TouchStoneSoftware| Monthly Newsletter
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TouchStoneSoftware Monthly Newsletter, Issue #1

Welcome to the inaugural edition of the TouchStoneSoftware Monthly Newsletter. You are receiving this newsletter because you are a BIOS Update customer. We feel that the TouchStoneSoftware Monthly Newsletter is an added benefit for our loyal customers. We will be offering tech tips on a variety of topics: General computer troubleshooting, driver or BIOS related tech tips, Windows or Microsoft Office shortcuts, a question and answer section, technical product reviews, and many other goodies. If you feel that you don't want to receive this newsletter on a monthly basis, that's no problem either. There's an unsubscribe link at the bottom of the newsletter. We are also welcoming any contributions that you would like to make for future newsletters. If there is a topic you would like to write about or if there's technical issue that you would like us to research and explain, please feel free to let us know. In fact, we have a contest we are running this month for the best submissions. Please see the details of the contest in the right column.

General Computer Tech Tips
Boot Windows XP Faster

Want to help your computer boot into Windows quicker? Here is a fast and easy tip on how to stop programs from loading when you enter into windows using Microsoft's MSCONFIG utility. When new applications are added to your system often times these applications will be added to the startup sequence of your computer. The purpose of this is so these applications will load faster or start automatically when you boot into Windows. It's a good idea to pick and choose which programs you want to automatically start. Having too many programs running in the background can slow the performance of your computer.

To Get Started:
  1. Click Start. On the right hand side of the menu, click Run.
  2. A box will pop up on your screen. Next to /Open/, type MSCONFIG and click OK.
  3. A program titled /System Configuration Utility/ will appear on your screen. Click the tab that reads Startup.
  4. Uncheck any applications that you do not recognize or do not use regularly. When in doubt, leave it on. Click OK.
  5. You will be prompted to restart your computer. When your computer restarts the /System Configuration Utility/ will open to remind you of your changes. You can check the box to have this warning not appear on every restart.
Your computer will now boot faster. If you ever want to enable the disabled programs,just repeat the steps above.Windows Vista will follow the same process. Just type MSCONFIG in the search box andproceed from there.

Windows Related Tech Tips
Will cleaning the registry improve PC performance?

People often ask us if there is anything they can do to get the computer to "work the way it used to". They explain that over time the computer tends to run more and more slowly. Others mention that they intermittently get the dreaded "blue screen of death" or other cryptic Windows errors. One of the easiest ways to improve the performance of your PC is to clean the Windows registry. The registry is a database used to store settings and options for Microsoft Windows including Windows 95, 98, ME, NT/2000, XP, and Vista. Without this information, Windows, your applications, and your computer cannot run. If data in the registry becomes contaminated, your computer might display small malfunctions or applications may fail to work properly. If the registry becomes seriously corrupted, then your computer may not run.

We recommend scanning your registry with RegistryWizard. Within two minutes you can find out how many registry errors you have. Whenever you uninstall software, it is highly probable that remnants of the software are still resident on your hard drive. RegistryWizard can remove those remnants and allow the system to run more efficiently.

Some common reasons to use RegistryWizard to clean your Windows registry:
  • You are a PC user that installs and uninstalls programs frequently.
  • You have drivers on your system that are no longer used.
  • You delete programs instead of uninstalling them.
  • You may have 3rd party programs that load on each boot.
Perform a Registry Scan Now

Driver Related Tech Tips
Windows Logo Test Warning

Many people have asked us about installing drivers that have not passed Windows LogoTesting. People have wondered whether it is safe or not. Windows Hardware Quality Labs(WHQL) is a Microsoft procedure for certifying that the hardware for peripherals andother components are compatible with Microsoft Windows operating systems. WHQL providestest kits to third-party developers so that they can test their product's compatibility.Products that are submitted to and meet the tests at Microsoft are allowed to display theMicrosoft Windows logo on their marketing materials and are included in Microsoft'sHardware Compatibility List (HCL). In most cases, the drivers have been rigorouslytested by the driver manufacturers using the same test procedures that a WHQL qualifieddriver requires. These drivers pass all of the important categories, including those thatmeasure the relative stability of the driver. Yes, in most instances it is safe to install thesedrivers on your computer.

