Friday, March 13, 2009

Portrait Photography Tips

A portrait photograph of high quality can mesmerize those who look at them, giving great insight into not only the subject's physical stature, but also their emotions and feelings. Such photographs will stand the test of time and be enjoyed by many generations.

Experience taking photographs is a great factor in how good a portrait photograph will turn out. Professionals understand how to set the lighting, frame the subject and appropriately capture the mood of the occasion. Although you may not have that level of expertise, you too can take portrait photographs of high quality, if you keep these tips in mind:

Background - Perhaps the most important consideration, but least considered, is the portrait's background. All photos with a person as the main focus should employ a subtle background that does not draw attention away from the person. The intent of a portait photo is the subject's face, so be sure to take such pictures that are composed in such a way as to not detract from it. Also, when considering color, choose a background that consists entirely of non-bold, preferably solid colors. Again, the rule of thumb is that any color that draws focus away from the person is a bad one.

Lighting - Natural lighting must be used for portrait photographs, as it is much better at capturing skin tone and a person's full range of colors. These subtle differences are not picked up well by a flash. The best time to take the picture is during the day, outside, since at this time you can make full use of the sunlight. You will want to find a location in which the sunlight hits the object from the side. If you take a photo with the sun behind the object, it will not turn out well. What you will end up seeing is a silhouette of the person. Similarly, do not take photos with the sun in front of the subject, or you will end up with distorted colors and overexposure.

Blurring - The first two tips are by far the most important, but this one is also quite helpful. The problem is that it can be tricky for non-experts. This technique involves blurring the details of the background. This will make the object appear to be separated from the background, seemingly projected outward towards you. To accomplish this feature, you will need to situate your camera to a shallow depth of field. To do that, use a zoom lens and take your shot from relatively nearby or with a widened aperture setting (manual). This might sound difficult, but once you figure it out it will seem easy. If possible, get an expert to walk you through the process the first time.

Eyes - Of all the facial features, eyes are the most important for a portrait photograph. This is because eyes are the best feature in terms of conveying emotions. A subtle difference in the look of the eyes will display different feelings and emotions. Be sure to focus on them so that your photograph projects all of those wonderful feelings to the viewer. If you are trying to convey a particular emotion, you may want the subject to look directly at you (meaning the camera) or sideways at another object. For a traditional portrait, have the subject look at the camera.

If you have a high quality camera, and are patient enough to experiment with different backgrounds, subjects, and moods, you will undoubtedly gain the skills necessary to create portrait photos of great quality.

About the Author:
To save money on digital photos and photographic products, camera accessories, and related items, Peter suggests shopping online using a Shutterfly Coupon and a Sharper Image Coupon from

Depth of Field - Photography Tips

Depth of Field (DOF for short), is usually associated with the aperture which is often used interchangeably with the word f-stop. The Aperture controls the amount of light that passes through the lens and onto the film; or in the digital world, onto the sensor inside the camera. This amount of light is determined by the size of the lens opening (the aperture) inside the lens. On the older traditional 35mm cameras, the settings on the outside of lens that controlled this function were called f-stops. That's why even though technically they are two different things; many writers use the words aperture and f-stop as if they were one and the same. It's like calling the door knob, a door. You do use one thing to affect the other, but they are NOT one and the same.

The greater amount of light the aperture allows in, the narrower the depth of field is, and visa versa; the less amount of light the aperture allows inside, the wider the depth of field is. Many beginning students get confused by this. Since the f-stop is what controls this light, the easiest way to remember it is:

Small number = small f-stop (f 1.8) = small amount of picture in focus.

Large number = large f-stop (f 32) = large amount of picture in focus.

The Shutter also affects this same light; where as the aperture controls "how much", the shutter controls "how long". If the shot is exposed for too long a time the photograph will appear washed out. If the shot is exposed for too short a time the photograph will appear too dark. This is commonly referred to as: over exposure and under exposure. The Shutter Speed (how long things are exposed); can be used to freeze things in midair (with a fast speed), or it can be used to intentionally blur something like water (with a slow speed).

As a general rule if you want to freeze something you want a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second
or faster. As a general rule if you want to blur something (on purpose), you would use a slow shutter speed like 1/30th of a second or longer. Just remember, that generally you only want part of the picture as a blur so when you do use slower speeds, also use a tripod.

Wherever you focus your lens within a given image, there will be an area that is in focus and other areas that are out of focus. The area that is "in focus" is referred to as the "focal plane". The important thing to remember is that 1/3rd of this focal plane is in front of whatever you focused on, and 2/3rd's of the focal plane is behind whatever you focused on. By deliberately focusing 1/3rd of the way into your landscape shot and using a high number f-stop (like f-16 or f-22) you capture the greatest amount of the photograph in sharp focus.

Some people have the mistaken idea that if you just set your focus to infinity that it would do the same thing. The infinity setting that looks like an 8 turned on it's side, will give you an indication that says anything from 10 feet back will be in focus. So what happens if you want to include something that is less than 10 feet away? That's where the hyperfocal distance comes into play. When you use the hyperfocal distance you focus on something that is half of what the front infinity setting indicates, in this case that would be five feet. Since we know that 1/3rd of the area in front of your picture will be in focus, it gives the illusion that every part of your picture is in equal focus. Whether you use the 1/3rd in rule or set the hyperfocal distance, they both give you a greater sense of a large depth of field which is good for both landscapes and scenic shots.

If you always trust your camera meter and use what it tells you, you are using what we refer to as a standard exposure value. Exposure Values are those numbers that refer to the combinations of f-stops and shutter speeds that can give you an accurate exposure under a given light situation. Keep in mind, meters do not see in color, in order to make up for this it will average your scene, and give you a reading for 18% grey. All meters do this it's not their fault, that's how they were designed. But what happens if you actually want a white wedding dress to look white? Or what happens if you want that great black stallion to actually look black?

