Online Tech Tips 2016-02-18 14:26:41

AutoPlay is a feature in Windows that will automatically scan a device when it is connected to your computer and based on your settings, will either perform a specified action or do nothing at all. In order to understand AutoPlay, though, you also have to understand another very similar feature called AutoRun.

Most people think AutoRun and AutoPlay are just two terms for the same thing, but that is not accurate. AutoRun is a feature that first came out in Windows 95! What was the point of it exactly? To make installing apps for non-techies easier. If a CD contained a file called autorun.inf in the root directory, Windows would detect it automatically and follow the instructions in that file.

This file is normally very simple and basically just points to a file on the disc, usually the setup file or install file. Here is an example of one below:

autorun file

In Windows XP and earlier, the file would be read and automatically run without any kind of prompt. If you have ever popped in an install CD/DVD for a piece of hardware or a program in Windows XP or earlier, it would just start running the setup program.

This obviously posed serious security risks and Microsoft introduced AutoPlay as a way to fix the problem. AutoPlay’s job is to examine a newly connected media device, determine what kind of content is on it, and then display a dialog that allows the user to launch an application to play, run or display the content.

Now depending on the operating system you are running, AutoRun and AutoPlay will work differently. In all versions of Windows earlier than Windows Vista, AutoRun is executed before AutoPlay, unless AutoRun is disabled. If it’s not disabled, AutoRun will execute and it will search for the AutoRun.inf file.

In Windows XP, if the autorun.inf file is found, AutoRun can go ahead and bypass AutoPlay altogether and launch the application without asking the user first.

In Windows Vista and higher, AutoRun cannot skip past AutoPlay. If there is an AutoRun.inf file, it will still be read, but instead of the application being launched automatically, a dialog box will pop up with a list of choices, some of which could be from the autorun.inf file.

AutoRun vs. AutoPlay Example

To make this totally clear, let’s go through an example. I have a MSI driver CD with me that I will pop into Windows XP, Windows 7 and Windows 10 to see what happens. The AutoRun.inf file is the simple one shown in the above screenshot.

In Windows XP, the disc is read, an autorun.inf file is found and the MSI setup program automatically pops up on the screen.

windows xp autorun

However, when I pop the same CD into Windows 7, I instead get the following AutoPlay dialog:

autoplay windows 7

As you can see, it’s trying to run the DVDsetup.exe file mentioned in the autorun.inf file, but now you get the option to choose. The same is true for Windows 10. Here you first get a notification on your screen.

tap to choose

If you click on that, it will bring up the AutoPlay dialog where you can choose what action to perform.

choose action disc

Overall, even though you can disable the AutoPlay feature in Windows 7 and higher, it’s not going to harm your computer because no program can be executed without your permission. All AutoPlay does is detect the media and display the options for you.

If you’re running Windows XP, on the other hand, it might be a good idea to disable AutoRun because on that operating system, programs can still be run without user consent.

Configure AutoPlay in Windows 7

It’s worth noting that in Windows 7 you can change the AutoPlay settings so that they mimic how it works in Windows XP. This is probably not something you would want to do, but it’s an option.

To configure AutoPlay, click on Start and type in autoplay. Select the first option at the top.

autoplay windows 7

This will bring up an absolutely giant list of items that you can individually configure. Thankfully, this list has been greatly reduced in Windows 10 as you’ll see below. Note that if you want to turn off AutoPlay completely in Windows 7, just uncheck the Use AutoPlay for all media and devices box at the very top.

windows 7 autplay configure

The reason I got the popup dialog when putting in my software CD was because Software and games was set to Ask me every time. You can change this to Install or run program from your media, Open folder to view files, or Take no action.

autplay options

The list of options to choose from will vary depending on what type of media is connected. For example, an audio CD or DVD movie will have the option to played using Windows Media Player. If you connect a device with pictures or videos, you’ll have the option to automatically import the items. In addition to the standard items, if you ever connected other devices to your computer like a smartphone or tablet, those will show up at the very bottom.

