Free & Easy Cloud Backup Solutions

As each semester comes to a close, I like to take stock of all of the documents I’ve written over the last few months and make sure they are backed up. There are plenty of options available to backup and sync your data between multiple computers and mobile devices.

You’ve probably seen the commercials on TV or on the radio for paid cloud backup services like Carbonite and BackBlaze. Those services are all well and good, but sometimes the monthly fees can add up, and you may not always need all of the bells and whistles they provide.

Luckily, there are quite a few free solutions that you can use to back up your data as well as have it available from anywhere! Here’s a rundown of some of the most popular choices.

Dropboxdropbox-logo_stacked_2

Dropbox is probably the most popular choice out there. The starting package is completely free and gives you 2GB of space. Since the amount of starting space is so small, Dropbox would be best for those essential smaller documents and files that you use frequently or need access to at multiple devices.

Boxbox-icon

Box is quite similar to Dropbox, but with more options once you get into the pay levels of service. The free version includes more space than the free version of Dropbox, but expect to be persuaded into purchasing a plan.

OneDrive

OneDrive-logo100x100OneDrive is Microsoft’s first big foray into the cloud storage game. If you have a Hotmail, Outlook.com or another type of Microsoft account, you may already have it! You get 7GB as the default for free plans, but you can earn extra space by backing up your cell phone photos, purchasing Office 365 (which is soon to be free for SMU students) or referring friends.

Google Drive

google_drive_logo_3963If you’re more of a Gmail kind of person, Google has you covered, too! Google provides 15GB for free to those holding Google accounts, and more is available for a charge. Of course, Google Drive storage seamlessly works with Google Apps, too.

(Faculty & Staff) CrashPlan Pro

crashplan_clouds eThe University uses CrashPlan Pro for all primary computers. It makes a complete back up of your profile and file folder structure. The above options are great for personal storage, but make sure you’ve installed CrashPlan Pro on your University machine. It could save you a big headache if your machine ever crashed! For full details, visit http://www.smu.edu/BusinessFinance/OIT/Services/Backup.

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After finals it’s time to catch up on some sleep!

By Kristina Harris

Have you pulled a few all nighters trying to cram for exams? Now that the semester is winding down you can use this app to track your sleeping patterns and see if you’re using your time off from school wisely.

Enjoy the summer break!

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Firefox 29 Is Here…and Very Different

Firefox LogoYou may have already noticed that as of today, your Firefox browser looks a bit different than before. That’s because the Mozilla Foundation has now unleashed the latest version of Firefox – version 29 – to the masses. It’s been in the works under code name “Australis” for around two years. Don’t have the latest version yet? You can upgrade by doing the following:

For Windows Folks:

  1. Click on the orange Firefox button in the top left.
  2. Click on the small arrow to the right of Help.
  3. Click About Firefox.

For our Mac folks, you can update by clicking on Firefox next to the Apple icon and selecting About Firefox. This will automatically begin the update process.

Firefox Menu

The “Hamburger” Menu

Now to talk about what’s different about Firefox 29. This is easily the most drastic change in Firefox’s look since the Mozilla Foundation decided to release updates to Firefox every six weeks. If you have ever used Google Chrome, you may notice that this new Firefox looks very similar. The majority of menu options have been moved from the orange Firefox button to a “Hamburger” icon made up of three bars in the top right-hand corner; just like Chrome. You can also click and drag icons on this new menu as well as add additional icons to suit your tastes by clicking Customize. But, if you still prefer your regular File menu at the top of the screen, just press Alt to have it return for you.

Another big new feature in Firefox is its streamlined sync system. Before this update, Firefox’s bookmark and settings sync service were clunky and borderline unusable. Now, it’s as simple as entering your e-mail address and a password to create a sync account. You can then specify what you would like to sync between your different computers and devices that use Firefox. No longer do you have to use several different apps to sync bookmarks, settings, and open tabs!

This new version of Firefox signals a huge shift in the design language and functionality of one of the world’s top internet browsers. Hopefully this means a much more enjoyable web experience for the rest of us!

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Illustrator Image Trace Tutorial

By Moez Janmohammad

Most images come in specific sizes, where the file contains each pixel’s information. This means that when a user scales the image to be larger, the program “fills in” the missing information, often making it look blurred or pixelated. A solution to this is a vector image, which contains mathematical expressions instead of pixel data. It uses those expressions to “build” the image, and since it isn’t pixel-dependent, a user can scale the image to be larger or smaller while keeping the lines clean and crisp. An easy way to convert an image to a vector format is to use Illustrator’s Image Trace. With one button, a user can have a vector image from any source format.

