Category: Computer

Circle Here – Google+ is a cool new addition

Young children have lots of worksheets that begin with, “Circle the ____.” So now we grown ups get our own version. Google+, also known as Googleplus. We get to find people, friends, colleagues, classmates, or just people we find fascinating, and add them to “circles.” How fun is that? And if you’re a nerdy type, you can visualize the Venn Diagrams as you add some people to more than one circle.

I was late to Facebook and Twitter, and dismally late to LinkedIn, so I decided I wouldn’t be left behind with this one. And so far, so good. Google+ reminds me of Twitter and Facebook rolled into one, with a hint of LinkedIn for good measure. It’s still in its testing phase, though. So if you’re not in yet, ask your friends for an invite.

What else am I liking about Google+? I like that the Stream (similar to the Newsfeed in Facebook) is easy to, well, streamline. You can look at everyone’s thoughts, or just one of your circles’ thoughts. You can post your own thoughts, but you have the option to turn off comments.

The +1 feature is also cool. It’s like a “like” on Facebook, only farther reaching. For instance, you can +1 this blog post, or +1 a website you find during a routine Google search. I’m not sure how this feature will start to affect pagerank, but it’ll be fun to see what it does. It’s also similar to Digg and others, but with the Google search engine behind it, I suspect it’ll be even more powerful. So +1 this and anything you like throughout the web if you’re on Google+.

I’ll be sure to post more about my Google+ experience. For now, I plan to use it as a business and networking tool. Most of my friends aren’t on it yet, so business is all that’s left. After that, if it does as well as I think it should, I’m sure I’ll use it more like I use Facebook.

And while I’m on the subject, circle me! The link to my Google+ profile is right below my picture in the sidebar.

Have you joined Google+? What do you think of it, or what are you waiting for?

What if the Internet went down?

Golden Gate crisis phone

Have you ever thought about what life will be like if we suffer some horrible calamity like a huge earthquake, meteor, or volcano? You’ve probably made lists of things you’d need in order to survive such a catastrophe.

But what about the unnatural disaster of the end of the Internet? Don’t ask me how it could happen. I’m not that well-informed when it comes to how the Internet actually works (though I have heard there is such a thing as a “kill-switch.” But I do know how much we depend on it.

So how would you survive if the Internet were to suddenly disappear? Here’s my top six list of things to do and things you might need. Just in case.

1. Telephone – If there were no Internet, we’d have to resort to using the telephone again. Luckily conference calls can still be arranged via telephone, so the Internet isn’t a total requirement for communicating. But then there’s keeping up with the stock market and local news. How would we know what’s going on on the east coast when we’re on the west? The telephone can convey a lot, but people sometimes talk without thinking. Email or Tweets can be written precisely, using the exact wording necessary. News dissemination would slow down to a crawl. People would have to call their brokers to make trades, and the stock market would have to go back to older methods to keep people up-to-date with the changes.

2. Telegraph – Maybe this won’t be necessary, but it can’t hurt. So go grab a telegraph machine from Ebay (before the Internet goes down, of course), and take an online class to learn how to send and interpret Morse Code.

3. Entertainment – Gone are online video games, watching online movies, and the like. So you’ve got to find some other source of entertainment. Maybe people-watching, or computer games on CDs, or charades with your friends, or even board games with your family. Be creative. Buy a real live deck of cards or chess set and have some fun.

4. Get out of the house – This may be a novel idea, but without the Internet, you may actually have to venture outside of your office or your house. You might consider going for a walk (or a drive) and visit friends you haven’t had to see in real life for a long time. Go see a movie in the theater, order pizza in-person and eat it in the restaurant. Go shopping in an actual store, and pay with actual cash (I think the credit card machines are connected to the Internet…I’m not sure, though…they do make that modem connection sound though).

5. Laugh out loud, for real – How often do you type “LOL” when you’re not really doing it? So get to it! Watch a funny movie, hang out with your friends (the ones you haven’t seen in years though you talk to them all the time on Facebook), and experience the joy. Then be sure to tell everyone, “LOL! In fact, I’m ROTFLOL!” And everyone will be able to witness this miraculous event.

6. Sunglasses/umbrella – These kinds of weather accessories are for your protection when you venture outside.

All jokes aside, I got to thinking about all this because I sat down with my laptop in a place with no wireless Internet. I sat there in front of my open computer, staring at the screen, trying to figure out what in the world I could do with no Internet. I couldn’t update my blogs, check my email, check my Facebook, play an online video game, watch an online movie, surf the Net, check on my grades for my class, read articles, check the weather, or read the news. I realized I really couldn’t do anything. Except open up a word processing program (Notepad seemed like a safe option), and write this blog post to be posted later.

