Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Persistence Pays Off

Plugging in...

What do you do when someone sends an email with embedded photos that you CANNOT get to copy or save to your own computer? This is how the Tutor managed to snag the mis-behaving PNG (portable network graphic) so it could be used in a client's 2010 holiday card.

All the normal and customary techniques failed, no right clicking, no left clicking, no save, no copy, no nada. So... with the photo in full view on the screen, the Tutor pressed the PrtSc key on the keyboard. It is a key that takes a snapshot of whatever you see on the screen and copies it to the clipboard. Ahhh, but it isn't that simple to get the photo into the proper form for inserting or uploading.

The Tutor's thinking cap came out, and we opened the PowerPoint program. Pasted the snagged copy of the photo from the PrtSc key to the blank slide on the screen. But wait... the picture was only PART of what was copied, there was way too much extraneous stuff like the task bar that shouldn't be in the photo. We clicked once on the photo to select it after we pasted it, then the Picture Toolbar magically appeared on screen, along with the handiest of tools: the crop tool, which is like having a pair of scissors at your disposal.

We placed the crop tool along each edge and dragged it over the areas to remove, which left us with a full copy of the original photo from the email. Not done yet though. The final step was to RIGHT click on the cropped photo, left click on Save as Picture, we gave the picture a name and changed the TYPE to jpg in the box below the file name box.

Voila! Picture was saved onto the computer for using in an email, a website, or anywhere else one can upload photos to for future use (websites, photo sites, facebook, etc).

Though the steps sound complicated, they take little time to execute (for the Tutor anyway).  Before one could say "UNCLE", the photo was extracted from the email. There are other methods to accomplish the same thing, but the Tutor chose to use what the client had on their computer and it worked out just fine. It really pays to think outside the email!

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, and is it turned on?


Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Plugging in...

Black Friday, Black Browser

Plugging in...

Once you go black, can you ever come back? That question arose on Black Friday with an update from Internet Explorer 7 to Internet Explorer 8. Although version 8 has been around for quite awhile, a recent Tutor client updated to the more secure internet browser on Black Friday. Should have been easy.

And the updating was easy, the results however, left the client in the dark, with black text and black toolbars. It literally became "Black Friday". How does one participate in the much-hyped, online shopping day, if one cannot see anything on the browser toolbars?? Hmmm, Charlie Brown?

Turns out the Windows XP color schemes had a little conflict with the new Internet Explorer 8 toolbars. Lo and behold, once the color scheme was changed, anything BUT Windows XP classic, the dark changed to light, the black to white and Black Friday was once again, just a marketing phrase.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, and is it turned on?


Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Internet Burglar

Plugging in...

The client came home from work on a Friday. The computer was left on overnight. The desktop was completely changed, no icons, a swirling gray and black background, never seen before. The culprit? The Internet Burglar!

Who you ask? The client so deemed the intruder, though the client also conceded it may have been the dog walker. The dog walker? Doubtful, but as we all know, anything is possible.

What really happened was a series of WINDOWS automatic updates, scheduled for, you guessed it, on Fridays. The apparent mix of updates reset the Windows Welcome screen to the original screen, right-out-of-the-box, vanilla, no nothing on the screen.

The client didn't exactly panic, but did express severe distaste for what the "Internet Burglar" did to the screen. The background image of the client's son? Gone to gray. Every icon and shortcut? Gone to gray. Clean and uncluttered, an organizer's dream, a client's nightmare.

The quickest solution was to use Windows restore which placed the computer back in time, the day before the visit of said "burglar" also known as Windows Updates. Sometimes those needed updates do wreak a bit of havoc. But without them, the dangers are FAR worse.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, was it the "internet burglar", and is it turned on?


Monday, October 18, 2010

Most Interesting Gadget

Plugging in...

Though it's almost the end of the golfing season (yes, you did read GOLF there), the Tutor was called upon to aid and abet a user with a brand name golfing GPS (global positioning system) unit that legally aids the golfer in golf shots, golf distances, golf green aerials, everything short of hitting the ball or carrying the clubs!

