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Find Answers to Your Computer Questions on YouTube January 8, 2008

Posted by Mike in Hardware, Learning, Technology, Training, Videos.
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It’s easy to overlook the usefulness of YouTube amid the abundance of entertaining video clips posted by its users.

YouTube’s vast collection of how-to videos can help you with your computer repair questions.

For example, this video clip shows you how to replace a mother board in a Dell Optiplex small form factor PC.


Most folks start with Google or Yahoo to find their answers. YouTube’s videos don’t often find their way onto the search results.


Be sure to search the site itself if you don’t find what you need from one of the search engines.

Record and Share Your Screen Activity with Jing October 2, 2007

Posted by Mike in Blogging, Business, Freebies, Learning, Online Service, Reviews, Software, Technology, Training, Worth the Money.
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You need to try Jing software by Techsmith. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and am very pleased with its ease of use.

What does it do, you ask?

Here’s a quick definition, courtesy of the JingProject.com web site:

The concept of Jing is the always-ready program that instantly captures and shares images and video from your computer to anywhere.

Why do I like it?

  1. Easy to use.
  2. Great for sharing.
  3. Great for troubleshooting computer problems.
  4. Great for demonstrations and training.
  5. Great for blogs.
  6. Easy to share recordings with others.
  7. Free (for now). Hopefully, inexpensive when out of beta.

# 6 deserves additional explanation. Techsmith has integrated JING with its Screencast.com file hosting service. When you complete a recording, you can click a SHARE button and the recording is immediately uploaded to your account on the screencast.com web site. From there, you can share the recording as a URL.

I believe the Screencast.com web site is fee-based, but Techsmith offers a free account for those using JING in beta. I am not expecting the free Screencast.com account to last forever, but it is impressive to be able to quickly upload my recordings to their site and share them.

What don’t I like?

The one down side for me is the 5 minute time limit on your recording. Users cannot record longer than 5 minutes.

The program does a good job of tracking your time left with a clock during the recording process, so you shouldn’t be surprised when the recording stops. It would still be helpful to have the option to record a bit longer though.

Please keep in mind that this software is simplified screen recording. It also can capture screenshots in better quality than your “Print Screen” button. It is designed for the masses to capture and share these recordings. It doesn’t allow you to edit your recording after the fact. That said, if you don’t like your recording, then your only option is to delete it and re-record.

How to Use Jing

How many times have you written up instructions about a computer process for a family member, a friend or a colleague?  If you’re like me, the answer is a lot.  

With JING, you can now show someone how to do it. 

Best of all, you can record the steps quickly and send the person a link to view them.  It may not be a polished, presentation ready demonstration, but it is intended for an individual not a group.  Jing gets the job done quickly and that’s what counts.

Competing Products

Adobe Captivate 3 and Camtasia Studio 4. In basic terms, both of these products offer screen recording/capture. However, these two programs have much better editing tools and options for formatting and presenting these recordings. They also have a much higher price tag.

Final Thoughts

Try it. You’ll like it (sort of like green eggs and ham). Ideally, I think this type of technology should be included in future operating systems. The ability to quickly record my PC activity and share it with others is a great way to educate and train users on new products and features via email, blog or instant message.  It is also a great way for a person to show tech support exactly what steps they took to get an error.

The 5 minute time limit is a little short. However, realistically, most people have short attention spans and a 5 minute video may be enough to get your point across.

As an example, I used JING in an earlier blog post to demonstrate how to mail merge.

For details, FAQs and to download the software, please visit JING Project.

Grab the Popcorn and Watch My 5 Minute Video: How to Mail Merge in Microsoft Word September 18, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Learning, Software, Technology, Training, Videos.
4 comments

I’ve created an online video demonstration (with audio) to walk you through the steps of doing a mail merge to create mailing labels. I used MS Word 2003.

My video demo assumes that you have your data in an MS Excel spreadsheet.

No worries. The video is only 5 minutes long. You can sit through that, right?

In my opinion, mail merge has way too many steps. I can’t improve the process but hopefully this video will help you learn it because it is a useful function!

Learn How to Mail Merge Video

I’d appreciate your feedback on this demo. I’m using a new software program called Jing by Techsmith. I think it’s great for training (I’ll right a review on it soon) but would like your opinion too!

