on the cheap and sleazy side (www.cheapandsleazy.net)

By G.D. Warner

Fear Computers No More

The Court Reporting Student's Guide to Computers

 

Got fear?

If you're like most computer users, you probably do. Whether it's a fear of doing something wrong, or the most common fear most Windows users have: "It's working-! For God's sake, don't touch anything!", most users have some measure of fear when it comes to computers.

Let me tell you a little secret. Computers, like wild animals (and most kids), can smell fear. Once they know you are afraid, it's just a matter of time before they begin to feed on that fear. Once this happens, it is inevitable that something will go wrong.

Fortunately, if you appear to know what you're doing, this fools the computer into believing that you are in control, thereby lessening the computer's desire to, shall we say, have its way with you, metaphorically speaking. This method also works with wild animals and children -- most of the time -- but that's a subject best saved for another time.

File Organization

Arthur Naiman, in the 4th edition of The Macintosh Bible explains a file organization scheme he called apfeaeiip. This is an acronym, which breaks down to A Place For Everything And Everything In Its Place.

What this means is you should save everything you do in one (or more!) folder(s) in the My Documents folder with your name on it. To do this, open the My Documents folder, right click in an empty space, select New, then select Folder ... and type your name (I like to use Glen's Junque a lot).

I think this pretty much says it all about the Dos and Don'ts of file organization ... but just in case it doesn't ... Got music? Put it inside another folder called Music inside that My Junque folder (or whatever you called it).

Got pictures? Put them in inside another folder called Pictures inside that My Junque folder (or whatever you called it).

Got articles? Put them inside another folder called Articles inside that My Junque folder (or whatever you called it).

As an example -- though not necessarily a good one -- here is what my iBook's Desktop looks like these days:

apfeaeiip at work

apfeaeiip at work

If you don't practice apfeaeiip, your desktop could look like this:

No apfeaeiip

No apfeaeiip

Yes, I am a bit of a Farscape fan; why do you ask?

Update (07OCT05)

Below is a picture of my roomie's desktop:

Extreme apfeaeiip

Extreme apfeaeiip

I downloaded for her this freeware program called Object Dock. Object Dock is a Windows version of the Mac OS X dock. Before I showed her how to use it, her desktop looked very similar to that bad example screenshot in that second picture, above. Soon it looked like the screenshot above.

You should also note that the one folder there on the bottom right belongs to her (now ex-) boyfriend.

Finally, you should note that the dock is normally invisible, and only appears when you mouse over it.

Now then ... if I could just get her to hide that Start menu ....

(And now, back to our thrilling narrative ....)

File Navigation

I once worked with a guy who often had to search through a folder containing about 50 or 60 Word documents. He would scroll down, looking for the one file he wanted. Once he found the file, he would reach for the mouse and (*gasp!*) double-click it. As I found this painful to watch, I thought I'd best help him out with this tip I'm about to share with you.

When you're looking through a folder full of files and sub-folders, if you know the name of the file, type (quickly now!) the first few letters of the file name. Your OS ("Operating System"; you have to know the lingo somewhat so your computer will believe that you know what you're doing!) will take you to that file or one with a similar name. From here, you can use the arrow keys on your keyboard to navigate down further if necessary, to get to the desired file. Once there (as in, the desired file is highlighted) simply hit the Enter or Return key on your keyboard, and the file will open.

As you might guess, my then-boss was really, really happy that I showed him that trick! I probably saved him about 30 minutes per day! :o)

Application Switching

Sometimes when I'm working, I'll have more than one application (or program; same thing) running. For instance, right now (21JUL12) I have skEdit, my XHTML editor of choice open, with two different windows, my e-mail client (Thunderbird), Audion, a (now discontinued) early competitor with iTunes, Firefox, a web browser, Safari, another web browser, Z-Write, a tabbed word processor, Graphic Converter, or "The Poor Man's PhotoShop," Adium, a universal chat app, VideoLan, so I can watch videos (I have one loaded right now, in fact: An episode of "Saving Hope," with Michael Shanks, formerly of "Stargate SG-1"), and digitalCAT's Dictionary Maintenance program, running under Wine. Everything is minimized (or "hidden" in MacOS parlance) except for skEdit, which I am using to write this instructional tome webpage.

