Posts filed under ‘Computers and Internet’

Label Cords Cheaply and Easily

By Chad Upton | Editor

Sometimes you have to temporarily disconnect your home electronics. It can be difficult to find a device you can spare or remember which cables to put back later. Use bread expiration tags as labels.

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July 6, 2011 at 2:00 am 8 comments

Emoticons and Other Facebook Tricks

By Kaye Nemec

In almost seven years, Facebook has captured over 600 million users and that number continues to grow. The ‘powers that be’ are constantly changing, updating and tweaking Facebook. While most people wait to see the new and exciting features from each update, you can read on for a few features you can try the next time you log in.

Bold Characters

Surround your text with stars to get bold text in the chat box. For example: *Hi! How are you?* will show up as Hi! How are you?


Underlined Characters

Surround your text with underscores to get underlined text in the chat box. For example: _I’m doing well. How are you doing?_ will show up as I’m doing well. How are you doing

Shapes

There are several different shapes you can use when chatting.

<(“) = penguin

(^^^) = shark

<3 = heart

:putnam:  = man’s head/face

The list of smiley faces you can use in chat is lengthy, but here are a few unique options:

8-) = glasses

:-* = lips

8-| = sunglasses

O:) = angel

:|] = robot

Use alt + any combination of numbers on the number pad to add characters to your status, chat and posts. For example:

Alt+14 =

Alt+13 =

Alt+3 =

Alt+5 =

Alt+36 = $

Privacy

When you’re friends with co-workers or family members, there may come a time when your one-of-a-kind status might not be something that one of these ‘friends’ would appreciate. Here’s how to select who gets to read your status and who doesn’t.

  1. On your profile page click in the ‘status box.’
  2. Click on the pad lock icon so a drop down menu appears.
  3. Choose ‘customize.’
  4. In the ‘These People’ box select ‘specific people’ and type in who you would like to be able to see your status. Or, if there are just a few people you’d like it hidden from, simply fill in the ‘Hide this from these people’ box and click ‘Save Setting.’

Linking to Other Profiles

Interested in linking to someone’s name in your status? Simply type @Joe Smith and a drop down menu will appear. Once Joe’s name appears and you click on it, it will show up as a blue hyperlink in your status, but the @ sign will disappear.

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Sources: XOMBA.com,fbsmileys.com, Mashable

Photo: marcopako (cc)

February 2, 2011 at 2:00 am 9 comments

Standard Keyboards are Designed to Slow You Down

By Kyle Kurpinski

It’s no secret that you will probably spend a significant chunk of your lifetime prodding at a keyboard, but have you ever considered why keyboards are designed the way they are? Logic would dictate that the layout of the keys should increase typing efficiency and maximize your output. Reality, however, is not always logical, and the vast majority of modern keyboards are actually designed to make you type slower.

The basic QWERTY layout – the default keyboard layout you’re probably using right now – is a remnant of the very first typewriters. As a kid I used to play with my mother’s typewriter and I would frequently jam the machine by pressing too many keys at once. The same thing could happen if a proficient typist hit two or more keys in rapid succession. Due to the mechanical nature of the typebars, jams were increasingly likely with faster typing speeds. The QWERTY layout (named for the six letters at the left side of the top row) was specifically designed to space out the most common letter combinations, thereby reducing jams by stunting the user’s output. By the time newer devices made typebars obsolete, QWERTY had already cemented itself as the primary standard layout. So if you’re using this archaic configuration today (which I admit, I am), you’re actually making yourself less efficient and potentially increasing your risk of a repetitive strain injury like carpal tunnel. Fortunately, there are other options available.

In 1963, Dr. Augustus Dvorak and his brother-in-law patented the (you guessed it) “Dvorak Simplified Keyboard,” which is one of the more commonly used keyboard alternatives. And no, it’s not just for engineers or computer scientists (or at least, it shouldn’t be). Take a look at the Dvorak layout below and compare it to your QWERTY keys. Note how many of the most common letters in the English language – T, N, S, vowels, etc. – are located in the “home row” where your fingers normally rest. This allows you to type the majority of letters with minimal hand movement. Less common letters like Q, X, and Z reside in the bottom row where keys are the most difficult to reach. On a Dvorak keyboard, approximately 70% of the keystrokes will occur in the home row compared to only 32% on a QWERTY layout.

Other alternative configurations are also available, including one-handed keyboards for people who like to type and use a mouse (or other peripheral) simultaneously, but Dvorak is probably the place to start if you’re looking for a quick way to increase your word-processing efficiency. Yes, it will take some vigilance to re-learn how to type on a completely different layout, but the results could very well be worth it. Besides, doesn’t it feel a little funny to willingly use a device designed to handicap you?

