Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Case of the Disappearing Domain

The Surprise

It isn't very often that I visit my own blog or website - except for the admin side, so you can imagine my surprise when I actually went there today and was met with a generic Bluehost page.

Wha!?

I immediately logged in to Bluehost to find out that I no longer had access to the DNS Zone Editor because I did not have a web hosting account. I had recently let the webhosting part expire because I was no longer using it. However, I still own the domain which means I should be able to manage it. This is what allows you to type in blog.k12techguy.com and access the Blogger hosted blog or www.k12techguy.com which takes you to the Google site. All of my personal domain mappings were wiped and no longer worked. I am not 100% sure how long they were broken either.

So if you only purchase a domain name from Bluehost, you won't be able to manage it. I was able to verify this on Twitter with @bluehostsupport - bummer. That simply doesn't make sense to me. That's like buying a car and being told you cannot drive it.




The Resolution

Long story short - I switched my domain to GoDaddy.com and now my website and blog are up and running again. My apologies to anyone who tried to visit and was unable to access them. I ran with Bluehost for four years and never had any complaints but  not being able to manage my domain is a deal breaker. Sorry guys.

GoDaddy for the win! These are the guys I have to start recommending now. Not only do I get to manage my domain without any additional purchases but they even threw in 100 free email forwarding accounts and a couple other things! Nice value added bonus!
http://www.godaddy.com/

Mystery Solved

Have an awesome day!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Avast Free v9 - Site Blocking

Ahhh - updates - don't 'cha love 'em?

I have to admit that while I do appreciate a product that continues to improve, it is frustrating when the things you love about a product either go away or move to some place where you struggle to find it.

My last post was about finding the radio feature in the new update of iTunes. In this post I will be helping you to find the site blocking feature in Avast Free Antivirus.

This is a pretty popular feature and some time ago I did a post on how to block sites with Avast version 8 - and as you may have guessed by now - version 9 changes all that.

The good news is that it is still available. Whew!

This image highlights the Site Blocking location in Avast v9
I equate this with going to Wal-Mart and going to purchase something that you always get when you make the trip. You go to the aisle and discover that the item you are looking for is not in the same spot it has been in the last three months.

UGH! OK - so is it on a different shelf - 10 feet down - on the other side of the aisle - in a different aisle - in a different department - or GASP! in the clearance section?

Nonetheless - your trip to Wal-Mart just got longer by 15 minutes.

Enough small talk - the video will show you where to find the site blocking feature in Avast version 9.

Have an awesome day!


Saturday, October 12, 2013

iTunes 11.1 Radio - Hide and Seek

So - once again, with my latest iTunes update - 11.1 which was required for iOS 7 - I am at a loss for my fave radio stations via iTunes radio.

I very much enjoy this feature of iTunes but it seems like every time I upgrade iTunes - it moves. You might recall the post for when I upgraded to iTunes 11.

Now that we are at 11.1 - back to work... sigh

After the upgrade - I launched iTunes and saw the Radio option at the top - awesome! When I clicked on it however, it was not what I was expecting. What I found was a new radio thing where I could create my own stations - OK - cool - tried recreating my fave stations with some of the artists - ugh - not turning out right.

Radio stations are not under 'Radio' - They are under 'Internet'


The featured stations did not match my interests so I was not able to select a station the way I used to. So at this point I am like 'this sucks'... 'where is my radio?'

Time to do some digging...

Look at the picture above - You will notice an option for both Radio and Internet - After my update - the Internet option was not there - just Radio - and that seems like the most logical choice doesn't it?

After poking around in the menus for a while, I found the magic setting.

MmmmHmmm...

My Internet Radio option was unchecked.

Notice that here it says Internet Radio and on the actual menu it just says Internet.

At any rate, I checked the box and I had what I was looking for.


Here is a video walk-through to help you find the setting.


Have an awesome day!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Create A Custom Animation Path - PowerPoint 2013

You can do some really neat things with PowerPoint. One of them is to have an object on the screen move along a path that you create.

This might seem like it takes some complex programming but you'll see that it can be very easy to accomplish.

How fun is that!!?

Start having fun with PowerPoint and create some cool animations for your next project!

Here is a short video to get you started.



I would love to see some neat things that you have made if you are willing to share them.

Have an awesome day!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Use Pictures to Fill Shapes in PowerPoint 2013

When you take a picture with your camera it always comes out as a rectangle but when we make presentations with PowerPoint, we may not always want to use our pictures in that shape.

This tutorial uses PowerPoint 2013


Here is how you can use your pictures and fit them into any shape that you place on the stage.


This really helps us to go beyond the simple use of colors as fill. What kinds of awesome ideas do you have for using pictures as fill? I would love to hear them!

Have an awesome day!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

How to Move Your Taskbar

Hey - have you ever managed to somehow find the taskbar in a different spot on your screen than the bottom? Oh Dear! Let the search begin for how to put that back!

A view with the taskbar at the top of the screen


Or - maybe you would like to place your taskbar in another spot but need to know how.

Look no further! This will only take a couple minutes.


I hope you have everything sorted out now!
Have an awesome day!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Touchcast - A First Impression

Background Stuff

OK - so I happened across an app in the App Store called Touchcast and thought it looked pretty cool. Since the app was free - I decided there was no harm in trying out something with a high cool potential factor.

