Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cleaning up your computer - do you REALLY have to?

I spent most of today sorting through graphics and video clips. After more than 8 hours of looking through my stuff, I determined I have GOT to come up with a method of cleanup that is more effective than my old, "wait until it gets really, really full," method.

Don't get me wrong, I do regular clean up on my computers. If I didn't, I would never be able to find anything, and the computers would all be inoperable. It is just that most of us wait until the drive is really too full before we act. Hard disks are not limitless in capacity. They will eventually fill up and threaten your well-being. Your nerves get all frazzled once you lose some data or can't save a critical file to the hard drive, but if you have not got a preventive maintenance program in place, bad things will eventually happen. It is just reality.

The average computer user SHOULD back up his or her data at LEAST once a month. A couple of times a month wouldn't hurt, either.

The first thing to backup are important files, such as your documents. These cannot be replaced, and in the case of things like resumés, you will probably need them about ten minutes after they have been lost. I had this one happen to me a number of years ago. I had accidentally deleted my resumé from my computer, and I found an ad in the paper for a job as a technical trainer at a military base. I looked through all my disks that had documents on them, and I COULD NOT find the file anywhere. OOPS!! To make a long story short, I finally found a coffee-stained copy of my resume and I scanned it into my computer and ran OCR on it.

For those who don't know, OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition. Basically, the computer scans in a graphic, then makes the best guess what the words are in the document, one letter at a time. Today this works very well, back in 1996, things were very different. After an hour or so of editing, I got the resumé into the computer and printed it out. It did get me the job, but I will NEVER forget the lesson - BACK UP YOUR IMPORTANT DATA.

So, back up your data and you will be a much happier, saner person. I usually back up my data at least every month, and I never let it slip beyond two months. I would like to mention here a very important critical success factor here - make sure you label the disks you put your archive on. Even if it is as simple as, "Data B/U Jan 02, 2008," it IS important to know where you data is.

If you have the cash, you should invest in a USB, Firewire, or eSATA external drive for your backups. I currently do this prior to major upgrades in software or before migrating my stuff to another computer. There are several backup programs that can do this for you at little or no cost. In this case, I back up the entire drive to make an image of it. Images are a cool idea that started on the Mac, and have migrated to the PC in the last twenty years or so. Before that on the PC, you just used Microsoft's Backup to make the archive of your system. An image of a drive contains all the partitions, operating system(s), software and configuration settings on your computer. Images can be used in conjunction with the right software, to bring your computer back to an earlier state.

Hope this gives you a little food for thought.

Until later, have an excellent day and God Bless.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Learning Curve

"When you stop learning, you are dead."

I remember hearing this statement in my youth. I didn't put much stock in it until I go MUCH older. It seems in the last several years I have had to learn what seems like a lot more stuff than I had to when I was younger. I believe this has to do with the "information age" we are living in.

Recently, I decided to start publishing on the Internet for a source of income. I didn't think it would be very hard or time-intensive, to learn. Boy, was I wrong. I have discovered that even though I knew a good deal about HTML and about FTP and graphics tools, that this was only the tip of a very large iceberg.

Blogging for profit can be very time intensive - especially if you decide to build and manage the web site yourself. This is what I am now doing. "If you build it, they will come." Yeah, right, this may be true, but you don't get traffic to your blog or your website overnight. Maybe this is true of people that have a few books and ebooks published, but it is not a simple task building an audience. My goal in doing this is to combine two things I love, computers and teaching, to help others out and to try and make a dollar or two to pay for the bills that always seem to be attached to the "low cost startup enterprise."

There are things that I have learned, like the fact that there are a large number of search engines out there - all of which need to be submitted to so your information shows up on the search. I knew about the keywords being in pages, the need for meta data, etc. I just didn't know that the product I was using generated dynamic content to the level where the actual web pages didn't have few, if not any, hyperlinks.

Hyperlinks or links for short, are how we get around the World Wide Web. If you don't have hyperlinks on your page, and all navigation is stored in cascading style sheets and other places, you don't get fully indexed on the search engines. This means more research and more work into finding a workaround for this problem. Fortunately, I found a tool that resolved that problem. The downside is that besides learning about a web authoring tool, I was now learning about the tool that fixed the failing in the authoring tool. What a mess!!

