22 posts categorized "The TGB Elder Geek"

ELDER GEEK: How to Use Facebook

VirginiaDeBolt75x75Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words. You will find links to Virginia's previous Time Goes By Elder Geek columns here.

I thought I wouldn't like Facebook. I thought it would be just another time waster social media tool that I didn't need. But I discovered that I really do like it. Here's why:

  • I can keep up with local event announcements such as meetings, gatherings, and class schedules from my Tai Chi Kuan.

  • I get reports from friends on matters that I care about such as reports from the hospital, news about new grandchildren, and travel experiences.

  • I can keep up with members of my family.

  • I can keep in touch with a community of people who share my interests.

There are other things to do on Facebook. A lot of people play games. I can't tell you anything about the games, because I don't play them. You can upload photos. You can chat. You can schedule events and take RSVPs. You can create a fan page for a business or celebrity or TV show or cause or even a website.

Go to facebook.com and start an account. It's free. The first thing you do is give Facebook the information you want to make public: your name, and information about you. You decide what you want to share. Do you want to mention your high school? Tell where you live? Describe your interests? All this type of information goes into the settings and info for your account. Watch for the setting marked Privacy under the Settings tab.

manage your privacy settings in this section

Click the "manage" link and set up the rules for what you want to be public and what will be kept private. Facebook may assume you want everything to be public unless you tell it otherwise, so spend some time telling it otherwise.

Another tab in your account that you want to pay attention to is called "Notifications."

the notifications tab

In the Notifications area, you decide what you want Facebook to send you a notice about. Do you want to get a notice when someone asks to be your friend or sends you a message? Here's where you set that up.

When you are logged in to Facebook, you see a menu at the upper right. It says "Home Profile Account."

Facebook global menu

When you first log in, you are on your home page. Here's a bit of my home page.

Virginia's Facebook home page

On the left of my home page, I can choose to see my news feed (the news feed is what my friends are posting on Facebook), my messages, any events I'm invited to attend, my photos, and more. I can also see which of my friends are online at the time in case I want to chat.

If I click "Profile" in the menu at the upper right, I see my profile information on the left (which I can edit at any time) and on the right is my Wall where I post things I want to share. Other tabs next to the tab for my Wall include Info‹where I tell more about myself and can link to my blog. There's a tab here for Photos, which is where you start when you want to add photos.

If you want to write something to post on Facebook, go to your profile and look at your Wall. There's a blank box there you type in. You are not limited to 140 characters on Facebook the way you are on Twitter. You can type quite a lot in this box.

post things to Facebook using this form

Under the input box, there are a few icons that trigger actions like including a photo, video, event, or link in your post. Post what you want in that box and click Share. Anyone who is your friend on Facebook will then see what you posted on their Home page as part of their News Feed.

There's a search box at the top of the page in Facebook. You can search for people you know. Type their name and see if they are on Facebook. If they are, you "friend them" which means you ask to be added to their list of contacts. The other person has to agree to this. If you don't agree to let someone be a friend, they cannot see what you post. When you agree to be friends with another Facebook user, they see what you post and you see what they post. You can chat with them. You can invite them to events or send them personal messages.

You can comment on things that your friends post, and they can comment on things you post. This can get a discussion going.

an Facebook post with comments

This example shows a Facebook post with comments. I'm a Facebook fan of "In Plain Sight" a TV show filmed in Albuquerque. This is what they put on Facebook the day after the episode with Rita Moreno (isn't she fabulous?). Several hundred people said they "liked" the post, which means they like the photos, and over a hundred more left a comment about the post.

When you're a fan of a Facebook page, it's a little like being a friend. You get information on your home page from whatever you're a fan of­it could be a cause, a website, an entertainer, or something else.

There is more to Facebook, but learning how to sign in, post something, and check in with what your friends are doing are the main Facebook skills. Once you get good at these things, you can explore and branch out.

Some warnings might be in order as part of the "more" you may find on Facebook. There are applications that run inside Facebook that do things like play games, help you find your relatives, and hundreds of other things. Be careful with these. Before you agree to let an application into your Facebook account be sure you know what they want, what they will do with your information, and that they are not just wanting to sell you something.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Linda Chaput: The Voice

ELDER GEEK: The Secrets of Blog Commenting

VirginiaDeBolt75x75Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words. You will find links to Virginia's previous Time Goes By Elder Geek columns here.

Ronni recently posted Attention Email Subscribers - and Others Too here to explain the ins and outs of how to make a comment here. I thought I'd add a bit more to that with a few tips and tricks about commenting in general.

First, I want to emphasize again that the only way to comment on a blog is to actually visit the blog web site. You can't do it by email. You can't do it in an RSS reader. You have to visit the blog on the web.

Let's start by looking at the comment form from Time Goes By.

comment form from Time Goes By

Under the form field where you type your comment, you see this:

(You may use HTML tags like <b> <i> and <ul> to style your text. URLs automatically linked.)

You often see this on comment forms. It's telling you that you can use a few basic HTML tags in your comment. If you type in a URL it will automatically be clickable. Be warned, however, that most blog platforms flag a post with more than one URL because they think it's spam.

Often, HTML tags that aren't mentioned in a small blurb like this one can be used, too. I know for a fact that Ronni's blog comment form will accept a link written like this: <a href="http://www.somesite.com">Some site</a>.

Since I've left comments on this blog several times, it recognizes me and fills in my information. If I decide I want a different link or email address here, I can edit it before I submit.

Time Goes By gives you a chance to preview your comment before you submit it. Some blogs don't do this.

Here's a different comment form from a Wordpress blog at 1 Woman's Vu.

comment form from 1 woman's vu

This form doesn't specifically tell you that you can use some HTML, but often it will work even when the form instructions don't tell you it will. This form has features you can select that will email you when other people contribute to the discussion. Sometimes blogs have this notification feature selected by default so if you don't want to follow the discussion you need to deselect it.

Blogs at blogspot.com are a particular gripe of mine. I don't like the comment form there and generally complain every time I try to comment on a blogspot blog. It's because I have so many blogs. Hopefully it doesn't drive you as crazy as it does me. Here's an example from Advanced Style.

comment form from Advanced Style

Blogspot is a Google property, so if you have a Google account, the default choice for identifying yourself in the comments is your Google information. For me, this means my comment would be linked to a blog that I created as an example for one of the books and not to any of the blogs I use with regularity. Not what I want.

Blogspot offers several options as to how I can identify myself. If I choose Open ID, I can select a Wordpress blog I do use regularly, but only if I'm logged into the blog at the time. The same is true if I choose the Name/URL option and add a Wordpress blog. I have to be signed in to the Wordpress blog.

The best advice I can give you about commenting on blogspot blogs if you are a Wordpress user is to log in to your Wordpress account before you even get started on the comment. If you don't, your comment disappears into the ether when you try to submit it and you must attempt to recreate it after you go log into Wordpress.

Blogspot lets you comment as Anonymous, not something many other blogs do. Blogspot also has the word verification form, which is an accessibility barrier for many people. While I love me some blogspot blogs, I often get frustrated with the blogspot commenting system.

Some comment forms use CommentLuv. Here's an example.

a comment form with commentluv

If you select the box next to the CommentLuv logo, the last post from your blog (as you entered it in the website field of the form) will show up as a link in your comment. This is a nice feature for commentors who are bloggers because it increases the incoming links leading to your blog.

Often, blog comment forms allow you to reply to someone else's comment published comment. Here's an example from BlogHer.

a comment with a reply option

If you click the "Reply" link, you are responding to the comment. You may comment on the entire post, but by using the Reply link, you can comment on what another commentor said. On BlogHer, as on many other large sites, you can also report comments as spam if you think they are simply linkbait. Some sites let you report comments as objectionable for whatever reason.

Another feature of published comments is that they often come with their own URL or permalink. Here's a comment that was published on my blog.

a blog comment with a permalink

By clicking the permalink link, you find a URL linking directly to a comment. You might want to write a post about something on your own blog, and mention your comment about the topic on another blog, including a link to your comment.