We really do depend on the Internet. People send emails, use social networks, and talk “face-to-face” with webinars and Skype. This is how many of us stay in touch with friends, family, colleagues, bosses, and clients.

But imagine the thousands of people (or more) who rely on the Internet to make a living. (I actually hope to be one of those people.) Without the Internet, a lot of people would be out of work. People wouldn’t be able to move money around in their bank accounts (unless they called the bank or actually (*gasp*) went into the branch. Internet marketers, those who make a living from blog posts, Adsense, and affiliate sales, would quickly lose their source of income . People who have Ebay stores would suffer a similar fate.

What would you do if there were no Internet? How would your life change?

Computer virus denial

icons va 4

Call me naive, or maybe optimistic, but I didn’t always “believe in” computer viruses. It’s probably the biologist in me. It’s hard for me to swallow the concept of an inanimate object having a living ailment. And to be fair, nobody really believes that computer viruses are real viruses. Still, I just couldn’t bring myself to admit that they do exist.

So I may sound silly, but there’s no harm in that, right? Wrong. Because of my denial, I refused to buy virus protection for my laptop. And I’ve recently paid the price. After lots of crashing and restarting, I finally took my laptop to a computer repair place. They had to reinstall the operating system (which I could’ve done myself, if only I’d made the recovery disks). Before they did the reinstall, though, they found a whopping 53 viruses! So much for not being real.

On the bright side, I didn’t really have a lot of data on my computer. And I had just done a backup less than a month before the crash. So no harm done, except for the computer repair center’s bill.

Lesson learned? I hope so. I accepted the computer shop’s free Avira antivirus software (which is a pain…now I can’t download video games). But for now, according to that software, my computer is virus-free.

The moral of the story is probably twofold. Just because you don’t believe something doesn’t make it not true. And backup your data often.

Do you use antivirus programs? Which ones?

Essential laptop accessories

Being a freelance writer, I love my laptop dearly. It’s like a second child. I can take it almost anywhere, even though I did opt for a pretty heavy laptop. I wanted a 17-inch screen and a keyboard complete with a numeric keypad. I also have a thing for playing computer games and running multiple applications.

With all that power comes heat, and I burned through one laptop (thank goodness it was still under warranty).

Lesson learned. I now own a cooling pad for the laptop, one of my essential can’t-live-without-it laptop accessories.

Cooling pads come in several types. Some have one or more moving fans that serve to suck the heat away from the computer. This is the kind I have. Other fan systems blow air onto the laptop. Fan-based cooling pads generally use USB cords, from the laptop, for their power source.

Other kinds of cooling pads are passive. They use chemicals that turn to gel when heated, which moves the heat to the pad and away from the laptop. Other passive pads are angled so that natural airflow is maximized.

Whatever kind of cooling pad you get, make sure you get one. It extends the life of your laptop and saves precious information. While I did get a replacement laptop, I lost all my files and documents.

Another really important accessory is a laptop sleeve. Obviously, this isn’t essential if you keep your laptop solely at home, but if you take it anywhere, your laptop needs some protection.

You can always get a regular laptop case, which has some type of handle for carrying. A laptop sleeve, however, is valuable because you can omit the (usually) bulky case. Sleeves have padding, but they aren’t suitable if you think you’re going to drop your laptop a lot (is that in anyone’s plans?)

A snug-fitting sleeve adds little weight to your laptop, so you can carry it in a regular bag with other things. Or you may just want to carry it in your arms while still getting some protection from scratches or light drops.

I haven’t gotten a sleeve yet, but that’s because I’m happy with just carrying a case. I’m not lugging around books for school, and I have to have a shoulder strap to keep my hands free.

What are your must-have laptop accessories? Which ones can you do without?

What’s my password again?

locker room

Internet security is getting so complex that we have to remember a zillion different passwords…or risk using just one and having it stolen.

It’s not a huge deal if the websites you frequent allow you to click on the “forgot password” link, and then they just email you a new one. But it can get quite annoying, especially if your main computer goes down (and you, therefore, have limited access to your email (and just hope you didn’t forget your email’s password too)).

Recently I had to call my hosting company to get a lost password, but I didn’t remember the email address I’d used to sign up! It was a mess, but I finally got it.

So what’s a frequent computer-user to do?

I just read an article that suggested having a base password that you use most places, and then using some form of the place you’re visiting in the password. For instance, if your base password is your street name, and you’re making a password for your Ebay site, you might use “MainEbay”.

Another site suggests using a computer program (which probably requires another password…aack!) I’ve tried making a list of all my sites, as I go to them, and writing down my usernames and passwords for each. But if I were really paranoid, I would only write clues about the passwords, just in case a password thief breaks into my home.

What do you do to keep track of your 101 passwords (and the associated usernames)? Or do you just throw caution to the wind and use the same one whenever you can?