If you do decide to make the switch, the software to run Dvorak is already included with all major operating systems and can typically be activated with a with a simple change of preferences. You won’t even need to buy a new keyboard – Dvorak decal sets are available online (usually for a couple bucks) or if you’re ready to scrap QWERTY altogether you can manually remove and rearrange the keys yourself.

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Source: Wikipedia

Image: josue salazar

January 24, 2011 at 2:00 am 8 comments

Finding Home and End on a Mac Keyboard

By Chad Upton | Editor

I use both Mac and Windows computers and I appreciate some attributes of each. For example, I really like the home and end keys on Windows keyboards. These guys make it a breeze to select a single line of text or jump to the end of the line to keep writing after an edit.

Because Apple market share is at an all time high, I’m sure a lot of people are going to notice the absence of these keys when they switch. Unless you’ve got the full-size apple keyboard, the “home” and “end” keys are absent on your desktop or macbook keyboard. But, if you hold down the fn (or control) key, you can use the left and right arrow keys as home and end keys respectively. Hold shift while doing this to select the characters between cursor positions.

Speaking of the Mac keyboard, the delete key is equivalent to the backspace key on a Windows computer — it deletes characters to the left of the cursor. But, you can make Mac’s delete key function like the Windows delete key if you hold the fn key while pressing it — deleting characters to the right. Another favorite keyboard shortcut on Mac OS is fn + F11 which will temporarily hide your windows to expose your desktop, allowing you to easily select files without going to the finder or minimizing all of your windows. Then press fn+F11 to bring all your windows back to their original positions.

By the way, you can plug a Windows USB keyboard into a Mac, although not all of the task keys function the way they do on a PC.

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January 10, 2011 at 2:00 am 41 comments

Google Search Tricks

By Chad Upton | Editor

Google is an amazing search engine. Most of us use it to find websites with information, but it can do so much more than show you websites with answers. There are hundreds of built in features that can give you the information directly, without having to go to another site.

Movies Times

Enter “movies” followed by your town/city/postal or zip code and you’ll see some movie times for a couple popular movies along with a link to get the full list of movie times for your area.

Track Packages

Just type in a FedEx, UPS or USPS tracking number and Google will give you a link to see the shipping details.

Track Flights

Enter the airline and flight number and search. No more clicks, the info will be right there.

Find the Best Price

Enter the model name or number of a product you’d like to buy. Then click the “shopping” link at the top and Google will show prices at online retailers. To ensure you get the lowest price, you can sort by price (including shipping). There will likely be some retailers that you’ve never heard of, so you can read retailer reviews and sort by their rating as well.

Define a Word

Lets say some fancy pants uses the word “noetic” and you don’t know what it means. You could go to your favorite dictionary site, or you could type “define:noetic” into Google search. It’ll give you a list of definitions from various sites.

Unit Conversion

Whether you need to convert cups to gallons or go between metric and imperial units, Google’s conversion engine can help.

Currency Conversion

Just type in the value and the currency to convert from and to, example: 100 Euros in Australian dollars

Time

You think you’re doing a nice thing, calling somebody far away to make sure they’re well and give them a familiar voice to talk to. Then they answer the phone as if you woke them up in the middle of the afternoon, but you forgot that’s 4am in Tokyo. You can easily avoid this by checking the local time before calling.

Weather

Should you pack shorts or pants for your weekend getaway? Get a 5 day forecast in seconds (and easily switch between F/C).

Stock Quotes

Just enter the stock symbol and search.

There are many more of these features and I’ll be sure to share more later.

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Search a Specific Site

Some websites do not have good search functions on them. Sometimes I’ll read something on a site and then I go back to find it later and the site search is horrible. Otherwise, you might use google as your homepage, so it could be easier to initiate the search from there.

For example, you may remember reading why some knives have serrated blades on BrokenSecrets.com. But, you want to read it again or send the link to someone who was interested in it. You can type in google, “serrated site:brokensecrets.com” and it will only show results from BrokenSecrets.com.

Using Google as a Time Machine

Because Google’s spiders are constantly crawling the web, storing pages of data so they can resolve accurate and timely information for your search requests. Google actually lets you view the last set of data that was captured.

This information is helpful is a website cannot be reached, but you still want information from it. It’s also useful if information has changed, moved or been removed, you can potentially look at a previous version of the information.

October 13, 2010 at 2:00 am 5 comments

How to Watch Blocked Internet Videos

By Chad Upton | Editor

The internet is a great place to catch TV shows and clips that you or your PVR missed.

Unfortunately, a lot of websites only allow their video content to be viewed in their service area. It’s not because they’re mean, they may have contracts that prevent them from distributing outside their area, not to mention cost savings reasons.

