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Upcoming EventsWednesday DECEMBER 3, 2014 Meeting
Thanks for making the 2013/2014 season a success. The Computer Club will continue with meetings in December. In the meantime there will be a monthly e-mail and bulletin. Near the end of each month the email announcement will be sent out with a link to the bulletin that is published on the Computer Club web site www.tecc.apcug.org.
Portable Digital Storage
By Richard Durand, President, Wisconsin All Computer Users Club www.wauc.us rgdurand (at) yahoo.com
When I first joined WAUC in 1995, I noticed that some members would always come prepared to meetings and events with some 3.5” floppy disks. These disks were very useful for passing along or receiving files of photos, documents, and even programs. The 3.5” disk had a larger capacity than the previous 5.25” disks but wasn't much more reliable. I remember having a lot of problems getting these disks to be recognized in disk drives. Still, when they worked, they worked very well. They were relatively portable and handy to have along anytime one was out and about.
Of course, for portable storage, floppy disks have long been replaced by USB flash drives. When these were first available, they were incredibly expensive and by today's standards their memory capacity was very small.
I am now embarrassed to reveal how much I paid for my first USB flash drive (which I still have somewhere). It was a lot. But as I think back on it, I carried it around and used it for a long time and it's one of the things I can say I really got my money's worth for. All the other much smaller and slower items of computer equipment at that time cost a lot more also.
Today, USB flash drives are much more affordable and come with unbelievable memory capacities. If you don't have one, this is a good time to pick one up. I have found that for something to carry around, the most affordable ones with the smallest memory sizes are the best. For most purposes, one doesn't need that much memory and if one should lose a flash drive, something almost inevitable with something so small, one hasn't lost that much value.
If you get a chance, pick up an extra one to have as a backup in case you lose the one you already have. And as another precaution, transfer the files on your flash drive to your regular computer as often as possible.
There is now an even smaller and handier form of portable storage available, the SD
memory card. These were first used as portable memory for digital cameras. To transfer photo files to a computer one had to connect the camera or an external card reader to one's computer. For some time now, computers, laptops, the new tablet and e-reader products sometimes come with a built-in slot for SD memory cards. If yours has an SD card slot, go ahead and take advantage of it and if not, look for this feature in your future computers and devices. An SD memory card can hold all the different files a USB flash drive can including documents and music files, not just photo files. It is even smaller and easier to carry than a USB flash drive and also easier to lose. One might want to carry it in one of those little plastic cases they sometimes come in. The same advice for USB flash drives applies to SD memory cards also. To be prepared for anything, you can have one of each on you.
USB flash drives and SD memory cards are so small, portable, and useful that you may find yourself with a lot more than you ever expected to have. I'm sure a lot of members have been using these items as portable storage for a long time already.
This column is just a way of saying how practical we are.
What is a 'CAPTCHA'?
by Phil Chenevert, member and instructor for Computer Lab Workshops
Cajun Clickers Computer Club, LA www.clickers.org ccnewsletter (at) cox.net
Have you ever found yourself grinding your teeth because you can't make out those weird words in something like this? All you want to do is get somewhere on the internet to do something and then, Wham! They hit you with this silliness!
Well, they are not there just to annoy us or have fun at our expense. They are there to save everyone a lot of misery so be patient with them. CAPTCHAs, or Completely Automated Public Turing Tests to Tell Computers and Humans Apart, exist to ensure that user input has not been generated by a computer. These peculiar puzzles are commonly used on the Web to protect registration and comment forms from spam.
To understand the need for CAPTCHAs, we should understand spammers' incentives for creating and using automated input systems. For the sake of simplicity, we'll think of spam as any unwarranted interaction or input on a website, whether malicious or for the benefit of the spammer (and that differs from the purpose of the website). Incentives to spam include:
Advertising on a massive scale;
Manipulating online voting systems;
Destabilizing a critical human equilibrium (i.e. creating an unfair advantage);
Vandalizing or destroying the integrity of a website;
Creating unnatural, unethical links to boost search engine rankings;
Accessing private information;
Spreading malicious code.
A captcha is a challenge-response test that determines whether a user is human or an automated bot. A typical captcha includes an image of distorted text and a form field for the user to enter the text. Captchas are commonly found at the end of website forms, and must be filled out in order for the form to be submitted. By requiring users to decipher and enter the captcha text, webmasters can prevent automated programs from sending spam or other unwanted data through online forms.