Configure AutoPlay in Windows 10

In Windows 10, click on Start and type in AutoPlay to open the AutoPlay Settings dialog. As you can see, there are only two options instead of the numerous in Windows 7. As with Windows 7, if you connected any other external device, those will show up after Removable Drive and Memory Card.

autoplay windows 10

The options are pretty much the same in terms of the actions you can take. For me, every time I connected my iPhone, it would try to import them into OneDrive, which I did not want to happen. This is the place where you can turn that off.

From my testing, it seems like the options for Memory Card are used when you pop in a DVD or CD.

autoplay options windows 10

Since most people are using the latest versions of Windows, you really no longer have to worry about anything other than AutoPlay. It’s also a straight-forward process to disable or enable AutoPlay in Windows if you like. If you have any questions, feel free to comment. Enjoy!

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Hide Your Facebook Status From One or Specific Friends

The problem with Facebook is that your group of “friends” really consists of just about everyone you know including your family, relatives, friends, work colleagues, professional contacts, etc., etc. Yes, you can create lists and group people into them, but it’s a hard to find feature that no one really ever uses it. However, I’ll still mention how to use lists in Facebook in case you really want to organize your friend list.

So what’s the best way to hide your Facebook status from one person or a specific set of friends? The best way in my opinion is to use the privacy controls while you are actually creating the status update. In this article, I’ll show you how to control the privacy of a single status update and all future status updates too.

Single Status Update

Since you’ll probably only be restricting your status updates some of the time, the simplest solution is to click on the little privacy control button at the bottom right of the status update window.

facebook status update

The privacy control will be set to whatever is your default option for who can see your Facebook status updates. In my case, my default setting is only Friends. If you want to change this for a particular post, go ahead and click on the down arrow.

status update privacy controls

At the top, you’ll get three main choices: Public, Friends and Only Me. Below that you get more options like Friends except Acquaintances and then Custom. Below those options, Facebook will give you some custom lists that it creates on its own.

In my case, it gives me options for friends who live in certain areas, my family, close friends, friends who’ve gone to the same school as me, etc. If you already have a list and you want only those people to see your status, just select the list and you’re good to go.

In order to exclude someone or an entire list, you have to click on Custom. This will bring up the Custom Privacy popup window.

custom privacy facebook

Here you can edit exactly who you want to share or not share the status update with. In my example above, everyone will see my post except the people in the Family list. You can type in individual names or pick from your lists. Click Save Changes and you’re good to go.

So is there any way for someone to find out that you hid a post from them on Facebook? Well, Facebook does not let the person know, unless you happen to tag them! So make sure you don’t tag a person you are trying to hide your status from.

In addition, even if the person you tagged is friends with a person you hide the post from, the latter will not be able to see it on the former’s wall or in their own news feed. From a technical standpoint on Facebook, the excluded people will have no way to know that you posted the status update. Obviously, if someone mentions it outside of Facebook, you might be in trouble!

Future Status Updates

Once you change the setting inline while posting a status update, Facebook assumes you’ll want to continue doing this. If you go to post another status update, you’ll see it still says Custom instead of whatever it was earlier. You can also check this setting under the privacy settings in Facebook. Go ahead and click on the little lock icon at the top right.

who can see my stuff

Then click on Who can see my stuff? to expand those options. Under who can see my future posts?, go ahead and click on the box and choose Custom. In my case, it was already set to Custom since I had just posted a status update with custom privacy settings.

Create Facebook Lists

The pre-created lists created by Facebook are useful, but sometimes you need to create a list that is for a specific set of people not already in a list. To do this, you have to go to your main News Feed and then hover your mouse over Friends in the left sidebar until you see More.

facebook friends more

Now you’ll see all of your lists. At the top, you can click on Create a List.

create a list

Give you list a name and start typing names to create the list. Click the Create button and it’s as simple as that!

new list facebook

Now you can use this list in various settings across Facebook that allow lists. Hopefully, this helps you control the privacy of your Facebook status updates. Make sure to read my other posts on about Facebook like how to hide your online Facebook status, update Facebook status via text message, and how to hide from one Facebook friend from another. Enjoy!