Just as many pictures look better after you take them into Photoshop and increase or decrease the brightness or contrast settings; many images actually look much better if they are exposed slightly more or less than what the meter suggests. This process of shooting above, directly at, and below what the meter indicates is referred to as bracketing. If you are in an especially difficult lighting situation or a location that is in and of itself very hard to get to . . . use bracketing. If your camera batteries are getting low, use bracketing. In short, if you have any doubts in your mind at all, use bracketing.

Most photo books strongly cover the subjects of f-stops and shutter speed. These are important, but there are other subjects, that many of them just skim over. Understanding the Focal Plane, Hyperfocal Distance, Exposure Values, and Bracketing will all greatly increase the tools you can use to make a better image.

This Article Written By: Tedric A. Garrison Cedar City, Utah

Tedric Garrison has done photography for over 30 years. In college; Tedric was an Art Major, and firmly believes that "Creativity can be taught." Today; as a writer and photographer he shares his wealth of knowledge with the world, at:

Monday, March 9, 2009

Digital Photography Secrets

1. Move In Closer

Almost any shot will look better if you take two or three steps closer to your subject. Filling the frame entirely with your subject will make a terrific difference to your photos.

Alternatively, instead of moving closer, use the Optical or Digital Zoom of your camera to get a close up shot.

When taking shots of family and friends, most people place the subject's full body in the frame, or place head and arms in the shot. Instead, fill the frame with your
subject's FACE only - particularly if they are smiling or are in a moment of reflection.

Why does this work? With less clutter in the image, there's less to draw the eye away from the main subject of your photo. Also, human faces (particularly children's faces) are something we all feel pleasure looking at.

If you can't get close enough when you're taking the shot, you can zoom in later using photo editing software - crop out everything except the subject's face and see what a difference it makes.

When using the viewfinder for close shots, be careful of Parallax. Because the viewfinder is not at the same position as the camera's lens, centering the subject in the viewfinder may mean it is not centered for the lens resulting in an off-center final picture. Most digital cameras now come with an inbuilt LCD screen. You can eliminate this problem by using the LCD - which shows you what the lens sees - rather than the viewfinder.

2. Use Optical rather than Digital Zoom

Cameras are marketed with both an Optical Zoom and Digital Zoom capability.

If you've used a film camera, you'll be used to optical zoom. Optical zoom uses the lens of the camera (the optics) to bring the subject closer. Digital zoom uses clever software to digitally enlarge a portion of the image - thus simulating optical zoom. So, which is better? Definitely Optical zoom. Here's why.

Digital zoom is not really 'zoom' in the strictest definition of the term. Digital zoom just enlarges the image. Eg it takes a portion of the image and enlarges it back to full size. You lose quality because of the enlargement process so photos that have been taken with digital zoom won't look as good as those without.

You can perform the same result using image editing software on your computer. In fact, it can be better to crop and enlarge using your image software in your computer as you can decide exactly what part of the image to enlarge, and how much to enlarge by.

So when taking shots, use optical zoom only. If you need to zoom in further, use your editing software to select the best part of the image to keep. Ensure your camera warns you when it's switching to digital zoom from optical zoom, or use your settings to disable digital zoom entirely.

Why is clarity important? The more clarity you have in your image, the larger the printed size can be without the image appearing fuzzy, or blocky. If you want to keep clarity in your images, use the optical zoom whenever possible, and avoid the digital zoom.

How do you use Optical Zoom? When you zoom in using your camera, it will use Optical zoom first and then use Digital zoom. You can usually set your camera to
notify you when it starts to use the Digital zoom, or tell it to not use digital zoom at all. Consult your manual for details.

3. Place your subject off-center

Rather than placing your main subject in the middle of the screen, place it to one side and ensure something interesting is in the background that fills the remainder of the image.

This can be especially effective if the background has the same theme. For example, if photographing a child opening a Christmas present, frame them to one side and have the Christmas Tree with unopened presents filling the rest of the image.

There are a few guidelines that can help you place your subject in the frame.

The Rule of Thirds

One of the most popular rules in photography is the "Rule of Thirds". It is a simple rule that can add dynamism to your photos. Simply, divide the image into thirds both horizontally and vertically. When composing your shot, place important elements either along these lines, or where the lines intersect - NOT at the centre of the frame.

For example, place a subject's eyes where the top line is, or place your subject on the place in the image where two of these lines intersect.

It's a very simple rule to follow and will result in a nicely balanced, easy on the eye picture. It also helps get rid of the 'tiny subject and large amount of space' tendency because you need to position items relative to the edges of the frame.

Having said this, the Rule of Thirds is also one of the rules you'll want to break often! This is fine - the Rule of Thirds is more of a guideline and sometimes you will find a better image when you break the rule.

4. Photographing Children

Children make a wonderful subject. Here are some tips for ensuring photos of children are even more memorable.

Meet them eye-to-eye
Bring yourself down to the child.s level . even if you need to crouch down. This will give your shots a 'kids eye view' and won't distort their image (as taking the shot from above does).

Capture natural expressions
While posed shots are great, often better results can be gained by capturing an image when their thoughts are preoccupied with something else . eg while at play.
You.ll capture their faces enjoying the moment rather than thinking about the camera.

Familiarity ensures success
Children who have grown up having their photo taken will be a lot less likely to freeze or show off in front of a camera. Start early and make photo taking a part of every day out.

Children grow up quickly
Record their growth from toddler to child to young adult by taking a family photo every year around the same time . either the first day of school, or during spring events.

5. Take More, And Erase Your Shots

The ability to erase your photos is one of the major advantages of a digital camera.

You'd be mad not to use this to the fullest extent!

Take MANY more shots than you think you need, and then erase those that aren't

Every half an hour, go back through your most recent photos erase any that don't make the grade, or you have better versions of.

Because you'll be erasing often you can just keep the 'best of the best'. Erasing often also ensures you don't need a large memory card, as it will not be storing your notso-perfect images.

If you're always pressed for time, you can either invest in a larger memory card, or copy your images to another storage device like a laptop or card storage unit until a later point.

