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Friday, July 29, 2011

Something disappeared from the screen! I don't know how to get it back!!

One thing that happens regularly to us ordinary people (not Geeks) is that we hit something unintentionally. When this happens unpredictable things happen usually involving the disappearance of important items.

Luckily, most of this can be solved very easily by checking out the VIEW menu in the program that you were working in. Most likely you have changed how things look, but not at all how they work. Almost every program has a VIEW menu at the top with many choices down below. All of these choices change how things look, but not what they do. A good idea is to go to the view menu and try clicking on some of the items and changing the checkmarks by turning them on or off. You can then look at your screen to see what changed. Sometimes I do not know the name of something I want to see, but I can click on anything in the VIEW menu to try it out.

View menu for Firefox
It is great to know that you can click on things without breaking them, but sometimes you might get stuck. One example is that you click next to FULL SCREEN and all of the menus disappear. How do you get back to where you were. Almost always if you click the 'esc' button at the top left of your keyboard it returns you to where you were.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Putting a Caption on a Picture in Picasa

Picasa is a free program owned by Google that will organize and store all of your photos and images. You can download it at The program will allow you to edit your photos and even put captions on them.

When the program opens it looks all over your computer to find the photos on your computer. It then puts copies of them  into the program (It does not move them from where they are found) and organizes them by date and name of the folder that they are found in. It can be disconcerting to open Picasa and see that immediately it begins going through all of your files. It is reassuring to know that they are not being moved from where you saved them, just cataloged and organized how Picasa thinks that they should be.

Like many photo programs now Picasa tries to protect the original photo that it finds. It does this by forcing you to create a copy each time you change the photo. If you resize a photo it will still keep an original the larger size. However, when you put a caption onto your image the caption does not change the image, but adds information to the code that is in the background of your image. For this reason when you save that image or burn it to a CD it will seem that the caption is gone. It is not gone. It is just hiding in the background. To see the caption after it is saved you need to get the properties of the image.

On my computer when I click on an image file it opens up with the program called "Preview". Under the Tools Menu is something called the Inspector that I can hide or show by clicking on it. When I clicked on Show Inspector a window opened up that said INFO and had an i in a circle as one of the choices. When I clicked it there were 4 choices and under the one called IPTC I found the caption! It still did not show on the picture, but it was there hidden in the code.

If you want your caption to show on the final image you need to copy it and then paste it directly onto the picture. Then when you burn it to a CD or Export it somewhere on your hard drive the caption will stay on the picture.

Another way is to add words directly onto a photo. There is a button under the words "basic fixes" that has ABC written on it and says 'text' underneath. When you click on this button you can use it to type something right onto your picture. You can change the color or font of the letters and drag and drop it to where you want it to show up.

Final Photo with Text Edit
I was able to go back to Picasa, select that picture and choose PICTURE from the top menu and Undo All Edits from the list below. I kept the picture with the edits in my folder where I had saved it, but Picasa still has the original, so if someday I want to edit it a different way I can.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Remembering Passwords

Everything, well, almost everything requires a password now. How can you remember all of them?

Passwords are really important. Now that so much is stored on servers or "the cloud", companies that create web applications password protect them so that you can have your own privacy settings.

Here is some advice about passwords:
  • Safe passwords have eight or more letters with one or more symbol or number.
  • Safe passwords should be difficult to guess. You should never use your birthday, the birthdays of your kids, the names of your pets, your street name, etc.
  • To keep your passwords safe you should change them regularly. This is especially important for any site where you use your credit card or do banking.
So, if you make your passwords difficult to remember and change them regularly how can you ever remember all of them? On the LastPass website it says that, "Collectively we lose more than 10,300 hours per year retrieving lost passwords, making new ones or talking to call center representatives about them." I know that I have contributed time to that total, not to mention the frustration of those situations.


Think of your passwords as walls that keep people out of your information. The first level of password must be extremely secure because it involves a credit card or bank account. Make sure these are unique and that change them often. The second level of passwords are less important. These are for sites that do not contain personal or financial information. It is less important to change these passwords on a regular basis. Using a series of words and changing them in a rotation can work for some sites. Some people keep a list of all of their passwords on paper slips somewhere that they can find them. This is better than not using good passwords, but it does leave a person open to the possibility of someone finding your passwords.
KeePass Website

One solution that some people are using is software that can remember passwords for you. There are many apps for the iPhone that have one password to lock up all of your passwords. The one problem with this is that you can forget the ONE password for the locker and not be able to access all of your passwords. In this case you will need to delete that account and start all over again with a new account and a new password.