I played around with it and after lots of "hum and haw" activity and wrestling with "content creator's block" for a while I finally decided to create a touchcast about OpenDNS. The YouTube version is embedded below but it does not have the interactive capabilities.

To interact with the video please use this link.
Link to Interactive Video  -  Be sure to go full screen

YouTube Version (Non-Interactive)


OK - So what is Touchcast?

This - in a nutshell - is web meets video. You have the ability to create videos and embed interactivity into them all from your iPad. What is really neat is that the user can interact without leaving the video. An example of this is the placement of a webpage within the video. If the user taps on the website in the video on the iPad they will go to the website and the video will shrink up all "picture-in-picture style" while you browse the site. Just tap the video again to bring it back to full screen.

You can also add lots of other - what they call vApps to the video. These include polls and questions - twitter feeds, tickers, and ratings, pictures, maps, and more. You can also use a whiteboard feature to allow you to draw directly on the video for pointing out things.

Your Touchcast length is limited to five minutes and a total of one hour can be stored online. You will need to make an account for sharing since - for now- it is the only real way to share and maintain the interactivity.

This is also only available on the iPad right now. I understand that they are working on a desktop version as well as some pricing plans for more than one hour of storage.

Some Good Stuff

SO - I really like the potential here. It was fun to play with. I enjoyed being able to add in all sorts of pictures, and interactive elements. I think this could be a useful tool for mobile learning as well. It was nice to turn the camera on and off for some variety and for the ability to try and navigate. It is too tough to try and maintain eye contact while needing to move your presentation forward - even when you have all the stuff staged.

I also like the ability to pause the recording and start up again. This was great for major "scene changes" that would take too much time otherwise to set up.

I look forward to the desktop version and being able to maintain interactivity across embedded locations.

I did not use the teleprompter feature but like the concept.

I did listen to the sound effects which were nice ideas but I did not put any in the project this time around.

Some Bugs and/or Suggestions for Improvement

This is relatively new as it has only been on the App Store for just over a week as of the time of this writing so I realize there are some bugs to work out. Here are just a few that I noticed.

I was unable to get any Facebook pages to come up in the vApps.

It would be really great to resize all the vApps such as polls. I tried to create a poll with three response choices and they did not all fit in the box. Since I could not resize the box - the poll was useless. I had to stick with two choices.

I would like to be able to stage all my items on one screen. For example - I have a title that I must initiate on the titles menu - while talking - I must switch to the vApps menu to bring up my first poll - then I need to switch to the whiteboard menu and choose a board there, etc. There is a lot of jumping around that was making it a challenge to flow smoothly - at least as a person working alone. This may be a different experience if I am behind the camera rather than in front of it. At any rate being able to stage all those things in a single menu that I can simply tap to the next layout would be awesome.

Many times I wanted to increase the font size of the text in whiteboard mode.

Had a few random crashes.

I saw a YouTube vApp in several screenshots elsewhere but never saw one in the application.

Overall

Excellent app - price is right! I appreciate any app that allows me to be a creator of content on the iPad rather than just a consumer. There was a good deal of time getting everything set up the way I wanted - but there is some expectation with that - especially as a newbie to the app. I will continue to create some things with the app and consider some mobile learning uses.

Have an awesome day!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Use Task Manager to Close an Application

Have you ever been using a program on your computer and it just locks up on you? Maybe the only way you knew how to fix it was to reboot the computer.

Have you ever been using the computer when suddenly a strange popup makes an appearance on your screen? Do you suspect a virus or other malware? So how can I shut the box without clicking on it?

You can use the task manager to close out unresponsive programs and other popups that you might be a bit leery of - cannot blame you there.

Here is how.


While the process is pretty much the same, the look of the task manager is a little different between Windows 7 and Windows 8.

Just remember to visit the Applications tab in Windows 7 and the Processes tab in Windows 8.

A view of task manager in Windows 8

Have an awesome day and stay safe online!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Moodle Installation Guide

I have been working with Moodle since 2004 and have built a number of courses and have installed and upgraded many servers. Most recently I have found Ubuntu to be a great platform for hosting Moodle.

I decided to take a crack at writing up a guide for installing Moodle on a box with Ubuntu Server 12.04 LTS.

I welcome any comments or suggestions for improvement on the document.

Here is the link for download. Size is about 111K

http://www.k12techguy.com/docs/moodleSetup.pdf



Have an awesome day!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Microsoft Office - Customize Your Quick Access Toolbar

I always like to find ways to make things easier or more efficient. Here is one way you can do that using the Microsoft Office applications.

The quick access toolbar is meant to do exactly as the name implies - provide you quick access to the commands that you are frequently using.

Quick Access Toolbar as seen in Excel
If you find that you are always using a particular command and would like to place it along the top so it is within easy reach at all times - you can do that! No more digging around in the tabs and ribbons to find it.

Here is the video walk-through.


Have an awesome day!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Learn to Play Guitar with GuitarBots

I enjoy playing games - I enjoy technology - and I enjoy working in education. As a side note, both my daughter and I are learning how to play the guitar together.

Put all of this stuff together and you will find both my daughter and I learning how to play and having fun while using GuitarBots!

