Virtual Assistant?

Virtual Assistant

So what is a Virtual Assistant?

Let’s break it down a bit.   An Assistant as in an Administrative Assistant is someone you delegate tasks to that are of a fairly routine and/or straightforward nature.  This can include updating social media or your website with content as well as database management or filling out and sending a template e-mail in response to correspondence.  It can include providing front office Customer Service as well as back-office tasks.  It can include project management, scheduling trips and more.

But what if I have a home office and no room or even need for a fulltime Administrative Assistant?  This is where a Virtual Assistant comes in.  They work remotely from their own office providing you with as much or as little help as you specify.

So if you have a Problem, Predicament or Pain Point, after you have defined a solution, a VA (Virtual Assistant) may be the perfect company (aka team) or person to delegate the task(s) to.

After I help you figure out a solution to one of your 3 P’s (Problem, Predicament or Pain Point) you may decide you need me to execute the solution(s).  If I can’t, I will help you find a VA solution that can.


Is your Windows 10 PC lagging/stuttering Part 2?

In part 1 I addressed some of the most important things you can do by changing your software settings and running utilities to cleanup and defragment your Hard Disk Drive. In this post I will list several common hardware upgrades you could do to reduce your Windows 10 system’s lagging and/or stuttering.

  • Increase the available ram/memory.  While Windows 10 will run in 4 GB’s of ram.  Your system will use “Virtual Memory” aka: Paging File much less often if you are running 8 GB of memory or possibly higher.  This is the single BEST way you can speed up your computer.
  • Upgrade your HDD to either simply a faster HDD (7200 rpm) or preferably a Solid State Device.  A SSD is similar to a Flash drive but much faster, much larger and more reliable under typical HDD conditions.
  • If you are running a Desktop machine you may be running an “integrated” video card on the motherboard or in the cpu.  You can upgrade your video card for anywhere from a modest $40-$60 to $500 and gain massive improvements in your video display speeds.  I don’t recommend spending much more than the $40-$60 range on a video card upgrade without doing a lot of research and/or asking advice from trusted sources.


Is your Windows 10 PC lagging/stuttering Part 1?

The question of why Window 10 is laggy or stutters is a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) on technical blogs, websites and in Microsoft forums.  Anything that is mentioned here will most likely speed up Windows 7/8/8.1 too.

This post addresses possible software fixes.  There are also some straight forward hardware fixes that I will address in part 2 of this post.

There are several “choke points” or places that can cause a computer to pause from responding to your keyboard/mouse and/or displaying a change (like the letters you just typed) on its screen.

  1. If the cpu gets busy, “thinking”, then there will be a pause.
  2. If you ask for something from your Hard Disk Drive (HDD) there will be a finite pause while first it “finds it” (seeking time) and then reads it.  If the file is in pieces in multiple locations on your HDD it will require a find it for each part of that file.
  3. If the memory (ram) of your computer gets too full, then it will start writing copies of what is in memory out to “virtual storage” aka: Paging File.  This is called “Paging.”  Then when it needs that part of the memory it will read that part of the memory from the Paging File back into memory.  This is massively slower (writing and reading) than accessing anything still in memory.
  4. The more “useless files” you have on the HDD, the more time it can take for the cpu and operating system to look at and reject using them.
  5. If the gpu (video card) is busy “thinking” there will be a display pause.

So how can you decrease any or all of the above items from slowing down your computer?  There are straight forward actions that you can do, that will (usually) effect more than one of the items above.

For instance, setting the paging file to a fixed size will reduce the amount of time the cpu spends thinking about if it should increase or decrease the file size.  Defragmenting the Paging file will speed up the writing and reading from the file.  Defragmenting the rest of the HDD will speed up starting up any program, including the operating system.  Deleting “junk” files will reduce the amount of time the cpu and HDD spend deciding if some file should be used or not.

All of these “howto’s” are available all over the internet so I am going to link to examples for you to consider and use.

This post from Techlyfe addresses making the Paging file a fixed size as well as the time honored method of speeding up the video display by turning off much of the “eye candy”.  Reference #1-#3 and #5 above.

