Friday, July 31, 2009

PC World's Review of UndeletePlus

Check out PC World's review of eSupport.com's UndeletePlus:

"Deleted a file from the Recycle Bin--and wish you had it back? Worry not. UndeletePlus ($30, 14-day feature-limited demo) will most likely be able to recover it for you, along with possibly hundreds of other files that you thought were gone forever. It claims to recover not only files that you deleted from the Recycle Bin, but also files that you deleted and never made it into the Recycle Bin, such as if you've deleted files from a USB drive, or from within a DOS window. You can also use it to recover files deleted from CompactFlash, SmartMedia, MultiMedia and Secure Digital cards..."

"...This version is a major upgrade over the previous version of UndeletePlus, which was freeware."

Monday, July 27, 2009

Enhancing the Blackberry-PC Collaboration

The Blackberry personal digital assistant is a great way to stay connected and productive while on the move. It gives its users the ability to make and receive phone calls, access the Web, handles emails and text messaging, maintains appointment schedules, and manages contact databases. The Blackberry can also be a source of entertainment, providing music, photo, and video playback, as well as being a GPS navigation device.

Connecting the Blackberry to a PC via a USB cable or a WiFi network enhances these capabilities. The connection not only allows the two devices to exchange data files, it allows the Blackberry to use the PC’s network connection as an alternative to the cellular network. This can improve performance while inside buildings where reception is poor, and can save on cellular connection and usage fees.

The key to maximizing the Blackberry-PC connection’s effectiveness lies in a piece of software that many users don’t even know about: the driver. A driver is code that the PC needs in order to communicate with attached devices like the Blackberry. Every attached device on the PC needs its own driver.

Technology is constantly improving, however. Over time, then, the driver software that came with the device when purchased becomes out-of-date. Having out-of-date drivers creates problems accessing new features and can lead to system crashes. The solution is to periodically update the PC’s drivers but there can be hundreds of them on a typical PC and some updates are difficult to find, making the process both frustrating and time consuming.

Fortunately there is an application program called DriverAgent(tm) from Phoenix Technologies that eliminates those issues. DriverAgent can scan your PC to see what drivers it uses, then compare them against more than a million drivers in its database to ensure that what you have is the most up-to-date version available. It can also automatically download and install driver updates with a simple mouse click. Your time investment is minimal, but you will maximize the performance of your Blackberry-PC collaboration.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Updated Drivers Sharpen Nvidia Graphics

Each new generation of graphics cards for PCs raises the bar in terms of speed and detail. But gamers and other power graphics users don’t always need to update their card in order to gain performance. Simply updating the PC’s graphics card drivers can help sharpen the performance of existing cards by improving performance, fixing bugs, and enabling new features.

Driver updates can be a challenge, however, in part because companies like Nvidia produce so many versions of their cards and each needs a unique driver. Furthermore, it may be hard to determine what specific card a PC has installed.

eSupport.com's DriverAgent(tm) from Phoenix Technologies can help clear up this confusion. DriverAgent scans your PC to determine exactly what drivers it is using, then searches its massive database to find the latest available version, and updates the PC automatically. One simple operation ensures that the PC is using the fastest and most reliable drivers available, keeping the action fast and the graphics sharp.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Strengthen Your PC’s Foundation with BIOS Upgrades

At the heart of every PC is a foundation program called the basic input-output system, or BIOS. Like the foundation of your house, it is the base on which all other software - including the operating system – must build. Also, like your house foundation, keeping the BIOS in good repair is an essential step in keeping your PC strong.

Today’s PCs can perform an astounding array of complex tasks, but at the moment you turn them on they are astoundingly stupid. All the central processing unit (CPU - the PC’s “brain”) knows how to do after power-up is go to a specific place in a special memory chip to find instructions on what to do next. The BIOS program is that set of instructions and as one of its many tasks it teaches the CPU how to do basic functions such as read the keyboard and turn on the display.

