Q: I’m working on a research project, and there’s a site that seems really useful based on its Google search snippet text, but when I click on it, it won’t load. Am I out of luck?
A: Not necessarily. Your best bet is accessing a cached version of the page. Search engines are able to speedily link to the Web’s more than 4 billion websites by caching them – storing versions of each page for quick retrieval. When a site goes down or gets taken down, as it seems may have happened with the page you’re trying to reach, there’s a chance Google (and other search engines) still has a copy of the page on hand. To access that cached version in either the Google Chrome or Macintosh Safari browsers, type “cache:” directly before the URL. In Firefox and Internet Explorer, type http://webcache. googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache: before the URL. With any luck, the Web site will show up.
Q: I’ve been streaming more video than I used to, and it’s taken a toll on the overall speed of my Wi-Fi network. Is there anything I can do to speed it up?
A: Upgrading to a router that uses the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, and keeping your network free of freeloaders by requiring a password are probably the best ways to give your Internet speed a boost. But you may be able to do as well by merely adjusting your current router’s settings. (Before changing anything digital, make sure the physical location of your router is ideal: it should be centred relative to all the gadgets that connect to it.) DD-WRT, an open-source project, is a powerful piece of firmware that speeds up any compatible router (a list is available at ddwrt.com/wiki/index.php/Supported_-Devices), so even if you do decide to get a new router, DD-WRT is worth installing. After downloading it from dd-wrt.com, do a hard reset on your router by pressing its reset button (usually located on the back).
Then connect your computer directly to your router via Ethernet, and log in to your router’s administration page via your Internet browser. The address will look something like 192.168.1.1 (the Linksys address); you can find it in your router’s original documentation or by searching online for your router model plus “router IP address”.
Choose DD-WRT in the firmware upgrade section of the page. Then create a new network name on your computer, connect to it, and go back to the admin page, where you’ll either be prompted to create a new username and password or you can log in using the DD-WRT defaults: “root” as the username and “admin” as the password (be sure to change it to something more secure once you’ve logged in).
Now come the fine adjustments that will speed up your connection. In the DD-WRT controls, set your router to transmit at 70 milliwatts – more powerful than the default, but not so powerful as to fry it. Next, enable Quality of Service (QoS) to give certain applications and devices bandwidth priority over others.
A word of warning: There is a slight chance you may render your router temporarily useless. If so, consult dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/-Recover_from_a_Bad_Flash to bring it back to life.
Brighten up your day
Q: My phone’s screen is too dim to see when I’m in a dark room. Does this mean my auto-brightness control is broken?
A: Not broken – just out of whack. Luckily, you can recalibrate the phone’s light sensors to make the screen brighten and dim properly. Apple’s iOS allows you to adjust brightness levels on an iPhone even when auto-brightness is turned on, so you can use built-in controls to get the sensors working again. To recalibrate the setting, turn auto-brightness off in Brightness and Wallpaper settings. Then go into an unlit room and drag the adjustment slider to make the screen as dim as possible. Turn auto-brightness on, and once you head back into the bright world, your phone should adjust itself. If it doesn’t, follow the exact opposite procedure with a bright light, bringing up the brightness to its maximum level with auto-brightness turned off and then turning it back on.
Because Android devices make you choose between auto-brightness and manual controls, you’ll need an app to override the system’s screen controls. I like Lux Auto Brightness, which provides the equivalent of iOS screen system settings, along with controls for specific apps and times of day.
Q: I’m selling my computer and want to erase it before delivering it to its next owner. How can I make sure it’s totally, irreversibly wiped clean?
A: To return the computer to its blank-slate state, you’ll need to do four things: back it up (please!), erase the drive, reformat it, and reinstall the operating system. If your computer is running Windows 7, you’ll need a copy of the operating system, which you probably got on a USB drive or DVD when you bought the computer.
If you don’t have it, though, you’re not out of luck. You can download a copy from Digital River (msft.digitalriver-con tent.net/win/X17-58996.iso for the 32-bit version;msft.digitalrivercontent.net/win/X17-58997.iso for the 64-bit, both legitimate ways to get a new copy of the OS that you paid for when you purchased the machine) and install it on a USB drive with at least 4 GB of space with the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool (store.microsoft.com). To activate the downloaded OS, use your Windows 7 Product Key – find it on a sticker on your computer or with the Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder program.
After ensuring you have a bootable version of the OS, erase the hard drive using DBAN. Download the program, copy it to another USB drive with the USB/DVD tool, and restart your computer with the drive plugged in. Then follow the onscreen prompts and wait several hours as the computer churns away, deleting everything. You’re now finally ready to boot directly from the Windows 7 installer.
With Windows 8, Microsoft makes this drawn-out process a lot easier. Just head to the General section of Change PC Settings and choose Remove Everything and Reinstall Windows. To be safe, erase the data “thoroughly”, not “quickly”. The computer will erase the drive, reformat and automatically install a new copy of the OS.
The process for readying a Mac for sale is similar in theory, but different in practice. On an Apple computer running Macintosh OS Lion or Mountain Lion, you don’t need the system disc, but for earlier Mac systems, you do. Start up your computer from the recovery partition, holding down the command and R keys as the computer restarts, and open Disk Utility. Under the Erase tab’s security options choose 7-Pass Erase, which writes over your data seven times. After erasing is complete – it can take several hours – quit Disk Utility, make sure you’re connected to the Internet, and choose Reinstall Mac OS X. If you’re running an earlier version of OS X, follow the same steps but start by putting the system disc in the drive and restarting the computer while holding down the C key.
Tip: Running to the beat
Aside from its pop perfection, there’s something else about Robyn’s Call Your Girlfriend that makes me feel like I could run forever: The song is 124 beats per minute. According to Costas Karageorghis, a sports psychology professor at Brunel University who’s spent 20 years studying how music influences physical performance, songs between 120 and 140 bpm are ideal for most exercise. (Anecdotally, faster runners report liking even speedier songs that edge close to the 160-bpm mark.)
To create the ideal workout playlist, I used Cadence Desktop Pro, a program that analyses the songs in your iTunes library. But I found that manually hitting the space bar to the beat and letting the free site all8.com/tools/bpm.htm keep count for me worked just as well. When you’re counting, keep in mind that if you count only on the downbeat, a 160-bpm song can easily sound like an 80-bpm one. Such a mathematically programmed workout is fun, but don’t let it keep you from your favourite songs. After all, ideal bpm or not, if You’re So Vain (104 bpm) works for your workout, it works.
By Rachel Z Arndt