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Create Private Browsing Mode Shortcuts for Your Web Browser

Private Browsing is a mode in all modern web browsers that, when activated, will delete any session data such as browsing history and cookies. If you want to browse the Internet without anything being stored locally on your computer, private browsing mode is the best choice.

Note that private browsing mode will not allow you to browse the web anonymously or prevent others websites or middlemen like your ISP from tracking your activity. If you want to do that, make sure to read my post on how to properly remove your search history.

In this article, I’ll show you how to create shortcuts that will allow you to open your favorite web browser in private mode by default. The method for creating and editing the shortcut is pretty much the same for all browsers, so I’ll talk about how to do that first.

Creating a Shortcut

If you already have a shortcut for your web browser on your desktop, then simply right-click on it and choose Send to – Desktop (create shortcut). You can also just open the Start Menu and drag and drop the program onto the desktop to create a shortcut.

create desktop shortcut

If you don’t have a shortcut for your browser, you can create one by navigating to the folder that contains the EXE file. You’ll find all of these in C:Program Files or C:Program Files (x86) under the appropriate program name.

chrome desktop shortcut

Right-click and choose the same options as mentioned above. To edit a shortcut, right-click the shortcut on the desktop and select Properties from the pop-up menu.

Getting properties of the Chrome shortcut

This will bring up the Properties dialog box with the Shortcut tab active. For each browser, we need to edit the command that is listed in the Target box by adding a parameter. See the following sections for the text to add to the end of the command for each browser.

shortcut properties

Google Chrome

Google Chrome calls their private browsing mode Incognito mode. You can read my previous post to learn how to enable private browsing mode in Chrome and Opera.

To start Chrome in Incognito mode by default when using the shortcut, edit the shortcut as mentioned above, and add the command line switch —incognito at the end of the line in the Target edit box.

NOTE: It’s a double dash/hyphen before incognito and a space before the dashes.

"C:Program Files (x86)GoogleChromeApplicationchrome.exe" --incognito

incognito chrome

Chrome displays a detective-like icon in the upper-left corner of the window to indicate you are running in Incognito mode.

gone incognito

Mozilla Firefox

To learn how to turn on private browsing mode temporarily and permanently from within Firefox, see our previous post, Turn on Private Browsing in Firefox.

To start Firefox in private browsing mode by default when using the shortcut, edit the shortcut as mentioned above, and add the command line switch –private at the end of the line in the Target edit box.

NOTE: It’s a single hyphen before private and a space before the hyphen.

"C:Program Files (x86)Mozilla Firefoxfirefox.exe" -private

When you open Firefox, it will display a purple bar across the top indicating that you are now privately browsing.

firefox private browsing

Internet Explorer/Microsoft Edge

Internet Explorer calls their private browsing mode InPrivate Browsing and it’s been a feature of IE since IE 8. Check out my previous post on how to enable InPrivate browsing in IE and Microsoft Edge.

To start Internet Explorer in InPrivate browsing mode by default when using the shortcut, edit the shortcut as mentioned above, and add the same command line switch as for Firefox, –private, at the end of the line in the Target edit box.

NOTE: It’s a single hyphen before private and a space before the hyphen.

"C:Program FilesInternet Exploreriexplore.exe" -private

You can also easily start Internet Explorer in InPrivate browsing mode using the default icon on the taskbar. Right-click the Internet Explorer button on the taskbar and select Start InPrivate Browsing from the pop-up menu.

start inprivate browsing

Once you start Internet Explorer in InPrivate browsing mode, the program indicates you are in InPrivate mode in several ways: an InPrivate indicator is shown in the address bar, the title of the new tab is InPrivate and you get a message indicating it is turned on.

ie inprivate

Note that if you can’t find the shortcut link to IE, you can click on Start and type in internet explorer. Then right-click and choose Open File Location.

ie shortcut

Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to work with Microsoft Edge just yet. I was able to find the application file for Edge here:

C:WindowsSystemAppsMicrosoft.MicrosoftEdge_8wekyb3d8bbwe

However, when you try to create a desktop shortcut, it simply doesn’t open Edge. The only way to open Edge right now is from the Start Menu or Taskbar. Maybe this will change in the future.