This is also a huge tip when photographing groups. With such a large number of people, there always seems to be someone blinking, or looking the other way.
Having a large number of shots means you can pick the best of them to keep.

6. Preset your Exposure and Focus

When set to auto, some cameras can take a while to adjust for white balance and focus. This is the 2-3 second delay between when you first push the shutter button, and the shot actually being taken.

If this happens with your camera, try presetting these by holding the shutter release half way down to tell the camera to focus before you need to take the shot.

Then, keep your finger held half way down until you get the perfect shot, or use your camera's 'lock exposure' feature to keep the exposure settings locked until you find the right time to shoot.

Presetting your exposure and focus can REALLY help out when taking shots of children. They tend to not sit in one place waiting for you to adjust your camera, so the best shots are taken when you are prepared for a candid moment - eg when the child is engrossed in a task.

7. Use A Tripod

Yes, tripods can be a hassle to carry around with you but they help you take great shots in two ways.

First, the time you take to get out the tripod, set it up and position the camera on it will slow your picture taking down. This means you'll become more aware of other elements like composition of the image, and lighting. The more focussed you are to external conditions, the more likely you will be to take a great shot.

The added advantage is your camera is more steady allowing you to take razorsharp
images - particularly in low light situations.

An alternative to the tripod is a 'mono pod'. These only have one leg and don't have the stability of a tripod, but they have a greater stability than just your hands - particularly if you lean them against something.

If you do a lot of mountain walking, there are also extendable ‘walking canes’ (like a ski pole) that are great for helping you walk up steep hills. The top unscrews to reveal a tripod mount underneath turning it into a mono pod.

Tripod Tip : If you have a lightweight camera, you might consider purchasing a ultra lightweight tripod. These are small, don't weigh much and easily fit in a backpack or camera bag.

Extra Tip : You don't need to purchase a tripod either! Any horizontal surface around can make a tripod - arms of chairs, railings, rocks, anything! Be very careful not to damage your camera, though as cameras have a tendency to slip and break when perched on chairs, rocks etc.

8. Unusual Angles

Most photos are shot at eye level. I think this is because traditionally, you needed to have the viewfinder up to your eye to ensure you get everyone in the shot.

Because most digital cameras have an inbuilt LCD, you can now take the camera away from your eye and try taking photos from unusual angles.

Try tilting the camera left or right to better position your subject in the frame. Try taking the photo from below, or above your subject. Try getting further away or closer. The main point is to move the camera away from eye level and experiment!

There's always more than one way to photograph a subject. Using different camera angles can make an otherwise boring image really stand out. The more you practice using different angles, the quicker you'll know what works and what doesn't.

Angle Tip : Lie on the ground and point your camera towards the sky for an interesting angle to shoot large monuments with.

9. Using Flash During The Day

Interestingly, one of the best uses of your flash is during bright sunlight! I know it sounds strange but it's true.

A flash helps to eliminate dark shadows (for instance under the eyes and chin of faces). It also helps to emphasize your subject.

When you take pictures of subjects with bright light behind them, for example a portrait that is backlit, or a duck swimming in water reflecting the sun, the camera will be fooled by the bright surroundings so the subject appears dark.

By turning flash on, you will fill in the shadow areas making the picture much more pleasing.

It can also be used to add a sparkle to eyes, and to reduce shadows under the nose and eyes when pictures are taken when the sun is bright and high in the sky (eg at midday).

Nature photographers even use flash to ensure the nooks and crannies of flower petals are properly lit - to reduce shadows.

Professional photographers use flash much more often than amateurs.

10. Use Continuous Shooting

Most digital cameras have a continuous shooting mode, where shots are taken one after the other in rapid succession.

When taking shots, there is often a short delay between when you press your finger on the button, and when the picture is actually taken. This delay may mean your subject has finished their action (eg blowing out candles on a cake) and you have missed the magic moment.

With Continuous Shooting you can take a sequence of shots and keep just the right one. Continuous Shooting also increases you chances of capturing a candid

Where else can this be useful? Any shots of children or group shots will benefit from
continuous mode.

11. Give Yourself A Theme

Sometimes you need to think creatively to find better shots. Set yourself a theme to give your brain a head start.

For example, on a vacation choose a different color every day and ensure all your shots for that day have that color in that image. Or shoot only shots with triangles in them.

Other examples of themes are:
• Fences
• Bright Colors
• Time
• Cliche
• Unfinished
• Repeating Patterns
• Desperation
• Bliss
Make sure your theme is simple otherwise you'll be more pre-occupied with getting a shot in line with your theme than the image itself.

Another option for a theme when on vacation is to choose a selection of themes that captures the essence of the destination. Every area has themes relating to its landscapes, climate, cities, culture etc. Do some research by looking at local postcards or talking to taxi drivers to get an idea of the good picture taking locations.

12. Look For Light

Different lighting can change the mood and feel of a shot, or be the difference between a mediocre and stunning shot.

The light from the setting sun can produce wonderful lighting for a subject, as does sunlight through leaves. Maybe you see a shaft of light between two large objects such as buildings that can be a perfect backdrop for your subject.

Other options for different light sources at night include :• Neon lights make great night time subjects. You can silhouette your subjects in
front of them, or use them as a subject themselves.
• Use a long exposure on a tripod to capture streaks of car lights on a road or highway, or other moving lights like on a ferry.

13. Use Red Eye Reduction Flash

Most newer cameras have two flash modes. Standard and Red Eye Reduction.

The Red Eye Reduction flash causes the camera to flash multiple times before taking the shot to get the subject's eyes used to the bright light.

Use this whenever taking photographs of people looking directly at the camera in low light.

Many people don't realise they needed to use the red-eye flash until after they look at their photos after the event. So remember to use red eye reduction whenever taking photos in the following situations :
• People looking directly at the camera
• Low Light
• Using your flash.
It is also possible to remove Red Eye with software programs if you don't have this feature on your camera. There are a few free programs available to do this on the Internet.
Such as Picasa ( This is a free image manipulation program from Google that does a great job of removing red eye.

