Thursday, February 28, 2013

Adding web cams, mikes and Wi-Fi

Answer Man

My old laptop computer does not have a camera, a built-in mike or Wi-Fi. Can those features be added to my old machine?

Yes they can. You can purchase a web cam and a wireless adapter. Almost all computers have a mike input jack next to the headphone jack. If you purchase a combination headset that has a boom mike, you can plug it in to the mike and earphone jacks. With those additions, you'll be already to use Skype.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Connect computer to TV

Answer Man

Can I connect my computer to my new flat screen TV?

Yes you can. There are two popular methods. Newer computers use HDMI (high definition multi-media interface) cables that transmit both video and audio. If you have an older computer it will connect with the same VGA cable that is used in connecting a computer to a monitor. By connecting the TV in this manner you will essentially have a very large monitor, and all of the regular computer functions will work.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Spreadsheet Overview

Answer Man

Can you briefly state how to use spreadsheets?

Well, as you might imagine, spreadsheet use can't be explained in a few sentences, but here's a brief introduction. Spreadsheets are composed of hundreds of little boxes called cells. The cell columns are labeled a,b,c, etc. After the letter Z, they are labeled aa,ab,ac, etc. Then it's ba, bb,bc, etc. the rows are numbered starting with the number 1. Cells normally contain labels (such as address, city, phone) or mathematical formulas. Cells are described by a letter and then a number. The topmost cell in the left corner is a1. The next cell to the right is b1. The cell below b1 is b2. A formula might instruct the program to add the value in cell a1 to the value in b2 and print the answer in b3.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Closing Pop-Up

Answer Man

I don't know how I got annoying pop-ups, but I can't seem to close them, and that prevents me from doing much else. Is there any way to close them?

Hold down the Alt key and press F4. If that doesn't work, press CTRL, ALT and DEL keys on the keyboard, all at the same time, find the annoying task, click on it and then at the bottom of the screen click End Task. If neither of those actions close the screen, you may have a much more serious problem, in which case, you may have to do a system restore.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Answer Man

How do I get rid of toolbars in Internet Explorer?

Click on View and Toolbars. Un-check the toolbars you don't want to see.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Computer Trends

Answer Man

What is the current trend in computer purchases?

Tablets are now outselling desktops, all-in-ones, and laptops.  However, purchasers are seeing that on screen keyboards are more difficult to use, so manufacturers are adding detachable keyboards. The Microsoft Surface and the Asus Transformer have such keyboards. Buyers may be disenchanted by the much higher price of keyboard- added computers vs. plain vanilla tablets.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Missing Club Speaker

Paul Higgenbottom was to have been the speaker at our February 20th meeting.  I neglected to call him with a reminder, as I usually do for our speakers, and he forgot to put the date on his calendar.

To make up for missing our meeting, Paul wrote the following:

"I have a suggestion - have your members 'like' reora on facebook.  On there you and your members can ask anything, plus I put periodic tech updates there (not spam). Page is at:"

Tablet Hard Drive

Answer Man

I am thinking about purchasing a tablet computer. I see that they have solid state hard drives ranging from 4 GB up to 64 GB, and sometimes even larger than that. What size do I need?

The answer is that it depends what you plan to do with the tablet, however, I would not purchase a tablet with less than 16 GB of hard drive space.  If you only plan to use e-mail and surf the web, 16 GB should be fine. If you plan on creating and saving many  documents, storing photos and keeping numerous programs on the drive, you may want a larger drive.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Windows Corruption

Answer Man

I installed Windows 8, but many functions are behaving oddly. I suspect that I have some kind of corrupted files. What do you suggest?

Run a System File Checker scan. This will repair any corrupt Windows files. Follow these steps:
  1. Hold down the Windows key on the keyboard and press the letter “X”.
  2. .Select command prompt (admin)
  3. Type the following command, and then press ENTER: sfc / scannow
The sfc / scannow command scans all protected system files and replaces incorrect versions with correct Microsoft versions. It should take about 10 minutes to complete the scan. Note that the procedure for getting to an administrative prompt is somewhat different in Windows 7 and Windows Vista. To get to that point with those operating systems: Click Start. In the search box, type Command. When Command Prompt appears at the top of the white box, right click on it and select Run as Administrator. Then follow step 3 above.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Windows 8

Answer Man

How should I download Windows 8?

Type into your browser. Select download and choose the configuration your computer has (32 bit or 64 bit). Begin the download. 

Do not download from any site but Microsoft's. One of our members downloaded from another site and the program installed all kinds of malware, software and toolbars into his computer, and it took hours to rectify the problems it caused. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

What is the Chromebook

Answer Man

What is a Chromebook?

Chromebooks are computers built around Google's Chrome browser. Two manufacturers now produce the cloud based computers: Acer and Samsung. Acer makes a $199 version and Samsung produces a $249 version. Most reviews that I have read state that it is worth the difference in price to get the Samsung version. The computers normally have 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB solid state hard drives.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

High cost of ink

Answer Man

Is it true that they give away ink jet printers so they can sell ink?