It is estimated that 80% of email is actually spam and captcha’s protect us from most of 'em. Be patient, use the 'give me another one' symbol that looks like two arrows, or the little speaker symbol to have it pronounce the word if you continually fail to type it correctly. It is kind of like seatbelts, irritating to put on but for our own safety.
Online Guides to Fix Almost Anything Around the House, Car, Computer, or Bike
by Ira Wilsker
Readers of this column may be aware that there are several websites that I utilize as primary sources of information; one of those favorites is MakeUseOf.com. Recently, MakeUseOf.com published an article, "Something Broken? Learn To Fix Anything With These 4 Websites" (makeuseof.com/tag/something-broken-learn-fix-anything-4-websites), by Dann Albright. The preamble of the columns states, "No one likes it when their <sic> things break. It might be something big, like your TV or your car, or something smaller, like a leaky faucet or a cracked floor tile. You can spend hundreds of dollars to have a professional help you out, or you can learn how to fix it yourself for the cost of some tools and a couple hours of work. Which would you rather do?"
The first of the recommended websites is iFixit at ifixit.com. The website is self described as " The free repair guide for everything, written by everyone." iFixit offers thousands of user written and illustrated repair guides for thousands of consumer products, all categorized into product types. Among the major categories listed are Mac Repair (1900 guides covering 128 devices and 5100 parts), Game Console Repair (514 guides, 83 devices, 353 parts), Phone Repair (2100 guides, 503 devices, 215 parts), iPhone repair (182 guides, 9 devices), Car and Truck Repair (255 guides, 155 devices), Camera Repair (770 guides, 208 devices), PC Repair (1000 guides, 351 devices), iPad Repair (194 guides, 18 devices), iPod repair (177 guides, 24 devices), Appliance Repair (181 guides, 78 devices), and direct links to a large selection of printers, scanners, musical devices, DVD recorders and players, flat screen TVs, classic (antique) computers, wheelchairs, skateboards, mopeds, and other items.
Since I, along with almost everyone else, have a phone of some type, I explored the iFixit phone guide; on the directory was every brand of home and cellular phone that I have ever heard of, and many that were unfamiliar to me. Since my wife and I both have Samsung smart phones, and Samsung is one of the largest manufacturers of smart phones, I selected Samsung under the Phone Repair directory, which then displayed 96 models of Samsung phones, both current and discontinued models. Somewhat randomly, I selected the Samsung Galaxy Note; iFixit displayed 14 replacement guides covering the battery, display, front and rear camera assembly, headphone and earpiece, memory card replacement, motherboard replacement, SIM card replacement, USB board replacement, antenna replacement, and other repairs, as well as links to sellers of replacement parts.
Since all of us routinely face automobile repair and maintenance issues, I selected the Auto Repair menu, and was presented with the logos for 41 brands and manufacturers, as well as special guides for auto accessories, car audio, and auto parts. There are two Hondas in my extended family so I clicked on the Honda icon; 12 specific Honda models were displayed, as well as two "Feature Guides" which provided instructions on routine maintenance tasks.
While comprehensive, the iFixit guides do not cover all models and variations of products, but it does provide enough information on many of the most common consumer products that a moderately skilled individual can complete the listed repair and maintenance jobs.
The second of the websites recommended by MakeUseOf.com is the Family Handyman at familyhandyman.com. While this is the website of a commercial print magazine, the website contains thousands of guides on how to perform home repair and home improvement projects. The top of the website contains a menu bar, for which each item opens a selection of relevant topics. For those who prefer to go directly to a topic rather than navigating through a menu hierarchy, you can utilize the search box adjacent to the menu bar. The menu bar has links for rooms, skills, parts of the house, outdoors, and other areas of interest. Selecting "Rooms" from the menu bar displays a list of room types commonly in most homes, with each room type opening an appropriate webpage with details about projects for those rooms. As many of us have crowded and cluttered closets in our homes, that menu item seemed a logical first choice. The page that opened under the banner "Closet Organizers: Maximize storage space with these DIY closet organizers" displayed eight guides on organizing and improving closet space. Selecting another room, the kitchen, opened a page headed "Kitchen: Remodeling ideas for your kitchen with new cabinets, backsplashes, and lighting", which included 50 guides covering such diverse kitchen related topics including installing backsplashes, sharpening knives, repairing or replacing kitchen appliances, repairing and replacing faucets, stove repairs, fixing broken ice makers, repairing kitchen cabinets and drawers, and other kitchen repairs and improvements.
