Remote control your computer from your iPad

Some say that the iPad is a magical device. I won’t go that far, but it is kinda cool, though it does have its shortcomings — especially when you compare it to a desktop or laptop computer. There are just many things done much better on a computer than on an iPad, which is why it’s neat that there’s computer remote control software for the iPad.

One of the easiest I’ve found to use is LogMeIn Ignition. Part of the LogMeIn family, Ignition lives on your iPad (or iPhone, or iPod Touch, or Android) and allows you to control any computer you’ve registered with the LogMeIn service.

Here’s how the process works:
1. Get a free LogMeIn account
2. Install LogMeIn Free client software on every PC/Mac you want to control
3. Register those computers with your LogMeIn account information

If you stop here, you now have the ability to control any of your registered computers from any other registered computer (that’s running the client software), or through the LogMeIn web interface (which is very slick!).

4. Install the LogMeIn:Ignition client on your iPhone/iPod Touch or iPad

And you’re done. You can now control any of your computers via your iPad.

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How to easily install essential applications on a new Windows 7 computer

It doesn’t matter if you’ve upgraded from Vista or XP, or if you’ve bought a new Windows 7 based computer, you’re going to need to install some basic and essential applications on your new baby.

And this awesome website makes it so, SO easy. 4 easy steps:

  • Visit the site
  • Select which applications you want
  • Press the button to start a download
  • Run the downloaded application

Visit the site
Ninite.com is a very cool web app with a single function: to make a custom downloader and installer that will save you time and mouseclicks to install commonly used open-source and free applications.

The page looks like this, a long list of applications and utilities, divided into sections by application type.

Ninite includes everything from office suite applications (Open Office, MS Office trial), image and  audio editors, to system maintenance utilities, virus scanners, and media burning tools.

Get your applications
This couldn’t be simpler. Click on the apps or utilities you want. Unfortunately there’s no link to a product overview so if you’re not familiar with the application you will need to Google it.

Press the button
This initiates a bit of back-end magic at the site. A custom download/installer application is built and sent to your computer. It contains all the information necessary to, when run, download and install (in background) the applications you selected in the previous step.

Make it so
When  you run the installer, a window opens showing you the progress of the process. If you’re curious, you can ‘show the details’ and each phase of the install can be viewed.

Why?
The big benefit for me is the time saving and the click saving. What would normally take over an hour for a new install, basically takes 2-5 minutes of my time, the rest happens in background while I do something else. To quote from the developers:

Ninite runs on Windows XP/Vista/7 and works
in the background 100% hands-free.

We install apps with default settings and
say “no” to browser toolbars and other junk.

All we do is install the latest versions of the apps
you choose. Not even Ninite is installed.

How can that not be cool?

Essential things to do before upgrading to Windows 7

Windows 7 is on its way so I thought I’d document some steps to take to prepare for a Windows 7 upgrade.

Depending on the state of your current computer and the version of Windows you’re currently running, your Windows 7 upgrade could consist of:

  • in-place upgrade over top of your existing OS (Only supported for Vista, but you can do it with XP through Hardlink Migration)
  • clean upgrade replacing your existing OS (format and overwrite)
  • alongside upgrade booting and running off another partition (two Windows versions on the same computer – I use this until I notice that the majority of my work is done on the new OS, then I nuke the older OS)

Microsoft provides this handy chart on their upgrade page; it’ll help you decide which path is right for you.

And, the upgrade could take a while. But, regardless of the upgrade path you choose to walk, here’s a few things you can do that will make your upgrade smoother, and safer should something go wrong.

Backup
To be safe, (and if you’ve got the drive space) you may want to make a full system backup.

If that’s not practical, determine what your most important data is — things like documents, photos, home videos etc. Things that are not replaceable.

Most likely, you’ll find them in ‘C:\Documents and Settings\YOUR USER NAME HERE\My Documents’, but you may find some in ‘C:\Documents and Settings\All Users as well’.

Once you’ve identified all your important and irreplaceable work, copy them to a separate directory on your computer. Don’t worry about copying your application programs (I find that when I upgrade my OS, it’s far better to reinstall them from scratch), but do check the application directories for any custom settings, purchased plugins, modifications etc. You’ll likely want to back them up as well.

Depending on how you roll, you can burn your important files to a CD, copy them to a USB thumb drive, or install an online backup client (like Mozy) and let it backup over the internet. If you’re especially concerned, combine these.

Delete
Now that our essential data is safe, we’re going to clean stuff up.

First, launch your control panel and uninstall every application, game or utility you no longer use. If you’re unsure, then just leave it, but I find that I’m always installing things and haven’t used them for months. Best to get rid of it now.

Next, run Disk Cleanup. Depending on your OS, you could find it in a few places, but I find the easiest way to launch it is by:

  • exploring to your C: drive
  • right clicking on the drive
  • selecting Properties from the drop down
  • then clicking on Disk Cleanup in the properties window.

Once Disc cleanup runs, you’ll be presented with a series of checkboxes of ‘stuff’ that windows wants to remove. Review it carefully, unchecking everything you want to keep. Then let it continue.

Finally, empty your trash.

Optimize
Now, lets make your hard drive the best it can be for a new OS installation by defragmenting it. Rather than reinvent the wheel, here’s Wikipedia’s explanation of defragmentation

defragmentation is a process that reduces the amount of fragmentation in file systems. It does this by physically organizing the contents of the disk to store the pieces of each file close together and contiguously. It also attempts to create larger regions of free space using compaction to impede the return of fragmentation. Some defragmenters also try to keep smaller files within a single directory together, as they are often accessed in sequence.

On my system, here’s how I defrag a drive:

  • explore to C: drive
  • right click on the drive
  • selecting Properties from the drop down
  • select the Tools tab at the top of the window
  • then click on the Defrag Now button.

A defragged drive is a happy drive.

Ok, once you’ve done all this, you’re computer is in much better shape to proceed with your particular flavour of Windows 7 installation.

Good luck! Mine went fine, and I’m now busily reinstalling my applications, as I need them.

Update: Oct 20, 2009 Life Hacker has this much more detailed overview of the update process and preparing for it