Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Floppy Disk Seek Failure... WHAT??

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Sometimes there just isn't a sane, logical answer to "how did this happen", or "what did I do" to make my computer behave this way. As in a recent client's sudden message that appeared when the computer was turned on one morning: "floppy disk seek failure, press F1 to continue or F2 for setup". 

This Dell computer never had a floppy disk drive but one fine day, it began searching for one. This confused the owner, not just the message, but it begged the question: what is a floppy disk and why is it being sought? Anyone out there remember the good old days of floppy disk storage?

The answer was to press F2 when the computer started up and paused displaying the failure message. Pressing the F2 function key (not the letter F and the number 2) enters the land of system setup and confusing BIOS setting where one can choose to disable any reference to a floppy drive which the Tutor did.

But HOW did it go from being perfectly happy not seeking a floppy disk drive for years, to desperately seeking one at each startup? Who knows. The Tutor can tell the readers for sure that it wasn't a software update because Dell updates were turned off and the computer was running Windows XP for which Microsoft discontinued updates in April of 2014.

Acceptance is the key, and understanding why is over-rated, not to mention time consuming and potentially costly.

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


Friday, December 18, 2015

Windows 10, the Upgrade

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If it isn't broken... don't fix it! For the dedicated Windows 7 users out there, upgrading to Windows 10 provides little fanfare or additional functionality that you "can't live without". It will cost you zero dollars to upgrade, but several hours of your valuable time. It will however, leave all your files and programs in place, so no additional work once the upgrade is completed. AND you can revert to Windows 7 within 30 days should you so desire.

Windows 8.1 users. If it isn't broken... don't fix it. However, some of you are NOT Windows 8 fans and the free Windows 10 upgrade may make you breathe easier. It will leave all your files, settings, and programs intact AND you can revert to Windows 8.1 should you so desire. Expect it to take several hours, longer, the older the computer. AND make sure to check everything after the upgrade is complete: open each of the software programs you regularly use; go online, check email; print something; if you sync with iTunes, do it. Leave no stone unturned as they say. You may stumble upon something that doesn't work, better sooner, rather than when you really, really need (or want) to use it.

If you have any older computer running Windows XP or Vista, the upgrade to Windows 10 is NOT free, it will cost you $120 for the privilege.  However, the upgrade may give new life to an old dog because this Windows 10 upgrade is noted to work well on older hardware. The caveat here is: everything that was on a Vista or XP computer will be deleted, files, programs, everything. So it is not just a $120 investment. Along with your time, you will have to re-install and/or purchase your programs of choice. Might just be more cost and time effective to buy a new computer unless you really like to fiddle with your technology, just for fun - you know who you are!

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


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Creative Solutions

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Pulled a few tricks from the bag yesterday while working with a client. The client needed to fill in a PDF form to submit for an audition for a part in a movie in France. The form was emailed to him, the client filled in his pertinent details, though the form was not capable of being saved with the data typed into it. OK... except the client did not have a printer. Nor did the client own a version of a PDF product that would allow him to save or print. Hmm. So we have an online form, and no way to use it with the data in it. Time to put on the thinking cap.

Here's what the Tutor arrived at for a solution. The client filled out the one page form on screen. The Tutor used the Windows 7 Snipping Tool to take two "photos" of the form, the top of the form, and the bottom of the form. (The Snipping Tool does not allow scrolling on the screen to encompass what needs to be "snipped" so the Tutor could not snag the entire form in one pass).  Once the two photos were taken and saved to the desktop, the Tutor opened Microsoft Word and pasted the two photos into a blank 8.5 x 11 Word document.

Using the Wrap Text feature, each photo was set to Wrap Tight which allowed for movement and placement of the photos on the page. The Tutor aligned the photos, to make it look like the original form, using the Word Cropping tool to remove excess bits and pieces of the two photos. When the placing and cropping were complete, the document appeared as the original form, filled in with the client's details. But, we weren't done yet.

One final piece: the Word document was then saved as a PDF, which was the required format for submission to the company. That took all of about 10 minutes to complete but 20 years to know how!

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


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Out of Paper??

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The Tutor installed an ordinary wireless  all-in-one printer with Apple AirPrint capabilities this week. (Apple AirPrint means iPads and iPhones can print to it). Although the installation on the Mac AirBook laptop went smoothly, testing the print capabilities was a bit more challening.