Comments are the life blood of the blogosphere. For a blogger, inviting comments opens up a dialog and a conversation among yourself and your readers, as well as conversations between your readers. As a blog reader, comments allow you to participate and join in the conversation, too. It's a two-way street. Knowing how to travel in both directions on that street is a good Internet skill to have.

Any comments?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Claire Jean: Ain't It Somethin

ELDER GEEK: The Big Mystery

VirginiaDeBolt75x75Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words. You will find links to Virginia's previous Time Goes By Elder Geek columns here.

Remember when you first got that computer and were determined to learn to email so you could see photos of your grandkids? You'd heard about how great it was to get your boarding pass online and thought you might like to use the Internet? Remember that?

I do, too. One of the things I remember realizing when I was a newbie was that if I clicked a column title (see image) in my list of computer files, I could re-sort everything based on title or type or date modified or kind.


I learned this by clicking the column heads unknowingly and then wondering why in h-e-double-toothpicks things that had just been in alphabetical order were all jumbled up. Suddenly, I couldn't find what I wanted.

Of course, once I figured it out, it seemed wonderfully obvious (intuitive is the word they foist on us to make it sound easy). I could use that knowledge in many ways, and did. But until I knew it, finding things on my computer was often frustrating.

More recently I was thrilled to discover that if I type something in the location bar (not the search bar; the bar where you type the URL), the browser would search for it. So if I could remember that Joared's blog is called Along the Way, I could type that in the location bar and I would get search results, one of them being the http://joared-along.blogspot.com/ URL that I was looking for.

We're supposed to learn these things without anyone ever telling us about them. Osmosis or something. Failed experiments, perhaps. Accidental enlightment.

Do you remember some of the discoveries you made as a newbie? If you told us about them, I'll bet they would be wonderful tips for other new computer users. What's your best newbie tip?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Fog

ELDER GEEK: Playing With Boxes

VirginiaDeBolt75x75Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words. You will find links to Virginia's previous Time Goes By Elder Geek columns here.

One of the questions from back in August when I asked what readers wanted to know was how to put a quotation from a news source in a box on a blog. I'm going to answer that question today, even though some of the bloggers among you may not be able to get to the file that controls this.

Today's post is the geekiest one I've written for Time Goes By. If it makes your eyes cross, please tell me I'm getting too geeky. If you get excited by the geek factor and try it out, please let me know that, too.

CSS means Cascading Style Sheet. CSS is what you use to determine how things look on a blog. If you use Wordpress for your blog, and it is hosted free with a URL like myblog.wordpress.com, you may not be able to get to the files that control the CSS. If you are on Blogspot, you can make changes to the template CSS.

If your blog is like Time Goes By, which Ronni hosts on her own domain and controls herself, you should be able to get to the CSS file with no problem.

So, for the bloggers who can work on their CSS, here's how to make a box around a quote.

This image shows a bit of CSS from a Blogspot blog. This is in the template area of the blog. In Wordpress, the CSS is in a separate file called styles.css. Let's use the image to get a bit of education on CSS.


In the image, you see this:

<style type="text/css">

That's where the CSS starts. On Wordpress, or any other place where the CSS is in a separate style sheet away from the blog template, you see only styles with no <style> at the beginning.


That is a comment, an explanation to help you understand the style rule. It does nothing to the blog's appearance.

Finally you see a style rule:

body {
    font-family:"Trebuchet MS",Trebuchet,Verdana,Sans-Serif;

Here's what that rule means. It's a rule that styles the body. It sets a size for the body margin and the body padding. It sets a background color for the body. It sets a color (meaning the color of the words) for the body. It sets a font for the body. All the colons and semi-colons and curly braces mean something important. If you copy what I tell you exactly, you don't need to worry about what they mean.

What to Style, What to Style?
When you quote a source, you should put the quoted material in a blockquote on your blog. On both Wordpress and Blogger, the icon used to create a blockquote in the text looks like an opening quotation mark. When you select some text in your blog post and click the quotation mark icon, the text is indented. That's a blockquote.

You want to style a blockquote. You need a rule in your CSS for blockquotes. Look carefully at the CSS to see if there already is a rule for blockquote there. Sometimes the word "blockquote" is mixed up among a bunch of other words, so watch closely. Here's the rule on my Wordpress blog, Web Teacher. This rule styles blockquotes that are in my content and blockquotes that are in my comments. The things the rule does to my blockquotes are inside the curly braces.

div.entry-content blockquote, div.comments ol.commentlist blockquote {
    background:url(images/blockquote.png) no-repeat top left;
    padding:0 0 0 2em;

When I put a blockquote on my blog, here's how it looks.


The quotation mark image shows up beside the blockquote because of the rule for background. The blockquote rule styles background and margin and padding. What this blockquote does not have is a box around it.

Get to Boxes Around Quoted Stuff Already
To make a box in CSS, you use "border." Border can be added to one, two, three, or all four sides of a box. Borders can come in various widths (1px, 10px, 50px, whatever), in various styles (solid, dotted, dashed, groove, inset) and in various colors (black, gray, blue, or color values like #746f70).

If I added some new CSS about border to my rule for blockquote, here's what I might add:

div.entry-content blockquote, div.comments ol.commentlist blockquote {
    background:url(images/blockquote.png) no-repeat top left;
    padding:0 0 0 2em;
    border-width: 1px;
    border-style: solid;
    border-color: black;

I added a 1px wide, solid border in a black color to my blockquotes. Here's how it looks now.


The background image of the quotation marks doesn't show up now, which I would fix if I really wanted to do this on my blog.

To play around with borders on your blog, try copying my rules. Make sure you get them inside the last curly brace at the end of the blockquote rule, and make sure you include the colons and semi-colons just as shown here.

Then you can change the width or style or color to suit yourself. Don't be afraid to experiment. Save what you change and refresh your blog page to see how it looks. If you don't like what you see, take it back out of the style rules and go back to the original appearance.

If your blog doesn't already have a CSS rule for blockquotes that you can add border to, make one like this.

blockquote {
    border-width: 1px;
    border-style: solid;
    border-color: black;

Advanced Boxes
Each side of the box can have its own border rule. The sides start from the top and go around clockwise. So you can have a rule for border-top-width, border-top-style, border-top-color that is different in appearance from border-right-width, border-right-style and border-right-color. The other two sides of the box are border-bottom and border-left.

You can have a border on only the border-right part of the box and nothing on the other three sides. Or only on the border-bottom and nowhere else. Or a thick border on the right and bottom, with thinner ones on the top and left so it looks like a drop shadow.

Here's a tutorial on borders from w3schools. If you really get interested in boxes and borders, you can learn more there.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Sleuthing the Shelves

THE TGB ELDER GEEK: Working with Your Photos

VirginiaDeBolt75x75Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words. You will find links to Virginia's previous Time Goes By Elder Geek columns here.

Do you have a computer full of digital photos that you would like to email or edit? Today you'll get a summary of some of the free tools and applications that help you work with your photos.

Adobe Photoshop has a free online photo editing tool. This application lets you upload photos, create albums, edit and share photos by attaching them to an email or sending people a URL where your photos can be found. You can also decorate images with text and graphics. The Photoshop tools are reasonably easy to use and understand.

Picnik is another online application for photo editing. I use Picnik and think it is easy and very robust for a free product. You can work on photos that are stored on your computer, then save the edited versions. I keep most of my photos for public sharing on Flickr.

Using Picnik, I can edit any photo I have stored on Flickr. Picnik also will edit photos from a Picasa web album or photos stored at Photobucket or on Facebook. Picnik features include a way to make slideshows and cards, too. If you use Yahoo! mail, you can open email attachments in Picnik and edit them. Photos can be shared from Picnik by email, by publishing to a web site, on Facebook and in other ways.

FotoFlexer is similar to Photoshop and Picnik. Compare FotoFlexer with Photoshop and Picnik and pick one of the three based on how you feel about the tools and options.

The three applications I mentioned above are all online. There are also some photo editing programs that you can download and use on your computer.

One of them is Google's Picasa. This free software lets you organize your photos into albums, share them online or by email, edit and create gift items and slide shows. You get one gigabyte of free storage for your online Picasa photo albums so that sharing with others is easy.

