075: It’s time to get your Gramma(r) checked with Grammarly (and spelling & punctuation).

Hey there do-it-yourself technicians! We all make writing mistakes, but what if there was an easy way to catch hundreds of the simplest mistakes as you type them? Well, there is! So today I’m going to introduce you to Grammarly!

I’m in the process of writing a book at the moment, so I really have to make sure my writing is the best that it can be. And even when I’m not, I believe communication is important so I really want my writing to be as clean, clear and error-free, as possible.

Proofreading has always been somewhat of a skill of mine and I’ve proofread thousands of newsletters, books, and websites to date, but the one thing I’m not very good at is proofreading my own work. When I go to read it, I know exactly what it was that I wanted to say, so I skip over the words that are actually there, and only see what I think should be there. Not really great if you’re proofreading. That’s why, when I saw the power of Grammarly, I fell in love with it and I’ve been using it ever since. I’ve now been using Grammarly for over a year, which is why this week I received this badge for 52 weeks of constant use!

How does Grammarly work? In its simplest form, Grammarly is a Google Chrome extension that checks your spelling and grammar whenever you type on a web page. For a recap on Google extensions see Episode 024 here. There are also extensions for Firefox and Safari if you happen to use those browsers. When you install the extension and create an account, which you can do using your Google account, you will then see the green Grammarly icon or a number in a red circle at the bottom of a text box on any web page you go to, along with red squiggly underlines for every item that needs your help. This includes Facebook and messenger, Gmail, Google Docs, anywhere you might be filling out large blocks of text, even some forms. Grammarly will be there looking after you.

When you hover the mouse over each underlined section, it pops up not just the suggestion, but also often the reason why, helping you learn in the process. It picks up not just normal spelling mistakes, but intelligently reads the text and attempts to infer meaning from it, so we can recommend the correct form for verbs, add and remove commas and spaces, and change the tense of words that are out of sync with the rest of the sentence.

One brand new feature of Grammarly over the last few weeks has been the introduction of the tone detector, which detects the tone of your writing to see if it sounds the way you want it to. At the moment this feature is in beta and only works on Gmail and Yahoo using the Chrome web browser with the Grammarly extension installed. Once you’ve typed at least 120 characters you’ll get this pop up down the bottom. In this case ‘appreciative, friendly and confident’ is perfect for this email, thanks Grammarly!

Now you probably aren’t writing large amounts of text on your smartphone or tablet, but it’s always a great idea to make your writing the best you can, so there is a Grammarly keyboard available for both iOS and Android. So you can make your small screen typing as good as your desktop or laptop typing. As well as the extensions, there are native versions of Grammarly for Windows and the Mac and a set of add-ins for office on Windows as well. So you can use all of the Grammarly features in Word and outlook, making your business communications the best they can be.

Grammarly also emails you a report of your writing each week. This week was a pretty big writing week for me, writing nearly 16 and a half thousand words and making me more productive than 95% of Grammarly users. I had two hundred and forty-six alerts shown, making me more accurate than 92% of Grammarly users, and using more unique words than 93% of users. My main mistakes were all around punctuation probably because I was just getting ideas down on paper as fast as I could and then cleaning them up later. In total Grammarly has checked over 300,000 words for me in the last 12 months and that’s a pretty serious amount of text!

The premium version of Grammarly takes your writing to the next level, with information about readability, and enhanced vocabulary suggestions as well as genre-specific writing style checks, and even a plagiarism detector! You can get a free month of Grammarly premium by clicking on the link here. Premium plans are just $11 66 per month if you pay upfront for a year total of $139.95 US dollars. In fact, I’m upgrading to premium now I wanted the full experience with the free version for this review but now I want the premium version to get my book finished.

Question of the week: Do you use Grammarly? If so, what do you love about it? Let me know down in the comments below, let me know whether you’re using the free or the premium version too.

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072: Reclaiming used disk space with Space Sniffer.

Hey there do-it-yourself technicians! so your computers running out of disk space? The C drives almost full and your systems getting sluggish. What can you do? Space sniffer to the rescue! if your C Drive is seeing red like this, it’s time to free up some disk space.

Having at least 2 gigabytes of free space on the C drive is a must, but it’s ideal to have more like 15 to 20 gigabytes free. There are lots of ways to clear up space. The easiest might just be emptying the recycle bin, or even running Windows built-in it disk cleanup tool, but sometimes it’s your own files that are causing the problem and you simply don’t know where they are. Hunting through all the directories and folders on your machine can be really time-consuming. There must be a better way. There is and it’s called Space Sniffer!

