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Archive for Information Technology’ Category


Comments Off on Accessorizing a Laptop Computer for your Desk

Accessorizing a Laptop Computer for your Desk

Diagram Depicting Proper Posture For Sitting at a DeskHow many of us sit hunched over a laptop computer’s small screen and tiny keyboard all day long? Then we wonder where those aches in our shoulders and cramps in our hands come from at the end of the day. Laptops have become ubiquitous in businesses, but they aren’t the most comfortable to use for extended periods of time. When used on top of desks, the keyboard is too high and the display is too low for good posture. Those posture recommendations for desktop computers are in the back of our minds, but they are more challenging to implement with laptops.

That’s why if you’re going to purchase a laptop for its portability, make room on your desk and in your budget for more than just the laptop:

– A mouse and a keyboard with a numeric keypad will minimize cramped hands. If you go the wireless (Bluetooth) route, be sure to tuck some spare batteries in your desk drawer. Check Dell and Logitech for mouse and keyboard combos. (What works for laptops can also be applied to tablet computers. One of those tablet cases with a fold-up stand and a wireless keyboard makes typing easier.)

– Remember those typing stands with adjustable height? Along those same lines, we need the computer’s keyboard lower than the desktop. Consider a keyboard drawer mounted under your desk. Try one from 3M or Fellowes.

– One method to raise a laptop display is to use a cooling pad or stand. These come with fans to circulate air better than the small fans inside laptops. Remember, heat is the enemy of all electronic devices. If the fans in your laptop sound like a jet taking off, try a cooling pad from Cooler Master or Targus, among others.

– A wide-screen LCD monitor with adjustable height is essential for your viewing pleasure, perhaps something in the 21.5- to 24-inch range with 1920×1080 resolution. It can be configured to be the only active screen, or to mirror your laptop’s display or as a second screen, letting you expand your virtual desktop. For example, you can keep an email inbox displayed on the laptop and flip among windows for Word, Excel and an Internet browser on the big LCD monitor. To minimize head bobbing, elevate the laptop so the two screens are at the same level. There are many manufacturers of computer monitors. Dell, Samsung, Hewlett-Packard and LG are the worldwide market leaders.

– To tie everything together, consider a laptop docking station. They are convenient in that you just snap on a laptop and the power and peripheral connections are already made, at least if you buy a docking station and compatible laptop from the same manufacturer. With third-party “universal” docking stations, you must connect some of the cables yourself. Dell, HP, Lenovo, Toshiba and other business laptop manufacturers carry docking stations. Third-party brands include Kensington and Targus.

Once you’ve accessorized a laptop for use on your desk, think about buying a smaller laptop. You won’t need a 15- to 17-inch laptop display when using an external LCD monitor. Look for laptops with displays in the 11- to 14-inch range. That will make lugging it back and forth between work and home easier on your shoulders. And avoiding aching shoulders is where we started this discussion!

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Comments Off on Teaching Old Dogs: Keeping Your Computer Files Organized

Teaching Old Dogs: Keeping Your Computer Files Organized

A Group in a Dog Park

A recent Web story about the letters assigned to computer drives made us feel like old dogs. Some of us remember that day at work when a computer was plopped on our desk and we were told to start using it. Training, what training? Everything was learn-as-you-go and a bunch of Post-it notes stuck on the desktop monitor to remember it all. With another Post-it under the keyboard for our logon password we were set, or so we thought.

We learned enough about Windows to get by and nothing more. We didn’t learn the easiest and fastest way to accomplish a task on a computer; we learned one way and stuck with it. And years later we’re still stuck with it. Some of us picked up these bad habits:

– We don’t use folders enough. Folders are for organizing computer files just like the folders in a file cabinet. Name them for projects or clients or months or whatever scheme works for you. Also, use folders to organize Web browser bookmarks (favorites) and your e-mail inbox.

– We put file icons on our desktop so we can find them quickly. But what happens when the whole desktop is covered with icons? Good luck finding that file! It’s better to use the My Documents or Documents folder with subfolders.

– We store items in the Recycle Bin or Trash. Do you only need to keep that interim file until the project is complete? Make a desktop folder called “delete later” or something along those lines. That will prevent accidental deletion of the interim file when emptying the Recycle Bin or Trash.