The unit needed to be setup via the manufacturer's website. And with all things electronic these days, the manual for using the helpful unit were, of course, not in the box, but on the website. The setup and registration were straight-forward, the use of the GPS not so much.

No electronic hand-held gizmo is intuitive to master no matter what Mr. Steve Jobs says. Ask the Tutor why so many questions about iPhones, iPads, and iPods... But not to pick on those devices. An instruction manual is key to lowering blood pressure and the urge to throw gadgets out second story windows.

Once the owner of the GPS had a basic understanding of what to do with the knobs, arrows and push buttons, the GPS looked like it would do exactly what it claimed: everything but shoot the ball and carry the clubs.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, did you read the manual, and is it turned on?


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Testing 1, 2, 3 TESTING

Plugging in...

The Tutor has blogged many times about the importance of having a backup plan in place for one's computer. But as one of the Tutor's clients recently found out, doing a backup isn't enough.

TESTING the backup is as important as doing the backup. A client's hard drive went to that big, electronic resting place in the sky. Though a backup hadn't been done recently, there was one from several months ago. Better than nothing, right? WRONG, wrong, wrong.

The backup did NOT contain the information that the client thought it was backing up. Somewhere between hither and yon, the backup choices had been inadvertently changed. No one knows nor remembers doing such a thing, but it happened. Oh, the backup device contained information, just not the information for their personal or business finances, nor any of their documents.

A backup plan should be similar to the following:

back up on a regular schedule
monthly, take a look at the backup to see what it contains
take a file OFF the backup and place it onto the computer
open the file just taken from the backup

If at any time, the backup does NOT contain the proper information, fix it. Fix it yourself if you know how, or call a professional [The Computor Tutor] to address it. It IS that important.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is it backed up and tested, and is it turned on?


Thursday, September 16, 2010

August, what BLOG?

Plugging in...

WOW. August 2010 came and went without an entry. Not for lack of stories, though. Between Twitter, Facebook, training, teaching and troubleshooting, the odd two weeks of vacation, updating the Salem State UNIVERSITY class website for the computer literacy classes the Tutor teaches, well, there just wasn't time for blogging.

With the fall equinox approaching, more in-door time is coming. That means more blogging, more nagging of the readers to BACKUP their stuff. THREE, yes, count them THREE client hard drives crashed this week. Data not backed up, most irrecoverable without spending loads of cash. How much you ask? Close to $1,500 for some super-duper data recovery. How much is YOUR information worth?

Backing up is like flossing teeth. One knows one should, but one doesn't always do so every day. Replacing a tooth is WAY more expensive than recovering data so FLOSS and BACKUP.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, IS IT BACKED UP, and is it turned on?


Friday, July 30, 2010

Francophiles United

Plugging in...

There are some bi and tri-lingual users the Tutor has the pleasure to work with. Their computers are English-language based, but they desire the option to type in a language other than English. There are several ways to accomplish this.

A Tutor francophile had been typing in French on their laptop for two years when suddenly, the ability to use the correct French international characters vanished! The mystery was quickly solved when the Tutor asked for a demonstration as to how the client had gone about typing said characters. Sure enough, the characters stubbornly refused to appear.

As mentioned above, several methods can accomplish this task. The particular method this client knew, used the ALT (alternate) key and a numeric sequence on the numeric keypad to get the French characters, properly accented, to appear on the screen. The technical name for this is using ASCII codes.

Should one wish to use these codes, the NUM LOCK key must be turned on for this to work. Should one look closely at the numeric keypad, one would notice two sets of characters on each key. In order to use the NUMBERS, the NUM LOCK key must be on. Most keyboards have a green led light that is visible when the NUM LOCK key is on. When the NUM LOCK key is off, the keys do something else.