Owning and maintaining a home requires an assortment of skills and knowledge; FamilyHandyman.com offers assistance with those skills and tasks under the appropriately titled "Skills' heading on the menu bar. Sixteen skills are presented, with each linking to an appropriate compilation of tasks. Among the skills listed are Appliance Repair, Carpentry, Drywall, Electrical, Heating & Cooling, Painting, Pest Control, Plumbing, Tiling, and other household maintenance tasks and skills. Being in southeast Texas, with our heat, humidity, and endemic pest problems, I selected "Pest Control" from the Skills menu. The page is headed, "Pest Control: Keep pests out of your home with these do-it-yourself tips and advice from professional pest control specialists." On this page are an even dozen illustrated guides covering relevant topics such as "Do Your Own Pest Control", seasonal pest control guides, dealing with rodents and other small mammals, ridding your home of those pesky mosquitoes, keeping ants out of your home, and other interesting but necessary topics.
Other household components are listed under additional menu heading including "Parts of the House" (ceiling, doors, roof, floors, siding, walls, windows), and "Outdoors" (decks, garden, grills, patios, landscaping, and decking). As with the other categories, each of these links directly to a collection of appropriate guides dealing with common tasks encountered by homeowners.
MakeUseOf.com recommended the "DIY (Do It Yourself) Auto School YouTube Channel" (youtube.com/user/diyautoschool) as its favorite source of auto repair information. As mentioned in the original article, and a characteristic that I agree with, this " DIY Auto School YouTube Channel" is a dedicated group of hundreds of videos on auto repair and maintenance topics that are easy to follow as well as entertaining, but not well organized. Among the YouTube videos in this channel are a series on getting rid of rust, replacing fuel lines, "Fueling Up For Gas-And Getting "RIPPED OFF" At The Pump!", detailing your car yourself, removing dents using the "paintless" technique, using Bondo, carburetor repairs on older vehicles, restoring classic cars, how to change the pads on disc brakes, 'Headlight Restoration Made Easy" (necessary to remove the light diffusing frosted finish becoming common on the lenses over the headlights on many cars), and many other auto repair topics. I played several of these videos and they are entertaining, "down-to-earth", not overly technical, but clear enough for a novice to follow. For those who like to work on their own cars, this YouTube channel can be a gold mine of information.
The fourth and final website recommended on the "Something Broken" MakeUseOf.com website is a guide on how to fix almost anything on a bicycle, provided by Park Tool Company, a 51 year old company manufacturing bicycle repair tools, located in St. Paul, Minnesota. Park Tool claims to be " ... the world's largest bicycle tool manufacturer." This wide-ranging bicycle repair website is located at parktool.com/blog/repair-help. Park Tool allows the user to locate detailed bicycle repair information using any one of the three listed tools; the first is an interactive image of a bicycle that displays repair topics as the user moves his cursor over the image of the bicycle; the second is a traditional menu on the right side of the window; and the third is a traditional search box. Personally, I found the interactive image method to be the most beneficial way to locate appropriate repair information as I did not know all of the bicycle nomenclature, and the interactive image displays part names as the user moves the cursor to that part of the bicycle image.
To get acquainted with the Park Tool maintenance and repair guide, I moved my cursor on the interactive image of a bicycle, and highlighted parts of interest. Being intrigued by the complex gearing on modern bicycles, a far cry from the old 3-speed bike that I grew up with, I selected the "Derailleur Systems", which instantly displayed a dozen guides on adjusting, repairing, and maintaining the complex gearing on the modern bikes. Included in this selection were guides on properly sizing and tensioning the bicycle chain.
With about 150 bicycle repair and adjustment guides, all of which are clearly written, well illustrated, and included a complete listing of parts, tools, and supplies necessary for each repair, these Park Tool guides are a valuable adjunct for anyone who might want to work on his own bicycle. Using these guides, I hope to restore one of my old bicycles, doing all of the work myself.
These four very comprehensive repair guide websites recommended by MakeUseOf.com contain a wealth of information that may enable anyone with a modicum of skill and time to save money and have the satisfaction of doing their own repairs and upgrades. I know that I will "Make Use Of" these four resources in the near future, and that my readers may likely do the same.
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