35 cool and fun things to try with your PC

14th Feb 2010 | 12:00

35 cool and fun things to try with your PC

Forget boring databases, spreadsheets and word processing

36 cool things to try with your PC

Spreadsheets, word processing and databases. Limiting a modern PC to running these bread and butter tasks is like buying a Ferrari and driving it to the corner shop.

The question is, with a fast processor, a quick internet connection and a little imagination, what can a PC really do?

We've asked our writers to kick back and let their imaginations run riot. Security expert Jon Thompson inevitably got involved with spying and subterfuge, uber geek Mike Williams remote controlled his home PC with Twitter and joker Jamie Middleton decided to change the world. So read on and spare a thought for those PCs condemned to a life of office work.

1. Keep high-def YouTube videos

There are quite a few sites, plug-ins and apps that allow you to download videos from YouTube in Flash Video format. However, these can be quite a poor reflection of the originally uploaded video. In a large and increasing number of cases, you can also download high-quality and even high-definition versions of YouTube videos by slightly changing the URL.

It works like this. When you find a video you want to download, change the domain from www.youtube.com to www.youtubekeep.com and hit [Enter]. You'll go to a YouTubeKeep page that features download options for the video. Select what you want, click 'Download' and save the file. Don't be tempted to download illegal content and never redistribute what you've downloaded.

2. Get classic movies free

Many films from the golden age of cinema have fallen out of copyright. This means that it's now legal to download and watch many films and short features in your home. To make sure that you stay on the right side of the law, however, it's best to download them from a legal cinema archive.

One such archive is www.publicdomaintorrents.com, which provides content as torrents. You'll have to install a torrent client such as Vuze to download the files, but once done you'll have access to a large number of classics including Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin and some surprisingly good forgotten gems.

3. Stream live TV

When you're on the move or on holiday, it can be frustrating to miss your favourite shows. But because many broadcasters stream their content live, sites have sprung up allowing you to watch TV from all around the world, giving you access to literally thousands of channels.

WWITV

One such service is WWITV, which boasts a database of over 3,000 channels from all around the world. Simply select a country and then select a channel from the list. An entry of 'on site' in the Stream column indicates that you'll be connected to the broadcaster's site rather than watching on WWITV.

4. Unblock foreign TV sites

When you're used to the web's lack of geographical borders, it comes as an irritation to discover that many broadcasters block foreign viewers from accessing their online TV programmes. However, you can bypass this using a public proxy.

A public proxy is a computer that's situated in the same country as the broadcaster. The broadcaster's content management system allows the proxy access to its media files. The proxy in turn passes that content on to you.

You need a proxy located in the same country as the broadcaster that you're trying to access content from, and there's a big list that covers most territories at www.publicproxyservers.com. One of the best for accessing US content is www.proxypass.us.

When you come across a page that is blocked, type its URL into ProxyPass' URL box and hit [Enter]. All being well, you should gain immediate access to the media stream.

5. Make video come alive

VLC is an amazingly versatile video player packed with unsung features

Are you stuck with a movie or music file in a format that Windows Media Player refuses to acknowledge, let alone play? You need an alternative in the form of VLC Media Player from VideoLAN.

The list of video formats VLC Player can handle is extensive, but few users seem to know that it can also transcode files into other formats.

VLC

To do so, load a video and press [Ctrl]+[R]. Click 'Add' and select the videos you want to transcode. Click 'Convert/ Save' and a new window will pop up asking for the destination folder. Enter this, and select a profile (the format for the file you want to create). If you want to watch the video as it is transcoded to check the progress, select the 'Display the output' tickbox. Finally, click 'Start'.

Search for video input drivers

VLC is an extremely versatile piece of software. As well as playing all the popular (and less popular) video and audio formats, it can sometimes help out when drivers aren't available in Windows Vista for video input devices such as obsolete but perfectly serviceable webcams.

To see if this works for you, connect your device and select 'Open Capture Device' from the Media menu. Select the video device from the dropdown list in the resultant pop-up window. If it doesn't appear, try clicking the 'Refresh' button. Click 'Play' and you should start receiving output from the device.

If you've ever wanted to watch videos as ASCII art, VLC player can help you here. Select 'Preferences' from the Tools menu and click on the Video section. Select the Output dropdown list and select 'Colour ASCII art video output'. Click 'Save' and open a file to watch the result.

6. Value your neighbours' house

The Land Registry is a government agency that records who owns what property. It also has a searchable database of average property prices. It's useful to find out how prices are doing in your neighbourhood, and if you've decided to move house then you can tell how much your new home should really be costing you.