For example, the number 9 is also the PgUp key (Page Up scrolls the screen 20 lines per key press). To maximize space, all numeric keys on the keypad do double duty.

What does the reader think happened in this case? A misplaced thumb, elbow or hand press the NUM LOCK key and turned it off!

TRY THIS AT HOME: to get this character, รจ, press the ALT key hold it while your press 0232 on the numberic keypad. Release the ALT key. Like magic, isn't it?

Here is a link to other accent codes one can type using this method:


ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, and is it turned on?


Button Up!

Plugging in...

What's the first thing to look at when the wireless on the laptop can't find a wireless connection? The Tutor will count to ten while the reader ponders: 1, 2, ... 10. Every laptop has some way to turn ON or OFF the wireless connection. Some laptops have switches, buttons, or keys one must press on the keyboard. Some are so obvious they have an led light that turns a certain color when ON. Some, not so obvious.

A recent frustrated client called with the "my laptop can't connect" horror. All was fine yesterday, yadi, yadi, yada. The Tutor made a housecall and had to look at the laptop manual (a brand of laptop the Tutor had NEVER heard of) to find out how to turn the wireless on and off.

Who are these designers who place important buttons or switches on products in places that are SO INCREDIBLY easy to accidentally press?? WHO ARE THEY??

This particular on/off wireless button had a spacecraft like logo on it when lit, almost impossible to see the logo design when not on. It was inconveniently located directly below the laptop ON/OFF button. So close to the power button that the Tutor wondered why it hadn't happened in the past.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, and is it turned on?


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

USB: Universal Serious Baloney

Plugging in...

OK, USB doesn't really mean Universal Serious Baloney, but those cool little devices we love to plug into to our computers (iPods, phones, digital cameras, printers, backup drives) that make computing SUCH fun, can be troublesome. To wit:

Once upon a time a Tutor client left an external backup drive attached to their laptop, all the time. All was fine for awhile but one darky and gloomy day, the laptop wouldn't turn on properly.  The client, distressed and frustrated, did not have the Tutor at hand to address the issue and was guided down a path toward destruction. Instead of unplugging ANYTHING attached to the laptop and trying to start it, the poor laptop was brought back to "OEM" status. A fancy way of saying it was made to look as if it had just been purchased, exactly the day in the PAST that it had been purchased. This caused the laptop to work once again, however, it took 6 hours to re-load all the software and data that had accumulated since it was purchased.

The Tutor discovered the wrong path taken to fix the laptop when hired to re-load the laptop and bring it up to date. The discovery was done by reading an error message, posted on a 3M yellow sticky on the wall. When the Tutor asked the client why said message was on the wall, the answer was "it's the error message received when the laptop wouldn't start". Well. The Tutor recognized the message and asked the client if they had left anything plugged into the computer (other than a printer) all the time. The answer, of course, was YES: the external backup drive. The poor laptop (and poor-er client) had wasted time and money with an inappropriate diagnosis.

What happened? You're on the edge of your seats, aren't you?? The item that was left plugged in was a USB external hard drive used as a backup drive. The laptop, when started, had the option to BOOT from a USB device. In other words, the laptop was looking for the windows software to be ON the external hard drive that was left plugged in. When it didn't find what it was looking for, it gave up.

The moral of the tale: if at first the computer won't boot, unplug ALL USB devices, and try, try again!

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is a USB device plugged in, and is it turned on?


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June is a Distant Memory

Plugging in...

Is it true the Tutor posted exactly nada, zippo, nothing in June? It is. Not for lack of material though. If the Tutor didn't work, the blog would be flowing, Twitter would be tweeted incessantly, LinkedIn would be spewing accomplishments and email. Hmm. Email. Oops, not to forget the phone, voice mail, texting and by golly, talking face-to-face. Egads.

Who needs to be this connected? Cut the social umbilical cord and GO OUTSIDE and do something!

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, and is it turned on?


Sunday, May 23, 2010

All Washed Up

Plugging in...

