dedicated to temperamental reviews of the technology I work with every day. Just go to If there is a product you would like reviewed before you try or buy, just let me know and I'll screen it for you.

I will continue to share tips, tricks, ravings, and rants right here at

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Create custom buttons for your macros in Microsoft Excel

Have you created a macro that you use often? Wouldn't it be nice if there was a button on your toolbars that ran the macro so you didn't have go through all the menus every time you want to use it? Here's how to create a custom button that can be placed on any toolbar for easy access.
  1. Click Tools --> Customize...
  2. Select the Commands tab. From Categories, select Macros. Then click on, hold, and drag the Custom Button to the desired place on one of your toolbars. (The same thing can be done with the Custom Menu.)
  3. With the Customize dialogue box still open, right-click on your button to assign properties, change the icon and style, or give it a name. Click Assign Macro... to enable the button to run your custom macro when you click on it. Select the desired macro and click OK.
  4. Close the Customize dialogue box and test out your new button!
It's as easy as that!

Sort your Excel worksheets alphanumerically

Doesn't it seem like sorting worksheets alphanumerically should be a built-in function of Microsoft Excel? Well, stop looking in Excel for a tool or option to do it, because it doesn't exist. Unfortunately, you have to create a macro. When you create a macro, you are telling Excel to memorize a set of commands and carry them out in sequence. Fortunately, Microsoft has published the commands in programming code that will help us make the macro. "I'm not a programmer!" you say? Hakuna Matata (my kids have been watching the Lion King lately..."it means no worries"), you don't need to be a programmer to make this work. I'll walk you through the process step-by-step.

First, highlight and copy the following code to your clipboard.

Sub Sort_Active_Book()
Dim i As Integer
Dim j As Integer
Dim iAnswer As VbMsgBoxResult
' Prompt the user as which direction they wish to
' sort the worksheets.
iAnswer = MsgBox("Sort Sheets in Ascending Order?" & Chr(10) _
& "Clicking No will sort in Descending Order", _
vbYesNoCancel + vbQuestion + vbDefaultButton1, "Sort Worksheets")
For i = 1 To Sheets.Count
For j = 1 To Sheets.Count - 1
' If the answer is Yes, then sort in ascending order.
If iAnswer = vbYes Then
If UCase$(Sheets(j).Name) > UCase$(Sheets(j + 1).Name) Then
Sheets(j).Move After:=Sheets(j + 1)
End If
' If the answer is No, then sort in descending order.
ElseIf iAnswer = vbNo Then
If UCase$(Sheets(j).Name) < UCase$(Sheets(j + 1).Name) Then
Sheets(j).Move After:=Sheets(j + 1)
End If
End If
Next j
Next i
End Sub

Next, go to Microsoft Excel and from the menu at the top click Tools --> Macro --> Record New Macro.... Name the macro anything (SortSheets, for example), and tell it to store it in the Personal Macro Workbook and click OK. (We save it to the Personal Workbook to make the macro available in any Excel file you may work with.) The ONLY thing you should do after you have started recording the macro is stop recording the macro. (Just click the stop button that appears on the screen.)

Now that you have created the macro, click on Tools --> Macro --> Macros..., select your macro and click Edit. You should get an error that says you "Cannot edit a macro in a hidden workbook." Click Cancel and then choose Window from the menu and select Unhide.... Choose the PERSONAL workbook and click Unhide. Now go back to your Macro and click Edit. It should open up the Visual Basic Editor.

Once you're in the Visual Basic Editor, delete the text in the window that is open and paste the code you copied earlier in its place. Click File --> Close and Return to Microsoft Excel.

Congratulations! You can now run the macro anytime! Just go to Tools --> Macro --> Macros..., then select your macro and click Run. Your worksheets will be sorted!

If you'd like, you can create a customized button that you can place on your toolbar for easy access. See my article on creating customized buttons in Microsoft Office for more information.

One last thing not to be left undone!!! Before you close Excel, you need to hide the Personal Workbook again. If you don't it, the next time you open Excel, it will open to the Personal Workbook instead of a new workbook. Click Window --> Hide. When you close Excel, be sure to save your Personal Workbook.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Set IT Free!

In case some of my readers tell their IT guy about this great blog they've come across, I thought I'd post something for them.

If you don't know about it yet, you've got to learn about it now. Spiceworks is the best IT tool I've ever used.

