YOUR TOP TIPS FOR... HARDWARE
Use black card when scanning to avoid ghost images
When scanning newspaper pages and the like, the captured image often has the ‘ghost’ of the printed content on the reverse of the page, and even of the page above it.
Try placing a sheet of black card behind the page to be scanned. With no light-dark contrast on the reverse of that page, the print on the reverse will no longer be visible or at the very least will be minimal.
If the scanned image looks a bit dull, use the basic adjustments in a free photo-editing program like Photofiltre ( www.photofiltre-studio.com, see screenshot below) to tweak it.
H J Hill
Keep USB sticks cool using a heat sink
I have noticed that when transferring large files to a USB stick the surface of the stick becomes very hot. I have created a heat sink from a piece of scrap copper pipe as shown in the photo above right.
The method is simple: saw a suitable length of 22mm copper pipe then crush it in a vice so that the USB stick fits into it. You can get the right shape by alternately squeezing the wide and narrow edges in the vice. Now the USB stick never becomes more than lukewarm.
Automatically back up data to a second USB stick
Here is my tip for automatically backing up the data on a master USB stick to another USB stick. The clever thing here is that after the first time the backup is run, only changed or new files are copied.
Typically, when I plug in my two USB sticks the master is recognised as drive G: and the Backup as H: - this might be different on other PCS so make a note of the drive letters assigned to your USB sticks in File Explorer.
Next, create a batch file in Notepad called ‘BACKUP.BAT’. The contents of this file is one line of text that reads: ‘XCOPY %1:\*.* %2:\*.* /S/M’ (you can copy this from pastebin: www.snipca.com/26063). Type (or paste) the command, click File, Save As, change the ‘Save as type’ dropdown menu from .txt to All Files, then type BACKUP.BAT into the ‘File name’ field. Select the C:\users\Yourusername folder as the save location, then click Save.
Open Command Prompt (click Start, type cmd, then press Enter), then type BACKUP G H (change the G and H depending on the drive letters assigned to your USB sticks, making sure the master USB stick is the first drive letter and backup stick the second).
The only limitation of this method is that any files you remove from the master will not be removed from the backup. I suggest you tidy up the contents of both master and backup from time to time.
Find old product manuals online
There seems to be a trend away from hardware manuals, but I don’t know why. Perhap Perhaps manufacturers see them as an expensive waste of time (or paper). Yet to people of my generation (I’m in my sevent seventies) manuals are reassuring to have, even if they often seem to be written by people with no grasp of English.
I’ve lost many manuals over the years, so I’m thankful for the website Manualsonline ( www.manualsonline.com), which is a huge database of manual manuals (700,000 it claims). I’ve used it to find manuals for old Lenovo monitors and Blblack & Decker lawnmowers.
It also has a forum where you can ask any question. Others will usually respond by suggesting a manual that can help.
Scan downloads using 40 antivirus programs
My friends always tell me I’m a bit paranoid, which is probably why I’ve switched between numerous antivirus programs over the years (Kaspersky, Bitdefender, Avira, F-secure and many more). I always suspect that I’m not getting the full protection.
One of my long-suffering friends suggested I use the Chrome extension Metadefender ( www.snipca.com/26048). When you download something, Metadefender scans it using the antivirus engines of more than 40 security companies, including those mentioned above. It feels like I’m being protected by 40 bodyguards, each with a particular skill.
You can right-click the extension to manually run a scan, but I’ve set it to do this every time I download something (did I mention I was paranoid?). You can do this by clicking the Metadefender icon at the top right of your browser bar, then ticking the ‘Scan all downloads’ box (see screenshot below). Gareth Thomas
Cut and paste multiple web articles
I love scouring the internet for great things to read later, and use a brilliant Firefox extension to add multiple articles to my clipboard. It’s called Text Multicopy ( www.snipca.com/26047), and is very easy to use. You simply highlight the text you want to copy, right-click it, then click Save Selection in the menu. Once you’ve added all the articles you want, click ‘Copy Saved to Clipboard’ (see screenshot below), then paste it into a document (I use Libreoffice Writer). Phil Tyler
Go directly to the web page you want when searching online
Google’s search engine is great, but I’ve discovered a faster way of going directly to what I want online using a different search engine – Duckduckgo. None of my friends have heard of this, so I don’t know how popular it is, but it deserves to be used more widely.
It uses a system of what it calls ‘bangs’ to create shortcuts. To use this system you need to type your search query prefaced by an exclamation mark – !amazon screwdrivers, for example (see screenshot above right), then press Enter. Instead of then seeing a page of search results (as with Google), you jump straight to Amazon.co.uk’s screwdrivers page. Duckduckgo says it has 9,980 ‘bang’ commands you can use, including for sites like BBC iplayer, Facebook and ebay. There’s more information at https://duckduckgo.com/bang. Sheila Reynolds
Mute all noisy websites
There may be something more irritating online than websites that automatically play noisy videos, but I’ve yet to find it. I know that Google says it will mute them from next year, but for the sake of my sanity I can’t wait that long. I’ve taken matters into my own hands by tweaking Chrome’s ‘Autoplay policy’ to prevent some HTML5 videos from playing automatically.
Type chrome:flags into your browser bar to open Chrome’s experiments, then press Ctrl+f and type autoplay policy into the search field. You’ll be taken to the ‘Autoplay policy’ tool, where you change the dropdown menu from Default to ‘User gesture is required for cross-origin iframes’ (see screenshot below). Next, press the Restart Now button that appears at the bottom. From now on you’ll be given the option to play videos, which is much more civilised!
Access vintage maps for free
I’m going to bet that there are a lot of Computeractive readers who, like me, love studying old maps. So I hope they’ll enjoy the website Oldmapsonline ( www. oldmapsonline.org), which lets you explore historic maps from around the world. If you have a location in mind, click ‘Find a place’. For a more gentle rummage, click ‘Browse the old maps’. Once you’ve found a map you’re interested in, click ‘View this map’ (see screenshot) to see where in the world it’s kept (British Library for example). Ian Martin
Bring life to dull images by tweaking them using Photofiltre’s editing tools
Place your USB stick in a heat sink to keep it cool
Tick ‘Scan all downloads’ for maximum protection from Metadefender
Duckduckgo’s ‘bangs’ send you straight to a website, bypassing search results
Use Firefox extension Text Multicopy to cut and paste multiple online articles
Browse vintage maps at Oldmapsonline, then find out where they are kept