LastPass Website
One other program that I am going to try is called LastPass. The nice thing so far about this program is that it works AS I use the computer. I do not have to enter all of my information. Once it is downloaded and I have an account every time I go to a site where I need to log in the Last Pass learns my login and username. After that when I go to the same site it will suggest the username and password that it has remembered. If that is correct I can just log in with one click.

I am only able to use this one for free with my one computer. If I want it to sync to my iPhone, iPad or other computers I will have to pay $1 a month to get that option. I am going to try a different one on my iPhone to see how it works. It is called Easy Passwords lite. It is free with options for more features if I choose to pay.

I am not an expert on this, so if you are reading this and have suggestions PLEASE put them into the comments. I want to learn and also to give correct information to readers.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How to find Blogs to Read

Since it is so easy to blog lots and lots of people are starting blogs on different topics. How do you find the ones that YOU want to read?

A blog can be a great way to find out things that you want to know about ANYTHING. There are cooking blogs, shopping blogs, DIY blogs, sports blogs, travel blogs and on and on.

There are several places to look for blogs. I always first try a google search. I use the terms "best _____ blogs" and I always get thousands of results.

Two websites that keep track of blogs and rank them:

Technorati uses authority ranking to evaluate which blogs have the most influence. You can search here by topic to find the  most influential blogs in each area.

BlogRank uses 20 factors to evaluate which are the best blogs. You can also search by topics using this website.


Rather than going out and searching for what you want all of the time you may want to subscribe to the blogs you like. When you subscribe you will only need to go to ONE place to look at all of the blogs you are interested in. Even if you  have not looked for many days the content that has been posted since you last looked will be there. You can scan through them easily and just read the interesting ones.

How do you subscribe?  Start an account with Google Reader or Bloglines. There are many other blogreaders that you can sign in with that will collect blogs that you are interested in reading.

Now when you find a blog you like just look for the icons above in order to subscribe. Subscriptions are often called RSS feeds. That means that this blog will be put through a program so that it can be accessed by your blog reader.

When you do that a window will open up that asks you which reader you want to subscribe with. You should be able to find the one you signed up for and click on it. There are lots of choices. Sometimes you can even just copy the URL and paste it into the page that comes up and it will start your subscription.

Monday, July 25, 2011

All About Blogs

Since you are reading this I assume that you know what a blog is, but you may wonder how people make them or how they add videos, links or photos to them. In a way I hate to write this post because it will show you how easy this is and you will not be amazed at what I can do anymore.

I comfort myself with the thought that you will now be able to make your own blog and impress your friends and family.

You should have an idea that you would like to write about and choose a title.  This is probably the hardest part! Think about who your audience will be and the purpose for the blog. It could be to share a life event or vacation or to talk about something you are interested in and want to share.

Sign up
There are several places that you can go to right now to sign up for your own FREE blog. These are online programs that provide you with an easy way to create a blog and store them for you. Remember "the cloud"? Well all of the blogs that you write will be stored on the cloud somewhere. Here are some links to places where you can go to start your own blog:

BLOGGER - This is the one that I am using. It is owned by Google, so you sign up with your Google account if you have one.

WEEBLY - You can make a website or a blog with Weebly and it is all done by drag and drop.

WORDPRESS -  This is another easy place that you can go to sign up for a blog.

There are many other places that you can make a blog. To find them type blog creators into a google search. You will have to look at them to find the one you like.

Blog programs all have built in editors that help you to choose what you want your blog to look like. Each of them has templates that are already designed that you can choose from. If you want to do your own design you can do that also.

You can write as often or as little as you would like. The more often you write the more readers you will be likely to have. If your blog does not change much people can easily forget about it. Some people write often and have discussions with their readers in the comment section at the end of the blog. Other people write for themselves or to tell about a specific thing like a trip. They do not expect comments and the blog becomes a log of something to remember.

More in this series:
  • How to put pictures, video and links into blogs
  • How to find blogs you would like to read and subscribe to them
  • How to add comments to blogs

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Organizing your email, so that it is not overwhelming

First I want to give you a very short idea of where your email goes and where it comes from because I think that will make things clearer.  Feel free to skip this if it is just confusing.

When you send email it goes to a server somewhere (remember the cloud?) and that sever sends it on to the person you sent mail to and then when your friend opens email it downloads onto their computer. When you get email it is the opposite. When you turn on your email program the email is downloaded into your computer from your server.  It is probably much more complicated than that, but I am simplifying.

That is only true if you are using an email program that resides on your computer like Mail (Mac), Entourage, Outlook or something like that. If you are using Gmail the message just goes to whatever server Google has designated for your mail and you have to get online, log in and then you can see what is there. This is also called Webmail and almost every company you might use for your Internet offers some sort of Webmail program.