This free system cleaner from Piriform seems to be one of the most comprehensive files and registry cleaners out there.  Yes, I use it on all my Windows 7 and Windows 10 machines. Reference #4 above.

This HDD defragging utility includes a “defrag the paging file” in its “settings.”  It is another really useful utility from Piriform.  Reference #2 and #3 above.

Another time honored method of reducing how busy your cpu is (and incidentally reducing the amount of power used while on a laptop battery) is to turn off background applications.

I also ran across a slightly different Point of View (POV) that talks about how to reduce the Internet Lag of your system.  I don’t agree with the 4 letter word in the title but I do agree that many of the early steps he writes and illustrates are very easy to implement.

I hope this helps you.


Getting more production out of your Hours of production

I have reviewed a book called Zen To Done.  I have been exploring increasing personal and corporate productivity.  I have studied Lean/Six Sigma.  The WordPress powered Blogosphere is a wonderful place to browse, explore or search in.  So I ran across this blog post on productivity.

As in ALL situations where you are trying to increase productivity, you are absolutely not trying to cause someone to put “more effort” into their work.  You are trying to get either the same production with less effort or get more productive with the same effort.  The key is the “Work Smarter, Not Harder” idea.

Lean and Six Sigma both have their roots in manufacturing.  There have been enormous successes in manufacturing (see “The Toyota Way” for instance).  There have been numerous attempts and perhaps successes in applying Lean/Six Sigma to the service industry and to Knowledge work.  Its not easy to do.  A major stumbling block is being able to measure your productivity.  If you can’t measure it, how can you be sure your changes actually improved your productivity?

Douglas W. Hubbard wrote a book called “How to Measure Anything – Finding the Value of “Intangibles” in Business.”  He has setup a training and certification program to help business people and consultants get a handle on this.  Jay Arthur is a consultant in Lean/Six Sigma and has written about using LSS in service industries like hospitals.  So it is possible to apply these techniques.

My favorite (lean) story about how to increase productivity in an office process is a “follow the object of the workflow through the process from the object’s point of view”.  When you do this you will find that the object spends significant time waiting between activities.  If you can locate those wait times and if you can reduce the wait times you can speed up the production of that service without actually making anyone work harder.

“Lean” probably won’t help a pure Knowledge Worker situation but it will help a multi-step service business.

I just noticed that using this WordPress application for posting drops out the spellcheck I am used to having.  I need to investigate if I can get this back in, or return to the web interface where I have Grammarly available to grammar/spell check. Hmmm…..



What do you need help with?

I have a range of technical and Informational knowledge that could be useful to you.  But you need to say “I need help with…” or “How do you solve…” or “Talk about….” to me.

I recently bought a manufacturer refurbished HP 15-ba009dx laptop from Ebay.  It cost less than $200 USD for a 15.4″ laptop.  This is the “Desktop Replacement” form factor. Once I got it, they were right.  I have never had a laptop with such a large screen. I have had “old iron” laptops that weigh this much (about 5 lbs) but never one so thin and with a seperate 9 key number pad.

I ran across a review of the laptop in “best under $300 gamer laptops” at the Laptop Ninja website.  Then a few days later I saw Office Depot/OfficeMax offering it for sale in my area.  So I went looking on Ebay to see if I could beat their price.  The main thing that the refurbished version didn’t have was a 1 year license of Office/365.  This wasn’t a problem, for me, since I have a copy of MS Office 2010 for Home and Professional Office.  I also have been using an ASUS Chromebook 300MA which had gotten me very used to using the Google Docs wordprocessor which is available through any modern web browser (

This is not a “high end” machine.  It is powerful enough for everyday tasks like Word processing, doing research on the Internet, watching videos, taking the majority of online courses at small and large institutions etc.  It doesn’t have the keyboard of a Ibm Thinkpad/Lenovo but who else does?  It has 4 logical cpus and a integrated video system (an AMD R4) so it is pretty good at juggling things (lots of tabs open in the Chrome browser while also typing in Word etc.  It has a built in DVD drive a reasonable selection of ports (usb, rj-45, hdmi etc) and a SD card reader.  In some ways it feels like an “overgrown” Netbook.  It’s not very fast (I have been running the Boinc/Seti project on it, believe me, it’s not very fast) but it works nicely for straightforward office tasks.  It has the DVD drive and a full sized keyboard with the  seperate 9 keypad on the right just like a typical desktop keyboard.  Those are not things you find on any Netbook I have used/owned.