GuitarBots is an online game that teaches you how to play the guitar. I think of it a lot like the popular Guitar Hero but instead of a guitar shaped controller with a few buttons for strings and a toggle switch for strumming - you get to use a REAL guitar with REAL strings and actually learn how to play.

I came across this one day and decided to give it a try. What an awesome learning experience!!

It is free to create an account and you are given 15 minutes of play time each day for free. The idea is that you play the notes just as the little ball bounces on the strings. numbers or blocks on the strings indicate which fret or chord to play. Your microphone picks up the sound and lets you know if you were accurate or not. It will even tell you if you are a bit early or a bit late with your notes.

You rack up points by accurately playing the notes. The points you earn determine the number of stars you will receive. You then use the stars to unlock higher levels. The game comes with a built-in tuner to help you make sure that you have a correctly tuned instrument before you begin to play. You can also earn badges for amount of playtime, number of notes played, etc. All of your stars, points, and other progress go towards your guitarist level.

My guitarist level and badges as of this writing.

I must admit that I am very much enjoying this method of learning the guitar. So much, in fact, that I have chosen to purchase a one-year subscription which grants you unlimited playtime each day as well as access to a live guitar teacher. (At this time I have not accessed this feature yet - so no feedback on that).
You can purchase monthly access for $15, yearly access for $80, two-year access for $120, and lifetime access for $300. I thought this seemed like a great value - especially when compared to paying for guitar lessons.

That said, I see great value in a human guitar teacher but GuitarBots does an awesome job of motivating folks to get that practice time in. I think they could work very well together. My daughter also plays clarinet for the school band and has never been as motivated to grab it and play as she is with the guitar and GuitarBots. I used to frequently push and prod her to pick up the guitar and practice a bit and it often just sat there untouched but after introducing her to GuitarBots, she has grabbed it every day since.

Here is a short video of my daughter playing at the early stages of the game.



This game has really helped me to make my fingerings better and become better at making chord changes. If you are interested in learning guitar or even if you are pretty good already and just want to have some fun, I would highly recommend this game. There is no cost and no need to download and install anything. It was so simple!

Have you tried this?
Do you know of any other fun and highly educational learning games?
I would love to hear your feedback!

Have an awesome day!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Disable Start Screen in Office 2013

By default, when you launch an Office product like Word or Excel, you are presented with the start screen which offers you the opportunity to open a recent document or select templates for a new one.

The Office Start Screen

This is all well and good - but suppose you would prefer to just have a blank workspace every time you launch the program?

Here is how you can do just that...


Just keep in mind that you will have to repeat the procedure for each individual application.

Have an awesome day!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Password Protect Files on Your Computer

Do you have any sensitive information on your computer such as passwords or other account credentials? Are you interested in securing those files so that others in your home cannot have access to them?

There are many ways to tackle this but there is a free and super simple way to do this using a program called 7-zip. You can get 7-zip from their website http://www.7-zip.org/ or you can get it through http://ninite.com/.

This program will allow you to create a zip archive with all the files you want to protect inside and set a password for it.

The password entry prompt when trying to open a protected file.

Please do not forget the password for it. There is no link to click and have your password reset or sent to you...

Here is the video on how to do it.


Keep your information safe and have an awesome day!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Associate File Types With a Specific Program

Have you ever double-clicked on a PDF and saw that Microsoft Word was trying to open it? Do you wish that Windows Media Player would stop launching when you open that MP3 because you want it to open in iTunes instead?

Did you know that you have control over what programs will open by default when you open your files?

Here is how you can do it.


Have an awesome day!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Add Images to Google Forms

Here is a super sweet new piece of functionality that is now available for Google Forms!

The ability to ADD IMAGES to your forms!

One long awaited feature is now here!

Check out the video on how to do it.


I would love to hear how you are using this in your forms!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Dim Background Effect - PowerPoint 2013

Here is a fun and easy technique for you to try.

Create an effect where one person or object in a photo is "highlighted" and the rest of the image is darkened.

I am using PowerPoint 2013 but you should be able to do the same with 2010 as well.

Basic Steps


  1. Place your image on a slide
  2. Duplicate the slide
    • This will, in effect, give you two images
  3. Leave one image alone and remove the background from the second one
    • All that should remain is the person or object you want highlighted
  4. On the original image draw a black or dark grey box that exactly covers the picture
  5. Adjust the transparency of the black box so that you can see through it
    • This makes the entire photo look dim
  6. Copy the picture with the background removed from it
  7. Paste the picture with background removed over the top of the other slide
    • Adjust position of the pasted picture as needed
  8. That's it!
Here is the video walkthrough.


I would love to hear how you are using techniques like this one!

Have an awesome day!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Gmail Organization Tip

I thought it might be fun to share a little tip with you that could help you organize and manage your Gmail in order to increase efficiency.

The idea is that we are generally only interested in our email when there is something new that shows up and we have not read it yet. I have come to really enjoy the small number in parentheses next to my label - or folder - that indicates how many new or unread messages are there.

Figure 2:  'More' section
expanded view
Figure 1:  'More' section
collapsed view
That being said - I don't think anyone really likes spam. Nonetheless, it is important to check it to ensure that there isn't something in there that does not belong there. By default the "spam folder" or label is tucked away under the 'more' section.

If you constantly have to click on the more section to see if there is anything in your spam folder, that is just plain old inefficient.

