Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Technology Lesson: You and your ipod nano (6th generation)

The iPod Nano, in its sixth generation, is Apple's smallest ipod. Introduced in 2005, the nano was Apple's replacement for the iPod Mini. (Which is why the first, second, and fourth generations look so similar.)

The current version of the Nano has a touch-screen. Here are some tips on using the Nano:

-You can shuffle your music by shaking the device. (Don't shake too hard!)
-The iPod has an FM tuner. You can listen to the radio wherever you go!
-This feature includes "Live Pause." If you need to pause a broadcast, you can! You can also rewind the broadcast up to fifteen minutes.
-This iPod is Nike Fit compatible. Sounds boring as heck to me, but if that's something for you, or you own the kit, this could be a benefit.
-This iPod features "Built-in accessibility." From Apple.com:
iPod nano features VoiceOver, the world’s first gesture-based screen reader. Touch the screen to hear a description of the item under your finger, then double-tap, drag, or flick to control iPod nano. Use the optional Apple Earphones with Remote and Mic to control your music without looking at the screen. VoiceOver tells you the name of the song or artist — and it speaks 29 languages.
-The USB port is on the "bottom" of the device. The headphone port is the small round...hole next to the USB port. (I liked it when the phonejack was on the top of the iPod.)
-There are three buttons on the top of the iPod. There are two next to each other on the left, and one on the right. The button on the right is the rest button.
-The home screen is how you navigate your options. The screen is actually four screens. You swipe your finger across the screen to navigate the interfaces. There are four small dots on the bottom, and you can use these dots to determine where you are on the home screen.
-The home screen is where you find your music, podcasts, Nike fit stuff, videos, photos, playlists, and settings.
-You can rearrange the icons on this screen by touching the icon, and leaving your finger there until the icon jiggles. You can move all of the icons around. When you've arranged the icons, hold down the long button on the top right of your iPod.
-When you are playing music, the album art will be displayed. (Or a default piece of art if you don't have anything to display.) There are a few screens here to swipe through, too. One screen has the play/pause button, and the navigation arrows. If you swipe this screen, the next one will let you shuffle music. The arrows forming an arrow will let you repeat all music in your selection. The arrows that intersect will let you shuffle through the songs in your selection. If the oval arrows have a small one above them, you are repeating one song. The arrows will be blue when they are selected. They are a grey/white when they are not selected.
-You will have to swipe backwards from the music, or any other screen, to return to the home screen.

Additional Resources:
iPod Nano
iPod Nano support
iPod Nano manual

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Technology Lesson: Blocking Likes On Facebook

Sometimes you friend someone on Facebook you can't delete. (If there's someone you can delete, directions are here.) You're either friends with someone who posts too much, or someone too intimate to delete.
There's good news! Instead of deleting the friend, and risking your relationship, you can hide the friend (or group or interest). Here's how:

Log in to your Facebook account.

You should be directed to your feed. If not, go to your feed.

For this lesson, I'll be hiding Bones. Find the person you want to hide on your feed. 

Hover your mouse over the status.

Click the X.

Choose the most appropriate option for your needs. You can hide the specific update (HIDE THIS POST), all updates (HIDE ALL BY NONES), unlike the interest or group (UNLIKE PAGE); you can't unlike your friends) or mark the update as spam (MARK AS SPAM).

After you've made your choice, Facebook will hide the update, and/or all updates. (Or mark the post as spam, et cetera.)

If you change your mind later, you can reinstate your friend, group, or interest by clicking EDIT YOUR OPTIONS at the bottom of your feed.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Technology Lesson: Inserting A Photo Into A Document

Are you working on a paper and want to include an image with your document? Let me help! This came up recently. I'll show you how to insert an image from your computer. When you might need to do this varies, so that's up to you. Some situations might call for sending an attachment. That lesson is here.

The images in this lesson are from OpenOffice. If you are using Microsoft Word, the instructions will be very similar, if not identical.

START your program.