If I needed to get to another application quickly, I would use the ALT-TAB keyboard command to switch between applications (Apple Command-TAB on the Mac). Under Windows, this brings up a small window which shows you which programs are running (and which folders are open):

application  switching, Windows style

Appllication Switching: Windows Style

Here you can see (sorry about the crappy picture; it's a picture of my iMac's screen running Virtual PC because I couldn't get a screenshot on my PC with the switcher open!), I have a Help file open, a music program (Mod Plug Tracker), and two folders. The outline there indicates which application will be active when you stop doing the ALT-TAB keyboard combination. Also note that not only is the application running displayed in the bottom portion of the window, but the name of the song playing is also! A nice touch.

To use this shortcut properly, simply hold down the Alt key, and tap the Tab key. If you hold down the Tab key, the applications will keep switching until you either get dizzy, or you get tired of holding down the Tab key -- which, hopefully, will be pretty quick (lest you accidentally tip your computer off to the fact that you don't know what you're doing!).

Using this tip takes practice, but once you get it down, it's a handy trick to know -- especially for those of you who tempt fate by playing video games at work! You know better, of course ... but just in case you give in to temptation someday, when your boss comes by, you simply use ALT-TAB to switch to what you were supposed to be doing. Not that I would ever do such a thing as play a video game at work, of course ...

On the Mac under MacOS 9, you don't see a little window as in Windows; rather, you just switch from one application to the next. However, if you click the application menu (far right menu barely visible in the first two pictures) and drag your mouse all the way down the menu, the menu will become a small floating window:

Macintosh Application Switcher

MacOS 9 Appllication Switcher

As you might guess, the one that looks like a pressed button is the active application.

Update

If you've been visiting my (cheap and sleazy) website for a while, you probably know that I recently upgraded my Clamshell iBook (MacOS 9.2.2, G3 chip, 300MHz, 288MB of RAM, CD, and a whopping 3GB hard drive) to a G4 iBook (MacOS 10.3.9, G4 chip, 768MB of RAM, 60GB hard drive, and a Superdrive (reads and writes CDs and DVDs).

Another Update

Since I wrote the above, I have upgraded to the 2010 MacBook Pro! We're talking true Sex and Power here, baby!

Since I'm no longer running MacOS 9, things are a little different for application switching.

Right now I have (as usual) more than one application running: the Finder (the Mac Desktop), Crea:Text (an HTML editor), GraphicConverter ("The Poor Man's PhotoShop;" Macintosh only; sorry!), Audion (a now-dead competitor of Apple's iTunes) and Firefox, with about ten different web pages open (gotta love that tabbed browsing feature!).

Did I mention I'm also listening to a playlist in Audion of some reggae I recorded off the radio back in 1993, which I converted to MP3s with Audacity(Mac and PC)? Did I mention I'm listening to this over a pair of wireless headphones? Did I mention I have no life at all?

Anyway, application switching-wise, it looks like this:

MacOSX Application Switching

Application Switching, MacOSX Style

Alas, the ability to create a floating window from the Applications menus is gone ... but it was replaced with the Dock (kind of like the Start Bar in Windows):

MacOS Application Switching II: The Dock

"MacOS Application Switching II: The Dock"

Like the Windows Start Bar, that extra junk in there is stuff Apple thought I needed quick access to. For the most part, they are correct, so I've only deleted a few things. One of these days I'll get around to getting rid of the other junk in there that I never use .... one of these days.

"Dude -- what's up with all this Mac stuff? I'm a CR student; no Macs anywhere!"

You mean you haven't heard? Apple is moving away from IBM's Power PC chips to Intel chips. Rumor has it that you can install Windows on one of these systems without any problems -- unless you count the Windows "virus DUH-jour", of course. This is why the Gods invented hard drive partitioning! :o)

Also, you might want to feast your squinties -- er, take a look at this unfinished and (somewhat) out-of-date article when you get a chance ... and one of these days, I *will* finish it!

And now, back to our regularly scheduled madness ....

Error Messages and Dialog Boxes

You've probably seen one of these before. It's a little window that comes up and tells you that Windows doesn't like the paper you just spent five hours working on, and is going to shut down now. Kinda like this one:

Thanks a lot!

Don't let your computer talk to you like this! Show it you know what you're doing.

Or perhaps the one that shows up when you're trying to save a file that basically asks you where you want to save your file (you are going to save it in the folder you created in My Documents, right?).

The good thing to know about dialog boxes like this is they have what is known as a Default button. This is a button (usually the Okay button) that you have to click before your computer will do anything. You can easily differentiate between the two types by their appearance:

Good error message

Good Error Message

Here you'll notice that the Yes button appears to have a border around it. This means that if you hit the Enter key on your keyboard it will activate the Yes button. This tip alone will save you hours over your lifetime struggling with pointing devices that just don't work half the time.

