Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Posts tagged ‘Software’

Technological Pet Peeve

My greatest technological pet peeve used to be people sending me urban legends via email. I have pretty much nipped THAT problem in the bud (learn how I did that here). My current pet peeve has to do with people thinking the PDF equals Adobe.

For example, I was browsing a digital scrapbooking site the other day and came upon this definition of a PDF file in (ironically) a “Getting Started” PDF: “PDF: Theses are Adobe Acrobat Reader files. They are often used when the designer provides instructions on how to use a downloaded file. They are also used for eBooks. You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view these files, and it is available as a free download on the Adobe website.”

WRONG WRONG WRONG!!!

PDF stands for “Portable Document File” and is a generic term for a document that can be read by any computer running any operating system. PDF has NOTHING to do with Adobe, except that Adobe has brlliantly cornered the mental market when it comes to its PDF reader. Nearly every site that contains PDF files has a notice saying that you “need” Adobe Reader to view those files and that it is available as a free download from Adobe.

That’s all well and good, but sometimes, free isn’t really free. I cam across a blog post recently (that I can’t find again or I’d post the link) where the author talked about accepting a ton of “free” items at a state fair. She got home with a bag full of stuff for which she had to find a place – and the time to put it all in its place. She quickly realized that “free” wasn’t always free.

It’s the same with Adobe Reader. Sure, your initial download costs no money, but then you have to put up with incessant upgrade notices, pop-ups asking if you want to buy the more feature-rich version of the program, and a program that hogs more memory and processor time than it should.

There are MANY no-cost programs that allow you to read and even create PDFs without the inconvenient non-monetary expenses of Adobe. I use Foxit Reader, which is small (under 3 MB), fast, uses little memory, and allows me to read, annotate, and create PDFs. My parents use CutePDF which works better with Vista.

So be brave, download and configure one of these other programs as your default PDF reader/creator, and then experience the great satisfaction that comes from freeing up space by REMOVING Adobe Reader from your system.

(By the way, when my parents adopted CutePDF and removed Adobe Reader, their “technical adviser” in Florida got very upset and told them that they didn’t know what they were doing and they HAD to use Adobe Reader because EVERYONE uses it. They quickly figured out that this person was not as knowledgable as she was touting herself to be.)

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Looking Backward and Forward

I recently browsed through my own blog, reading past posts and comments. I thought it was interesting how I have a different perspective on some of what I wrote just 15 month ago.

For example, here’s an excerpt from one of my earlier posts from January of 2007: “There are even rumors that Hilary Rodham Clinton might start a serious bid for the U.S. presidency. Although I don’t particularly like her stand on many issues, I would feel it necessary to strongly consider voting for her in order to create history and further deteriorate the historic stranglehold on power men have and do hold in this country.”

Now we are less than 7 months from the general election and not only has Hillary started a serious bid for the presidency, but she and Obama are running neck and neck with both having already garnered more votes individually than any other past presidential candidates in a Democratic primary election.

And, yes, I considered voting for her early on, but after researching the candidates’ stands on various issues, listening to stump speeches, and seeing how they react in a variety of situations, I came to the conclusion that I just couldn’t vote for her, even though she is a woman and I sincerely do want to see a female U.S. president before I die. But I plan to live to be 101 years old, so there’s still plenty of time. (-:

So this year I am an Obama supporter and so have put away my, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of a Good Woman for President” button (obtained years before Hillary’s run), since I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression that I think Mrs. Clinton is that “good woman.”

An April 2007 post discussed my hopes for a congress that would stand up to President Bush. I wrote, “…my fear [is] that the Democrats, having gained power in Congress, would be unable or unwilling to exercise their people-given power to stop him.” Hmm…looks like that fear has come true.

I also discussed Sunshine Week, a movement to keep discussion alive about the important of open government and freedom of information. Unfortunately, I heard nothing about Sunshine Week this year.

In contrast to my changed perspective politically, my perspective on the importance of organizing your digital photos hasn’t change one iota! Memory Manager is still the best program out there – and unlike the price of just about everything else these days, the cost of this software hasn’t changed! Everyone I know who has this program is sold on the features and ease of use. Read more about tis fantastic program here.

It will be interesting what perspective changes next year brings.

Baby, You CAN Drive My Car!

We need to redefine “education” in this country and we need to do it NOW.

Education in the 21st century must NOT emphasize memorization of facts and figures. Back in the 19th century (and even into the early 20th) information was not easily accessible – books were still a cherished sign of wealth – so it made sense for schools to drill facts and figures which might be needed later into children’s heads. Plus, far fewer people were formally educated, so there were fewer people able to personally pass information on to their children.

Society and culture have changed dramatically in the last 100 years. Information is readily available in books, at libraries, and online. Facts don’t need to be memorized, but they DO need to be retrieved efficiently. Education needs teach people how to retrieve the information they need and assimilate it with what they already know. In other words, education needs to teach people how to learn.

I touched on this subject back in August in my blog post titled “Old School Skills” when I argued that though learning to alphabetize is an important foundation skill, being able to look words up in a dictionary isn’t.

Now, I do believe that a certain basic body of factual knowledge is necessary for efficiency. Kids need to quickly recognize by sight commonly used words so they can spend their time comprehending the meaning of the text instead of sounding out. Knowing basic “math facts” quickly allows you the freedom to do more complex math more efficiently. A grasp of a general timeline of basic American and world history helps you see the bigger social picture. These are still “facts” that education should teach.

But over and over again, I interact with adults who rely on their knowledge of facts and have never learned how to learn. The “Taste of Tech” blog has a fantastic entry on this topic.

