• Web based email from Google

    How we use and access our email is changing. Before broadband most people used a dial up connection to access the internet. This was charged by the minute, and was relatively expensive. So we connected to the internet, received our emails onto our PC's, then disconnected. We read the emails, composed replies, and then connected again briefly to do another send and receive.

    With the introduction of broadband, virtually all businesses, and the majority of domestic PC users now have a permanent internet connection. We now also have internet access on mobile phones as well. This has lead to many people wishing to be able to access their email from anywhere, at any time, on any device with an internet connection, Webmail was born!

    Googlemail was created in April 2004, but for the last three years has been under development and testing and only released to test users by invitation. ASL was given Googlemail to test back in August 2005, and for the last fifteen months we have been using Googlemail as our company email system.

    So what makes Googlemail different:

    1. You get more than enough space for all your emails, and Google are continually increasing the storage space. This means you never have to delete emails to free up space, just keep everything. I have nine thousand emails stored in my GoogleMail mailbox, and it's showing only 17 percent full.
    2. You search using key words to find that email you want, rather than having to file them in folders. Once you have read an email in your inbox just hit the “archive” button and forget about it. You can always find it again using a search, which saves time.
    3. Googlemail recognizes related messages, and groups them into "conversations", where associated messages are listed one after another.
    4. GoogleMail contains one of the most accurate Spam filters I have used.
    5. All incoming and outgoing emails are scanned for viruses, automatically, including attachments.
    6. You can access your emails from any computer (PC or Mac), mobile phone, or PDA, anywhere in the world, as long as it's connected to the Internet

    Googlemail is very different to the other Web based email accounts and it's innovative features make it in our opinion far superior to all it's competitors.

    To get your free GoogleMail account just go to http://mail.google.com/mail/ and sign up.

    Chris Moody
    ASL Computer Services

  • Paint.NET Image Editor

    Paint.NET is free image and photo manipulation software designed to be used on computers that run Windows. It supports layers, unlimited undo, special effects, and a wide variety of useful and powerful tools.

    It started development as an undergraduate college senior design project mentored by Microsoft, and is currently being maintained by some of the alumni that originally worked on it. Originally intended as a free replacement for the MS Paint software that comes with Windows, it has grown into a powerful yet simple tool for photo and image editing.

    It isnít a replacement for Photoshop but it has more than enough features for most peoples needs. I particularly like the feature that turns your photographs into an oil painting.

    You can download it from the Paint.NET Website

  • Dell Computers with Windows Vista

    I've just noticed that Dell are now shipping PC's with Windows Vista pre installed. I've included a link to their Home PC special offers page.

    ASL Computer Services

  • How to manage your digital photos

    Digital cameras and mobile phones containing built in digital cameras are now commonplace. You may even have received a new one for Christmas, or bought one in the January sales. But as well as making photography instantaneous and free of film processing costs, digital media introduces new problems. All these hundreds, even thousands, of photos just sit on your computer hard drive. How can you possibly organise, search, edit, email, print, or even view a slide show of a specific set of pictures.

    The answer is Picasa.

    Picasa will:

    * Organise your entire collection of photos automatically sorting them by date

    * Make it easy to move pictures around on your computer's hard drive

    * Group photographs into albums

    * Password protect individual pictures

    * Make it fast and easy to crop, remove red eye, fix the contrast and colour, and enhance your digital pictures.

    * Allow you to turn your photos into black & white, or sepia, or soft focus at the click of a button

    * Create captions for your pictures

    * Take the guesswork out of emailing photos. Picasa automatically resizes and attaches pictures to email messages at sizes your friends will be able to open.

    * Make it fast and easy to put your photos on the web.

    * Turn a group of photos into a presentation with one click, then share your slide show on a CD

    * Resize and print your photos at home

    * Backup all your photos to CD or DVD, or to a network drive.

    And now the best bit, this software it totally free, courtesy of Google.

