Trails End Computer Club

Bulletin for the week of JANUARY 25, 2015

WEEKLY MEETINGS
EACH Wednesday 

Program or Lesson 9:30 - 10:30 AM
One on One Help 10:30-?
In the Library


SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS:

If you would like to meet in a small group to discuss special computer related subjects or form a Special Interest Group lets discuss it.

Our bulletin is also available on line by visiting tecc.apcug.org and clicking on bulletin.


Our weekly program or lesson is intended
to be of interest to all computer users.
Following the program an allotment of time will
be available for one on one help to those
who want a better understanding of something done
 during the presentation.

Upcoming Events

Wednesday JANUARY 28, 2015 Meeting
 9:15 AM Set up your computer
 9:30 AM Lesson
10:30 AM One on One help

Computing in the Cloud: MS OneDrive

Part 1 of a 2-Part Series

Nancy DeMarte, 1st Vice President, Sarasota Technical User Group, FL

www.thestug.org              ndemarte (at) Verizon.net

 
One problem with computer technology today is that the systems change before we learn how to use them. For example, storing documents and other files on the Internet has been around for many years, used mostly in the business world through paid services like Carbonite. In the past few years this concept, nicknamed the Cloud, has become more accessible to home users through free cloud storage services from companies like Apple (iCloud), Google (Google Drive), and Microsoft (OneDrive). Many home users, however, are not taking advantage of the convenience of being able to store documents and photos on the Internet because of the difficulty of learning a new process. Because I have Microsoft Office, I use Microsoft’s OneDrive for cloud storage, which I find to be an easy and convenient option on both my Windows 7 and 8.1 computers.


06Why should you consider storing files in the cloud?  If you travel often or have multiple computers or devices, the possibility of creating a document on one computer and saving it on the Internet where it can be accessed from any computer and most devices at any time is a huge benefit. Plus, if your computer fails, your files are safe in the Cloud. Before I began using OneDrive, I would create a document on my desktop computer, copy it to a flash drive or a CD, and copy it from there to my laptop. Now I just save an important document to OneDrive, making it easy to get to it on my other computer or any device which has the OneDrive app.

If you use Microsoft Office, OneDrive is an obvious choice. Let me introduce you to OneDrive in this two part series.

The History: Microsoft first introduced online storage outside the business world in 2007, when Windows Live SkyDrive was introduced. A person with a free Microsoft Live account could have 25 GB of free storage in a secure place on the Internet. At that time, though, it was a cumbersome process to learn and use. I tried it, but soon got frustrated and gave up. In the next few years, Microsoft made several improvements. In 2010 Web Apps were added to SkyDrive. These were simple versions of the Word, Excel, and PowerPoint applications which could be used online in SkyDrive to create and edit files. By 2012, the SkyDrive app was available for Apple and Android devices and was easier to use, although it only offered 7 GB of free storage space for home users. In February 2014, the name SkyDrive was changed to OneDrive as result of a copyright suit. Since then, the service is being upgraded and improved continuously. For instance, those users who purchase the subscription version of Office 2013, called Office 365, now get a total of 27GB of free storage space on OneDrive.

How it Works: OneDrive will not work with Windows XP; it comes already installed on Windows 8.1.  In Windows 7, unless you have Office 2013, you must first establish a Microsoft account or have a Hotmail email address, Windows phone, or Xbox Live. Then you can download the OneDrive desktop app to your computer. As long as you don’t move this OneDrive folder to a new location, all changes you make to files you have saved to OneDrive will be synced to the OneDrive cloud location and any other computers or devices on which you have set up the OneDrive app. To save a document to OneDrive, either drag it to the OneDrive icon in the Explorer window or save it directly from the Word program.

7I don’t save all my files to OneDrive, although in Office 2013, OneDrive is the default saving location. “Computer” is listed as well, as is “Add a Place,” where you can add other online locations. You can change the default location back to the computer, if you wish, from any Office program by clicking the File tab – Options – Save – in the first group of options, and putting a checkmark next to “Save to computer by default.” – OK.