It's also easy to send photos by Gmail right from Picasa. Picasa is useful to help you organize and store your photos on your own computer, including the photos you don't want to email or share in some way with other people.

Picasa works on both Windows and Mac, but if you own a Mac, you are probably using iPhoto. iPhoto's features are very like those in Picasa. iPhoto lets you organize your photos, edit them, email them and create items from the photos like calendars and gift books.

If I plan to share a slideshow online, I like to make it using Smilebox (http://www.smilebox.com). Here's a slideshow from my 50th class reunion. (You can turn off the music by clicking the little speaker icon under the slideshow.) This is another program that must be downloaded to your computer and installed.

It's not quite as easy to use as the others I've mentioned, but there is no size limit on what you can do with the free version. When you are ready to publish the slideshow, it is hosted online for free.

Perhaps one of these photo editing tools is just what you've been looking for to help you with editing and sharing your photos. There are other good photo editing applications that I haven't mentioned that you may already be using. If you think they are good and easy to use, let us know what they are.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, wisewebwoman: One Queer Turn

THE TGB ELDER GEEK: Select More Than One

VirginiaDeBolt75x75Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words. You will find links to Virginia's previous Time Goes By Elder Geek columns here.

What if you are trying to attach several photos to an email or select more than one item from your hard drive? Do you have to attach the items one at a time or is there a way to select more than one file at a time?

One method of doing this is called Shift-clicking. You can select a whole batch of files that are listed side-by-side on your hard drive using Shift-Click. Select the first item, hold down the Shift key, and select the last item. Here's a video of how you do it.

Shift-clicking only works for groups of files that are next to each other in the same folder.

What if you want to select a file that is not right next to the other file or files you selected? For this you use either a Ctrl-Click (on Windows) or a Cmd-Click (on Mac). You can select two or more widely separated files within a folder using this method. Select the first one, hold down the Ctrl or Cmd key, and select the next one. Repeat, with the Ctrl/Cmd key held down, until you are finished. Here's a video of how you do it.

You may not use the same email programs I do, so you may not see exactly what the videos show, but your email program will have an attach feature somewhere. When you activate it, you will be presented with a form asking you to find the items to attach on your hard drive. Use either the Shift-Click or the Ctrl-Click/Cmd-Click method to select everything you want in one browse through a folder.

In the case of attached photos, which I used in my example, you might not want to attach more than three or so to any particular email. Photos take quite a while to download. An email with 10 or 20 huge photos attached can take a long time to download.

This method works for selecting any type of file: documents, PDF files, whatever. You can select multiple files this way to drag them to a CD to burn or to a flash drive to make a backup or even to select a set of files to delete. It's all selecting, no matter what type of file it is or what you intend to do with it.

At The Elder Storytellling Place today, Johna Ferguson: My Writing Career


VirginiaDeBolt75x75Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words. You will find links to Virginia's previous Time Goes By Elder Geek columns here.

One of my earlier TGB Elder Geek posts talked about a tool to make reading on the web easier. That article was Readability.

A lot of readers with Windows had problems getting it to work right. I found something better and I hope it will work for those of you using Windows. The developers promise that it works in Firefox 3.0, Safari 4.0, Chrome 1.0, Internet Explorer 7.0 and Opera 9.6.

The application I think is better has a similar name: Readable. You can customize the colors and sizes of what you see when you use it. Here's a before and after example using an article from blogher.com:

an article without Readable, and the same article with Readable

Start by setting up how you want it look at the Readable setup page.

choose font sizes, colors and other features of Readable

You can choose font, font size, width, margins, colors and something called full control which gives you even more choices about appearance. As you choose each option, you can preview how it looks in a preview window immediately under the setup options.

Once you like the way it looks, drag and drop the big button that says Readable into your bookmarks bar.

drag the bookmarklet into your bookmarks bar

If your browser's bookmarks toolbar is not visible, you can make it visible by going to View > Toolbars > Bookmarks Toolbar. To drag and drop the Readable bookmarklet, left-click on the big button that says Readable and hold the mouse button down. Move the mouse, dragging a ghost-like image of the button along, until your mouse is over the Bookmarks Toolbar. Then release the left mouse button.

You should see the word Readable appear where you dropped the button. It no longer looks like a button, it's just a word.

To use Readable when you are on a crowded page and want the article you're struggling to read to be a little easier to see, just click the word Readable in your Bookmarks Toolbar. Once you've read the article, click anywhere outside the text to go back to the regular page display. Those are the main usage features to know, but you can learn more in the Readable Tutorial.

I got quite excited when I found this tool. I hope it works better for those of you who tried my earlier suggestion and had a lot of problems with it.

TGB EXTRA: The New England regional TV channel, NECN, has featured Millie Garfield of My Mom's Blog in a story about elderbloggers. Her son, Steve Garfield, takes issue with the reporter about her stereotypical attitude toward old people. Don't miss it, and it would be nice to go thank Steve at his blog for being such a terrific advocate for elders.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mort Reichek: When Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas Rented My Old Apartment

THE TGB ELDER GEEK: You and Your Files - Part 2

[WIN A FREE ELDERBLOG: If you don't have a blog and wish you did, see Monday's post on how to win a free Typepad account for a year. The deadline for the contest is Friday 25 September.]

VirginiaDeBolt75x75Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words. You will find links to Virginia's previous Time Goes By Elder Geek columns here.

In You and Your Files, Part 1, I talked about ways to find files on your computer. Part 2 will explain more about smart strategies for saving and naming files.

Save vs. Save As

decide whether to use Save or Save As

When do you use Save? When do you use Save As? Some people think they must always use Save As, which is not the case.

Use Save when you create a new document and want to save it. Use Save when you receive an email attachment that you want to save on your computer. Use Save when you open an existing document on your computer, work on it a while and then want to save your work.

Use Save As when you open a file that has already been saved on your computer and you want to save it with a different name. If you save it with a different name, you will have the original version and a different version.

Suppose you are writing an essay about the way the light hits the leaves of the cottonwood tree across the street at different seasons of the year. You save it as cottonwood_light.doc. You work on it for a few days, each time making additions and changes to improve it. Each time you work on it you save it again using Save. You have one copy of the document that reflects only the latest version.

On the other hand, supposed you make some changes to cottonwood_light.doc and you are not sure you like the new version better than the original. Maybe you want both versions saved until you decide. Use Save As. Give the document a new name, perhaps cottonwood_light_v2.doc. Now you have the first version, and the second version for comparison.

Organize Files in Folders
Files tend to add up. It helps to stick them into appropriately named folders. (On Windows, these are often called directories.) If you have several files about different topics, each topic should have a folder.

Folders are easy to create. When you are in the My Documents folder on Windows, or in the Finder on Mac, look for a menu command that says New Folder. On a Mac, New Folder is in the File menu. Find it and select it.

find the New Folder command

A new folder will appear in your My Documents window or Finder window. The new folder will be unnamed and will look something like this.

the folder is ready to name

Notice that the words "untitled folder" are highlighted in blue. (It may not be blue on your computer, but the words should be highlighted.) When a folder name is highlighted, it means you can type something new. Type a name for the folder, ­one that will tell you instantly what the folder contains.

You can use more than one word and you can use spaces. So, "Letters to the Insurance Company" might be a good name for a folder.

Saving a File For the First Time
Think carefully when you save a file for the first time. You need to pay attention during this part of the process or you'll lose track of the file. Think about where to put it and what to name it. This will save you a lot of wasted time later on. Here's a demo.

Rename a File
There are a number of ways to rename a file. It depends on whether or not you want to keep the original and create a new one with a different name, or simply change the name of the file without keeping any other copies.

If you still want to keep the original file, plus a new file with a new name, then use the Save As technique I described above. I do this with invoices. Each month, I open an old invoice, choose Save As, give the file a new name, and use the invoice form over with new information for the new month. That way I have a copy of all the old invoices, and make a new one each month with a minimum of work.

If you don't want a previous version, but want to change the filename to something better, you can rename a file in a number of ways. I like to do it right in the Finder or My Documents window because it's fast. Here's a demo.