14. Don't Rely On Flash

In previous tips, we've discussed using your flash. There are occasions, however, where using a flash ruins the mood of the event you are photographing.

Why? A flash tends to create harsh subjects and will ruin any natural mood.

So, rather than using the flash whenever your camera tells you to, use available light whenever possible. In a dark situation, it's often better to open the shutter for longer to let in more light, or turn on existing lights to illuminate the room than to use the flash.

In daytime and when your subject is inside and near a window, have them face the light and position the camera between the window and your subject. This will allow the sunlight to light your image fully.

15. Use Different Lenses and Filters

There are a wide variety of lenses and filters available to increase the range of options you have for shooting a photograph.

Note that not all digital cameras come with the ability to attach different lenses and filters. Check the manual for your camera.

Some lens types include :
• Wide Angle
• Telephoto
• Fish Eye
Using a Wide Angle lens is good for shooting a indoor room, or shooting a mountain vista. A TelePhoto lens can be useful when you need a close up. TelePhoto lenses are bascically a better optical zoom.

Filters include :
• Polarizing
• Soft Focus
• Cooling/Warming
• Graduated

A polarizing filter can be the most useful filter to own. A Polarizing filter can deepen the color and contrast in the sky, eliminate glare from water or reflective surfaces, or cut through fog like haze. Soft Focus filters generate more diffused looks for romantic, moody, atmospheric, foggy or glowing effects in your shots.

Cooling filters add more blue to an image giving a psychological effect of calming or serenity in the final image. Warming filters cut out excess blue in an overcast sky to add more reddish tones to the image and make your photos look less harsh.

Finally, graduated lenses help for scenes that have a huge difference in light level - eg late in the day when the sky is still bright, but the foreground is in shadow.

16. Use Predefined Modes

Many people don't know that most cameras now come with selected modes for taking shots. Eg Landscape, Cloudy Day, Full Sun, Indoors, Night.

Changing the mode of your camera to match your situation can result in better shots, as the camera has a better chance of selecting the shutter speed, flash and other exposure choices for a perfect picture.

Camera makers put a lot of thought into the settings for each of the different modes and tailor the settings to what will work well with their camera. So don't be afraid to use the predefined scene modes of your camera.

17. Don't add frills

Some manufactures give you a feature that can imprint the current date and time onto your image. Or they offer to imprint other stats like the current exposure settings, or shot number.

Turn these off!
You don't want anything to distract you or your viewer from the subject of your photo.

Modern digital cameras record the time and date the shot was taken anyway in a separate part of the image file anyway, and most digital printing places will stamp the back of the image with the time and date the shot was taken so you can always see it.

18. Use the LCD Monitor to preview

The LCD monitor will show you what your final image will look like. It won't be as large in size as your final image, but you will get enough of a feel for the image to know how your shot will turn out.

If your camera can show you a half second freeze of your shot just after you have taken it, turn this feature on. The half second will give you enough time to see if the image was well framed, and have the correct exposure or if you need to take another one.

However the LCD uses a lot of battery.

19. Look for Reflections

Water is a fantastic element to include in your photos, as the reflections it generates can make your image stand out.

Keep a look out for water around your environment when you shoot. Reflections from lights, or splashes of color can really help with the ambience of an image. Rainy days are particularly good as puddles abound!

Extra Secret: Photographing just the reflection and leaving the subject out is a great way to produce abstract images.

20. Shooting Vacations

Here are some tips for helping with your vacation shots

Take plenty of memory!
Make sure you have extra memory cards, have another storage facility like a Laptop or media storage unit.

Get close
Don't stand too far from your subject - instead get nice and close so you can see their face. Either a three-quarter shot, or profile generally works well.

Candid counts
Images with people are usually more interesting when the subject is caught in a candid moment. When setting up for a posed shot, try to include something interesting to liven up the shot.

Make your trip a story. Create a visual diary by photographing landmarks along your journey such as signposts and street scenes. You can also capture the mood of the day - If you feel bright and happy, shoot some scenes which will capture that feeling.

If you're moved by what you see, ensure your shots convey that feeling.

Take shots at meals
This is the time when family is gathered around. Take advantage of it by taking an image or two of your relatives around the dinner table. Ensure you use a the red eye reduction mode of your flash and activate the self timer if you also wish to be in the shot.

Include the mundane
Most vacation photographers just photograph landmarks and scenery. Make your vacation shots more interesting by including the mundane - washing the dishes, taking off in the car, setting up camp, waiting for an aeroplane etc.

21. Clean your Camera

If your images always turn out all blurry, it may mean your lens needs a clean. Most high end cameras come with threads to which you can attach a SkyLight (or UV) filter. This helps to protect the lens from not only dirt, but scratches. Cheaper cameras don't have threads so remember to cover the lens when not in use and try not to touch it.

Don't clean the lens too often - depending on how often you use your camera, every few weeks or few months is fine. To clean your lens, pick up a lens cleaning kit from your local photo store. Use the lens brush and air blower to remove any loose clinging particles. Place a drop of lens cleaning fluid onto some lens tissue (or a cloth) and wipe the lens clean with a circular motion. Use the blower to dry the lens, or let it dry naturally. Don't use any abrasive solution (such as soap) or wipe too hard on the lens as you can wipe away the special coatings.

Watch out you don't create a 'worn spot' by cleaning your lens the same way each time. Alternate the circular motion with up and down or sideways movements sometimes.

Ensure you protect the other parts of your camera as well. Particularly the Memory Card slot and Battery contacts. If you find they have any corrosion, you can remove it easily with a pencil eraser. Make sure you remove the excess eraser that can get left in the compartment with an air blower. Never ever insert anything into the memory card slot that isn't meant to be there, as you could break the small pins. To keep clean, it's best to leave a memory card in the slot, or at least keep the cover closed.

21 Digital Photography Secrets
By David Peterson
Want more picture-taking secrets? Buy the book on

Friday, March 6, 2009

Some useful tips for Windows XP

Increase your Computer's Performance!

