Thursday, September 4, 2014

What is a Hashtag and Why do People use Them?

A hashtag is just a search term. Most people are familiar with using search terms in Google to find things that they are interested in. Hashtags are just search terms that people make up for certain situations. 

Here are some reasons that people use hashtags:

1. To find other people that have the same interests. You can go to Twitter or Facebook and type #yoga to find people who are interested in Yoga. In Facebook if I type yoga in the search terms it takes me directly to's Facebook page. If I type #yoga it takes me to a list of status posts of people who are talking about yoga. 

2. To keep up with what others are saying about a news story.  Type #Fergason or #Fergasonshooting to catch up with what is going on in St. Louis after the Mike Brown shooting. Stories like this often disappear from the news, but are not gone. Hashtags in Twitter are a way of keeping up after it has disappeared from the front page. Another interesting one is #ISIS

3. Keep up with a political campaign. I have not heard much about Wendy Davis lately (most likely I have not been reading the paper carefully enough) so I was interested to see what was going on right now. I typed in #WendyDavis and was taken to a page in Twitter that updated me on some things, but also pointed out articles in various sources that I might want to read.

4.  To connect with people and learn about a health condition that you are experiencing. Try typing in #multipleschlerosis into Twitter and Facebook to see what you get back. I think this may be a good way to find others who are experiencing what you are and also to access current information on the disease.

5. To follow along with a conference that you are unable to attend. Many people "tweet" as they listen to a conference presentation including pictures and links to what is happening. You can go to that # and participate in a small way without being there. Try #iste2014. Some of the posts lead to actual recordings of sessions so that you can listen to the whole thing. 

6. To do a group or family chat. If you have a group that is interested in talking together about the same thing, but are geographically separated you can send out information to everyone about a Twitter Chat.  You tell them what the hashtag will be and also what time you all plan to be online. This makes it more like a conversation than a list of people commenting on something. Also people who cannot be there at that time can go back and participate later. Try #4thChat which is a weekly chat for 4th Grade Teachers. People post in between chats, but you can see that many of the posts are clustered around one date. Look at August 4, 11, 18, and 25!

7. To amuse yourself. If you like cats you can try #cats, or maybe #jokes to see what you can find!  I tried #chocolate. You could lose a lot of time this way.

Hashtags can also be codes for something. Here are a few that are interesting.
#chirped = got caught
#420 = marijuana
#livingdangerously = taking selfies while driving or some other unsafe behavior (actually pretty funny)
#selfie = taking a picture of self
#ootd = outfit of the day

I noticed that sometimes when I searched for something the first thing on the page did not fit in with my search. There are paid 'tweets' that go to the top of a search and so often when you go to a search you can skip the first few. They are marked as ads. Hashtags worked best on Twitter. They are used on Facebook, but not as often.

Friday, August 29, 2014

My Phone is full of Pictures, Now What?

Recently several of my clients have had the same problem. All of them had iPhones, loved taking pictures and video and had gotten to the point where they could not update the operating system or add apps because they kept getting the message from their phone that there was not enough memory. They did not want to delete any of their pictures. 

You can check the memory of your phone this way: 

  1. From the start page choose settings
  2. Open General
  3. Slide down until you see Usage and click on it.
  4. Your phone will tell you how many GB are available and how many you have used. Then it lists the apps on your phone in order of how much space they are taking. From here you can see what is taking the most space on your phone and decide what you might want to remove.
If you are sure that it is pictures and videos that are taking up too much space you may want to find another space to save them. On your computer you probably have a built in software for storing and editing your photos. iPhoto is the main one for Mac, but there is also Picasa. PCs come with Windows Photo Gallery. Each of these programs allows you to organize your pictures in different ways so that they are easy to find. 

First you will need a USB connector that goes from your phone (or camera) to the computer. Once you have plugged in your iPhone (or other SMART phone) to your computer and turned it on your compute should notice it and a screen should pop up asking what you want to do with the files that are on the device you just plugged in. You want to MOVE them to your computer from the iPhone. When you have chosen to do this a window will pop up and there will be a place to check that you want them to be deleted from your phone when they are transferred to the computer. Your computer should show you the process of transferring the pictures and then the process of deleting them from your iPhone. 

Now your iPhone has new space and your photos are all in a place where you can edit them and sort them in different ways easily. 

Having a program that will store your photos online as well as on your computer is really helpful. If something happens to your computer you will not lose all of your photos. iPhoto, Picasa and Windows Photo Gallery all have ways that you can sign up to have your photos stored online. They usually give you a bit of space free (3-5 GB) and then charge you for space beyond that. 


On your phone you can delete photos and video without downloading them. You can also delete them if you have already downloaded them to your computer and didn't want to erase all of them from your phone. 
Start by going to the Photos button on your phone. When you click on it your collection of photos shows up. You can see them in many different ways. For this you want to choose "photos". 