– We use the browser history to remember Web sites. This isn’t a good idea. For one thing, the browser history is long and organized by date. For another, bookmarks can be easily transferred to a new computer and the browser history cannot.

– We don’t back up files. That presentation you just spent all day creating is worth a lot of time. Don’t forget to put a backup somewhere, whether on a network drive, in a cloud account, on a flash drive, or as an attachment in an e-mail to yourself.

– All of us could benefit from a refresher course in computer usage or a course to learn a new program. If your company doesn’t provide what you need, check out the local library, vocational school or community college. And, there are video tutorials on the Web for just about any topic. If you have a Microsoft or Apple retail store nearby, take advantage of the training classes they offer.

We might be old dogs but we need to learn new tricks!

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Comments Off on No Longer Your Typical Graphic Artist/Designer

No Longer Your Typical Graphic Artist/Designer

A ComputerIt’s safe to say that since the advent of desktop computing, business has been changing at a rapid pace. Many jobs have molded and changed to adapt to the latest and greatest technologies available, or they have vanished altogether. Graphic Artists that have been in the industry for the past 20 years know this all too well.

A typical Graphic Artist, Graphic Designer or Art Director must now have the ability to perform many additional tasks that were once additional positions held within several small companies. Such tasks may include being an Interactive/Web Designer, Illustrator, Photographer, Videographer, Video Editor, Computer Technician or even a basic Web Programmer. Modern computers, cameras and software have helped to make this a reality.

This may sound a little overwhelming for people just getting their start in advertising, public relations, design and multimedia productions. Believe me–it is! If you’re looking to get into this field of work, be sure you have vast knowledge and a great skill-set because you’re going to utilize it on a daily basis. In a small business atmosphere you need to be able to wear many hats, not just the one printed on your business cards. This holds true for just about any job at a professional small business today.


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Comments Off on BYOD: Bring Your Own Device

BYOD: Bring Your Own Device

A Finger on a Tablet
Ah, dinner is over, the kids are in bed and you have a cold beverage handy. It’s time to check your work email! How many of us have fallen into this habit? As businesses persuade us to be available 24/7, we’ve seen various ways to make that availability easier and more enticing:

– Providing us with access to work email and servers from home PCs.

– Providing us with laptops so we can lug them back and forth every day.

– Providing us with smartphones so we can check our e-mail from anywhere.

– Letting us work from home for that true 24/7 experience.

But we’ve pushed back, insisting on having a say in what devices we use. Enough of the dictates from the I.T. department; we want devices that are easy to use, even if we have to bring them from home. Of course, we’ll tolerate security requirements from our companies to avoid a Wild West environment in that regard.

Blackberries and iPhones began the “bring your own device” movement a few years ago. Nowadays, who doesn’t have a smartphone? And if the screen isn’t big enough to get “real work” done, there’s always a tablet, with or without a cell plan.

There’s a ripple effect to this movement. When the bean counters at work figure out they can postpone capital expenditures for computer upgrades, Microsoft and Dell will start to worry. But that is exactly what is happening. Even with an April 2014 cutoff date from Microsoft for Windows XP support, over 37% of us still use XP on the Web. And the bad publicity Windows 8 is getting isn’t convincing us to upgrade either. We’ll stick with our Apple iOS and Android devices as long as they can do the job.

So, in the vernacular of street racers, “Run what ya brung” and have some fun while doing it. Just don’t spill that cold beverage on it!

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Comments Off on It’s In the Cloud: What Cloud Computing Means for You

It’s In the Cloud: What Cloud Computing Means for You

Mobile Devices and a Computer Connected to the Cloud

Are you in the cloud? Are you in the cloud and don’t know it? To answer those questions, first we’d better define “the cloud.” Think of it as using the Internet to store data and programs instead of the hard drives in your office computer or network. The simplest example is Web mail. If you have access to email through a browser program, you’re already working in the cloud. But the cloud is more than email.

Small businesses typically use the cloud for subscribing to software and services. This is called Software-as-a-Service, or for the geeks out there, SaaS. A common service like Dropbox or SugarSync stores synced copies of files for you and selected coworkers to access with any computer, tablet or phone with a connection to the Internet. Without that connection, there is no cloud computing. That bears repeating: If you don’t have a fast, reliable Internet connection, forget about “the cloud.”