Write your document. I didn't write anything for this lesson. Put your cursor where you want the image to be. This will probably be at the end of your document or between two paragraphs.

 Click INSERT. 

You'll get a drop-down menu. Click PICTURE. Click FROM FILE.

You'll need to select your photo. (So your photo will need to be saved before starting this lesson.) You photo might be on your computer or external hard drive. Select your image. I've picked a pretty photo of the Brooklyn library. Click OPEN.

There's the photo! Once you've inserted the image, a new toolbar will appear. It will allow you to tweak your image and play with the image's settings. (You can resize the image without the toolbar.)

Repeat these steps as necessary to insert more images!

Technology Lesson: How to Send An E-Mail Attachment

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Technology Lesson: Daily Deal Sites

If you're an Old Person, have limited experience shopping online, or are a conscientious shopper, daily deal sites might overwhelm you. And depending on your budget, interests, and location, they may or may not be right for you. Let's discuss these daily deals sites and how they work for you.


Most sites send you one deal every day based on your geographic location. Some sites, like W00t, Amazon.com's Gold Box, and Target's Daily Deals offer items in limited quantities for bargain prices for a limited time.

Sites like Gilt City, Groupon, and LivingSocial e-mail deals daily. Most are location-specific and offer discounts on services and activities. I've heard of hot air balloon rides, spa days, and I've purchased vouchers for reduced meals, a haunted walking tour, reduced-priced tickets to the Guggenheim, half-priced movie tickets, and a baking course.

The Fine Print

This is the most important factor to consider. Check the details before considering and committing to a deal. Check for additional fees that might be associated with the deal, expiration dates, and any rules related to the deal. The site should display this information upfront. If it doesn't, don't hesitate to look aggressively for additional details.

Expiration Dates

Almost every deal will have an expiration date. Check the date before you make your purchase. Some dates are a year or more, but some are only 30 days.

If you are a customer overseas, Groupon is receiving the proceeds from your unused purchases. In the U.S., a merchant has to honor the value of what you paid (not what the coupon is worth).

Most sites will remind you to use your deal, if it's a daily deal. (W00t and Amazon.com don't need to remind you because they don't provide vouchers.) This is handy, but the sites require you to let them know when you've used your deal. (You'll log in and click a button. It's low maintenance but a little annoying.)

Using Your Deal

Most of these sites will provide instructions. Generally, you've purchased a voucher that will act like a gift card. You paid $10 for a $20 certificate, so now what matters is using your certificate.

You will most likely need to print the deal and bring it with you. If you book an activity, you will probably need to schedule and appointment. The site will instruct you what to do.

For one event I had to call the business, request a time and date, and provide my confirmation number. (And then I'll need to bring the voucher with me that day.) For another I followed the same procedure I would if I was paying full price, and then enter GROUPON at checkout. (Since I made my appointment the business has requested that people book by phone. Groupon notified customers by e-mail.)

Another deal, my first one, provided a coupon code. (I purchased it from the Washington, DC site, and the deal was open to all cities.) I picked my items and when I was ready for checkout, entered the Groupon code to pay.

All of this information was provided by the vendor and the deal site. It should all be provided when you make your purchase!

Some businesses will occasionally refuse to honor the deal your purchased. When this happens, and the business in the wrong, be polite, but firm with the business, and report the business to the site from which your purchased the deal.

Impulse Buying

I have to really talk myself into making a purchase. If you feel this way, research the deal first. (See what the prices are like from the vendor and if it's a good deal. It should be.) You, however, are an Old Person, and probably don't have this problem.

If you regret your purchase, or if you have extenuating circumstances, there are Web sites where you can unload your non-refundable purchases.

Lifesta is one, and others are sure to pop up. Lifesta charges a small fee for your transaction, but it might be worth it to get some of your money back and/or get in on a deal you missed.

Happy couponing! May you be as successful as the people on Extreme Couponing.