In this view they are organized by date. The first view is to see them by year. 

If you choose one of the years it will open to something called Collections. These are organized by date or place. 

If you click on one of those they are now organized as Moments. When the are in this arrangement you can see the word SELECT on the top right corner. 

If you click it the word SELECT appears at the top right of each of the groups of pictures. You will also see that there is a trashcan at the bottom right of the screen. You can select whole groups of photos or only the ones you want to delete. When you have selected more than one you will see the trashcan become blue. Now when you click it the pictures are gone.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Avoiding a Virus

Malware and Viruses are constant problems when using a computer. Because everything seems so invisible when using a computer a virus really seems impossible to predict or to find. So, the result is that many of us are always fearful that we might get a virus and are not even clear how it happens. 

The best defense against viruses is to be prepared and to not get them in the first place. There are a few things that you can regularly do in order to prevent getting viruses.

1. Most Importantly make sure that you have installed on your computer effective virus protection software. The most common ones are McAfee and Norton, which both have an annual fee. They are both very good. A free one is called AVG. If you go to the first link after you search for AVG you will come to the paid version which costs approx. $40/year. Keep looking until you find the actual free version. It is not as powerful as the paid version, but it does what you need it to do.

2. Back up, back up, back up!!!  I cannot emphasize this enough. Unless you do not care about anything on your computer and don't mind losing all of it you need to back it up on a regular basis. The frequency of your back ups depends on you. If you use your computer a lot once a week is good. If you just use it now and then maybe once a month is OK. If you have a business and depend on that data daily every day backups are good. There are online programs that you can purchase for around $40 a year that will do a regular back up to a server somewhere (in the cloud). Those servers are also backed up on a regular basis. This type of software is a simple solution. 

Another solution is to get a back up drive. There are drives on sale at Office Depot, Staples and many other places. They usually plug in using a USB plug. If you have a Mac you can use Timeline with an external drive to back up your files. If you do not have a Mac you can use any of the back up softwares with a removable drive rather than the cloud. This is so important that if you don't understand what is written here you should find someone to help you. 

There are two types of back ups.  One is a data back up. This is what most back up software does.  It will make a copy of all of your files and data (information saved on the computer), but it doesn't save programs. This type is the most common. Many people keep the original disks from the software they purchase or have paid for them and know that they can download the software again. The other type is an image back up. This is much more extensive and will copy all of the programs on the computer as well as the data/files. If you use a data back up you still need to make sure that you have copies of all of the programs you have added to your computer. 

3. NEVER click on a link or an attachment that you are not sure about. There are many negative hackers who can even make your email message look legitimate and put a link into it that opens a virus on your computer. If I get a message with a link from someone I know, I open a new message put in their address (never reply) and ask if they sent it to me. Most likely they did not and will let you know that. If they did send it you can ask them to send it again. People I know would not send a link without explanation and so often without asking I just delete the message.

4. If you are not sure about a link and it looks legitimate you can hover your mouse arrow over the link. Usually in the bottom left corner of your screen you will see the actual URL that your computer will take you to. If you do not recognize the link or it doesn't seem to be related to the sender do NOT click on it. Any legitimate company will send you a link with their company name in it (like 


You can go to a Geek (look online for computer repair in your area) and ask for help or call the 800 number of your computer maker. If you have backed up your data or have an image of your computer they can help you restore it. If you don't care about what was on your computer before you can reset it back to the way it was when it was new. One big problem with viruses is that they multiply, so it is possible that people in your contact list will get email that looks like it is from you with a link they should not click on. For this reason if you know your computer has a virus immediately take it off the network. For wired computers unplug them from the ethernet cord. For WiFi computers go to the set up and end all of your Internet connections.  

Computer viruses are changing and getting stronger all of the time. One recent malware is called Cryptolocker. It will scan a hard drive and then encrypt files so that they can no longer be opened. The only way to get them back is to pay anywhere from $100-$300 to de-encrypt them. That is why it is so important to follow the prevention tips above. 

If you do click on something and get a CryptoLocker message or something like that immediatly disconnect from the network. This is one thing you can do to keep from using your contact list to send out other messages that may infect other machines. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

How can I figure things out on my own?

It is likely that many of the people who read this blog already know this or already think this way, but I thought it was worth mentioning. It took me a long time to think of the Internet as the FIRST place to look when I needed something. This is one of those things that I think is a brain changing thing that technology can do. (good or bad?  I don't know)

Searching the Internet is an amazing way to find out what you need to know about ANYTHING!

I do this often. I go to Google and put in almost any words that apply to my situation. At the end of this article are links to other search engines that are very helpful. Google is not the only search engine, but it is the one that is most commonly used. The best way is to put in ALL of the words that describe it and depending on what you find take out words one by one. 

I am telling you this at the risk of losing business!  However, I am in business to help people to be successful using technology and there are always people who learn best from other people. 