If the two clicks are a little hard for you to control, you can open the file and use Save As to rename the file. If you no longer want the version with the old filename, then delete it.

I hope I didn't overlook any of your questions about files and file systems. I think this addressed all the points that were raised when I asked about what you'd like to know. Next time I'll move on to another topic.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz: Penn Packing and The Joe Jones Affair

THE TGB ELDER GEEK: You and Your Files – Part 1

VirginiaDeBolt75x75Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words. You will find links to Virginia's previous Time Goes By Elder Geek columns here.

This will the first in a series of articles about file systems and file management. That was the most frequent question when I asked what you would like to have me write about a couple of weeks ago.

Today I'll talk about general principles and finding files. In the next parts of the series, I'll cover creating files and folders, naming and saving files where you want them, renaming files, and more.

Everything I say here applies to particular versions of Windows and Mac in my possession, if you don't have the version I'm using, you will see something similar but not exactly the same.

Like the file cabinet metaphor that computer filing systems were copied after, the system is based on the idea of storing file in folders. The folders are given appropriate names and any documents about that topic are stored in the folder. Sounds pretty straightforward, but if you've ever tried to find a file in someone else's file cabinet, you know that filing systems are as individual as the people creating them.

If you are the only person using your computer, the names you give to things only have to make sense to you. If you share a computer, you have to either agree on a naming system for things or create different accounts on the computer. With different accounts, each person can have their own filing system. If you do use different accounts, remember that something you saved under one account may not be findable under the other.

To view your documents, open the My Documents folder on Windows or the Finder on a Mac. On Windows, you can start with My Computer and then select My Documents in that window. Windows may have a separate folder for images that is similar to the My Documents folder.

the Mac finder and the the Windows my documents

On the top of the image above, you see the Mac Finder, with the Documents folder selected. Under that you see a Windows My Documents folder.

There are many alternate ways of viewing the contents of the Documents folders besides the views shown in the image.

With the Documents window open, look at the View menu. On Windows, you have the options to view Large Icons, Small Icons, List, Details, and Thumbnails. On the Mac you can choose to view as Icons, List, Columns, or with Cover Flow. Each view has its merits and is useful for different things. For general use, I like a Mac set to columns and Windows set to Details, but you may have a different preference.

some view options on Mac and Windows

I suggest you play around with all the views and try to see how different views might be useful in different circumstances. For example, when I'm looking for a file, I like a list, but when I'm looking for an image, it's nice to see the thumbnails. I don't like the icon views the items are too big and it's too hard to scan for names but some people love icon views. Different views have different features.

If you don't spend some time playing around with the views, you won't learn when to use one view or another to help you do something more easily. Go on a first date with your View menu and learn all about each other.

One important point to know about the Details or List view is that clicking on something in the title bar rearranges things. This is an image of the Windows title bar.

the Windows title bar

If you click "Name" the files will sort in either ascending or descending alphabetical order. I like to keep files in alphabetical order because they are easier for me to find. If you click on the word "Modified" in the title bar, you can sort files from oldest to newest, or from newest to oldest. That helps if you're looking for something you saved yesterday!

If you click "Type" you can sort by file type, for example, all the .doc files together, all the .jpg files together, all the .pdf files together and so on. Click around in either List or Details View on your computer to play with this to see what happens.

To look inside a folder, click it. (In Icon view, you may have to double click.) If there are folders inside folders, just keep digging down folder by folder until you find the individual file you are seeking. In the image below, I started from Documents in the Finder, selected Elder Geek Posts, then selected Zoom, and finally I see some individual files. If I want to open one of them, I double click it.

An important feature of either the My Documents window or the Finder window is the search option. On Windows, a search area opens up to the side when you select Search. On a Mac, there is a search box at the top of the window. Select the folder you want to search by clicking the folder to highlight it. You may want to search your whole computer or just the documents folder or perhaps some other folder. Then type in what you want to search for hope the results list is short!

searching for a word on a mac

The image above shows a search in a Mac Finder. If you look carefully, you'll see that I was searching in the Documents folder for a word in the contents of a file. If what I wanted shows up in the results, I can click the name once and see where the file is stored. (You can see a file location displayed at the bottom of the image above.) Double click the name to open the file.

I suggest you play with the search on your own computer and try searching for files, file types, words or phrases and anything else you can think of to try. Try to search only certain folders or your whole Documents folder. Figure out how to tell where something is stored and how to open it. (Saving your files and getting them stored in the right place to begin with saves a lot of searching. We'll talk about how you do that in a later post.)

Your My Documents folder and the Finder on a Mac both have back buttons. If you've dug your way down into several folders, you can find your way back to the top using the back button. On Windows, you may see some pull down menus that let you move back up the way you came to the My Documents folder. If you see anything like that, spend some time and figure out what it does.

Understanding how to use the My Documents or Finder window is a big step in learning to find your files. I urge you to click around and play with it. It's the best way to learn.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dell Pendergrast: A Fleeting Encounter with History

THE TGB ELDER GEEK: What Do You Want to Know?

REMINDER: Don't forget the new FEATURED ELDERBLOGS in the left sidebar. Each Monday five blogs, selected from the complete list, are called out for the week to help us find new gems we hadn't known about or remind us others we might have lost track of.

VirginiaDeBolt75x75Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words. You will find links to Virginia's previous Time Goes By Elder Geek columns here.

The topics I've discussed in this TGB Elder Geek column have been those Ronni or I thought up. It's time to ask if I'm explaining what you want to know.

Before I turn you loose to ask questions, let me list a few caveats.

First, I don't know everything. I may not know the answer to your question. The general wisdom on this would be that if I didn't know what I was talking about, it would be a good idea to keep my mouth shut. In other words, I can't answer every question.

Second, the question needs to be about a topic of general interest to many elders who read Time Goes By. I won't take on a topic that will only hit one person's interests. General topics like "how can I crop a photo" or "how can I put my grandkids photo on my computer as wallpaper" or "where can I get good, free software" would be of widespread interest.

Third, nothing is too basic. I'm here to be basic. I've talked about very basic stuff like copy and paste in the past. The reason Ronni asked me to do this column is because many elders missed out on the basics of computer operation and browser functions. If something seems mysterious to you, chances are others find it a bit mysterious, too. So ask.

Enough with the caveats. What do you want to know?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today: Dani Ferguson: Mr. Hughes and Dad.

THE TGB ELDER GEEK: Resize a YouTube Video

EDITORIAL NOTE: Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words.

You can put YouTube videos on your own blog. If it doesn't quite fit into the space you have, you can resize the video to fit.

We'll look at how you get a video and then talk about how to resize it.

Get the Video
There are two ways to get a YouTube video. The first way only adds a link to the video to your blog. Sometimes this is the only option available, depending on the video.

If you want to use the link to the video, find the spot to the right of the video that says URL. You see that with a red oval around it in this image.

the URL are is marked with an oval

A single click inside the field where the URL is given should be enough to highlight the URL. When the URL is highlighted, copy it. You can copy using the keyboard command Ctrl-C (Cmd-C on a Mac). Press both the Ctrl key and the C key at the same time. You can also copy using the Edit menu: select Edit > Copy.

Your next step in the process would be to go to your blog and paste that URL where you wanted it. But I want to talk about the other option for getting a YouTube video before we do that part.

The other way to get a You Tube video is to embed it in your blog. When this option is available for a video, you see it on the right of the video after the word Embed. In the image, you see it marked with a red oval.

the embed code is marked with an oval

Once again, a single click anywhere in the code should be enough to highlight all the code. In exactly the same manner as I explain above about copying a URL, you copy this code.

Add It to Your Blog
Whether you copied the URL or the embed code, you are now ready to paste that into your blog.

If you are creating a link with the URL, first type the words you want your reader to click. Then highlight those words and use your blog's linking tool to open up a window that allows you to paste in the URL for the link. Paste using the keyboard command Ctrl-V (Cmd-V on a Mac) or select Edit > Paste from the menu.

When you close the window, you should have a clickable link to the video on your blog.