Software vendors have started moving their applications to a subscription service. Two of the most prominent are Microsoft Office 365 and Adobe Creative Cloud. This marketing strategy enables them to even out their sales volume, but is it beneficial to your bottom line?

If you’ve been upgrading software only when replacing computers as a capital expenditure, subscribing to software will be an accounting change, which brings an increase in your monthly expenses. Before making the leap, run the numbers to see the effect it will have on your total cost of ownership. After these calculations, you won’t have your head in the clouds; you can make an informed decision about one of the fastest growing segments of business computing.

Links to Cloud Products:

Microsoft Office 365 Small Business Premium

Adobe Creative Cloud

Google Apps for Business

Apple iCloud



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Comments Off on Best Practices for Web Monitoring: Don’t Just Google It

Best Practices for Web Monitoring: Don’t Just Google It

Google, Yahoo, or Bing?

In public relations, we all know there is more work to be done after a news release is distributed. For an agency to show its worth to a client, we need to track the news release and see what print publications, online news sources, blogs, wires, etc. pick it up.

Most PR firms use a news release distribution service such as Cision, Vocus, BusinessWire or PRNewswire to make sure the appropriate media outlets receive the information. These distribution services will usually send a report letting the agency know which outlets received the release. However, even though these reports are pretty good at letting you know where the release was picked up, they can miss a couple of key locations.

If you think a few good clips are missing from your pile, where should you look first? Of course just about anyone will tell you, “Google it.” And, they would be right. Checking Google for clips is a great place to start. You can either copy and paste the headline of your release into the Google Search bar, or you can search for specific keywords within your release. You will probably find the majority of the clips that came in with the report from your distribution service, but you may be surprised that you can find several other clips that the report missed.

OK. You “Googled it.” The search for clips doesn’t stop there. Though Google is still the world’s most popular search engine, there are other search engines to try if you want to be thorough in your clip search. Aside from the all mighty Google, Bing, Yahoo and Wolfram Alpha are some of the other top search engines to use.

Also, if you really want to stay on top of clips about your clients, consider signing up for Google Alerts, Bing Alerts, or both. That way, you can be notified about your client’s placements as they happen, once a day or once a week. The more methods you use to track your release, the more clips you will find.

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Comments Off on Seek and Ye Shall Find: Tips on Search Engine Usage

Seek and Ye Shall Find: Tips on Search Engine Usage

Google, Bing, and Wolfram Alpha Logos

How often are you asked for information that could just have easily been googled? Now there’s a website for that. It’s called Let Me Google That For You (www.lmgtfy.com). It creates a link for you to send that shows a how-to animation of Google usage.

But maybe your questioner is overwhelmed by the search results and can’t find exactly what they are looking for. That’s where a Google advanced search comes in (http://www.google.im/advanced_search?hl=en). When you use it to enter more search parameters, Google will narrow its results.

If you are looking for web pages via Google that have been recently updated, use the “last update” field. If you’re looking for something on a particular site and its own search engine isn’t helping, try a Google advanced search with the “site or domain” field filled in. If you know the desired information is stored in a PDF file, for example, select that as the “file type.”

If any of these applications sound useful, create a bookmark for Google Advanced Search in your browser’s toolbar where it will be easy to find.

Here are more hints for googling:

– Use quotation marks around a multiple word search to get results matching the exact phrase.

– Did some obscure error message just pop up? You aren’t the first person to wonder what it means. Copy and paste the text into Google for some links as to the cause.

– The Google home page is simple and fast. Use it to test whether you have a connection to the Internet.

– Create a bookmark for Google in your browser’s bookmarks toolbar. If you only use the search field above the
bookmarks toolbar, you’ll never see Google Doodles (www.google.com/doodles).

– Try other search engines. Bing is another general-purpose search engine. WolframAlpha.com is geared toward
scientific research.

As for the title of this blog, your instinct is right; it’s from the Bible. A Google search quickly tells us it’s from Matthew 7:7. This ancient phrase could be Google’s corporate motto but they chose “Don’t be evil.” That sounds biblical as well.

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Comments Off on Windows 8: Is the New Microsoft Operating System a Hit or a Miss?