To have a look, click 'House Prices' and then 'Search the Index'. Select 'Choose a single location' and then enter a postcode or area. Confirm your choice and select 'House Type Breakdown Report'.

To see current prices, select the last month as the date range and click 'Next'. To see how prices in your area have increased or declined over time, select the time period that you're interested in instead.

7. Get local statistics

Thinking of moving and want to know how safe, healthy and educated your chosen area is? There's an easy way of discovering the levels of crime and a lot more besides on the National Audit Office's website. Click on the Regional Statistics tab and select the area of the UK that you're after.

Click the 'Neighbourhood' link at the top of the page and then enter the postcode you're interested in into the Neighbourhood Summary box. Across the top of the resultant page are tabs that break down the initial summary page by topics such as health (including life expectancy), education and local crime figures broken down by type.

Local statistics

For even more information, click on the More tab and select 'Complete Topic List' from the resulting options. This allows you to access incredibly detailed data about the makeup, living conditions and even lifestyles of the area you're interested in.

8. Check out a company's history

Here's a way to find out if a company you're dealing with has had financial problems such as bankruptcy. All limited companies must notify Companies House of significant events and file annual accounts.

Creditgate allows you to see this history. Enter the company name in the search box, hit [Enter] and select it from the results. The subsequent page displays a list of all the records held by Companies House. You can buy each piece of information for a more detailed view, but the titles themselves are often a giveaway.

9. Trace an email automatically

When you're worried that an email isn't what it claims to be, you should inspect the headers, which give chapter and verse on where it came from. But reading headers is a fiddly business.

Luckily, there are websites that will do it for you. One such service is IP-address.com. Save the dodgy email as a text file, then copy and paste from the top to the line that reads 'Content-Type: multipart/mixed'. Enter this into the input box on the site and click 'Trace Email Sender'. You'll know for sure exactly who sent it within seconds.

10. Crack Windows passwords

Don't worry if you've had a memory lapse – your Windows machine can be persuaded to divulge its secrets Have you ever forgotten the password to an old Windows machine account but needed to get at the contents?

It happens occasionally. If you can log into the PC under a Guest account, Cain & Abel is for you. It's an extremely powerful password cracker that also happens to be free. Cain is the user interface to the application, while Abel is a system service that does the background work.

Cain and abel

Download the program from here. After installing the executable, which includes the Pcap library to allow your network card to sniff your LAN for passwords, open the Cain directory under Program Files and copy the 'Abel.dll' and 'Abel.exe' files to C:\Windows.

Next, double-click Abel.exe to install the service. Now, from the Start menu, select 'Run' and enter services.msc. This will display a list of services. Find Abel and right-click on it to start it (this saves having to reboot).

Forcing entry

To test the software, set up a dummy Windows account and give it a password, then run Cain from the Start menu. Next, click on the Cracker tab. The list of current password crackers is displayed in the left-hand pane. Click on 'LM & NTLM Hashes' and press the large black cross button at the top of the interface. Click 'Next' on the pop-up window to continue.

The spreadsheet in the main pane will now fill with the details of your Windows log-in accounts. Right-click the dummy account and move the mouse over 'Brute-Force Attack'. Under the submenu that appears, click on 'LM Hashes'. A window will appear. Abel will try all possible combinations of symbols selected in the Charset dropdown menu. Click 'Start' and, if the password is a dictionary word, the program should crack it with alarming speed.

11. Read the classics

When you're stuck for some reading material and don't want to pay to download ebooks to your reader, why not settle down with one of those classics you've always meant to read? You can do so for free at the Project Gutenberg website, www.gutenberg.org.

If you already know the surname of the author of the book you're interested in, simply enter it into the 'Author' input box at the top left of the main page and hit [Enter] to see the list of works included in the archive. You can also click the 'Browse Catalogue' link to select an author or title by its initial letter.

If you don't know what to read, click the 'Bookshelf' link to sort the archive by subject. Click on a bookshelf to access several sub-bookshelves and finally the books themselves. Now click on a book to download it.

12. Emulate old systems

Your PC owes a great debt to a litany of forefathers, so you should be able to enjoy that history on your PC. And you can – software emulators can transform your PC into anything from a ZX-80 to a Commodore Amiga.

That said, legally running old software isn't the most straightforward of tasks. Many publishers still retain the rights to distribute old titles, so while games may be readily available online, they're usually not technically legal to obtain. Similarly, many emulators are forced to make use of the system ROMs of their target machine, clouding their legitimacy.