The BIOS is the first in a series of programs that the PC must execute in order to become ready for your use, a process called “bootstrapping” or simply “booting” - taken from the phrase "pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps." The BIOS initializes the system hardware and tells the CPU how to use it. The BIOS then has the PC test its hardware to ensure it is operating correctly. It also tells the PC where and how to look for a special boot program on the disk drive.

By running the disk drive boot program, the PC learns how to find files on the disk so it can then load and run Windows(r). Only after it is running Windows is the PC ready to take your commands. The boot process is thus like first teaching a child to read, then opening the door to a library and teaching them how to find books in it, at which point there is no limit to what the child can learn to do. The BIOS is the PC’s Primer.

Bootstrapping is not the BIOS’s only role, however. In order to get things started the BIOS must have detailed understanding the PC’s specific hardware and configuration and be able to interact directly with that hardware. Windows, on the other hand, needs to be able to run on any suitable computer regardless of such details, so it does not work directly with the hardware. The BIOS serves as Windows’ local guide, interpreter, and foreman for interacting with PC hardware.

Because it plays these key roles in both the PC’s startup and ongoing operation, the BIOS has a direct impact on the PC’s performance and operational stability as well as the speed of graphics and other signal channels. Ensuring that your PC has the most up-to-date and robust BIOS available, then, is essential to keeping it performing well. It is also essential for giving your PC access to new hardware control features as they become available. Such features include CPU upgrades, updates and error fixes for the advanced graphics port (AGP) and PCI Express Video port, and system power control.

System power control is particularly important for laptops and other battery-operated PCs. In order to give Windows users the ability to tune their PC’s power demands the computer industry has defined the Advanced Control and Power Interface (ACPI). PCs that are ACPI compliant give their users tools that let them control what hardware is running and how fast, so that the PC uses only as much battery power as it needs for the task it is performing.

While you’re using the computer to play music, for instance, you don’t need the display on. Or if you’re watching a DVD you don’t need to power the Internet connection. If your PC’s BIOS is ACPI compliant, you can turn off the things you aren’t using so that your battery lasts longer. To be certain it has the latest version, you need to update your BIOS.

The best source for updates and maintenance of your PC’s BIOS is not the PC manufacturer but a BIOS developer. PC manufacturers merely acquire a BIOS and adapt it to their specific hardware. They may or may not offer any upgrades. A BIOS developer, on the other hand, has a vested interest in keeping their BIOS up to date, robust, and operating at peak efficiency.

Phoenix Technologies is the world leader in BIOS technology, and offers tools like the BIOSAgentPlus to simplify BIOS maintenance for virtually any PC. These tools let you keep your PC’s foundation software strong so that the rest remains standing tall.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Driver Maintenance Keeps PCs Healthy

Buried within PC software lie a multitude of small programs that tell the core processor how to interact with the world. These programs, called drivers, are critical to a PC’s function and performance, yet users often ignore them or are unaware of their existence. Actively maintaining these drivers can boost performance and reduce problems to help users get the most from their PCs.

One of the modern PC’s strengths is that users have a virtually unlimited range of choices for adding on devices such as keyboards, cameras, printers, and storage. Neither device type nor vendor choice are restricted, yet the PC is able to handle these additions with ease even if they add capabilities never seen before. The secret to this flexibility lies in the use of a code segment called “the driver.”

Essentially, a driver is a small program that tells the PC how to talk to and control any device that connects to the processor core. If the PC wants to read from the keyboard, draw on the display, make a sound, or write to the disk drive, it needs a driver to tell it how. Many drivers come already built into a PC at the outset. Other drivers come as part of the Windows operating system so that they are automatically available if and when a user plugs in a peripheral device.

When adding more complex devices, such as a camera or a printer, the driver loads from a CD or floppy disk as part of the installation and setup. In all cases, however, the PC needs to have a driver in order to use a device.