When you expand the 'More' section some additional folders appear including Spam...

Here is a fun trick to automatically have the Spam folder show up only when there is something new that shows up.

Now - keep in mind as we look at this that you can apply the same settings to more than just the spam folder so this can be a great way to organize and manage your inbox and avoid unneeded checking.

The result will be that you can keep a clean-looking collapsed view as shown in Figure 1 and continue to have a clean collapsed view as new messages show up in spam or other folders that you place the setting on.
Figure 4:  Locate settings under the 'gear icon"
Figure 3:  Collapsed view
with visible Spam folder

Figure 3 shows the collapsed view with the addition of the spam folder after something showed up in there.

Here is how you set it up.

First of all, you will need to access your Gmail settings (see Figure 4). This will take you to the settings area where you can then look for the Labels tab. By default, you will land on the General tab. The Labels tab should be the one right next to it (see Figure 5).

Figure 5:  Location of Labels tab and the 'show if unread' option for folders
Once on the Labels tab, you can look at all of the labels that you currently have. There are three options but not every label will have all three available.

You can choose to show, hide, or show if unread for them. In Figure 5, you see that Spam has the option to show if there are unread items. this is handy to keep that folder out of the way unless something is routed there and you don't have to keep checking it all the time. You could opt to simply show it full time by selecting 'show' but that would be a personal preference.

At any rate, I hope that you found this to be a useful tip for organizing and managing your Gmail interface.

Have an awesome day!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Blocking Websites With Avast! Antivirus

You Need An Antivirus Solution

It is important to be safe online. There are so many viruses, malware, spyware, and websites that are quite frankly - very inappropriate - which means we have a need for an antivirus solution to help protect against those things.

Avast! Antivirus is one such solution. OH - and by the way - IT IS FREE! There are premium versions available for commercial use but for all you home users out there - just say "Bye, Bye" to all those yearly antivirus subscriptions.


Block Individual Websites

The view of a blocked page
For those of you using Avast! - here is a little tip you may not have known about.

You can block certain websites through your Avast! Antivirus program. How cool is that?

  • Are Dad's regular visits to Best Buy.com draining the account?
  • Is Mom about to overdose on Amazon.com purchases?
  • Want to prevent the kids (and anyone else) from visiting an inappropriate website?

A Note About https://


It should be made clear that Avast! will not block any secure sites in this manner. To be clear, then, consider the following...

http://www.somebadsite.com would be blocked.
https://www.somebadsite.com would not be blocked.

There are some cases where you would want to block both. If you have any of these - you may want to consider implementing a filtering solution such as OpenDNS for your home.

Here is the video on how to set up the blocking.


Have an awesome day and stay safe online!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Entrance Animations in PowerPoint

I was recently asked by someone how to make your content visible one thing at a time and one click at a time using PowerPoint.

Controlling the appearance of your content during a presentation can be extremely useful when working to keep the attention of your audience. This tutorial shows how to apply animations to the various pieces of content that you have on a slide so that they come in with each click.

The less fun way, of course is to create a whole new slide for each piece of content. NAH!

One tip, though - In my example I use a variety of the different animations on one slide (and lots of them) - I would caution against this in a real presentation. Maintaining some consistency without overusing the animations can help to keep your presentation a bit more professional. In short - while fun, try not to go overboard on this stuff.


Have an awesome day!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Creating Hotspots With PowerPoint

Have you ever needed to create a PowerPoint? It is a pretty popular program in schools for creating presentations as part of your assignments.

This tutorial will provide you a technique of creating hotspots which are specific areas, typically on an image, that are made clickable. It is not a step by step because the steps can vary slightly based on the version of PowerPoint you are using. Nonetheless, this technique can be useful and can even be applied to other presentation software.


How have you used hotspots before? Are there some ways you can think of using them in your own presentations? I would love to hear some more ideas.

Have an awesome day!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Set Up Service Blocks on Verizon Phones

This one is for all of the parents out there who have Verizon cellphones for their children. Did you know that you have the ability to block certain services on their phones? This can be useful from both a safety and a disciplinary standpoint. It could even save you some money!

Let's take a look at how to get there.

First you will need to have an account setup with Verizon and have some credentials to login to their website. I will let you take care of that part on your own. I will guide you from there.

Here is the screen after you first login.
After you log in - you should see a list of your phones. In my case, there are four. The two smartphones are for my wife and I while the two basic phones are for our two oldest children. These are the phones that need to have some blockage put on them.

From this page - click on 'View Plan'. It should be on the lower left as highlighted in the picture above.

Find the section marked 'Service Blocks'
On the resulting page, you should find a category called 'My Services' and a section called 'Service Blocks' within that category.(Scrolling might be necessary) You will need to click on 'Service Blocks' to expand the section. Please note that portions of the image above have been 'ripped away' so you can focus on the important area of the screen somewhere in the middle.

Click 'Manage' to access the settings for Service Blocks
Click on the Manage button.

Make sure the blocks are set up on the right phone!
You should now be on the 'Block and Unblock Service' page. Your phones should display along the top. Please be sure to select the phone that you want to apply settings for. You may find that some of your block options are different depending on the type of phone you have and perhaps what your plan is.