1: Start > Right Click on My Computer and select properties.
2: Click on the "Advanced" tab
3: See the "Performance" section? Click "Settings"
4: Disable all or some of the following:

Fade or slide menus into view
Fade or slide Tool Tips into view
Fade out menu items after clicking
Show Shadows under menus
Slide open combo boxes
Slide task bar buttons
Use a background image for each folder type
Use common tasks in folders

There, now Windows will still look nice and perform faster.

How To Rename Multiple Files In Winxp!

XP lets you rename files in bulk by simply selecting multiple files within Windows Explorer and pressing the F2 key. When you use this feature, the OS applies the name you enter to the first file and applies the same name with a number in parentheses to the other files you selected (the file extensions remain unchanged).

For example, if you select the following files,
* notes.doc
* figures.xls
* disney.jpg
* holiday.gif

and rename the first file (notes.doc) to SoD.doc, XP renames the remaining files as follows:
* SoD (1).xls
* SoD (2).jpg
* SoD(3).gif

Rename 'recycle Bin' To Whatever You Want

1. Start, Run, 'Regedit'.
2. Press 'Ctrl'+'F' to open find box and type 'Recycle Bin' to search.
3. Change any value data with 'Recycle Bin' to whatever name you want to give it ( ie, like 'Trash Can' or 'Dump' etc).
4. Press F3 to continue searching for 'Recycle Bin' and change wherever you come across 'Recycle Bin' to new its new name.
5. Repeat step 4 until you have finished with searching and changed all values to its new name.
6. Close regedit and hit F5 on desktop to see the new name on screen.

Note: As a good practice, always backup your registry before changing anything although changing 'Recycle Bin' name is a simple tweak and doesnt affect anything else.

Speed Up Your Bandwidth By 20%; Windows uses 20% of your bandwidth

Windows uses 20% of your bandwidth Here's how to Get it back

A nice little tweak for XP. Microsoft reserve 20% of your available bandwidth for their own purposes (suspect for updates and interrogating your machine etc..)

Here's how to get it back:

Click Start-->Run-->type "gpedit.msc" without the "

This opens the group policy editor. Then go to:

Local Computer Policy-->Computer Configuration-->Administrative Templates-->Network-->QOS Packet Scheduler-->Limit Reservable Bandwidth

Double click on Limit Reservable bandwidth. It will say it is not configured, but the truth is under the 'Explain' tab :

"By default, the Packet Scheduler limits the system to 20 percent of the bandwidth of a connection, but you can use this setting to override the default."

So the trick is to ENABLE reservable bandwidth, then set it to ZERO.

This will allow the system to reserve nothing, rather than the default 20%.

I have tested on XP Pro, and 2000
other o/s not tested.

Please give me feedback about your results

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A good Domain name is important

Another good tip for successful web experience..enjoy it!

Choosing A Good Domain Name

Choosing a domain name for your site is one of the most important steps towards creating the perfect internet presence. If you run an on-line business, picking a name that will be marketable and achieve success in search engine placement is paramount. Many factors must be considered when choosing a good domain name. This article summarizes all the different things to consider before making that final registration step!

Short and Sweet

Domain names can be really long or really short (1 - 67 characters). In general, it is far better to choose a domain name that is short in length. The shorter your domain name, the easier it will be for people remember. Remembering a domain name is very important from a marketability perspective. As visitors reach your site and enjoy using it, they will likely tell people about it. And those people may tell others, etc. As with any business, word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool to drive traffic to your site (and it's free too!). If your site is long and difficult to pronounce, people will not remember the name of the site and unless they bookmark the link, they may never return.

Consider Alternatives

Unless a visitor reaches your site through a bookmark or a link from another site, they have typed in your domain name. Most people on the internet are terrible typists and misspell words constantly. If your domain name is easy to misspell, you should think about alternate domain names to purchase. For example, if your site will be called "", you should also consider buying "" and "". You should also secure the different top level domain names besides the one you will use for marketing purposes ("", "", etc.) You should also check to see if there are existing sites based on the misspelled version of the domain name you are considering. "" may be available, but "" may be home to a graphic pornography site. You would hate for a visitor to walk away thinking you were hosting something they did not expect.

Also consider domain names that may not include the name of your company, but rather what your company provides. For example, if the name of your company is Mike's Tools, you may want to consider domain names that target what you sell. For example: "" or "". Even though these example alternative domain names do not include the name of your company, it provides an avenue for visitors from your target markets. Remember that you can own multiple domain names, all of which can point to a single domain. For example, you could register "", "", and "" and have "" and "" point to "".

Hyphens: Your Friend and Enemy

Domain name availability has become more and more scant over the years. Many single word domain names have been scooped up which it makes it more and more difficult to find a domain name that you like and is available. When selecting a domain name, you have the option of including hyphens as part of the name. Hyphens help because it allows you to clearly separate multiple words in a domain name, making it less likely that a person will accidentally misspell the name. For example, people are more likely to misspell "" than they are "". Having words crunched together makes it hard on the eyes, increasing the likelihood of a misspelling. On the other hand, hyphens make your domain name longer. The longer the domain name, the easier it is for people to forget it altogether. Also, if someone recommends a site to someone else, they may forget to mention that each word in the domain name is separated by a hyphen. If do you choose to leverage hyphens, limit the number of words between the hyphens to three. Another advantage to using hyphens is that search engines are able to pick up each unique word in the domain name as key words, thus helping to make your site more visible in search engine results.

Dot What?

There are many top level domain names available today including .com, .net, .org, and .biz. In most cases, the more unusual the top level domain, the more available domain names are available. However, the .com top level domain is far and away the most commonly used domain on the internet, driven by the fact that it was the first domain extension put to use commercially and has received incredible media attention. If you cannot lay your hands on a .com domain name, look for a .net domain name, which is the second most commercially popular domain name extension.