Have you been hacked?

Recently I wrote two posts, one about Barack Obama’s election, and the other about using holiday cards for marketing. Both mysteriously disappeared, and the only thing I fiddled with today was my Google Adsense.

Has this happened to you? Have I been hacked? Have you ever been hacked?

From now on I’m going to save all of my posts on my computer separately from my blog. Maybe we should all do the same.

Talk amongst yourselves while I try to sort this out.

Time to rearrange

wireless home office

Brady Bunch fans might remember that old song…something about changing and growing up.

In my case, I finally realized one reason I’m not as productive as I’d like to be. My laptop was kept right in front of the couch, in the living room, in full sight of the TV.

Besides the obvious TV distraction, the couch is too comfortable, the laptop too far away (can’t keep it on my lap and I didn’t have a decent table), and my daughter constantly wants my attention when we’re in the same room.

Yesterday I finally moved the laptop to my makeshift office, which is also my daughter’s playroom. It’s housed on a real desk, with a real office chair I was given, and it faces the wall. No more distractions, unless, of course, my daughter is home and needs me.

I even plugged in my Skype headset and made some cold calls (part of my action plan).

Have you moved your office equipment to a place that’s more conducive to work? Did it work for you? Share your ideas!

Computer generation

We sing a variation of the alphabet song with my daughter. I can’t describe the tune, but it goes, “A A A A A A A A, A A A. B B B B B B B B, B B B. You get the rest. For each letter there’s a series of 8 fast repeats, then 3 long ones.

The other day, when we got to the W’s, my 3-year-old chimed in, “W W W Dot.”

I just had to share that hilarious story. I asked her where she got that from, expecting her to say television or mommy, but she said, “From the computer.” Go figure.

Signs you’re addicted to the Internet

Someone I know just found out she/he would be without the Internet at home for about 10 days!

Here are some signs, exhibited by my “friend”, that may indicate an Internet addiction.

  1. You cry like your dog died upon hearing the news that you won’t have access for 10 days.
  2. You are willing to sit on the floor of your old apartment, where the internet isn’t yet shut off, just like a junkie squatting in an abandoned building.
  3. You find yourself trying to guess your neighbor’s password so you can “borrow” their Internet.
  4. You find yourself telling the Internet company that having a connection is a “life or death” situation, and you really mean it.
  5. You are unable to imagine the 10 days will ever end, and you feel like the world has come to a virtual end.
  6. You find yourself checking old email just to get a fix.

As for the identity of my “friend,” I have to plead the fifth. LOL!

Can you think of any other Internet addiction signs you’ve “witnessed?”

Say hello to my new HP Pavilion


If you’re a regular reader here on Crayon Writer, you know all about my luck with computers. Well, things are finally looking up, and I’m super excited!

After I sent in my new HP Pavilion dv6226 for repair, it came back running hotter than I remembered it and they didn’t fix the strange high-pitched squeal it sometimes had.

So I called Hewlett Packard’s customer support immediately. For about an hour I talked with some guy in another country who couldn’t talk to me outside of the script he was following.

After yelling at him, I talked to another agent who told me the laptop needed to be replaced. She sent me to their case management group, who shuffled me back and forth from manager to manager, with the story changing each time about the fix for my problem.

Finally I got a new manager who apologized for my weeks of torture with the staff, and he took care of everything. In a HUGE way. Granted, he saw how much I had been through and was ready to bend over backward to please me. And I was quite perturbed. I even asked him if they would give me stock options for my troubles. No, I didn’t get that request.

Instead, I got a brand-spanking-new awesome laptop and lots of perks that make me ready to sing HP’s praises from the highest mountain top (okay, maybe not the top of a mountain, but you get the idea).

Now let me tell you what HP did for me.

1. I got a free 3-year extended accidental damage warranty.

2. They included a 300GB personal media drive. Backups are a breeze now.

3. HP sent me a Belkin easy transfer cable so I could transfer all of my settings and files from the old laptop to the new. It worked like a dream. I didn’t even have to configure my 3 or 4 email accounts again.

4. The new laptop they sent was a just-released model. 17-inch screen. Built-in webcam. And did they give me just the basic settings? No. I got beefed up everything. Memory, speed, extra battery…everything!

So now I get to play with my HP Pavilion DV9700t, and the computer drama is finally over (knock on wood).

The moral of the story? If it’s justified, make your complaint heard. And ask for compensation for your troubles and wasted time. You may not get stock options, but you never know if you don’t ask.

The real point of this post? I love my new computer and everything that’s included with it! HP outdid themselves in taking care of the problem. I’m probably a customer for life (though they really need to work on their first line of customer support representatives).

Curious about the specifications of my new notebook? Let me know!