Thursday, March 31, 2011

How Attached Are You?

Plugging in...

Outlook 2003. Attachments. Once you get the gist, it's easy to send attachments, until ahem, it isn't. Case in point: a client attempted to send the same Word attachment to one email address seventeen times. Why seventeen? Because the recipient never received the email, the SENT folder never showed the email was sent, AND the email was never bounced back with "return to sender".

After trying all the requisite actions: recipient put sender's email in safe senders list; sender copied and pasted attachment into body of email (still a no-go); checked known file types that Outlook 2003 blocks as attachments and Word is NOT one of them; sender emailed without attachment - success. Well, how does THAT help?

The Tutor went on-site and opened the offending Word document. A short, two page document that appeared perfectly fine. As a matter of fact, it was emailed as an attachment not long ago, and it went through. The Tutor noticed there were clickable website links in the document and disabled them by right clicking on each and selecting Remove Hyperlink. The Word document sailed through as an attachment! So the "live" links were the culprit. But why now, and not in the past, are the links causing the problem? Therein lies another Outlook 2003 mystery.

Researching the problem turned up this: the problem happens suddenly, has no apparent reason for the blockage, won't block all documents with "live" links. Myriad fixes were suggested, none of which solved the problem. The client didn't really care if the links were "live", they were in the document for informational purposes. That's fine for this particular scenario, but what if someone wants the links to be clickable? The Microsoft response online went something like this "we realize that blocking can at times be inconvenient, but ultimately security is more important". They claim any blockages are preventing potential malicious activities (phishing).

We used a work around, one which included NOT using a Microsoft product - Dropbox, a file sharing online product that does not prohibit any type of file from being shared, and not through email!

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


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Going Loopy

Plugging in...

How many people have had to replace any of their electronics power cords due to failure (not loss or animal consumption)? Laptop users are especially prone to power supply replacements. Know why? It's all in the wrist.

There is a product-saving technique involved when wrapping up the dangly power supply cords for transport or storage. Most people grab the cord and begin wrapping the cord around whatever larger piece is available, then secure it with either the attached rubber strap, the ever-sticky velcro strap, or slide an elastic around it. Mind you, the Tutor is referring to laptop power supplies at the moment.

When one bends the cord too close to its attachment point on the power supply itself, sometimes referred to as the "brick", the fragile, tiny wires coated in rubbery plastic also bend. And they bend every time the cord is re-wrapped. Those little wires really are fragile, and with enough wrapping and unwrapping the wires snap inside the coating (sometimes they visibly snap) and the power supply no longer can deliver power when plugged in.

The correct way to wrap the power cord is to create a small loop (as if going to hang it from a hook) where the cord meets the supply, then start the wrapping process. This prevents unnecessary stress at the power cord's most fragile point. Keep this in mind for ALL dangly cords that need wrapping from hair dryers to toasters to iPod cables. Since you are creating a small loop, the cord(s) can now be hung for easier storage.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, did you leave a loop, and is it turned on?


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Movin' On Up

Plugging in...

Moving can be a good/great thing, right? New condo, house, address, phone number, etc. How many of us think about the online accounts we've created with our old contact information? Does it matter if we don't change our contact information? Read on...

Windows Live (also known as hotmail) bounced a client's email password. The client was adamant: no, it had not been changed, no the caps lock key wasn't locked, no to a host of other typing issues that sometimes cause erroneous typing in the password box. The client had tried to type the password so many times that Windows Live "blocked" the account, assuming it was a hacker guessing at passwords to access the account. Fair enough. The client should have clicked on "forgot password" after several tries, but was unaware of the dark, foreboding place they were entering. To the client's point, they HAD NOT forgotten the password, it had been the same since the account was established years ago.

The first inkling of a more severe problem was the next suggestion from Windows Live: we'll text you on xxx-xxx-xxxx phone number. Oh no. The phone number was from a former residence, and, it did not allow anyone to type in a new or alternate phone number. The next and only suggestion: customer support. We are starting to feel the pain of moving...