One Example:

My iPad, my iPhone and my Computer are not syncing.

I first try typing in all of the main words of the sentence above and before I have even typed in all of the words the suggestion comes up:

On the first page most of the choices are from Apple Support. I know this because below the title of the page on the first line is the URL of the website.  Most of them start '' or '' The first page listed may answer your questions. Sometimes the text below the URL will be enough to let you know if this answers your question or not. Apple includes some screenshots and also links to other articles that might answer questions. 

All of the other Apple sites lead to other Apple help pages. They might have the answer to your problem. There is one that says Discussion in the URL. I find these particularly helpful because other people often have the same issue and in the discussion it is solved. 

Finally below the first 7 responses is one from '' and then one from YouTube. I usually go then to the YouTube answer because they are often helpful.  Here is the YouTube for this question. 

As I listened to this one I realized that it could be confusing or helpful depending on your prior knowledge and if you use a Mac or PC. 

It does take patience to look through the sites and try things and then keep searching, but you are often able to find a solution this way. It works for me!

Specialized Search Engines - Travel - Travel - a search for holidays returns Jewish holidays only! - a Christian search engine Returned "Should Christians celebrate holidays" and "Are Christian Holidays Pagan in origin?" among others. - people search - search yourself and see what you find... 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Downloading Books from the Library

It is time for vacation and this year we took a REAL one! We spent two weeks on the Greek Islands!  We went to Rhodes, Kos, Patmos and Samos. If you want to read more about that or look at more pictures you can look at my trip blog

Since I knew that there would be plenty of relaxing time and definitely lots of time on airplanes I downloaded a bunch of books from the Public Library.  It was GREAT!  I think that most public libraries have a Virtual Library where you can check out books and download them to a Kindle, iPad or even your computer. At my library there is a huge collection of text and audio books. On my iPad I have a free Kindle app. It compares pretty well to reading books directly on a Kindle. I have compared the two and the Kindle does really have clear text, but in general I don't notice a difference.

First of all, you have to have a library card. They are free for anyone. You just go to the library and show them something that proves you are a resident. I think that even an energy bill with your name and address on it works. You might want to check with your library first though.

Next you need to go to their website and create a web account. I have been using Dashlane to keep track of my passwords and it is great for the library account. For my library I have to put in my library card number as the username and it is about 10 digits. It is nice to have it automatically filled in by Dashlane.

Now just go to the Virtual library and look for a book you want. When you find one click "Borrow". If you want it in Kindle form it takes you to Amazon where I click on Check out the book now and it appears on my iPad!  Just like the physical library and physical books there is a date when the book is due, but unlike physical books where you can forget to get them back and incur a fine, the book just disappears from your device. You can renew books if you know that you will not finish them by the due date.

I checked out 4 books and finished 3.5!


Each time I have checked out a book I learn more about how this works. At times it can be confusing, but I have found it worthwhile!

Friday, May 23, 2014

What is an avatar?

An Avatar is a picture that you can use to represent yourself on a website. Many websites now ask for a picture when you complete your profile. Most people just use pictures of themselves, their families or something that they like. You will see some that are actually avatars. Here are some sites where you can make your own avatars for free. I have tried each one out and put it into the blog so that you can see what they are like.

10 Websites to Create your own Avatar

For Children especially
Avatars are especially good for children. It is best for them not to put their own photos online. This site has tons of choices.

List of Avatar Makers

Doppel Me

Voki-Voki avatars can move and even talk.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Help!! I have a bunch of files to rename!

When I connect my camera to my computer and download the pictures they are all files named DMG001, DMG002, etc... Usually I don't have time to rename each of the pictures one by one. It helps me to remember what they are if I name them something more meaningful.  So, I searched and found some software that would do that for me.

This is often called a “batch” process because you are changing a batch of files at the same time. To find some software I did a search for 'software to rename files mac' You could do the same for 'software to rename files PC' and add the word free if you want to be sure that you get a free option.

I chose NameChanger because it was free. 


    picture of NameChanger window
Open NameChanger and find the files that you want to change. Set the program up to change parts of the name or the whole name. Notice that there is a pull down menu that gives you several choices. You can choose to give them all the same name with a numeral at the end that changes (1,2,3)

  1. Find the files that you want to change. This may mean opening a folder and clicking COMMAND-A to select all of the files.
  2. Drag the files into the first column showing on the NameChanger window.
  3. Click the RENAME button on the top.

On the left side you will see the result and automatically you will also see that the file names have changed in your computer.

There are free options to do the same thing on a PC. 


Click on the file one time to highlight it. Count to 10 and then click just the name of the file one time and wait for a second or two. You will see the name highlight in a way that allows you to type whatever name you want it to be.

Right Click on a file (Remember right click always gives you another menu). In the menu that pops up you will see the word “rename”. Click on it and you will be able to give the file a new name.

Thanks to Glee for having this problem so that I could figure it out and write it up here!