Imagine that you get 50 messages a day. They all come into your inbox. If you do not look at your inbox for a few days it can be overwhelming. There are several things that you can do to make things more workable.

1. FOLDERS Every email program gives you the option of putting things in folders. You can create folders for the things that you often get email for and then when you look at your mail sort it right away. You can easily tell what is important and what can wait. I created a folder called "LOOK HERE" to remind me of things that I need to go back to. You can also create folders that nest inside other folders. I could have one called Family and then create a subfolder for each member of my family.

2.  AUTO send files to folders. Mail programs have ways for you to set up "rules" that designate where email should go when it comes into your inbox. You will not see these messages in your inbox at all. They go straight to the folder you set up with a rule. My main problem with this method is that I tend NOT to look at the folders and so I never read anything with a rule.

3. SCHEDULE If you can look at your mail each morning and each evening it is possible to keep your inbox from filling up. Each time you do email deal with EACH message somehow. Some you will just file into a folder. Some you will put in a folder to look at later and others you will be able to answer.

4. SORT THEN DELETE The final solution that I have had to use now and then is to first look at anything that seems like it might be important and then delete everything else and tell myself that if people really want to communicate with me they will write again. I also remind myself that it was not so long ago when I did not have email at all. I will not die if I miss what those messages had to say.

I would love to hear from anyone who has suggestions on how to organize email or any corrections to what I have said above. What do you do? Have you ever deleted everything and what happened?

Also, I have had to be pretty general in the explanation above since I do not know EVERY mail program on EVERY computer. If you would like help specific to you (or know someone else who does) feel free to call me (512)560-2609 or email If I see the word geek in the message I will be sure not to delete it. ;-)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What are Cookies? I mean the ones online, not the ones you eat.

Sometimes when you go to a website it will put a cookie on your computer. Your computer may be set up in such a way that it asks you if that is OK. You may not know the answer.

A cookie is not a program. It is a small text file that lets the website you are connecting to get some information about you. For example, Amazon has a cookie that allows them to recognize when I log into their site. If that happens they automatically log me in with my name and know my preferences. Many sites that sell things or that you can belong to in some way have this type of cookie. They are meant to enhance the experience of using their site.

Although cookies sound scarey, they are just one of the ways that the Internet is changing everything. Remember your computer is just a dumb machine. You are smarter than your computer, believe me! You are. You can control what cookies are put onto your machine. If you do not want ANY cookies there is a way to turn them off. If you don't mind a few of them, but you want to approve them there is a place in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, or any other browser to add this setting.

I use Firefox on a Mac and so here is what I do after going to Firefox:
1. Click on the word Firefox at the top of the page.
2. Click on the word PREFERENCES
3. Click on the tab that says Security.  You will see this window that shows you all of the cookies on your machine and allows you to remove one at a time or remove all of them. I was surprised at how many I had and so I decided to remove them all and see what happened. I will let you know! I may be sorry. Here is a quote from

"Now when you visit a site again, that site will think you are a new user and assign you a new cookie. This tends to skew the site's record of new versus return visitors, and it also can make it hard for you to recover previously stored preferences. This is why sites ask you to register in some cases -- if you register with a user name and a password, you can log in, even if you lose your cookie file, and restore your preferences. If preference values are stored directly on the machine (as in the MSN weather example above), then recovery is impossible. That is why many sites now store all user information in a central database and store only an ID value on the user's machine."

Each browser is different and it is different if you are using Mac or PC, so I cannot go over ALL of the possibilities here of how to handle your cookies. You will need to search in your own browser for the Preferences or Options and then look for information on Cookies. 

p.s. I tried and facebook and all that happened was that I had to log in again. I am sure I will find other things I had not thought of before. I am guessing that most sites now use passwords so I will just be logging in more.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Working with Images Online

When I added this (741 KB) picture Blogger automatically resized it so that it would fit the screen.

This is the same image that I resized myself to 8 KB
For the longest time I was so frustrated when I saw a picture online that I liked and then printed it and the picture printed out tiny OR someone sent me a picture and it would not fit on my screen because it was so huge.
This is because the pictures that you see on the screen are digital representations of the pictures that people have put onto their webpages or emailed to you. Pictures are measured in DPI or dots per inch. In order to make digital pictures small so that they download quickly people often compress their photos. The computer takes out some of the dots in a way that the picture still looks good on screen! This can effect the resolution of the picture (or the quality) so that you cannot drag the picture to a larger size. When you try it becomes little color squares..