Windows Live doesn't have "live" people to discuss email situations with. No. They have a private forum, and they have a list of questions they ask to establish your identity. They also REQUIRE an alternate email address to converse with you. If you don't have one, they handily suggest you create another Windows Live email address. A sampling of the questions they ask: full name, zip code, phone number, last couple of subjects you emailed about, a couple of names from your address book, the answer to your original secret question. They will use these to prove you are who you say you are, provided, and this is the kicker, they MATCH the original information the account was established with. And, they will get back to you within a 24 hour period.

The client blew out an audible sigh. No memory of what information the original account might contain, though the client was fairly certain we couldn't match the information in the original account. The client's address, cell phone, landline, had all changed, and the secret question answer? Windows Live said no, your favorite pet's name was NOT what you typed in. More audible sighing.

The quick solution to this problem was to create another email address which we did, while we hung on to the slim hope that Windows Live would get back to us in their stated timeframe. But that left the original address book in limbo and all exisitng or saved emails locked up tight, without access.

So, when you do change addresses, phone numbers or any other information that is used to identify your online presence, make sure you visit, at a minimum, your email accounts and change the information!!

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


Friday, March 25, 2011

Can You See Me Now?

Plugging in...

Oh yes, the Outlook 2003 email could easily be seen at this gi-gantitron size of 300%, from across the room! It only took on this enlarged appearance when the Tutor's client clicked the Reply button. No email recipient received the email at 300% either. Nor did it print in this behemoth size.

Hmm. No view buttons in Outlook changed the email size. No Options in Outlook were selected to change the font size of all replies. Hmm. Outlook 2003 has more than one option for what program is used to create and send email. And if a user wants their composed email to look all gussied up (fancy name for formatted), using word processing style features, then Outlook isn't using what is commonly known as an email editor. No siree Bob, it's using one of it's own: Microsoft Word.

And lo and behold, if using Word 2003 as the email editor, not only do all the Word features make themselves available to use in the email, but Word has its own view menu item that controls the size of the on-screen text only, zooming, as it is usually called. Once 100% was chosen from the menu (after clicking on reply), the client's email life was pretty much back to normal: too many emails, too little time, but just the right size for replying.

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


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Novel Support

Plugging in...

Not novel as in original and of a kind not seen before, but novel as in hard cover book, not ebook, not audiobook, just plain, ordinary book! A client, who is also a published author, was in need of some stitch-witchery. The sixteen chapters of the book were typed into individual Word documents, but paginated as though they were already combined.

Word has a nice feature which allows the insertion of one file within another. Do once, and repeat fifteen times. But for the one glitch... three individual pages that required inserting at three different locations, but without page numbers. Word again, to the rescue. Word has another useful feature referred to as section breaks, which allows for different headers and footers to repeat on different pages. Stop page numbering, insert breaks, start page numbering, repeat two additional times. Proofread, proofread, proofread.

Last but not least, the agent required the book to be in PDF (portable document format) form. Word 2003, the version the client was using, does not have the ability to save as a PDF (Word 2007 and 2010 do). One more trick, find and download a free PDF creator, save the Word document as a PDF, and email the PDF attachment to the agent. The Tutor chose the free version of Nitro PDF reader because it's small, easy to use, and less prone to assault by computer hackers than the free Adobe PDF Reader software.

The Tutor's client longed for the good old days, when one typed the book on a typewriter, collated the pages, and mailed them to their agent. The days when authors did not also have to be "tech savy" to get their work published.

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


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Space Invaders

Plugging in...

Sometimes technology fails us. Period. Like when you're suddenly asked for the"network" password when attempting to send an email. You may think "I don't have a password" (you do, though), because your email program conveniently remembers it for you. So this is what happened...

