How to Set Up a Printer and Avoid Bloatware

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Last weekend, my parents bought a new wireless printer by HP. Our previous printer, also an HP, is ten years old and resides on my desk. It’s still a good printer, but it’s USB only—meaning that you can’t remotely print to it because it’s not on the network.

Fortunately, this new printer allows us to print from any device, anywhere in the house.

Unfortunately, when setting it up, HP wanted us to install their software package on every computer we’d be printing from.

Now, I think HP makes some really good printers. I’ve used Dell printers, too, and they are pretty well-made, too. The problem is, most printer manufacturers “require” you to install a bunch of software you don’t need in order to use the printer.

I call this software bloatware, because it slows your computer down.

The good news is, in most cases, you don’t have to install this software at all in order to interface with a printer. All you need is the driver.

A driver is a piece of software that creates a communications interface between your computer and a piece of hardware. Your computer already has dozens of drivers installed: one for your keyboard, one for your mouse, one for every USB drive you plug in, and more.

With printers, the principle is the same. Your computer needs a driver in order to send the printer the pages you want to print, as well as to receive any pertinent information from the printer, such as whether it’s low on ink.

When printer manufacturers want you to install all their software in order to interface with the printer, the driver is included in that software package. The thing is, you probably don’t need all the other software that they want you to install.

That’s not to say that this software isn’t useful in some way, but in my experience it can be more trouble than it’s worth. Our old HP printer “required” four separate programs to be installed, and if memory serves, I think we only ever used one—just one—of them.

The advantage of not installing the extra software (bloatware), of course, is that there’s a much lower chance that your computer will start slowing down. You’ll also eliminate a possible source of pop-ups or annoying prompts that appear when you’re normally using your computer.

The one disadvantage I can think of for not installing printer software is that you may not be able to use some of the printer’s features, such as scanning. However, there are usually ways around that, as well, as I’ll cover in a moment.

If you’re like me and you just want to install what’s necessary in order to get the printer up and running, follow these steps.

  1. Follow your printer’s installation instructions up to the point where it says to install the required software. If you’re setting up a USB printer, don’t connect it to your computer unless instructed. If you’re setting up a wireless printer, don’t sync your computer with the printer unless instructed.
  2. At this point, do a Google search for the printer’s make and model, and include the word “drivers”. Here’s an example: “HP Photosmart C4150 drivers” (that’s our old printer).
  3. Look carefully at the Google results and click on the manufacturer’s official website, when it appears. If your printer was made by Canon, look for Canon’s website (usa.canon.com). The first few results can be ads, and take you to the wrong sites. Don’t click on them.
  4. Choose the driver for your operating system. (If you’re not sure what operating system you have, try checking whatsmyos.com.) Find the list of software available for your printer, and download the files to install the drivers only.
  5. Once the download is complete, start the installation by opening the installation file (usually a single- or double-click will accomplish this).
  6. Follow the installation instructions in the driver.
  7. After the installation is complete, the driver should be installed—and you should be able to use your printer!

Before you go off on your own with these directions, there are a couple more things I’d like to note.

First: Read the fine print. In the case of my old printer, when I go to HP’s site and enter the printer info, I’m enticed to still download the entire software suite. If I want to download just the driver, I have to look for the “HP Photosmart Basic Driver”.

In this case, HP more or less forces you to install their full software suite, which is probably not what you want to do. Look at the file size—260 MB! I’ll note that a search for the “HP Photosmart Basic Driver” yielded no download page. They don’t make it easy. In this case, what you’d want to do is let your computer try to find the correct driver on its own (see below).

Second: Installation may even be easier than this. A lot of computers will find and automatically install drivers for you. My Mac automatically found and installed the requisite drivers for the wireless printer. Sometimes, Windows will do the same, installing the standalone driver without you having to hunt around for it. (If you can get the driver installed automatically, then you don’t need to follow the seven steps above!)

Most printers will scan to a USB drive or email scan results to your computer. Instead of starting the scan from your computer, you’ll need to do it from the printer itself via a menu or button option.

In summary, I don’t think all the extra printer software is bad; however, I see it as another way for the manufacturer to make money and an easy way for your computer to start slowing down. So, if you want to avoid those issues, just follow these directions!


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What if I told you that you could quickly and easily learn how your computer or smartphone works?