Most (all?) digital screens only show up to 72 DPI (or dots per inch). If the picture you are seeing has high resolution (more than 72 DPI) sometimes the picture will look HUGE on your screen. One confusing thing is that many programs (like word) allow you to click on the image and drag the corner to make it smaller.  When you do this you are only changing the LOOK of the picture, not the DPI, so even though it looks small it will take a LONG time to download and when someone tries to print the picture it will come out huge.

You cannot make a picture with a low number of dots per inch bigger. It will not look good. Artists (and lots of other people) save both a high quality, high resolution picture and the smaller one that they can use to send to people or post online. 

I hope that this is a helpful explanation of images online. If you have questions please post them in the comments. Tomorrow's post will be about FILE SIZES.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why do I Play Angry Birds?

I can help you with using your iPad or iPhone. I can look for apps, or tell you about apps that I use.

One that I have used a lot in the last few weeks is Angry Birds. I had heard about it from lots of different people and I thought I had better try it. I am not much of a game player. I like Tetris and Bedazzled. Games where you shoot or kill things seem wrong to me. However, for some reason Angry Birds got me!

Just in case you have never heard of Angry Birds, it is a game where you use a huge rubber band to catapult different birds into a stack of stuff and try to knock things down and get points. The birds are angry for various reasons and are willing to vanish in order to avenge or to free someone. In the original Angry Birds they were getting back at Pigs who had stolen their eggs.

Angry Birds Rio is the one I played this summer. It begins with allowing you to "free" birds that have been captured.  That was OK because I was not trying to "get rid" of anyone. Unfortunately, in time I was actually trying to get rid of irritating monkeys and actually that was pretty fun. I was traveling internationally at the time and so I had hours to fill where I could not easily move or do much else. It felt so good to win each level and even to go back to ones I had passed and try to increase my score.

My theory is that it is the strategy that drew me in. Each of the birds does different things and you can learn by experimenting about their strengths and weaknesses. The stack of stuff changes from level to level so that it interacts differently with the birds. Each level you need to figure out a strategy so that you can win the level (by freeing birds or getting rid of monkeys). If you are really into it and want to connect with others just do a Google Search and you will find TONS of advice. You can connect with other players or even play an online version.

I think I am going to try to use it instead of watching brain-numbing television in the evening when it is too early to go to bed and too late to do thinking work. It costs $4.99 from the iTunes store. I chose the Rio one because I read online that it did not have advertising

Please comment and let me know if you want more information about how to find your own apps on iTunes. 

p.s. I do not consider myself to be an expert on any of these things and love to learn from you also, so please comment if you see things that need to be added to.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Commenting on a Blog

Many people (including me) think that blogs should be two way communication. I am interested in hearing from readers. The internet allows you to interact people and companies that you do not know. It can improve communication and give you a voice and a place to post your opinion.

The controls that are on many blogs and other places where there is a comment service online was started in response to LOTS of spam. I have another blog that was constantly getting comments about Viagra.

I have just made this blog open to anonymous comments. That is because I am willing to take a chance so that I can hear from people who may not have an account with Google, LiveJournal, WordPress, etc.  I actually think that if you want to say something you should be willing to identify yourself. However there are people, even in my own family who do not want to have any online accounts and there are many people who do not have any idea how to get one of these accounts and do not have a use for them.

You may come across a blog that requires you to log in and does not have the choice to remain anonymous. If this happens you can always email the owner of the blog to let them know. I had not realized that this was a setting I needed to change until I was reminded about it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

What is Cloud Computing?

If you have not heard the words "the cloud" yet I want to know where you have been.  Even frequently run commercials are talking about "the cloud" as if it is a really good thing. But what is it?

"The cloud" is a way of describing a huge bank of servers somewhere that store data for you. It is not really a magical place, but it is a place that is hard to visualize. When you save something to your computer you know where it is. You might also have some files, or data on a thumb drive or a CD Rom. When your data is in one of these places you can put your hands on it. However, if your data is in one of those places and you are in a different place you cannot just pick up any computer and access the information.

"The Cloud" describes computers that are called SERVERS and are designed to store and "serve" huge amounts of data to other computers. This blog is on a server that Google's Blogger is on somewhere and so it is easier to say that it is on "The Cloud". If you do genealogy you can benefit by having your information on "The Cloud" so that you can learn from what others are finding and they can learn from you. Facebook is on "The Cloud" and so are many more programs and websites where you need to login for access.

So, "The Cloud" can be a good thing, but it also brings up lots of questions:
Who owns the data on the cloud?
Is my stuff that is saved on "The Cloud" private?
Is there a way that I can lose everything that is out on "The Cloud"?
Is this the same cloud where heaven is?

If you are interested in learning more here are some links that might help you:
InfoWorld-What Cloud Computing Really Means
20 Things I Learned about Browsers and the Web
Wikipedia Article on Cloud Computing