Opera

To learn how to turn on Opera’s private browsing mode from within the program, see our previous post, Turn on Private Browsing Mode in Chrome and Opera.

Unlike other browsers, Opera’s command line switch doesn’t actually work anymore. In older versions of Opera, you could create a new private tab or a new private window in which all tabs were private. The most recent version of Opera just supports a new private window like all other browsers.

However, the command line switch for Opera is -newprivatetab, which doesn’t work anymore. The command line switch to start a full private browsing Opera window, if it exists, is not listed in Opera’s documentation on their site that we could find (http://www.opera.com/docs/switches/).

opera lock icon

This means that when you use the shortcut, it simply opens a new non-private tab. It only opens a new private tab if you already have a private window open! So this command line switch is pretty useless at this point if you are using Opera. You can tell when Opera is in private mode if you see the lock icon at the front-left of the tab.

NOTE: It’s a single hyphen before newprivatetab and a space before the hyphen.

"C:Program Files (x86)Operalauncher.exe" -newprivatetab

We covered the most popular browsers in this article for creating a shortcut to private browsing. If you have any questions, feel free to comment. Enjoy!

The post Create Private Browsing Mode Shortcuts for Your Web Browser appeared first on Online Tech Tips.

What is SeaPort.exe and How to Remove It

If you have installed any Windows Essentials programs onto your computer recently like Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Live Writer or Live Mail, you may have noticed a new process running on your system called SeaPort.exe. So what exactly is this process and should you worry about it?

Luckily, seaport.exe is not a virus or malware program. It’s the Microsoft SeaPort Search Enhancement Broker process. This process basically downloads some configuration files to enhance the search functionality in various Windows programs. This program will also run if you have installed the Bing toolbar in IE.

If you open Task Manager, you can see the program running and kill the process if you like. However, this is only a temporary solution. When you restart your computer, seaport.exe will appear again.

seaport exe

The description for the process in Windows is as follows:

Enables the detection, download and installation of up-to-date configuration files for Bing Bar. Also provides server communication for the customer experience improvement program. Stopping or disabling this service may prevent you from getting the latest updates for Bing Bar, which may expose your computer to security vulnerabilities or functional flaws in the Bing Bar.

Previously, it seemed that seaport.exe was simply an automatic update tool for the Microsoft Search Enhancement application and this may be true if it got installed with a Windows Live program, however, if installed with the Bing Bar, it could prevent the computer from installing the latest security updates for the toolbar.

My recommendation is to leave it alone if you installed the Bing Bar. If you installed a Windows Essentials program, then it’s really not necessary to keep the process because it basically runs all the time and eats up resources. Granted, it carries a very tiny footprint overall, but it’s still an extra process that doesn’t necessarily need to be there.

Remove SeaPort.exe From Your PC

Depending on what you installed on your system, the procedure for removing seaport.exe may be different. The first method involves turning off the service via the Services console. To do this, you first have to see which service is running the process. It will either be SeaPort or BBUpdate (Bing Bar Update).

Step 1: From the Windows task manager Processes tab, right-click on seaport.exe and choose Go to Service(s).

go to service

Step 2: This will bring you to the Services tab where you will be able to see the name of the service. In my case, it was called BBUpdate. Now click on the Services button at the bottom right of the window.

bbupdate service

Step 3: Scroll down till you find BBUpdate or SeaPort and then right-click and choose Properties.

disable seaport exe

On the General tab, change the Startup type to Disabled and click Stop to end the process. Then click OK to save the changes. Go ahead and restart your computer and seaport.exe should no longer be running. As mentioned earlier, I would only do this if seaport.exe is causing some kind of problem on your system. If you installed the Bing Bar, the better option would be to uninstall the Bing Bar altogether, which will remove seaport.exe also.