Technology Lesson: Shopping and Online + Getting the Best Bargains

Additional Resources:
Living Social
Amazon.com's Gold Box
Target's Daily Deals
Five Best Daily Deals Sites, LifehackerBuy And Sell Unused Groupons (And Other Daily Deals) On Lifesta, Consumerist
Do Gift Card Laws Keep My Groupons From Expiring?, Consumerist
Groupon & FTD Offer Refund For Controversial Valentine's Day Deal, Consumerist
Groupon Sued Over Expiration Date Issues, Consumerist
Overseas, Groupon Pockets Money From Unredeemed Vouchers, Consumerist
Beware The Many Pitfalls Of Daily Deal Sites, Consumerist
Before You Shop, Check Out The Best Printable Coupon Sites, ConsumeristLifesta

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Technoloy Lesson: Creating A Fan Page On Facebook

Now that you can navigate your Facebook with great skill, it's time to learn how to create a fan page. Most businesses have their own fan page, so you might want to do this if you run your own business.

A fan page, or business page, is a very simple page for a business, band, organization, place, or even an idea. Your interest section on your profile (your favorite movies, books, and shows) fall into this category, and so does your enthusiastic thumbs up for Shake Shack.

Mashable correctly pointed out in 2009 that this page is not the same as a profile, though they are very similar.
Facebook Pages are different than profiles. You have a profile for you, Jane Doe, but your business can’t have a profile — it can have a Page. A Page is a place to house all the pertinent information about your company. They’re so useful because you can include everything that relates to your business in one place with a built-in potential audience...
...One of the major benefits of a Page on Facebook over (or in addition to) a webpage is that it’s so simple to update. With a website, if you’re not technical, you have to contact your web developer, who will then charge you to make even a tiny change. With Facebook, updates are as easy as logging in and typing or uploading. The fresher your content, the more you will engage people.

(Make sure to read the rest of that article, even if it's been two years, it will be very helpful.)

To start this lesson, make sure you have a Facebook page.

Scroll to the bottom of your page, and click CREATE PAGE.

This is the page you'll visit.

Hopefully you know what type of page you are creating. These are your options:
  • Local business or place
  • Company, organization, or institution
  • Brand or product
  • Artist, brand, or public figure
  • Entertainment
  • Cause or community
Here's a preview of the next step for each category:

Your next steps will vary a bit. After you read and choose to agree to Facebooks Terms of Service, you'll move on to editing your page. Facebook's layout is designed for your ease. Here is what the brand page:

Facebook walks you through each step. Each step is numbered, too!

It's extremely important that you include at least one profile photo for your page. (Your profile photo will appear on the news feed of the users that follow you.) Take your time reviewing the page in front of you and providing your information.

You can go back and edit this page at any time. Make sure you save your changes as you go, and don't stress out too much! There should have at least be a little fun in the process.

Additional Resources:
Create A Page, Facebook
Facebook lessons
How to Build the Perfect Facebook Fan Page, 2011 Edition, Techipedia
HOW TO: Set Up a Winning Facebook Fan Page, Mashable

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Technology Lesson: Free Ringtones

8Fun ringtones are one of the benefits of having a cell phone. Or one of the more creative characteristics of cell phones. Ringtones let you personalize and customize your cellphone, and there is some joy in hearing your favorite song whenever you receive a call. (There are also ringbacks, which are what you hear when you call someone.)

The cost of ringtones can really add up if you want to personalize the calls you receive. For example, when I first bought my phone, I had three ringtones. One for my family, one for my close friends, and one for "everyone else." Now I have a ringtone for my mom, a ringtone for my dad, one for my sisters and my brothers-in-law, one for everyone else, one for voicemail, and one for text messages. That's seven ringtones. But I know who is calling me when my phone rings, and I know what kind of message I am receiving, so it's remarkably efficient (for me). If you change phones often, you'll soon find out that your ringtones don't transfer, and you'll have to download new ringtones again. That can really irritate you, too.

Ringtones generally cost money. This is a way for your service provider to make money. Plus, these songs or sound bits were created by someone, who probably deserves credit and copyright. (A song, even as a ringtone, still deserves to be covered under royalties; in 2009 ASCAP tried to sue cell phone providers for performance fees, but the suit was thrown out.)

