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Lock Your Computer Keyboard From the Kids

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Keep Your Files Safe

These days we encourage children to use computers from a very young age, but as much as you want to help your kids become familiar with technology, the last thing you need is an exuberant toddler banging away on your keyboard and destroying an important document you’re working on. I recently came across a very nifty little program that can protect your work from the busy little fingers of your kids, by letting you lock your keyboard when you leave your computer, and it’s very aptly called CrazyLittleFingers.

How Does It Work?

If you activate CrazyLittleFingers when you leave your PC for one reason or another, it locks the keyboard, shielding whatever is running at the time. If anyone presses a key on the keyboard while the program is activated, either a picture appears on the screen or a sound is emitted corresponding to the struck key – an image of an animal when a letter key is pressed (P for ‘pig’, H for ‘horse’, and F for ‘frog’ and so on), the relevant numeral appears when a number key is struck, and noises are generated for the remaining keys. It doesn’t matter if kids click anywhere on the screen; they cannot shut the program down. To escape the program, you need to press CTRL-ALT-DELETE, which requires a dexterity beyond very young children – even some adults when it comes to that.

Installing CrazyLittleFingers

To install the program go to CrazyLittleWebsite’s websit and download it. Here, you’ll find two download links. The first one is for the full program and is a much bigger download than the second (65M as opposed to 300K), but it is ready to use immediately with all images and sounds included.

If you opt for the second download option (EXE only), you’ll need to configure each keyboard key to your own images and sounds (BMP, GIF, JPG, MOV [QuickTime], MP3, WAV supported). The advantage of taking this option is that you can use animals and sounds that your child will relate to, but that’s a lot more work and requires a higher skill level.

When you’ve decided on which download version you prefer, click on the relevant link and follow the prompts to download the zip file to the destination of your choice. To install the program, navigate to the location you chose for the download and unzip the file by clicking on Extract and choosing a destination folder. Next, go to this folder and double-click on the CrazyLittleFingers.exe file to run the program.

Additional features are planned for CrazyLittleFingers, including the ability for the program to auto-start after a certain period of inactivity on a PC; support for more image, video and audio formats; and support for dual monitor systems – if you have a dual-monitor setup, CrazyLittleFingers will only lock the primary screen, leaving the second screen vulnerable. So, check back now and then for updates. CrazyLittleFingers is only compatible with Windows machines.

At the time of writing, the DonationCoder Web site, where I came across this handy piece of software, was offering a lifetime membership for a one-off donation of any amount to support its work in prompting freeware on the site. It’s a limited offer, but there was no indication of when the offer ends. Membership provides you with many additional benefits including exclusive downloads, access to monthly free software drawings and a single non-expiring licence key for all its programs.

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Top Tax Tips for the Computer Savvy

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Five Bits of Money-saving Tax Advice for 2020

The 2020 tax season is upon us and most people hate dealing with Uncle Sam. Here are some handy items that will help you get through the season faster and save a little cash.

  1. Why go to a tax preparation service when you can do the job yourself? There are many websites to go to that offer services for nothing or very cheaply. You can go to the IRS website (www.irs.gov) and there will be a link to help you find some of these areas. One of the top tax preparation services in the world also has a link and you’ll come out spending only a tenth of what you would pay in the tax office. Why? Because you are not paying for a preparer or the bills that keep the office going by using the World Wide Web.
  2. If your situation is a little more complex than the basic W2’s, you can also get free booklets or even phone help from the IRS. When you make the phone call to 1-800-829-1040, there are agents available to answer your questions without a charge. If you are more of a do-it-yourself person, you can also get FREE IRS publications at your local library or in some smaller communities, at your local post office.
  3. Don’t pay extra money just to get your money sooner, if you can avoid it. A lot of the tax offices offer loans against your money to get it back the same day or next day service. These companies make millions each year because people can’t wait a week for their money. The IRS often gives direct deposits to bank accounts on Friday mornings. If you have a checking or savings account, you can get your money in as little as eight days. Here’s how. The last moment each week that the IRS accepts transmissions is noon (Eastern time) on Thursday. If you get your taxes filed by then, the next Friday morning, you will have your money. If you wait until one minute after noon, the time for release would then be the following Friday. So unless you absolutely need to, avoid these quick loan types and just wait for your money.
  4. Don’t fear an IRS letter. Sometimes these letters are just letting you know that you or someone else entered some tax information incorrectly. It can be as simple as transposition of numbers on your (or one of your dependents) social security number or date of birth. Most letters are asking you for information. If you have kids and someone else is trying to claim them, the IRS is simply asking you to prove that you are the right person to get the benefit. You can easily prove this by getting a copy of school records or getting a copy of a bill with their name and address that shows they live with you.
  5. New for 2020 is a credit on your taxes for long distance phone bill excise fees. If you were charged fees for your long distance from 2014 to August 2019, you can be eligible for a credit from the government, as long as the provider did not credit you for the charges. You don’t even have to have every phone record from the last three years for this credit. You can simply take the credit that the IRS has assigned you based on the number of exemptions you claim, ranging from $30 for one exemption up to $60 for four or more exemptions.

Remember, there are many more ways to save money this tax season. The burden lies with you to go find that information. The best place to start is the IRS web site, www.irs.gov.

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Clean Up Your Computer Today!