Emulation

That's not to say you're without options. Infogrames – the current owner of the Atari brand – offers a selection of classic games at www.atari.com/arcade.

You can turn your PC into one running an older version of Windows using DOSBox, which includes a reverse-engineered and legitimate version of DOS suitable for running any old software you might have hanging around.

And a few publishers have smiled kindly on the emulation scene and released their software for legal use on emulators – check out www.mame dev.org/roms for a selection of arcade games and www.iancgbell.clara.net/elite for versions of classic space trader game Elite that are suitable for just about every emulator.

Go back in time, manage your money and more

13. Look back in time

The internet might be all about now, but there's a growing movement dedicated to preserving its blocky, 256-colour past. The web is constantly reinventing itself: pages are updated over the top of old ones, while unused sites fall into disuse and eventually die. Even sites set up to record major world events have fallen prey to this creeping online amnesia.

It's only by setting aside funds to preserve sites set up to cover events such as the Olympic Games that they're still available for browsing. But what about the rest of the web?

Tackling this problem is an ongoing project that has been at the forefront of preserving our online heritage since 1996. The Internet Archive is a non-profit organisation that allows people to revisit past events to see how they were covered, discussed and argued about at the time.

The internet archive

Access to the archive is free. Simply surf to the site, enter the URL you're interested in (including http://) into the Wayback Machine search box at the top of the screen and click 'Take Me Back'. With 150 billion pages already collected, there's a very good chance that the one you're looking for is in the archive.

Entering a URL produces a set of lists, grouped by year, of collected updates to the website. Click on one of these to see the site as it was at the time. The links on the old site should also work as the pages are served from the archive instead of the web itself.

As well as this massive archive of websites, The Internet Archive also plays host to large collections of moving images, live music, audio and texts. Each is catalogued into sub-collections to help you find what you're looking for.

In the Web section, there are even more sub-collections, but one in particular stands out. It's a list of pioneering sites that embraced the new technology of the web and helped establish it as the global phenomenon it is today. See here to check it out yourself.

14. Visit yesterday's web

The internet hasn't always been about YouTube, Facebook and Google. Long ago, there was a time when everything was grey, text was blue and the only fonts available were Arial and Times Roman. Relive those pioneering days (or thank your lucky stars that they're just a memory) with Deja Vu's old browser emulator.

Click on one of the web browsers in the list to see how the web would have looked back in 1994. Some of the browsers never made it out of the 1990s, but others – like Netscape – went on to become the bedrock of today's hyper-functional browsers.

15. Search The Times' archive

When you want to read historical reports, The Times' archive may be just what you're looking for. The newspaper has digitised every single issue published from when it first began printing on 1 January 1785 right through to 31 December 1985.

If you want to search for specific dates and keywords, you'll have to subscribe. A day pass costs £4.95, but if you click on the Topics index in the grey 'Featured Searches' box, you can read multiple reports about a large selection of events for free.

16. Manage your finances

See all your expenses listed and broken down by category with Kublax Kublax helps you manage your finances by letting you view the status of all your UK bank accounts, be they current, savings or credit cards. It also lets you analyse your spending.

Once you've signed up, enter your various bank log-in details to retrieve your account information from the banks. If you're worried about security, don't be: Kublax uses the same encryption system as the US Federal Reserve, so it can't be too shoddy.

Kublax

More to the point, Kublax doesn't actually let you move any money out of or between your accounts – it's a budgeting tool, not a banking utility. If you aren't happy about giving Kublax your bank details then you can choose to manually upload your downloaded bank statements instead (the site accepts both OFX and QIF files).

Kublax will then automatically recognise and categorise each of your transactions. Spend £20 in Topshop and Kublax adds that to your 'clothing' spend. It's a very fast way of breaking down your incomings and outgoings.

Breaking things down

Your income and outgoings are displayed as a pie chart, and clicking on each segment shows you what transactions are included within it. You can also set budgets for each category (for example, £100 for groceries) and set up email alerts to warn you when you reach 90 per cent of your budgeted allowance, or even if there is any unusual activity on a little-used account.

It also has the ability to send calendar alerts to warn you a few days before a regular bill is due to be paid so that you can make sure you have the funds for it. An added benefit of Kublax is that it lets you compare your data anonymously with other users to see if you are spending too much in a certain area. For example, you could compare your bank charges with others to see if you would spend less with a different establishment.