Now, do you see the underlined letters on the buttons? Should you find yourself with a completely dead mouse, and you need to select the borderless 'No' option, all you have to do is click the ALT button, and then click the letter N.

Right-Click 'n' Drag

This one is a little timesaver for those times when you have to move a file from one folder to another.

With your two folders open (also works from the Desktop), right-click and drag the file you want to move and release it in the window of the destination folder. You will be presented with a small floating window, which says 'Move Here,' 'Copy Here,' and -- well, see for yourself:

The ol' Right-Click-'n'_drag Trick

The Ol' Right-Click'n' Drag Trick

The small folder in the top left of the picture is the folder being dragged.

This trick is handy because sometimes you don't need the folder in two places, so moving it instead of copying it cuts down on a later right-click and delete operation.

On the Mac (both MacOS 9 and 10), something similar can be accomplished by simply holding the Option key down while dragging the file or folder you wish to copy. You don't get the little window as depicted above, though ... at least, not exactly.

On the Mac, most systems come with a one button mouse. To simulate a right-click, you hold your CNTRL (say 'control') key down, and then click. Here's what you get when you control-click a folder:

MacOSX Control-Click menu

MacOSX Control-Click menu

Going Mouseless Made Easy

This same feature (you know; the underlined letter stuff) exists in menus; I rarely use the mouse these days since I've learned so many keyboard commands.

Keyboard Commands

If you wish to learn a few, the best way to do so is simply to click the menus and look at the ones you think you'll need to use the most. If they have a letter in the menu item underlined, then that is your keyboard combination -- or, more accurately, part of your keyboard combination.

To access something under the File menu, click the ALT key, then hit the letter F (you did notice that the some of the letters in your menus are underlined, didn't you?). Next, hit the appropriate underlined letter for the task you want to do that you discovered while exploring the File menu.

In most Windows applications, there are a few universal keyboard commands, like Control-N for a new document, Control C for Copy, Control-X for cut (these two only work if you've selected something), and Control-V for paste (only works if you've copied or cut something).

Here's a good way to remember the most common ones:

Keyboard Shortcuts for Dummies

Keyboard Shortcuts for Dummies

In applications that handle text, Control-B gives you bold text, Control-I gives you italics, and Control-U gives you underlines. If you've really messed up, Control-Z will undo your last action -- but beware that you only get one level of undo in most applications ... though some, like Nisus Writer Pro for the Macintosh, will allow up to 300 levels of undo -- but if you actually have to use all 300 undos, perhaps you should reevaluate whatever you're writing.

A similar feature set exists on the Macintosh, except in each instance, it's the Apple key (it says "Command" these days ... and the Apple symbol is gone!) as the modifier instead of the Control key. This is because the Control key on the Mac is used to imitate the PC's right mouse button (see that last picture)

Back in my days as a Windows Telephone Tech Support guy (not the actual job title, in case you were wondering), one of my first customers was a guy who bought himself a new mouse, installed the appropriate drivers, made sure it worked, tossed the old mouse in the garbage, turned off his computer, and went to bed. The next day he turned on his computer and discovered that his brand new mouse wasn't working! Worse, the garbage men were taking his trash away while he was trying to get his new (and expensive!) mouse to work.

My mission: to help him navigate well enough so that he could uninstall the new mouse driver and try again.

So this is how I learned a *lot* of keyboard commands ...! But you should note that I don't actually recommend this method.

As I mentioned, I rarely use the mouse (at least, on a Windows machine. On the Mac, if your mouse dies you're up the proverbial creek!). It's not because I'm lazy; rather, it's because the mouse on the Macintosh is very precise, while under Windows it doesn't seem quite as precise to me. As a result, I find that I always have to use the Windows Mouse Control Panel to try to get the mouse to work the way my iMac's mouse does at home ... and it rarely does. It comes close, but that's it ... hence my continuous use of keyboard commands.

That said, here's a few things I do when I'm using Windows.

To access a given program, I activate the Start menu by doing the keyboard combination Control-Escape (or Esc). I then type the letter P (for Programs, right?), and this brings up a menu of all the programs. I then use a combination of arrow keys or typing to get to the program I need.

Need to kill off one of those annoying pop-up windows that showed up while you were looking for a site that got hijacked by a domain name squatter (that's where you go to a site that worked once, and now is some sort of site with a lot of ads and a weak search engine that opens a lot of windows in your browser when you try to get rid of it; I'm sure you've run into this at least once ...)? To kill that pop-up, just use the ALT-F4 keyboard combination, and the pop-up will go away. Usually. This one works just like the ALT-Tab keyboard combination discussed earlier. In some situations as mentioned above, multiple windows will pop up on you; the fastest way to get rid of them is this ALT-F4 keyboard command.