Driver software is different from application software. An application gives a user the software tools to perform a task, like download and edit a photo or compose and send an email. The driver does the grunt work of translating generalized instructions and data from the application into device-specific signals to the relevant hardware, like a camera or modem.

Nothing is perfect, however, and driver software is no exception. Like everything else on the PC, drivers need occasional maintenance to keep in top form. Application software, though, often has built-in routines to look for and install updates or the user knows to manually download and install updates from time to time.

Driver software has no such support, is not included in other software updates, and thus is often forgotten about. Errors discovered after the driver was released don’t get fixed, new features that have become available don’t get added, and applications software may evolve and begin requesting things an old driver cannot supply, causing the application to fail.

Unfortunately for the consumer, maintaining driver software is not a simple task. A typical PC may contain hundreds of drivers for the devices it is using, the devices it once used, and the devices it may use. Not only would manually checking for updates on each driver be time consuming and tedious, the system often offers no clue about where to look for such updates in the first place.

Applications such as DriverAgent from Phoenix Technologies can help. Such applications scan the PC to determine which drivers it needs and what their revision status is, then check a database of more than a million drivers to see if any of the PC’s drivers can be updated. The application can also automatically download and install those driver updates. This reduces the user’s task from handling scores of drivers individually to a few mouse clicks.

The benefits of routine driver maintenance are significant. By working with the most up-to-date drivers the PC is ensured access to all the latest features and functions its equipment can provide. Driver maintenance also helps eliminate potential errors that can crash systems and frustrate users, even solving problems before they appear. Applications from companies like Phoenix Technologies, the world leader in foundation software for the PC, can help by moving maintenance from a major chore to a simple task.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Avoid Driver Dead Zones

Users of Verizon cellular services can enhance their wireless device’s utility by linking it to their PC. Such a link-up lets the two exchange files such as music and video, and give the PC a cellular connection to the Internet. An essential element of this link-up is somewhat hidden software on the PC called a driver.

Drivers give the PC details on how to interact with attached devices such as printers, flash drives, and Verizon cell phones. Each type device needs its own driver and, like all software, drivers occasionally need updating to keep the PC operating at its best.

That task can be tedious and error prone, however, because a typical PC contains more than 100 drivers and they all come from different vendors. DriverAgent from Phoenix Technologies can help. It finds all drivers on a PC and automatically updates them from a database with more than a million entries, keeping the PC running smoothly and free of driver dead zones.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Top 10 Reasons the PC Needs a Makeover

Most people have a love-hate relationship with their personal computer (PC). On the one hand it gives access to the wealth of information and entertainment available on the Internet. On the other hand, it can unexpectedly misbehave and often be frustrating to use. Many people would like to see the PC get a makeover. Here are the top ten reasons why:

1. Start-up Time – Unlike a TV or MP3 player, which starts working almost immediately, a PC takes way too long to become useful after you turn it on. It has to prepare itself for operation by loading software that then loads still more software until all the bells and whistles are in place before it can do anything. This “bootstrap” or “boot” process can take five minutes or more. Users would rather be able to turn it on and begin using it right away rather than drumming their fingers on the desktop waiting for the boot up to finish.

2. Software Bloat – Almost every new application that you load onto a PC automatically adds some code to the boot process so that the application is primed and ready to go if and when you finally ask for it. This additional code – often called “bloatware” – not only increases the boot time for the computer, it uses up system memory. The more that memory fills up, the slower the PC will run (It’s like trying to write a grocery list at a desk cluttered with tax forms and Christmas cards and ten other things; it just isn’t as quick and easy as it should be.) Users want the PC to be quick and consistent, not slowing down over time.

3. Complexity – The PC is designed to be a multi-purpose tool that can do many different kinds of things, most of which most users do not need. As a result, the PC is like a super Swiss Army Knife with 100 blades: complex, bulky, and often awkward to use. Many users want a simple and easy-to-use device that does what they want without a lot of confusing and unwanted complications.