 

8Managing Files in OneDrive: Whether the OneDrive app came with your computer or was downloaded from Microsoft, it appears in the left pane of the Explorer window and the taskbar notification area. Clicking this icon will take you to OneDrive, where you can open, edit, copy, and share files.  You can edit a file either on the web in OneDrive with Office Online (the new name for Web Apps), or download it to your computer and edit it with its full application. You can also upload other types of files to OneDrive, such as music and photos, as well as whole folders. Just drag the folder or file from your computer to the OneDrive icon. OneDrive works the same as any other folder on a computer. I can manage files (create sub-folders there, save files into them, sort, or delete) on OneDrive the same way I do in an Explorer window on my computer.

Tablets, Smart Phones, and Office 365: You can a download the OneDrive app from the Microsoft 9website to your Apple or Android tablet or phone, which makes it easy to synchronize your files among devices. Plus, some Office 2013 apps (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) are now available for iPad and Android devices. When I open the Word app on my iPad, I can view all my files and folders which I have saved in OneDrive. Because I have Office 365, I can edit an existing document or create a new document using the Word app, which I can save either to the iPad or OneDrive. Those with other Office versions can only open and view files with the Office apps, but this is handy when you receive an email attachment in Word or Excel.

Next week we’ll explore two important topics regarding OneDrive: how to keep files safe on OneDrive and how to share OneDrive files with others.


Uninterruptible Power Supplies

By Dick Maybach, Member, Brookdale Computer Users’ Group, NJ

October 2014 issue, BUG Bytes

www.bcug.com        n2nd (at) att.net

 An Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) is a box that plugs into a power outlet on a wall and into which you plug in your computer and its key peripherals. You connect it the same way you connect a power strip. Inside the box is circuitry that monitors the ac voltage, a lead-acid storage battery, a charger, a power supply that converts the battery voltage to 60-Hz ac line power, and a switch that selects whether your computer is powered from the wall or from the battery. Most units also include a surge suppressor. Normally, your computer and its peripherals are powered from the wall and the UPS battery is being charged, but if the ac voltage becomes too high or too low, the battery powers your devices.

 Power companies in the U.S. provide reliable service, but sometimes this is difficult. For example, they use the earth as part of their circuit, partly for safety reasons (to avoid high voltages building up on their wires). Service is difficult to maintain if the resistance of the earth is high as is the case in the Freehold, New Jersey area, where I once was responsible for a lab. We routinely ran tests lasting 24 hours or more, jointly with other companies from England, France, and Japan. Our schedules were tight, and if we experienced a power hit, a test was ruined. As a result, we had UPS cabinets the size of home freezers powering the entire lab. Partly as a result of this experience, I always used a UPS with my work computer. More than once I saw the lights blink, followed by streams of profanity from nearby offices where computers had crashed because they weren't UPS equipped. Although there may be no economic impact resulting from a power glitch while working on a home computer, it is most frustrating to have an editing or photo-retouching session ruined. Modern UPS units are cheap and life is short, which often makes investing in one well worth its cost.

 A surge protector has a device that is connected across the power line. If the voltage rises above a certain value, the resistance of the device becomes low. The hope is that the device will survive long enough to keep the voltage low until the surge is over. Most such devices will protect against one surge, but in doing so they burn out, which is why many surge protectors have an indicator that is illuminated if the device is good. Of course, since most of us locate our surge suppressors on the floor with the dust bunnies, we can't see their indicators.

 By the way, neither surge protectors nor UPS units provide any defense at all against a direct lightning strike, which will vaporize the wiring in your house as well as equipment connected to it. The voltages are high enough for lightning to arc hundreds of feet from a cloud to the ground, and the currents can be a million Amperes or more. Fortunately, direct strikes are rare. However, when there is a lightning strike to the power grid, it can cause a momentary rise in the voltage, which is what a surge protector tries to prevent.

 Most consumer UPS devices have the architecture shown in the block diagram.

01In normal operation, the AC-Out socket is connected to the AC-In cord that is inserted in a wall outlet. At the same time, the input power is applied to a battery charger that keeps a lead-acid battery (which uses the same chemistry that starts your car) fully charged. Finally, control circuitry monitors the AC-In voltage, and if it departs from what is acceptable, a relay switches AC-Out to a DC to AC converter that generates a 125 volt, 60 Hz waveform from the DC voltage on the battery. This does mean that the AC-Out voltage is zero during the time it takes for the relay to complete its operation, but this time is short compared to the 1/60 second period of our power system, and it doesn't affect a computer's operation. Although not shown in the block diagram, most UPS devices have additional outputs that are connected to the AC-In port through a surge protector.

