Geekspeak 101

geekspeak-101By: Amber Clark

As you may have experienced in your own discipline, having a common language, or technical jargon, is immensely helpful.  It is a shortcut that makes communicating easier. We computer technologists have our own common language.  However, the SMU Help Desk staff understands this possible communication problem, and will gladly translate “geekspeak” in order to better assist you when you have a problem.

These are a few “geekspeak” terms that you may or may not know:

Browser, formally known as a web browser, is a program on your computer that you use to surf the Internet.  Most of you use Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari or Google Chrome.

Internet service provider, or ISP, is the company that provides your access to the Internet.  Here on campus, SMU is your ISP.  At home, you would contract with companies such as Time Warner for cable Internet or AT&T to be your Internet provider or ISP.

Java is a programming language that most advanced websites need to function properly.  It is a program or applet that needs to be installed on your computer and periodically updated.  Java is needed to provide the interactivity that we have come to expect from most websites.  It allows a website to customize its content, words and graphics for you based on your activity or information you submit in a form.

Blog, or web log, is a web page made up of posts displayed in chronological order with the most recent appearing first.  A blog is most commonly used for informal information and discussion devoted to a subject area. For example, IT Connect is a blog that has posts all related to informing you about new technologies or tips for technologies you already use.  You access blogs through their webpages.  Blogs gained additional legitimacy when “certified bloggers” were given press credentials to post on events from the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.  From time to time, there are now bloggers in the White House Press Corps.

Twitter is a micro version of blogs.  Individuals post tweets, statements of no more than 140 characters, that individuals can interact with in much the same way as commenters to a blog.  You access Twitter through its main webpage, twitter.com, or an app.  OIT has a twitter account, @smuoit, for IT updates if you are interested in following us.

Those are just a few terms you will overhear in the Office of Information Technology.  Please tweet @smuoit comments asking us about geekspeak you are curious about or want to share with others!

 

What’s Your Crash Plan?

Did you know that SMU has a backup service for University owned, primary computers?

CrashPlan Pro is a software application that Faculty and Staff can install on Windows, Macintosh and Linux platforms via LanDesk. After installation, it performs a complete backup of your profile or home directory (file folder structure). If you store your files in the default locations (My Documents, Desktop etc.), those will be included.

CrashPlan-Pro-webpage

Once the initial backup is complete, the application will backup any changes every three hours. Although the process runs continuously in the background, it utilizes very few resources. This process is fully automated and requires no user intervention! When you need to recover data, there’s a quick and easy process to locate the folders or files you need from the backup client.

It’s secure too! The backup is completely encrypted. That means your data is protected by an algorithm that only your SMU ID and password can unlock.

For more information about eligibility, obtaining the software, restoring data, and more, please visit our service page http://www.smu.edu/BusinessFinance/OIT/Services/Backup.

How to fix common Mavericks problems?

os-x-mavericks-macbook-650x0This post by Digital Trends highlights some of the common issues and fixes with Mac OS X Mavericks.

  • Get iPhoto working again in Mavericks
  • Fix the slow Time Machine problem and make it run faster
  • Reinstall Java after upgrading to Mavericks
  • Make iCloud save your password
  • Keep Mail from crashing
  • Fix the constant Welcome to Mail message problem
  • Fix the Time Machine Mavericks install issue
  • Fix a buggy Menu Bar in OS X Mavericks
  • Make iWork, iPhoto, iLife and other apps work in Mavericks
  • Fix the ‘Contacts app not syncing’ problem
  • Fix the Wi-Fi disconnect problem

Discover New Features in Microsoft Word (Part 2)

word_primary-100025314-largeBy Rachel Mulry

In Part 1 of this article, we discussed Quick Parts, creating your own templates, and the Screenshot tool. Today we’ll continue with two powerful Word features.

  1. Navigation view:  2014-01-21_8-37-08If you use the styles in Word, not only can you create a consistent polished document, but you can also use the Navigation view to help rearrange and jump to various portions of the file quickly.  You can enable navigation view from the View menu, or you can simply click on the page number in the bottom left corner of the screen.  There are three options in the navigation panel.  Viewing by headings allows you to view the overall structure of your document but also allows you to reorder the sections in a document simply by dragging and dropping!  The page view displays a thumbnail image of each page in the document. You can jump to the desired page by clicking the thumbnail.  The results view allows you to search for words, images etc in your document and then navigate to each instance where that search term was detected.  To turn off the navigation view, just click on the page number on the bottom left and you’re back to full screen view of your document.
  2. additionalAvailable actions properties: I admit I stumbled across this nifty feature while I was writing this article!
    By default, the available actions menu is turned off.  However, once it is enabled it will allow you to right click on certain types of data and select from additional options.  For example, you could right click on a data and create a calendar appointment! Or right click on an email address and add it to your Outlook contacts. To enable this feature, click File—Options—Proofing— AutoCorrect.  Click the Actions tab.  Then check “enable additional actions in the right-click menu”.  Select the types of data that you wish to enable these actions. Click OK.  When you are viewing or creating a document, simply right click on the text and a new “additional actions” field will appear.