BIOS Related Tech Tips
What is the BIOS feature named S.M.A.R.T.

S.M.A.R.T (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology). S.M.A.R.T. helps managethe reliability of the hard drive by alerting the system when problems and a high degreeof errors are detected. The system can then alert users on taking actions to avoid asystem failure. S.M.A.R.T. enables a drives status to be monitored through diagnosticsdesigned into the hard drives circuitry. These diagnostics can be used for logging anddata protection.

Perform a BIOS Scan Now

Advanced User Tech Tips
Microsoft PowerToys - Tweak UI

Have you ever wanted to make changes to the look and feel of Windows XP but don't feelcomfortable making those kind of changes in the registry? Microsoft has a greatapplication called Tweak UI that can do just that and much, much more. Tweak UI is auser interface customization application provided free of charge to users that have agenuine copy of Windows XP. The application can make changes to registry keys through aGUI (Graphical User Interface) that will alter the way the operating system performs. Afew examples of things that you can do with Tweak UI include:
  1. Move the location of your Documents, Music and Pictures folders.
  2. Disable Autoplay on one or more drives.
  3. Turn off fading menus, drop shadows, and cursor shadows.
  4. Customize toolbar backgrounds for Internet Explorer.
Tweak UI has become a popular application for people that are using older hardware andWindows XP. It allows them to turn off a lot of the "eye candy", as mentioned above,freeing up needed system resources for running applications. Tweak UI can be downloadedfree of charge from Microsoft: [Microsoft PowerToys for Windows XP]

With today's hard drive technologies, is it still necessary to defragment my hard drive?

- Richard E., Dyersville, IA

Defragmenting your hard drive quite simply means to reorganize the way information isstored on a computer disk so that all of the information belonging to a file is stored ina single, contiguous area on the disk. Since hard disk seek time is one of the mostsignificant bottlenecks in a computer's performance, "fragmented" data can drag down yourcomputer's speed quite a bit. If you have an excessive amount of "fragmented" files onyour hard disk, you might hear extra grinding, sputtering, and other weird noises comingfrom your computer. That is one indication that defragmenting your hard disk is a goodidea. A second indication is when your computer doesn't open files as quickly as it didbefore. While hard drives size have become larger over the last few years, the drivesstill operate and store data the same way they always have. In fact, fragmentation caneventually become even more of a problem on 48-Bit hard drives (160+ GB), so it'sdefinitely worth checking the fragmentation level on your drives and defragmenting thedrives if needed.

Does the PC need to be rebooted after a driver update is installed?

- Michael G., Philadelphia, PA
It's usually a good idea to reboot the PC after a driver update is installed. In mostcases, Windows will automatically let you know if it needs to reboot before finalizinginstallation of the driver. Older versions of Windows such as Windows 95 or 98 are almostalways guaranteed to need a reboot. Newer versions of Windows such as Windows 2000, XP,and Vista will sometimes not need to, depending on the type of driver, and the hardware.

Is PCI Express Video Faster than AGP Video?

- Cameron S., San Diego, CA
Yes and No. A 16x PCI Express connection is at least 190% Faster than AGP 8x, but this isthe connection between the system and the video card. You use the connection the mostwhen your video card is low on memory or when the game you are using uses a Direct X orOpen GL feature that isn't supported in hardware. In terms of real world performance,there may not be a huge difference comparing AGP and PCI Express when you are referencingidentical chipsets.

Digital Camera Review

How to choose the right digital camera

In this Two-Part series article we will provide you some helpful tips on buying and using Digital Cameras.