So for the purposes of this lesson, let's pretend that you have a digital file that is not copyrighted, and belongs to you (like the sound of your niece talking) and would like it as a ringtone. (You might want to look into Audacity if you are going to create the file yourself.)

You will need the file to be in MP3 format. If you have e-mail access on your phone, you could e-mail the file and open it on your phone. Your phone will probably take care of it from here.

Or you can use a Web site that exists for this purpose, like phonezoo.com. (This is not an endorsement.) The Web site takes your files and send the files to your phone as a text message. phonezoo.com has some rules about copyright however, and prefers to follow the law.

TechCrunch has a review worth reading. Here's how the site discussed the service in 2006:
On the copyright question, PhoneZoo lists two types of ring tones available for sharing. Public domain files can be downloaded by anyone. Ringtones from copyrighted music can be listened to, discussed, searched for – but not downloaded until you upload a copy of the whole song yourself. It’s an interesting way to get around having PhoneZoo held responsible for copyright violations.

When you upload a copyrighted song, the ring tone creation tool opens with the same tone duration, title fields and excerpted section of your file as the ring tone you wanted to receive from some one else. You can then make any changes you want, for example you might like the section of a song someone has excerpted but want to extend it by 2 seconds to capture another couple of beats. I can imagine people enjoying that.

It’s all opt-in of course, there’s nothing enforcing any kind of copyright protection – no rights detection software apparently, for example. It’s an intriguing system. Best of all it’s relatively simple and it works.
When phonezoo.com sends the text message, my phone asks if I'd like to save the attached file as a ringtone. I say yes, and immediately set the text message to my contact(s).

If you're going to search the web for free ringtones, do be careful. Free ringtones are deeply desired, and the search is a minefield of malware and unnecessary advertisements. So click wisely.

You can avoid this hassle entirely by making your own ringtone. I'm not 100% walking you through this. You'll need a phone that supports MP3 ringtones, and e-mail and/or text messaging on your phone. If you're up for the challenge—and I assure you it's easy—check the resources below.

Additional Resources:
Ringing up cash: ASCAP suing AT&T for ringtone "performance", ars technica
PhoneZoo: Fast, Free Copyrighted Ringtones to Share, TechCrunch
Geek to Live: Make a ringtone from any MP3, Lifehacker
Make an iPhone Ringtone with iTunes in Windows, Lifehacker
Create Custom iPhone Ringtones the Free and Apple Way

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Technology Lesson: How to Block Text Messages

If you have a cell phone and hate text messaging--or just don't want to do it--you might want to block text messages. Blocking text messages may save you money (plans vary in price by carrier; it's possible a plan might include text messaging and cost less). If you don't have text messaging as part of you plan, blocking texts will certainly save you money.

Here's how to block unwanted text messages from friends, family, and spammers.

Call your service provider. You should be able to do this from your own cell phone. Call using the toll free number, and politely ask to speak to a customer service representative.

Kindly and patiently tell the customer service representative that you would like to BLOCK all text messaging services. If you plan to do this, and you have texts messages as part of your plan, politely ask for a better rate in exchange for removing the text message service. (It can't hurt to ask to spend less money!) The representative might point out that the service provider will contact you via text message. Tell the representative you understand, but would prefer to communicate in other ways.

Receive confirmation that your request was a success. Thank the representative and hang up. Sigh with relief and satisfaction.

You can probably do this online, too. I can't tell you how to do that step by step, because I don't know who your provider is. I logged into the account online to lift the restrictions on my phone, so surely it will work the same way to block text messages, too!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Technology Lesson: How To Buy A New Phone

I was asked last month if I could write a lesson about buying cellphones. I'm on my second phone with this plan—a plan I share with my parents (it's cost effective and I get to keep my old area code* )—and it's the only phone I have picked out on my own. I've been happy with my phone since I bought it in 2008 and hope to never replace it, so I turned to my mother, who upgrades every two years, and my sister, who was once plagued with phone troubles. Both have plenty of experience.