If you just tried this and nothing happened, remember that when I said 'F4' I meant the key that actually says 'F4' on it, NOT the letter F and the number 4 keys. But you knew that, right? Hope so; otherwise, your computer will laugh at you and begin to take unfair advantage of you, and you don't want that.

Need to shut down or reboot your computer quickly? Try ALT-F4 with no windows open.

Do you feel the need to do something in DOS? Start menu (you remember: Control-Escape), type or select Run, and type COMMAND.COM.

Need to access your floppy drive? Do Start-Run, and type A: (that's A-Colon, by the way ....). A window will open, displaying the contents of your floppy drive.

Don't want to scroll through the Programs window to find WordPad? Simply bring up the Start menu, select Run, and type in WORDPAD.EXE. WordPad will open for you.

Need to open Word? Do Start-Run, and type in WINWORD.EXE -- provided, of course, you actually have Word installed ....

If you want to learn to open other programs using this technique, you can use the Search function in your Start menu (Control-Escape, remember?) and search for files containing .EXE.

Yesterday, my roomy's wireless mouse died. I replaced the batteries, restarted the computer a couple of times, but still could not get the thing to work. My wireless internet connection was down (pesky neighbors went on vacation or something and turned off their unsecured wireless router), and I needed to check my e-mail via webmail, using my roomy's computer (which is how I found out the mouse was dead)..

Did I mention the cursor would not move, no matter how many times I rebooted?

Thanks to those advanced keyboard shortcuts, I was able to check my e-mail, despite the dead mouse.

Control-Escape to open the Start menu.

Type R to bring up the Run window (you may have to do it more than once, depending on what's in your Start menu)

Type in a web address, like, say, http://webmail.mindspring.com.

Logging in was easy, because the web designers were kind enough to set the page up so that the cursor ended up in the Login field when the page was loaded ... and a simple tab moved me to the password section.

When the webmail page finally opened, all I had to do was find the message I wanted by watching the screen's Status window (at the bottom of your web browser's window) and watching the top half of the screen for highlighted text while hitting the Tab key on the keyboard.

It took a while, but I eventually was able to tab down to the desired message. Once I did, to open the message, I just hit Enter.

Like I always say, "Easy-peasy."

A Bit About Hardware ...

You've probably heard about USB by now, right? If not, you should know that USB is a TLA (that's Three Letter Acronym) which stands for Universal Serial Bus.

"What is Universal Cereal ... and what is it doing on a bus?"

All you really need to know about USB is that you can plug keyboards, speakers, disk drives, and even CD-ROM burners into this port.

I mentioned earlier a bit about how I was listening to some reggae I recorded off the radio back in the early 90s onto cassette tapes. To get these tapes into my computer, I used a USB device called a Griffin iMic (about $50). No sound card on your computer? Plug this into a USB port, plug your headphones into the appropriate opening on the iMic, and you've got sound, both in and out -- in stereo, too.

I may be a bit biased, but this is cool.

One of the other cool (and perhaps more useful on a daily basis) things you can do with USB is to attach a pen drive to it.

"Dude -- what's a pen drive?"

Well, a pen drive is -- excuse me, did you just call me 'Dude'?

Dude --!

Surfer Dude Error Message

"Dude" indeed ...!

Anyway ... a pen drive is a small, solid-state (a $2 phrase which means no moving parts) device which plugs into your USB port and acts like a hard drive. These come in sizes ranging from 32MB (mega-bytes; million bytes; as in roughly the same as one floppy disk) up to 5GB (giga-bytes, as in a billion bytes; as in, the same as ... well, a lot of floppy disks), and they range in price from $40 up to $500.

The Pen Drive:  Get One!

The Pen Drive: Get One!

As these drives work on (nearly) all systems thanks to Plug and Play (which means you plug it in and it just works, as opposed to Plug and Pray, where you plug a device in and you have to get on the internet to find drivers for it which may or may not cause your system to act wonky (that's a technical term, by the way ...) once installed -- which you pray doesn't happen (hence the term)), this is a good way to carry files around. As for where you buy them, the smaller capacity ones are available at Walgreens. If you don't have one (or need one) now, keep this in mind for the time when you do need one.

If you've done any looking around for steno machines on the internet, you've probably seen the new Elan Mira. You might have also noticed it doesn't have the standard serial cable; instead, it has a USB cable.