What if I told you that troubleshooting your technology can be easy and painless?

Well, now I’m telling you! My book How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t explains, in everyday English, how your computer operates and what you can do when it’s not operating the way you want it to.

It teaches you about the basic components without getting too technical, so you can become more computer-literate.

It walks you through simple steps to fixing common computer problems, so you can get back to using your computer instead of struggling with it.

It explains how to easily solve issues such as sluggish performance and virus infections, so you can keep your computer running smoothly—instead of running out to buy a new one.

And… it includes over 30 full-color pictures, so you can actually see what I’m talking about.

I’ve spent a great majority of my life solving computer problems (and I’m only in my twenties!), and I studied IT in college partly for this reason. I’ve helped kids, seniors, and everyone in between… and now I want to help you.

This book contains all the “secrets” I use to solve computer problems… secrets that everyone can use, including you.

Imagine feeling confident that you can solve your own tech problems without calling your tech-savvy friend, child, or grandchild. Imagine quickly feeling at home with software or apps you’ve never used before.

With How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t, you will!

How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t is available on Amazon in all regions for Kindle and in paperback. Why not pick up a copy today and start becoming comfortable with computers?

P.S. If you opt for the paperback version, you can also get the Kindle version for only $0.99 more and read wherever you go on your smartphone, tablet, or Kindle e-reader. Also, be sure to sign up for my email list to receive free bonus content to supplement the book.

Technology and 21st-Century Camping

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Spring is here and summer is just around the corner. The weather is getting great for camping, and there’s nothing like the great outdoors. Forests, mountains, and lakes have the same ability to awe and calm today that they have always had, but in this Digital Age of constant connection, it’s even more imperative (and often necessary) to seek temporary solace and solitaire in nature.

For better or worse, modern technology has changed camping quite a bit. The tents, knives, and equipment we carry are lighter, sharper, and more durable than ever before. On the digital side of things, cell phones, GPS, and the Internet provide a wealth of information even out in the boonies, information that you could never pack out in years past.

Some campers and outdoorsmen shun technology altogether and stick to old-fashioned maps, compasses, and backcountry knowledge. Others willingly embrace technology on their trips because they can carry a small library of outdoors guides on a tablet, for example.

I fall somewhere in the middle. When I go camping or do anything outdoors, I carry my phone and maybe a tablet or e-reader with me, but use them minimally.

Regardless, we live in the 21st century, and if you’re planning a camping trip or outdoor excursion, you should consider taking advantage of technology to improve your trip. Below are some things you can do to make sure you and your devices make it into and out of the backcountry safely. If you click on a product link in this article and purchase something, I get a small tip at no cost to you. Much appreciated!

Turn devices off when not in use. Enjoy nature and leave the ‘Gram behind. Besides, if you’re lucky, you’ll be out of cell range anyway. If you want to take pictures, consider taking a camera specifically for the purpose, and share the pictures to social media when your trip is done. This will also help you re-enjoy the trip as you sift through your shots.

Portable chargers, also known as power bricks or power banks, are essential when heading out into the wild without a way to charge your devices. The Anker PowerCore+ 10050 shown here is a great option that I used on a recent trip to Utah. Just make sure you charge your charger before leaving!

Take backup power. Regardless of how much or how little you use your devices, their batteries will drain. I carry at least two power banks when I travel, one dedicated to charging devices and another that can jump-start a car (because there’s nothing worse than a car that won’t start when you’re miles away from civilization). I recommend the Anker PowerCore+ 10050 portable charger for phones and tablets and the DBPOWER 2000A 19200mAh jump-starter for vehicles (which will also charge phones and other devices).

Solar chargers are also an option but you should be aware that solar power charges devices considerably slower than a battery bank will. Solar is also dependent on whether the sun is out, so if it’s a cloudy day, you won’t be able to charge your gear.

Consider buying a satellite phone. While I personally have no experience with this, if you know you’re going to be really out there (good for you!), you should consider acquiring a sat phone for your trip, as you will likely have no cell service. This would have been great on my recent trip through the Navajo Nation in northeast Arizona, as my brother and I had no cell service for over twenty-four hours as we more or less traversed the entire upper-right quarter of the state. Get one in case of emergency.