Notice the data and Internet section on the basic phone list.
In my case, I wanted to block any data usage on the basic phones for the kids in order to avoid any unwanted charges. Blocking data, however, can work to protect your children from browsing the Internet with their phone and seeing things you don't want them to see.

As you can see, there are other things that can be blocked as well such as certain types of messaging or all messaging. This could be helpful in enforcing something to be able to turn messaging off on the phones that the kids use. You can also block web purchases.

Just remember that your options could vary based on type of phone and type of plan. Nonetheless, it can be real helpful to know that this ability exists.

Have an awesome day and stay safe online!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Custom Formatted Typing Shortcuts - Word 2013

If you have used Microsoft Word before, you are probably aware that there are several common typing mistakes that Word will correct for you automatically.

Did you know that you can use that same feature to create your own custom shortcuts? Even specially formatted ones? This is really great for those high keystroke counts or special formats with many steps.

Here is an example of how you can set up one of your own.

Please feel free to share how you might use this feature - I would love to hear some more examples.


Have an awesome day!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Buying A New PC?

One question that I get asked often is something close to "What should I look for in a new computer?" I figure it wouldn't be a bad idea to share my opinion on it.

It is a fair question and the answer is going to vary depending on what you intend to do with the device. For instance, if you are just a casual web surfer who wants to check e-mail, use Facebook to stay connected to family and friends, and have fun watching some YouTube videos once in a while - you won't need as nice of a rig as the one who wants to do lots of photo and video editing or play graphics intense games.

Nonetheless, there are two components that will need to be looked at. Hard drive storage and  memory. After that, you can look at the other bells and whistles. Let's take a look at each one of them from the viewpoint of both laptop and desktop.

Hard Drive Storage

Certainly, how much you actually need might be subject to debate depending on who you ask.

Laptops will traditionally have a little less storage than a desktop. Lower end laptops will likely have 320GB or 500GB of storage. Really cheap ones might even be found with 250GB. Higher end Laptops will have 750GB or 1TB of space.

Desktop units will very likely have 1TB or more with cheaper units having less.

Your operating system and some programs will probably not make much of a dent in this if you don't plan to use this for much more than browsing, e-mail, and Facebook. In this case 500GB should be plenty and if you get more that is fine too.

If, however, you plan to do some serious picture collecting and archiving, you should beef this up considerably. Also if you are a major gamer - you know that some games can consume several gigs of storage. If you have lots of games, with expansion packs, etc - you will want storage. Shoot for at a minimum, 1 TB of storage and I would even recommend an external hard drive for you picture hoarding types so that you can have them backed up in case of a computer failure.

Cheaper units will have hard drives in them that operate at 5400 RPM. If you can, try to get one that runs at 7200 RPM. This will give you some better speeds out of the machine. As you move towards the higher end computers you will notice that some will have a Solid State Drive or SSD. These are much faster but more expensive and usually have less storage. Many computers will have an SSD for booting the operating system and a standard hard drive for the rest of your data.

Memory

While you can find some cheap computers with less than 4GB of RAM still out there, I wouldn't want one with anything less than that, even for the casual user. I don't think memory is something you should skimp on so go for 6GB or 8GB if you can. High end users - shoot for 12GB or 16GB - though this might be challenging to find at retail stores. If so, get one with 8GB and room to expand to 16GB and then add the extra memory on your own. Four years ago, I built a desktop with 12GB of RAM and am really glad I did. It is still hanging in there with the best of them.

A desktop will be much more likely to have room for more memory than a laptop. A laptop will generally have two slots for memory and desktops can have many more but anything you pick up at Wal-Mart is not likely to have more than that. You might have to do some research online before purchasing that desktop from a place like Wal-Mart in order to find out if you can simply add extra memory in without replacing what is in there to begin with.

Other Bells and Whistles

Graphics Card

For the casual user - whatever the system comes with should suffice but for the heavy editor or gamer, you should have a discrete graphics processor with at least a gig of dedicated memory.

USB

Other things you might want to look for would be the number of USB ports on the unit. On a laptop, you likely find two or three but snag four if possible. On a desktop I would shoot for eight of them with four in the front for easy access. I would also expect half of them to be USB 3.0 compatible.

Processor

In my opinion, the small differences in speed won't be noticeable for most people but if you are looking for quality and speed, you'll need to keep an eye out for a couple things. First, there are two main processor brands out there with many different models among them - AMD and Intel.

Now, I have run plenty of AMD processors in my time and have not had any issues with them - same for Intel processors. Computers with an AMD processor in them will often cost a bit less. Many at the stores will be dual or quad core but some real cheap ones might have a single core in them. I would avoid the single cores - dual core is gonna be OK for the casual user but high end-users will want at least a quad core but I'd go for eight.

Card Reader

Yeah, you pretty much gotta have one of these if you use them in your camera.

Optical Drive

Be sure to look for one of these if you need one. It is pretty standard now for an optical drive to be able to read and write DVD but some of the newer devices you can find out there like the netbooks and ultrabooks don't have one at all. Getting it out of the box and realizing you can't install something would not be cool. If you want to use your device to watch movies, I would suggest getting one that was Blu-Ray compatible.

Display

Personal preference here, really. Are you OK with a small monitor or display - or would you prefer a larger 22" or 24" display? Laptops can offer a nice 17" display and full keyboard but it is about what you like on this one.