Like way too many users once you have had any laptop or laptop appliance (my Chromebook) with a really high level of endurance (like 11-12 hours to a charge) you do get spoiled.  This one runs 3-5 hours per charge (depending on how bright I set the screen and how hard I work the machine).  Since I have had “old iron” that run 2.5 hours or less per charge having a machine that regularly runs 3+ is nice.

So how can I help you?





Mouse scrolling the opposite of what you are used to?

After I upgraded my “new” Lenovo X140e to Windows 10 from Windows 8.1+”classic shell”(to give it the look and feel of Windows 7) I discovered the scrolling on the mouse pad was “backward” to what I was used to.

For instance, when I use two fingers to go “down” the mouse pad I expect the screen to roll down the page.  It wasn’t, it was moving the screen in the same direction I dragged my fingers.  So if I drag my fingers down, the screen rolls “up” the page.  While this sounds counter-intuitive according to my Chromebook (Aus C-300) this is called “Australian” scrolling.  In the Windows 10 Mouse settings menu, they call it “reverse scrolling.”  Somehow my “default” got set for reverse scrolling.

What if you want your Windows 10 machine to return to “regular” scrolling?  There is a fix.  I searched the internet… and it appears that if you dig far enough down into the mouse settings you can change the 2 finger behavior to “normal”.

First, you use the Cortana search box to find “mouse settings” and it offers you “Mouse and touchpad.”

Second, you click on the “additional mouse options.”


Third, you click on the “enable touchpad” settings button.


Fourth, you click on the scrolling listing on the “tree.”


Fifth, you select the “two finger scrolling”.


Sixth, you make sure the “reverse scrolling” box is un-checked.

Then start clicking, “apply” and “ok” until all the menus are closed. You should then discover that Windows 10 now scrolls like previous versions. eg. If you move you two fingers down the mouse pad, the screen scrolls down, just like it does when you use a mouse.

Want more than a Chromebook with a turnkey installation?

If you have tried CloudReady, the excellent software only clone of a Chromebook and it either won’t install or you need the flexibility of a user-friendly Linux as well as features of the Chromebook, I would like to suggest CUB – Linux.  CUB – Linux was previously known as Chromixium but Google asked them to change the name.

The goal is the same.  To provide a near Chromebook look alike, with easy access to Linux features.  If you have used the Chrome browser in Windows but mostly not anything else in Windows, you will get the same general feeling except that CUB – Linux will run on older intel hardware that won’t run Windows 10 or CloudReady.

CUB – Linux will co-exist with Windows as well as another Linux installation.  If you have XP/Pro and want to upgrade but Windows 7/10 etc are not usable choices you should try CUB – Linux.

If you have very old intel hardware that won’t run CUB – Linux fast enough, then you may find that Puppy Linux will run on it.



Turn your older laptop or desktop into a Chromebook clone

Recently I received great news.  “CloudReady has a Chrome OS platform ready for your non-chromebook hardware”  If that link to the article on Tech Republic doesn’t work, here is the website.  You are probably interested in an individual copy of the Chromebook clone product.  It is free for individual use.

If you have an Intel PC hardware platform (usually a windows laptop) that is 8 years old or younger that you would like to run a fast, robust operating system on but it isn’t up to running say  Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10, then this is a turnkey solution.  I have successfully installed it on 2 out of 3 laptops and a desktop I tried.  It failed on a non-standard old SSD netbook.  They have a list of tested hardware that is quite extensive on the website.