At the very minimum, carry an old phone if you have one. Even if it no longer has a SIM card (meaning it’s not on a phone plan), you can still use it to dial 911 in case of an emergency. The caveat is that you still have to have service in order to call 911. That aside, it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Use GPS, but take a map or atlas anyway. A couple years ago, my family took a trip to Fredericksburg, TX. We got as far as Cleburne (not very far) before the route went down to one lane under construction and traffic was backed up for miles. Both Google Maps and Apple Maps provided no alternate routes. Fortunately, I whipped out my trusty Texas map and cobbled together a new route that got us out of traffic and safely to Fredericksburg, where beer and brats awaited. It just goes to show that technology is not infallible.

You can buy a Rand McNally road atlas at Wal-Mart for under $10 that covers all states in the U.S. and all provinces in Canada, with an overview map of Mexico to boot. Also helpful are the Wal-Mart locations indexed in the front of the atlas. If you’re a AAA member, stop by your local office and pick up maps for the states you’ll be traveling through. And, when you get to wherever you’re going to stay, acquire local maps so you know your way around the surrounding area and trail or park maps so you don’t get lost while hiking.

If you have a tablet, load it up with outdoors books and guides. How do you know whether that berry is poisonous? How do you treat that kind of insect bite? What are you supposed to do, again, if you encounter a bear or mountain lion? With the right books at hand, the answers are just a few page swipes away.

If you have a tablet, such as an iPad, Samsung Galaxy, or Kindle Fire, you can easily and cheaply load your digital library up with great outdoor reference works. Yes, I agree that there is still no substitute for a real, tangible book, but when weight is an issue and you can’t feasibly pack out your entire library of outdoors guides, digital editions on your device of choice are a great alternative.

I suggest you download the free Amazon Kindle app and check out the following titles:

  1. 100 Deadly Skills: Survival Edition by Clint Emerson
  2. Bushcraft 101 by Dave Canterbury
  3. Boy Scout Handbook (currently in its 13th edition, although you can also buy the highly-revered 1st edition from 1911)
Bushcraft 101 is comprehensive and inexpensive: only $1.99 for Kindle!

Also consider stocking up on some good, adventurous reads in case your hiking plans get washed out by a day of heavy rain. Again, nothing beats a hard copy, but a tablet loaded with e-books lightens your load considerably. Here are some of my favorites to get you started:

  1. The Call of the Wild by Jack London (though anything by London is fair game)
  2. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
  3. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (part of the five-book series called Brian’s Saga, aimed at young men but entertaining for adults as well)

Finally, keep your gadgets clean and dry! Dust, dirt, sand, water, and bugs are just a few things you might encounter out there, and while you are washable, your tech probably isn’t. Keep phones and tablets in water-resistant or waterproof pockets or containers, as these will also protect against dirt. I bought my brother and I each a Pelican 1060 Micro Case for keeping our phones dry while kayaking the Colorado River in Austin. It’s not a bad idea to use these whether you’re on the water or not.

The Pelican 1060 Micro Case is excellent for storing phones, keys, wallets, and more when in wet or dusty environments. Clipping it to your person, a backpack, or kayak with the included carabiner ensures that it doesn’t get lost or end up in Davy Jones’ locker.

With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to enjoy your trip and stay connected as need be. Just remember to take nothing but pictures and leaving nothing but footprints—and enjoy being outdoors, away from the Internet and social media!

So, who’s going where and what are you taking?


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What if you could feel inspired and empowered to fix your computer the next time something goes wrong with it? Now you can! How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t explains, in simple English, how your computer operates and what you can do when it’s not operating the way you want it to. It also teaches you how to solve many existing issues, including sluggish performance and virus infections. When computer woes happen, you’ll never have to worry again.

How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t is available on all Amazon sites for Kindle and in paperback. You can read more about it here on my website, including an excerpt. Be sure to sign up for my email list to receive free bonus content to supplement the book!

It’s Official…

Look at that shiny orange badge!

It’s official… my book is now officially ranked as the #1 New Release in the Consumer Guides category on Amazon. I’m amazed. I don’t like to brag, but I’m very proud of this accomplishment!

As you can also see in the image above, How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t also got its first review… and five stars no less! It reads:

The prose is good, it reads well. It’s factually accurate, even when it touches on matters of opinion and taste. Does a good job of defining terms. I think it could give someone dealing with their computer good guidance, and enough, but not too much, confidence; it draws a well positioned line explaining where the reader should go for expert help.