More and more computers are being made without the "legacy" ports (parallel, serial), and instead are including the newer, faster ports (USB, FireWire (or iLink, or IEEE 1394; same thing)).

Fortunately, you can buy USB to Serial converters should you find yourself needing to hook your computer up to some ancient serial-based device. If that is the case, look for a Keyspan adapter at http://www.keyspan.com. Can't say anything good about Belkin adapters; sorry!

Warning!

In the document Good Stuff (or "Writers and Laptops and Software -- Oh, My!"), there is a warning about using the Keyspan adapters with a Stentura 400 (or any Stentura, for that matter) when your CAT software is digitalCAT ... so take heed!

When Things Go Wrong

Sometimes, despite all efforts to convince your computer that you know what's what, something will still go wrong. At this point, you're supposed to inform your instructor, who will report it to The IT-folk, and (hopefully) the problem will be fixed.

But what do you do at home? Telling your instructor won't help; in fact, s/he might just laugh at you -- especially if you've graduated already.

You could try calling technical support, but that is often a frustrating thing to do: long waits on the phone, people that are clueless, etc. The worst thing that can happen during a tech support call is they ask you to do one simple thing, and it fixes your problem ... and they still charge you for the call, because they told you to do something you could've done yourself.

Basic Troubleshooting

Sometimes a computer will freeze. No error message or anything, it will just stop. You won't know there's a problem until you try to do something.

Can't tell you how to avoid this problem (sorry!), but I can tell you one way to identify the problem a little faster: set your system's clock to show seconds. You can't do that with the standard Windows clock, so you'll have to download and install a copy of some clock enhancement utility. There's a blizzard of software out there for Windows (as you'll often hear in a PC versus Macintosh argument), but they never mention that you have to ensure that the software you're downloading will work with the version of Windows you have ... and that's all I'm going to say on that particular subject. But, if you need to download shareware and freeware, try Download.com (http://www.download.com), or Version Tracker (http://www.versiontracker.com).

Moving right along ....

In Windows, you have something called the Task Manager. You can see the Task Manager in action by pressing (all at once) Control, Alt and Delete. When you do this, you'll see a window of all your open tasks (or applications).

The Task Mangler

The Task Manager

If an application you're using has suddenly stopped responding, you can use the Task Manager to stop it. Simply click the name of the application once, then click the End Task button. This usually will fix things, though sometimes you still have to restart your computer.

You can also use the Task Manager to see if anything strange is running on your system. For instance, that last item on the list, Shicon98. I have no idea what that is. Virus? Nope ... just a driver for the Pen Drive (*whew!* Thanks, Google.com!).

Mouse or keyboard acting weird? Simply press Alt-F4 (with no other windows open, right?) and select Restart. If the weirdness continues -- that is, you move your mouse and it doesn't move in the direction you expect it to, or you type on your keyboard and notice a few keys don't work as well as they should, etc. -- you may need to clean your mouse or keyboard.

Advanced Troubleshooting

Most of the "advanced" troubleshooting you will need to do involve getting your laptop and your steno machine to talk to each other. I wrote an article that covers that exact subject, and you can find it here:

http://www.cheapandsleazy.net/troubleshooting.html

Note that this is primarily geared towards those of you with writers that don't have USB built in, but there is a small mention of what to do with those writers when you have trouble getting your writer and CAT software to connect, so you're covered! Just look for this bit in that document:

NOTE: This is where you tell Case if you're using a Cybra, Diamante, or a Wave.

Of Mice and Keyboards

Sea Story Alert

(I'm an ex-Navy guy. Ex-Navy guy's (and gals) are supposed to tell sea stories. I don't tell many, but here's an appropriate one for your delight and amusement and hopefully education).

Back in my days as a Naval Cryptologic Technician (Maintenance), a young marine from the Operations Center (Ops for short) came running into the Mat shop where us CTMs worked.

"Petty Officer Warner, my computer has a bug in it! Come fix it!" I grabbed a tool bag and followed him to Ops, all the while trying to explain to him that when computer guys talk about bugs, it didn't mean a literal bug, that was just a term programmers used to talk about software with problems.

When we got to Ops, he showed me the computer at his position. The keyboard was so dirty, it was amazing he could type anything on it. I then picked up his dirty keyboard ... and a palmeto bug fell out.

For those of you who don't know, a palmeto bug is Florida-speak for cockroach. Also for those of you who don't know, these things usually remain outside, grow to about 5 inches in length, and can fly. Fortunately this one was a baby (I was going to include a picture for you, but decided not to. You'll thank me some day ...).

