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.