Almost true! It has been estimated that if you had to purchase printer ink by the gallon the cost would be in excess of $4000 per gallon. So, if the printer manufacturer loses money on the sale of the printer, they more than makes up for the loss by continuing to sell ink.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Explain Defragmentation

Answer Man

Would you explain what defragmentation is?

Whenever you add programs to a computer, the program is put wherever there is available space on the hard drive. Frequently, that space is not available in one big chunk, so part of the program is put in one location and other parts are put wherever there is room. This means that whenever you use the program, the computer has to look all over the drive in order to load the program. That takes time and is inefficient. The Defrag command re-writes the information into contiguous blocks. The result is a more efficient faster acting computer.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Computer Clock is Wrong

Answer Man

My computer clock is wrong by 4 hours minutes after I reset it. What's happening?

Microsoft default time for clocks is Pacific Standard time. That's 3 hours from Eastern Standard. When you change the time, make certain that you also change the time zone. If the clock is off by more or less than 3 hours, there is a good chance that the internal CMOS battery is failing. The battery, which normally looks like a watch battery, is easy to replace in a desktop computer, but usually very difficult to replace in a laptop.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Hard Drive Too Small

Answer Man

I use an old computer with a small hard drive. Windows and a few programs have used so much space that I have almost no space left. Is there anything I can do short of buying a bigger hard drive or a new computer?

You might install an operating system that takes up much less hard drive space. Early versions of Ubuntu, Linux Mint and Jolicloud should fit the bill. You should have at least 512 MB of RAM for any of these to work effectively. I use Linux Mint on a netbook, and am very happy with the program.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

"iPad Basics" Class for Beginners

The "iPad Basics" class for 'newbies' will be held Friday, Feb 15, at 3PM in the Orchid Club. You must be registered to attend this class. Registration instructions are on the ORHA website HERE. Please read ALL the information and then register by email. Be sure to bring your checkbook (preferred) or cash, if you are not a 2013 Computer Club member.

Windows 8 Shutdown

Answer Man

I believe you said that there was a way to create an icon for Windows 8 that shuts down the computer in one step rather than three. How do I make one?

Right click on the desktop (not the start screen). Select New and then Shortcut. In the space provided, type in: shutdown.exe /s /t 0. Note that 0 is the number not the letter o. Give the icon a name such as Shutdown. Right click on the icon, select Properties and Change Icon. Select the icon that looks like a switch. After the icon is created, click on it to immediately shut down the computer. Note that this works in other versions of Windows.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Cloud Computing advantages and disadvantages

Answer Man

What is your opinion of cloud computing?

Cloud computing means that some of your information is stored on computers other than your own. For example, if you use Yahoo Mail, Google Mail or Hot Mail, your e-mail isn't stored on your computer. I have been using Yahoo Mail for years and have no complaints.

You might, however, want to store other items, such as photographs, on a cloud based site such as Flickr, or documents on a cloud site like Sky Drive. That info can be shared or synched between computers and you have an automatic back-up. However, since some of this information may be of a personal nature, you may not want the whole world to know about it. I like to keep personal items personal.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Boot Sequence

Answer Man

What is boot sequence, and why should I care about it?

A computer can be set-up to boot or start from a floppy (if the computer still has one), a DVD drive, a USB stick or the hard drive. If you are trying to install a program on DVD, such as Windows 8, and the computer boot sequence is set to start the computer from the hard drive, the machine will skip the DVD of Windows 8 and open with the operating system that was already in the computer.  

To change the situation, you need to press a key on the keyboard, as the computer is starting, to get into the boot sequence screen. Then you have to change the sequence. The method differs from computer to computer.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Battery Life

Answer Man

Would I extend my laptop's battery life if I took the battery out of the computer when the machine is plugged in to A.C.?

I have heard arguments for and against the practice, however, I think it would make sense to leave the battery out until you need to charge it, as re-chargeable batteries can be charged and discharged only so many times.  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Purchasing a new computer

Answer Man

Sometimes it is wise to pay a lot more to get a superior item as it is when purchasing cars. Is the same true of computers?

I suggest that you select middle-of-the-road computers. You don't want the least expensive (in most cases). Inexpensive computers normally don't have enough memory, have slow processors and tiny hard drives. On the other hand, you won't be happy with very expensive computers because new and better features are added constantly, and in a very short time, you won't have the latest and the greatest, and your high priced toy will be obsolete.

I just purchased a computer for the ORCC for $500. For that price, the club got an Intel I-5 processor, 8 GB of memory and Windows 8. A more expensive computer would be of no benefit.  

Saturday, February 9, 2013


Answer Man

I take many trips and am a snowbird. I am thinking of buying a laptop computer and want to keep in touch with friends via Skype. What should I look for when purchasing the computer?

Not all laptops come with built-in cameras and Wi-Fi connectivity. You'll want both. You can buy a computer that has neither, and buy a separate camera and Wi-Fi adapter, but that's more stuff to carry, and if you travel, you want to avoid anything extra. Compare the specs on the built-in cameras. Some are much better than others. If you can, try out the laptop and camera before you buy.  

Friday, February 8, 2013

Libre Office 4

The latest version of LibreOffice has just been released. LibreOffice is a suite of programs similar to Microsoft Office. This version (4) includes cloud storage and many other new features. The programs are free.