Part I - Choosing a Digital Camera

Not so long ago Digital Cameras were very expensive and sold mostly through exclusive dealers. That is not the case anymore; digital cameras are now inexpensive and available just about everywhere – from large retailers to even small convenience stores. Choosing a camera can be a daunting task if you are not familiar with the technical aspects. The old adage of “You get what you pay for” applies here. The more you spend the higher quality pictures you can expect to take, as well as the speed in which you’ll be able to take them at. Here are some tips to help you decide what to buy:

1. Decide on a budget. A decent beginner digital camera will start at about $150.00. Less expensive cameras are often made with lower quality components and may not produce
sharp and vivid photographs.

2. Choose a reputable store to buy the camera from. Unless you know exactly what you are looking for, buy from a “brick and mortar store” where you can hold the camera and try it out in person. If you buy the camera, sight unseen, from an online source you may not be happy with what you get. Returning a camera can be problematic and you may be charged a restocking fee.

3. Choose a store that has a knowledgeable sales staff. If you are going to make a big purchase, spend your money in a store where the sales staff actually know about the product and can show you the different features. Some stores even offer training classes to get the most out of your camera purchase. You may have to spend a little more than you would at a mass merchandiser, but in the end you’ll be grateful that you did.

4. Stick with a reputable brand name. Your first choice should be a camera manufactured by a company that is known for their imaging technology. Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, Fuji and Kodak have been building cameras for decades. Additional respected brand names are: Casio, HP, Panasonic, Sony and Toshiba.

5. Decide on size and style. Digital cameras come in all shapes and sizes; the best thing to do is think about how you will use it. If convenience and spontaneity in taking photos is what is most important – choose a small point and shoot style. The drawback with point and shoot is that they tend to not have much of a zoom lens, and can be clumsy to hold (if you have large hands). If you want to be able to zoom in on your subject, choose a slightly larger camera that has at least a 12X zoom.

6. Check out the type of battery the camera uses. Many small digital cameras come with a specifically sized rechargeable battery. You would be wise to pick up a second battery and keep it charged. You can still find a digital camera that takes standard AA batteries, but these are quickly disappearing. The upside to AA batteries is that you can find them almost everywhere; the downside is they tend not to have a long life before they run out of power.

7. Check what type of memory card the camera requires. The most popular type for small cameras is SD memory. SD Memory is the least expensive, but may have the best performance. Compact Flash Memory is more popular in the larger, more advanced SLR cameras. XD memory cards tend to be expensive and have slower performance than SD Memory or Compact Flash. Sony cameras usually require their proprietary Memory Stick cards, which are also very expensive. Sony Memory Stick does have a relatively fast performance, though.

8. Look at the LCD screen on several models before choosing. Not only are there different sizes of LCD screens, but also some displays show colors better and perform better. A large LCD screen can look great indoors, but when you bring it outdoors it may be difficult to see. A large LCD screen has also been known to drain battery life quicker than a smaller screen. The best choice is usually a vivid and bright, medium sized LCD screen.

9. Don’t get hung up on the number of pixels. Pixels used to be an important factor when choosing a camera, but unless you intend on printing poster size prints, any quality camera with at least 5 megapixels is going to be sufficient.

10. The performance of the camera is one of the most important factors to consider when comparing models. There is nothing more frustrating than hitting the shutter button only to have the camera delay in taking the photo. The next thing you know your subject has moved and you missed the photo opportunity. The only way to appreciate this is to pick up a few cameras and attempt to take 3 pictures successively in a row, with the flash on and without the flash off. Have your salesperson demonstrate this for you; If he/she can’t, immediately leave the store and find another retailer to purchase from.

Finally, talk to friends and family who already own a digital camera and ask them which aspects they would look for if they were to buy a camera again. Check online review sites for in-depth information on specific models. A few of my favorite review sites are:,,, and

Next month will be Part II of this article and we’ll provide tips on “How to use and get the most out of your digital camera”.