Who would have known that a simple wash with water would prove the solution for a faulty, brand-new, shrink-wrapped, installation CD? Not I.

The culprit was a MAC Microsoft Office 2008 Student/Teacher edition software program. The Tutor unwrapped the shrink wrap, and slid the CD gracefully into the sparkling, new Mac Powerbook. The Powerbook whirred and gurgled momentarily and promptly spit out the CD like a piece of unwanted food. The Tutor assumed the CD was not properly fed into the drive and repeated the same action, with the same consequences. A swift projectile rejection.

The CLIENT then told a story about washing DVDs that wouldn't play in the DVD player in the living room, and offered to wash it off in the sink. After the quick and careful laundering, the Tutor fed it back into the Powerbook and blimey, it installed without a hitch! Go figure. Not every computer solution requires technology or the TUTOR!

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, has it been washed, and is it turned on?


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Another Successful Adoption

Plugging in...

The Tutor placed another desktop computer today in a single-parent, no child home. The desktop was very happy as it was fluffed and buffed and made to look like new. Internet, email and ancestry.com were the major activities of choice, while music was making a strong advance through Windows Media Player.

One thing to always remember about adopting a computer: they all have a challenge or two. Some are slow, some are dented and scratched, some run hot, some are loud. Whatever their challenges, the homes they are placed in are far better than the trash hovels they would have ended up in, unused and unloved. The elder computer has wisdom, let's use it until the all its wisdom has been imparted.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, and is it turned on?


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Computer Adoptions

Plugging in...

Where do the unwanted, soon-to-be homeless computers go? Some go to the electronics graveyard, but some still have plenty of life ahead, if someone would only give them time, and a home.

If the computers are in the path of the Tutor and the Tutor's clients, they get a once-over for potential continued usability. If they are deemed adoptable, they are re-furbished and given away, free of charge. If they are not worthy, they are recycled by environmentally friendly recyclers.

In the past four years, the Tutor has had the opportunity to re-furbish 14 computers, both desktop and laptop, and placed them in "good homes".

Where did those 14 computers go?

2 computers are now working for a non-profit company
3 computers are now working for a startup restaurant
2 computers are now working for people 82 and 91 years young
1 computer is working for a recently laid-off school teacher
1 computer is working for a single mother with terminally ill children
2 computers were placed with a retired gentleman
1 computer replaced one that "drowned" in the recent March MA storms
2 computers are working as test machines for software and education

Each re-furbished computer takes 5-6 hours of work before it's ready for a new home. Without being technically boring, once done, it resembles a new computer, but with old parts, all previous information securely removed.

The Tutor can discern the age and usefulness of an older computer in minutes. Got one? Let's have a look, you could easily make someone's day with this gesture. Although the computer donors are always anonymous, every computer that is placed, is received with open arms and a gigantic smile.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, do you have a spare computer to donate, and is it turned on?


Saturday, April 17, 2010

You KNOW you're on a Computer

Plugging in...

When the error message looks like Greek
When the mouse won’t move a hair
When the document you’ve been typing
Hits the road, and disappears
You KNOW you’re on a computer.

When iTunes up and eats your song
When your camera won’t behave
When the DVD won’t play one track
You feel like a computer slave
You KNOW you’re on a computer.

When the internet says: page not found
When the xbox won’t let you play
When the wireless router blinks in vain
It may be time to call it a day
You KNOW you’re on a computer.

When Excel barks “THIS IS WRONG”
When PowerPoint slides look grim
When Access claims your entire day
Your hopes of success look dim
You KNOW you’re on a computer.

When viruses and malware attack your work
When your computer slows to a stop
When nothing works but swearing out loud
You want to hit the computer with a mop
You KNOW you’re on a computer.

When you forget to plug a cable in
When the printer won’t print the work
When the paper’s put in upside down
You may feel like a great big jerk
You KNOW you’re on a computer.

Smile. This too shall pass!

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is your sense of humor intact, and is it turned on?