ORCC Board Minutes

Oak Run Computer Club – Executive Board Minutes
February 8, 2013

Alan Marcus, President, called the meeting to order at 9:00 am. Members in attendance: Linda Tingley, Laura Stein, Bill Balch, Alan Marcus, Ron Kenyon and Jim Dillman.

Alan Marcus read the minutes of the last meeting. There were no corrections or additions.

Laura Stein read the treasurer's report. The balance remaining is $1393.98. Laura reported that the bank may try to assess a $12 charge to our account. She will investigate the reason.

Ron Kenyon reported that he is in the process of taking registrations for new computer classes. Only one class has been scheduled as of this date. That is a course on I-pad tablets.

Linda Tingley moved that one of the two February gift cards, which would normally be given away at the meeting, be used as a prize to stimulate activity on the blog. The motion was seconded by Jim Dillman and was approved.

Bill Balch suggested that members should be told of the problems they may encounter in receiving e-mails with blank subject lines. Alan Marcus said he'd apprise members of the problem at the February meeting.

Laura Stein said that she had an old computer she'd be willing to dispose of. Ron Kenyon suggested she wipe the drive clean with a product called Eraser. Alan Marcus will erase Laura's computer for her and may add the Linux Mint operating system to the computer. The machine will be auctioned off at the club meeting.

Respectfully submitted,

Alan Marcus
Acting Secretary

How smart are smart TVs?

Answer Man

How smart are smart TVs?

Here's an example of just how smart they are. I have a Sharp smart TV. I have often turned on the TV to receive a message from Sharp asking if I would like to receive their latest updates. If I click on OK, new info is downloaded to my TV. The download might include new offerings from Youtube, Hulu, news organizations and the like. Once the programs are downloaded, I can access them the same way I would from my computer.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Answer Man

I love to play the solitaire game "Freecell". Is there someplace where I can get it free?

Freecell is normally included within Windows. Click Start, All Programs, Games and then Freecell in Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7. In Windows 8, games are an App you can reach by typing Games in a blank space on the Start Menu.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Will my computer accept more memory?

Answer Man

I would like to add memory to my computer. How can I tell what kind to get and how do I know if my computer will accept more memory?

Your computer's specifications should state how much memory the computer has and how much the computer can hold. You should also see a description of the memory type including how many pins there are. You can go on-line to sites like to have them analyze your computer. Such sites will also let you know the cost of the additions.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Time to get a new computer?

Answer Man

My computer is 5 years old but works well. Is it time to get a new one?

I would base the decision on several factors. First, does your computer have enough RAM (memory) for current tasks and operating systems. If the computer RAM is measured in Megabytes, and more memory cannot be added cheaply, get a new computer. If the computer has at least 1 GB of memory, and does what you want, keep it. If the computer has 2 GB or more, you probably will be able to use the computer for quite some time. The other important factor is hard drive size. If you are using less than half of the drive's capacity, you should be fine. I have 4 computers. The newest one is 4 years old, but my main computer, which is 5 years old, had 4 GB of RAM and a 500 GB hard drive. It is running on Windows 8 and performs flawlessly.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Are Hard Drives Interchangeable?

Answer Man

I have an old computer that has a good hard drive in it. Can I add that drive to another computer?

The best answer is possibly. If both computers are desktops, have the same general type of hard drives and have space for a second drive, you will be able to have both drives in one computer. Most recent drives are  SATA (serial ATA). Somewhat older drives are PATA (Parallel ATA). These two types of drives use different connections and are not interchangeable. Many laptop computers have proprietary type connectors and are therefore their drives are not interchangeable.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


Answer Man

I have heard that even though there are thousands of apps available for phones and computers, many are just about worthless. Is that true?

Unfortunately it is. Some have little or meaningless information. For example, there is an app for Windows 8 that shows what the Blue Screen of Death looks like in different operating systems. It seems to me that that is one app with very limited use. There are however many meaningful apps such as dictionaries, calculators, news feeds, etc.

Saturday, February 2, 2013


Answer Man

What is a database?

I can best answer that by giving you an example. Suppose we created data fields for each resident in Oak Run. One field would have the last name, another the first name, still another, the address, etc. We might create fields for neighborhoods, the color of  hair, age, single or married, number of trips they have taken with the travel club, etc. Then we could ask a query such as, List all of the people in neighborhoods 1, 2 and 3 who are single, have red hair and have made a trip with the travel club. A list of those people would be returned. Of course most databases would be constructed to give more meaningful results.  

Friday, February 1, 2013

Photographic Organization

Answer Man

You once mentioned how you organize thousands of photographs so that they can be found easily. Would you repeat how you do it?

I create folders named for each of my children. I create folders for each country I have visited. In those folders, I create sub folders. For example, if you visited China, you might have a main folder labeled China, a sub folder Beijing and a sub-sub folder labeled Great Wall. You sort the photos into the proper folders and re-name each photo. Don't use the number assigned by your camera. Make the name meaningful. A photo might be labeled, "Aunt Tillie at the Great Wall".

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