Long Arm of the Law

Be very careful not to register domain names that include trademarked names. Although internet domain name law disputes are tricky and have few cases in existence, the risk of a legal battle is not a risk worth taking. Even if you believe your domain name is untouchable by a business that has trademarked a name, do not take the chance: the cost of litigation is extremely high and unless you have deep pockets you will not likely have the resources to defend yourself in a court of law. Even stay away from domain names in which part of the name is trademarked: the risks are the same.

Search Engines and Directories

All search engines and directories are different. Each has a unique process for being part of the results or directory listing and each has a different way of sorting and listing domain names. Search engines and directories are the most important on-line marketing channel, so consider how your domain name choice affects site placement before you register the domain. Most directories simply list links to home pages in alphabetical order. If possible, choose a domain name with a letter of the alphabet near the beginning ("a" or "b"). For example, "" will come way above "". However, check the directories before you choose a domain name. You may find that the directories you would like be in are already cluttered with domain names beginning with the letter "a". Search engines scan websites and sort results based on key words. Key words are words that a person visiting a search engine actually search on. Having key words as part of your domain name can help you get better results.

Optimisize your computer to run faster

1. First, run a scandisk or checkdisk. Let Windows fix any errors.

2. Run a disk cleanup utility...this will flush your temporary internet folder, trash can, temp system files, etc.

3. Delete any garbage files or data...if possible, run a Duplicate File Finder program.

4. Run Defrag on all partitions (NOTE: run this after you have deleted all trash and excess files!)

5. Run a registry cleaner utility and delete or get rid of any orphaned entries in that registry.

6. Check your exisiting swap file for it's size and location (*will explain location later in the post). If you have alot of ram (i.e. 1 gig and over) set this swap file to something small, like 250 mb. The reason is that this will force Windows to load more into memory, resulting in faster performance (note: some games and applications actually require a certain sized swap file so check your applications performance after making a size adjustment for any error messages.)

7. Under XP, you can tell Windows to use Classic Style on your desktop, - this will remove the neat single click and internet-style desktop but for lower end systems this will improve performance in other areas, such as gaming and multi-tasking.

8. Run msconfig and under startup and only keep the programs that are essential to load in the tray icon (and hence stay resident in memory). Uncheck anything else non-essential, like an ATI or Nvidia control panel, Quicktime utility, Real Audio, etc.

9. Upgrade drivers! Check for the latest BIOS, video, motherboard, sound, etc drivers from the manufacturers. Alot of my friends had chipsets on their motherboard that had advanced disk management capabilities or AGP port settings but the drivers weren't loaded for them so they were never being used. A simple upgrade realized a noticeable difference. For instance, they didn't have the latest driver for their AGP port so it was set to 1x, instead of being used at 4x!

10. (OK, so this won't speed up your PC but it could save you alot of time and trouble later on!) After making all these improvements, make a working backup! I use Ghost, but for XP users you can also use System Restore...


1. Take a look under the hood (for IDE owners). How are your IDE devices configured? If you have more than 1 hard drive, put the master hard drive on the primary IDE channel and the secondary hard drive on the secondary IDE channel (most motherboards have two IDE channels).

2. Place all CDROM drives, DVD readers etc. on the secondary IDE channel (or SCSI bus, etc). This will reduce I/O contention with your master hard drive which should have your OS and apps installed...

3. Remember when I mentioned the location of the swap file? OK, if you have 2 hard drives and you have one on the primary IDE channel and the other on the secondary IDE channel, move the swap file to a partition ON THE SECOND hard drive (on the secondary IDE channel). This will greatly improve system performance as the PC can write to the swap file while loading and running OS and system commands without I/O contention on the primary IDE channel!

4. Take a look under the hood (for SCSI owners) What kind of SCSI do you have? If it's the newer Ultra 160/320 etc cards then guess what? Any devices placed on the same bus will automatically default to the slowest drive on the chain...this means that if you have say, an Ultra 160 SCSI card, and it has an Ultra 160 drive (capable of transferring 160 mb/sec) on the same chain as a SCSI cdrom drive (capable of only 40 mb/sec) then the whole bus slows down to the 40 mb/sec speed...use different chains for the slower devices and maximize those hard drives!

5. Run a utility like WCPUID and check the your CPU/front speed bus/AGP port running as fast as they should be? If not, check your drivers and BIOS configuration options. Also, are all of your chipset features enabled? If not, then enable them! (usually done in your BIOS!)

6. Dig in to the BIOS...check settings like boot order, for it checking the floppy first? Change this! Select your order to reflect the hard drive first, then CD, then floppy for a noticeable boot time improvement. Also disable any non-used on board peripherals...for instance, - does your motherboard come with an on-board NIC card? Guess what, if you don't use that NIC card and it is enabled it will eat up valuable CPU cycles and can be detrimental to your systems' performance. DISABLE THAT MUTHA! Also, see if you can play with memory timing and CPU clock frequencies (NOTE! This is for expert users only!) Set these timings to "Aggressive" and see what happens in your games and apps...Also, check to see what your video aperature is set to. If you have a video card with 128 megs of on-baord memory, your aperature should be set to this amount too. Read the BIOS owner manual for further non-general performance tricks or improvements! Do you have the latest BIOS firmware version?

7. Under hardware properties, check to see that everything is working properly, and fix any hardware contention issues. You'll see the dreaded yellow exclamation point (!) beside any hardware componenet that is not working correctly.

8. Evaluate the potential for system/hardware upgrades...usually, the best bang for the buck is adding memory so buy all that you can afford (don't go much above 512 megs for Win 98 or ME). If you have a motherboard with an 8x - capable AGP port but you are using an older 4x video card, consider upgrading to an 8x card. You get the idea here...

9. Quit using software pigs like Norton system utilities, etc. These place files everywhere and can be a real system resource hog on lower end PCs.

10. Did I mention to make a good backup? Do it now! Also, while you're at it, run a good virus program with the latest definitions.

