Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mission of this Blog : Part 2

As this blog is written, it becomes clearer on what needs to be accomplished.  The contents here will not make you an expert on the computer; the goal here is to you make you a more informed consumer so that you can ask the right questions, and provide the appropriate answer when talking to someone who is more knowledgeable.

Just as driving a car does not require a deep understanding of the internal combustion engine, so using the internet, the web, and computers does not require deep knowledge of these topics.  Instead enough information is needed to get your job done and to use it effectively.

So in addition to How To and What Is topics, upcoming articles will include those that begin "How to Get Help with.." such as "How to Get Help when my Internet is not working?"

What do you think of this as a goal?  Please put your questions and comments here.  No question coming from my cohorts will be considered unimportant and trivial.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What is a Web Browser?

A Web browser is a graphical user interface used to visit websites. Examples of web browsers include Internet Explorer, FireFox, MSN Explorer, Mozilla, Opera, and Google Chrome. Many of the browsers provided by ISPs are a branded version of one of the above, usually Internet Explorer. The AOL browser is basically Internet Explorer under the cover. How do I know? One day there was a problem with the IE browser, and I called AOL customer service on a related matter, and asked if it would be OK to uninstall Internet Explorer. Customer service was horrified at such a suggestion and informed me that under no circumstances should I uninstall it or AOL would stop working.

On a Windows XP or Vista, Internet Explorer is needed for proper updates to Windows. In one situation, when IE stopped working, all the patches, updates and service packs could be donwloaded from the Windows Update or Microsoft Update using MSN Explorer, but when installation of the downloaded patches, updates and service packes failed due to a broken IE installation, MSN Explorer also failed. Note that uninstalling MSN Explorer does not affect updates and installs, but a non-functional Internet Explorer can cause major problems.

How does Picasa recognize faces?

Picasa has a facial recognition capability which attempts to match faces in different photos. Given an album of photographs and told to "Add Names", Picasa scans through the whole album or through all the albums looking for things that look like faces and groups the same face (as far as it can tell) together, and shows them to you in groups so you can name them, and identify those that Picasa identified incorrectly.

Please note that at this time, if you cannot identify a person from a picture, neither can Picasa, although it can try to make a guess and provide you with what it thinks are promising candidates. In fact there are situations when even if you can identify a person, Picasa is unable to do so. So, if you expect it to identify any face automatically, you will be disappointed.

Sometimes Picasa identifies as faces things that are not faces - for example, it has presented elbows, chair corners and even lighting effects as faces. In that case, you can tell Picasa that those are not faces, or to skip identifying them, or to ignore them.

It is of course possible to correct mistakes, and if you give two different names to the same person in different photographs, you may merge the pictures together to one identity. It is possible to associate email addresses with each face, and to identify the preferred photo to show for a given face. Finally, it is possible to find all identified instances of a face in the albums so you can find all pictures with a given face.

So, while it will not provide 100% accuracy for identifying faces, I have found that it has picked up on faces that we would normally skip over because they are small, in the background, or generally not the focus of the photograph.

Monday, September 22, 2008

How to contact ACSian Blogger?

If you are on the Yahoo!Group for the ACSian class of '66/'68, there are enough clues to make contact, otherwise you can mail to that group email. If you are from the ACSian class of '66/'68 and not in the Yahoo!Group then you need to contact somebody from there whom you know in the network, or add a comment to one of the entries in the blog.

If all this sounds inconvenient, and it seems silly not to provide email addresses on the blog, there is a very good reason. Any time an email address is published on a public website or a blog, it can be collected by web crawlers (sometimes aka spiders) and sold to spammers who then proceed to email you about body enhancement products, performance enhancement products, making $1m from $5 in 3 weeks, Russian mail-order brides, and other things which you may or may not be interested in. That is also the reason the Yahoo!Group itself is closed, so its existence is not announced on the web, membership is by invitation only, and only members are allowed to post to it.

How to set up my own blog?

Setting up a blog and adding entries to it is easy if you have someone show you how. If you are doing it on your own, you will be overwhelmed by all the choices, capabilities and services provided. However, if you are interested in writing short articles for publication, and really do not want to learn the mechanics of setting up a site and managing, I can help set it up for you and get started. A set of 8 to 10 articles relevant about something you care about and may be of interest to our cohorts will get you going, and after you see them in print, may trigger other ideas. For help contact ACSian Blogger.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

How to control Picasa Photo Slideshows?

The photo slideshows are actually hosted on Picasaweb, which is owned and managed by Google.
The high speed at which the pictures move is due to the default speed of 3 seconds per slide. Some slideshows start running immediately, while others require you to click the triangle in the circle in the middle of the picture. This behavior is not inconsistent browser behavior - it is behavior determined by the person putting up the slide show on the blog.

To start and stop, and go forward or backward manually, move the cursor over the lower edge of the picture, and a control bar will pop up and become visible. That control bar has buttons for pause, forward and backward.