17. Disaster-proof your life

KnowYourStuff lets you create an inventory of all your belongings, meaning that if disaster does strike you'll be able to make a better, faster and smoother insurance claim.

KnowYourStuff

Backed by the American Insurance Information Institute, the site lets you record each item by make, model and serial number, and you can add photos and scans of purchase receipts or appraisal forms. Keeping this online means your record will still be available if your house and PC do go up in smoke.

18. Access your to-do list from anywhere

Although there are many online tools out there offering to-do lists and reminder services, Remember The Milk stands out because of the number of sites and services that you can add it to – making checking your to-do list easy no matter what you're doing.

You can receive Remember The Milk reminders via email, SMS and various instant messenger services, and you can add them to (and even edit them from) your Google calendar. You can even add a Remember The Milk to-do list to the right-hand side of your Gmail homepage, giving you a visual reminder of what you need to do next each time that you sign in to check your email.

19. Install all your favourite applications in one go

Getting a new PC is a double-edged sword. On one hand it will be fast and flash; but on the other, you have to complete the time-consuming task of searching the web for your favourite free apps and then installing them.

To give this a miss, try installation app Ninite, which allows you to download the latest versions of all the most popular free applications in one click – so everything from Skype to Messenger, OpenOffice.org and iTunes can be installed in one fell swoop.

What's more, each installation carried out by Ninite is the default for the program, with none of those irritating add-ons like toolbars and installers included.

20. Sync and share files between work and home

Are you always forgetting that pesky USB key? If so, give Dropbox a go. It's a free tool for synchronising files across different computers.

DropBox

Just install Dropbox on the PCs and laptops you work on and a Dropbox folder will appear in your Documents folder. Anything dragged in there (up to a 2GB limit) will be automatically updated on all your other computers when they connect to the web, meaning that you always have the latest version of your files wherever you are.

If you're using a computer that doesn't have Dropbox installed, you can still download and upload your files to your Dropbox folder just by logging onto the website. Dropbox also lets you share your files with other Dropbox users, so you can collaborate on projects together. There's a handy 30-day undo history too, so if you accidentally delete an essential file, you can get it back without any trouble.

21. Recycle your unwanted possessions

Got an old sofa or bed you no longer need? Don't take it down the rubbish tip – list it on one of the recycling websites like www.freecycle.com, www.ilovefreegle.com or www.reuseitnetwork.org.

Here you join your local community site (or set up your own if one doesn't already exist) and list your unwanted possessions so that others in your area can come and pick them up from your home if they have a use for them. It's also a very useful (and cheap) way of furnishing a new flat or getting hold of common stuff like baby clothes and equipment that can cost a fortune but are only needed for a couple of years.

22. See the world from your PC

Keep up to date with some of the most spectacular sights in the world by accessing the many thousands of webcams set up around our planet. Sites such as www.earthcam.com have extensive lists of webcam sites around the world where you can see astonishing geological features, rare animals in their natural habitat and even busy shopping districts (if that's your idea of a good time).

EarthCam

As well as making holiday planning a lot easier, it's also a great way of seeing notable events such as hurricanes or erupting volcanoes in real-time – you just need to find a webcam in the area.

23. Change the world

Distributed computing is a way of combining the spare computing power of numerous PCs to help analyse complex scientific data, allowing scientists to speed up their research. This method is famously used by SETI, who exploit it to analyse the skies for signs of extra-terrestrial life, but there are many other projects that could use your computer's help.

Your spare runtime can be funnelled off to help people who are really trying to make a difference – and all you need to do is download a small program onto your PC.

Distributed computing

Forget searching for little green men: distributed computing projects cover everything from modelling drugs in the fight against AIDS to monitoring climate change, researching different ways to end our reliance on fossil fuels and probing the limits of our knowledge about the universe.

Lending a hand

The site www.worldcommunitygrid.org has a list of projects that you can join. Among their number are those trying to model drugs to fight muscular dystrophy and various forms of cancer. There are also groups discovering new drugs by studying how proteins fold, and even people trying to find ways to make eco-friendly fuels and more productive rice strains to feed the world more efficiently.

BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) also has a list of groups who want your help to push back the boundaries of research. It includes projects trying to model climate change, attempting to stop the spread of malaria and trying to create artificial intelligence by reverse engineering the brain.

If you fancy looking out into the cosmos you can even get involved with tracking asteroids that could harm the Earth or trying to detect gravitational waves.

Redesign your home, become a star and more

24. Rearrange your living space

Ever wondered whether your front room would look better with the sofa under the window? Website www.roomfulexpress.icovia.com helps you to make a simple plan of your room and its furniture and then let you experiment with how different rearrangements would work, all without putting your back out.