There are more options to make your system faster, such as overclocking, etc. but (just about) everything I've mentioned in this tech post costs you nothing and will result in faster system performance! Good luck and if you have any questions on how to do anything mentioned here, ask a knowledgeable friend or consult a book, - don't mess up something trying to do something you are not sure of!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

How to make a proper website - A Web Standards Checklist

The term web standards can mean different things to different people. For some, it is 'table-free sites', for others it is 'using valid code'. However, web standards are much broader than that. A site built to web standards should adhere to standards (HTML, XHTML, XML, CSS, XSLT, DOM, MathML, SVG etc) and pursue best practices (valid code, accessible code, semantically correct code, user-friendly URLs etc).

In other words, a site built to web standards should ideally be lean, clean, CSS-based, accessible, usable and search engine friendly.

About the checklist

This is not an uber-checklist. There are probably many items that could be added. More importantly, it should not be seen as a list of items that must be addressed on every site that you develop. It is simply a guide that can be used:

* to show the breadth of web standards
* as a handy tool for developers during the production phase of websites
* as an aid for developers who are interested in moving towards web standards

The checklist

1.Quality of code
1. Does the site use a correct Doctype?
2. Does the site use a Character set?
3. Does the site use Valid (X)HTML?
4. Does the site use Valid CSS?
5. Does the site use any CSS hacks?
6. Does the site use unnecessary classes or ids?
7. Is the code well structured?
8. Does the site have any broken links?
9. How does the site perform in terms of speed/page size?
10. Does the site have JavaScript errors?

2. Degree of separation between content and presentation
1. Does the site use CSS for all presentation aspects (fonts, colour, padding, borders etc)?
2. Are all decorative images in the CSS, or do they appear in the (X)HTML?

3. Accessibility for users
1. Are "alt" attributes used for all descriptive images?
2. Does the site use relative units rather than absolute units for text size?
3. Do any aspects of the layout break if font size is increased?
4. Does the site use visible skip menus?
5. Does the site use accessible forms?
6. Does the site use accessible tables?
7. Is there sufficient colour brightness/contrasts?
8. Is colour alone used for critical information?
9. Is there delayed responsiveness for dropdown menus (for users with reduced motor skills)?
10. Are all links descriptive (for blind users)?

4. Accessibility for devices
1. Does the site work acceptably across modern and older browsers?
2. Is the content accessible with CSS switched off or not supported?
3. Is the content accessible with images switched off or not supported?
4. Does the site work in text browsers such as Lynx?
5. Does the site work well when printed?
6. Does the site work well in Hand Held devices?
7. Does the site include detailed metadata?
8. Does the site work well in a range of browser window sizes?

5. Basic Usability
1. Is there a clear visual hierarchy?
2. Are heading levels easy to distinguish?
3. Does the site have easy to understand navigation?
4. Does the site use consistent navigation?
5. Are links underlined?
6. Does the site use consistent and appropriate language?
7. Do you have a sitemap page and contact page? Are they easy to find?
8. For large sites, is there a search tool?
9. Is there a link to the home page on every page in the site?
10. Are visited links clearly defined with a unique colour?

6. Site management
1. Does the site have a meaningful and helpful 404 error page that works from any depth in the site?
2. Does the site use friendly URLs?
3. Do your URLs work without "www"?
4. Does the site have a favicon?

1. Quality of code

1.1 Does the site use a correct Doctype?
A doctype (short for 'document type declaration') informs the validator which version of (X)HTML you're using, and must appear at the very top of every web page. Doctypes are a key component of compliant web pages: your markup and CSS won't validate without them.


1.2 Does the site use a Character set?
If a user agent (eg. a browser) is unable to detect the character encoding used in a Web document, the user may be presented with unreadable text. This information is particularly important for those maintaining and extending a multilingual site, but declaring the character encoding of the document is important for anyone producing XHTML/HTML or CSS.

1.3 Does the site use Valid (X)HTML?
Valid code will render faster than code with errors. Valid code will render better than invalid code. Browsers are becoming more standards compliant, and it is becoming increasingly necessary to write valid and standards compliant HTML.

1.4 Does the site use Valid CSS?
You need to make sure that there aren't any errors in either your HTML or your CSS, since mistakes in either place can result in botched document appearance.

1.5 Does the site use any CSS hacks?
Basically, hacks come down to personal choice, the amount of knowledge you have of workarounds, the specific design you are trying to achieve.

1.6 Does the site use unnecessary classes or ids?
I've noticed that developers learning new skills often end up with good CSS but poor XHTML. Specifically, the HTML code tends to be full of unnecessary divs and ids. This results in fairly meaningless HTML and bloated style sheets.

1.7 Is the code well structured?
Semantically correct markup uses html elements for their given purpose. Well structured HTML has semantic meaning for a wide range of user agents (browsers without style sheets, text browsers, PDAs, search engines etc.)

1.8 Does the site have any broken links?
Broken links can frustrate users and potentially drive customers away. Broken links can also keep search engines from properly indexing your site.

1.9 How does the site perform in terms of speed/page size?
Don't make me wait... That's the message users give us in survey after survey. Even broadband users can suffer the slow-loading blues.

1.10 Does the site have JavaScript errors?
Internet Explore for Windows allows you to turn on a debugger that will pop up a new window and let you know there are javascript errors on your site. This is available under 'Internet Options' on the Advanced tab. Uncheck 'Disable script debugging'.

2. Degree of separation between content and presentation

2.1 Does the site use CSS for all presentation aspects (fonts, colour, padding, borders etc)?
Use style sheets to control layout and presentation.

2.2 Are all decorative images in the CSS, or do they appear in the (X)HTML?
The aim for web developers is to remove all presentation from the html code, leaving it clean and semantically correct.

3. Accessibility for users

3.1 Are "alt" attributes used for all descriptive images?
Provide a text equivalent for every non-text element

3.2 Does the site use relative units rather than absolute units for text size?
Use relative rather than absolute units in markup language attribute values and style sheet property values'.

3.3 Do any aspects of the layout break if font size is increased?
Try this simple test. Look at your website in a browser that supports easy incrementation of font size. Now increase your browser's font size. And again. And again... Look at your site. Does the page layout still hold together? It is dangerous for developers to assume that everyone browses using default font sizes.
3.4 Does the site use visible skip menus?