A Time-Consuming Endeavor

Plugging in...

Why does it take so long to set up a new computer for someone? Someone that has used one in the past? Can't one just take it out of the box and plug it in?

YES and NO.

YES, one can unpackage and plug it in, answer a few questions and voila, new computer will operate.

NO, it won't look like the old one because over time, the user has changed many things on that computer, and the changes didn't occur all in one day. Changes such as colors, internet favorites and homepage, desktop shortcuts, email settings, the user's files, camera software, iTunes and music, wireless settings, printer installations, adobe reader (and other helper programs) smart phone syncing, and software installs, to name a few.

Depending on how long it's been since a new computer was purchased, one has the added challenge of perhaps the familiar programs of yore won't run under the new "boss" ie operating system (Windows on PCs, OS on Macs). Worse yet, some of the software doesn't exist anymore.

When budgeting for the new purchase, unless one knows how to do ALL the above, allow for 4-6 hours of technical assistance from a pro, um, a Computor Tutor.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, and is it turned on?


Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Service Pack Shuffle

Plugging in...

Keeping current is the rage. Change is good. Change drives us crazy. But in order to keep safe and secure while working on a computer, one must "keep up" with the free Service Packs. They include BIG changes to Windows, the software that manages your personal computer. (The MAC has a manager, too, referred to as OS, followed by numbers. They have patches and upgrades as well.)

A recent client was infected with a piece of malware (software that kept falsely announcing in annoying POP UP windows the computer had myriad infections; it wouldn't let the owner use the computer). The Tutor whisked away the infection (how? trade secret!) and decided to add another layer of protection, a free Firewall called Zone Alarm. After downloading Zone Alarm, the Zone Alarm program notified the Tutor via a pop up that their product required SP1 on Windows Vista in order to run. The Tutor quickly checked what version of Windows the computer was running and found that it was missing both SP1 and SP2, released in 2008, and 2009. And... most importantly, THIS was why the pesky malware found a way inside the computer. Sort of like the rains the North East was pummeled with - protection is key to fending off the elements, nature or man-made.

Windows XP users must be running Service Pack 3.
Windows Vista users must be running Service Pack 2.

To find out your version of Windows, RIGHT click on the My Computer icon. Left click on Properties. Read the information under System. If you have a Service Pack, it will say SP1, 2 or 3. If you are missing any of the Service Packs, use your favorite search engine and search for:

"Download SP1" +Vista (or whichever one your computer requires).
"Download SP3" +XP (or whichever one your computer requires).

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is it UP TO DATE with patches and Service Packs, and is it turned on?


Monday, March 29, 2010

Twice as Nice: NOT

Plugging in...

You know that pesky message most of the new computers are throwing at you, the one that states you should make backups of your system RIGHT NOW using DVDs in case you need to re-create the entire thing? Take Nike's advice: JUST DO IT.

The Tutor has in posession a laptop that just went through a return to manufacturer's status in December, 2009. It needs it again. Heard of trojans, malware and backdoor exploits? No? Good, because if you have, chances are you've experienced one and also run into this problem and either had the machine returned to what is commonly known as OEM (original equipment manufacturer) status or you gave up and bought a new one. Not good for the pocketbook or the world of re-using, re-making, re-cycling.

What problem? The one where the computer won't do anything YOU want it to, when you want, or where you want. The one where it acts like Sybil, with a hundred other personalities. The one that is truly possessed by software gone awry. The one that won't let you go on the internet anymore. Kiss email goodbye, twitter gone, and facebook? No friends for you.

The particular laptop ready for the repeat transformation was taken over when a link to a youtube video brought down the house, and not in a good way, as the house, was the owner. So here the laptop sits again, awaiting a 4-6 hour resurgence. Although having the backup DVDs of the entire system would shorten the length of the "possession", work still has to be done to make the computer once again a contributing part of society.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, did you make the REQUESTED backup DVDS, and is it turned on?