That eloquently expresses the aim of this book. I’m glad the point got across, and I’m grateful for the review!

If you haven’t grabbed a copy yet, you can do so by clicking on the buttons below. Currently, the Kindle and paperback versions aren’t linked, but this is something that usually takes a few hours (or days) to occur on Amazon. For the time being, the buttons below will take you to the respective product pages.

Enjoy! Until next time, onward and upward!

Bestseller Status!

Great news! How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t now ranks #1 in three different categories on Amazon! This is very cool and something I did not expect at all. So, if you’ve helped it here by buying it or grabbing it for free, thank you!

If you haven’t grabbed a copy yet, I have good news. First, the Kindle version is free on Amazon again through tonight. Second, it’s now available in paperback! I know many people (myself included) like to have a physical copy, so here it is.

Currently, the Kindle and paperback versions aren’t linked, but this is something that usually takes a few hours to occur on Amazon. For the time being, click either of the buttons below to go to the respective product pages. Enjoy!

Tech Tip: Better than Bookmarking

This weekend, Mom baked a birthday cake for my brother, but spent quite a bit of time searching for her go-to yellow cake recipe in her browser’s bookmarks. Unfortunately, she could not find the exact recipe, so she picked another one. (Fortunately, the cake turned out better than any she’d made before, so it all worked out!)

This has happened to me on occasion, too. I’ve bookmarked a fantastic article or blog post only to go back to it later and find that it’s vanished from the face of cyberspace. Even though they say that everything’s permanent on the Internet, it doesn’t seem like it when a link is broken or content has been taken down.

There is an alternative to bookmarking webpages, and that is printing them to a Portable Document Format (PDF) file for viewing in programs like Adobe Reader. If you find something online that you want to save (maybe like this Tech Tip?), you can easily save a copy of the content in a Portable Document Format (PDF) similar to how you would print a hard copy with a printer.

To do this, press the Ctrl and P keys (Windows) or the Command and P keys (Mac) to bring up a print menu in your browser. There should be an option to print to a file or PDF instead of to a printer. The exact options and procedure will depend on your operating system and web browser, but the end result should be the same: the digital equivalent of the webpage printed out.

The standard print menu in a web browser. Instead of clicking “Print”, click on the “Change…” button to select a different printer.
After clicking the “Change…” button in the previous image, select the “Save as PDF” option. When you click “Print” now, you will be prompted for a filename for the PDF printout.

Once you have the webpage saved in a PDF file, store it somewhere you can easily retrieve it on your computer. I suggest creating a folder called “To Read” or “For Reference”. You could also back this file up to your cloud storage service of choice so you have an extra copy. If you wanted to, you could also print the PDF out later.

There you have it! A quick and easy way to ensure that you will always have access to the information you want, regardless of what happens online. I’ve already suggested Mom do this with every great recipe she finds from now on just in case it mysteriously disappears. I made sure she did it with this yellow cake recipe.


Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this blog post, I think you’ll also like my book, How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t. It explains, in simple English, how the computer you use every day operates and what you can do when it’s not operating the way you want it to. It also teaches you how to solve many existing issues, including sluggish performance and virus infections.

You can read more about it here on my website, including an excerpt. Be sure to sign up for my email list to receive free bonus content to supplement the book!

One-Thousand Downloads in One Day

Wow! How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t got over one-thousand downloads on launch day. That’s pretty incredible, and way above and beyond my expectations. If you’ve downloaded a copy, thank you!

If you haven’t downloaded a copy yet, you can still get it for free today by clicking here. And please be sure to share this with your friends and family who are computer-challenged!

For those who want a paperback copy, I promise it’s coming soon! If you’d like to be notified when it’s available, follow this blog by clicking on the “Follow Matthew R. Baker” button on the right side of this page (or the bottom if you’re viewing on mobile) or join my email list, where you will also receive access to free bonus content from How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t.

Enjoy!

Want a Free Book about Computers?

It’s here! This weekend is your chance to snag a free Kindle copy of my new book How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t.

All you need to do is click the button below!

How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t will be available for free through Saturday (February 2). Be sure to claim your copy and share this deal with your friends before it expires.

