Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Computer Tips & Tricks - The Next Generation

I'm an artist and sometime writer who wrote this blog to hopefully pass on some of the tips, tricks and sites of interest I've found in about 7 years of browsing the web - and - hopefully - to dispell some of its more intimidating aspects. Y'know - it's one thing to feel inferior to an individual - quite another to feel inferior to a machine!!
Because I have the chutzpah to establish this site - you may think I'm an expert. Wrong! But this guy is - try this website where our local - Syracuse, NY - media tech guru, Al Fasoldt, holds forth. His newspaper columns are archived by topics as well as dates & can be very helpful. Which reminds me - one helpful little tid-bit I picked up from him early-on is - press the F-11 key atop your keyboard & the screen being viewed will fill your whole screen. Press F-11 again to restore the screen to normal.
An 'e-word' to the 'e-wise' - courtesy of tech columnist Al Fasoldt. Know how 'dead letters' accumulate in & clog our e-boxes - and what a putrid task deleting is? Here's a tip that will make your e-life e-asier (do you wonder that my 'spell check' has hizzy fits):
Al says: To delete messages from your e-mail box - click on the 1st message to highlight it (not open it). While holding the SHIFT key down - move your cursor to the last message - and click on it. The whole list will be highlighted. Click DELETE! Voila!Bingo! (Just be sure to move 'keepers' to a safe placebefore you do it)!
From a good friend - referring to a telephone scam wherein the perps pretend to be from your credit card company (they already know your acct. number) & con you into revealing your 3 digit security number on the back of your card:
"The monthly charge for caller ID is worth every cent! I NEVER answer the phone unless it displays a local name and number, and not always then. If the caller begins to leave a message that is obviously OK, I'll pick up and answer. Once I thought that screening calls was bad manners, but the world doesn't seem to have many good manners any more."
I've always labeled it callus interruptus but maybe there is something to be said for caller ID - if not for universal courtesy .
Spam - I never even open it, let alone respond to it. I can't imagine why anyone would!! First of all - opting out by clicking a link WILL NOT STOP THE SPAM. YES - I'M SHOUTING! Second of all - spam comes from sleazy operators. Do you REALLY WANT TO DONATE TO OR BUY FROM OR COOPERATE WITH - SLEAZE?? If so - open that spam and respond to it and odds are your trusting butt will wind up in a sling. Phew - now that I've got that out of my system - let's proceed to more positive subjects.

Time For Fun & Games:Ever been to a web site where they have some cute animation (well maybe annoying, too) but you wonder - "how'd they do that"? Here's how. First off - just 'right-click' on a blank space on your desk top, choose 'New', then 'Folder'. The folder will appear on your desk top. Click in the box under it to name it "GIFs". Now you have a place to stash those animations you're going to get, right click on an animation - click on 'Save Picture As' & 'save to' Desktop/GIFs. Another tip - to put a GIF in an e-mail message, in your open message, click "insert", then picture/browse/desktop/GIFs. Click on the GIF you want - and bingo - it will appear in your message.
Now - let's get serious. (Please - please read this)! We all hear about those nasty viruses - even those who have been lucky enough to avoid them. So how many times have you received an e-mail warning from good friends about a new virus? Uh huh, right. Even sent a few, right? After awhile, I tumbled to the fact that if it's real, you'd better believe it will make it to the Tech News headline on your portal page & into the newspapers! This Virus Hoax site is a list of popular virus hoaxes that are circulated on the web. If nothing else, it's interesting! And - speaking of viruses - if you're new to the internet - you must get an anti-virus program - for your own protection and that of your friends. To do without is like playing Russian Roulette. I can't praise the anti-virus program AVG by Grisoft enough. It's free for home users and highly recommended. I have used it exclusively for several years. Trust me, people - it's reliable - and it doesn't interfere with other programs.
Any Questions about the things you read here? E-Mail me!!
I'll try not to confuse you more!
All right - let's look at some of the fun things that are out there....The latest gem I've come across is Red Sheep - it's a lively & imaginative site devoted to animations which you can download - and tutorials are promised for the - hopefully - near future!This is called Exploding Dog & let me hasten to explain - before the animal rights people get their knickers irreparably twisted - no animals were injured in making this site. Well, actually - it's not even about dogs - it's the web page of a really creative person who makes simplistic cartoon drawings from.... well - go see for yourself. It's addictive. I've fallen in love - and at my advanced age. Visit Rob Woolley's site and laugh till the tears run down your cheeks!!! The site appears to be a 'One Trick Pony' - unless he's added a link since I last visited. Wait! There's more!Visit Mike's List for an irreverant look at facts & foibles of tech-dom!

OH! I did a bad thing! Could happen. I received a LOL (Laugh Out Loud) e-greeting from friends & sent it to other friends. Well, they may not be friends any more because - while the site is a hoot - it carries with it a huge amount of stubborn pop-up ads - which I didn't realize till I sent the greetings & tried to close the window. AH - but there is a solution to the Curse of The Pop-Ups! If the plague descends & it seems you can't escape - this is the way you close a window quickly - Click Alt+F4 & those pop-ups are in the - NOT NOW - or you're out of here - and yes - it works that well!! Note! This was written before the availability of the many pop-up blockers - but it should work anytime you're trapped.
That brings me to another subject - the reason that this Blog is labeled "The Second Generation". To make a short story long - I have a web page - it's lovely (of course) - with photos and artwork and all that good stuff. Thanks to my old buddies at Google - who now allow anyone who has a G-mail account to post a web site with 100 MB capacity - and no ads!! (I now refer to them as 'St. Google'.

