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Retro Night Digital Memories

Monday night, our 4-H Tech Club had its first ever Retro Media night. Members (and leaders) brought old forms of old digital and music media. Then, we went through the different items, what they were, how they worked, and when they were used. Finally, it concluded with a presentation by our ever-talented Josh, explaining the history of old media. As I watched what was defined as “old media,” I began using computers back in the “ancient media” days.

Then I realized that those of us who used old media need to record our memories of what we used and how we used it. These will be good for future posterity. So here is mine.

My first memory of computers came in kindergarten, when our teacher had us make Christmas wreaths out of recycled IBM cards. We stapled them into points, put them on cake circles, and sprayed them gold, putting a Christmas decoration in the middle. The only other real memory I have of a computer was watching Kurt Russell in The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and Dean Jones in Snowball Express.

In high school, my school got its first computer (note singular number). They built a special room behind our math classroom so it could be computer controlled. The top ten math guys (yes, they were all male) were allowed to do independent programming study. Our math teacher explained to us the basics of programming, and I knew instantly I would rather study Latin instead. I had no desire to emulate those guys because I never wanted to wear a pocket protector for my pens. They carried real floppy disks that were films they put in a special envelope to carry with them in binders. My mother started to use one for work. But I thought I would never use “those” things.

I did, however, enjoy typing and was excited when our high school typing class got its first row of electric typewriters. I was in Selectric heaven. In the middle of college, an English professor made me experiment with Wordstar on his word processor. It was clever, but I saw no real reason I would ever need to use it. If I remember correctly, that word processor had minimal if any hard drive space. The program was on a floppy we put in the “B” drive, and we saved documents to a floppy in the “A” drive.

During summers in the mid 1980’s, I worked full-time in the university library and spent half my day in the cataloguing department. We typed check out cards for books (on a typewriter). We had an electric typewriter eraser in case we made a mistake on the card or call number of a book. They were discussing one day migrating to a digital card catalog, and the library used me as a focus group person – as a token idiot who knew nothing about computers to see if I could make sense of their prototype online catalog. (I did)

Then, in 1989, I had to learn to use a computer to keep my job. Part of my job involved keeping records for a physics professor who was doing space station research for NASA. Those were the dark DOS days, and I remember getting excited to see a computer with a real hard drive. Laser  printers were expensive, and the engineering/science building had 1 laser printer in it, in a computer lab. If I wanted to print something on it, I had to save the document to a disk and take it with me downstairs to wait my turn to print in the computer lab. We used an integrated word processor/spreadsheet program called Symphony because its word processor let us type in code to custom-make physics formulas for tests and handouts. We felt advanced because Symphony took 20 floppy disks to install on a PC. We had it installed on a PC in the student lab, but student engineering prankers would delete it at least every other week. So every other week, before I could print, I had to re-install Symphony. Besides printing downstairs, we had a 24 dpi dot matrix printer for every-day printing. In addition, we had an advanced IBM Selectric typewriter which we could attach by cable to our computer, and I could send standard business letters to print on it. Obviously, there was no control for font size or style, but it saved time from going downstairs for the laser printer.

We enjoyed an early version of the Internet with our research. Each day, I would manually type in commands to log into a supercomputer to run a program and later to download results to convert to spreadsheet graphs. It took at least 15 minutes of manual commands to actually make the connection. Near the end of the year, when a programming intern perfected his program to automatically log in (it took 5 minutes instead of 15 and worked without my input), I was so happy I think I jumped on my desk and danced a happy jig.

Later, I worked in an office that used Wang word processors. Then, we upgraded to a network with WordPerfect (for Dos). By this time, I was named the network administrator for the office and coordinated our office’s move, network expansion, and upgrade from Dos to Windows. In a single weekend, after we hired a new computer company to service our account. One of the most vivid memories is that the we had a 4 gigabyte hard drive in our network server, and I had to custom order backup tapes because our memory requirements were too large for what was stocked in office supply stores. This was for a computer network with 50 PC’s.

When Richard and I bought his first Mac for graphics, a Japanese factory had exploded that made an essential part of RAM. As a result, for his first Mac for graphics, we paid $100 per megabyte to put 40 MG of RAM. It was a huge amount.

Those are my earliest digital memories. What are yours?


How to Lock Down Your Facebook Privacy Settings

Thanks to Stacey Dewig Williams, Director of Social Media Marketing for Go Local Pros, for input and review on these security settings.

