John Torro, Times Correspondent

John Torro

John is the Solutions columnist for the Times. John started out in the computer industry in 1978 by writing Assembler language programs on punch cards, long before Windows made computing attainable for normal people with mouse clicks and icons. Over the course of his career, John has been a software developer and a systems and network manager for various mainframe and mini computers as well as Windows servers.

John stresses "common sense computing" and urges his readers to keep their systems simple, safe and streamlined in an effort to avoid aggravation.

John is a native New Yorker but has lived in Palm Harbor since 1981. John is married and has three grown children. He is passionate about sports and enjoys all types of music as well as playing and collecting guitars.

E-mail: personaltech@tampabay.com

  1. Solutions: How to combat blank Web pages

    Personal Tech

    Note to readers: A new Windows 8.1 update is coming soon. Still no Start button, but they are moving in that direction in trying to make it easier to use. Check out the changes at www.cnet.com/products/windows-8-1-update.

    •••

    I am having so much trouble with the "blank page" nonsense on my computer. I purchased heavy-duty scanners and found out that it is not a virus. It's just attached to my Internet Explorer. It keeps changing my home page back to msn.com and will not allow me to open any URL tabs. It just opens three or four blank pages. There are quite a few fixes online but I would rather not go into the registry....

  2. Solutions: Check air vents to keep computer from overheating

    Personal Tech

    My HP notebook with Windows 7 is 3 years old and runs fine. My concern is that when I watch TV shows or movies, I can feel the computer getting hot. Is this normal?

    Let's start by saying that the worst thing you can do to a laptop, aside from throwing it into a tub of water, is to rest it on a bed, a blanket or a soft cushion. This cuts off much of the air intake and will lead to the components inside starting to over-heat. Most modern laptop vents are on the side, but even those can easily get covered when resting on a soft surface. You'll notice the heat, the high fan activity noise and then the gradual slowing of the CPU. Left for too long in this condition, it will shut down to prevent further damage. By that time, it can be too late. It is literally cooked. Check to see where you laptops air vents are located, and make sure they are getting plenty of air circulation when you're in your TV watching position....

  3. Solutions: Best touchpad to buy

    Personal Tech

    Would you please tell me what the best touchpad would be theses days? Also would I put Windows 8 on it? I was wondering because of the problems I have heard about Outlook and Windows 8.

    All tablets come with the operating system already installed, so there is no choice involved. I've got more than a few tablets hanging around the house, covering just about every type except the Windows tablets. So I cannot comment on the Windows Surface tablet directly, although the Windows 8 interface was made for and works much better on touchscreens. The most important consideration when buying a tablet is the availability of applications. Apple iPads are the standard and always a safe choice. They are also the most expensive — an important consideration. The few inexpensive "browser only" tablets that I've used I found hard to work with. The same way laptops have overtaken desktops, tablets will eventually be the device of choice for home users. I love Microsoft products and I wouldn't be adverse to using a Microsoft Surface tablet, but if I had to buy a new tablet tomorrow, it would be an iPad....

  4. Solutions: Follow Apple support instructions with Microsoft tool to uninstall iTunes file

    Personal Tech

    I have a very large file for iTunes that I want to uninstall, but I get a message, "This action is for products that are currently installed" or "The feature you are trying to use is on a network that is unavailable." Any thoughts on how to uninstall it? I'm running XP with IE 8.

    That can happen with Apple products if certain other components are missing or already uninstalled. Go to support.apple.com/kb/TS3704 and read and follow the instructions on downloading the Microsoft Install/Uninstall tool for Apple products....

  5. Solutions: No fix is needed if computer runs fine

    Personal Tech

    I own a Gateway PC with Windows Vista Home Premium. It tells me I need to update Driver Detective. Do you recommend doing so?

    Driver Detective is software the promises to keep your various software/hardware drivers up to date. Most new PC's come with some sort of utility — for example, HP Support Assistant — that does the same sort of thing.

    I suspect your PC is at least 5 years old. Usually, most updated drivers for a particular PC are released in the first few years. I wouldn't expect there to be major updates of consequence for your PC. I would not update Driver Detective and instead remove it from Control Panel Add/Remove Programs. ...

  6. Solutions: Steps to take when Microsoft ends Windows XP support

    Personal Tech

    As you know, Microsoft is terminating Windows XP support as of April 8. I searched around and ran into misleading, missing, and contradictory info, so thought I'd ask you:

    1. Microsoft will stop issuing patches and updates, but what about "Windows Update"? For instance, if one were to reformat/reinstall a Windows XP system using the manufacturer's restore disks, most likely one would end up with Service Pack 2. Given support has ended, could one run "Windows Update" and upgrade to Service Pack 3 and about 200 "updates" after Service Pack 3? ...

  7. Solutions: How much security does average PC user need?

    Personal Tech

    Installed on my computer are Windows Defender and MalwareBytes AntiMalware. Now I would like to include Microsoft program EMET. Is this recommended?

