Monday, November 1, 2010

Is My Computer OK? Or, How To Monitor What It's Doing Part 3 of 3

Hey! You Gotta Fix This!
This is the final part, Part 3, of a look at ways to Monitor Your Computer, What It's doing, and See If It's OK, as a part of the Is My Computer OK? series. We have been looking at Windows Gadgets for Vista and Win7, that are freely available for download, and cost no money. They are easily installed and stay on your Desktop wherever you want them just as if you had  instruments from your car transplanted to the screen. The first 2 we talked about together can tell you what the temperature of your CPU is, how hard it's working, how hot it is, and what programs are using the most CPU cycles and making it hot and how to deal with them. Exhale.

We are going to look a little more at some of that here, but we are also going to look at the Network Meter Gadget which will tell you not only if you are connected to the internet, but also if your internal network, on your side of the router, is working. You can see what the speed of data transmission is FROM your computer out to the net, and TO your computer, in from the net, and a few more things as well, including  a visual record of recent network activity.

Why should you care?

Well, if you cannot connect to the internet or your favorite websites, you'll want to know why, and how to fix the problem. The Network Meter Gadget helps you narrow down the choices for the culprit.

Go ahead and install it from the link above while we're talking about this so you can watch what it does while we go over its features.

OK, let's say you have a connection problem. You can't get to, your favorite insult and flash, umm ... romantic holiday getaway site (it's really a memorabilia site). How come? You look at the Network Meter Gadget and immediately notice, clever person that you are, that while your internal IP address is displayed and just fine, that you have NO EXTERNAL IP address. You hit Refresh External IP on the Gadget, a nice feature in itself, but no joy. What now? Well, your router is probably OK, after all, it's maintaining the internal address. So you go look at the Cable Modem or whatever device you have handling your broadband Wide Area Network. DSL, maybe, or satellite.

Anyway, you see that:

1) Your Modem is not lit and it looks dead, or
2) Your link lights (modem status lights) indicate no connection
3) Everything looks OK ... hmmm

So, you reboot (unplug to power off) both your modem and your router to initialize the network and the handshake between them, and see if that fixes the problem.

And then, either:

a) The problem is fixed! Hooray!! or
b) It's not! #$!#%$!

If a), move on to something else. If b), you may have an issue with your ISP, and it's time to call them up and tell them what the problem is and what you did to rectify the situation and let them deal with it. If you have a dead modem, get them to bring you a new one (or go get one). If your link lights won't sync per 2) you may have a line problem, and if everything looks OK per 3) your ISP may have a software issue or configuration issue.

In any case, you are likely on your way to resolution.

Thank the Network Meter Gadget, which first pointed you in the right direction. You may even notice an issue with your network, just by having the Gadget up, that you haven't seen a symptom for yet!

Do please be aware that these Gadget's bells-and-whistles features, beyond those described here, sometimes expose you to solicitations you may consider spam, and remember that the authors of these useful tools are making them available AT NO CHARGE, so just ignore the spam if you like, or don't even go there. The basic function of the Gadgets will be SPAM FREE.

How Do You Shut Down Your Computer???

Next to last, but not least, the System Controls Gadget, from Home Cooked Gadgets, is useful on those special occasions, such as when your system is acting weird -- the Start button on the Taskbar won't respond to the mouse, CTL/ALT /DEL won't bring up the Task Manager -- and you need to reboot the computer gracefully -- but how??? You put the System Controls Gadget up on your Desktop, and most of the time, not necessarily all, you'll be able to hit the Shutdown or Restart buttons on the Gadget and restart the machine. Mouse over the buttons and they'll tell you what they do, in case you've forgotten which little symbols do what. Your computer will be in a NO Hammer Zone. 

Cool, huh? What's that you say? Your computer never misbehaves??? Well, then, this Gadget's not for you!

So now you have 3 useful Gadgets for your Sidebar and your Desktop, Gadgets that can give you some insight in to what's going on with your machine and, hopefully take action on the basis of the information provided, whether it's to investigate a program or virus, get a fan replaced, fix the network problem or shut down a balky machine.

Here is one last gift, and one that is fun and useful, but not about the computer, but rather about driving your car. It's a Real Time Traffic Info Gadget, and it will show you a small but expandable map of the locale of your choice, your local towns and roads with a Google Real Time Traffic overlay. Check it out.

Realtime Local Map Showing Traffic Slowdown in Yellow and Jam in Red
Before I go out the door, I check to see if my local roads have a problem -- and this Gadget has kept me from wasting a lot of time! It's right there on the Desktop -- I only have to glance at it to see what's going on!

You can see above, that Rte 23S has a slowdown and a jam heading towards the interstate. If I were going out and that way, I'd want to know, wouldn't you? Yeah, I know; your GPS can tell you the same thing, but that's in your car, and you're down the drive and on your way before you realize you've got problem ...

OK, let's sum up, starting with the screenshot below:

Gadgets Grouped on the DeskTop for Console Display
So we can see the CPU activity, the temperature of the CPU, the programs using the CPU most, the memory hogs, the programs using the disk most, and a lot of network info. We also have the option of shutting down or restarting the system from the DeskTop. And just for fun, I put up the Traffic Gadget, a Weather Gadget, and an Uptime Gadget. Of course we have just scratched the surface of what you can do with this info -- you can start a virus hunt if you think you are infected -- that's fairly involved and beyond the scope of this particular article -- you can see why, and which of, your programs bring your computer to its knees, and lots of other things.

Make your own Instrument Cluster with these Gadgets and never be in the dark again as to What Is Going On With Your Computer. And you  will always know that Your Computer Is OK! 

Except of course -- when it's NOT!

I hope you enjoy them! 


PS If you really want a lot of info on your hardware, check out the Everest Program from Lavalys:

 But maybe that's more than you want to know!!! And, it costs money!

Photo of Network Trend c/o
Photo of Computer Hammer c/o
All other Photos are screenshots (captures)

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...