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Want a useful Christmas present?

Grumbles from the Keyboard is a collection of newspaper columns written over a period of six years. Published as Bits and Bytes, under Court Nederveld’s byline. The column appeared each week in the Charlotte Sun, Charlotte County, FL. The articles target average home computer users. Many computer users harbor a fear of computers because they seem so mysterious. The columns attempted to inject a bit of humor into human/computer relationships simply to allow people to take a deep breath and realize that it really isn’t as frightening as it seems. At the end of the book is a handy log for recording website, user name, password and any notes appropriate to that account. Another huge issue with users is what I refer to as Computer Vocabulary. So often a user will describe an issue with words that make no sense to a tech. So, within each chapter there is a computer or Internet related word or phrase printed in bold type. At the bottom of the page will be a box labeled “Grandpa and Grandma, how come you’re so smart?” This box contains the bold word, its definition and a couple of sentences that demonstrate how to use it. Another column favorite over the years were the comments by Martha. Those familiar with the column know that Martha, in her own way, simply said what most of us were silently thinking. Grumbles From The Keyboard As a desk side reference putting similar or related columns together will make it easier to find information as needed Enjoy! If you take advantage of this offer, the author will autograph it for whomever you wish. The link to checkout is https://sites.google.com/view/bitsandbytesnews/home

 

 

Jingle Bells and other commotion!

man in santa claus costume
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

It’s hard to believe, Christmas is just over a week away. If being good wasn’t your style this year, there’s still time to come up with some mitigating circumstances that might reduce the load of coal crashing down the chimney. For the rest of us, the shopping is nearly over, just those presents for the wives and girlfriends that send grown men into the stores Christmas Eve. But in retrospect, this year seemed a turning point for the holiday season and our twittering tin can played a large part of that change. Here’s some of the ways PC’s changed my Holiday paradigm.  

 Emily Post is turning, no spinning in her grave now that I decided to move from Christmas Cards to Christmas emails. But adding up the cost of cards, envelopes, paper and stamps, I felt the need to cut back. Two ways to save. One, cut a bunch of friends and family from the card list, or move into the 21st century and utilize the Internet. So here we are. This year’s infamous Family Letter was composed on the computer, mail merged on the computer, converted to a PDF file on the computer and attached to an email that found it’s way to the email boxes of friends and family. Tacky? Several years ago, I would have said yes, now it’s more of a necessity.  

 Shopping: I am probably the only person in the world born without a shopping gene. I hate shopping. There, I said it. (Martha, there are pills to treat that.) This year, I decided what gifts I would give, used my computer and the Internet to compare price/warranty/service, and then ordered it online. Even items I could have run down to the local big box stores and picked up, I ordered online and had shipped to my door.  A big decision maker was all the retailers offering free or very low cost shipping this year.  http://www.freeshipping.org lists over 500 merchants that offer free shipping. As a bonus to the procrastinators out there, Amazon Prime still offers free shipping and one day shipping on many items. The idea is that items ordered on the 17th can still be delivered by Christmas Eve.  

 If the joyous sounds of small children are filling your home this year, perhaps this site can quiet the little rug rats down. A site located at http://christmas-coloring.com/ has a collection of coloring pages that can be printed and handed out to the kids. Give them a box of crayons and this should keep then occupied for a few minutes Or at least until the linoleum lizards find our computer and change all the settings to make it “better.”   

 Once they have commandeered our digital domestique for their nefarious plans, send them over  to http://www.primarygames.com/holidays/christmas/games.php for a collection of online holiday games they can play. There they will find games like Deep Freeze, Where’s Santa and Run Santa Run. It will keep them occupied while we prepare the holiday eggnog. 

Always bought eggnog from the store? Don’t actually know what eggnog is? Fire up the pernicious PC and surf over to https://tastesbetterfromscratch.com/homemade-eggnog/ for eggnog recipes. Try one or try them all. Eggnog has been a holiday staple for hundreds of years. It has even spawned this gem of poetry. If you see a fat man, who’s jolly and cute, wearing a beard and a red flannel suit; And if he is chuckling and laughing away, while flying around in a miniature sleigh; With eight tiny reindeer to pull him along; Then – let’s face it – Your eggnog’s too strong!! (Author unknown) 

On a more serious note, tis the season for giving. Not only are many of us feeling philanthropic, but many organizations and folks offer themselves as worthy recipients of our hard earned dollars. It behooves us to make our charity stretch as far as it possibly can. Take a few minutes to surf over to http://www.charitynavigator.org. Founded in 2001, Charity Navigator has become the nation’s largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities. Thinking of donating to a charity? Check their ratings and efficiency. If they don’t rank at the top of the heap, maybe a charity with similar goals but with lower overhead would make better use of the money we worked for. Consider outcome based giving. Can you see feel and touch the results of your gift? 

