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Share your computer's Internet connection with Virtual Wifi Hotspot

Quite a few smartphones nowadays can share their Internet connections by creating a wifi hot spot. This can come in handy when you have only one Internet connection and multiple devices requiring it. But did you know you can do the same thing with your Windows 7 or Windows 8 computer using Virtual Wifi Hotspot?

Virtual Wifi Hotspot (Virtual Router Plus 2.6) main screen
Virtual Wifi Hotspot (Virtual Router Plus 2.6) main screen

Using Virtual Wifi Hotspot, you can connect multiple wifi enabled devices to the Internet connection on one computer. It is beneficial if you have to pay for an Internet connection, like at an airport or hotel. For example, when I travel and stay in a hotel, I like to utilize the hotel's Internet connection (wired (preferred) or wifi). I can connect my Netbook to the Internet and then share that connection with my wifi devices (smartphone, tablet). I've even thought about bringing a Roku with me next time I travel. Just start Virtual Wifi Hotspot, enter a network name, password, select the connection you want to share, and click on Start Virtual Router Plus.

Virtual Wifi Hotspot is a Codeplex open source project and is built with the Virtual Router project. This explains the difference between the project name (Virtual Wifi Hotspot) and the application name (Virtual Router Plus). Here's a quote from the project's website:

Virtual Wifi Hotspot is a free, open source software based router for PCs running Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012. Using Virtual Wifi Hotspot, users can wirelessly share any Internet connection (Wifi, LAN, Cable Modem, Dial-up, Cellular, etc.) with any Wifi device (Laptop, Smart Phone, iPod Touch, iPhone, Android Phone, Zune, Netbook, wireless printer, etc.) These devices connect to Virtual Wifi Hotspot just like any other access point, and the connection is completely secured using WPA2 (the most secure wireless encryption.)

For more information on Virtual Wifi Hotspot, just follow the link below.

Virtual Wifi Hotspot for Windows 7 & 8

How to use layered security to protect your computer

It seems whenever I tell someone that I repair computers for a living, I almost always get asked the question, "What do you recommend for anti-virus software?". I tell them that I use a layered approach to security, not relying on just one program for protection. I'm not particularly eager to use all-in-one security suites. It's not that I don't trust any particular software; I just don't like having only one piece of software protecting my computer. Here's how to use layered security to protect your computer.

Protecting your computer with layered security
Protecting your computer with layered security

Software firewall

Windows has had a pretty good firewall built-in since Windows Vista, and it's turned on by default. It comes pre-installed inside of Windows and is ready to go. There are also some tremendous stand-alone programs like ZoneAlarm. This is also one of those additional features of all-in-one security software. It's your choice.

Anti-virus software

This one is a no brainer. There are plenty of free and retail anti-virus programs on the market, and I have used quite a few different ones over the years. Some internet service providers like Cox Communications even offer free security suite software. The only thing to keep in mind when picking an anti-virus program is the system's performance you're installing it on. I would not install a full-blown security suite like Norton or McAfee on a tablet or netbook.

Anti-malware / anti-spyware software

Anti-virus software looks typically for, you guessed it, viruses. I've cleaned out quite a few pieces of ransomware that anti-virus programs missed because it wasn't a virus. Quite a few anti-malware programs are meant to be run side-by-side with anti-virus software. But there are a couple of exceptions to this rule: McAfee software doesn't like to work with Malwarebytes Anti-malware, but it can. And never install Microsoft Security Essentials along with SuperAnti-Spyware, as they are entirely incompatible. It's a long story, but basically, they are the same program.

Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET)

EMET works as a shim between programs and the operating system. It looks for known patterns of attack and can prevent programs from getting access to the operating system. It can prevent a hacker from using security holes in programs until the developer issues an update. Just configure EMET to monitor any program that can access the Internet. I've seen it work first hand (rouge flash inside of browser), and it does what it's meant to do.

Windows 8.1 Preview - user interface enhancements

Note: Since Windows 8.1 was released on August 27, 2013, the Windows 8.1 Preview is no longer available for download.

