• These performance tips will work for any PC running Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8.

    Want more speed? "This PC is so slow!" This is a cry that's been uttered by PC users since, well, PCs were first invented.
    Since we don't think that there's anyone out there who wouldn't like to squeeze a little more performance out of their PC, we've pulled together six top tips that will help you get the most out of your Windows PC, without having to spend a fortune.
    These tips will work for any PC running Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8.  

    Get rid of the junk
    There's nothing like having loads of junk installed on a system to turn even the best PC into a river of molasses.
    There's two sorts of junk to consider. The first is the stuff that the PC makers install into new PCs, and the other is the junk that you (and other people using the PC) have installed on it.
    You could spend your whole weekend manually tracking down this junk, but it makes much more sense to get a tool to do the job automatically, and the best tool out there for this job is PC Decrapifier. This free download will scan your system and quickly (and safely) remove any junk on your system. 
    After running PC Decrapifier you might optionally want to do a pass using another free tool called CCleaner. This will go a bit deeper and clean your system of temporary files, log files and other junk.

    Add more RAM
    While not a free option, installing RAM is, without a doubt, the single best bang-for-your-buck hardware upgrade you can carry out on a PC. And adding RAM has never been cheaper, with an extra 4GB costing around $60.
    Finding what RAM your PC takes is easy. Head over to a vendor such as Kingston and use the online search tool find the right RAM for you. There are also handy videos that will show you how to go about installing the new RAM in your desktop or notebook PC.  

    ReadyBoost to the rescue
    If you've got a reasonably fast USB drive laying about the place then you can use this to give your PC a performance boost by using it as a ReadyBoost drive.
    The ReadyBoost feature, which is part of Windows Vista and above, and allows flash memory – in the form of a USB flash drive, SD Card, Compact Flash card, or SSD – to be used as a high-speed cache to boost performance as long as they meet the following criteria:
    ·         Capacity of at least 256MB, with at least 64KB of free space
    ·         At least a 2.5MB/sec throughput for 4KB random reads
    ·         At least a 1.75MB/sec throughput for 1MB random writes
    Making use of ReadyBoost is easy.
    ·         Plug the drive into the PC.
    ·         Either click on General options > Speed up my system from the AutoPlay dialog box, or right-click on the drive in Windows Explorer and choose Properties and then click on the ReadyBoost tab.
    ·         Choose whether you want to dedicate the drive to ReadyBoost (which prevents you from using it as storage), or use a portion of it for ReadyBoost.
    ·         Click OK

    Defragment your drives
    Carrying out a regular defragment of your PC is a good idea if you want to keep it in tip-top condition. The only think to bear in mind is that you shouldn't, under any circumstances, defragment an SSD drive. Not only will you get zero benefit from it, but you will seriously shorten the life of the drive.
    But if you are still running regular hard drives then Windows is set to defragment your system once a week, but you should check to see that this is on and that all your drives are defragmented. You can run the Disk Defragmenter any time you feel you've made a lot of changes to the data on your drives.
    It can be accessed from:
    ·         Windows Vista/7Start > All Programs > Accessories >System Tools > Disk Defragmenter
    ·         Windows 8: Open the Charms bar and search for "Optimize Drives" and then click on Defragment and optimize your drives
    There's a lot of voodoo written on the web about defragmenting drives, and there are all manner of arcane command-line switches you can use to carry out different sorts of defragment. In my experience, a simple defrag once a week is all you need.  

    Add power
    If you have a notebook system that's a bit sluggish then the easiest way to speed if up is to connect it to a power supply!
    Windows can detect if it is running on a notebook systems and it will switch over to a low power profile when it detects that it is running on battery power. While this is good for battery life, it's bad for performance, so if you want more oomph from the system, connecting it to a power supply will restore performance to normal levels.
    You can go digging around in the bowels of Windows and make permanent changes to the power profiles, but I don't recommend this as it will have a huge detrimental effect on battery life. It's much easier to remember to hook up the system to a power supply when you want more performance. 