    Download Picasa now and give it a try, you will not be disappointed. It's not a feature packed image editing tool like Photoshop, but it will organise, edit, print, email, and display your photos effortlessly and easily. You can get Picasa from http://picasa.google.com

  • VOIP and Skype

    Everyone is talking about Voice Over IP (VOIP) and Skype. So I thought I would explain what these terms are, and why you may benefit from this technology.

    Voice Over IP is voice communications across the internet. So basically it's a telephone call, but the sound is transmitted across the internet, instead of down a normal phone line. If the people at each end are both using VOIP, and are using the same VOIP provider, the call is usually free. If you call someone on a normal phone line, the sound travels across the internet and only the last leg of the journey is over the normal phone network. This means you can call most parts of the world for the cost of a local call.

    There are many different VOIP systems and providers. Some use special phones that plug directly into your broadband connection, and work just like a normal phone. Other VOIP systems like Skype run on your PC, and you speak using a phone handset that plugs into your PC.

    Skype - the pros & cons

    The main benefits of Skype are

    It is widely used by domestic PC users. Currently there can be in excess of 8 million Skype users "online" at any one time worldwide

    It is easy to install and configure, no special expertise is needed to set it up

    It can run on PC's and Apple Mac's

    Skype phone handsets are readily available from high street stores

    So what are the disadvantages

    You need to keep your PC turned on to use it

    It's not as flexible as some of the other VOIP systems


    Small businesses would probably be better off with a VOIP system that uses stand alone VOIP phones that plug into your broadband connection directly, and provide advanced features. Please feel free to contact us at ASL Computer Services for more information on business VOIP solutions.

    Domestic PC users will appreciate the ease of setting Skype up, and also it's popularity. Your friends and relatives abroad, and in this country, are probably already using Skype. If you want to download Skype visit our website www.aslcomputerservices.co.uk and follow the Skype link on our website main menu. 

  • Viruses

    The problem of Viruses

    With more and more PC's being connected to the Internet on a permanent basis via broadband, and also networked together within your office or home the spread of viruses has become a major problem.
    If you connect any PC without any protection to the Internet via broadband it can become infected with viruses within a matter of hours. Quite a scary thought.

    A virus infected PC may cause you a number of problems:

    It may infect your other PC's in your office or home 

    It can delete or corrupt your data and documents

    It could damage Windows itself which may necessitate a repair or
    re-installation of the operating system 

    Often viruses will search your PC for email addresses and then
    send itself to those people without your knowledge, thereby
    infecting your friends, customers, and suppliers machines with
    the same virus 

    It may make your PC run slowly, which means every task you do takes longer

    So how do you protect your PC?

    Ensure you have a reputable Anti Virus program installed and that it has not expired

    If your PC is for home use (not business) there are Anti virus programs available totally free of charge, so there is no reason to not be protected (Speak to whoever does your computer support about the free Anti Virus programs for home use)

    Make sure your Anti Virus program is kept up to date with new virus definitions via the Internet.

    It should be configured to monitor your PC in the background continually looking for virus infections

    Scanning of all incoming and outgoing emails for virus infections should be enabled
    Perform regular scheduled scans of your hard disk drives at least once a week

    So check your PC's, both home and office, and make sure they are protected from viruses. If you wish to obtain a Free Anti Virus program (for home use only) why not visit our website www.aslcomputerservices.co.uk and follow the link called " AVG Free Edition Anti Virus".

    For business use, or home PC users that want more features and greater levels of protection follow the link called "AVG Anti Virus suite" or click here.

  • ASL and blogging

    This is ASL Computer Services first "toe in the water" on blogging. We are not sure yet how this will evolve over the coming months, we will just have to see how it goes.

    We may use blogging in a number of ways:

    * online useful computer hint's and tips

    * Interesting computer and e-commerce related articles

    If you would like anything specific included in the Blog, let us know and we will consider it.

    Chris Moody
    ASL Computer Services
    Computer support for small businesses and home PC users


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