You can also sign up for my email list to gain access to the book’s bonus content and stay in the loop on future books and sales (I expect both in the near future!). I promise you no spam!

For those who prefer a hard copy, I’m working on getting the paperback version published and will have it available very soon. You too can sign up for my email list to be notified when it’s available.

It’s my hope that this book will help you understand more about computers, how they work, and how to work with them when they aren’t working with you. If you have friends or family who would benefit from this book (think of the tech-challenged people in your life!), please share this with them so they too can grab their free copies.

Thank you, and enjoy!

My First Book is Going Live (and Free)!

Steve Jobs once famously said, “Real artists ship.” What he meant was that any artist, be that a painter or a writer or a software developer, must put aside perfectionism and put their work out into the world.

I have finally shipped. How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t is the product of over two months of writing, editing, and content-gathering preceded by a life of tinkering with technology.

This book is written for all users, but particularly for those who have trouble using or understanding computers. I’ve taken the technical knowledge of computers and translated it into simple English so everyone can understand what makes a computer tick. I’ve also distilled what I’ve learned from years of repairing and troubleshooting computers into The Seven Principles of Solving Problems that can be applied to any technical issue. In addition, I’ve provided guides with easy things you can do to keep your computer running smoothly and speedily, as well as things you should do if it’s not. Finally, I included a reference guide for buying a computer so that you can acquire exactly what you need without breaking the bank.

If all this sounds interesting to you, it gets better. I’m offering the Kindle version of How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t for free this weekend. When you sign up for my email list, you’ll receive an email with a link to the book on Amazon when the deal goes live.

For those who prefer a hard copy, I’m working on getting the paperback version published and will have it available very soon. You too can sign up for my email list to be notified when it’s available.

If you’d like to read more about How Computers Work and What to Do When They Don’t, head over to my book page. And be sure to sign up for my email list so you can be notified when the book goes live plus additional bonus content!

It’s my hope that this book will help you understand more about computers, how they work, and how to work with them when they aren’t working with you. If you have friends or family who would benefit from this book (think of the tech-challenged people in your life!), please share this with them so they too can grab their free copies.

Thank you, and enjoy!

On Redundancy

I woke up this Monday morning and powered on my Mac to check my emails, only to find that it wouldn’t fully boot up. Apparently, an update didn’t install the way it was supposed to, so macOS just gave me an error. After restarting my machine a couple times, I clicked around in an effort to find a solution, and rebooted again. This time around, I logged in and the OS loaded like normal. I don’t know what I did (or didn’t do) to solve the problem, but this was a perfect reminder of a principle that the Navy Seals live by.

Two is one and one is none.

Think about it. You have one computer, which works ninety-nine percent of the time. Ninety-nine percent of one year means that it doesn’t work three or four days out of the year! Speaking from experience, a computer isn’t usually down for just a few days; if it ain’t an easy fix, you may find yourself schlepping it to the local repair shop or calling in your friendly neighborhood nerd—but in the meantime, you still don’t have a computer to use. (Mac users, you aren’t immune to this.)

My suggestion is to acquire a cheap, refurbished computer to keep as a backup in the event that your main machine gets sick or, sad to say, dies suddenly by the Blue Screen of Death. Have a “beater” that gets mission-critical tasks done, at least until your primary one recovers or is replaced. If you upgrade to a newer computer, don’t put your old one out to pasture just yet—it can serve as your secondary.

Oh, and back up all your data in some way, shape, or form. I recommend an external hard drive, but USB sticks or DVDs will also work. It’s also a good idea to back up sensitive information on a USB stick or DVD and place it in a safe deposit box for, well, safekeeping. If your computer’s hard drive kicks the bucket, you’ll still have your data on hand (though I wouldn’t load it all onto your backup machine and potentially slow it down; copy over only what you need), and should some unfortunate circumstance destroy your backup, you’ll at least have your critical data safe at the bank. If something happens to your safe deposit box, you’ve probably got more pressing problems to deal with.

I wrote this with computers and data in mind, but the principle of “two is one and one is none” applies to pretty much anything. Flashlights, house keys, knives, home-defense firearms (unless it’s a revolver or a Glock, both of which should fire on every trigger pull), eyeglasses, good books, and the Bible (the best book), are a few things that come to my mind. Figure out what you own that you can’t live without, and consider acquiring a second of each item.

Be redundant!