Room design

Simply drag furniture icons onto your roomplan before resizing and rotating them to match your current living arrangements. Once you've got a plan of your room you can save it, meaning that if you fancy rearranging everything all over again in the future, help is just a login away.

25. Get a premium bonds payout!

There's nothing that helps more to truly change your life than a fat wedge of cash – and it could be out there waiting for you already. Each year millions of pounds of prizes go unclaimed by Premium Bond winners. As there is no time limit on claiming – the prize is held until the winner is tracked down – you won't have missed out if you moved house without updating your Premium bond details.

There are over 400,000 prizes still waiting to be claimed, and the oldest dates back to the first draw in June 1957 – so it's well worth checking whether you're one of the lucky ones at www.nsandi.com.

26. Become an online TV star

If there's a celebrity inside you just bursting to get out, get online and become a meme! Got a good idea for a TV show, or fancy broadcasting your thoughts to the masses? Then don't just sit there – do something about it!

Create an account at Livestream and you'll be able to create a complete TV channel with your own logo, graphics and Twitter promotions, and then broadcast your programmes to the masses. You won't be around to run your channel all the time, of course, so once it's set up click 'Launch Studio | Manage Library' to import videos that will be shown when you're not available.

You can import videos from YouTube, podcasts and most web servers, or upload videos from your own PC (FL, MOV, AVI, WMV, MP4, M4V and 3GP formats are supported). Form these clips into storyboards, then drag and drop them onto the Auto-pilot Playlist, which defines what's broadcasted when you're not around.

That's the theory, anyway, but in practice you could also use the playlist to create a channel that, say, just broadcast your favourite videos from other sources.

Lighting up the small screen

Once the library is complete, clicking 'Broadcast Live' will let you broadcast images from any webcam connected to your system. Multiple cameras are supported, and you can run cued pre-recorded video clips and add overlays, tickers, logos and more.

If the web interface is more than you need, download the free Livestream Procaster. This provides a simpler way to broadcast from a single camera, but it also has other useful capabilities. For example, if you choose 'Screen' in the Source box and then click 'Go Live', you'll broadcast the contents of your PC screen with optional text or audio chat, which is useful if you want to run some kind of tutorial.

LiveStream

And Procaster can even hook into DirectX or OpenGL games and display what you're seeing (click through 'Game | Go Live | Launch game' and press [Ctrl]+[F1]), which is perfect if you're a gaming wizard and want to show off your skills.

27. Remote control your PC via Twitter

Twitter can be useful. No, really. Install TweetMyPC and you'll be able to lock, shut down or reboot your PC, download a file, send a file on your PC to a Gmail address and more just by tweeting.

First, create a Twitter account. Turn off public access to this so that people can't see what you're doing (click 'Settings | Account' and then check the 'Protect my tweets' box). Don't follow anyone on this account.

Next, download TweetMyPC, enter your log-in details and click 'Save And Close'. To see if it works, type a tweet like Screenshot. All being well, TweetMyPC will take a screenshot of your PC, post it online and send a link to your Gmail address.

28. Find your celebrity double

Are you a dead ringer for Pierce Brosnan – or maybe you fancy yourself as more of a Shane MacGowan? Either way, your PC can settle any arguments on the subject. First, take a clear hi-res picture of yourself looking square on at the camera.

Next, upload it to www.myheritage.com/face-recognition along with pictures of the celebrities whose noses, eyes and chins you're claiming as your own. The site will use the miracle of face recognition and facial feature analysis to produce a reading about whom you most resemble.

The site can also be used to decide which parent a child looks most like. Behind the fun is some impressive maths.

29. Share a mouse and keyboard

Synergy is far better than using a KVM switch. It enables you to control multiple PCs with one keyboard and mouse – even if they're running different operating systems.

First, decide which machine to use as the controller and download Synergy to it. The others will be clients. In the app, click 'Share this computer's keyboard and mouse' and then select 'Configure'. Now add each PC and that's pretty much it, bar setting up rules for screen size scaling.

When you're done with the dominant PC, install Synergy on the others, select 'Use another computer's shared keyboard and mouse' and enter the hostname of your main PC.

30. Control your apps with mouse gestures

Mouse gestures are productivity boosting shortcuts. Instead of clicking a button or using the keyboard, just hold down a mouse button and move the cursor in a certain way to get the job done.