After disposing of the palmeto bug (those safety shoes were quite handy at times), I jokingly recommended that he check to see if his keyboard needed cleaning by picking it up, holding it over his head, and shaking it vigorously.

"Are you serious? 'Cause I'll do it if you tell me to, Petty Officer Warner!"

Of course, I wasn't serious ('Here's bug in your eye!' Yuck ...) but a good cleaning can relieve a lot of problems with your keyboard. Take my niece's keyboard (please!):

A dirty keyboard

Dirty Keyboard

As you can (hopefully) see, this keyboard is in need of a serious cleaning. I used a small vacuum cleaner that I use only for electronics on it, and cleaned it as best I could. Unfortunately, it needed more: some isopropyl alcohol, and some Q-Tips. Get these at any electronics dealer. Radio Shack sells a bag of Q-Tips ('cotton-tipped applicators,' I believe they call them) that are perfect for jobs like this.

Dead Mice 'r' Us

You can tell when your mouse doesn't work properly when you try to move the cursor on your screen and it either doesn't move at all (if it's connected) or it moves in skips and jumps. To fix this problem, turn your mouse over, and follow the directions (usually on the bottom of the mouse) to open it. Remove the mouse ball and place it someplace safe (pockets work well). Take a look inside. If your mouse's guts look like these --

Dirty Mouse

-- it needs some cleaning (and yes, that wheel at the eleven o'clock position is supposed to be white).

Note the black stuff on the wheel in the picture above. This causes a lot of problems. To get this off, you use a common household implement, also known as Mr. Common Tool Numba One: the nail file from your handy dandy pair of nail clippers.

Mouse Cleaning

Inside the mouse there are also some smaller rollers which also need the attention of our good friend Mr. Common Tool Numba One.

You can see the above-mentioned small roller at the 5 o'clock position in the previous picture. Unfortunately, as the roller is dark, it didn't show up in my pictures very clearly (sorry about that). Fortunately, you can see the progress made by my use of Mr. Common Tool Numba One.

Partial Fixes

Can't help much with the dust in the keyboard problem (vacuum cleaner?), but I can make a recommendation to alleviate the dirty mouse problem: get an optical mouse.

The good thing about optical mice is there are no balls to clean. No wheels, either. Here's a shot of mine:

Apple's Optical Mouse

Simplicity

No balls, no wheels, nothing to clean! Simplicity in itself.

There are only two drawbacks to this type of mouse: If you use it on a white surface, it works erratically -- just like a dirty mouse. The way to fix that is not to use it on a white surface. You're welcome.

The other drawback comes if you try to use it on a red surface: It just doesn't work.

A Wee Bit o' Word

"Word Corrupts, Absolutely."

I'm not one hundred percent certain, but I bet the above quote was uttered by a frustrated technical writer who, after writing the most brilliant prose s/he could for a manual everyone would read (yeah, right--!), was confronted with a variation on the "Can't save this document, dude!" error message. While the above quote was significantly cleaned up for this document (as you might imagine), it does state a simple truth: Word will sometimes corrupt your document at the most inopportune times.

One of Word's problems seems to be the one where you're ready to save (or print), and you get an error message which says something which basically means "Can't save because I can't find the file," or something equally inane.

When you are confronted with this dilemma (pronounced DUH-limma when this happens, by the way) the most important thing for you to do is DON'T PANIC!! When you panic, you may do something that will result in a document that is gone forever. To avoid that, here is a Cheap and Sleazy™ trick you can try:

  1. Do a Control-A (Select All, remember?)
  2. Do a Control-C (Copy, remember?)
  3. Do a Control-N (Create a New Document, remember?)
  4. Do a Control-V (Paste, remember?)

If all goes well, your DUH-limma will be solved: You should be able to save or print a copy of your formerly corrupted document.

Oh, and if you ever get a job where they want you to use Word's Master Document "feature," just say no.

Trust me.

That #*^&!! Assistant

I'm sure you've seen it: that annoying paperclip that makes faces at you while you type. Feelings on this guy are mixed (well, not really; no one I know actually likes him, except for Joni -- er, one of the women at my (now closed) school), but as always, it could be worse:

The Mac's Version of Clippy:  Count Your Blessings.

The Assistant on the Mac: Count Your Blessings

On the Mac, we don't have the paperclip; we have the annoying little creature depicted above. Worse, with MacinTalk and Speech Manager installed, it can actually TALK to you! What to do? While tempting, the use of power tools isn't exactly a smart option. Instead, try this Cheap and Sleazy™ trick:

  1. Right-click the annoying assistant
  2. Select 'Hide Assistant'
  3. Problem solved!

On the Mac, you can accomplish the same thing by simply going to the Help menu, and select 'Turn Assistant Off.'