These are just a few of the many powerful features in Word.  There are so many others waiting to be discovered!  So be adventurous!  Click through those menus on the ribbon or view a few new tutorials to discover something new in Word today!

Got a pic? Send a Postagram!

Last week my buddy Ian provided some practical tips for using Instagram. To follow up with his theme I thought I’d share an idea of what you can do with a pic once you have it looking the way you want.

My husband recently took this selfie of us, he edited the photo to give us the glasses, and then posted it online. I liked it so much that I wanted to make a card out of it to surprise a dear college friend, so she would know I hadn’t actually forgotten her birthday.  Below is my “Here’s celebrating you!” birthday postcard. Truth be told, I’m lousy at taking the time to shop and send cards, but this was so quick, easy and fun that I had to do it.

postagram

Postagram  allows you to send your photos as real postcards.  And let’s face it, in this day and age with technology and social media taking over, every once in a while you want to get some fun snail mail! So, if you’re getting ready for that next vacation or spring break trip, why not use one of your own photos as a postcard?

You can download the app (available on android or iphone)  or upload photos to the postagram.  Photos need to be .PNG, .JPG or .GIF , should be at least 612 x 612, and can’t exceed 8MB.  If you are using the app, simply select your photo or login to Instagram, Facebook, or Dropbox to get your pic.  Then, crop and scale your photo and hit continue.postram3

Finally, personalize your postcard message and click continue. Once you do, you’ll be directed to your contacts. You can select a recipient from your address book or enter a new address if needed.

I guarantee you, send one of these and you’ll make someone very happy!  By the way, while I’m talking about taking and posting pics, consider sending us your favorite Valentine themed SMU pic @smuoit in our Valentine photo contest.  We’d love to see who and what you love at SMU!

 

Twitter Competition

blog-feb-twitter@smuoit is hosting a Twitter challenge. Tweet a campus valentine pic @smuoit, and our favorite gets a mouthwatering box of chocolates.

A few things to remember:

  • You must include @smuoit in your tweet.
  • It must be before 7 pm on 2/14/14.
  • We’ll select the winner the next day, who must be able to pick up their chocolate on campus.
  • Twitter is public. Please don’t post anything that will make your children blush 30 years from now.

Ready. Set. Tweet!

Discover New Features in Microsoft Word (Part 1)

word_primary-100025314-largeAlthough I use Word on a daily basis, every now and then I uncover a feature or shortcut I didn’t know existed.  With literally thousands of different features, it’s no surprise that the application offers more than you or I typically use!  The following are five powerful features that are easily overlooked.

  1. Quick Parts: Each of us have different blocks of text tquickparthat we use in multiple documents.  For example, if you often arrange meetings or events on campus, you may include a map, driving directions and parking instructions in each event packet.  You may reuse your contact/signature block in documents or a specific logo frequently.  All of these types of data can be stored in your quick parts gallery!  Simply highlight the text—then select InsertQuick PartsSave selection to quick part gallery.  Once you’ve named and saved that component, it will be available from the Insert- Quick Parts menu in any document you create from that same machine!
  2. Create your own template: If you use a certain format or style for specific documents, consider saving that document as a template.  I know many people simply open the existing file, save as a different file name, and then delete the information to reuse the same “style”.  You can make this even easier!  Create the framework of the document as you normally would. Select your fonts, headers, footers, and anything else that should be consistent.  Then click File—Save As.  Save the document as a Word Template.  When you’re ready to use that template, click New—Select the Personal templates and select your saved template!  There are also a ton of online templates available for use which can save you a lot of trouble in creating various types of files.
  3. CaptureScreenshot Tool:  Microsoft has made it so easy now to integrate screenshots or clippings in your document.  Click on Insert—Screenshot and you’ll see the available windows in the gallery.  Simply click on the image and it will automatically be inserted into your document.  From there, you can crop, recolor etc using all of the Microsoft Word picture tools.  If you don’t want the entire window copied but only a small portion, choose the screen clipping tool and simply highlight the area you wish to copy.