If you copied the embed code, you probably have an extra step. In Wordpress, which is the blogging platform I use the most, the embed code has to be entered into the blog post using the HTML tab. Click the tab that says HTML (highlighted with a red oval in the image). Then paste in the code. It may look somewhat different on a blogging platform other than Wordpress, but you should have the same function available.

click the tab that allows you to enter html

Once you have the code entered on the HTML tab, you can click back to Visual to see how it looks.

In Wordpress, I don't actually see the video. I see a placeholder with a little "f" in the middle. (The "f" stands for Flash video.)

Resize the Video
Click on the placeholder image for the video. That selects it. You'll see the placeholder image becomes wrapped in a border and small boxes appear at the corners and sides of the borders. These boxes are resize handles.

the small boxes in the corners are resize handles

If you hold your mouse over any of the corner boxes, you should see the cursor change. When you see the changed cursor, you are ready to resize.

look for the changed cursor

To resize, you click and drag. There's a fine point to resizing. If you want to keep the proportions (the height and width relationship) of the image the same, you need to hold down the Shift key while you click and drag. If you don't use the Shift key to constrain the proportions, you may distort the image by making it too tall and narrow or too short and wide.

Use your free hand to hold down the Shift key. Then with the mouse, left-click on a corner box and drag inward with the mouse to reduce the size of the video. Wordpress displays numbers, so it's easy to see when it's small enough. Wordpress also displays a dashed outline of what the size it will be. When you stop dragging and release the left mouse button, the video will be resized.

drag a resize handle to resize

If you don't quite get it right the first time and want do-overs, remember to hold down the Shift key while you try again.

The video placeholder is still bounded by a border and the resize handles when you release the left mouse button after you've dragged. You want to move away from that selection. If you have some words typed in your post, you can just click on the words to reposition the cursor. If you don't have anything typed yet, you can use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move to the right of the video, where you can start typing your post.

I Don't Have Resize Handles. What Do I Do?
If your blog doesn't give you the nice bounding box and resize handles for dragging to a smaller size, you can still resize the video. You have to do a little math. And you get to play in the HTML code!

In the embed code you copied from YouTube, look for something like this:

object width="425" height="344"

Those numbers determine the display size. You can change the numbers. The math involved is easy with a calculator.

Do the same math on both numbers. (The numbers represent pixels, by the way. Pixels are the units your computer screen uses to measure things.) Suppose you want the video to be 75 percent of the original size. Here's how I find 75 percent on my calculator - if you still remember your high school math you may have another way to do it.

425 x .75 = 318.75

Round that off to 318. Change the width to read width="318". Then use the same percentage to calculate the height.

344 x .75 = 258

Change the height to read height="258". You reduced the width and height by the same proportions.

Of course you could make it 50 percent of its original size by doing 425 x .5 = 212 and 344 x .5 = 172. Or 85 percent of its original size by - well, you get the idea. Just use the same percentage on both numbers so that you keep the proportions right.

Put the new numbers in the code (be sure you don't remove the quotes around the numbers when you change them) and the video will display at the new size. Also be sure to replace the numbers in the TWO places in the embed code where they appear – near the beginning and near the end.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ronni Prior: Fun at the Carrie Underwood Show

THE TGB ELDER GEEK: Browsing with Tabs

EDITORIAL NOTE: Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words.

Tabs make browsing easier. Tabs are a way of having more than one site open in your browser without having more than one window open. Several tabs can be opened in a single browser window at one time. Keeping track of the sites you are using is much easier when you have them all as tabs and can click from tab to tab instead of searching for individual open windows.

Here's my Firefox browser with four pages open in tabs. (My tabs are colored, yours probably won't be.)


The page title is shown on the tab label, which makes it easy to click from tab to tab to find the page you want.

My examples are with the Firefox browser. Internet Explorer or Safari or Opera or other browsers can use tabs. If you aren't using Firefox, look through the menus in your browser. You'll find a way to use tabs. The menu item may not be exactly the same wording, but you should find the same idea.

In Firefox, you can set your Preferences to always open new windows in a tab. In Preferences, select the radio button for 'a new tab' under "New pages should be opened in:"


When clicking a link, you can open a page in a new tab, even if your Preferences aren't set that way. Right clicking (Ctrl-click on a Mac) on the link and select 'open link in new tab' from the contextual menu that pops up.

What if you have a page open and you want to open another page in a tab, but you don't have a link to click? You open a new blank page in a tab in preparation for navigating to a new site by choosing File > New Tab. Once the new blank page is open, type the URL in the address bar. (I wrote about how to use your address bar in Love Your Address Bar.)

Do you visit the same set of pages every day? Maybe you open your Google Reader, your own blog, a news site, and a weather site every single day when you start browsing. With Firefox, you can bookmark all of those sites into a folder and open the whole bunch all at once in tabs.

First get them all open in tabs. Then choose Bookmarks > Bookmark All Tabs.


You'll be asked to name a folder to hold this set of bookmarks. Create a name and save.

When you want to open all your pages in tabs, find the folder you created in your bookmarks. Click the folder name, then click the last item in the list of bookmarks list: Open all in tabs. Everything in your folder will open in tabs.


Tabs are as easy to close as they are to open. There is a small X on each tab. Just click the X and the tab will close. The rest of the pages/tabs you have open will be unaffected. If you accidentally close a tab, you can reopen it using the Recently Closed Tabs option in the History menu.

If you've never used tabs in your browser, I urge you to give them a try. They make browsing a lot easier.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, George J. Measer: A Very Historical Dinner Party.

THE TGB ELDER GEEK: Download and Install

EDITORIAL NOTE: Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words.

Do you abandon an idea if it requires that you download and install some software?

Have you given up on something you wanted to do when told you need to install Adobe Reader or the latest version of Flash?

Have you kept using a browser that you know isn't the best because you are unsure about how to install a better one?

You would probably enjoy your experience on the internet much more if you didn't let those kinds of things block you. Let's break it down into small steps. The example will involve Adobe Reader, but the steps are the same for any download and install.

Find the software to download. In the case of both Flash and Adobe Reader, this is at the adobe.com site in the downloads section. The web site should recognize what kind of operating system you have and offer you the correct version of the software for your system automatically. Here you see that Adobe is offering me the version for Mac OS in English, which is what I need for my setup.

click the download button to begin

Click the Download button. What you do next is important, but it may not look exactly like my illustration image. Here's what I see.

save or open the file

On a Mac, my choices are either Open the file with a package that will unzip it, or Save. On my computer, I have it set up so that anything I download will be saved on my desktop.

If you don't have your computer set up that way, you may see a dialog asking you where you want to save the new download. Pick Desktop. If I choose Open, it unzips it and saves it on my desktop. If I choose Save, it saves the unzipped file. Either way, you want it on your desktop.

If you chose Save, next you need to double-click the downloaded file to unzip it. You have a zip file and another file with an icon that looks like an open box on your desktop. The box represents the installer. These two may be anywhere on your desktop, so look around for them. Once you find them, drag them to an open spot on the desktop where they are close together so you can find them again easily when you're finished.

the zip file and the installer package on a Mac

On Windows, when you click the download button or link, you may have to click a bar at the top of the browser to allow an add-on. If you're downloading from Adobe, they are trustworthy, so you can OK this. You will be asked if you want to Run or Save the file. You can pick either Run or Save.

As with the Mac, you want this to end up on your desktop. You'll download an .exe file, which may end up on your desktop with some other file extension, however you should be able to identify it as Adobe.

Double-click the icon on your desktop to install the new software. A dialog will open. It's different depending on whether or not you use Windows or Mac.

On a Mac, you most often drag an icon representing the program into the Applications folder. Sometimes there are a few steps to click through asking questions like, "Do you want to install this in the Applications folder?" Your goal is to get the program into the Applications folder, so follow whatever instruction it tells you to do in order to make that happen.

On Windows, double-click the new item to start the installation. You may have to click Continue a couple of times to get through the steps before it is finished. When you're finished, an icon for the program should be on the desktop, which you can double-click to open the program any time you need it.