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Why is it So Difficult to Play a DVD? (Part 2)

In part one, we explained how to determine if the problems you have playing movies is the result of a faulty disc. Now it’s time to make sense out of the software that you’ll be using to play your movie. All of the computers in the Dedman College classrooms run Windows 7, and most of the time you will play DVDs using a program called Windows Media Player.

Here is the easiest way to start a movie:

1 – Turn on the computer and log in. (Do not put the disc in yet!)

2 – Wait until you are completely logged on and the desktop has finished loading. Now open the DVD tray and put the disc in.

3 – Wait. It can take a few seconds for the computer to respond.

4 – The Windows Media Player will pop up and try to play your disc.

Most of the time, the film starts playing automatically. It may bring up the disc’s main menu and you will have to click on the Play option, just like you would if you were using a DVD player at home.

Sometimes when you put the disc into the computer, you will be given a choice between different programs. Double-click on ‘Windows Media Player’ when this pops up, and you’ll see the movie start in a few seconds.

Windows Media Player

Windows Media Player

If nothing shows up automatically (or if you put the disc in the drive before you logged in), you can start the movie by clicking on the Windows Media Player icon at the bottom of thescreen. (It’s the orange circle with an arrow in it – like the picture on the right.) When the program opens you should see the name of your disc at the bottom of the left-hand side of the window. Double-click the title, and the movie will start.

If you’d like to see this in more detail, Microsoft has prepared a short video for you. Click here to see it.

 

The title of the movie will be at the bottom of the list on the left. (Click on this picture for a better view.)

The title of the movie will be at the bottom of the list on the left. (Click on this picture for a better view.)

Sounds simple, and most of the time it’s not complicated when you know the right steps. If the movie starts playing right away then the only problem you’ll be likely to run into is that the volume is not turned up. Read this older post to be sure you understand how to deal with that. (We have more calls about volume issues than anything else.)

What if this process doesn’t work? Sometimes, Windows Media Player cannot read certain discs. There are various reasons for this. A DVD of a different region is a common roadblock, and this usually happens when using with discs from other countries. Fortunately, we’ve installed a separate program to deal with these discs.

VLC_icon

VLC Media Player

On the desktop (or in the Faculty Applications folder on the desktop) you’ll see an icon that looks like an orange traffic cone (like the picture on the left) called VLC Media Player. Double-click this icon, and when the program opens navigate to Media in the upper left-hand corner, then click Open Disc. In the next window, click Play. This will start the movie. VLC Media player is not as user-friendly as Windows Media Player, but it will often play discs that have been stubborn and uncooperative in other players.

If you are still concerned about playing your movie, feel free to contact us at help@smu.edu and ask us to help you get it started. We will be happy to show up at the start of your class to make sure the movie starts easily and on time.

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Camera RAW

By Moez Janmohammad

Introducing Feature of the Week, where we highlight a feature of a program and give a basic tutorial on how it works. This week we’re focusing on Camera RAW in the Adobe Creative Suite.  Camera RAW is one of the single most powerful tools in a photographer’s arsenal, and often one of the most overlooked tools in the Adobe Creative Suite.  It gives the user extensive control of the post processing of an image, allowing them to edit exposure and distortion before going into Photoshop to make more advanced edits.

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Adobe Bridge CC

By Moez Janmohammad

Adobe Bridge is a digital asset management software that allows a user to organize any kind of media. The name Bridge comes from the idea that Adobe Bridge will be the link between all of the programs in the creative suite. From Bridge a user can drop an Illustrator vector image into Photoshop, or an After Effects video into Premiere. This tutorial covers the basic interface of Adobe Bridge, from selecting images, to the filmstrip view, to reading the metadata of a file.

University owned computers can download any of the Master Collection Adobe Creative products via LANDesk. For more informaiton, visit our service page http://www.smu.edu/BusinessFinance/OIT/Services/Info/Adobe.