Microsoft recently released the Windows 8.1 Preview, the future upgrade to Windows 8. Some of the changes are subtitle and are quite quickly overlooked; others are not. Changes included in Windows 8.1 are B.Y.O.D. (Bring Your Own Device), mobility, security, and user interface enhancements. With the promise of better user interaction on personal computers, Microsoft made some tweaks to Windows RT and Windows 8. Let's take a closer look into the user interface changes inside of Windows 8.1 Preview.

The Start button returns to Windows 8.1 Preview
The Start button returns to Windows 8.1 Preview

The first thing you'll notice is that nothing appears to have changed. Right out-of-the-box, the only thing that caught my eye was the return of the Start button on the Desktop. You no longer have to hover your cursor in the lower left-hand corner of the screen. If you left-click on the Start button, it brings up the Start screen, not the Start menu from previous versions of Windows. If you right-click on it, the power user command menu appears without keyboard shortcuts. Pressing the Windows logo key Windows logo key + X does the same thing but has the keyboard shortcuts (the underlined letter in the program's name). If you want a Start menu, you'll need a third-party app like Start8.

Smaller tile size on the Start screen inside of Windows 8.1 Preview
Smaller tile size on the Start screen inside of Windows 8.1 Preview

The Start screen has also undergone some changes. The tiles can now be resized smaller for non-touch devices like personal computers. You currently have four different tile sizes to choose from: large (8x8), wide (8x4), medium (4x4), and small (1x1). There is now a button at the bottom of the Start screen to toggle between it and the Apps screen. You no longer have to right-click the Start screen to bring up the Apps command bar. When you right-click on the Start screen, you get a customize button for adding names to groups of tiles. You no longer have to zoom out to do it. And now, if you zoom out, all you can do is select a group of tiles to zoom in on.

The Personalize options for the Start screen in Windows 8.1 Preview
The Personalize options for the Start screen in Windows 8.1 Preview

The customization options for the Start screen have also been expanded. You can now use one of your images for the lock screen or play a slide show on it. You can now also change the accent color along with the background color. Not as many options as some third party programs like Decor8, but it's an improvement compared to Windows 8.

Taskbar and navigation properties inside of Windows 8.1 Preview
Taskbar and navigation properties inside of Windows 8.1 Preview

One of the most anticipated changes is the boot to Desktop option. It took a little hunting, but I did find it under Personalization > Taskbar and Navigation properties. It's there you can make Windows 8.1 go to the Desktop when you sign in. You can also have the Desktop background on the Start screen and set the Apps screen as the default when you left-click on the Start button.

The redesigned PC settings inside of Windows 8.1 Preview
The redesigned PC settings inside of Windows 8.1 Preview

Another program that got a facelift was PC Settings. Microsoft redesigned it with expanded categories and sub-menus to include more settings. It's still not as complete as the Control Panel, but it's getting better. The new layout seems more proportionate on a computer screen, with the menu titles smaller. Overall, I would say the user interface inside of Windows 8.1 is an improvement over Windows 8. But without a Start menu, it will still be a hard sell to die-hard Windows users.

Run Windows RT apps on the Windows 8 desktop with ModernMix

As many of you know, I've been using two monitors on my workstation for over ten years. I like being able to view two or more programs all at the same time. So when Windows 8 came out, I was happy to see better multiple monitor support. Still, I didn't particularly appreciate running Windows RT / Metro apps, as they took up the full display area. They are nice, but it was just too much for me with a screen size of 2560 x 1024. Then the folks at Stardock came out with a program to run Windows RT / Metro apps in a window on the desktop called ModernMix.

Two Windows RT apps running on a desktop with two monitors using ModernMix in Windows 8
Two Windows RT apps running on a desktop with two monitors using ModernMix in Windows 8

ModernMix allows almost any Windows RT / Metro app to run inside a window on the desktop in Windows 8. It remembers the settings of all of the Windows RT apps you have run, and you can manually modify them if needed. I came across a couple of apps that would only run in full screen. It also has a screen overlay you can enable in the upper right-hand corner that allows you to switch between modes (full screen, maximized, and windowed) and bring up the Settings charm for that app. You can even Pin a program to the Taskbar with ModernMix.

Application settings page inside of ModernMix
Application settings page inside of ModernMix

Here's a quote from the ModernMix website:

What is ModernMix?