You may also have to click to agree to licenses or terms of service for some things you install. Don't be afraid to agree to things that pop up when you are installing software from a trustworthy company. Everything should go smoothly if you agree to what they ask and let it do its work automatically.

Every version of Windows may not handle this the same way. Don't worry. The key steps are to get the downloaded item on your desktop, then double click to install it. After that just approve whatever it wants until it's finished.

Clean Up
You may need to do some clean up on a Mac. Make sure you close the installer program so you can clean up.

The two files on your desktop - the zip file and the installer (the box icon) - are now trash. You no longer need them, because you have the software installed. Put them in your trash and empty the trash. This applies to any old zip files you might have sitting around on your desktop. Once the program is installed, you don't need those things cluttering up the place and using storage space. Trash them.

On Windows, the .exe file or other installation files may just go away and you may not need to clean up your desktop. But if you see them still sitting there, drag them to the trash. Be careful not to drag the icon that you use to start the program, just the installation files, if any.

The Adobe Reader can be used independently, but it may be used by your browser, too. If you try to read a PDF document in the browser, it may go looking for the Adobe Reader and use it to open the PDF document right in the browser. The same thing applies to Flash. It's generally used in the browser to play videos or animate something.

Your browser may or may not need to be "told" that the new Reader or Flash software is there and ready to go. If it doesn't seem to realize that the software is there, it may ask you what application you want to open something with. Click through your Program Files or Application Folder to find the name of the software and choose it.

If you install a better browser such as Firefox [http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/] or Opera [http://www.opera.com/download/], you want to configure it by importing the bookmarks or favorites from your old browser. In Firefox, choose File > Import. In Opera, choose Bookmarks > Manage Bookmarks. In the Manage Bookmarks window, choose File > Import.

That's how to download and install. Give it a try.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, George J. Measer: A Reception at the White House.

THE TGB ELDER GEEK: Love Your Address Bar

As Claire Jean points at The Elder Storytelling Place today, I screwed up something yesterday and did not link to the ESP story by Leah Aronoff. Here is the link to And It's Only April. Please do go read it.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words.

Some of you can skip today's post. Some of you shouldn't. Here's how to decide whether to keep reading:

Do you know how to find a web site by going straight to the location? If so, you can skip.

Do you know what a location or address bar is but don't use it much? If so, maybe you can skip.

Do you search for everything on Google, even when you know what you want? If so, you should keep reading.

Do you struggle to type long URLs including the http:// in the location bar when you know where you want to go? If so, you should keep reading.

Still Reading?
Let's get right to a definition of terms. Every browser has a location bar, also known as an address bar, also known as a navigation bar. Different browsers use different names. It's the spot where you see the URL of the page you are reading. What's a URL? It's a web site address.


If you don't see this at the top of your browser, you can make it show by finding it in the View Menu. In this image from Firefox, you see that it is View > Toolbars > Navigation Toolbar.


Do You Know Where You are Going?
I'm not getting philosophical here, I'm talking about web sites. When you sit down before your browser, do you know where you're going?

Yes? Here's the important next question. How do you get where you're going? Let's use a specific example. Suppose you know you want to go to a local TV station's web site. One of my local TV stations is called KOB. How would I get to the KOB TV site?

Here's the slow and inefficient way to do it: Go to Google. Type KOB TV in the search bar. Wait for the search. When the web site link appears in the search results, click it.

Here's the quick and easy way to do it: Go to the address bar at the top of the window and delete whatever is already there. (Click anywhere in what it says there already; it should all be highlighted and you can just click delete.)


Then type in the blank space. In my example, I would type KOB. But you could put the name of any website you know there: Sprint, Southwest Airlines, Dell, New York Times, Time Goes By, whatever.


The browser will usually find what you want, unless it's a pretty obscure website. The browser will take you directly to the home page of the site. If there are a number of similarly named sites with different domain extensions (like .com, .org, and .edu), you get a page of search results so you can pick the one you meant.

If you type Web Teacher in a browser location bar you get a search result because there are a number of sites called Web Teacher. The one I recommend is webteacher.ws. Okay, full disclosure: it's my blog.

If you know that there are several sites called Web Teacher and you know that the absolute best one is webteacher.ws, then go to the location bar and type webteacher.ws. You'll go straight to the right place. No http:// or anything else needed.

You've Got a History
In the extreme right end of your location bar, you see a triangle. If you click on that triangle, you see a list of some of the frequented web sites in your history. (Your browser keeps track of where you go and calls this data history.)


If you visit a site often, you can probably find it in this list. Scroll down to the name and click. You don't have to type anything.

If you read this far, I hope you learned something about using your browser a little more efficiently to help you get where you want to go as quickly as possible. URL, anyone?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, a note from Ronni.

THE TGB ELDER GEEK: Blog Subscriptions

EDITORIAL NOTE: Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words.

A blog updates regularly. Which means you read it regularly, like a magazine or a newspaper. How do you keep track of all the updates from the various blogs you read? There are ways to make it easy to keep up.

Just like the newspaper, you can subscribe to a blog. The subscription comes to you as an RSS feed in a feed reader, or by email. Ronni's blog offers both choices.


I know a number of Ronni's readers subscribe to her blog by email, so I'll talk about that method first.

Subscribe by Email
Simply put your email address in the form and click Subscribe. Each new post will arrive in your inbox as email.

It isn't quite like email, however, even though it comes to you by email. You don't respond to it like email. That is, you don't click Reply to comment on the post. You must click through to the actual website to comment in the comment box under the blog post. Usually, the title of the post is a link that will take you right to the post on Ronni's site.


If anyone has left a comment on the post, you won't see that in your email.

On the other hand, you can forward the email to others in the same way you would share regular email.

Subscribe by RSS Feed
There are special software tools for RSS feeds, called feed readers, or in Google's case, Google Reader. Google Reader is probably the most popular. It's free. It's handy if you're at your computer and have a browser open; you can use Google Reader to read your blogs while you are browsing.

After the problems we had with those of you using Windows in my post about Readability, I wanted to be sure my instructions for Google Reader were going to work for Windows. Thanks to some lovely folks on Twitter, I was able to get images of how you use Google Reader on Windows. My helpers were Elaine Nelson (@epersonae), @RiverGirlCancun and Jason Mobarak (@silverjam).

To get started,

  1. If you don't already have one, establish a Google account at google.com
  2. Sign in to your Google account
  3. Click the link in the upper right that says My Account
  4. Find and click the link for Reader in the list of Google Products
  5. Googleproducts2

  6. You are now in Google Reader and ready to start saving subscriptions
  7. Now, any time you sign in to your Google account, Reader will show up in the links at the top left, along with Gmail and other options. To use the Reader, just click the link.

Three areas marked with ovals are important.


There is a button with a plus sign in it that says "Add Subscription." Under that you see something called Your Stuff. This is where you will store and organize your subscriptions. On the right you see links and buttons that let you see only unread items, or mark everything as read. The large area on the right is where the actual blog posts will appear. It looks quite a bit like email software.

Add Some Subscriptions
Click the Add Subscription button while in Google Reader and you can search for the blog you want to subscribe to.


If you are on a blog site, like Time Goes By, you can click the subscribe button on the blog. A new page will ask you if you want to subscribe by RSS or Atom (these are basically the same thing, either one usually works) and if you want to use Google Reader to do it. Click the Subscribe Now button and the feed will be in your reader whenever you go to Google Reader.


You can create folders to organize your subscriptions; give the folders names you choose yourself. Read the posts from any folder when you are ready. In the following image, you see the list of folders on the left. One called Blogger Friends is selected. On the right, you see the titles of blog posts in that folder. To read a specific one, just double click the title.


Each post includes a link to the actual blog, which you can click to open so you can leave or read comments.


There are additional ways to organize the folders (or subfolders) that will hold your feeds, and different ways to display them in the reader, depending on what you decide to do in the settings for the Google Reader. Or, to put it another way, be sure to go through the Settings for the Google Reader to arrange it the way you want.


The reason Google Reader is so popular is that it works on any computer with any browser. You don't have to download and install anything.