I interviewed both (over the phone!) and these are the tips I picked up from them:
  • Decide what you want in a phone before you look or buy. If you text a lot, you won't need a keyboard. This will eliminate many of your options. If you do text a lot, you might want to consider getting a phone with a QWERTY keyboard.

    Likewise, if you want a phone with a lot of features, or plan on buying or keeping a data plan, a smart phone might be right for you.
  • Not all phones take videos and photos. Many phones with cameras do not take videos. Consider whether or not this is important to you. (And realize that not all cameras are good quality!)
  • Read the reviews for the phones that interest you. Check your carrier's Web site for reviews. (I would recommend reading reviews online before looking at the phone in the store. -K) Check reviews from tech Web sites, the manufacturer, and Consumer Reports. (Most of the phones reviewed are smartphones.)
  • Most carriers will upgrade for free. (And give you a discount on phones that are not free.) Log-in to your account online to see which phones are free. If you can't find out online, or you want to talk to a live person, call the toll free number for your carrier and see which models are free. Find out what kind of additional deals might be available.
  • Most of these phones are not smartphones. Most will not include keyboards.
  • Consider the size of the phone versus your pocket. (Perhaps you are awesome like my mom and my friend Erin, and live life without a purse! -K
  • Bring your old phone with you to the store--or measure it--to compare with your new phone. Check reviews online--clarity of sound and volume control are important.
  • Manuals don't come with phones anymore. Ask for a manual. Usually you need to contact the manufacturer of your phone.
  • Ringtones do not transfer from one phone to another. (You might want to get your ringtone for free online instead. -K)
  • There's a $10 fee to transfer contacts, but my Grandpa never pays. He says, "I'm old, can you do this for me?" Verizon obliges and does not pay him. (He is 89 and lives in North Dakota.) If you ask nicely, and are not 25, you might not have to pay either. (I like transferring manually, because I can clean out my phone. -K)
*I guess the law would allow me to keep my old number. It's an old habit.

Additional Resources:
Three phone tips for antisocial people like me that hate phones, Lifehacker
How to Buy a Cell Phone, PCWorld
Buying a new cell phone, and your questions answered, Cnet

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Link: Turn Off In-App Purchasing

Consumerist posted a step-by-step review to help you turn off in-app purchasing in your iPod or iPhone. This is a good idea even if you are the only person that uses the device.

Vocabulary Lesson: Hotlinking

Hotlinking is when you copy and paste the source of a media file (direct linking), and post it to your site or blog. It's bad because it piggybacks the responsibility of bandwidth to someone else.

This is considered bad form because it steals bandwidth from the host. Bandwidth costs money, so you cost the host money. Your action might also cause the host's site to crash, which is also really terrible. So if there's a media file you want to use (and it's fair use or you have permission), you'll have to save the file yourself and upload it to a server yourself. You can use your own server or site, or a site like Flickr or Photobucket. Luckily, some sites will provide a link you can use or an embed code, which might lessen the time required to uploading the file yourself.

Don't forget to credit the file's source, and be sure you link to the site where it originated!

You can end up at the end of a prank if you hotlink, which is another reason to be wary. (But breaking the code of the Internet is reason enough.) This happened to John McCain's MySpace in 2007, and National Organization for Marriage earlier this year when it hotlinked from a web comic. (That both examples oppose gay marriage is purely coincidental, though I support both pranks. And that last link is especially insightful. It also explains wanging.)

So lesson learned, Old People. Host your own media. It's the polite, and safe, thing to do.

Hotlinking is also called leeching, piggy-backing, direct linking, and offsite grabbing.

Additional Resources:
Hotlinking: What Is It, And Why Is It Bad?, Squidoo
What Is A Hot Link? wiseGeek
Inline linking, Wikipedia
John McCain's MySpace Page "Enhanced", Tech Crunch
N.O.M. N.O.M. N.O.M., The Weinerworks