That’s right, it’s expensive to stream video over the internet to thousands or hundreds of thousands of people in a reliable way. You need a lot of servers and bandwidth, both of which are expensive, especially in large quantities. If a broadcaster only services one country, they’re not likely going to spend money to reach customers outside of their service area, although they may allow it if there are no restrictions of that nature in their distribution contracts.

Secondly, they may not be allowed to broadcast outside of their broadcast area. Broadcasters buy distribution rights for the shows and other content that they air. These distribution rights are usually sold by country. That means a broadcaster who buys the rights to air a show in the US is not allowed to distribute that show over the internet to another country since they have not bought the distribution rights required to broadcast in that country. In fact, another broadcaster in that country likely has paid for the rights to broadcast that same show there.

There are also legal agreements with members of various guilds and unions that may prevent content from being distributed in certain areas or for a finite time after the original air date.

Broadcasters can identify which country you’re in when you access their website. They use various methods to determine your location, but the most popular is something called Geo-IP look up. Basically, when you navigate to their website, the network address of your computer is sent to the web server. They can look up that address in a database to see the country that address is registered to. This method is accurate most of the time and in some cases they can actually narrow down the part the city that you live in.

Although there may be legal and ethical issues with it, there are ways to circumvent some of the methods that are used, potentially allowing you to view content from outside their intended region of distribution. These methods may be illegal in your country, so verify the legality of it before doing so.

I think there is at least one ethical use for circumventing regional lockouts. For example, I was in Canada a couple weeks ago and I wanted to catch up on one of my favorite shows. I normally watch the show on network TV and all of the advertising is relevant to me. I wasn’t able to watch videos on the broadcaster’s website from Canada, so I could have used the following method to make it work:

  1. Install this Firefox plugin: http://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/967 (requires Firefox browser)
  2. In Firefox, Go to “tools” > “Add-ons” and click on the “Preferences” button for the Modify Headers add-on.
  3. Click on the “Headers” tab at the top.
  4. Then enter: “X-Forwarded-For” in the “Header name” input box (without the quotation marks).
  5. Enter one of the following IP addresses in the “Header Value” input box (without the quotation marks, and choose the country where the content is accessible from)
    USA – 12.13.14.15
    Canada – 207.245.252.27
    UK – 193.35.131.194
  6. Select “Add” from the “Selection action” drop down.
  7. Enter the country name in the “Descriptive comment” input box.
  8. Click “Add”.
  9. Now select the one you just added in the list and then click the “Enable/Disable” button. You should see a green circle next to it, indicating it is enabled.
  10. Close the Modify Headers box, restart the Firefox browser and visit the intended website.

I should note some websites that the above method does not work for:

  • cbs.com
  • cwtv.com (the CW)
  • hulu.com
  • sho.com (showtime)
  • tnt.tv

There are at least four times that many sites that DO work, although I’d rather not single them out for legal reasons. There are also a few other methods, but this is by far the easiest to setup and use. If you have IP addresses for other countries, let me know and I’ll add them.

Also, it takes a lot of people and money to make these great shows; be sure to support them by purchasing them when they come out on disc or renting them from iTunes, Netflix, Amazon, etc.

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Sources: Hulu, Spike

September 27, 2010 at 5:00 am 65 comments

Microsoft Invested in Apple in 1997

By Chad Upton | Editor

Microsoft and Apple are mortal enemies, at least, that’s what their TV commercials will have you believe.

They’ve always been competitors, originally trying to dominate our preference in computers, and now music players and mobile phones. Apple has a strong lead in music player and mobile phone segments, but Microsoft has a big lead as the dominant operating system. That said, Apple has become much more competitive in that space, especially in the past few years.

Their competition is most visible during commercial breaks, when they take jabs at each others potential flaws. Forget on court trash talk, when you’ve got as much money as these guys, you can trash talk in the form of multi-year, multi-million dollar ad campaigns — it’s so much more fun.

You see, Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Microsoft founder Bill Gates have a long history as friends. In the early days, they used to take their girlfriends on double dates with each other. They didn’t see a lot of each other after Bill moved to Washington State, but they’ve remained friends.

In fact, when Steve Jobs came back to Apple in 1996, the company needed help. To be a serious player, Apple also needed competitive office software.

Mac fans and developers were shocked on August 6th, 1997 when Bill Gates appeared via teleconference during Steve Job’s presentation at Macworld.

Steve and Bill announced that Microsoft would invest $150 million in Apple. Today, it sounds crazy, and at the time it sounded pretty crazy too. Jobs was booed when he announced the partnership and Bill was booed when he appeared on screen. But, it actually made a lot of sense for both companies. Steve said it best, “We have to let go of a few notions here. We have to let go of the notion that for Apple to win, Microsoft needs to lose.” (more…)

August 30, 2010 at 5:00 am 5 comments

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