I personally don't use Google Reader. I use feed reader software meant only for Mac users called NetNewsWire that I downloaded and installed. It does basically the same thing Google Reader does, but in a separate application. A similar one for Windows is Feed Demon from NewsGator. Most RSS feed readers like these two are free to download.

The advantage of using a feed reader is that everything you want is in one place, ready to be perused when you are ready to do your daily blog reading.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: If you have a question for Virginia or a suggestion for an Elder Geek column, you may email it using the Contact link in the upper left corner of this page.]

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary E. Davies brings us another Mother's Day story: M is for the Million Things.

THE TGB ELDER GEEK: Keeping Up with Technology

EDITORIAL NOTE: Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words.

The fascinating thing about technology is that it's always changing, always new. The terrifying thing about technology is that it's always changing, always new. If you'd like to keep track of current news in technology - at least have a glimmer of what everyone's talking about - how do you do it?

Follow the News
The easiest way is to follow the news, just the way you follow news on any topic. In The New York Times, columnist David Pogue publishes a column called Pogue's Posts that deals with all sorts of topics. Recently, Pogue has written about Twitter, cameras, Blockbuster, Skype, Google, and PDF. You can look at the archive of all his posts or look for posts on a topic of interest using the Tag List on the page.

At The Washington Post, writers Rob Pegoraro and Brian Krebs write in the Technology section and take on topics like GPS, computer safety, social media, games, software and everything else in technology news.

Read the Blogs
I post a variety of news stories related to technology each week myself on BlogHer. In the past month or so I've talked about financial websites, the argument over Kindle 2's read-aloud feature, the Pew Generations Online study, donations sites and Twitter.

There are blogs that are nothing but technology news. Two examples are TechCrunch and Techmeme. These two sites provide a constant stream of information about the business of technology, new technology, new startups, and rumors in the industry about everything from Steve Jobs health to whether or not IBM is going to buy out Sun.

Both of these sources publish between 10 and 25 articles a day on tech topics. I read both of these blogs, but only about 10 percent of the articles get my actual attention. The rest just flow on by. Technology topics cover a vast landscape. It's okay to be interested in only individual pieces of the overall jigsaw puzzle.

Many readers of Times Goes By are bloggers. Where do you find information to answer your questions about your blog? A blog about your blogging tool is a great place to start. A good place for those using Blogger on Blogspot is Blogging Basics 101. If you use WordPress, Lorelle on WordPress has tips for about everything. Most blogging platforms have similar helpful sites.

If you have a particular interest, it's a good bet that there is a blog about that particular thing. You can use Google to search for blogs. As an example, suppose you are interested in iPods. You go to Google and search for iPod. In the initial search, you get Web results, like these showing links to the iPod store and Apple.


Google will search more than just the web. Above the Google logo you see links for Images, Maps, News, Video, Gmail and More with an arrow beside it. That little arrow means that there are more ways to search. if you click on it, you see Blogs as one of the places to search.


If you click on the words Blogs, Google will search blogs for whatever you have in the search box, in this example "iPod."


The first thing you see is a list of blogs devoted largely to the topic of iPods called Related Blogs. Under that you see a listing of current blog articles about iPods on all sorts of blogs. If you are looking for a complete source of iPod information, try one or all of the blogs in the Related Blogs list.

Remember print? Paper, ink. You know what I'm talking about.

Plenty of print publications have regular features to keep you informed about technology. The AARP Journal usually has some excellent tips for web sites that will help you solve everyday problems. My local newspaper always has technology articles. I'm sure yours does, too.

Look around. Technology information is everywhere. All you need is a modicum of curiosity and you will be up to date in no time.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine explains What I Really Know About Summer Nights.


EDITORIAL NOTE: Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words.

In my last Elder Geek post, I talked about how you can use Zooming in your browser to make reading easier. On that same theme, I want to tell you about a nifty little gizmo called "Readability" that will make reading articles online even easier.

Readability is a bookmarklet that will eliminate clutter from a web page and leave you with a clean and readable version of the article you want to read.

Are you wondering what a bookmarklet is? That's the geeky part of the article. It's a small bit of JavaScript that you add to your browser's bookmarks bar. If you aren't sure what your browser's bookmarks bar is, I'll get to that in a minute. When you click the bookmarklet, the script runs. In the case of the Readability bookmarklet, the script removes all the extra material from the page and leaves you with just the article in a very easy-to-read format.

Find the Website
Go to the Readability [http://lab.arc90.com/experiments/readability/] site. The page is an experimental project from the arc90 company. I sincerely hope they keep it going, because it is a great help.


Start by selecting the settings you want. You can choose the style of display you like, the size of the text you need, and the amount of margin you want.

Drag and Drop the Bookmarklet
Next drag and drop the Readability bookmarklet from the web page to your browser's bookmarks bar. If your browser's bookmarks toolbar is not visible, you can make it visible by going to View > Toolbars > Bookmarks Toolbar.


To drag and drop the Readabilty bookmarklet, left-click on the big button that says Readabilty and hold the mouse button down. Move the mouse, dragging a ghost-like image of the Readabilty button along, until your mouse is over the Bookmarks Toolbar. Then release the left mouse button. You should see the word Readability appear where you "dropped" the button. It no longer looks like a button, it's just a word.


What happens when you click it?
For example, suppose this is an article you want to read. There is a lot of extra material on the page. The article is squeezed in among it.


Click the "Readability" bookmarklet in your bookmarks bar. The result is a clean and easy to read version of the article with no clutter, as you see in the image here.


Isn't that just the best thing since sliced bread?

Okay. I read the article. Now what?
To return to the original display with the navigation and other material you need after reading, use the "Reload Page" link at the bottom of the article after you read the article. If you don't read the entire article and don't reach the "Reload Page" link, you can click the browser's Reload or Refresh button to return to the original display.


In most browsers, the Reload or Refresh button is a spiral looking, going-around-again kind of button located in the upper left.

An important thing to remember is that you don't use the Back button to get back to the article in its original view. You are still on the same web page, but through the magic of the script in the bookmarklet you are seeing it displayed in a different way. To see it in the original way, reload the page.

I hope that between the zooming with the NoSquint Firefox add-on and the Readability bookmarklet you will find a comfortable way to read everything that interests you on the Internet.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sydney Halet tells us about his father and a Note.]


EDITORIAL NOTE: Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words.

Zoom, zoom, zoom. No this isn't a car commercial. I'm going to tell you how you can zoom in your browser.

Zoom in a browser enlarges text. Sometimes it even enlarges the images, depending on the browser. If you go to a web site and the text is so damn small you need eyes like Superman to read it, you don't need to give up and leave. You need to zoom.

I want to explain a way to zoom in Firefox first, because it has a good add-on to help you. Then I'll get into the other browsers.

If you don't have Firefox, you can download it free. When it's installed, use it to visit the NoSquint add-on download page.

Download and install NoSquint. You'll probably need to restart Firefox.

NoSquint allows you to adjust the default text zoom level, and remembers the level per site. The first time you visit a site, the text zoom is 100%. If you change that to 110% or 120% or whatever you need, NoSquint remembers it the next time you go to that site and you automatically see it at the proper size.

In Firefox (and in many other browsers) zoom is under the View menu.


Select View > Zoom and then the zoom option of your choice. Full Zoom In makes everything bigger. Full Zoom Out makes everything smaller. Text Zoom In and Text Zoom Out only change the text size, not everything else on the page, too.

Even if you don't have the NoSquint add-on in Firefox, you can still zoom using that menu. It just won't keep track of how much zoom you like for each site you visit.

Even though Firefox is the better browser, I'm sure many of you are using Internet Explorer. When you get into the topic of zooming in Internet Explorer, the issue becomes "which version of Internet Explorer."

In Internet Explorer 7, the zoom feature is found in a magnifying glass icon at the bottom right corner of the browser window.


Click the magnifying glass and pick your level of zoom. If you need to enlarge text quite a bit, you may end up having to scroll horizontally to read the whole page. The next time you visit the site, you'll have to start over from 100% again.

There is a setting in Internet Explorer that will enlarge all the text, all the time, in every site you visit.