My interview with Jackie Monroe for 14 News – Facebook TMI inspired this blog. With 800 million Facebook users around the planet and the Facebook tendency to change settings on a regular basis, you should check your privacy settings every month. Listed below are items to check right now. My recommendations err on the side of caution for those who want the highest security levels possible in 4 areas – Privacy, Profile, Status and Photos.:

Privacy Settings:

  1. In the upper right hand corner, click on the down arrow and click on privacy settings.
  2. Set your default privacy to Friends, not Public. (If you click on Help, Safety Center, parents, teen & teachers can get great tips on using Facebook safely.)
  3. Click on Edit Settings under How You Connect. Select for each one if you want Friends, Friends of Friends, or Everyone.
  4. Click on Edit Settings under How Tags Work. Select On, On, Friends, Off, Off for safest settings.
  5. Click on Edit Settings under Apps and Websites. If you use apps, those apps have access to information you allow and your friend lists. (The fewer apps you use, the more private you’ll be.) Under Apps You Use, you can click on Edit Settings and see which apps you have allowed to have access to your information. You can edit these as needed. Under How People Bring Your Info To Apps They Use, click on Edit Settings, uncheck everything, and and Save Changes.  Don’t enable Instant Personalization- leave it alone. Don’t enable Public Search – leave it alone. You will need to click on Back to Apps and then Back to Privacy Settings to get back to your other settings.
  6. Under Limit the Audience for Past Posts, if you have accidentally had everything public in the past and want to limit it to friends, click on Manage Past Post Visibility. Click on Limit Old Posts (note – you can’t do an undo of this.)
  7. Under Blocked People and Apps, you can designate people to block. If you block someone, that person cannot access your profile. Note: if you decide to unblock someone you had previously blocked, you will not be able to re-block that person for 48 hours. So think carefully if you unblock somebody.

Yes, you’re more private after you’ve done these steps. But wait – there’s more to truly protect your privacy.

Profile Privacy

  1. In the upper right hand corner, click on the View As… button. When you click on this, you can type in a friend’s name and see what that person sees of your information. If you click on public, you will see what of your profile is available for the general public.
  2. In the upper right hand corner, click on the Edit Profile button. With this, you can go through each piece of information and on the right hand side, click on the down arrow and select its level of visibility. Check each piece of information, in particular the ones listed below. On each page where you change information, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on Save Changes.
  3. Under Basic Information, do not show your whole birthday as that leaves you open to identity theft. Many people opt to show the month and day only. Remember to Save Changes.
  4. Under Friends and Family, think carefully before showing your relationships with under 18 year olds. It is possible to be friends and not list the family relationship.  Then in the Friends section, click on the down arrow and decide your level. For those who have friends under 18, I highly recommend the Only Me setting to best protect the privacy of teens and your friends. Remember to Save Changes.
  5. Under Contact Information, carefully select what is available to friends and what is public. Business people will probably want to keep a phone number, email, and website public for networking purposes. Remember to Save Changes.

But wait, there’s more…

Status Privacy

  1. When you click to update your status, think carefully about each choice you make underneath the status.
  2. If you click on the + button, you can “tag” people in your status. When you tag them, their friends will be able to see and comment upon your status.
  3. If you click on the places button, you can list your location. When you note a public location which is attached to a Facebook page, that information could be listed on that page’s wall, where those who visit it might be able to see and comment upon it.
  4. If you click on the next drop down arrow, by the one that probably says “Friends,” you can filter which group sees your status. Then, when you hit post, only that group can see that status. Caution: if you set a filter level, that remains your default until you change it. So if you make a post “Public,” then all your future posts will be public. Think before you filter.

But wait, there’s more…

Photo Privacy

  1. Each photo album where your photos are stored has its own privacy settings. If you click on Photos on the right hand side of your profile, click on an album. Then click on Edit Album. On the bottom setting here, select your privacy level for that album. Click on Save.
  2. When you tag someone in a photo, that person’s friends can then see and comment upon that photo. Think before you tag.
  3. Timeline will probably hit Facebook within the next 6 months. If there are photos you don’t want inadvertently included in your “timeline,” purge them now. You will be able to customize which ones are public, but it will be less stressful to cut them now.

Remember – once you check these settings, put this on your calendar like changing your furnace filter. If you check your Facebook settings once a month, if any wording changes, you can make sure your settings are what you want them to be. If you hear or read that Facebook is doing major changes, as soon as those changes hit your Facebook wall, get thee to your privacy settings and check them. All of them. Then check them again a week later.

Finally, don’t let these privacy settings scare you. We already have other routines to protect ourselves from “Stranger Danger.” We lock our doors, lock our car doors, stop mail when we leave town, and more. As Facebook gives us a window into a new way of communicating with the outside world, we just need to learn how to make sure that window’s secure to protect ourselves.