 Some iMacs are incompatible with some popular UPS units. They work fine when the ac power is good, but the UPS will refuse to switch to battery when it fails. If you have an iMac, do your homework.

 Try to buy your UPS from a supplier that offers a "No questions asked" return policy on UPS purchases; not all do (in particular, Amazon). As soon as you have everything connected and the battery is fully charged, pull the ac power plug to see if the unit switches to battery power. If it doesn't you should trade it for a compatible one.

 A UPS is designed to provide power when that from your power company fails. In particular, it assumes that commercial power is available when it's first turned on, and it may not start if this isn't true. This means you may not be able to use a UPS to provide power on a camping trip. You also may not be able to turn it on after the power fails.

 Most UPS manufacturers specify the maximum output of their units in both Watts and Volt-Amperes, with the latter being larger. You should buy one with a maximum Wattage equal to or larger than the rating of your computer power supply. (We're discussing here only the total power supplied by the battery backup connectors; we can ignore the power supplied by the surge protected connectors.) I'm assuming that you purchased your computer system, and that the manufacturer properly sized its power supply. Make appropriate adjustments if you know you have a larger than necessary supply, which is usually the case if you built your own system. The average power consumed by your computer will be significantly less than its maximum power supply rating. We have to be concerned about the maximum, because the UPS will shut down if you try to draw more than its rated power from its battery backup connectors.

 To estimate how long you can run on battery power, you have to know the average power consumption of your computer. My desktop uses about 100 Watts, which is probably a good starting point, although I would double this for a game machine with a high-power display driver. If you're still using a CRT monitor, you should probably add 25 to 50 Watts for that. Some manufacturers, including APC, have graphs on their Websites that show run time vs. load, although these are valid only for new batteries. Lacking this, estimate five minutes of battery run time at maximum load. For example, my UPS is rated at 600 Watts; at 100 Watts it should last six times as long as it would if supplying maximum load, or 30 minutes. In fact, APC's chart shows 60 minutes at 100 Watts, so the rough estimate is comfortably conservative and allows for battery aging.

 Decide what you want to keep running when the power fails. Your goal is to keep your computer running long enough so that you can save your work and power down normally. You may be able to work for a little while, but once the battery is exhausted, you're done. At minimum you need to back up your system unit and display. If you are visually impaired, you should also include your powered speakers. Everything else should have just surge protection; this includes your printer, scanner, and network equipment. It is especially important that you not try to back up a laser printer, as they draw so much current that your UPS may not turn on, even when your house power is normal.

 Some UPS units have a master outlet; if the current supplied by it falls below a threshold, it will shut off the power to all the outputs labeled “switched” (or something equivalent.) If your UPS is so equipped, I recommend you connect your equipment as follows: the computer system unit to the master outlet, the display to switched backup, the speakers and scanner to switched surge protected, and the printer to unswitched surge protected. The last is because many printers should be powered down only with their own control switches. After everything is connected, be sure to test the operation to be sure that the desired devices remain powered when the power fails and (if your UPS has a master feature) that the desired devices turn off when the computer does.

 Many UPS units have associated software that allows you to configure them and monitor their operation. It may also include a provision to shut down your computer if the battery becomes depleted during a power outage. However, UPS manufacturers are Microsoft-centric; their software may be Windows only, and if it does have Mac or Linux software, it probably has fewer features than the Windows version. Some higher-end units include front panels that provide much of the monitoring that the software does, which makes them less reliant on your operating system.

 The following screen-shots are from the APC PowerChute Windows program. The first shows the current status.

02

The second shows the voltages that cause the UPS to switch over to battery power.

03

The third shows the power drawn from the master outlet that results in the other connectors being shut off.

04

By comparison, the next screen-shot shows the Linux monitoring software, which is not supplied by APC. It shows only that the battery is fully charged and can power the computer for about 53 minutes. There are no control features here.

05

Regardless of its features, a UPS is a valuable peripheral that can save you much time and frustration, especially of you work from home.


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