    Install the latest drivers
    The drivers that control your hardware can have a huge effect on how well your system runs, and one of the drivers that's key to system performance is the graphics card driver.
    While people who rely on the default Windows driver or who don't care about performance might never need to think about their graphics card driver, anyone who care about getting the best from their hardware – and especially anyone who is into PC gaming – should probably check to see if there's an updated driver every few months because it can make a huge difference to how well games run. 
    Other drivers worth checking regularly are the motherboard drivers (which can have a huge effect of data transfer rates to and from your hard drives), and drivers for any external hardware you use.

  • For those of us that have worked in the IT industry, we are well aware of the image of the IT department at most businesses. Arrogant, rude, obstructive; these are just a few words that have typically been associated with IT. Stereotypes likes these can limit effectiveness and make it difficult for your IT department to do its job. Improving the image of your IT department is something that is not only beneficial to your employees, but also the company as a whole.

    Demonstrate that you're human beings

    The most common mistake made by IT departments is that they forget that the majority of their work is customer-service based. This means that there is a great deal of human interaction required and you must learn to deal with other people.
    Too often, because most IT problems can be solved remotely, members of the IT department will spend almost all of their time in their respective office. It is important to get involved around the office and not hide out in the IT department.
    Getting out of the IT department every now and again will give you the chance to meet the users and establish relationships with them. This also gives them a chance to put a face and name to the IT department which is much harder to put a negative connotation on. It may be a good idea to occasionally go help a user face to face even when it's unnecessary as this will help them understand what goes into fixing an IT problem. This will help users remember that the IT department is made up of human beings and not a group of robots who can magically solve all their problems instantly.
    Establishing a good rapport with the users will make things easier for everybody. You will be less frustrated with their requests and they will be more patient and appreciative of your efforts to find them solutions.

    Communicate and educate

    Maintaining communication with users as well as continuously educating them will improve your IT department's image and efficiency.
    Communication is something that is important throughout the entire company, but it may be most important between users and the IT department. By keeping open lanes of communication with users you can show that your department is accessible and easy to get in touch with. This will improve your image within the company as well as increase efficiency as users will be more comfortable coming to you with issues early, rather than waiting until a major problem develops.
    Education is equally essential to improving your department's image. Informing users on basic IT solutions is beneficial to both parties and can be done in a number of ways. One way to do this is by organizing meetings or workshops with employees from every department where you can work hands-on with users to help them better understand IT processes.
    Games/competitions can be incorporated into these workshops and prizes can be given away to add some excitement. Providing those who attend the opportunity to win a raffle prize could also be used as an incentive. Another way to keep users informed is by including a monthly IT column in the company newsletter that offers tips and advice for basic IT issues. This will improve the department's image as users will see you as being genuinely helpful and it could also save you some time as users may be able to fix a problem themselves rather than by contacting IT.

    Be personable and avoid jargon

    Finally, the simplest thing you can do to improve you IT department's image is to just be personable. If you are friendly and patient with users, then they will give you the same courtesy. The "golden rule" applies well here and it is important to remember that if you are rude and short with users they are unlikely to listen to your suggestions which could lead to the frustration of fixing the same problem over and over again.
    Also, remind yourself that you are interacting with a person who more likely than not doesn't know as much about technology as you do (otherwise they would probably be in the IT department). It is important to avoid jargon and terms that those unfamiliar with IT may not understand. This needs to be done without talking down to the person, as doing so will only cause resentment. It is incredible how beneficial simply being polite can be to your department's overall success.