A method shall be provided that permits users to skip repetitive navigation links.

Group related links, identify the group (for user agents), and, until user agents do so, provide a way to bypass the group.

...blind visitors are not the only ones inconvenienced by too many links in a navigation area. Recall that a mobility-impaired person with poor adaptive technology might be stuck tabbing through that morass.

3.5 Does the site use accessible forms?
Forms aren't the easiest of things to use for people with disabilities. Navigating around a page with written content is one thing, hopping between form fields and inputting information is another.

3.6 Does the site use accessible tables?
For data tables, identify row and column headers... For data tables that have two or more logical levels of row or column headers, use markup to associate data cells and header cells.

3.7 Is there sufficient colour brightness/contrasts?
Ensure that foreground and background colour combinations provide sufficient contrast when viewed by someone having colour deficits.

3.8 Is colour alone used for critical information?
Ensure that all information conveyed with colour is also available without colour, for example from context or markup.

There are basically three types of colour deficiency; Deuteranope (a form of red/green colour deficit), Protanope (another form of red/green colour deficit) and Tritanope (a blue/yellow deficit- very rare).

3.9 Is there delayed responsiveness for dropdown menus?
Users with reduced motor skills may find dropdown menus hard to use if responsiveness is set too fast.

3.10 Are all links descriptive?
Link text should be meaningful enough to make sense when read out of context - either on its own or as part of a sequence of links. Link text should also be terse.

4. Accessibility for devices.

4.1 Does the site work acceptably across modern and older browsers?

Before starting to build a CSS-based layout, you should decide which browsers to support and to what level you intend to support them.

4.2 Is the content accessible with CSS switched off or not supported?
Some people may visit your site with either a browser that does not support CSS or a browser with CSS switched off. In content is structured well, this will not be an issue.

4.3 Is the content accessible with images switched off or not supported?
Some people browse websites with images switched off - especially people on very slow connections. Content should still be accessible for these people.

4.4 Does the site work in text browsers such as Lynx?
This is like a combination of images and CSS switched off. A text-based browser will rely on well structured content to provide meaning.

4.5 Does the site work well when printed?
You can take any (X)HTML document and simply style it for print, without having to touch the markup.

4.6 Does the site work well in Hand Held devices?
This is a hard one to deal with until hand held devices consistently support their correct media type. However, some layouts work better in current hand-held devices. The importance of supporting hand held devices will depend on target audiences.

4.7 Does the site include detailed metadata?
Metadata is machine understandable information for the web

Metadata is structured information that is created specifically to describe another resource. In other words, metadata is 'data about data'.

4.8 Does the site work well in a range of browser window sizes?
It is a common assumption amongst developers that average screen sizes are increasing. Some developers assume that the average screen size is now 1024px wide. But what about users with smaller screens and users with hand held devices? Are they part of your target audience and are they being disadvantaged?

5. Basic Usability
5.1 Is there a clear visual hierarchy?
Organise and prioritise the contents of a page by using size, prominence and content relationships.

5.2 Are heading levels easy to distinguish?
Use header elements to convey document structure and use them according to specification.

5.3 Is the site's navigation easy to understand?
Your navigation system should give your visitor a clue as to what page of the site they are currently on and where they can go next.

5.4 Is the site's navigation consistent?
If each page on your site has a consistent style of presentation, visitors will find it easier to navigate between pages and find information

5.5 Does the site use consistent and appropriate language?
The use of clear and simple language promotes effective communication. Trying to come across as articulate can be as difficult to read as poorly written grammar, especially if the language used isn't the visitor's primary language.

5.6 Does the site have a sitemap page and contact page? Are they easy to find?
Most site maps fail to convey multiple levels of the site's information architecture. In usability tests, users often overlook site maps or can't find them. Complexity is also a problem: a map should be a map, not a navigational challenge of its own.

5.7 For large sites, is there a search tool?
While search tools are not needed on smaller sites, and some people will not ever use them, site-specific search tools allow users a choice of navigation options.

5.8 Is there a link to the home page on every page in the site?
Some users like to go back to a site's home page after navigating to content within a site. The home page becomes a base camp for these users, allowing them to regroup before exploring new content.

5.9 Are links underlined?
To maximise the perceived affordance of clickability, colour and underline the link text. Users shouldn't have to guess or scrub the page to find out where they can click.

5.10 Are visited links clearly defined?
Most important, knowing which pages they've already visited frees users from unintentionally revisiting the same pages over and over again.

6. Site management

6.1 Does the site have a meaningful and helpful 404 error page that works from any depth in the site?
You've requested a page - either by typing a URL directly into the address bar or clicking on an out-of-date link and you've found yourself in the middle of cyberspace nowhere. A user-friendly website will give you a helping hand while many others will simply do nothing, relying on the browser's built-in ability to explain what the problem is.

6.2 Does the site use friendly URLs?
Most search engines (with a few exceptions - namely Google) will not index any pages that have a question mark or other character (like an ampersand or equals sign) in the URL... what good is a site if no one can find it?

One of the worst elements of the web from a user interface standpoint is the URL. However, if they're short, logical, and self-correcting, URLs can be acceptably usable

6.3 Does the site's URL work without "www"?
While this is not critical, and in some cases is not even possible, it is always good to give people the choice of both options. If a user types your domain name without the www and gets no site, this could disadvantage both the user and you.
6.4 Does the site have a favicon?

A Favicon is a multi-resolution image included on nearly all professionally developed sites. The Favicon allows the webmaster to further promote their site, and to create a more customized appearance within a visitor's browser.

Favicons are definitely not critical. However, if they are not present, they can cause 404 errors in your logs (site statistics). Browsers like IE will request them from the server when a site is bookmarked. If a favicon isn't available, a 404 error may be generated. Therefore, having a favicon could cut down on favicon specific 404 errors. The same is true of a 'robots.txt' file.