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hijacked to Nowhere

Plugging in...

Hi-jacking is never good, in the air or on the ground. But when it happens to your computer, look out! The Tutor's client had been having computer issues for, ahem, a year, before seeking help.

The situation: anti-virus had expired, computer was slow as frozen molasses. It finally became unusuable which is when the Tutor was called. After an initial cleanup that hadn't been done EVER (over five years of ownership), the computer leapt to life and had acceptable, reasonable response time. The internet: check, email: check, favorite websites accessible: check Almost bliss.

Eternally optimistic, the Tutor removed the expired anti-virus program and attempted to install another security program. (One computer cannot have two anti-virus programs installed simultaneously - they conflict.) ENTER stage left: the hi-jacker. When attempting to go to ANY website that remotely smacked of safety, security, on-line scanning or windows updates, the browser (didn't matter which one, Tutor tried several) was re-directed [hi-jacked] to myriad websites that had absolutely nothing to do with the requested web addresses. Although the Tutor knew what was happening, most users would have checked their spelling, tried again, and scratched their heads wondering why did a tennis site appear when they had clearly typed [fill in any security website name here]? FYI: crying "why me" doesn't help at all.

Given the age of the computer, and its hardware (memory, processor speed), the amount of effort to "pay the ransom" if you will, far exceeded the value of the computer. In order to fix the computer, since the quickest solutions had all been disabled by the hijacker, the computer would need to be restored to factory condition. Meaning, everything on it would be erased and it would have returned to new status. Another alternative: install a new hard drive.

Sounds OK, doesn't it? Either of those: about 30 minutes. It's the rest that is time consuming. All software except Windows would need re-installing, all data backed up before the restoration so it wouldn't be lost, all devices such as printers, cameras, iPods, routers, etc would need re-installing.

Getting the picture? Time, more time, more money spent on older technology. And then five years of Windows updates would have to be done (this part could be eliminated IF the new hard drive option was chosen).

Bringing a computer back to factory condition also means it doesn't have all the security updates that occurred from the day it was put into use.

Sometimes, even when the security software is current, a hi-hacking can occur. That my friends is WHY BACKUPS are so important. Not just data backups, but IMAGE backups. With an IMAGE and a regular data backup, a computer can be restored in less than two hours.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is it regularly maintained and secure, and is it turned on?


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Double Trouble

Plugging in...

How annoyed would you be if you still received email from an email account that you DELETED from your Outlook program? The Tutor's client was on the verge of ledge jumping, figuratively, of course as this continued to haunt.

It took a bit of digging, but the problem had nothing to do with Outlook (for once, yeah!) and everything to do with the client's office and a forgotten request.

At one time the client wanted both personal and work emails to go to the same Outlook account, on two different computers. Fairly straight forward to accomplish for those in the "know". Fast forward to new computer purchase and the use of the free Log Me In PC website which allowed the client to view the work computer, including emails, while at home. This negated the original reason for the personal/work email combination.

The Tutor deleted the personal email account in Outlook but lo and behold, those personal emails continued to arrive as if by magic. Magic only exists in Harry Potter so, how was it happening and how to stop it?

The culprit? The client's workplace network administrator. Way back in the "olden" days, before the likes of Log Me In PC and other cool remote utilities, the client asked if it was possible to have work email sent home and personal email sent to work. The administrator complied, without using the client's computer or the Outlook program. The request was made so long ago that it was forgotten... until recently.

A simple request to the network administrator to reverse the process took care of the double emails quicker than a spell cast by Hermione! (Don't know her? READ some Harry Potter books...)

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, did you ask the network administrator first, and is it turned on?


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Halfway to Crazy

Plugging in...

Why on earth would a printer print a one page document beginning halfway down the page, so that it extends onto a second page?

The Tutor's initial inkling was someone inadvertently set the document to center vertically, which means, center top to bottom. Useful for a cover page, but certainly not for a document. But, no, that was not the issue.

