Category Archives: Uncategorized


Twitter isn’t really the kind of topic I write about here on Computers Made Simple. Consider this a pep talk to get on board and start tweeting.

Every day on Twitter I see tweets about what you should do and what you shouldn’t do there. The funny thing is that I never see that on Facebook. People do what they want on Facebook, they are with their friends anyway so what difference does it make? Why isn’t it like that on Twitter?

I guess it depends on what you want to get out of it. Are you a business person? Are you focused on getting some kind of presence on Twitter? Are you marketing a product or a service? Well, most of us can see right through that so don’t try to stiff everyone with a boatload of tweets about your product. See? I just did the thing that I’m writing about NOT doing.

Don’t get caught in the trap of Twitter do’s and don’ts. For now, it’s a free world and a free service. If people want to follow me for my words, that’s fine. If people think my words suck, that’s fine too. It’s boring to be focused on one topic. I think many people are just as eclectic as I am. The people I follow on Twitter are pretty much the same as me. They have interesting thoughts on many topics. If you follow the right people, the people who either think the same way you do or open you up to other points of view in an intelligent way, Twitter can be incredibly informative and very interesting.

My advice is to ignore the tipsters, the people who very often do the same damn things that they tell you NOT to do. Find your 140 character voice and shout. Sooner or later you’ll find out if anyone wants to listen to you. If not, then change your voice if you really want to develop a following. Once you do that, however, you’ll have sold out to the Twitterites. I think it’s probably better to just be yourself.

Twitter is a hoot. Give it a shot and add your voice to the babble.

Thanks for reading.

.htaccess Files – How to make one and adjust it for WordPress

Yesterday I decided to work out some SEO (Search Engine Optimization) details for this site. One of the things that the SEO peeps keep telling me is that I should have the title of the post in my URL (Universal Resource Locator). Instead of , it seems that .etc. would be better for search engines. I’d get more hits and life would be good. Here’s how you can set this up.

1.Inside of WordPress there is a setting for Permalinks. You can use the default (boring) setting or a custom setting that puts the name of the post in the URL. If you head to Settings then Permalinks, you’ll see a set of choices such as ‘Day and name’, ‘Month and name’, and so on. As you can see at the top of this page, I chose ‘Month and name’.

2. Choose ‘Month and name’ then choose ‘Custom Structure’. Once you choose ‘Month and name’, WordPress will generate the code which shows up in ‘Custom Structure’. Then click the dot to the left of ‘Custom Structure’ to choose it (first tell WP what structure you want, then it creates the desired code, then tell WP that you want to use it). WP then shows you the code  down near the bottom. My code looks like this:

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^index\.php$ - [L]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]

As it sits, this code is pretty meaningless unless you are an expert in Unix. This doesn’t matter because this code just has to be put into the .htaccess file on your server. What is an .htaccess file you say? I had the same question so I did some investigating. One of my sites had this file, the others didn’t. This file is used to control access to the files and folders on your site. If you don’t have a .htaccess file, it’s not too hard to make one. It’s just a text file with code in it, something like an .ini file in Windows, that controls who has the right to do what with your files. WordPress needs to be able to put the name of your post in the URL so it needs permission to do that.

3. Click Save Changes then see what WP says. On mine, it told me that ‘if my htaccess file was writeable, which it isn’t, blah blah blah.’ Turns out that I didn’t have an .htaccess file anyway. WordPress didn’t create one, even though it needed it, so I had to find one in another site’s root directory and copy it into the root directory of this site.

4. Either use FTP or your hosts File Manager and look at the root directory of your site. If there is an .htaccess file there, great. If not, don’t worry. You can create one easily. If you don’t have one that you can copy and upload into your site’s root directory, open Notepad and paste this into it:

Options +FollowSymLinks
# BEGIN WordPress
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^index\.php$ - [L]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]

# END WordPress

This is my current .htaccess file and it should work with your server, if it’s an Apache server. It will probably work with any server as well. Your mileage may vary and don’t hold me responsible if this doesn’t work.

5. Save the file you have just created as whatever.txt or something like that. Once it’s up on your server you can rename it.

6. Using FTP or your host’s File Manager, upload this text file to the root directory of your site. That’s the directory that opens when you click on your site’s main folder.

7. Once the file is uploaded, rename it to .htaccess, making sure you put the period at the start.

8. Next, check the permissions of this file. Make sure that they are set to ‘644’ or what you see in this picture:


644 permissions for .htaccess file
Make sure the permissions are set this way.

9. Once you’ve set the permissions, click Change to save them. Open your site and make sure that it runs as it should.

TIP: Renaming files and changing permissions can be done in your FTP program or in your server’s File Manager. Try right clicking or hovering over a button to see how to do these things. There is no ‘one rule’ for every situation. This part you have to figure out on your own.

10. Remember that the permissions in your new .htaccess file are the same as mine: month and title of post in the url. If you don’t want that setting, go back to your Permalinks and change it. If WordPress says that it can’t write to the .htaccess file, copy and paste the code it gives you into Notepad. Head over to your site and check the actual .htaccess file to see if it matches the code. On mine, the .htaccess was fine EVEN THOUGH WP said it couldn’t write to the file. If the code isn’t the same, paste the new code into the file. TIP: There are many possible settings in the ‘htaccess file that control everything the folder it’s in and all of the folders below it in the directory structure. Right now, since you just created the file, there should only be the one setting in there. Highlight the setting that’s there and then paste the new setting into the same spot.

11. There are many custom setting for your WP permalinks out there on the ‘net. Non-default ones are called ‘pretty permalinks’. Mine isn’t that pretty but it should help with my SEO.