Wireless

This is pretty standard now on any laptop style device. Just be sure that it is compatible with N at a minimum.

For desktops, some are coming with Wi-Fi capabilities. This is especially handy if you want to place the desktop away from where the router sits.

Conclusion

Certainly, the casual user could get by on less than what I would suggest here but even the casual user will experience some frustration in short order as software and Internet requirements start placing heavy demands on the system. Always good to pad a little for the future. With technology, you often get what you pay for and there is a reason that the $250 laptop at Wal-Mart only costs $250. Again, these are just some suggestions based on my opinion and I know there are other things that can be included but I hope this is at least a little helpful as you go shopping.

Don't forget to install anti-virus and malware protection on your machine. Avast! and Malwarebytes are excellent choices for free.

Have an awesome day!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Restrict WiFi Access For Certain Devices

The Internet and Your Kids

Are you concerned about what your children are doing online? Do you worry about them getting online while they are supposed to be asleep? An Internet connection is required  for many apps in order to function properly so even if your child is not accessing the Internet directly using Safari or Google Chrome for example, they would need that connection in order to SnapChat, text, or use Facetime. I know it would cause me some concern if my kids were SnapChatting in the wee hours of the morning. Here is a link to a recent blog entry on why we should be concerned about that.

SnapChat Not As Private As You Think

Did you know that you might be able to restrict their access to the Internet by making some configuration changes on your WiFi router? All you need is the MAC address of the device or computer and access to your WiFi router. I am going to provide a very broad explanation for this because I realize that not all the WiFi devices out there are going to look the same. I hope that the context and ideas can at least help you as a partial guide. This process is not for the faint at heart so continue at your own risk. LOL

Finding the MAC Address

Here are some steps to finding the MAC address on an iPhone, iPod, or iPad. The images are taken from an iPhone but the steps should be similar on another Apple iDevice.


1.  Start by finding the Settings icon. I have this one isolated and highlighted but it may not be in the same location on your device.


2.  Once you get to the Settings page, go to the General settings menu.


3.  Once you are on the General page - go to the About page.


4.  On the About page, scroll down a little until you find the Wi-Fi Address. This is also known as the MAC address (Media Access Control). It should be composed of 12 characters and can take on a few different formats. A common format is the one found on an Apple device - (XX : XX : XX : XX : XX : XX) - using a colon separating every group of two characters. These addresses are unique.

Jot this MAC address down because we will need it once we access the WiFi router.

Access Your WiFi Router

Okay - this is where things can get kinda tricky. The first thing we need to do is attempt to log into the router itself - that means finding it on the network. We do this through your favorite web browser such as Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, or whatever you are using so you will need a network connected device to do this. It can be tricky because not all devices are going to look the same, have the same default settings, or have the same configuration options.

A popular method of accessing the device is by typing the IP Address into your browsers address bar. By default, many routers have an IP Address of 192.168.1.1 but I have encountered a few that have something slightly different.


1.  So... this is a great place to start. Go ahead and type the IP Address in the browser after it comes up. If this is the correct address you should get some sort of login prompt similar to the one shown below.


2.  At this point - go ahead and enter your Username and Password if you changed them or know what they are. Chances are good that this has never been changed so it will need the default credentials. This might require a little trial and error but here are a few options to try. The first word is the username and the second word is the password.

  • admin admin
  • admin password
  • administrator password
  • administrator admin
  • admin - (leave password blank)
  • administrator - (leave password blank)
  • You might also check the underside of your device as it might be listed there.
A word of caution - you might consider changing the password so that others cannot easily hack the device and mess with your settings or "borrow" your connection.

3.  Once you have successfully logged in. you should be taken to the home screen of your device user interface. Again, this is a tricky piece since they will all look different. It will be necessary to look for some visual clues here. We need to find the place where we can restrict access for devices. You may need to hunt around depending on your device. It could be under generic headings such as Settings or Administration. It is also possible that with a lower end device the functionality may not be there. In my case, I actually have a tab called Access Restrictions so I went there.


On this page, you see highlighted an area where I am allowing a device to have WiFi access only for the time frame of 8AM to 9PM. Outside of those times - the device will not be able to connect. I also have the ability to pick certain days so that I might create a different access schedule on the weekends for example or for when school is in session or we are on summer vacation. Go ahead and set the schedule that works for you.

You also see the Edit List button for applied PCs. Here is where you will indicate all the devices that this access schedule should be applied to using that MAC address we wrote down. Let's click on that.

4.  This brings us to the page for editing that list of PCs.


I can also use the IP Address of the device but there is a chance that the IP address could change so I prefer to use MAC addresses when I can because they do not change and are unique for every device. Go ahead and enter the MAC addresses you want in this list. Don't forget to save the settings.

Other Notes
  • Again, I would recommend changing your router password - otherwise your kids could read this post and undo the work you did setting it up. Or someone else could hack it and mess things up.
  • If you are not comfortable poking around on your equipment, I suggest getting some expert help with the process.
  • You might consider creating multiple schedules for all your devices for additional peace of mind.
  • Don't forget that there are some filtering options out there as well such as OpenDNS to protect your family from inappropriate websites.
I hope this was helpful. Please share your comments or questions - I would love to hear them.
Have an awesome day and stay safe online!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Using JoinMe to Share Your Screen

Whether you are an online facilitator of learning, a member of an IT support team, or someone interested in simple sharing and collaboration - JoinMe would be a great asset to your toolbox of tricks! Let me give you an example of using the free version and one of using the pro version as well.