To Be Continued…

Why is it so Difficult to Play a DVD in the Classroom?

After volume problems, this is the most common issue we hear about in the Classroom Support office (and maybe the most annoying problem for users). The DVD worked at home. It worked last semester in a different room. But now the computer is spitting it out, not recognizing it, or it’s doing nothing while the class stares at a blank screen and it’s likely some may utter words you won’t find in the Bible. What makes playing a DVD so difficult? This post will help you identify bad DVD discs, and in future post we’ll discuss working with the DVD software.

Part of the problem is that DVDs themselves are not perfect. A tiny scratch, or a little dirt in the DVD tray, can ruin everything. For reasons that are too complex to elaborate on here, this can cause a frustrating situation where a scratched disc will work in one player but not in another. Making things worse, educational companies are notorious for making inferior DVDs that arrive in a terrible state even though they are brand new.

How can you tell if the disc you’re using is cheaply made? Turn it over and see if the bottom is shiny and metallic, if so, then you’re looking at a well-made DVD. These are made in factories by permanently stamping a platter of aluminum into shape and encasing it in plastic, and it’s what a disc containing professional, Hollywood film will look like.

This is was a professionally made DVD will look like.
A DVD that looks like this will usually work, every time.

However, if the disc was made cheaply then the bottom will be less metallic, and you will see shades of purple, blue, or green underneath the plastic. A ring of a slightly different color around the outside is often present. The purple stuff you’re seeing is a fragile dye used by consumer DVD writers, and, obviously, it’s not as durable as stamped aluminum.

Bad disc.
A disc that looks like this might work. It might not.

These discs degrade over time until they are useless, and some of them will refuse to work in certain computers. When this happens, it’s not a software problem—it’s the result of cheap DVD manufacturing. The dye cannot be shaped as perfectly as its aluminum counterpart, and the result is that DVD players must struggle to read the information. Making things even more complicated is the fact that some of these “cheap” discs work better than others, so there is no way to tell how well one will perform; some people use these consumer level DVDs regularly without any trouble.

They were downloading Kazaa, anway.
Meanwhile, some of you have had this experience…

What do you do if you’re concerned about your DVD? First of all, you should always test out your media in the classroom where you’re going to use it before relying on it. If it doesn’t work, contact our office and we will see if we can make it cooperate.

Another option is to test it out on your own laptop. If it works there, then simply bring that laptop to class and plug it into our projector. (Contact us at 214-768-8888, or help@smu.edu, if you need assistance getting this set up.)  This is probably the least complicated way to bring media to your students, because it allows you to make sure everything is set up just they way you like it.

Stay tuned. In an upcoming post we will tackle the other half of this problem by de-mystifying the DVD playing software.

The Next Big (or Small) Thing: The Best of CES

Last week, the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, took place in Las Vegas. CES is the center of what’s new and upcoming in the world of gadgets, and this year was no exception. Each year seems to showcase yet another new trend, and this year was certainly the year of wearable tech.

pebble_closeup_2The term “smartwatch” may have been the most spoken word at this year’s convention. Companies big and small displayed their latest devices/fashion statements. One of the most talked about came from Pebble, a fairly new company that rolled out their new, much more watch-looking Pebble Steel smartwatch at this year’s CES.

The Pebble is capable of synching wirelessly with your iPhone or Android smartphone to provide you with notifications, basic information, as well as data connectivity for apps written specifically for the watch that can do everything from tracking sports scores, to tracking your workouts, to playing your music. Other wearables unveiled last week include the LG Life Band, Razr Nabu, and the Sony Smartband.

Outside of the gaggle of wearables this year were the usual swarm of entertainment medium01agadgets. One of the more interesting innovations was the Clearview Clio, a completely transparent glass speaker. A strange yet promising new type of television also made it’s way to the show this year. Both LG and Samsung have introduced UDTVs (yes, we have already surpassed HDTV) with curved screens. Both companies claim that a curved screen will improve viewing angles which in turn provide better picture.

This improved experience doesn’t come without a steep price tag, however. The largest models have a suggested retail price of around $70,000, with the budget models topping $10,000.

From smartwatches to virtual reality, there was something for everyone at this year’s CES. Who knows, maybe this time next year we will finally get a cell phone that does the dishes.