Space Sniffer is a free tool available from my new Doctor’s Favourites page linked here. Space Sniffer scans your entire hard drive or the portion of it that you select, and present you with a graphical display of what’s taking up the most space. You can then drill down to each folder to see what it is there’s actually causing the problem.

Because it searches inside the windows folder it’s best to run Space Sniffer by right-clicking on it and ‘run as administrator’ it then pops up a window asking which drive or folder you wish to scan. This is usually the C Drive but you can choose another Drive or pick a particular folder to scan that on its own. Double-click the C Drive to start or enter your preferred path and click scan. The system will spend a few minutes scanning the drive and showing you the progress up in the top right corner.

Once complete it will display an interactive tile map of the file or folder that you chose, with tile sizes proportional to the size of the file or folder on the disk. On this system, which is my video editing machine, the bulk of the space is taken up with the ‘TD video’ folder that I’ve highlighted here which is the archive and working folder for all of these videos. Over to the right, we have the Program Files folder and the Windows folder while the user folder is down below. There are a couple of big files down the bottom right pagefile.sys and HyberFill.sys that are system files that we really don’t want to mess with! The same likely goes for the windows folder. In the user’s folder, we have a fairly large app data folder which is chrome and all of its bits and pieces usually, as well as a copy of my Evernote database. Some of these I can do more about than others.

To find a folder in the file system you just right click on the ‘folders’ title and click on open, and it will open a Windows Explorer window with that folder’s contents in it. You can also delete files directly from within Space Sniffer by clicking on the file and then clicking the ‘Delete key’ on the keyboard. In fact, you can do everything you normally could with the file just simply by right-clicking on it and selecting one of the items from the context menu that pops up.

I hope you found that useful let me know in the comments below if your gonna give SpaceSniffer a try!

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071: What’s with all the dots? QR Codes Explained, including creating your own QR Codes.

hey there do-it-yourself technicians! Have you seen those square dot patterns attached to buildings and manuals and signs and things around the place? Well, these little fellas are called QR codes and they can be really handy. Stay tuned to find out more!

Quick response codes or QR codes are a type of matrix bar-code that was first designed in Japan in 1994 by a company called Denso wave. Toyota subsidiary that used them to track automotive parts. The design, especially the three big squares up in the corners, allowed for high-speed scanning and scanning at odd angles which were really useful for parts going past on a conveyor belt.

Soon the technology moved past just automation and manufacturing and out into the mainstream. Outside of factories far and away the biggest use of QR codes is linked to URLs or website addresses. Although you can also use them to store payment information, virtual business cards, Wi-Fi logins and much more. One of the great features of QR codes is error correction, which allows them to still be read even if they’re damaged. For that reason, I can stick my face in the middle of a QR code like this, and you can actually still read it although it will just link back to this episode so there’s probably no point scanning it.

So how do you read a QR code? on the iPhone, it’s as simple as opening the camera app and pointing it at the QR code. A box will pop up at the top of the screen giving you the link and you can tap that and off you go. Other phone types require a specialised app which you can find by searching QR code in your app store of choice, although it seems fairly likely it will be added to future versions of the Android camera app as well.

Now that we know how the next question is why? Lots of reasons! for example, I have a heart rate monitor (for exercise) that connects to my smartphone. In the box that it came with are the QR codes to go straight to the iTunes Store and the Google Play Store to download the app that connects them. Really simple. Sometimes QR codes can provide links to online manuals or help forums for devices or even more information about a location on a self-guided tourist walk. I’m currently writing a PC troubleshooting booklet and it will have a plethora of links via QR code to various websites and videos including this one so people with a printed copy can scan their way directly to a link rather than having to type in a web address.

I’ve also seen them used in educational settings where a teacher printed out six QR codes and made them into a dice which the students then rolled and picked a different activity based on which QR code came up top.

Companies in Japan and the USA are even making tombstones with QR codes built into them so that loved ones can scan a link and see a website dedicated to the person who is passed away.

Of course, with technology, there is a downside as well not all QR codes are perfectly harmless, there have been codes found with links to malware that may attack your phone or attempt to send a premium SMS message, costing you money. That said these sorts of issues are very few and far between and quickly shut down soon after they found. So please don’t let them discourage you from using this wonderful technology.

If you want to create QR codes of your own there are a bunch of websites that will allow you to do it for free I use qrcode-monkey.com I like it because it’s free, it allows me to customize the QR code in a whole bunch of different ways, and it’s really easy to use! For a web link, all you do is put in the URL you want to link to create the customizations and hit generate QR code and you can then download the PNG file of the code and print it out or put it in whatever document you need to. – alternatively you can download SVG, PDF, or EPS files with your code depending on what sort of use you want to put them to. Each of those formats will allow you to create giant images without it going weird. There are also tabs at the top for creating a dozen or more different types of QR codes from email, SMS, Wi-Fi, virtual business cards, and Facebook links.