The Family Tech Guy - Free Version Use

OK - so I was on Facebook last night getting my fix of Candy Crush Saga (ugh) and my sister-in-law messaged me with a question. They recently got a new modem/wireless router from their Internet provider but as luck would have it - there were some issues with wireless devices connecting to it. After providing a few quick ideas and questions, I decided it was time to look around. At least the desktop was wired to the box so we had a connection to work with.

I directed her to go to join.me and share the screen and then provide me with the number she would be given. I was then able to see her screen. From my control panel, I requested control of her PC which she granted. After poking around for a while and making a couple configuration changes, we magically had access on her wireless devices. WooHoo!! Best part about that is that the remote support was absolutely free!

Online Facilitator - Pro Version Use

I also teach an online course designed to train teachers to be effective online facilitators. Part of the experience will be to engage in some synchronous discussions. For this activity, each week, I use the pro version of join.me to bring us all together. Using the pro version allows me to schedule the meetings and to maintain a static room address rather than having to share a new 9-digit number every time we want to get together. I can also extend presenting rights to the participants and annotate on the screen to bring important concepts into light. I can also have up to 250 participants rather than just ten.

The idea is to use join.me for real-time collaboration and sharing of documents. The pro version is only $149 per year which I think is a phenomenal deal but you would have to weigh out if you would get that much usage out of it to warrant the cost. I know I do.

Mobile Support - Just Because...

There is also a free app for the iPad that will allow to to join a sharing session on the go. If you have purchased the pro version you can also present from the iPad.

At the time of this post - there is a viewer app for Android devices but presentation capabilities with the pro version are limited to the iPad.

See How Easy

Here is a short video walkthru to show you just how easy it can be.



Are you a join.me user? I would love to hear some feedback on your experiences using it.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Ten iPad Apps I Am Glad I Have - Redux

Well, my iPad 2 is now (as of this writing) about two years old. After having it for about five months, I created a blog entry about the ten apps that I was glad I had. Now that I have had the device for a couple years, I wanted to create another one for comparison - especially since there are new apps out there all the time.

First - let me say that I use the iPad daily. Literally. Daily. The same cannot be said, however, about all of the apps that I have installed. The iPad I am using is the 64 GB WiFi only version. I have 1,862 songs, 24 videos, and 211 apps and just under 20 GB of free space available.


For this post, I am choosing ten apps that I use daily - or almost daily as well as some that while I don't use them daily - I am really glad to have for the times when they have come in real handy. So, without further ado, here they are - in no particular order.

1. You Version Bible App - FREE

What can I say? This is an awesome app to have for those who read the Bible. I prefer this over a Bible purchased through the Kindle Store. This has a verse of the day, several devotionals, and the ability to take notes and highlight passages. Even more impressive is the ability to have multiple translations at your fingertips.


2. Keeper - Password and Data Vault - FREE

With so many different websites and accounts to manage, this app is a life saver at times. Of course, I recommend having a different password for each of your accounts. This app makes it much easier to keep track of them. I try my best to remember them all but if I forget, I know I can always go back to this app and look it up. (As long as I remember the password to get into the app) That is right. The app itself is password protected so that if someone were to grab my iPad - they would still be locked out of the app with all my passwords. Way better than keeping a Post-it Note on the monitor...  :) There is a $9.99 option for backup protection.


3. UPAD - FREE for Lite or $4.99 for Full

This is my "go to" app for taking notes at meetings or just jotting down something I don't want to forget. I particularly enjoy the magnified space for writing so that your finger or stylus does not create writing for the 'paper' that is way too big.

The full version - which I am using - will allow you to have more than five "pads" and allow you to export as a PDF. These were two features that I use often enough to warrant the five bucks for the full version.

Here is a video on it.


4. Clock Pro HD - FREE or $2.99

I went ahead and made the purchase for the full version. This app has replaced my alarm clock. I really enjoy having multiple alarm clock settings that you just don't get with a traditional alarm clock. For three bucks you are able to get rid of the ads which, at the time I purchased it, were blocking my button to go full screen with the digital display. The brightness, backgrounds, and colors are adjustable which is nice. Of course, with the release of iOS 6 - you now have a native clock app but it still is not anywhere near the nightstand alarm clock replacement that this one is.

Icons for numbers 1 thru 6


5. PCalc Lite - FREE

Here is a free app without ads! Since iPad doesn't come with a calculator app, this one is my choice. There are some paid options for some functions that are specific to certain job related needs but the free one does perfectly for what I need.


6. TuneIn Radio - FREE or $4.99

If I want to listen to the radio, I don't bother with that old box in the house anymore - it only picks up local stations. With the TuneIn Radio app I can pick the genre I want and have my choice of stations from literally around the world. I can set my favorites and access radio stations that I would never otherwise be able to listen to.

For $4.99 you can get the full version which will remove the ads and I believe you can also do some recordings. In this app, I don't think the ads are too obnoxious but I also don't sit and watch the display as I listen to the radio with it so they go completely unnoticed, really. The free version does perfectly fine for me.