Windows 8: Is the New Microsoft Operating System a Hit or a Miss?

Windows 8 Logo

If you’re in the market for a new PC, you’ve probably noticed that manufacturers have recently switched to Microsoft Windows 8 as an operating system. If you took Windows 8 for a test drive in the store, you might have been bewildered by its user interface. Where’s the Start button? What do you mean the whole screen is Start? What’s this Metro stuff?

Microsoft has attempted to combine the elements of our familiar keyboard/mouse environment with the touch screen environment found in tablets. The jury is still out on whether this combination will be successful. Heck, the jury is still out on the ribbon interface in Office!

We’ve seen this before, where Microsoft introduced a new Windows version and it bombed. Think back to Windows ME and Windows Vista. But Microsoft quickly turned out their successors, Windows XP and Windows 7, which turned out to be hits.

There are several approaches to take with Windows 8:

– Embrace it. Forget everything you know about previous Windows versions and learn how to use Windows 8.

– Ignore it. Put off your next PC purchase until Microsoft comes out with something better. The rumor mill has Windows 8.1 restoring the Start button and booting into desktop mode. If you can’t wait, search for PCs still shipping with Windows 7. Look at the business sections of the Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung and Toshiba websites.

– Meet it halfway. Lenovo and Samsung have released Start menu add-ons for Windows 8. Or purchase an add-on program that changes the user interface to something more familiar. Here’s an article about a $5 program that will save you headaches:


Of course, the most drastic approach is to dump Windows and get a Mac. If we all love our iPhones and iPads so much, why not take the plunge?

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Comments Off on Technical Writing: The Difference Between Warnings and Cautions

Technical Writing: The Difference Between Warnings and Cautions

Warning!  Caution!

It’s that time of year when television weather forecasters wave their arms around to inform us of yet another winter storm headed our way. The impending doom and gloom are described as watches and warnings, but what do those terms really mean?

The National Weather Service issues a Winter Storm Watch to alert us to the possibility of an impending storm. They issue a Winter Storm Warning when hazardous winter weather is imminent or occurring. But, even they recognize that we might be confused about this distinction (http://nws.weather.gov/haz_simp).

Likewise, in technical writing, the subject matter often calls for warnings and cautions. We need to know the distinction between them and how to write them effectively.

– A Warning explains dangers that might result in personal injury or death.

– A Caution explains hazards that could damage a product, including data loss.

If both results are possible, a warning takes precedence.

To write a warning or caution:

– Start with a simple, clear command.

– Write to the intended audience, for example a machine operator or a maintenance technician.

– Choose your words to be specific, leaving nothing to uncertainty.

– It might be necessary to add an explanation to make the risks clear. This will make the warning or caution longer, but more effective.

– If conditions are necessary before starting a procedure, list the conditions first.

Of course, warnings and cautions should not be buried in the text. They should have headings and graphics to grab the reader’s attention. Waving your arms is optional.

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Comments Off on Safari and Firefox and Chrome! Oh, my! – Why you Should Install More than One Web Browser

Safari and Firefox and Chrome! Oh, my! – Why you Should Install More than One Web Browser

Four Browser Logos and Internet Explorer src=

Internet Explorer might be the only web-browsing program installed on your computer, but there are several alternative browsers available. Why switch from your tried-and-true browser? Another browser might load pages faster, have a better user interface or have the customization you need to make a task easier.

The category of web browsers is one of the most competitive in the software industry. Developers are constantly adding features and beefing up security. The best part is that browsers are free, meaning you can have multiple browsers installed and ready with bookmarks of your favorite websites.

Google Chrome is the rising star. That’s because it’s fast and, like Maverick in Top Gun, we all have “the need for speed.” One reason Chrome is fast is because it runs fewer security checks than say, Internet Explorer. In other words, you might want to check its security settings.

Firefox is noted for its flexibility. Downloadable add-on applications can customize the functionality and appearance of Firefox. One add-on Stevens Strategic uses is for capturing a web video into a file.

Internet Explorer is the veteran of the bunch. If a website is incompatible with just one browser, it will probably be Internet Explorer. IE is more compliant with web standards than previously, but can have some quirks with some websites.

When a website just doesn’t act the way you expect it to, try another browser. That’s the biggest reason for having more than one browser installed!

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