How to Backup your Data Online for Free: Shall we Mozy? August 7, 2007

Posted by Mike in Data Backup, Learning, Online Service, PC ABCs, Software, Technology, Training, Worth the Money.
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Mozy Logo

Backing up your data is critical and using an online service to securely backup your information accomplishes two important objectives:

  1. First and foremost, you have a backup copy of your data!
  2. Second of all, your backup data is stored “off site” or away from your computer.

Point # 2 is often overlooked.  Folks backup their data to CDs, DVDs or external hard drives and then store those backup files in the same place as their computer.  Even worse, some store it in the same bag as their laptop! 

What happens when your bag is stolen? Bye-bye laptop and bye-bye data backup! 

What happens when your home is damaged by fire, flood or ________ (insert your natural disaster here)?   Bye bye computer and bye bye data backup! 

Ok, so disasters aren’t an every day occurrence.  What if you spill some soda on your external hard drive? Or drop it?  Or misplace it? Or your toddler wants to see if it will float in the bath tub?

Have you ever scratched a CD? Yep, me too.

In order to avoid this type of headache, online backup services are ideal.  I just tested out Mozy.com and found it very user-friendly.  They offer 2GB of free (and secure) storage, which will be either:

  • Woefully inadequate for users with large quantities of data     OR    
  • Just right for backing up a few important files, pictures, etc.

 Here’s what I like about mozy.com’s service:

  • Free 2 GB of storage (no trials or tricks, just good ole’ free!)
  • User friendly software identifies and categorizes files to backup and lists the size of the files (very helpful for novice users who often wonder what to backup)
  • Advanced features for those more comfortable with PCs and configuring backups.
  • Option to schedule backups to run on a regular basis. (In other words, set it and forget it)
  • Larger storage options available for a monthly (not annual) fee.
  • “Slider” setting in the software allows you to control how much bandwidth is used during the backup process.

 Here’s what I don’t like:

  • Slow upload speeds.

 However, this isn’t Mozy’s fault.  It’s a reality for most home users on DSL or cable Internet, except for that lucky 75 year old woman in SwedenUpload speeds are always slower than download speeds.  Regardless of the culprit, transferring large amounts of your data securely onto Mozy’s servers takes longer than transferring them onto an external hard drive or burning them to CD. 

That’s just a limitation of any kind of online backup service. 

I’d suggest you consider giving Mozy a try.  If you like it, you can decide whether to upgrade to a larger account (if you need it).

If Mozy isn’t to your liking, there are other online backup services to explore: 

Carbonite

Xdrive

Kela

Whatever you do, you need to backup your important data.  It will save you a lot of stress and worry when your hard drive crashes or your laptop wanders off. Backing up your important files limits a catastrophe to a mere inconvenience. 

Trust me.

This is experience talking here.    :  )

How to use RSS to Make your Life Easier July 19, 2007

Posted by Mike in Fun, Learning, Online Service, PC ABCs, RSS, Technology, Training.
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RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary.

Why do I need RSS? This is an excellent question.

Someone else has provided an excellent answer. Best of all, it’s in a fun little video clip.

I can’t explain it any better.

I’m just going to give you the link to watch this short, yet very entertaining video clip about RSS and how it makes your life easier.  Enjoy.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=209879&dest=-1]

Need How to advice? Take a look at ExpertVillage.com July 16, 2007

Posted by Mike in Freebies, Fun, Learning, Online Service, Technology, Training, Videos.
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ExpertVillage.com logo  

As I mentioned in my “About me” section on this blog,  I like to find useful sites, services and software to help make my life easier.

 I recently purchased a gas grill and needed some grilling advice.  I needed an expert since my grill skill is still developing.  I needed ExpertVillage.

ExpertVillage.com provides FREE how to videos on a variety of topics including cooking, fitness, music, beauty, automotive, parenting, sports and bartending. Their videos are also found on YouTube, so you can find them easily on either web site.

Some of the videos have brief commercials at the beginning, but it’s a small price to pay for quality advice.

Need to know How to Clean a Gas Grill ? Expertvillage has the answer.

Need advice on ceiling fans? Then, you need George A. Finn III : How To Install A Ceiling Fan.

Throwing a party? Need to learn how to mix drinks? Check this out: Hurricane: Bartending Guide for Rum Drinks.

Need to know How to Deliver a Baby in the Backseat of a Taxi Cab? Yup, Expertvillage comes through again!

The point is that the web has plenty of resources to help you with lots of projects and problems.  Many times, a quick Google search will do the trick.  However, it’s good to know where to find a village full of experts when you need to learn the right way to do it.