ModernMix is a revolutionary new program that lets you run Windows 8 "Modern" apps in a window on the desktop. Windows 8 Modern apps, also known as Metro or RT apps, will use the full screen on your display regardless of how much of the screen they really need. As a result, that weather app, mail program or stock ticker is going to use the entirety of your computer display.


    Run modern apps in windows
  • ModernMix enables you to run multiple Modern apps in individual separate windows on the desktop as well as launch them from the desktop.
    Apply custom settings
  • Modern app window sizes are remembered the next time you launch them.
    Pin modern apps to the taskbar
  • Active Modern apps will also appear on your taskbar where they can be pinned for quick access later. Also create desktop shortcuts for Modern apps.
    Bring back the familiar Windows look
  • Standard Windows 8 title bar is enabled for Modern apps.
  • Explicitly close Modern apps by clicking its close button.

The price of ModernMix is $4.99 (at the time this article was written). For more information on ModernMix and Stardock, just follow the links below:



How to create log-off restart and shutdown shortcuts on the Start screen in Windows 8

When it comes to doing computer repair, there are some things you do quite often. Restarting and shutting down computers has to be at the top of the list. So when I found that there was no easy way of doing this in Windows 8, I decided to see what I could do. Here is how I created my log-off, restart, and shut down shortcuts on the Start screen in Windows 8.

Log off, restart and shutdown shortcuts on the Start screen in Windows 8
Log off, restart, and shut down shortcuts on the Start screen in Windows 8

  1. On the Start menu, left-click on the Desktop tile.
  2. If you want to create a toolbar on the Taskbar containing these shortcuts, you will need to create a new folder. If not, you can just make them on the Desktop. Then right-click inside the new folder or an empty area of the Desktop and select New > Shortcut.
  3. Enter the code below for the different shortcuts.
  4. Right-click on the shortcut you just created and select Properties.
    Log-off, restart and shutdown shortcut properties in Windows 8
  5. Select the Shortcut tab, pull-down the Run drop-down menu, and select Minimized.
  6. Right below Run is the Change Icon button; left-click on it. A warning may appear telling you that the program contains no icons. Select OK.
    Log-off, restart and shutdown change shortcut icon properties in Windows 8
  7. Select an icon from the default library (shell32.dll). Or you can use another library by browsing for it. When finished selecting an icon, select OK twice.
  8. Right-click on each of the shortcuts you just edited and left-click Pin to Start.
    Log-off, restart and shutdown shortcut toolbar on Windows 8 Taskbar
  9. If you created a shortcut folder, go to the Desktop and right-click on the Taskbar and select Toolbars > New toolbar... and select the folder you created the shortcuts inside.

Windows 8 log off shortcut Syntax and parameter(s)

C:\Windows\System32\shutdown.exe -l -f

Windows 8 restart shortcut Syntax and parameter(s)

C:\Windows\System32\shutdown.exe -r -f -t 00

Windows 8 shutdown shortcut Syntax and parameter(s)

C:\Windows\System32\shutdown.exe -s -f -t 00

Shutdown.exe Syntax and Parameters in Windows 8

shutdown [{-l|-s|-r|-a}] [-f] [-m [\\ComputerName]] [-t xx] [-c "message"] [-d[u][p]:xx:yy]
-l Logs off the current user; this is also the default. -m ComputerName takes precedence.
-s Shuts down the local computer.
-r Reboots after shutdown.
-a Aborts shutdown. Ignores other parameters, except -l and ComputerName. You can only use -a during the time-out period.
-f Forces running applications to close.
-m [\\ComputerName] Specifies the computer that you want to shut down.
-t xx Sets the timer for system shutdown in xx seconds. The default is 20 seconds.
-c "message" Specifies a message to be displayed in the Message area of the System Shutdown window. You can use a maximum of 127 characters. You must enclose the message in quotation marks.
-d [ u ][ p ] : xx : yy Lists the reason code for the shutdown.

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in servicing laptop and desktop computers. Since 2008, our expert and knowledgeable technicians have provided excellent computer repair, virus removal, data recovery, photo manipulation, and website support to the greater Phoenix metro area.

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