Is there still time to amend my letter to Santa?  

Court Nederveld owns his own computer consulting and fixit service –Bits, Bytes & Chips Computer Services. He can do remote repair. You can reach him at adakeep@hotmail.com

 

The Taskbar and other things

taskbarOne of the phrases I hear frequently is, “I didn’t know that!” It usually pops out when something that is being explained triggers a sudden realization that there is a simple way to do something or prevent a problem from occurring. The following suggestions are given to those running Windows machines but many of them are consistent with other operating systems such as Apple or Linux computers.

Take a look at the desktop. This is the screen that appears after we log into our binary buddy. Usually a pretty picture for a background, a taskbar along the bottom of the screen with some icons in it, maybe a few icons located above the taskbar such as shortcuts to programs and files.

If we set up the computer originally choosing all the default settings, (the ones that Windows thinks we need) then some interesting things occur.

Icons that appear on the desktop for a program such as Word and the icon also appears in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen, we find that the icon on the desktop requires a double click to open it, while the one in the taskbar only requires one click from the mouse. If we double click the one on the taskbar we can sometimes open the program twice.

The moving taskbar: Sometimes the taskbar moves to the side or the top of the window. Use the mouse to place the arrow on an empty part of the taskbar, press and hold the left mouse button and drag the taskbar where to its proper place. Once there, use the right mouse button to click on an empty area of the taskbar. A menu will appear and near the bottom of the menu click on Lock the Taskbar. This will prevent it from moving again. If we can’t drag the taskbar to a better position, right click on it and make sure it isn’t already locked. If it is, click to unlock it then move it and relock it.

Now open a browser. There are several popular browsers, Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera and there is a host of lesser known browsers. What does a browser do? It is not the Internet. It does however, take the data coming from the Internet and converts into something that humans can interpret. Or to put it another way, we can always open a browser, but if we have no Internet connection the page will not be displayed.

All browsers have the capability to print the page we are looking at. Remember it will print the entire page, ads and all. Many times we just want the article or statement from our bank, not all the junk that surrounds it. Take our bank statement for example. We can log in, go to our statement and there it is on the screen. If we use the print command from the browser, everything in the window will print. Now look carefully at the statement itself. Somewhere on, above, or near the statement will be a label or link that says Print. This will only allow the statement to be printed instead of all the junk around it.

Simple tips and tricks.

Court Nederveld owns his own computer consulting and fixit service –Bits, Bytes & Chips Computer Services. He makes house calls in Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte! You can reach him at adakeep@hotmail.com

Tick Tock, What Time Is It Anyway

blur clock clock face close up
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Tick tock. Tick tock. “Time Has Come Today” sang the Chambers Brothers in 1968. Chicago harmonized with “Does Anybody Know What Time It Is?” Then followed their question with “Does Anybody Care?” Van Halen’s musical entreaty was “Don’t Waste My Time.” In 1974 Jim Croce sang about saving Time In A Bottle. Time, is something that we either have too much of or don’t have enough of. How many times have you said, “I just plain ran out of time?” Or “I didn’t realize what time it was.” Or my favorite, “Time just got away from me.”

Tick Tock, tick tock. What is time? Time keeps everything from happening all at once. Without time you wouldn’t be able to remember the past. Or for that matter, even with time, why can’t we remember the future? Time also has different speeds. Time flies, or time just drags by. We even say that time stands still. Sometimes we lose time, or gain time. We give certain time specific events names such as Christmas Time or Bed Time or Lunch Time. So with all this importance placed on Time, how do we know what time it is?

Tick Tock, tick tock. Check your wristwatch. What time does it say? Now, look at the kitchen clock. Is it ahead or behind your watch? How about the clock in the dining room? Still a different time? Now look at your VCR. I bet for most of you it says twelve o’clock. (Is he a mind reader Martha?) “So what,” you say? Does it really matter if we are five or ten minutes late or early? Two thousand years ago, two buddies would say, meet me under the big tree at the new moon. So you would get there a few days early, camp and wait because no one could actually tell the exact moment of the new moon. Time then was plus or minus a few days. (So what are five or ten minutes?)

Do you have Onstar, Google Maps, TomTom, or a Garmin in your car, or GPS on your boat? Did you know that your position in the world to within a few feet is calculated by measuring the time it takes for signals to bounce from you to satellites in orbit? Stephen Dick, the United States Naval Observatory’s historian, points out that each nanosecond – one billionth of a second — of error translates into a GPS error of one foot. If the satellite time is off by the same five or ten minutes as the clocks in your house, Onstar might send your tow truck to Tampa, or Sea Tow might be looking in the Atlantic instead of Charlotte Harbor.