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f.lux: Sleep and Screen Color

f.lux-before-and-after

By Moez Janmohammad

If you’re a college student, chances are you’ve stayed up late to finish an assignment, but have you ever paused to think about your eyes? The bright and blueish lights emitted from most LCD displays mimic bright sunlight and cause a disruption to normal sleep patterns (because we all have normal sleep patterns in college) and inhibit the amount of melatonin, a chemical our bodies produce that causes drowsiness. f.lux seeks to solve this problem by changing the screen temperature of your display to have it emit more red light after sunset. At sunset, f.lux automatically adjusts your display, making whites appear reddish or salmon, matching natural light cycles and our body’s Circadian rhythm.

f.lux is available for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux. It is only available on jailbroken iOS devices, and an Android version is in the works. To get it go to www.justgetflux.com.

f.lux

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Photoshop Toolbar

Photoshop_CC_iconBy Moez Janmohammad

Long time users of Photoshop can look at the icon of any tool on the Photoshop toolbar and tell you exactly what you could use it for, but chances are, the average user only knows what a handful of these tools do. The Photoshop Toolbar makes up almost 80% of anything you could ever need to do in the program, so below is a rundown of most of the tools.

*Tip- Any tools with a small triangle in the bottom right hand corner has more tools hidden underneath. To reveal, simply click and hold until the hidden tools appear.

  • ToolboxIn the first box are the Selection tools. These allow you to manipulate layers and select objects. The Move tool lets you move objects in the selected layer. To use it, just click and drag.
  • The Rectangular Select tool lets you select areas of a picture, a rectangle by default. To make a perfect square, hold the shift key while drawing the shape. By using the context menus across the top of the screen you can make any shape you want.
  • The Lasso tool allows you to trace the shape of an object and the line will adhere to the hard edge of your object.
  • The Crop tool lets you cut parts of the picture out. It’s useful if there is something on the edge of the frame that you don’t want there.
  • The Eyedropper tool helps you to match color in specific parts of the image. Just click on a pixel and it will add the color to your paint swatches.
  • The Spot Healing tool allows you to remove blemishes from pictures, including red eye, acne, dust, and other particles. Photoshop will sample around the area and make it blend in.
  • The Clone stamp tool duplicates part of an image onto another spot in an image. It’s useful if you want to reposition something, like moving a soccer ball closer to a player in an image.
  • The Gradient tool creates a gradient to cover a whole image from foreground to background. You can use your own colors or choose from Photoshop’s presets.
  • The Blur and Sharpen tools both act like paintbrushes but have different effects on your photo. The Blur tool allows you to blur parts of the photo, and you can choose the strength of the blur, the style, and how much it feathers. The Sharpen tool will remove unnecessary pixels and make the area look sharper.
  • The Type tools allow you to add and manipulate text or shapes in an image. The most commonly used of these is the Text tool which lets you type into an image and create text masks.

To learn more about Photoshop and how to use it, check out Adobe TV.

Or, to learn more about downloading Adobe CC on your University owned computer, visit our service page.

 

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What’s behind the Excel Design tab? 5 tips worth knowing.

If you’ve been working with Excel for a while, my guess is that you are probably somewhat familiar with the basics of converting your data into a table. However, you may not be aware of some of the features behind the Design tab.  The Design tab will display anytime you click in a table.Design tab

Here are 5 handy tips worth knowing.  I will review them from right to left.

  1. When you click on the drop down in the Table styles options you’ll see an assortment of Table Styles available to suit your preferences.
  2. If there is a table style you like and you want to add additional customization you can do so by selecting a feature in the Table Style Options section.  I often choose to have items displayed with banded rows (every other row shaded), but sometimes it might be easier on the eye to have banded columns.
  3. total rowSelecting the Total Row not only adds a total line to your table, but it also has built in functions that you can toggle to further analyze specific data.
  4. Did you know you could add a slicer to filter through data?  Select Slicer, next select what column you want to filter.  In my example, I wanted to view specific types of charges, so I chose the account columns to filter.

Account Next,  select the item you want to filter and the results will be displayed.  filter results

5.  Selecting the Remove Duplicates button will allow you to delete duplicate values. You’ll simply need to tell Excel what column you want the duplicates to be removed from. Oh and by the way, if you remove duplicates from the wrong column, don’t forget the handy Ctrl+Z function to undo your last action!

To learn more Excel tips, check out one of my Basic Formula workshops or Rachel Mulry’s Advanced Excel training.

  smu.edu/BusinessFinance/OIT/Training

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