Monday, March 11, 2013

Final Installment of Geek Speak

Password:  Really people. You need to remember your passwords. They must be exactly like the time you created it every single time you sign into an account. If you have a capital letter, a number and a symbol, they must be in the right order. Believe it or not, you should also keep it secret. From everybody. Even your spouse or best friend. Kid you not. And DO password protect your computer. Just in case.

Peripheral:  Any external device that plugs into your computer. So, your printer, your MP3 player, your camera, your flash drive - all peripherals. My current favorite cannot-do-without peripheral? An external hard drive to back up everything important on your computer. Seriously. You need back-up.

Plug-in:  Not to be confused with a peripheral. A plug-in is a software program and not something tangible and external to your computer/laptop/tablet. Plug-ins add extra abilities to your Internet browser to enhance movie viewing or audio.

Shouting:  THIS IS SHOUTING. If you need to see text better on the screen, enlarge it. Typing in all caps is bad manners (yes, even on the Web there is such a thing as bad manners).

And that ends our geek speak. Join us next time for something completely different.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Geek Speak F through H

OK, you may be tired of it, but we have more vocabulary to learn. So let's get cracking.

Field: An area on your screen for entering and/or storing specific information. So when you're filling in the form for opening an email or retail account, the little boxes that ask for your name, address, etc. are fields.

Firewall: Technology that protects computers from unauthorized access. The City of Monrovia maintains a firewall to protect information on its servers.

Font: Properly called typeface, it describes a particular style of lettering. There are two basic types - serif and sans-serif. The serif refers to the little feet added to letters. On the printed page, they help guide the eye from letter to letter. On a computer screen, sans-serif letters  (sans is without in French), are easier to read. Sans-serif is also used for highway signs and in airports.

Freeze: Suddenly nothing will move on your computer or respond to input from your mouse or keyboard. To become unfrozen, you generally have to reboot (restart) your computer.

Function keys: The set of keys on the topmost row of the keyboard. They are labeled F1 through F12 and basically provide shortcuts by giving special instructions to your currently running program.

GIF: Acronym for Graphics Interchange Format which is a common type of image file often used on Web pages.

Graphic: Picture or other image displayed on a computer.

Hacker: Anyone who's ever watched or read the news or watches movies or television knows hackers are people with super ninja computer skills that enable them to break into computer networks without permission, usually to steal personal information like credit card numbers, but in movies, to save the world from the evil cartoon villain.

Hard drive: The storage area of your computer that contains the operating system (the thing that makes your computer work) and programs. Also called the hard disk drive and on PCs, the C drive.

Highlight: Highlighting text or graphics on a page alerts the computer you're about to do something like copying and pasting, cutting and pasting, moving stuff around on the page, editing or deleting. To highlight text or cells, you generally click and drag over the sections you wish to change. If you want to select/highlight an entire page, you simply have to press the Ctrl and A keys on the keyboard.

Home page: The main or introductory page of a web site. The home page will vary from computer to computer depending on who wants what to come up first. At Monrovia Library, our home page on our public access computers is the Library's website. Each staff member, though, has a different home page depending on which web site they visit most frequently.

Hover: When you leave your pointer sitting on an object on the screen for a moment, often a brief description will display in a small box next to the pointer. OK, putting that into English...say you're not sure what a certain icon is. Place the pointer on the icon and just let it rest there - no clicking or anything - and most of the time, a little box appears describing what you're hovering on.

Enough for this lesson. Just think, you're almost halfway through the geek alphabet and you're still awake. Yea you! More next time.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Can You Stand It? More Geek Speak.

With our two lessons so far, you should be sounding more like an expert. And we still have a few more letters of the alphabet to go, so let's get cracking.

Desktop: A metaphor for the background on your screen that appears to hold your icons and windows. Think of it as your physical desk at home which holds papers and other stuff you can't live without.

Desktop publishing: Producing high-quality printable or electronic documents. More and more, individuals and small business are producing their own brochures, advertising materials and numerous other items that used to be sent out for production. And, of course, there is the rise in self-published books because of publishing software.

Dialog box: A window or box which appears on your screen asking for information. The box will usually disappear after you type in your answer or click on the the appropriate button.

Download: To move data from the Internet or another computer to your own computer. Most of us have downloaded songs to add to our Mp3 players (note I am carefully not mentioning brand names).

Drag and drop: You can move an object or text around on a page by selecting it (left-click and hold the button on the mouse), dragging your mouse (and whatever you selected along with it) and releasing the mouse button when you're happy with the new location. This is a huge time saver when editing or doing desktop publishing.

Drop-down menu: With the advent of touch screens and icons (those pictures that represent something), drop-down menus are used less. There are enough around however that you need to know what they are. It's a type of menu that reveals more options when you click on the menu title and would look like this - the red circle is added to highlight the menu.

E-mail or Email: Of course, most people have heard of email even if they aren't quite sure what it is. Electronic mail is a typed message sent from one computer to another. Setting up an email account is free and very easy. Our tutorial on YouTube takes you step-by-step through the process with Yahoo mail.

Encryption:  Coding information so it can't be read without special software or permission.