All right, how do I actually know what time it is? The genuine official keeper of time is the United States Naval Observatory. Here they currently have fifty-nine atomic clocks from which they calculate an average and answer Chicago’s question. This is the official world time. And here is the answer to your next trivia question. Of the fifty-nine atomic clocks currently used, ten of them are hydrogen masers and forty-nine are HP-5071 cesiums. (Gesundheit!) No, I don’t know what a hydrogen maser is either. But, these clocks must be accurate because it is predicted that the average of these clocks will be off by one second every six million years. So…

timedateIf you are running Windows 10, right button mouse click on the time in the lower right hand corner. A dialog box will open up and there will be navigation link labeled Date & Time. Click on it and make the selections in the right half of the window to configure you specific time and date situation.  Choose which ever you wish and let your computer set its clock with the atomic clocks and display the most accurate time currently possible. (Now go set the rest of the clocks in the house.) For those still using Windows 7, click on the date and time in the lower right corner. A box opens up displaying a clock and calendar. Click on the link labeled “Change Time and Date Settings. A new dialogue box opens and there are buttons to change time and date and time zone. At the top of the dialogue box are some additional tabs one allows us to display multiple clocks and the other allows us to change the Internet time server that our prompt digital domestique uses to keep accurate its clock.

Until next time.   And, oh by the way, don’t be late.

Beeeep…Beeeeeep

Beeeeep…..Beeebackupeep…….Beeeeep. I was sitting in my bathrobe this morning, drinking a cup of coffee and reading the local rag. I mean the Charlotte Sun. When this awful noise crashed into my morning routine. Beeeeeep……Beeeeeep……Beeeeep. There it was again. I jumped up; or more accurately, got up. That early in the morning not everything wants to function quite as sprightly as it once did. I walked out the front door to see what was going on. Coming down our street in reverse was a large moving truck.

Beeeep….Beeeep….Beeeeep. Now I am not superstitious but this was a bit weird. Have you ever had one of those days where at the end of the day you say, “I should buy a lottery ticket.”  One of those days when seemingly random events have a recurring theme embedded in them. For example: I client of mine gave me his phone number. Later that day I went to his house and his house number was the same number as the last four digits of his phone number. Then oddly enough, when setting up a broadband account, they asked him for the last four digits of his social security number and, you guessed it, it was the same number.

Beeeeeep…..Beeeeeep…….Beeeeep  So here I am standing in my driveway, listening to a truck make that terribly annoying noise and it hits me. The truck is BACKING UP. This is the second similarity in two random events. Not twelve hours prior to this, a business client of mine had called me and told me his PC had crashed during a power outage and now it would not restart. I had run over to help him but the PC was in need of a complete re-installation of the operating system. I looked up and asked for all the BACK UPS so I could rebuild the system for him. “BACK UPS, what BACK UPS?” he said. Fortunately PC CPR  (that’s a computer/medical term)  was able to get the system BACK UP and limping along sufficiently to do an immediate BACK UP of all critical business information. Happy ending so far.

Beeeeeep…..Beeeeep……Beeeeeep. What was this series of events trying to tell me? As I pondered the question I turned and went BACK UP to the house. Wait a minute, is that the third event? I realized that while my PCs are all supposed to automatically BACK UP all important data, it had been awhile since I actually checked the BACK UPs myself. How do I run my BACK UPs? First, since I have more than one machine networked together, I have software on my machines that takes all the important files from one PC and copies it to the other on a regular schedule. This means that each machine on the network has a complete copy of all the important files on each machine. Lose one machine, no files are lost, and as soon as a new machine is installed, I am BACK UP and running. Second, the critical files or the ones that would be nearly impossible to recreate, stored in the cloud. Finally, on rare occasions I will make an image of the entire hard drive (no this does not mean I take the PC apart and take a picture of the hard drive) and store it on the network.

Now, let’s BACK UP a minute. You don’t have multiple PCs on a network. You don’t have a flash drive, and finally your camera doesn’t take pictures of bits and bytes. When your PC crashes you want to be BACK UP right away too. What should you do? If your back up requirements are minimal, open a GMAIL account and take advantage of 15 gigs of free cloud storage called Google Drive. Or if you have a Microsoft account go to OneDrive for 5 gigs of free online storage. Dropbox is another storage site as is Amazon Drive. If your storage requirements are even greater then check out Carbonite (https://bitsbytesandchips.com/cloud_backup  (“Did he say FREE, Martha?”) There you can store terabytes of data, (that is a lot of space.) Not only would your data be secure and BACKED UP, but if necessary you could access your files anywhere in the world. Isn’t the Internet wonderful?

Hopefully you have picked up the recurring theme embedded in the seemingly random preceding paragraphs. I have to head BACK UP to the office now, but later on, I think I will go out and buy a lottery ticket. Beeeeep……Beeeeep…….Beeeeep!