The printer worked perfectly communicating with the laptop, printing was easily and quickly accomplished from multiple programs, including email and the internet. Just when the Tutor thought it was safe... testing commenced via the client's iPhone and iPad. First print from each was successful. Not to rest on our laurels, we attempted a second print from each. The printer was producing an error on the screens of both the iPad and the iPhone stating "printer is out of paper". And clearly it was not. It had a solid half inch of new printer paper, properly fanned and seated in the print tray. The laptop continued to print normally, without any errors stating the printer was out of paper. Hmmmm.

The printer had two paper trays, one for 8.5 x 11 paper, the other for 4 x 6 to photographs. Not having any 4 x 6 photo paper, the Tutor proceeded to measure and cut a few pieces of 4 x 6 printer paper and inserted them into the photo paper tray. Crossing fingers, which by the way sometimes works... the iPad and iPhone were once again asked to find the printer and print. They both did quickly and without error. But, we already had a one time printing success that morning. So we printed again. Perfection. Not only did the "out of paper" error disappear, but the printing was directed to the 8.5 x 11 paper, not the photo sized paper, as we hoped.

Interesting and misleading error. The iPhone and iPad do not have any printer settings, none, nada. Hard to imagine why both of them were finding an empty photo paper tray that they didn't want to print to anyway. Thank you, Apple. 

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


Friday, June 12, 2015

Hard Drive Bashing Party Anybody?

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The procurement of a new computer always leaves the user with the dilemma of how to safely dispose of the "old" computer. Not safely as in not harming the Earth (that, too will be addressed) but safely as in how do I remove all my information. DELETING is not the answer because, well you don't really want to know all the technical details, but it the information on the hard drive can be recovered if only deleted.

Two things factor into a solution. Do you want the computer to be usable by someone else, or is it ready for the glue farm?

If the answer is that it's ready for the glue farm, then we have a hard drive bashing party. Literally. We remove the hard drive from inside the computer, and have at it with a screw driver and a hammer, and any other tools we choose to use to destroy it. Then whatever remains of the hard drive can be recycled as metal. The rest of the computer including cables, power cords, keyboard, monitor, etc can be recycled no charge at many local stores: Staples and Best Buy are options.

If the answer is you would like someone else to use it, then we have more work to do, and no Hard Drive Bashing Party for you. Look for another blog entry that addresses the complete removal of the data on the hard drive, with the hard drive left intact for a second life.

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


Friday, May 29, 2015

Pass the Words

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Number one complaint/question/problem that the Tutor faces when working with clients is passwords. There are computer login passwords, phone and tablet passwords, wireless passwords, email passwords, and website passwords. The complaints range from there are too many, how can I remember them, I never HAD one, to I don't know them, they worked fine yesterday, I didn't change anything! No doubt the reader has encountered some challenge with one or more passwords.

Some people think they don't have any passwords, some people think they have too many, some people remember them, some people write them down, some people believe the tech support people when they call them, so they CHANGE their passwords.

The Tutor understands the frustration, especially the email password scenario, when the user receives the rather cryptic message: server cannot be found, incorrect server name, or something like that. The number one scripted response from the tech support people on the phone is: let's change the password.

Readers, be aware that this may solve the problem for the device (computer, phone, tablet, etc) currently in your hand, but you must tell the tech support people that you have multiple devices from which you fetch your email. AND you must tell them how you fetch your email, through a website like, or through Outlook, or Thunderbird. Your job is not yet done. You need to ask the tech people who just had you change your password, to assist you in changing it on ALL your devices. That too, is part of their job when their solution is "change the password".

So, pass-the-word along. It's OK to change the password (even though it is unlikely that was the cause of the problem, but it fixed it so don't fret) but think about your other electronics and don't let go of that support tech person until you have tested ALL of them!

 ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is CAPS LOCK off on the keyboard, and is it turned on?


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Shutting Down, Sleeping or Hibernating?

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Some computer users think that shutting off their computer is as simple as closing the lid, or logging off. Unless someone has modified the settings, these actions usually put the computer to sleep, which is fine, if the computer user occasionally shuts the computer OFF or restarts it. Occasionally, like, once a week.

There are times when, for lack of a better description, the computer gets confused by everything it is being asked to do. Though it usually listens, and reacts appropriately, sometimes the internal confusion is just too much and it won't behave. The most common "won't behave" scenarios are trying to use the Internet and it won't connect, or email won't come, and email won't go.