Error message: A notice from your computer that something as gone wrong with a program or your system. Alas, often these messages mean something so obscure only a tech can understand it, but if you do have to call a help line, try to have the error message as accurate as possible to help the tech on the phone with you.

Extension: Letters or numbers following the dot (period) in a file name. For example, a file created in Microsoft Word might be GeekSpeak.doc, or a picture from your camera you load onto your computer might be menus.jpg. Just by looking at the extension, you can tell which one is a text document and which one is a picture.

OK, if your brain is ready to explode, we're going to stop here for today. Don't be shy about using the comments section to ask for clarifications or add to definitions. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

More Geek to Speak

Continuing in the vein of learning vocabulary to better understand today's technology, here are some more tech terms to learn:

Bookmark: This marks a Web page so you can return to it quickly without having to remember the URL (Web address). Bookmarks are also called Favorites. There are other ways to save your favorite websites and make them accessible from any computer. Symbaloo is a free service that allows you to create tiles which act as links to websites you choose. Try it at Symbaloo to see it it works for you.

Case Sensitive: The ability of a program/application to recognize the difference between lowercase (small) and uppercase (CAPITAL) letters. Typing in a URL (Web address) or email address doesn't have to be case sensitive, but typing in a password absolutely must be.

Clipboard: A special memory area on the the computer that stores data temporarily. If you're copying a picture from one document and want to paste it to another document, the picture is stored temporarily on the Clipboard until you're ready to paste it. This way, your hard drive isn't clogged with data you don't need to store multiple times or forever.

Cookie: Don't confuse this with something deliciously edible. A computer cookie is a tiny piece of text that Web servers place on your hard drive to track information about your computer and surfing practices. You can disable cookies, clear cookies, and otherwise control them, but they're sometimes necessary to get where you want to go on the Web.

Cursor: A symbol that indicates the place on your screen where your next mouse click or keyboard stroke will occur. When you're typing text, the blinking line is where the letters start, so make sure it's in the right place.

Default: An automatic setting on computer hardware or software. You can usually manually change default settings. For example, your printer's default setting may be color, but if you want to save ink, you can change the default setting to black and white or grayscale.

OK, that's enough for this segment. More to come.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Learning Geek - the language of computers

People trying to catch up with the digital age quickly realize they need to learn more than just how to turn the device of their choice on. They need to learn a new language as well. Words that have perfectly good meanings in basic English suddenly mean something else with technology. And then there are the words that were made up specifically by and for tech people. So, just to keep things interesting and allow you sound like you know what you're doing even if you don't, some vocab to get you started....

Active window: the window that is currently selected and allows you to either type or click on things. A new window automatically becomes the active window. Same thing applies to new tabs (not to be confused with the Tab key on the keyboard).

Attachment: a file or picture linked to an email message. A caveat about attachments...make sure the person at the other end can open whatever you are adding as an attachment. If you are sending a document in an application the receiver doesn't have, they won't be able to open your file. If you're not sure, it's better to send the content within the email message itself. The formatting may not be as pretty, but at least it will save frustration, or worse, lack of interest, on the other end.

Back up: a verb meaning to copy important files from your hard drive to something like a CD, a DVD, an external hard drive, a flash drive or whatever new backup device comes in the future. Backing up documents and pictures saves heartache when/if your computer crashes. Now you can even back up to the Cloud, a fancy way of saying storage space on the Internet.

Backup: a noun meaning the copy of files you have saved to a portable storage device or the Cloud.

Bandwidth: a measurement of how much information can be transmitted at a time - the higher the bandwidth, the faster you can send and receive information. There is no such thing as too much bandwidth.

Broadband: High-speed Internet connection using coaxial cable or fiber optic cable. Short for broad bandwidth.

Stay tuned for more.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Computer Security is more than anti-virus software

Many people think anti-virus software is all it takes to keep their computers and private information safe. Believe it or not, the person sitting at the computer is often their own worst enemy when it comes to giving away secrets and assisting identity thieves. The U.S. government wants to help you with security and has created a website to assist. For their complete articles on security issues and how you can protect your equipment and your identity, go to They even help with tips for kids' safety online.

Don't forget the other half of computer security: back-up, back-up, back-up. If your computer crashed tomorrow, would it take away precious photos, financial information, old family recipes? It could, depending on whether the hard drive is damaged beyond repair. So buy some CDs, DVDs, and flash drives and back up your important stuff. For especially important stuff, make at least two copies and store one in a separate location. Earthquakes, fire, flood. Don't let a natural disaster catch you and your data unaware.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Magic Tablet

Well, we had a spirited meeting last night of the Computer Club, and try as we could to focus on our evening's topic, the discussion inevitably turned to iPads. What is it about the magical electronic tablet that makes everyone drool? Well, after initial discussion on some iPad issues, we did look at screencasting and what it can do. Though the group gamely looked on, the conversation quickly turned again to...wait for it...the iPad. Which is a good thing since the purpose of the Club is to have fun while discussing technologies.

So next month, the demo topic is security. Viruses, worms, malware, spyware, identity theft, file back-up - you name it and we'll try to give the best tips out there. And then, another member will have a brand new iPad and want to talk about it - just wait and see.