Your apps don't support them? Not a problem: install StrokeIt and it'll give you time-saving gestures for the desktop (minimise or restore all windows), Media Player (zoom, play, stop), Explorer (back, forward) and more.

Other gestures work just about everywhere – for instance, drawing a U-shape with the mouse sends an Undo command to the foreground application, whatever it is. And if you can't find a gesture for the action you're after anywhere, simply click 'File | New Action' and create it for yourself.

31. Make a Wi-Fi CCTV system

Worried about being burgled? Leave your PC guarding the house With the right software, your PC could become a powerful home security system, monitoring several areas simultaneously and alerting you at the first sign of any intruders. All you need is a collection of webcams and some know-how.

CCTV system

Firstly, install the trial version of Active WebCam. It displays a 'Trial version' logo but won't time out, so it's good enough for us. Launch the program, set up a camera and select 'Settings | Motion Detection'. Make sure motion detection is turned on, with the sensitivity you need it to be (turn it down if there's a pet wandering around to reduce the chance of accidental alerts) and tell the program to alert you via email should it detect something.

Now click 'File | New Camera' to add each new camera, using the Motion tab to define how it's treated. That's just about it. Test Active WebCam by sending someone into each area and confirming that you're notified, then just leave the program to watch over your home.

32. Use your Windows phone as a spy camera

Your Windows Mobile smartphone can send video images from its camera to whoever you like. But you don't have to be present to make this happen. If you leave the phone in a room where you'd like to know what's going on, it's easy to stream video from there and monitor what's happening from another PC.

First sign up for a free VZOchat account. Then visit http://m.vzochat.com in your smartphone browser, download the VZOmobile software and install it. Click 'Options | Integration' and make sure it's set up to run at startup and automatically accept incoming calls. Stay logged into VZOmobile and leave the camera pointing at what you want to watch.

Windows phone

Now go to a PC, install the desktop version of the software and create a new account. Place a call to your mobile account, and if all's gone well you should see the room you're monitoring. The free version cuts off after a minute.

33. Create your own wireless hotspot

Sharing your broadband is easy thanks to a little-known Windows 7 feature called Virtual Wi-Fi. It turns your internet connection into a software-based wireless router. Once set up, any nearby friend with a laptop, iPod Touch or other Wi-Fi-enabled device will be able to see your system, connect to it and access the internet.

It's an impressive feature, but there's a problem – you need compatible drivers for your wireless device, and right now they're hard to find. Check with your manufacturer to see what's available. Or, if you know your chipset, take a look at the small print for Intel's latest 32-bit and 64-bit drivers to see what might work for you. If you're in luck and you find a driver that supports virtual Wi-Fi, you should be able to start your hotspot manually.

Click Start, type cmd, right-click 'cmd.exe' and select 'Run As Administrator'. Then enter the command netsh wlan set hostednetworkmode=allow ssid=private key=passphrase, replacing 'private' and 'passphrase' with your own choices, and making sure that the passphrase is easy to remember yet impossible for anybody else to guess.

Activating the hotspot

Next, enter the command netsh wlan start hostednetwork to fire up your hotspot. Finally, click 'Control Panel | Network and Internet | Network and Sharing Centre | Change Adaptor Settings', right-click your internet connection and select 'Properties'. Click the Sharing tab, check the 'Allow other network users to connect...' box and choose your virtual Wi-Fi adaptor.

Wi-Fi hotspot

Anyone nearby should now be able to see the virtual router you've just detected and connect to it once they've entered your passphrase.

Too much like hard work? You could create a batch file to run the netsh commands, but there's an even simpler alternative: install Virtual Router and the entire set-up process will be automated for you.

34. Browse safely on other PCs

When you use other people's PCs to get online, you may be leaving behind traces of data. Luckily there's an easy solution: carry a bootable browsing environment around with you. Download a Ubuntu Live CD and burn it to disc or create a bootable USB flash drive (see here for more details).

Now boot from this on any PC and click 'Try Ubuntu...' followed by 'Applications | Internet | Firefox'. You'll now be able to browse without compromising privacy.

35. Make cash with live PC support

You may be used to helping people solve their PC problems, so why not use your knowledge to earn a little extra cash? You'll need a website with FTP access and MySQL support. Install LiveZilla to add live chat, where site visitors can click a button to open a chat window on your PC.

Then sign up at PayPal, go to the Merchant Services tab and create a 'Buy Now' button with your charges. Integrate this with the LiveZilla button (instructions are here) and people will only be able to chat if they pay first.

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First published in PC Plus Issue 291

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