Cheap (and Sleazy) Internet Tricks

Search Engine Fun

Back in my (mercifully long-gone) days using Dialup internet access, I discovered a problem while doing a Google search.

The problem: Usually when I do a search, I end up with (hopefully) a lot of results. If I click on one of those results, my lengthy page of search engine results disappear, to be replaced (hopefully) by the link I clicked on (as opposed to the usual "File Not Found" page).

Once I'm done reading the page, I would have to use the Back button to go back to the search engine's results.

As you can imagine, this is a painfully   s-s-s-l-l-l-o-o-o-w-w-w   process on a dialup connection!

"Zzzzzz ....."

See what I mean?

The solution?

There are two of 'em.

The first one involves the search engine's Preferences page. If there is, click the link.

There should be a setting entitled "Open Page in New Window." Select this. What this does is opens the link you clicked on in a new window, leaving your results alone!

This is a Good Thing™.

Some of the search engine's Preferences pages have an option where you can specify how many results you want per page. I have my results maxed out to 50 per page.

I only use three search engine pages (directly; Sherlock uses a lot more). I have all of them set this way.

The search engines in question: Google.com, Dogpile.com, and AllTheWeb.com

A Slightly Modified screenshot of the Google Prefs Page

A Slightly Modified screenshot of the Google Prefs Page

Sherlock2, the Mac's built-in internet search utility

Sherlock 2: The Macintosh's built-in search utility (don't worry; Longhorn,
the next version of Windows (if it ever ships) will have something similar)

Update (21JUL12)

Sherlock is no more; instead, Firefox, my Browser of Choice, has a built-in batch of search engines you can select, and it is really easy to add more!

I did, however, find it very difficult to add the Google search engine to Internet Explorer the one time I tried to do so.

Finally, take a look at The Cheap and Sleazy Search Engine when you get a chance for more tips.

But Wait -- There's More!

If you frequent any of court reporting boards like I do -- you know: The Phoenix Theory forum, the StenoLife forum, and the Depoman.com forum, to name but a few -- you all know that it would be nice to be able to use a setting that would allow you to open a post in a new window, as discussed above.

Too bad they don't have that!

There is one thing that will do the job without the use of Preferences. All you have to do is hold the Shift key down when you click on a link (Mac-folks have to use the Apple Command key). This (as you might guess if you've been paying attention) opens the link in a new window. Want to try it?

Hold your shift key (or your Apple Command key) down and click this link.

If you did that right, you should have this window and another open (hope the cartoon d'jour is funny!)

Update (21JUL12)

Apple has released their own web browser, called "Safari" ... and (on the Mac, anyway) clicking a link while holding the Shift key down results in an animation of the link you clicked on literally jumping off the page and flying to an icon on the toolbar that look like a pair of glasses. The purpose? To "save the page for later reading."

Needless to say, I was NOT happy when I saw this bahavior on a page that I had intended to read right now, in another window!

Besides ... when I want to "save a page for later reading," I'll make a .pdf of the page and save THAT. Sheesh ...!

Missing Web Pages ....

The dreaded The Web Page Your Are Seeking Cannot Be Found pages. Don't you just hate those?

Would you believe that you can (sometimes) find those pages that are "no longer available?"

It's true! (No, really!)

All you have to do is use the Way Back Machine.

How does it work? Well, you copy a known-dead web address, like this one: http://www.fastext2000.com

In case you're wondering, this is -- well, used to be, anyway -- the web page for a combination laptop and steno machine. The laptop used Word as its CAT software, and went for about $2500.

The page also had some interesting things to say about stenography, so it was an interesting read.

"So what," you ask?

Well, you can use the Way Back Machine to see all of this stuff!

All you have to do is copy that known-dead web address, and paste it into the appropriate space on the Way Back Machine's page:

The Way Back Machine

The Way Back Machine

If you did it right, you should have a page open that looks like this:

The Results Page

Way Back Machine Search Results

Now you can beat the dreaded 404 Error!

... unless, of course, the webmaster has a "No Bots, No Follow" meta tag, which would keep sites like Google or Web Archive.org from archiving the site.

Still, this is a good trick to have in your arsenal of (cheap and sleazy) internet tricks.

"Do You Have a Trick For Viruses?"

That's easy --! Go to Wegener Media.com and buy yourself a cheap iBook (~$300 or so), or a cheap G4 PowerBook ($500 or so), or a cheap MacBook ($600 or so), or perhaps a cheap MacBook Pro ($900 or so).