First line of defense? Shut the computer off, not sleep, not hibernate, not even restarting. Just shut it down for about 30 seconds. There's a lot of maintenance that goes on behind the scenes when a computer is turned off. When it sleeps or hibernates regularly, the computer doesn't have the opportunity to clean up, maintain, put things in order, etc. It will take you less than five minutes to shut down, wait and turn it back on. It may immediately fix the problems you were having... or not. If "or not" is what happens, the problem may require some assistance from, say the Computor Tutor. Otherwise, you have solved the problem yourself, pat on the back there.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, have you shut it off and turned it back on, and is it turned on?


Thursday, February 5, 2015

A [Complimentary?] Cable Modem Upgrade

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Comcast provides many services, the internet being just one. If you are a Comcast customer with internet service, frequently referred to as your ISP (Internet Service Provider), Comcast periodically provides a complimentary, updated modem to their clients. Often the newer modem has more services built in, like WiFi. In the good, old days, neither Comcast nor Verizon provided wireless services. The clients, you and I, had to buy our own wireless routers so we had TWO black boxes taking up space on our tables and/or desks.

Today, the Tutor worked with a recipient of an updated Comcast cable modem with built-in wireless capabilities. Previously, the client had their own Netgear wireless router for their wireless service. Both of these routers were active and in place when the Tutor arrived.

The Comcast modem installed reasonably smoothly. The desktop computer connected to the Comcast modem wirelessly and the internet worked as it should. But the Netgear wireless modem was still attached to the Comcast modem, for no apparent reason other than Comcast did not complete their installation by removing the unnecessary Netgear wireless router, though the client mentioned the technician did "talk" about the extra Netgear modem.

That oversight by Comcast shouldn't have presented any issues, other than an unnecessary electrical device using unnecessary electricity. However, isn't there always a BUT, or a HOWEVER?? The client had two additional devices using the wireless connection, an iPad and a wireless printer, neither of which were changed to work with the NEW Comcast wireless settings. Both were still connecting to the old Netgear router. So what, the reader might be asking? Aside from the client had to HIRE the Tutor to solve the overlooked wireless problems?

Since the computer was connected to the new wireless and the printer was connected to the "old" wireless, the computer could no longer communicate with the wireless printer (they both have to be using the same wireless settings). The iPad was still connected to the "old" wireless and worked fine, and it printed. But when the Tutor connected the wireless printer to the Comcast router so the desktop computer could print, the iPad couldn't print. The iPad was connecting wirelessly through the "old" router, and the printer was on the "new" wireless router. Once the Tutor reconnected the iPad to the Comcast wireless settings, all the technologies found each other and worked as they did BEFORE Comcast installed the upgraded modem.

Does any of this remind you of a song: the iPad's connected to the Netgear, the Netgear's connected to the Comcast, the printer's connected... I think you get the drift.

So, Internet customers be aware: know what wireless devices you use and ask the technicians who are doing the installing to make sure ALL OF THEM connect to the new wireless settings before they leave.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - are they plugged in, are ALL devices on the same wireless settings, and are they turned on?


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Helpful Hands

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The Tutor received an unusual and unique thank you while working with a new client this past week. The Mail Chimp program was proving a bit problematic, more a semantics issue when all was said and done, for sending out what should have been a simple group mailing.

The Tutor's client shared their two-day frustration of attempting to get a campaign mailed to a certain "group" of potential clients. The solution ended up taking about an hour to resolve. When it was apparent that we had a solution, the client, bless her, took both of my hands in hers and kissed the back of each of my hands, thanking me for using them to solve a problem that had consumed too much of her time.

What can I say? The Tutor's hands are not usually revered during a session, but they appreciated the thoughtful, kind and unique gesture.

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


Kindle Capers

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What happens when you cross an Amazon Kindle with the Kindle App on an iPad? Usually they play nice and SHARE the book being read, whether it was first obtained on the Kindle or the iPad. Yesterday, though, a Kindle and iPad play date went astray.

It should have been easy, they "sync", right? Indeed they do, but only if the same email address was used to register the Kindle and the Kindle App on the iPad. It took some tedious detective work to discover that there was an old email address registered for the Kindle AND... Amazon does not have an edit email address for the Kindle, if the registered email address is defunct!

One must DEREGISTER the Kindle and REGISTER the Kindle using the email address that was used on the iPad Kindle App. You don't even want to know the other solution that Amazon presented, ridiculously long, convoluted and unnecessary! Something about merging the accounts, waiting several hours, calling tech support back...

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, was there ANOTHER email address from your past somewhere, and is it turned on?


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Latest iPhone Waterproofing

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How about those snack baggies from Zip Lock, or your favorite grocery store brand? Who knew that not only are they waterproof if one properly seals them BUT your iPhone will work IN the bag, with or without gloves. No special "touch" hand wear required.

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