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Tricks & Tips

Archive for July, 2008

3 Ways to Take Screenshots

July 31st, 2008

A picture is worth a thousand words, they say.  Often there are times we need to share a picture, or screenshot, of our desktop computer.  Maybe it’s to show a friend something, for print material, or to show your IT support (*hint*) what error message you’re getting.

1.  Windows Vista,  my second favorite method,  easiest method,  free:
Windows Vista has a “snip” tool that really makes it dead simple.  Click Start, type “snip” and hit enter.

Snip Tool

2.  All versions of Windows, third favorite, easy, free:  (what *most* will use)

Simply press the PrntScrn button at the top right of your keyboard.  Open your favorite image editor, click on the Edit menu and click Paste, to get your photo.  Or, create a new email message, Edit, Paste.

3.  Professional, but not free, my favorite

SnagIt is a professional application that allows you to crop, resize, highlight, draw arrows and much more right within its program.  You can download a free trial, or watch a video tutorial at http://www.techsmith.com/screen-capture.asp

For your Mac: http://guides.macrumors.com/Taking_Screenshots_in_Mac_OS_X


I happened upon a fantastic collection of photography tutorials last night. If you enjoy taking pictures, these are a must see: How to Take Portraits

A few excerpts…

Photographing Children – “Probably the most important tip I’ve learned in photographing them is to get on their level. So many of my friends show me photos of their kids which are taken from 4 or so feet above the child which does nothing but dwarf them and make them look almost toy-like.”

Candid Shots – “… when you shoot multiple images quickly of a person you can sometimes get some surprising and spontaneous shots that you’d have never gotten if you shot just one. Switch your camera to continuous shooting mode and shoot in bursts of images and in doing so you’ll increase your chances of that perfect shot.”

Keep it Simple – “The more complex your scene is the more unlikely you are to get a shot that is the X factor. Keep your backgrounds (and foregrounds) uncluttered, work with natural light where you can, if you have to use artificial light keep it simple and use as few lights as possible.”

  1. Don’t print in color. When printing, choose File -> Print.  Click Properties button beside your printer.  This page, or the Paper/Quality tab, will have an option to print in color or black & white.  (You can actually make this the DEFAULT method by going to Control Panel, Printers, right click your printer, and choose properties.  Set these the way you want it and each time it will print default that way.)
  2. Only print what you want. Why print the WHOLE page when you just want that text, for example, a recipe.  Highlight just the text you want with your mouse, then go to File -> Print.  In the Print range box choose Selection, and OK.  This will ONLY print what you have selected, instead of all those ink hungry images.
  3. Get a laser printer. Most of us use ink jet printers.  Why?  We bought them because they’re supposed to print great photos, AND print our documents.  However, you can get a basic laser printer for less than $100 (http://www.google.com/products?q=laser+printer&btnG=Search+Products&hl=en), replacement toner less than $50, and they yield a lot more pages (and faster too!).
  4. Use a professional printer. After buying a photo printer, ink, and photo paper, a 4×6 can cost around $.25 to print.  Snapfish, Shutterfly (online printing), or your local pharmacies make higher quality prints for far less! $.09 from Snapfish and mailed to you, or upload to Walgreens.com and pickup an hour later for $.19 a piece.
  5. Don’t print – simple as that. Just save it to PDF, or electronic format.  Install CutePDF to print directly to a PDF, just like a real printer. See more details here. I print to PDF 90% of the time.


Remember the Milk - Example

I am forever in search of the perfect task management solution. I use Outlook mostly, but as it has become more important to share tasks with other people and also manage tasks on the go (mobile), I still look for more features.

About two week ago I tried Remember the Milk (RTM) and I’m real pleased with it.

RTM allows you to create tasks, set due dates, and manage them from any computer online. They have an iGoogle gadget to bring it all on to one screen. They give you a unique email address that you can send to from anywhere to quickly add new tasks for yourself. Get reminders via TXT/SMS to your cell. RTM syncs with everything, such as your cell (BlackBerry/iPhone/Windows Mobile), Twitter, Gmail, or even Outlook. You can use previously mentioned, Jott.com, to quickly dictate new tasks from your phone.

Most importantly for me, I’ve enjoyed sharing tasks with other people (hehe). Once they sign up for RTM, you can share, update, and complete tasks.

Signup for free at www.rememberthemilk.com


Fun with Photos

July 17th, 2008


Looking to add a little fun to your photos?  Kyolo lets easily add speech bubbles to liven them up.  Its free, and doesn’t require registration.  Just visit the site, click browse to select your photo, and enjoy!


What’s Your Start Page?

July 15th, 2008

Use iGoogle start page to maximize your time.

What page do you first see when you open your browser?  For years I’ve used a blank start page so I can quickly go where I choose, without being distracted.  I’ve always considered the start page an important decision.

About three months ago I started using Google’s iGoogle page.  I love it.  You start with a default page full of “Gadgets” or, plugins.  You can add or edit these to your taste.  For example, a small box shows the weather,  and a few others show several news sites I read.  I especially love my task list right there.   This “splash page” shows everything I need in a clean, consistent method that really helps out.

To change your start page, or home page to iGoogle, simply visit www.google.com.  I recommend you register with Google first, or just go straight to the small iGoogle link at the top right of the screen.