Tech Tip
Did you delete a photo accidentally?
Try our file recovery program Undelete-Plus for Free! It may be able to undelete that lost file.

Facts Before Installing Windows XP SP3
AMD Releases A New CPU
Comcast Targets Heavy Internet Users
Which Browser Hogs The Most Memory?
World's Most Dangerous Domains

Monthly Contest

Do you have a computer question that you would like answered? Do you have a tech related topic that you would like us to research and write about? If so, we want to hear from you!

The subscriber with the best question or topic suggested for our June issue will win a free iPod Shuffle. Just visit the form below to contact us.

Enter Now!

XP/Vista Shortcuts

Here are a few interesting shortcuts you can use if you have a Microsoft keyboard.

These shortcuts will involved using the Windows Logo Key (between Ctrl and Alt on your keyboard)

Windows XP + Vista
Windows Key+M:
Minimize all open windows
Windows Key+E:
Open My Computer
Vista Shortcuts
Windows Key + SPACEBAR:
Bring all gadgets to the front and select Windows Sidebar
Windows Key+U: Open Ease of Access Center

Browser Add-on of the Month

Linky for Firefox:

Linky is an extremely useful Firefox add-on for users that need to open multiple linkson a webpage. Rather than click each individual link, Linky can open selected links innew tabs with just one click of a button. Linky also allows you to take a webpage full oftext and pictures and open a new tab filled with only the pictures from that page. Hereare some other cool features:

Shows you the number of links and images on a particular page
Download all links from a page and save them to a folder with one click
Open all images on a page in one tab or multiple tabs
Validate and find broken links on a webpage

  Linky was created by Henrik Gemal


Site of the Month

Techie Site of the Month:

MakeUseOf 's real strength lies in its quick but surprisingly comprehensive roundups ofapps and sites in a given space. If you’re looking to discover the best iPhone apps,Firefox extensions, or accounting sites, MakeUseOf can point you in the right direction.

Fun Site of the Month
: is a free web based portal that allows users to customize their news,search, tools, radio, live TV and entertainment all on one page for easy access. Userscan chose from hundreds of pre-loaded modules.

Vocab Test

Active X

A popular technology developed by Microsoft, which allowscertain code to be executed by a website, with the user's permission. Thiscode is used to add functionality to a browser such as Internet Explorer orFirefox.Active X controls can be developed in several computer languages such asVisual Basic, C++, and Java.Common uses of Active X controls are in browser toolbars, add-ons, butmalicious code can also be installed as an Active X control, therefore youshould be careful and verify the website before accepting the installationof an Active X control on your system.

Stat of the Month

Global Market Share of Web Browsers
74% Internet Explorer
18% Firefox
6% Safari
2% Other (Netscape, Opera, etc..)

*May 2008, According to

Google Tip

Did you know that you can make a more specific Google search by using quotation marks?

For example, if you were doing a search for websites that had recipes for chocolate chip cookies, it would be better to type:
"chocolate chip cookie recipe"
into Google, rather than just listing the words chocolate, chip, cookie, and recipe without quotation marks. The reason for this is because the quotation marks will specifically search for websites that have a recipe for chocolate chip cookies, while the method of just listing the four words without quotation marks will provide a broader search.

Perhaps that would lead you to a website that had a recipe for an oatmeal cookie with vanilla icing and chocolate chips sprinkled on top. Then again, maybe that's not so bad!

Another quick trick involves the asterisk key. Let's say you forgot the lyrics to the Beatles' "Yesterday." Use the asterisk by typing this in the Google search box:
"Yesterday, all my * seemed so far away"
Using the asterisk as a wildcard will provide results that show the missing word in the lyric: "troubles."

Want to Write?

Would you be interested in being a contributor to our future newsletters? If you are atechnically minded person and you're looking for a platform to express yourself, ourNewsletter is the perfect place to share your knowledge. Just email us and let us know what you want to write about.


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