The User Interface is exactly like my ASUS Chromebook.  You will experience the Chromebook exactly except for two things.  1) If you are used to the 7 second boot time for many Chromebooks, you won’t get that.  It will boot exactly as fast as a Linux distribution would on the same hardware (around 30 seconds on mine).  2) The hardware-based security features are mostly not present.   For most people, School districts or Companies neither of the above will be deal breakers.

You will need a 8 GB Flash drive to install the Chromebook clone OS from.  The native setup only supports standalone booting and UEFI “dual booting”.  If you choose, standalone booting, all the previous information on the hard disk is deleted during the install.  With UEFI “dual booting” the previous operating system remains and is also bootable.  You will need either a fairly fast internet connection or quite abit of patience to download the operating system.

If you have a Chromebook or a Chrome browser and sign in with a Google id, CloudReady will download/clone all your extensions, applications and allow you to access your Google Drive-based data on your “new” cloned Chromebook.

Because I have an ultra-thin Chromebook I have not been motivated to move over and use this product full time.  I have one very slow (1 GHz) sub-notebook that “barely” runs Windows 10.  I may turn it into a CloudReady notebook again.  I have turned a Dell Optiplex 760 (desktop) into a Chromebook.

If you have been wanting to experiment with a Chromebook or have wanted a Chromebook but couldn’t afford a couple hundred bucks for a new/used on on E-Bay this is your path.  Educational and Commercial licenses and support are available.

If you are a school with obsolete laptops available this is an excellent, very low-cost way to repurpose them into Chromebooks.  Both Educational and Commercial licenses and support are available.

Any questions?  Post a comment.

Tom M

Should I buy a Chromebook as my primary machine?

If you spend 99% of your time online using a Web browser, sending/receiving e-mail, printing out coupons etc then the answer is “Yes.”

If you have windows or macintosh specific programs running on your machine at home or in the office which has fulltime Internet connectivity then the answer is “Yes.” (The remote desktop option will let you run those windows specific applications on the machine “back there” and get the results wherever you are tied into the Internet at).

If you are out in the middle of know-where (pun intended) with no Internet Connectivity (not even a mobile hot spot) then the answer is “maybe.”  In the last year the Chromebook applications for doing writing and reading/creating Gmail offline have improved significantly. Since these run on any Chromebook it doesn’t matter if you have a brand new one or an older one.

So if you want a low-cost, fast booting, highly transportable laptop I commend the entire Chromebook line to you.  If you have specific needs like 10 hour battery time then you will need to read the reviews to find what you want.

I will say that an Asus c200 (smaller screen) or Aus c300 (larger screen) which has a 10+ hour unplugged from the wall time may be an excellent choice.  I like the quick/ease of use of my Aus c300.  Its running as low as $199 new and $118 used as I write this.

I will convert your old/slow Laptop/Netbook into a faster Chromebook-look-alike

Have an old Laptop/Netbook that you aren’t using because it would be too small/slow to upgrade to Windows 7?

I am offering a “Turn on your Netbook/Laptop into a Chromebook-look-alike” service. The results will boot significantly faster than XP or Windows 7. Be more responsive than XP/Windows 7 and be more secure than XP/Windows 7. And be menu driven for ease of access.

You need a functioning/bootable machine (doesn’t need an operating system though) with a battery that provides you with at least some un-plug time and a charger. Generally any 1 Megabyte memory machine with some kind of hard disk (can be VERY small) or even a really small/slow SSD (like the original Netbooks had) will work. Ask me before you send it.

You pay the shipping and handling and a $50 upgrade charge.

What you will be getting is an open source Linux distribution that a) Runs on the Chromebook (Chromium OS), b) an open source Linux distribution with a Chromebook look-alike desktop or c) an open source Linux distribution that looks like Windows 7 that will start up the Chrome browser (or possibly the Fire Fox browser if there are issues) as soon as you logon.

The reason for the 3 pronged approach is Chromium OS will not run or even startup on all hardware.  And Chromixium in conjunction even with the commercial Chrome browser has shown one decided specific machine hickup.  The result will be a faster, secure user-friendly netbook/laptop with a menu driven interface. [contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]