As an educator, I LOVE teaching people and seeing the virtual cartoon light bulb appear over their heads as they “get it” – that is, when they take a new piece of information, fit it into what they already know, and make it retrievable for them in a new context. But as the “Taste of Tech” blog points out, “If you are writing down step-by-step directions to do things, and blindly following them, you are hopelessly lost in this society. If you cannot do something you’ve never done simply because no one has taken your hand and shown you how to do it, I don’t want you teaching my kids.”

Six weeks ago, I was demonstrating some new software to a small group of people. One person in the group had been using the software for several weeks, had sat with me one-on-one for training, and had attended three other demonstrations in the past two weeks. She asked a very specific and completely off-topic question. So as not to derail the entire group, I mentioned that she could find the answer using the help menu or help icon . This person actually came up to me after the demonstration and asked to be shown the help icon – then tried to write down in her pages of long-hand notes where “help” was.

This person has her own laptop, has been using computers and Microsoft software for years, and was even a long-term school sub and high school teacher – yet she had no idea how to access the help menu. This person does not know how to apply old knowledge to new situations. She does not know how to truly learn.

dodge-charger-rt-2006-20060503040316497.jpgTo me, this is as ridiculous as saying you can’t drive a car because you’ve never driven THIS PARTICULAR car before. Most cars are so similar that 60 seconds of orientation is all you need to be able to drive someone else’s car, because you have a basic body of facts and general knowledge you can apply to this new situation. The key goes in, the ignition is ignited, you shift into drive, and you drive. I can even drive my parent’s 1/2 ton semi truck because the basic principles are the same. Sure, I won’t be as comfortable in an unfamiliar car – just as I’m not as comfortable in a new or different software program – but I know where the steering wheel is, how to work the pedals, and how to use the turn signals.

“The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” — Alvin Toffler

Skype

I love Skype! It’s free software that allows me to talk to other people worldwide over the computer. There are NO FEES associated with this service, although you can choose to pay for more extensive service. But look at everything I can do for free: call other people who have Skype, have video conferences, do one-on-one or group chats online, and have conference calls with up to 9 people.

My parents downloaded Skype and with only dial-up service, we can do voice chats (using your computer like a phone) and text chats. This is handy since neither of us has a land line, meaning we use cell minutes for all prime-time calls. When they get to Florida and high speed access this winter, we will be doing video conferencing so they can see and talk to their grandkids.

My sister installed Skype on her computer at work, so she can “skype me” (send a text message) when she has a free moment and I can respond when I have one. If we are both free at once, we can chat back and forth real-time. We even had a 3-way chat with mom to talk about wedding details!

Go here to download Skype and try it out. If you don’t know anyone else who has Skype and you are someone I know, email me and I’ll send you my Skype name so we can chat! (For privacy, I only allow incoming messages from people I know.)

Memory Management

Do you take digital photos? Are they stored on your computer or on your camera’s memory card? If they are in your computer – bravo! – but are you able to quickly find what you need when you need it? The computer is the 21st century version of the shoebox: all the photos get thrown in the computer and most people STILL can’t find that photo of Aunt Sally they took at the family reunion.

Lots of people use the folder system to organize their photos. Some elaborate examples are blogged about here: http://www.trustyetc.com/trustyblog/?p=74

The problem with folders is that they are time consuming to create, allow you to view your pictures only one at a time, and don’t provide an efficient method for cross-referencing. If you DO try to cross reference, you are usually forced to create multiple copies of the same image, so space quickly becomes a problem.

I am a photo organization and memory preservation consultant. Since I help people organize their photos and capture the stories behind them, it is essential that I, myself, am organized!

Creative Memories’ “Memory Manager” software is simple and elegant in design, with more sophisticated and intuitive features than the popular programs Picasa or Photoshop Elements. And at $40, it’s less than half the price.

Like the other two programs, Memory Manager organizes not only digital images, but also digital video, scanned documents, and audio files (including MP3’s). It allows for single-click editing and CD/DVD backup. Like Photoshop, it displays multiple thumbnail images and allows for quick drag and drop sorting. But here are some amazing Memory Manager features the other two programs don’t offer:

  1. Stores both import date and picture date – and allows sorts on either
  2. Allows picture date edits – great for scanned-in photos or correcting photos mis-dated by your camera – & shows a visual timeline of all files
  3. Searches by season (winter, spring, summer, fall) using “fuzzy” dating logic
  4. Unlimited journaling with spell check for every file; journaling stays with the file
  5. Option for automatic shadow copies of all files, images & journaling upon program close for painless backups
  6. Cross-tag and file pictures in multiple places WITHOUT making multiple copies
  7. Powerful custom search on key words or strings, by event, by date, or by individuals in the picture
  8. Has the option to overwrite after edit or keep individual revisions
  9. Revisions are kept with original photo for easy viewing and managing
  10. View images that have been printed or not printed
  11. Has 45 print layout templates. Easily make index prints, wallets, 8×10’s or unique combinations of sizes
  12. Create & print custom journal boxes with or without borders in desired size, font, & colors
  13. Create a custom default toolbar with your favorite editing tools

The editing features are awesome because they are simple for non-technical people to learn and use. The search feature is my favorite because of the versatility. I am able with just a few clicks to locate and display all the photos taken in summer showing both our kids.

My husband John was skeptical. He demanded a showdown and challenged me to find a particular copy of a picture of Emily just after birth, which we had in some folder on the home server AND on a backup CD. Using Memory Manager, I had the image up on my screen before he had even found the CD with the image on it!

Memory Manager also comes bundled with Storybook Creator – free digital scrapbooking software that creates albums using simple drag and drop functionality.

To take a virtual tour of Memory Manager, go here: http://www.CMmemorymanager.com/

To purchase this software AND receive free, in-person, one-on-one training, go here: http://www.myCMsite.com/DebS

Welcome to the 21st century!

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