    Improving the image of your IT department within your company can contribute directly to a more successful and effective department. An improved reputation for your department will make it much easier (and less stressful) to do your job. Although there are some negative views and stereotypes associated with IT, it is possible to take actionable steps towards abolishing these stereotypes and improving your image into one that is held in high regard.
  • Snow White was prescient. In a scene from the 1937 Disney movie, she gets a team of birds and cute woodland animals to clean the dwarfs' house while she warbles "Whistle While You Work."
    A decade or two from now, that's going to be how you take care of your house - except the work will be done by small robots, each built for a single purpose. They will hover in the air to pick up clutter, climb walls to wash windows and scuttle under furniture to vacuum while you sit back with a cappuccino and binge-watch Breaking Bad reruns.
    Outdoors you'll find a robot swarm cleaning the streets, trimming trees, and watering plants. Little packages will get dropped off by flying quad-rotor drones, probably emblazoned with the familiar Amazon.com smiley face. For the big stuff - like, say, a refrigerator - an autonomous vehicle guided by Google technology will pull into your driveway, and a hulking Google bot with six legs will carry the fridge up your stairs and gently set it where you want it.
    Over Thanksgiving, Amazon unveiled its drone delivery project on 60 Minutes, and in no time the jokes and indignation were flying:
    Hunters will grab their shotguns and use the drones like clay pigeons.
    The drones will short out and fall from the sky by the hundreds when a rainstorm blows in.
    Walmart is working on drones that kill Amazon drones.
    Then, days after Amazon's reveal, Google went public with its new robotics unit, run by Andy Rubin, the whiz who created Google's Android operating system. The message: Google's investment is no lark. Robots are for real.
    In fact, Google and a lot of other companies believe robots today are like cell phones back when they were the size of bricks and cost $6,000. It may take 10 or 20 years, but before long everybody is going to have a robot - or several.
    These robots will not look the way most people expect - they won't walk and talk like C3PO or Rosie from The Jetsons. An all-purpose humanoid robot doesn't make much sense. As tech thinker Kevin Kelly wrote, "To demand that [intelligent robots] be human-like is the same flawed logic as demanding that artificial flying be birdlike, with flapping wings."
    Instead, the world will gradually acquire many kinds of robots, each designed and built to most effectively carry out a particular task in a way that saves humans time, money or drudgery.
    The Amazon drones would do that. Loaded with artificial intelligence, they promise to deliver small items faster than any human could.
    Google's experimental driverless cars are robots. One day, a delivery truck driver will seem as redundant as an elevator operator.
    Robotics and artificial intelligence are tough fields, but there's so much research lab and start-up money going into it, we'll get the technology right long before we sort out how to integrate robots socially, legally and practically. It's less difficult to imagine delivery drones working than to imagine the New York sky darkened by thousands of the things carrying everything from shoes to Chinese take-out.
    "We'll solve those kinds of problems when the benefits to society become large enough," says Colin Angle, chief executive officer of iRobot, maker of the granddaddy of consumer robots, the Roomba vacuum cleaner. Angle notes that when cars were invented, they were insanely dangerous and disruptive and widely hated.
    Society is already a long way into robotics and we often don't know it. I recently visited some family members who own an enormous farm in Saskatchewan. They handle the harvest with just three people and a giant combine that has so many smarts, the driver mostly rides along and never touches anything. In another decade, the smarts will be so good that the farmer can stay inside and play the commodities market while machines do all the work in the field.
    Robot news will keep coming. A company called Knightscope just unveiled its robotic security guard. It could roam a warehouse floor at night, its camera keeping an eye out for anything unusual, its chemical sensors sniffing for leaks.
    A startup called Play-i is making toy-like bots that can teach a 5-year-old how to program bots. And you know where that will lead in two decades: 25-year-olds who can invent ever more intelligent bots.
    Rodney Brooks, who runs the robotics lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-founded iRobot with Angle, has a new robotics company,Rethink Robotics. It is making an inexpensive industrial robot that is simple to train and can work alongside a human. An entrepreneur, for instance, could set one up in her garage and teach it to make something, creating a small automated factory.
    Brooks and Angle have long believed the Roomba was the first phase of the "robot-enabled home." They followed Roomba up with the Scooba floor-washing robot, and promise more along those lines - perhaps a window-washing bot, or a clothes-folding bot. (iRobot won't give specifics.) The bots will likely all be wirelessly connected to each other, and to a kind of "head butler" robot that takes commands from its owner and hands out tasks to the many mini-bots. (Speaking of prescient, the old Looney Tunes crew got it close to right in a 1947 cartoon.)
    Robots working with people is no fantasy, Angle insists. This is the not-to-distant future.
    Plus, it's a whole lot easier than getting birds and squirrels to do your dusting.