4. Cost – Because of its complexity the PC is expensive, costing much more than nearly any electronic device other than a wide-screen TV. And that’s just for the computer; software costs extra. For many who only use their computer for e-mail, web browsing, and the like, the expense is way out of line for their needs. It’s like being forced to purchase a Lincoln Town Car when all you needed was a golf cart. Users want a low-cost option that does only what they need without having to purchase a lot of fluff.

5. Performance – Just because users want to scale down their PC to simplify operation and lower cost, it doesn’t mean that they will tolerate poor performance. The PC makeover will still need to provide enough performance that users do not have to wait and wait for results. They may not need a Town Car, but don’t want a Go-Cart, either.

6. Reliability – The more complex the machine, the more likely something will go wrong. For the PC, halting operation then displaying an error message is something that occurs so often it has earned its own nickname: “the Blue Screen of Death.” Users want something that runs reliably and does not freeze up due to simple errors or unknown causes.

7. Security – While the Internet is a fantastic source of information, entertainment, and communications, it has the some of lawlessness of the Wild West. There is no police force to prevent cons and vandals from lurking out there. Such people can create innocent-looking or even counterfeit websites and e-mails that, once you access them, will load onto your computer viruses that can trash its operation, steal your personal information, or even take remote control of your PC. Users want their PC to be safe from such attacks once and for all.

8. Portability – People are always on the move and often find themselves wanting Internet access while away from their home base: on vacation, business trips, or even while out shopping. They want to stay in touch with family and friends, look up information about where to eat and how to get there, get news and weather, or simply play games, but they cannot take a desktop computer along and even a laptop computer may be too big to bother with. Smart cell phones, on the other hand, are too tiny and hard to type on. What users want is a computer with full keyboard that is small enough to take with them so that it can always be there when they want it.

9. Battery Power – If you’re going to carry something around for convenience, you don’t want to be forced to find a power outlet in order to use it. Users want their portable PCs to be like cell phones - battery powered with a battery that lasts for many hours or even days of use between charges.

10. Weight – Tied in with the desire for portability and battery-powered operation is a requirement for light weight. Lugging around an extra pound or two quickly becomes tiresome. Users want their portable PC to be light enough that they don’t notice the burden.

Happily, these desired makeovers are now underway. A new generation of ultra-mobile PCs powered by software from Phoenix Technologies is coming to market that have all the characteristics users are asking for. Even existing desktop computers can get a makeover to provide instant-on functionality, enhanced security, and protected performance in key applications. These makeovers will turn the PC into something just lovable.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Phoenix Freeze: Simple Security

From today's "Laptop Battery News" Blog:

"Simple at its core, Phoenix Freeze is designed with laptops in mind, but will work on any PC that has Bluetooth capabilities. Once installed on the PC,ThinkPad X60 Tablet battery, the application can be paired with any Bluetooth phone or other device.

Basically a security tool, Freeze senses the proximity of the device and will automatically lock the computer when you walk away with it. When you return, the program unlocks the PC upon your arrival."

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Clearing Cobwebs from Windows

Ever notice that, over time, Windows takes longer and longer to load and your PC gets sluggish like it needs a strong cup of coffee to clear the cobwebs out of its head?

You’re not imagining it. One of the reasons this happens is the gradual accumulation of out-of-date and unused drivers.

Drivers are small programs that the PC needs in order to communicate with attached hardware such as media players, PDAs, and GPS units that use the PC connection for file transfers and the like.

Over time, Windows needs updates to add functionality and fix bugs, and so do these drivers. But these updated drivers come from the vendors of the devices, not Microsoft, so it’s up to you to maintain them. The challenge is, there are hundreds on your PC and not all of them are still being used.

DriverAgent from Phoenix Technologies automates driver maintenance so that your PC can remain fast and reliable. The application automatically identifies out-of-date drivers and downloads updates from its database of more than a million drivers for virtually every connected device. So with a single click, the cobwebs can be gone.