A Great Keyboarding Teaching Tool

This week, I discovered a new book that works remarkably well in teaching adults how to type. KAZ, Keyboarding A to Z, offers an accelerated approach to touch typing that I highly recommend. I used it in two class sessions with a group of adult industrial plant workers who never took typing and never learned to use computers.

What worked? KAZ developed 5 short phrases for adults to learn to type first. Those 5 phrases use all 26 letters of the alphabet. They introduce those phrases incrementally and show correct hand position.

I was skeptical that this book would work until I used it. 

One of my worst memories from my own high school typing class is the incredible boredom of going to class daily for a year and typing business letters. By course’s end, I was prepared to not only type but write boilerplate business correspondence. (This was back in the day when our typing class getting a single row of electric typewriters was a big, innovative deal.)

Teaching keyboarding is a lot more fun now. When my kids were ready to learn to keyboard (fifth grade), I purchased a computer instruction CD which began with first finger “f” and “j” keys and progressed by way of games with fun music and tests.

For adult students, I blended the textbook with breaks of free keyboarding games we found online. After they finished an exercise, they got to play a game. Students experimented with different games and then chose the ones they preferred most.

Another key element to the success of the class was that students had time to practice on their own between class dates. They had tools of what to practice, both in their book and by way of website games.

Another helpful tool was that online typing tests measured their speed. By the end of the second day’s class, the students who already knew how to type had more than doubled their typing speeds. Those who were brand new had respectable scores and were comfortably typing.

In addition to traditional typing, I incorporated into my class PC keys – e.g. control, alt, delete, escape, home, end, arrows, and the Windows button.

While brilliant tech gurus and geeks discuss the latest and greatest, it’s easy to forget that there are adults who have never used a PC, never typed, and don’t text. A smart phone might be one with touch tones instead of dial-up. If you sit in any library computer lab, you will see people who don’t know how to find a website, don’t know what Google is, and don’t know when to click – let alone use the right or left mouse button. 

Empowering these adults to use PC’s is as critical as literacy efforts to teach people to read. The KAZ series does a great job of working with these adults to engage with new technology.


Use the Tools You Have

Generic or name brand?

This is a blog about cooking, but it applies to computers. 

My 2 babysitters growing up were old lady cooks. One made divinity to die for. She insisted on the most expensive brand name products when she cooked and would accept nothing less. 

The other took whatever she had and made a feast of it. If you gave her a can of corn, a dead possum, flour, and an open fire, she would have made a feast fit for a king. She used what she had. 

I help cater for 4-H fundraisers and sometimes cook on the go in church kitchens. We bring in our own cooking utensils and make good food with whatever their kitchen holds. It could be a state of the art oven or an old one that takes 45 minutes to bring to temp. Whatever they have, we make it work. 

The same applies to business technology. Businesses cannot always afford the flavor of the month latest available tool. Their employees work with what they have. It’s like science fiction movies where the mechanic makes the old junker spaceship work. 

Whatever the field – be it food preparation or computer technology – equipment and ingredients are the tools. A talented mechanic takes the tools at hand and makes a great product. 

As a computer instructor, I’ve walked onsite into unusual setups. Once a client had me give a class onsite. I didn’t know till I got there that their training “lab” had machines running Office 95, 97, and 2000.  Yet I was expected  to train 10 employees on Word, Excel, and Access, with students on all 3 systems at the same time. The employees were each running different versions and desperately needed my help. 

We made it work. It was not easy. Every step of every exercise often meant 3 separate sets of instructions as the software had different sequences. 

It would be wonderful if we all had the latest and greatest. I would love to one day cook in a dream kitchen too. 

Untalented cooks can make dinner in a dream kitchen with perfect ingredients and still create a disaster. Ditto for people with computers. 

It’s training, talent, and experience that often make the difference between a flop and a banquet. 

Go for the best you can afford. Update when possible. Look for free alternatives. Make the most of what you have. 

Don’t apologize for your tools.

Training Investments

Instant gratification is my favorite part of teaching computer classes to companies. I love moments, when someone gets a new concept and realizes its potential.