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In order to have a clean and green computer this year, make sure that you pull through with virus scans – this really cannot be given enough stress. So many people in today’s society have unwillingly downloaded viruses, worms, Trojans, and other parasites onto their computers and no longer have any means of getting rid of them. Most of these people claim they do not have virus scans, which is why their computer got infected; but others may have different excuses. Contrary to popular belief, virus scan programs do not slow computers down; actually, it doesn’t do anything bad at all. It may be a minor inconvenience from time to time, but in the long run, all it does is help you. Computers should be scanned for viruses once a week, either manually or automatically by your selected program for virus scanning. Downloadable programs are great since they regularly update the latest detection of viruses on their own. You can even scan for viruses on off-hours, like at 1 in the morning on a Sunday, so that they are ready for quick work on Monday.

Defragmentation is also important to the way to cleanliness. Computers tend to open applications in any random sequence or order, which eventually fragments their hard drives. Defragmentation arranges and organizes everything that can be found within your computer, as well as keeps pieces of various files closer together. Additionally, it tries to produce bigger areas of free space so that fragmentation will no longer occur. Defragmentation is a very easy process, which can be regularly scheduled, as well. Ideally, it would take place every month.

Files that are around half a year old should really be deleted, no matter how hard it may seem. But if you haven’t printed, looked at, red, or used a file for that long, then that means you probably won’t need it this year, either. And don’t just delete them; empty them from your Recycle Bin, as well. Once they are gone from the Recycle Bin, they will be gone for life. If you think you may decide to use those files after all, then make back-ups before emptying the bin.

The same thing should be done in all of your e-mal accounts. Most e-mail systems come with unlimited storage, so you may think you don’t need to do this. But if you have e-mails dating to 2013 that are unimportant and haven’t been looked at since 2013, then let them go.

Another important thing to do is to back-up everything essential on your computer. Simply buy a flash drive where you can back-up and store all the things in your computer that you don’t necessarily need everyday. This will free up space on your hard drive in an instant and will ensure that you still have all of your files for future use.

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How to Speed Up Your Computer in 5 Steps!

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Modern technology, including the Internet and the home PC, places information from across the globe at the fingertips of today’s home computer user, but only if that user’s computer is performing properly. In today’s busy world few have the time – or the patience – to waste staring at a spinning hour glass on a computer screen. So how can you deal with a sluggish PC? Read on to find out how to get that home computer to shape up, and to speed up!

1) More RAM!

Random Access Memory (or RAM) is one of two main types of memory on a computer (the other being the hard drive). RAM lets the PC store information “on the go” as it needs to, and the more RAM there is the faster the PC will perform. While it may not be the cheapest way to speed up a computer, installing more RAM is probably the most effective way to do so.

RAM comes in sticks that are installed into slots on a computer’s motherboard, and it is a great idea to install as much RAM as you can afford that will fit in the computer. How can you tell what will fit? The easiest way is to open up the case and take a look for empty slots. However, if this seems intimidating, there are also online scans that can check remotely and tell you what is installed and how much room is left (a good one is www.crucial.com). New RAM can be installed by the home user themselves. I’ve replaced my RAM, and I noticed a large increase!

2) Don’t Use It? Lose It!

Unused programs take up space and, if they are running in the background, can take up processing power as well. The more programs in use, the harder a computer has to work and the more it will slow down. Uninstalling the ones you do not use can ensure this doesn’t happen, and can clear up space for your data. To do this, you can go into the Control Panel, and the Add/Remove Programs section for a list of programs that can be removed. Or you could try Soluto. This effective and efficient program scans your boot time (How long it takes for startup to complete) and tells you what you can get rid of, and what needs to stay.

3) Smarten Up the Startup!

Many home computers, especially store-bought ones with an operating system already loaded, come with lots of programs installed. This can be good, however for some reason many of these programs love to start themselves automatically, every time your computer boots. With all these programs running in the background, your computer can get bogged down.

So how do you stop this? Sometimes programs give an option on install for whether you would like to start them automatically, or sometimes this can be set somewhere in their properties. A quick way to see all the ones set to run at startup, and change them if you like, is to type msconfig in Run. Soluto can be very useful for instances like this.

4) Exterminate

Spyware, keyloggers, viruses, trojans…in addition to posing huge privacy and security concerns, these nasties can also cause major problems with a computer’s performance. Why? Most are poorly written so they make inefficient use of memory, and take up lots of processing power during their shady shenanigans in the background.

How can these be dealt with? Prevention is best, and includes taking care when visiting websites or downloading anything, keeping track of who uses the computer, running an anti-virus program, and keeping it updated. Running a scan every week or so can catch many of these problematic programs, and hopefully get rid of them as well. If you’re a bit of advanced user, you can use Comodo Firewall. This program tells you whats coming in and out, and gives you the option to stop it, block it, or allow it.

5) Clean House

Cleaning out unused programs and nasty malware is important, but even clearing out unused data can make a difference in your computer’s performance by freeing up space. This is especially true if your hard drive is getting close to being full. It is a good idea to periodically go through a computer for unwanted and un-needed data, and clean it out. I recommend going to Start> Run> and typing in %temp% and clearing that folder.

A useful tool that can assist with this is “Disk Cleanup.” This tool is located in Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and when run it will scan the computer to see how much space can be saved by deleting certain files, then present you with some options to choose from for cleaning things up.

Using some or all of these steps can amp up the performance of even the oldest, tiredest and most sluggish computer, so if you’re tired of staring at spinning hourglasses, why not give them a try?

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