Why?

No viruses! Use the Mac for all your internet-related stuff: downloading updates, e-mail, etc. Use the Pen Drive to move files between the Mac and the PC. Keep your PC off the internet, no more viruses.

Apple's Graphite iBook

THE Virus Stopper.

Easy-peasy.

If you do decide to go this route, you will need to upgrade the RAM from it's paltry 64MB to at least 128MB (remember the rule for RAM: "More is Better!"). You'll also want to get a larger hard drive installed. These ship with either a 3 or 6GB hard drive ... and you'll want to apply the Rule for RAM to the hard drive. The link I provided is to a company that does nothing but repair old laptops, so they are not intimidated by the complex instructions to open one of these computers up ... so order that hard drive when/if you purchase one of these. Also, the one shown is the one you want, if you can get it ... but any of these units should be okay.

Got an extra couple hundred bucks? Grab one of these:

Apple iBook 500

The Apple iBook, 2001 Edition (a.k.a. "Ice" iBook)

Why?

Hackers target all the vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer, which Microsoft may or may not get around to fixing. If you use Firefox, all those vulnerabilities are gone. Throw in popup blocking, tabbed browsing, built-in Google search and ... well, what's not to like?

Of course, you've probably heard about how Apple has moved from the PowerPC chip, created jointly by Apple, IBM, and Motorola back in the day, to Intel-based systems ... so if you are thinking about getting a Mac to avoid viruses, I highly recommend that you pick up either a refurbished MacBook or a refurbished MacBook Pro. Max out the RAM and the hard drive, and you can run either VMWare Fusion or Parallels and run Windows ... and therefore, your CAT software.

Update (29MAR09): "All That Glitters ...."

About a week ago, I responded to a post on the Depoman forum from a reporter who was on a "trusted" site, when she was accosted by an alert telling her -- well, I'll just quote what she wrote:

"I am just sitting here editing my transcript when all of a sudden, I get a message stating that my computer was infected with viruses, do I want to do a scan? So I hit yes. Then it comes up with a McAfee Shield asking me if I want to remove these trojans, I have all of these flashing red trojans, for a total of 527."

My question is, should I download what they are telling me to? I'm a point and click kind of girl, if something goes haywire, I have no idea what to do. It wants me to install Antivirus 360. Should I?

I wrote back a rather lengthy response ... but before I copy-and-paste that response here, I think you should see what Google says about Antivirus 360.

Hope you clicked the link.

For those of you who are "click-shy," the first few links you will see on that page are all about how to remove Antivirus 360 ... so that should tell you something right there! :o)

That said, here's my response:

Myscilyn wrote:

My question is, should I download what they are telling me to?

Hi, Melissa.

Every once in a while, I see a message saying "Scanning your hard drive ... VIRUS FOUND!!!!"

Unfortunately, the graphic accompanying the "Scanning your hard drive" message shows a Windows directory structure -- you know: C:/My Programs, My Documents, etc. -- which is not how things are set up on my Mac.

The point there is just because something tells you it's scanning your hard drive and found a virus, doesn't mean that it's actually scanned your hard drive and actually found anything ... so in the future, ignore any such messages you see on your screen.

....

Good luck ....!

--gdw

A Slight Update

Just last night, I was trying to watch the latest episode of Joss ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Firefly") Whedon's "Doll House" on my laptop. I could hear the show begin ("Previously, on Doll House ..."), then a pop-up ad popped up (as they are known to do), blocking my view of the episode I wanted to see (grrr!!!)!

I clicked the close box to get rid of the ad, and my browser windows disappeared, and was replaced by an offer to "scan my hard drive" for viruses.

Thinking that the browser had crashed (happens every so often when you're beta-testing the latest builds of Firefox -- or any other browser, for that matter), I clicked the Okay button (all I could do!) ... then I got this:

A Bogus Virus Scan Message

If you read the response I wrote above carefully, you should notice two things immediately:

  1. I'm on a Mac (see the blue apple on the top left?), so that directory structure is all wrong
  2. This "scan" is actually an animated graphic -- in my browser!

Of course, I didn't download anything during this experience -- at least, nothing shows up under the Download Manager -- but the name at the top of the screen says "Virus Doctor." A quick Google search for "Virus Doctor" also yields a bunch of removal instructions for Virus Doctor (no ...! Really?!?)!

So if this happens to you, close that browser window ... and if you're using Internet Explorer, switch to Firefox -- or better yet, get a Mac!

Got Questions?

E-mail me at gdwarner (at) cheapandsleazy (dot) net.

-o0o-