There is a lot of info in this article. I hope it’s clear and concise but if it isn’t, make a comment and I’ll try to help you out. Good luck! I should say that this seems a bit overwhelming at the start but it’s not that bad. The more you get to know what’s happening inside your server and inside Worpress, the more comfortable you will feel. Get your feet wet, dive in and learn.

Thanks for reading. Follow me on Twitter: @_BrianMahoney

10 Best Free Software Apps

Free software has been around for years. In the old days we had ‘shareware’ which usually meant you could use the software for a while to try it out, then you had to buy it. We also had ‘nagware’ which could be used for free but nagged you to buy it. These days, freeware or ad-supported ‘adware’ is the popular choice. Here are my top ten pieces of free software, ones that I actually use (all links open in a new windows) :

1. Burnaware – quick, easy and free CD/DVD burning software. Install a blank CD/DVD, tell Burnaware what you want to burn (using icons) and  it does exactly that. No fuss, no muss, no bother.


2. Irfanview – Easily the best photo software you can get. It is simple but very powerful. See my older posts on this wonderful software.


3. Cathy – Another freeware that I’ve written about, Cathy keeps track of your catalogued CDs/DVDs/drives. Scan them once and Cathy keeps track of them for you. No need for anything

to get lost.

4. Truecrypt – Not that everyone has things to hide but sometimes you want to keep some things hidden. Truecrypt locks your stuff up so no one can get at it. No one.


5. Dropbox – Dropbox really does make your life simple. Keep all of your files and folders, well 2 gigs worth anyway, at your fingertips on whatever computer you use.


6. Recuva – Recuva takes the worry out of accidental deletions. Works great with flash drives/cards but will also work on a hard drive or damaged DVD/CD.


7. Fotobounce – Downloads whole albums from Facebook or any other site quickly and easily.


8. FileZilla – When you have a website, a good FTP app is required. Nothing is better than FileZilla.


9. Calibre – I have recently gotten into ebooks. Calibre handles all of my conversions simply and quickly. PDF to epub? No problem.


10. FormatFactory – I use FF for my DVR conversions. An hour of HDTV at 5-8 gigs can be shrunk to half a gig or less using the Xvid setting. Some people use Handbrake but I prefer FF.

Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter: @_BrianMahoney

Email Detective – Is your email buddy really who they say they are?

These days, it’s pretty easy to pretend you’re someone else on the Internet. Here’s simple way to tell if your new email ‘friend’ is really from where they say they’re from.

Here’s the scenario. You meet someone and start to have an email relationship. This person may or may not be from where they say they’re from. Something about them makes you suspicious. How can you figure out if they are from the United States or Mongolia? I’ll use hotmail as the example but you could use any email system as long as you can find out how to view the message source.

1. Right click any email from the person in question. On the menu that comes up, click ‘view message source’, like this:

view message source
Right click the message and choose 'view message source'

2. Near the top of the message source page that opens up, look for ‘sender IP’. This IP is a series of numbers separated into four groups with a period between each group. The first two sets of numbers will be a series of three and the next two sets may or may not be made up of three numbers. is an IP address. is also an IP address. You’ll recognize it when you see it. Here is what the source page and the IP address looks like:

Message source with IP address highlighted
Message source with IP address highlighted

3. Drag your mouse over that number and right click the highlight. Choose to ‘copy’ it.

4. Head over to:

5. Right click in the ‘Lookup an IP address’ and choose paste. Click the yellow magnifying glass icon to the right of the search window.

origin of the email
The IP address shows that this email is from Chile

6. The search will tell you which country the email originated from, even showing you the country’s flag.

This technique will work for any email you get and you can rely on the result most of the time. Some clever spammers can mask their emails through foreign servers but for your own personal contacts, this system will at least tell you the email’s origin.

Thanks for reading! Comments, questions are welcomed. Follow me on Twitter :  @_BrianMahoney

A cool WordPress trick – find out what theme that site is using!

This is a WordPress site, as you may have guessed, but it doesn’t look like one. Well, it doesn’t look like one to me anyway. For the last few weeks I’ve been scouting around, looking for a new theme. In case you are a WP newbie, a theme is something that takes the basic structure of WP and modifies it to look like something else. WordPress is rapidly becoming the backbone of the Internet. Hell, even news sites are using WP in the background.

If you haven’t used WordPress, give it a shot. I have lots of info on this site about installing it. Today, I’ll show you how to find out which theme a site is using. This is precisely what I did about fifteen minutes ago when I came across this site:  (I’m plugging this site because I decided the theme looked good and wanted to use the same one on my site.)

Every Internet page has a ‘source code’. This page is full of code, be it HTML or java or whatever else is on the page. Initially, the code looks like gibberish but to the semi-trained eye, this code can tell you quite a few things, not the least of which is what theme this site is using for WordPress.

I’m using Google Chrome. I can view the source code for any web page simply by right clicking anywhere on the page and choosing ‘view page source’. Each browser is different, you’ll have to find out how to do this in your browser of choice.

Here’s what the code for ‘‘ looks like :

html code for web page
These are the hieroglyphics that make up a standard web page.

Up at the top of the page, you can use Cntl/F to find this part, look for the word ‘theme’. I’ve highlighted the theme in this capture:

showing theme on page source
You can see that the theme's name is 'Vigilance'

Ah, so Vigilance is the theme! Love it. Hell, there is even a plug for the theme creater, The Theme Foundry. The rest was easy. I logged into my Admin page for this site, clicked on themes, downloaded the new one and set it up. Clean, crisp and ready to be tuned.

Thanks for reading. Follow me on Twitter : @_BrianMahoney