    The Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) is a free downloadable utility that helps prevent vulnerabilities in individual software programs from being exploited. It is a complicated tool that requires configuration for every program on your PC that uses the Internet. ...

  8. Solutions: Keeping sensitive files safe from hackers

    Personal Tech

    I'd like to protect my sensitive computer files. In searching online I found numerous options. Most of them are aimed at keeping files away from other users of a computer. My computer is in my home and I am the only user. What I want to do is keep potential hackers from getting into such files. What are my options?

    In a business situation, commercial software and all the safeguards that go with it make sense. In a home situation, I worry about encryption software that may not be around or may be incompatible with a future operating system when the time comes to decrypt your files. If you inadvertently install malevolent software, getting in is no longer a problem for hackers, they're already there. From that point, they can disable any other safeguards you may have in place. Nothing is 100 percent safe if it's online. If you don't want to go with third-party encryption software, transferring the files from your PC to a detached external drive and then securely erasing them (there are several free secure erasers that will rewrite zeros over the old file space) would be the most practical way of keeping hackers away....

  9. Solutions: Should I upgrade to Windows 8?

    Personal Tech

    About one year ago, I purchased a new HP laptop, with your recommendations. I am running Windows 7 and IE 8. So far so good. When would you recommend upgrading to Windows 8 and IE 10?

    I've been in the computer business since 1978 and if there is one thing I've learned it is: If it's not broke, don't fix it. If Windows 7 is working well for you, I see no reason to plan an upgrade to Windows 8 anytime soon. Windows 7 will be relevant and supported for quite some time. Traditional Windows users have not been happy with the Windows 8 interface changes. The 8.1 update really didn't do anything significant to resolve those issues. As for your Internet Explorer 8, I do recommend an update to version 10. IE 10 contains several security related changes that you want to have....

  10. Solutions: Speeding up a sluggish computer

    Personal Tech

    What should I delete to make my computer run faster? I have a Toshiba laptop, with Windows 7.

    First, make sure your computer fan is free from dust. A clogged fan will make the computer run hotter. When the computer senses a heat buildup, it slows itself down in an effort to decrease the heat. It's a good idea to use a can of compressed air (available at all stores that sell computers/office supplies) and every now and then give your PC's fan a couple of quick blasts from about 6 inches away. ...

  11. Solutions: Do manual check for RipIt4Me updates

    Personal Tech

    I use RipIt4Me version 1.7.1.0 and every time I use it I get an error message saying, "Couldn't check for update. Your firewall might be blocking RipIt4Me." I have checked Windows Firewall with Advanced Security, both the Inbound Rules and Outbound Rules, and don't see the program listed there either. Should I manually check for a new update on the Web every time I go to run this program? ...

  12. Solutions: Problems scanning a document with an HP printer

    Personal Tech

    I am unable to scan a document from my HP printer via my Sony desktop running Windows 7 Home Edition. The computer does not recognize the printer even though it does when sending a print job to the printer. It is not an issue with my HP printer, since I can scan from it via my laptop. With help from HP, I am told that I probably have a corrupted WPA file. I cannot figure out how to download a fix from Microsoft. Can you advise? ...

  13. Fixing a problem with Word

    News

    I am using a desktop computer with Windows XP. I have always been able to go on the Internet, copy an image and paste it into a Microsoft Word document until recently. I did recently do a clean disk operation but thought that I avoided deleting anything of importance, however I am suspicious now that I may have inadvertently gotten rid of whatever it is that I need to do the copy/paste function. Now, when I try to do this, I get the message that "There is insufficient memory or disk space. Close extra windows and save your work." What can I do to solve this problem? ...

  14. Solutions: Why does it take so long to shut down my computer?

    Personal Tech

    I am using an HP laptop with Windows 7. When I try to shut down my computer, a screen comes up that says "waiting for background programs to close" and it has a button that allows me to "force shutdown." It warns me that anything that has not been saved will be lost. When I click on "force shutdown," something briefly comes up that says "Task Host Window" and it still takes its time shutting the computer off. ...

  15. Solutions: Get help for failed PC from HP support

    Personal Tech

    My HP with AMD A-10 died this week. It was only 5 months old. The Staples store where I bought it is no help. The store made no attempt to tell me where to send it for warranty work. How do I contact the appropriate HP place to send it for rework?

    You probably spoke to the wrong person at Staples because I can't imagine them not being able to at least point you in the right direction. The good news is that your PC is completely covered under HP's warranty. One of the reasons I prefer HP is that the support is very good. Call toll-free, 1-800-474-6836 and make sure you have the proper information such as model, serial number and purchase information. I hope you were using Windows 8 File History and already have your personal data backed up. If not, make sure when you speak with the HP support agent that the agent tells you exactly what you can expect in regards to being able to retain your data based on what it is that caused the PC failure. ...