In most situations, the above steps should stop SeaPort from running on your PC. However, if it is still running, you can try to delete the EXE itself. Depending on what you installed, it’ll be in one of the two locations below:

C:Program Files (x86)MicrosoftBingBar7.3.161.0SeaPort.exe
C:Program FilesMicrosoftSearch Enhancement PackSeaPortSeaPort.exe

Overall, the program is harmless, but if you find it eating up a lot of your CPU or eating up network bandwidth, feel free to uninstall the Windows programs mentioned above or disable it via the Services console. If you have any questions, feel free to comment. Enjoy!

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4 Free/Cheaper Rosetta Stone Alternatives

If you’re trying to learn a new language, you have most likely heard about the popular language learning software Rosetta Stone. Rosetta Stone comes in a wide variety of different languages, allowing you to learn another language via specialized training software on your computer or mobile device.

However, the software is a bit on the expensive side. For example, most languages on the site are currently selling for $209, which gets you either online access, a download or a CD-ROM.

Although expensive, $209 is probably worth it if Rosetta Stone can actually help you master a foreign language. The thing is, the way Rosetta Stone teaches languages may not be that effective for some people. Rosetta Stone focuses mostly on being able to speak quickly and not as much on grammar, sentence structure, etc. For many, classroom learning is a better method, as it involves more interaction with an actual person who speaks the foreign language, the teacher.

rosetta stone

If you want to get started learning a foreign language without buying Rosetta Stone or paying for classes, there are some decent free alternatives out there that you can try out.

Babbel

Babbel is an online tool for learning how to speak, read and write in a new language. The site mostly has lessons for European languages like French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, Dutch, etc. In addition, it has Russian and Turkish.

babbel language

The lessons are interactive and allow you to practice speaking also. The software has voice recognition so you can make sure that you are pronouncing the words correctly.

babbel spanish

If you create an account, it will sync all your lessons to the cloud so you can move from your computer to your phone and continue from where you left off. In terms of pricing, they have some free lessons, but if you really want to learn a language, you’ll have to sign up for their subscription plans.

Overall, it’s a cheaper solution to Rosetta and they have a community that lets you connect with native speakers of the language you are trying to learn.

Busuu

Busuu is a language learning tutorial website that offers many helpful tools for learning English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, French, and more. Busuu has a short video that quickly reviews the features of the website.

busuu

Busuu is a fairly good language learning software and it provides several different ways to learn a foreign language: everything from vocabulary and writing to punctuation and grammar. Busuu also features quizzes, which give you a classroom like learning style.

They have lots of lessons and just about all of them are free. If you become a premium member, you get access to grammar, voice recording and review exercises, faster correction from a native speaker, travel and business course and level tests.

busuu lessons

The pricing is pretty close to Babbel and it follows the same monthly subscription model. Overall, it’s very well done and has a lot of resources for each language beyond just being able to speak it. They also have mobile apps for easy learning on the go.

Duolingo

Duolingo is the first tool mentioned here that is completely free. They don’t have a huge number of languages, but they have all the popular ones that we have already mentioned above.

duolingo

When you start a new language, you start at the top of a path and work your way down. If you already know some of the language, you can take placement tests to skip the lessons.

duolingo paths

The lessons include different kinds of interactive questions which will help you read and write the new language.

translate text

You can also hear how words and sentences are pronounced so that you can speak it yourself. In addition, you can add friends from Facebook in case you want to learn with someone else. They also have discussion forums and even real world articles that you can translate once you become proficient in the language.

LiveMocha

LiveMocha is a website that is owned by Rosetta Stone and is basically their lower-level cheaper option. It’s still not free, but basically lets you purchase lessons in small bits and pieces. They also give you some free credits to start with that will basically get you about 5 free lessons. After that you have to spend about $1 per lesson.

livemocha language

Some languages have more lessons and courses than others, obviously, and they do have quite a few languages available. If you are looking for something bite-sized, this is a good option.

livemocha

The lessons are pretty basic in that they include a short intro video and then some vocabulary flash cards. They also include audio recordings for each word. Overall, it’s a different take on learning than the way it is done in Rosetta Stone.

So these are a couple of good options you have when trying to learn a new language. They are especially good for popular languages like Spanish, French, German, Italian, etc. If you have any other tools you use, feel free to mention them in the comments. Enjoy!

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