Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Is Email Being Replaced?

There is talk that email is fast becoming the old way of communicating. Those in the know are proclaiming texting and Twitter to be the best way to keep someone informed, up-to-date and instaneously in the loop. Slaves to their smart phones certainly have a point. It's easier to send out short bursts of information with bad spelling than to write a thoughtful memo. And sometimes that's all that's needed. But in the meantime, email is still required for opening online accounts and sending more than a sentence or two.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Address bar and Search box

It is important to know the difference between a web address you type into the address bar and search terms you type into a search box.

The address bar is usually at the top of the screen. When you know the address of a website you want to visit, you type the entire address as one line - no spaces. You don't have to type in www. anymore. It doesn't matter if you capitalize or not. It is important to spell everything correctly or you won't end up where you want to go.

Search boxes allow you to find lists of possible websites. If you look carefully at the screen, you will find a search box (or two). They usually have the word search somewhere nearby. Search boxes can even be within a website so you can search that particular site only, instead of the entire Internet.

Search terms are called keywords. They should not be too broad or too narrow. It takes a little experimentation to discover how to put in search terms for the best results. Searches use spaces between terms. Capitalization still doesn't matter.

With many search engines like Google and Bing, you can narrow your search from the entire Web to images or video. This saves time if all you're looking for is a picture.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Email Accounts

Email isn't just for keeping in touch with friends and family. If you intend to shop, look for a job, or register for anything online, you need an email account. There are 3 main providers of free email: Gmail, Yahoo!, and Hotmail. To create accounts, go to www.gmail.com, www.yahoo.com or www.hotmail.com to get started.

It takes no more than 10 minutes to sign up. Usually the hardest part of the process is finding a unique User ID. Don't forget to check to make sure the cute name you have chosen for yourself is available. If it isn't, you need to tweak it and try again. Sometimes you are offered suggestions to replace your original choice and if you are lucky you will like one of them.

The User ID is the beginning of your final email address and will be around for a long time, so choose wisely. Sexygrandpa@yahoo.com may sound cute for friends and family, but how are you going to feel about when you are doing business with strangers online?

Choosing a strong password is also important. Birth dates, social security numbers, pet's names, and kid's names are the most frequently used and the most easily guessed. Your best bet is to make up a phrase, use the first letter of each word, throw in a capital letter or two and add a number or symbol for good measure. For example, your phrase may be "I love computer classes" which translates into Ilcc. But most email accounts require passwords at least 6 characters in length, so let's add a number and a symbol. Ilcc3& is short enough to type easily, but complex enough to be harder to crack. It has all the elements of a good password: a capital, lower case letters, a number and a symbol. Watch out though. Some accounts require 8 or more characters. Read the requirements carefully to come up with something suitable.

People often balk when it comes to their birthdays. Why do email companies need to know how old you are anyway? Well, they give various reasons, but usually it's related to marketing, so if you don't want to give your real age, don't. Giving a birth date of 2010 is no good, as even a computer realizes that you would be too young to type much less carry on email correspondence.

The crazy letters/numbers at the end of the sign-up process are meant to keep someone from using an automated system to sign up for multiple accounts. It lets the computer know you are a real person requesting an account. If you don't get it on the first try, just try again. Or click on the link for an audio version if you have trouble seeing the screen.

Once you have your email account, start emailing your friends and family so you can build up a contact list. Tell your friends to look out for your email as it may be caught in the spam filter, but once it goes through, you will be on their contact list too and your emails should go through just fine.

Happy emailing!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Tab key

The Tab key is used for making perfect indentations while you are typing a letter or creating another document, but it has another benefit as well. Instead of using your mouse to point and click in text boxes when you are filling out forms online, just use the Tab key. The cursor will skip to the next box - either sideways or down depending on the form. It's a big time saver. So if you are registering for an Email account, or creating an account to shop, all those text boxes are not so daunting when you remember to use the Tab key.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Ctrl and Alt - What?!

Keyboard commands have been discussed in a previous post - they make things easier and faster when typing. But what does it mean when you are asked to press the Ctrl, Alt, Delete keys all at once?

Ctrl is the Control key, used in keyboard commands. It is a modifier key which allows you to perform a keyboard command when you press another key with it. So Ctrl + P = Print.

Alt is used to change (alternate) the function of other pressed keys. So if you need a ¢ symbol or an accent over a letter like é, you press the Alt key and then a number code to get it.

Delete is pretty obvious. You don't like something you just did, highlight it, hold down the delete key and it will disappear.

So why would you use all three at once? It is your computer asking you do perform what is called a soft boot to let you in. It takes you to the log in screen where you are asked for your User ID and Password. It is also used when the screen freezes. A frozen screen in frustrating, but not fatal. Using Ctrl, Alt + Delete gets you to a Task Manager window that lets you end the program you are running. It's like giving your computer a little shake to get it going again.

To manage the 3 finger salute of Ctrl, Alt + Delete, start by pressing and holding the Ctrl and Alt keys with your left hand and then quickly pressing the Delete key with your right. Don't forget to let go of all the keys once you have pressed the Delete key.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Java is Not Just a Cup of Coffee

On computers, Java and Flash are 2 programs that allow you to play games, view videos, and generally have a better experience. And the best thing ever - they are free to download. So many websites require these two programs, that if you are ever prompted by a pop-up window to download them, do!

Same Game and Rush Hour both require Java to play. Anything with animation requires Flash. On public computers, you will most likely not be allowed to download these programs, but they should be there already and updated regularly. On your personal computers, feel free.

Downloading is very simple. There is usually a big button somewhere on the page that says Free Java Download (or something similar) or says Upgrade.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Time to get serious - saving work

Well, the holidays are over and it is time to get serious again. Seriously saving your work.

If you are using a computer, whether it is your own or a public station in a library somewhere, it is important to back up your work. No one really wants to create their resume from scratch every time they need to apply for a job. If you keep financial records, important letters, family pictures or anything else on your computer, what would you do if the unthinkable happens and your computer crashes or is stolen?

Since computers were supposed to create a paperless society (hasn't happened yet), printing out everything does seem to defeat the purpose. Besides, do you really want to re-enter everything? The answer is no.

How best to back up work? Right now the flash drive is the back-up of choice. They are also called memory sticks, thumb drives, and a host of other names, but it all boils down to a small memory device which plugs into a USB port on the computer so your work can be saved. These devices are no bigger than a lipstick tube (or your thumb) and can hold amazing amounts of information. Capacities range from 1GB to 64GB, and I'm sure in very little time they will hold even more.

What is right for you?

For most people, a simple 1GB flash drive will hold plenty, especially if what you are backing up is mainly text. If you have enough pictures to cover the Great Wall of China, you may want to opt for a larger capacity.

Another use for flash drives is carrying your work from one computer to another. Can you imagine being able to carry entire books on one small device versus loading up a backpack with the same number of paper copies?

If you have been saving your work on floppy disks - those square plastic things you stick into a slot - you are going to be out of luck with newer computers. Apple computers gave up on floppy disk drives years ago and now the major PC brands have ditched them as well.

Flash drives are available anywhere computer equipment is sold, but Monrovia Library also sells 1GB drives at the Customer Service Desk.