If you’re using Internet Explorer, click the Tools menu, and select Internet Options.  Click the Use Current button near the top. Hit OK.

That’s it!  Now, back on the iGoogle page, follow the onscreen instructions to setup your page to whatever your interests!  Photo Gallery? Wikipedia?  Quote of the Day?  You pick them!


Misbehaving Pixels

July 11th, 2008

Pixels are small dots of color on LCDs, or flat screens, that make up the big picture. The most annoying problem with new LCDs is that they often arrive from the factory with problems with one or more pixels:

· Dead pixels. These are pixels that are permanently set off (not emitting any light at all). They show up as black dots.

· Stuck pixels. These are pixels that are stuck emitting a single color (they appear as red, blue, or green spots).

· Hot pixels. These are pixels that are stuck emitting bright white light.

If any pixels on your LCD screen have any of these problems, you may notice a bright or black spot on your screen that either may not go away or may change over time.

Testing for misbehaving pixels:

· To test for stuck or hot pixels, use a partially black web page, or anything with a black background, and move it around the screen looking for red, green, blue, or bright or white spot.

· To test for dead pixels, repeat the same process with a completely white area (notepad works).

· Dead pixels cannot be revived, sadly. Stuck or hot pixels are another story.

A DIY solution
that often works is to use a program or web page specifically meant to cycle every pixel through their color variations very quickly. This often has a tendency to jolt a stuck pixel back to life.

Pixel problems don’t bother you? Enjoy! If you do discover problems, the LCD manufacturer often will replace the screen for free. However, some manufacturers have a “minimum dead pixel” policy. Samsung is one manufacturer that has a “zero dead pixel policy”.


(the spam we forward on to friends, that is)

Ever get forwarded emails about not buying gas on a certain day to help lower gas prices?  Or, that Microsoft and AOL are giving their money away and all you have to do is forward this email to 10 people? If you don’t, you’ll have bad “luck” for 3 months!  It’s all trash. For me, it’s SPAM.

Some are pretty good with their mystical bantering.  They’re often difficult to decipherer.  Here’s the best way to learn the truth:

Take some text from the subject line, or a few main words from the body, place quotes (” “s) around them, and search Google.  You should find many sites verifying the email, or refuting it.  For example, search “Barack Obama said that he had visited fifty-seven states” (http://tinyurl.com/6xrv3v)

www.snopes.com is a well known authority on these fakes.  If you see results from this site, they’re good. In fact, visit Snopes and click Hottest 25 Legends to see those top sellers.  See if you recognize any you may have innocently forwarded on.  Legit?  Or not?

Next time you get a wild email, verify it before you forward on.


The data you hold so precision is only as good as its backup. Your backup can only be trusted if it is monitored, verified, and tested.
There are several reasons a backup can fail. The most common reason is the destination might fill up and it can’t copy any more data. Other reasons for failure might be if your backup destination is unplugged, moved, updates to your computer, permissions, other programs installed or conflicting applications. The list goes on. The important thing to know is, things happen and no backup can be trusted unless it is monitored, verified, and tested.
Monitor –
Most applications we install, email us on failure. This is helpful in monitoring problems. You should review previous backups to ensure success. We use Cobian mostly for backups. It’s a free application and works well.
Verify –
Although you may get good news from your backup or lack of email failure notices, it is still good practice to actually look at your backup files at their destination to ensure they are being copied. If you know where this is, view them by date modified (Go to the View menu, click Details. Click on the header, Date Modified so the arrow is pointing down.). Ensure the dates are recent so you know files are being copied.
Test –
From time to time (3-6 months?), you should actually copy your data BACK to your computer and ensure it works successfully. This typically applies to application’s data (E.g. QuickBooks, customer relation management applications, medical software, etc). You want to KNOW your backup is copying and can be successfully restored in the time of need.
We’ve yet to find a backup solution that is 100% simple, and reliable. Again, we typically use Cobian and have found best success with it.  You can download it here: http://www.educ.umu.se/~cobian/cobianbackup.htm
If all of the above is too complicated, we can monitor your backup for you, or show you how to confirm your own backups. I simply want to stress that a backup installed 6 months or a year ago may no longer be working if it isn’t checked. Don’t wait until a failure occurs before you review your backup plan.


Although somewhat overrated for the average lemonade stand, almost humorous, this article still contains many truths about life and business. How I wish we could all master some of these basic principles.

Here is snippet that particularly stood out to me:

“Provide exceptional customer service –
Be pleasant. Greet customers with a smile when they come to your stand, chat with them while they’re there (if they want to chat), and thank them for their business. Make it a point to remember repeat customers’ names, and greet them by name or title (Mr., Ms., Dr., etc.) when they show up, and offer them a free cup of lemonade or some other bonus every once in a while.

Be professional. No matter how badly your day may be going, you always want to look like you love selling lemonade and that the lemonade business is booming. Customers don’t want to hear about your problems, they want lemonade. And your customers are busy people, too.

Be accommodating. If a customer doesn’t like the lemonade for some reason, listen to them to find out why, apologize, fix the problem, and offer them a free cup or refund. Unsatisfied customers may become your best customers if you impress them with your desire to make things right.”