So do come visit me at my web page..... Woodland Studio - there's a section devoted to digital camera photography - with benefit of pictures which you may find helpful.

Here's a gem of a program that will knock your socks off! It's maybe like the most useful thing yet & it's free. So OK - how many times have you been blithely typing away when suddenly you look up at the monitor and - omigawd - CAPS LOCK was on! Or tried to enter your password in a case sensitive slot & it keeps telling you it's wrong & YOU KNOW you're right!? Ooof - CAPS LOCK is on. It really works. And if you want to do something in all caps - JUST HOLD DOWN THE SHIFT KEY AND STRIKE "CAPS LOCK". It will unlock the key. Go to CapsUnlock & download now - seeing is believing! It's easy to get used to - remember to hit "Shift" when you want all caps - and it works for me!

Adding Text to Scanned Documents
If you don't have the means to do this - some scanners enable it and some versions of Microsoft Office have it - probably other programs I'm not aware of - here's something I just recently discovered! First - if you don't have Irfanview Image Editor - it's free - download it here

Irfan has limitations as an editor but there are some things it can do that nothing else seems able to do - easily anyway. After it's installed, right click on the image of your scanned document and click 'open with Irfanview'.

In the toolbar at top, click "Edit" and in the 'drop-down' menu, click "Insert text into selection. Using your mouse, outline the area where you want text added to form a box. A window will open saying 'add overlay text' with a space to type what you want and a choice of fonts, text color, etc. It takes a little practice but is actually easy. Then save the change to the correct file.

It doesn't delete existing text but if you want to change a word, I'd suggest opening it in one of your paint programs and simply 'paint' white over the word to be deleted.

Irfan also performs magnificently in changing things like .gif file to a .jpg, etc - in fact it has the largest selection of file extensions I've seen. Just click on 'save as' and pick from dropdown menu by File window at bottom.

Another neat trick is resizing. Click Image/Resize - and make your selection. Very quick and easy. Just make sure when you do all these things listed here that you save the changes to the correct file - either overwriting an existing graphic or creating a new - renamed - one.

Our local paper had a recent syndicated column by Linda Knapp, a columnist for the Seattle Times. It dealt with cleaning the dreck out of your computer. I don't rank as a novice but I certainly am no expert. Many of the things she touched on, I knew - but others were new to me. It's written in very straight-forward terms. It develops that she writes a regular tech column. You can go here to her classy web site - Getting Started - and read her archived columns. Look for the one on cleaning the 'gunk" out of your computer.
Note: Linda's link is inoperative - temporarily we hope - because of illness. We hope it will be up soon.

What's that saying - the greatest invention since sliced bread? I've been looking for just the right program to tack sticky note type reminders on my puter desk top for quite a while. I wanted a simple, little, free program. That's not asking too much, is it? Well-l - yes - it seemed it was. I downloaded & tried some that were too big, too fussy, too 'in-your-face', too everything. Awhile back I downloaded a little gem called ATnotes. This is everything I wanted - unobtrusive but always there, easy, efficient & neat appearing. It's free, people. You can find it at the ATnotes site - it's yours for the downloading - and take a peek at its creator's home town of Innsbruck while you're there.

I love really old folk music - the kind of thing that's so hard to find on the web. Oh - lots of sites - lots of not-so-good-stuff (I'm being kind), lots of sites that plague you with pop-ups. Then I found The Contemplator's Folk Music of England, Ireland, Scotland & America and it is full of wonders for those of us who have an interest in such music. Contemplator provides lyrics to the songs and their history. If you have a favorite among the old songs (and you'll be surprised to find that some of them are so old) you can find out all about it here - lyrics, history - and listen to a particularly pleasing version.For instance I have long complained that no one has ever written a pretty song about "Sally", as they have other womens' names. C'mon -- Sallie in Our Alley, Long Tall Sallie (which isn't helped by the fact that I'm tall), "...a peculiar kind of a gal", "I had a mule & her name was Sal"...? Imagine my surprise to find Sally in Our Alley listed here along with its complimentary lyrics. Please do visit the site & check out the links. It's a gift.

A site, related to the one above(and in fact, linked to that web site) is Public Domain Music, established by Benjamin Tubb. Another wonderful place to listen to and research old music!! I'm really impressed by what this man does and his willingness to share his talents.

I'm not much of a games player - well-l-l - you know - solitaire and hearts - the usual - but I this pinball game is great fun. Space Cadet came bundled with my original Win95. Somehow, it got lost & I couldn't get it back. After much searching I found this site where someone had posted the download. The sound seems just a little 'off' but, as I recall, it was in the original.

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Sonofagun! I downloaded the plugin for Blogger that enables you to use Microsoft Word as a vehicle for posting to your Blog - don't even have to be online. How about that. The following is what I posted:

"What fun! An experiment – posting to my Blog using Word. I downloaded the Plug-In that’s now available. Will it work? Let’s see!"

It did work and very well, I might add. Those words have a certain 'ring' don't they - sort of like the first words spoken over the first telephone by Alexander Graham Bell - "Mr. Watson, come here! I want you!"

Only problem for me is that I don't want to post in journal-type separate entries - most recent entries at top and so on. I want to use my Blog like a web page. Who knows - maybe the Blog-Police will come after me for violating one of the Prime Rules of Blogdom!! By using Word - I eliminate the option of 'editing' an entry and thus keeping it going in a traditional text timeline. (I can & often do post new entries in this blog at the top - but some I've written are more like essays & read like a short story. HOWEVER - for those of you for whom that doesn't matter - this easily added download will be a terrifically handy tool. One caveat - you have to have WinXP or 2000 - and you can't add photos from Word. Now that would be too good to be true!!