"Spiceworks is a free “everything IT” tool that delivers nearly everything an IT pro needs to simplify your job. Designed for small- and medium-sized businesses, Spiceworks single, easy-to-use interface combines network inventory, monitoring, troubleshooting and reporting with an easy to use help desk. And, it connects you with a community of over half-a-million other IT pros to share ideas, best practices and product recommendations, and in the spirit of helping each other solve problems and make the IT day easier.

"And, the best part? It's free, thanks to top technology vendors that sponsor Spiceworks!"

Did you forget your password?

Have you ever forgotten the password for your protected Excel spreadsheet? Worried that you'll have to recreate the spreadsheet? Don't have any friends with good hacking skills? Well, worry no longer! PasswordX 2009 is a handy app that will remove the password so you can regain full access again. Give it a try today!

Speaking of forgotten passwords, NirSoft makes a whole suite of free password recovery tools you might find useful.

DISCLAIMER: I am only sharing this information with the intent to help people who have genuinely forgotten passwords. I do not condone attempts to discover passwords for illegal activities such as piracy, stealing, etc., and anyone who uses these tools illegally should have a very, very, guilty conscience.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Recover your deleted email in Microsoft Outlook

How many times have you accidentally deleted an email you needed to look at just one more time? "No big deal," you say to yourself, "it's in my deleted items folder." Then your stomach drops as you realize you just emptied your deleted items folder or you used the SHIFT+DELETE command to skip having to empty it out of your deleted items folder. In a state of panic, you might approach your IT guy and ask him if there's anything that can be done to recover your email, hoping that it hasn't entered "the void." Depending on the temperament of the techie on duty at the time, he/she might say you're out of luck. Then again, the techie might be in a good mood and tell you that there is a 7-day retention policy (retention policies vary and are specified by the Exchange server administrator) and he'll politely show you how to recover your lost email.

Well, in the event that your techie is in a bad mood, or you just don't want to bother him, you can always try recovering the email yourself. Here's how:
  1. Open Outlook, if it's not already open.
  2. Select the Deleted Items folder in your folder list.
  3. Click the Tools menu and select "Recover Deleted Items..."
  4. Select the message(s) you want to restore and click the "Recover Selected Items" button.
2 4

What a relief! You did it! You got it back! Now how about that important email you permanently deleted out of your Inbox because you accidentally selected it among a group of all those annoying forwards your friends send you. You try again, but don't find it in the list of deleted items to recover! And when you try and use the Recover Deleted Items command from your Inbox folder, it's greyed out! Don't panic, remain calm; there is a way to recover that one, too.

By default, the Recover Deleted Items command is only enabled for your Deleted Items folder. Luckily for you, by modifying the windows registry you can enable it for any folder! CAUTION: Modifying the registry incorrectly can cause serious problems that might require you to reinstall your operating system. And believe me, you don't want to do that! Always back up your registry before making changes, just in case. Use the registry editor at your own risk!
  1. Close Outlook, if it's open.
  2. Open the Windows registry editor by clicking on your Start menu, selecting "Run...",then type in "regedit" and click "OK."
  3. Backup your registry by selecting "My Computer", then open the "File" menu and select "Export...". Choose a location and name your file (I recommend naming it something along the lines of "20090617 registry backup" so you know when the backup was made).
  4. Once your backup is complete, browse to "My Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Exchange\Client\Options."
  5. Go to the "Edit" menu, point to "New", and then select "DWORD Value."
  6. Name it "DumpsterAlwaysOn" (no spaces).
  7. Right-click on your new DWORD, click "Modify..." and set the value to 1 (as in the number one).
  8. Click "OK" and close the registry editor.
4 7

Now you can use the Recover Deleted Items command from any folder in Outlook!

If you found this useful, please share it in your office.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Using email to send text messages

I don't know about you, but I am more efficient with email while at the office than text messaging on my phone. So, if you're like me and have Microsoft Outlook open most of the day, you'll save time and effort sending text messages right from Outlook.

Most people have no idea that the major US cellular carriers actually use email for SMS to text capable cell phones. These text messages are limited to 160 total characters for both subject and message body. Using the format "", you can send a text message from any email client, like Microsoft Outlook, or web-based email service (like Yahoo!, Gmail, or Hotmail). And, what's even better than that is you'll receive any replies to your text message in your email inbox. Here is a list of the major carriers' email domains ("phonenumber" being the 10-digit phone number for the person you want to text):
  • Alltel --
  • AT&T --
  • Nextel --
  • Sprint --
  • SunCom --
  • T-Mobile --
  • VoiceStream --
  • Verizon (text only) --
  • Verizon (pictures/videos) --
Try it out today and pass it along!