Printer Ink: How Do You Define 'Empty'?

"I'm out of ink. Feed me." That was what my Brother 640CW multifunction printer demanded recently. I checked and there was still enough fluid in its cartridge for goodness knows how many more pages.

I examined all three allegedly empty cartridges--cyan, yellow, and magenta. From the top to bottom, they measured 1 1/8 inches. There was still roughly 1/4 inch of fluid at the bottom of each one. That's about a fifth of the cartridge's capacity, so my loss in ink was roughly $2.25 per cartridge. That's not exactly big bucks, but enough to make me feel like I was being scammed. (Oh, right, what printing manufacturer would do that, eh?)

I was fuming.

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On the Road--Fuel Cost Calculators, Phone Headsets

I don't know what's worse: Dealing with airline hassles or struggling to carry around enough cash to fill up my car. Despite it all, I'm spending more time on the road. So that's this week's focus--finding out how much you spend on gasoline, a look at California's new cell phone law, and an irritating scam from Travelodge's Web site. Plus: A shocker from the TSA.

Estimate the Fuel Hit Before You Travel (Ouch)

Heading across the country in your RV? Or maybe you're just planning a trip this summer. Here's a quick way to figure out how much it'll cost you in fuel. (Hint: Lots. No, make that lots and lots.)

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Build a PC, Juice Up Your Laptop

I tried it once. I built a PC from scratch and it reminded me of a Heathkit electronics kit I assembled for a Boy Scout merit badge.

Sure, I saved some money--but overall, I didn't enjoy it. Intel's motherboard manual was poorly written and confusing; I never got the front USB ports to work; and I cut my hand on a sharp edge inside of the case.

Build Your Own PC

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Handy Gadgets--a Tiny Tripod and a Portable Speaker Case

My editor said it's summer and she's spending lots of time outdoors. "How about some music and camera stuff, Bass?" LOL--do your own research, I thought, but instead gave her my old Army "Yes, ma'am." So this week I dug up a cool, little tripod and a small speaker case that packs a lot of sound. Oh, yeah, and some time wasters you ought to save for the July holiday.

Gorillapod: A Handy, Small Tripod

Joby's Gorillapod has a strange name, but this little tripod is super handy. The legs are sturdy and flexible, and strong enough to hold a compact digital camera (or an MP3 player or even a small GPS, though I can't imagine wanting to).

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Ten Tools to Make Windows Shine

Are you worried about malware and spyware plaguing your system? I have a cool, free tool that gives you an extra layer of defense when you're Web surfing. I also have two free utilities that can lock up and hide your sensitive folders and keep them from prying eyes. Plus, for readers who didn't like my earlier tip for disabling the Insert key, I offer a nifty program to watch your Insert, Caps Lock, and Num Lock keys.

Hide and Encrypt Files and Folders

The Hassle: I have files--documents and videos--on both my desktop PC and my notebook that I'd like to keep private. Do you know of a sure way to do it?

Disable Kaspersky's Squealing Alert

The Hassle: I use Kaspersky Lab's antivirus program. I hate the squealing-pig noise it makes whenever it finds a virus, but it gives no way to change the sound.

The Fix: That oinking sound is both weird and annoying. You can change it by going to Settings, Appearance, Advanced and clearing each item in the Sound column. A better idea is to change the sound file to something more appealing. (My alert simply says, "Uh oh!" You're welcome to use it. Download it here.) From Settings, Service, clear Enable self defense, click Apply, and close Kaspersky. Next head for C:\Program Files\Kaspersky Lab\Kaspersky Anti-Virus 7.0\Skin\sounds\, delete the Infected.wav file that exists there, and copy your newly downloaded file into its place. Reload Kaspersky and put a check mark on Enable self defense.

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Smart Sites and Terrific Downloads

I got your attention with that video, I know, and trust me, it's funny. (It even got Game On's Matt Peckham over to my blog.) I don't want you scrolling just yet 'cause I have some productivity things for you first. Read on...

Share Big Files

I have a pair of big video files from our vacation; they're both a tad under a gigabyte. I've used YouSendIt and other services, but you know how it is with the Web--wait 20 minutes and a new service pops up. (Read about other sites in "Transfer Big Files" and "Sending Large Files Via the Internet.")

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Free Tools, Useful Sites

You remember I told you that I gave up using Microsoft Outlook? That's true, but I still need quick access to a calendar a couple times a day. Coincidentally, two of my e-mail buddies found a pair of handy little calendars, both free for the download.

The one I'm using is QuickMonth Calendar because it's unobtrusive and doesn't have any bells, whistles, or frills. Just roll your cursor over on the clock in your System Tray and up pops a calendar.

Here's what Zachary A. said: "I have long been frustrated with the Windows task bar showing only the time (and today's date if you double-size your task bar). With this great little utility just hover your mouse over the time and you get a full month calendar, highlighting the current date, through which you can scroll forward and backwards."

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