Have you seen a QR code used in an unusual way? Or created one yourself? Let us know in the comments below so we can check it out.

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070: Troubleshooting your System Memory/RAM with MemTest86

Hey there do-it-yourself technicians! If your computer is crashing, glitching or rebooting then this episode might be for you.
Today we look at some tools for troubleshooting system memory or RAM.

Windows 10 comes with its own memory tester. The windows memory diagnostic utility, which you can start by pressing the Windows key and then typing ‘Windows memory diagnostic’ and then pressing enter. In the box that pops up click the link that says ‘restart now and check for problems’ the system will reboot and do a basic check of your system memory. That may be enough but sometimes you need a specialist tool, and that specialist tool for me is memtest 86. There are a couple of versions available for purchase but all we really need for today is the free version which you can get from the link here. Before we download though, there’s something we need to check. Because the test runs in its own environment outside of Windows we need to work out how your system boots, to work out which version of the mem test program we need. In Windows click start and then type ‘system information’ and press Enter. This should run the system information utility built into Windows. We’re looking for a line that says BIOS mode which will look like this for a legacy system, or this for the newer UEFI systems. Without going into detail this is the system that runs before Windows starts, we either have BIOS the basic input/output system or the newer unified extensible firmware interface also known as UEFI. Older systems will run a BIOS, newer systems will run UEFI.

The reason we need to know this is that the legacy or BIOS version of memtest uses the version 4stream while the new UEFI version uses the current version, version 8. As you can see here the current version -which is version 8.2 at the date of this recording- will be used for UEFI machines and you can download that by clicking the green button at the top of the screen. For legacy versions, you’ll have to come down a bit further and you can download different options for burning onto a CD, booting from a USB stick, or even booting from a floppy drive! so pick the version that’s right for your machine and download it.

Once you’ve downloaded it, you’ll need to open the zip archive and extract all of the files, to get to the Installer. Once you’ve extracted the files, you’ll need to run the imageUSB.exe assuming you’re using the USB version which is all that’s available for the UEFI version. I won’t cover the CD and floppy versions here for the legacy one but the legacy USB version is exactly the same. So run the executable, you’ll need to plug in a USB drive of at least probably one gigabyte will be enough, which is tiny so just about any old USB drive will do, but be warned it will completely wipe the contents of this drive so choose carefully. If the USB drive wasn’t in when you started the program you may need to click the refresh disks button over on the right then tick the drive you want and click the write button,First you need to confirm that yes you do want to write it to this USB, then in confirmation that this USB will be completely wiped, and then it will write the USB which will only take a minute or two usually. Now we can just click OK.

For the UEFI version the easiest way to get it started is to hold the shift key down while you click the start button, and then the power, and then restart. The system will bring up this screen allowing you to choose a startup device, and from there reboot and start into the testing. This is what the UEFI version looks like as it runs, and then it will get to the end and tell you whether you’ve got any issues or not. For the BIOS version you’ll have to restart the computer normally, and as the motherboard screen splashes up press the f12 key to choose a boot device, maybe f10 on some machines but it’s pretty standard that at f12. Then select ‘removable device’ and this will allow you to boot from the USB, and start up the mem test 86 program.

The BIOS version looks like this but runs basically exactly the same through to the end. If there are any errors in the RAM on your machine it will display big red warning labels on them. In the end, you’ll get a finishing screen and all going well you’ll know that your machine is free from memory errors. Now testing can take some time, a single pass took half an hour and it recommends four passes, so you’re looking at at least two hours on this machine which has 12 gigs of ram. The machine I was testing the bios version on only had four gigs of ram but still took about 40 minutes to do a single pass,obviously, it’s slower Ram. This version will just keep going looping through and through until you turn it off.

If you do strike errors then we have the next challenge, what do we do about them? If you have multiple sticks of RAM you can shut the Machine down and take them out so that there’s just one left in there and test each individual stick at a time to work out which one’s faulty, and then either return it under warranty if your machines still under warranty, or just buy a new stick. Now might be a great time for a ram upgrade.

I hope that was helpful, please leave a comment down below if you found it useful.

I’d also love you to hit that like button and if you haven’t already hit the subscribe button that’s down here. If you’d like some more tech news every week there’s a button up here that you can subscribe to our mailing list or there are some videos here and here that you might not have seen before. The tech doctor is here to help you navigate the technology maze and become your own technician thank you so much for watching. have a great day!