So off we went into Printer Properties and the foraging began. Although it shouldn't have caused the problem, the printer was set to print Back to Front on the Basics Printer Properties tab. That is supposed to mean the printer prints the first page last, so a multi-page document prints out already collated. But the client had a single, solitary page...

Apparently the printer had a mind of its own because this setting caused a one page document (yes, we're positive it was a one-page document, 8.5 by 11 paper) to print out a half page of print at the top of page two and a half page of print beginning in the middle of page one. Once the settings were reversed to Front to Back, the problem disappeared.

The really niggly part of this whole thing is, it wasn't a new printer, and just "automagically" started printing like this, willy-nilly. Of course we all know that willy-nilly can mean some piece of software received an update and it affected the printer. But try to prove THAT one in a court of law!

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is it printing Front to Back and is it turned on?


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Missing Sync

Plugging in...

Syncing is typically done between two items to make them contain the same information on both items. In this case the syncing was from a laptop computer to a Blackberry. Usually an almost mindless activity once it has been set up properly, but it doesn't always go smoothly.

Outlook is a powerful and popular email program made by Microsoft and it handles just about any personal information to manage that you throw at it, including calendars that sync appointments to "smartphones", of which a Blackberry can claim allegiance to that genus.

To sync, one merely plugs the cable into both the computer and the phone, and with little fanfare, the comparison and updating takes place immediately. And it did, except for the calendar. The client's Blackberry had many appoinments that didn't make it over to Outlook on the laptop. And why the reason for the missing appointments?

The client mysteriously and accidentally created 4 additional calendars in the Outlook program and the appointments were not always added to one main calendar. Poor Mr. Blackberry can only sync to the calendar with the check mark next to it, and in this case, the check mark wasn't in the same location each visit to Outlook.

The client was going crazy trying to understand where were the appointments that were painstakingly typed into Outlook just yesterday? They were there all righty, on three different calendars and two calendars were blank. Once the calendar culprits were removed, the syncing bewteen phone and computer went flawlessly.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is there ONE calendar in use in Outlook, and is it turned on?


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Semper Paratus

Plugging in...

A little behind on your Latin? Always ready. That's the slogan of many organizations including our mighty USA Coast Guard. And it should be a motto to compute by as well.

My constant preaching of backing up computers hit home with a client this month. They bought a backup unit as suggested, and also employed an online backup as a backup to their backup. Double protection, it can't hurt.

Buying a backup unit is half the job, setting it up for use is usually more difficult for the average user than making the purchase. Though sometimes myriad choices of all things computer can boggle the consumer as they try to spend money.

The Tutor was asked to whip the backup into place, selecting the correct scheduling settings and choosing/finding the files to backup up. And when the Tutor arrived at the client's location, guess what happened?



THE BACKUP unit was off-site, at their home, in a drawer!

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is it ON-SITE, and is it turned on?


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Elusive Wireless Connection

Plugging in...

Wonderful, wireless internet. Great when it works, frustrating when it doesn't. Frustrating when the user isn't sure just how the wireless piece does its thing. That user, would be YOU, the reader!

Most laptops have built-in wireless cards which act as antennae to scout the airwaves for nearby wireless connections (networks). BUT... in order for this to work, each laptop has a different method for having the wireless "radio" on, enabled, working, lit up, whatever word works for you.

A recent client wanted to allow a laptop to use the wireless in the house. It hadn't been used before, but it was set up and ready to accept wireless connections. So the Tutor sent an email with instructions for how to connect to the wireless router in the house. Except no one could make it work. Long story short: impatience won out, the Tutor was in the neighborhood and did a "pop-in" visit.

Main problem? The wireless button was switched off. This particular button was at least visible, above the keyboard, but with nary a verbal descriptor, just a symbol that remotely resembled a cell phone tower, along with a blue LED indicator. The light, of course, was out.