I also learned a very hard lesson yesterday: If you are showing up on the first page of a major search engine, don't submit a new sitemap for your site. I have been waiting for HOURS for my site to be re-indexed so folks can find my site. This could be a problem since I have several videos on YouTube that send folks to the search engine to find me. If you wonder why I just don't give my URL during the video, I'll give you the link here - click on it to go see the site.

When you have an address that is that long, you DO have a problem! Most folks have trouble with entering www in front of an address, and some have made the mistake of going to a .com website instead of a .gov, .org, .info, or .biz site. Since some folks know this, there are things such as porn sites, spyware sites and the like, that acquire the .com version of certain popular sites. I can just imagine some little old lady stumbling on a porn site when she was looking for information about water sports or viewing the white house's home page. We do live in a world of predators. (Ok, now I will get off my rant on people being sneaky!)

Anyway, to make a long story short, I am learning a lot about the Web and its complexity. I will give you updates later as the story unfolds...

Have an Awesome Day, and God Bless!

Friday, June 19, 2009

An Introduction

I have been working with computers and computing for over half my life. At about the same time I started this, I began teaching - tutoring at work and teaching a Wednesday night class at my church. I really love teaching and I love working with computers. Anyone who doubts this would find out otherwise if they looked at my collection of computer dinosaurs. I have the following items in my posession:

  • A Tandy TRS80
  • A Tandy 2000
  • A WORKING 286 with Windows 2.5
  • An assortment of the old Macs (Classic, SE, etc.)
  • An Apple //e
  • An Apple //gs
  • Several old 386 and 486 towers
  • At least 3 various Pentiums
  • Pentium 3 laptop (more on this one later)
  • Other items that are newer, and some I can't think of at the moment

I started working with electrical and electronic devices at the ripe old age of 9. I have always been a tinkerer, so this only came natural to me. I did well with electronics in High School, beating out the 2 year students for the outstanding electronics student award. (I only took 1 year of electronics!) I graduated from High School and began to work at various jobs in areas such as a cook and waiter in a drive in restaurant, delivery driver, road sign installer, potash mine floatation plant operator, and chemical plant operator to name a few.

I worked for people that I knew I was smarter than, but needed an education to improve my situation. So, 10 years after graduating from High School, I became a college student. I was working towards a degree in electronic engineering. After all my work on the inside of the cases, I KNEW what was poor about the design of these products - case design, component accessibility, ease of repair, etc. This was great until I found myself taking computer classes - I loved this stuff! I started taking more computer classes than were required for my degree. I was taking them for fun - in addition to being an easy "A" for me. I ended up changing my major because my roommate asked an interesting question - "You write and debug programs just as well as I do, so why aren't you a CS Major?" I then talked to one of my computer instructors. He said, "If you want to be married to a desk, go with engineering, if you want to work in the field, go with computers." Since the guy had a Master's degree in electronics and computer science, I figured he had to know what he is talking about. I changed majors within a few days after that, and have NEVER regretted it.

Since then, I have worked as a Data Analyst, an Adult Basic Education Instructor, a Teaching Technician, Proof Operator/Computer Repair Person at a bank, Technical Trainer, HelpDesk Support person, and an Instructor and College Professor. I have also been an eBay powerseller, selling hard drives and cell phones that I refurbished, as well as running my own computer repair service.

I also have a great love for cooking and the culinary arts. I worked for my parents in their hamburger stand on and off for over 8 years. Prepping is the big challenge - you haven't lived until you have peeled 50 to 100 pounds of potatoes in a day!

Everything I have tried in the cooking arena I have eventually conquered (or at least got decent at it). I had some really bad items come out of the kitchen, but I ate my mistakes. That was the greatest motivation to get better - nothing is worse than cooking something that turned out bad and having to eat it. Stir fry was a great challenge - being prepared and cooking at high heat - now, there is a recipe for disaster!

So this is a little of who I am and wht this blog will contain. If you like, you can come to my website at to look over my other blog. I also post video clips on YouTube under the ID of TheCrabbyMac. I just started the YouTube stuff, so bear with me if the clips aren't really clean yet. I usually work from photos and video from my camera, so doing screen captures and getting good video of the screen is a challenge - I HAVE to write about that some other time.

Have a GREAT day and God Bless!