  • Open Internet Explorer
  • From the Tools menu, choose Internet Options
  • Select the Advanced tab
  • Under Accessibility, deselect the following option: Reset zoom level to 100% for new windows and tabs
  • Click OK

Internet Explorer 7 will then preserve your settings in the future.

Internet Explorer 8, which will be available soon, will use something called "adaptive zoom." When you enlarge the text in Internet Explorer 8, you won't get the horizontal scroll bars, the text will expand in size, but it will wrap accordingly so you can simply scroll vertically down the page as usual.

If you use Safari, look in the View menu. Safari uses the terms "Make Text Bigger" and "Make text smaller" instead of the word zoom, but it's the same thing.


If you like to use keyboard commands, pressing both the Ctrl key and the plus sign key at the same time will enlarge text on a Windows computer. On a Mac, press the Apple key (Cmd) and the plus sign key at the same time. To make text smaller, it's the minus key, as in Ctrl - (Cmd - on a Mac).

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, James J Henry Jr recalls his childhood days at GrandMom's House.]


EDITORIAL NOTE: Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words.

Twitter bears a resemblance to instant messaging and email, but it is also quite different. They've begun talking about Twitter on the evening news, so I guess it's gone mainstream. Here's a little primer on what it's all about.

The Basic Facts
Twitter is a communication tool. You are restricted to only 140 characters per Tweet (messages are called Tweets). Anyone can read your tweets, which is very different from email and instant messaging.

There is a way to communicate one-on-one with Twitter, but most tweets are sent out to the whole world. Normally, however, you don't want to read Tweets from everyone in the whole world.

You select who you will read, or "follow" on Twitter. You follow people you know or who share your interests, or whose daily lives matter to you. To follow someone, you find them on Twitter. To find me on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/vdebolt and click the button that says "Follow." Every person who signs up with Twitter has a URL like mine, where you can see who they are and decide whether to follow them. Ronni is http://twitter.com/ronni7.

Twitter can be used in a browser, or on your phone, or using small applications that you install on your desktop. Two popular desktop apps are Tweetdeck and Twhirl. This image is a half-size version of what I see on my desktop using Twhirl.


You can ignore Twitter or watch it, using browser, phone or desktop application. If someone sends a message they want you to see, that's called an "at" message. If you start a tweet with @vdebolt, I'll get alerted that you are talking to me. I'm under no obligation to reply. Everyone on Twitter can see this message. You can tweet someone with a "direct" message. If you start a tweet with d vdebolt, it will come directly to me and no one else will see it.

So, What's the Big Deal?
Essentially, Twitter is just another way to satisfy the human urge to communicate. To connect. To micro-blog. To keep up with a few good friends.

But Twitter has characteristics that make it different and useful in a number of ways. Sure, you can learn that you grandkid is home from school with a cold today, but you can go far beyond that. You can go to the world, the whole world.

One important fact I mentioned is that you can see anyone's Tweets. Normally, you don't. But sometimes something extraordinary happens or a large number of people are all sharing an event. When this comes up, a special tag called a hash tag is created. Anyone who Tweets about that topic includes the appropriate hash tag in their tweet and it can be searched for using the Twitter search or at Hashtags.org.

In recent memory, there was a hashtag used for all the Tweets about the plane that landed in the Hudson River. The news about the crash was on Twitter (along with photos) in seconds after the event, and throughout the rescue. Anyone who searched on the hashtag could follow what was happening. In situations like this, you can really see the value of being able to read everyone's tweets. Most of the time, you don't want to, but sometimes it becomes crucial.

I sometimes use and search for the Tweets using the hashtag #abq. I live in Albuquerque, and I like to see if anything is going on I want to know about. This is one way to find out.

Okay, so maybe you are not impressed with knowing things about Albuquerque. But what if it was about hurricane or a power outage in your town or a blizzard or a plane crash or a flyash spill up the river from your neighborhood? Would being able to search using hashtags make sense to you then?

You don't even have to be signed up with Twitter to follow things that are Tweeted with hashtags. Just go to Hashtags.org and see what's popular or search for a hashtag you're interested in.

It's the Support
Many businesses are on Twitter. They have names like @Dell or @TheHomeDepot. You can send them messages and actually get a response and conduct a conversation about your concerns. I now have a very close relationship with the local Comcast guy who is @comcastscott on Twitter. (That's http://www.twitter.com/comcastscott if you want to follow him.) He listens, he follows through, he makes sure I'm happy with Comcast.

No, It's the Tracking
You can watch Twitter for a mention of anything such as the name of a book you wrote, a topic you care about, a movie you are thinking about going to see and so forth. Browse the search results to read what others are saying about it. You don't need hashtags for this. Just search for a word or words. You might search for Slumdog Millionaire. Or like Scott, from Comcast, you might search for the word Comcast.

In fact, businesses who ignore what is being said about them on Twitter do so at their own peril these days. A fast, caring response to a complaint can ward off a firestorm.

Really, It's the Connection
Like blogging, Tweeting gives you connections. It gives you access to people you may never know in real life, but can enjoy greatly as internet friends. In my daily life I work at my computer, I may go visit a neighbor, my son and granddaughter may visit for dinner, I may go to Tai Chi class, maybe I have a book club meeting. How many people is that I see: 15? 20? How many people do you see a day in real life? But I can share a laugh, a bit of news, or an interesting photo or web link with people from everywhere through Twitter.

But Wait, There's More
I've written about Twitter in a number of other places. On BlogHer: The Audience is Tweeting and Twitter: Ad Infinitum. On Web Teacher: Twitter in Education.

If you'd like to watch Evan Williams, the creator of Twitter, talking about Twitter's growth and uses, here's a video: Talks Evan Williams: How Twitter's spectacular growth is being driven by unexpected uses.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Brenton “Sandy” Dickson has some important things to say about Hope.]


EDITORIAL NOTE: Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words.

Every time you buy something, sign up for something, join something or even scratch your nose in front of a computer you need a username and a password. How do you remember all those passwords? All those usernames?

Usernames are easier. These days, your email address can often be your username. Of course, if you have more than one email address, you have to remember which one you used in which place. It's okay to keep the same username for every situation.

Passwords need to vary. It isn't safe to use the same password everywhere you go. For some websites, like your bank or your credit card, you want a very secure password that won't be easy to crack.

A secure password has at least seven characters. It should have at least one letter and at least one digit. You can also include uppercase and lowercase letters in the mix, and punctuation marks or other special characters. Don't base the password on your username or use more than two of the same characters in a row (as in Judy222, for example).

Most modern browsers will ask you if you want them to remember a password. I allow this for a few sites where there is no money involved such as memberships in communities or social groups. For paying my phone bill or sites where ordering something online, however, I don't want that password in the browser's memory in case my laptop gets stolen. I still need a record of the information in case my laptop explodes in a burst of static and dies.

You can write all of your passwords down in a safe place. You then have to protect the piece of paper or book where you store the info. When traveling, don't carry the paper in the same case as the computer.

Relying on the old fashioned piece of paper is low tech and it works if you are consistent about keeping your list organized. But there's the security involved in possibly losing track of the paper. Don't leave it under the keyboard. That's like leaving your key under the welcome mat. Put it somewhere away from the computer that only you know about.

Do you use a password to login to your computer? If it's a secure password and hard to crack, that might give you enough security to store a document with all your passwords listed on your own computer.

Software is available to save your passwords in an encrypted file. Some free software that you can use to store passwords on your computer or on a USB drive that you can carry from computer to computer is mentioned in this article at tucows. When you use encryption software, you must remember the password to get into your password file, but you don't have to remember any other passwords. This is the most technically demanding solution to password management, but also the safest.

My advice is to assess your risk. Are you using online banking and paying bills online? This kind of activity requires some attention to password security and management. Or do you do only less risky chores like checking email or logging to your blog? For that, you can relax and simply write all your passwords down and keep the list in a safe place.

You can email your questions or suggestions here for future Elder Geek columns. Virginia cannot answer individually, but she may use them as topics for future posts.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz explains how a relative found out This Ain't Mink.]