Button depressed, blue LED comes on, then the proper wireless icon appeared in the bottom, right corner of the computer's screen. The first time one desires to connect to a wireless connection, it doesn't happen auto-magically, no matter how much one begs! Usually (though not always) a right click of the mouse on the wireless symbol brings up a menu with "view available wireless networks". By clicking on that sentence on the laptop screen, the user will be presented with the names (aka SSID) of the available wireless networks that the laptop can "see". Just because it can "see" them listed, doesn't mean it can connect to each of them.

If a wireless network is protected with a pass code, phrase, password, pass phrase (they all call it something different) then the laptop will not be able to connect unless the user knows the code. If it's unprotected, anyone can connect, the user will be warned it's connnecting to an unprotected network, but will allow the user to choose CONNECT anyway.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is the wireless TURNED ON, and is it turned on?


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Death by Any Other Name

Plugging in...

This is not a good story. It does have a lesson which will divulge itself momentarily.

A client called for a "check-up" of their computer. It's running slow, won't always read Kodak photos CDs and other sundry items. A typical call the Tutor receives.

After finding nothing unusual but the usual detritus to cleanup, and some minor education in how Kodak Easy Share software works, the time was ripe for a backup. The client had not used their in-place backup (Maxtor One Touch) for six months. Can you see where this might be going?

Maxtor plugged in, computer performing the super easy backup until, until, until... (don't you just love the suspense of a computer mystery?) the laptop screen turned black, and ALL power faded away. Huh? That's what we both said too. Computer did restart, but the only hint of life was a blinking white cursor against a dark screen. And two large sighs were heard round the world.

The laptop, coincidentally, had breathed its last breath at the same time the backup was taking place. A massive heart attack, if you will. No CPR, no EMT assistance. Dead as in not worthy of fixing (it was 5 years old).

The moral of the story is: can you guess? If one has a backup plan in place, one must USE the backup plan in place. What good is the backup if it's six months old? Albeit, better than NO backup at all, but six months could paralyze some people who rely on their computers to earn their keep.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, IS IT BACKED UP, and is it turned on?


Monday, January 11, 2010

My Password? What Password?

Plugging in...

Those pesky passwords are just killing us. Create a password here, change a password there. Here a password, there a password, everywhere a password. Old McInternet had a password, E I E I O.

Good as the Tutor is, a password cracker is not the Tutor's claim to fame. The Tutor can help with many things password: changing a password that was forgotten, resetting wireless router passwords, assisting in creating a method so that password forgetting or writing down (kind of defeats the purpose, right?) is a thing of the past.

Think pattern. That's a hint for creating a new password for every Tom, Dick or Harry that begs for one. Use the pattern each time and you'll never have to remember what the password is again.

Don't understand "pattern"? Call the Tutor. The Tutor knows how to pattern. If patterning isn't your thing, consider using a password program to securely save and/or create the passwords for you. Roboform is the Tutor's current fav.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, did you use the password pattern and is it turned on?


Friday, January 8, 2010

Whoa, it's a New Year

Plugging in...

Happy new year and welcome to the decade of 2010.

But where oh where has the Tutor been? The blog lost some steam in December, 2009, like many things in the world. The Tutor though, was occupied with enjoying the fabulous holiday season of 2009 and knee deep in installing four desktop computers, among myriad other computer-related tasks.

Unplugged is still goin' on out there, even when the Tutor's fa la la-ing. A keyboard this time. A frantic call early one morning. Can't type, can't shutdown, can't send an email, can't, can't, can't.

The caller had already shut off the computer and restarted it but the Tutor suggested unplugging the keyboard and plugging it back in again. The call ended, and the phone rang again minutes later, same caller. A laughing caller. When attempting to unplug the keyboard, the caller noticed IT WASN'T plugged in to begin with.

Many cables are stuffed and stuck behind things (computer, desk, table, etc) so it's not obvious when they work themselves out of their snug little slots. Course, wireless keyboards and mice can eliminate this little snag...

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, and is it turned on?