TicoByte for June, 2011

Distinguished Members of the PC Club of Costa Rica,

Our next meeting will take place this coming Saturday, June 18th.  We will gather in our usual place, the Pan American School in Belen at 9am.  Coffee and snacks will available from 8:30am for anyone who wants to come early and chat.  Last month we had fruit as well.  Who knows what we might have this month?  If anyone has anything they would like to sell or give away (having to do with computers), feel free to bring it and we will have a separate table where we can display it.  It’ll be fun.

Here are a few things I thought you might find amusing:

Item 1. Finding green in the strangest places...

Ecology has been turning up in some unusual venues recently.   Aluminum giant Alcoa and Japanese manufacturer Toto are partnering to produce building surfaces that eat smog.  And Jaguar is offering a hybrid car that will exceed speeds of 200 MPH.  Before you get too excited about that one, the price tag is $1.5 million dollars.  But the car will go from 0 to 60 MPH in less than 3 seconds.  Everyone is trying to do their part, it seems.

Item 2.  Would you like to have a way to preview messages in Gmail?

Chuck recently decided to try using Gmail from his network browser and was miffed to find that the Gmail client doesn’t offer a preview pane.  If you share that interest, you can profit from his research.  To get to “Message Sneak Peek”, click on the little gear in the upper-right corner of Gmail and select “Mail settings” from the drop-down list.  This will open a window that has a toolbar at the top.  Choose “Labs” from the toolbar.  Under the heading “Available Labs” you will find an alphabetical list of little features that you can use with Gmail.  Find Message Sneak Peek and click the “Enable” button for it.  Then go to the bottom of the list and click the “Save Changes” button.  It’s not exactly the same as Outlook offers, but it’s a little reminiscent of it.  Once it’s in place, you can right-click on any message for a sneak peek.  Check out some of the other Labs, too.

Item 3.  Have you heard of the System Diagnostics Report in Windows 7?

Sometimes Windows 7 can be annoying by trying to fix things that I don’t consider broken, but a new tool that I like is a report that lists everything that went wrong in a 30 second period. It’s a useful tool when you are having something quirky going on.  Check it out.

Item 4. Do you need to capture something from the screen and find the “Print Screen” key too clumsy?

This came up in our last meeting and someone suggested using Jing.  I tried it and it’s great!  It has lots of explanations and videos to show you how to use it.  The free version seems just fine for my needs.  In addition to capturing and storing screen images on your computer, it offers a free way to store them in the cloud and provides a link for your friends to view and download the images.  It can handle short videos and audio as well.

Item 5. The Fujitsu Design Contest winners have been announced.

The winners of the Fujitsu Design Award 2011 have created an intriguing glimpse of "a life with future computing," the theme of this year's contest.  The 1st Prize went to a Lithuanian smart-walking-cane that monitors life signs and calls for help, if needed. Other winners were a laptop hinged on one corner that puts the screen above or beside the keyboard, your choice; a laptop that draws energy from your keystrokes; a tiny, flying, networked camera-balloon that follows you around and records your movements; and a 3D, digital flower vase.  I found it stimulating.

Item 6.  How to approach Facebook and Twitter. Treat them like your kids?

Computer guru Jason Hiner has finally addressed the issue of social media from a professional viewpoint.  I realize that many folks scoff at social media for security reasons, but for those who want to keep up with their children’s world, he has some good ideas to ponder. Sometimes you have to treat each of your kids a little differently and maybe social media need to be approached that way, too.

Item 7.  Microsoft buys Skype, but don’t panic.

In it’s largest acquisition ever, Microsoft bought Skype for $8.5 billion this past month.  Jason Hiner, of TechRepublic, says that there’s no reason to worry that the software giant will dump the free part of Skype’s service because it would be bad for business.  He thinks we can probably look for new innovations that will make Skype even better.  The Skype CEO is planned to head up a new Skype division within Microsoft.  Windows Live and MSN Manager may be destined to fold into the Skype world, he says.

Item 8.  This month's meeting will be fun, as usual.  We always have a lot of laughs and learn a few things.  You are important to make the meeting fun for everyone.  You won’t be able to avoid laughing and you might hear something really helpful.  Bring a friend if you like and tell us what’s happening in your world.

Dick Sandlin

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