7. Ignition - $129.99 or LogMeIn - FREE

OK - before you have sticker shock - Ignition used to cost $30. I actually was lucky enough to purchase it for $15 on sale over Labor day weekend back in 2011 before the free one was introduced and the cost of Ignition went up. The nice part is that I am able to get the benefit of a pro license on all my computers even though they are running the free version of LogMeIn on them. With the free version you can access the free stuff but with Ignition you get all the pro stuff. The free app offers an in-app purchase (IAP) to grant access to the pro stuff on a free client machine but is limited to a single machine. I believe the cost is $39.99 per year. Also if you have a pro client license, the free app will allow access to the pro stuff but a pro license is $70 per year. In the end, for multiple computers, Ignition for a one-time purchase of $129.99 for the free stuff on all computers you access is really not a bad deal at all.

At any rate - I really love this app as it allows me to access my home and work computers remotely and swap files or control it for help to family and friends as well.

Icon for number 7 - Ignition

8. Dropbox - FREE

I use a number of online storage solutions including SugarSync, SkyDrive, Cubby, Google Drive, Box.Net, and Dropbox. Of all of them, I am currently using Dropbox the most and find it to be a very easy way to get files on and off of the iPad. When iPad first came out, there was a lot of grumbling about the lack of an SD card reader or USB port for a flash drive. With Dropbox, this is a non-issue. Really.


9. Kindle - FREE

I like books just like the next guy and I love that I can have my books on the iPad.

Icons for numbers 8 and 9

10. Explain Everything - $2.99

I enjoy creating video tutorials for various tasks. This app, in my opinion, is the best one out there for accomplishing this. You can use multiple pictures, all sorts of annotations, and export directly to your photo gallery. There is no need to have another account with an online service in order to share them - just create and save then upload directly to YouTube or FTP to your own server if you want. Way more flexibility and well worth the three dollars. Here is a video about it.

Icon for number 10 - Explain Everything

Please tell me about some of your favorite apps. Why do you like them? What makes them valuable to you?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Change Aspect Ratio of Slides in PowerPoint 2013

So - did you happen to get the latest version of Microsoft Office yet? Office 2013 is a very nice suite of tools and each new version seems to allow for some pretty neat things. There are some times, though, when the pretty neat things are not so easy to find.

PowerPoint 2013 Loading graphic


Well - here is what I think is a pretty neat thing in PowerPoint 2013 that many of you might find useful. It is real easy to change the aspect ratio of your slides! You are able to choose a standard 4:3 aspect ratio, a widescreen 16:9 format, or custom make your own size based on the need you have.

The short video below will show you how to find the place to change it.


Hope this was helpful. Have an awesome day!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Ninite the Magic Updater

Every so often there is a tool that really stands out as something that everyone should have or use.

Ninite is one of those tools.

Ninite is an updating tool that allows you to select the programs you want to install/update. Once all the tools have been selected, you will get a small executable file that contains the information for the programs you want. Just double-click the file and let Ninite do the work.

Ninite will automatically find the latest version of the software that is compatible with your system and do one of three things.

  1. Install it - when it is not there
  2. Update it - when it is an older version
  3. Skip it - when it is already up to date
The nice thing is that you do not have to go to all the websites individually and download the updates and click through all the screens for each program. Ninite does this for you! It will also automatically decline all of the extra add-on garbage that can often be found on free programs like flash and java.

I think this is really worth trying out. Here is a short video to show you how easy it is.


Have an awesome day!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Windows 8 Start Button

Hey there! Did you happen to get a new computer over the holidays? Planning to get a new one with your tax refund? :)  If you got a computer with the Windows 8 operating system chances are pretty good that your heart hurts for the loss of the start button that you have come to know and love. If you are not yet sure of what I am talking about, you will as soon as you fire up that new PC.

Ahh, Start Button, my old friend, I miss you.

One of the first places you maybe tried to go was to the lower left corner of your screen -(once you actually figured out how to get to the desktop)- and was like - AHHHHH! How do I find my programs?

Whew, now I can feel a little better about this new
computer purchase.
Well, it is Classic Shell to the rescue! After installing Classic Shell you will have the ability to navigate your computer the way you have grown accustomed.

Now your Windows 8 machine will have a cute little shell icon in the lower left corner where the old start button used to be located.

When you click on it, you will be presented with a very familiar look.

The picture to the left shows the shell icon and the pop out menu when it is clicked on.

Notice also that along with programs, there is a spot to click on for apps.

This is really nice because it will allow you to choose your apps without navigating back to the new Metro interface.

Nice pop out to select apps without going to the
Metro interface.
The other nice thing to consider here is that Classic Shell can allow you to transition to the new interface. It could be that you come to really enjoy the new interface and want to use it exclusively. It sure is nice to have the ability to go back to something familiar while you are learning the new stuff. Especially when time is short and you really need to find your stuff faster.

Oh - here is the best news!

Classic Shell is absolutely free! FREE!

Don't ya just love that word?

You can download it from sourceforge or you can pick it up along with a few other goodies at Ninite.

If you are not a Ninite user yet - stay tuned for our next blog entry. I think Ninite deserves one.

I hope you found this information to be helpful. Enjoy your new computer and have an awesome day!