Then there’s the groan reaction. When I hear an “Oohhhhhhhh” of dismay, I grow concerned. But generally, that means I’ve shown an advanced feature to someone who just realized how much faster and easier their job could have been. Examples from Excel classes:

  • A human resource manager had set up spreadsheets without keeping the cells on layered sheets in the same place. Three-D formulas would not work. “I would have saved myself hours of time if I had known this six months ago. If I tried to fix my work now, it would take 60 to 80 hours I don’t have.”
  • An analyst grew more upset as I explained advanced sorts, filters, and customizing criteria.  Then he said, “If I had known 10 years ago what you just showed me in the last 2 hours, I would have cut 500 hours off my workload. Every year.”
  • When I showed how the Get Data feature made it easy for Excel to retrieve information from websites to place into a spreadsheet, a whole room started to groan/laugh and look at their quality control expert who had struggled countless hours trying to get a cut and paste of website info into a spreadsheet.
  • An accountant said she could redo all her reports much faster after discovering how to create pivot tables and pivot charts.

Now here’s the kicker: imagine the quality control guy tells me what he’s tried to research online. Instead of a traditional resource, I go to Twitter and show him the leading expert in our area, with whom he can converse and make sure he has the best, most accurate information.

Imagine the company that trains its employees on Excel, Twitter, and the latest tech advances.

Well-trained employees find new ways for computers to make and save the company money.

Smart companies know their information investment doesn’t stop with hardware and software.

Good training on computer systems is not an expense. It’s an investment which reaps long-term benefits for you and your company.

What, Why, and How of QR Codes

At yesterday’s Indiana Social Media Summit/Smackdown, 1 Indianapolis attendee wore a t-shirt with a giant QR code printed on it, challenging friends to scan his  code. Last night, I tried explaining this to a friend who is neither a geek nor a marketer. He had never heard of QR codes. That’s when I realized most normal people don’t know what QR codes are or how they will be used next year. 

What are they?

You may have seen the graphics attached to packages, on flyers, or in other information without realizing what they are. These are 2 dimensional barcodes.  They were developed in 1994 for use by car manufacturers as a Quick Response code.

Why do people use them?

If you scan a QR code into a SmartPhone or other device, you access information faster. Instead of manually typing in a web address, I can scan in the code and immediately get to the website. It can be set to immediately provide the scanner with contact information and text. Imagine the possibilities for your business card.

Think of this as a faster way to get coupons, special offers, and more.

Marketers love these because they can measure ROI on different parts of a campaign. Put a different QR code on different media branches of a campaign. They can then measure response rates and make smarter purchasing decisions in the future.

Artists are including QR codes in their artwork so those who scan the code can access new information, Easter eggs, and more.

At yesterday’s Indiana smackdown, trophies were given to statewide winners. Evansville’s Ameristamp Sign-a-rama donated the name plates for the trophies and included the QR codes of winners beside each winner’s name. A QR code can be included on any printed material or signs. Some business owners print and post them to better reach their smartphone customers.

How can I get started?

The first step to printing something with a QR code is to generate a unique code for your information or website. If you Google “QR code generator,” several options will be listed. Mashable recommends considering  Kaywa, iCandy or Stickybits.

Right now, 1 in 4 Americans uses a cell phone with applications.  By this time next year, 1 in 2 Americans will have a SmartPhone.

Smart businesses will find ways to use QR codes to better reach their customers. The smartest ones will find new ways to use them.

5 Ways to Meet the Excel 5 Second Rule

File ManagementOoops! A spreadsheet was left in the office copier! Whose is it? If a page falls out of a 100 page spreadsheet report, can we tell where to refile it?

5 Second Excel Rule: a total stranger can see your spreadsheet and know where it goes within 5 seconds.  With a printed spreadsheet in hand, you should be able to open the computer file in 5 seconds.  In 5 seconds of opening the computer file, you should know the latest status of that project.

  1. Title. Make sure you title tells the who, when, and what of the spreadsheet’s purpose. If the title only appears front center of page 1, then have it mentioned in the header of subsequent pages.
  2. Readability. Print columns and row headers on multiple page reports.
  3. File Name. Include the file name in your headers or footers.  List a file path or a department name if needed.
  4. Date and Time. Include the date and time in your footer to print the date and time when a page is printed. Sometimes I print 5 final copies in 10 minutes and tweak each. This helps me quickly find the final, final version for distribution. It’s easier than distributing the wrong final version and having to fix mistakes after the fact.
  5. A1 Comment. On complex collaboration projects, insert a comment in cell A1, a virtual sticky note of the spreadsheet’s status. If a copy is sent to a client,  note the date, time, and delivery method. When a revised version is distributed, I edit the comment to include that. Some spreadsheet projects take weeks or months to complete. By using the A1 Comment to keep updates, we can quickly see project status, finding it on the computer before we could retrieve a hard copy file folder and find a printed spreadsheet with a real stickly note on it.

Anyone can make a convoluted spreadsheet. It takes a savvy number cruncher to build one that is easy to read. These steps will help that and also make sure your spreadsheet is only 5 seconds away.