A client was prompted for the network password when sending what should have been an ordinary email on an ordinary day. And why can't the message just ask for the email password anyway? But the Tutor digresses. The client filled in the TWO prompted pieces of information on the screen: user name (which is the email address) and network password. The client filled in their Comcast email address and guessed at the password. And continued guessing as the email would neither send nor receive and the dang prompting box would not go away.

Compound the issue with a little check mark that told the email program to REMEMBER the password and we have a "situation". The Tutor, via telephone, instructed the client to change the password through the Comcast website. Changing the password was only one third of the battle. 

The first fight of the battle was the CAPS LOCK key was on when the password was reset. Once the Tutor figured that out, the second fight was OUTLOOK, the email program of choice by millions worldwide, had to be told the new password as well. The client did NOT want the password that was reset with the CAPS LOCK key on and was too frustrated to re-set the password again. At this point, the Tutor knew a site visit was in order. Score? Technology 2, Client 0.

As a temporary stopgap, the Tutor instructed the client to fetch and send email via the Comcast web-based email program, which worked perfectly. The Tutor then made a site visit only to find the real fight wasn't the password at all, though the Tutor did re-set it to the original password. The penultimate fight: the client had typed a SPACE in their email address in the original window that prompted for the username and password of the "network". The password was NEVER the problem! The client finally won the Technology battle of the day, albeit a bit battered, but more knowledgeable.

The remaining question is why did the email prompt for the username and network password to begin with? A technology mystery? Not really. If one researches the problem, the most viable reason is there was an update that caused the prompting. Could have been a windows, registry or Outlook change. Feel better?

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is there a SPACE where it doesn't belong, and is it turned on?


Monday, March 7, 2011

Music to the Ears

Plugging in... 

GarageBand, the Apple darling of recording music. Who uses GarageBand? Everyone and anyone who has a MAC (not available for PC users); a client, who received a fabulous Yeti microphone as a gift and plays a brilliant baby grand piano.

The desired outcome? Record baby grand piano playing through GarageBand on a single track for burning to a CD or DVD to share with friends and family. The stage was set: baby grand open, music on stand, Yeti microphone plugged into Macbook Pro, turned on and positioned on top of the piano, the pianist, and the recorder (the Tutor). After several takes and many guffaws, a couple of songs made their way toward Grammy night in under two hours!

For anyone who has spent the time with Apple Loops, software instruments, mixing sounds, adding and deleting tracks, it can be very entertaining and quite possibly the largest consumption of your time since the advent of the Internet! Not that it has to take that long to record, but the options. Oh my. The options to create, edit, mix, playback, and enhance sound are endless. How much time do you have? How good are your ears? Vocal, guitar, piano, podcast, songwriting all from a one-stop virtual recording studio.

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


Technology Transition Planning

Plugging in... 

Now this was an organized, on-the-verge of retirement client! The Tutor spoke with a CPA who is retiring in May, 2011 and wants a technology transition plan for leaving the work environment and going without an IT department, without an Exchange server (Outlook, for those unfamiliar), centralizing ALL billing with one vendor, changing email addresses, buying a new cell phone and an small, light computer for the hoped-for travel adventures.

Whew. Where to start? The goals were already listed, but what to attack and in what order? There were a couple of known items: a Verizon iPhone will be the new phone; Verizon will be the vendor with the bundle that offers phone, Internet and TV.

Action Items:

Find out the contract date from the original TV/Internet provider.
Determine the monetary penalty for canceling the contract early.
Contact Verizon for the "bundle" pricing and installation date.
Purchase computer and desired software.
Test the online software (cloud) software to make sure it works.

After Verizon services are in place:

Create new Verizon email address(es).
Ask Verizon and/or Apple how the iPhone syncs with Outlook on the MAC.
Ask Apple if Mobile Me works with the Verizon iPhone.
Have Verizon or Apple set up the phone to work with Mobile Me and transfer phone data from the current AT&T iPhone to the Verizon iPhone.

CALL THE TUTOR, it's time to retire and move the technology forward!

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