To see a larger version of the slideshow on Picasaweb, click on the center of the slide show, and you will end up on Picasaweb, where if you run the slide show, it is possible to see it in the full screen. It is also possible to change the pause between slides.

If there are any questions or comments, or something is not quite right, please add it to the comments link at the end of this message.

What is FTP?

FTP is the acronym for File Transfer Protocol. It is the set of instructions and the rules for transferring files from one place to another over a network. It is particularly useful when the number of files is large, such as when uploading a web site to the World Wide Web.

Originally, and for the hardy, FTP was used on a terminal by typing in characters to the FTP application. Instructions such as dir, get and put did the obvious things. For ease of use, there are now windows based interfaces which show the folder or directory structure of the source and destination machines, so it is possible to use it without knowing the protocol.

Monday, September 15, 2008

What is the Mission of this Blog?

This Blog is dedicated to the cohorts of the ACSian Sec 4 Class of 66 and PU II Class of 68. Their questions and comments led to the humbling realization that the value of the blog comes from what visitors get out of it rather than the effort to put in the latest and greatest features.

Since it is impossible to give a complete answer to each questions, comments from the community are welcome when Acsian Blogger is unable to answer in a timely fashion. To encourage answers and avoid spam, comments will be moderated before publication.

There are a few simple things to keep in mind:
  1. Experiment to your heart's content! It is unlikely that you will do any irrepairable damage accidentally, so experiment without worrying about making mistakes, and no one else will know about it. In fact, if you learn something new, it may be valuable to share your insight. On the other hand, no special precaution is taken to make it bulletproof, so if you knowingly and maliciously do any damage, note that the full force of the curses and ill will of the cohorts and friends will be upon you :-(
  2. Web unfamilarity is the natural state for many of us! Many of us were brought up and went to school at a time that the internet did not exist.
  3. Remaining Web unfamilar is limiting your access to a wealth of information! Given that (2) above is true, and that you are now aware of it, means you should try to get out of that situation as fast as possible. One way is to consult your children, nephews, nieces, grandchildren.... however, if you feel as senior family member they should be consulting you, consider asking your questions here, where you will have a group of friendly cohorts able and willing to help you so that you can proudly show off your new found knowledge and capabilities.
  4. Contributing to the blogs will help you exercise those English Language and General Paper Brain Cells which were not used since ACS days! Many of us did not have the opportunity to write or speak as well as when Mr Ong Kang Hai and other dedicated teachers were continually correcting and penalizing spelling and grammar mistakes. Many of us actually faced deteriorating standards because of the lack of exercise of those cells, and the environment we found ourselves in.
  5. Writing a blog article is simpler than writing an essay, composition or a book! The unit of a blog entry is an article discussing your thoughts, or a comment to somebody else's article or comment. Do not worry about the structure (like we needed to in school) or making it look nice and perfect. While there are purists who are very picky about how things are presented and said, realize that the message is more important than the medium. As long as you have something to say that is interesting to someone else, go ahead and blog. In this day and age, there is a preference for brevity rather than for long windedness.
  6. Write or Comment on something you know or feel about or have an opinion. Do not feel obligaged to discuss or write about all topics.
  7. Expand your horizons, and start small! The first attempt was a blog about nostalgia and our reunion, because that was all the material that was available. Since then, suggestions were made about presenting and sharing life experiences about travel, gardening, food, the web, and so on. May I suggest a couple of additional topics: life philosophies, the principles you live by, and health.
  8. Do as you learn, and learn as you need to do. This results in continuous payoffs while you are learning, rather than spending a long time doing the learning then practising.
The posts in this Blog will attempt to address every question on how to use different features of the group of ACSian Nostalgia blogs in an easy and convenient way, and how to get more out of what is already there.

Keep in mind that the objective is not necessarily to present the best way or all the different ways of doing something, but more to show the way to do something in a way that has been personally experienced.

On the left hand side of all the pages is a list of suggested topics. While the polling date is set to be a week, feel free to express which ones you want to hear about soon, so that it would be possible to give priority to writing those as time permits, and to ignore those that nobody is interested in. Of course, voting for all the topics would end up negating your own votes, and is equivalent to not voting at all!

Finally, if you would like to comment on this article or add your own comments or questions you would like answered, please click on the comments link just below and write what you like.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

What is a Google Account?

Generally, searches can be done on Google from the Google home page without logging in.
However, Google also provides other services that require logging in with a login name and a password.

A Google Account is required to gain to access to some capabilities of properties and services that Google provides.

The login name must be a valid e-mail address that actually exists. It could be on any domain, not necessarily on, so you can get a Google Account with a hotmail email address, a yahoo email address, your ISP email address, or with your company email address. However, if you use any of these addresses, Google sends an email to the address asking you to verify that in fact you have applied for a Google Account with that login name. If that email address is not yours, or if it does not exist, then you will not be able to verify the address, and so you will not be able to complete creating your Google Account.

The first time you try to log in to any property or service requiring a login for the particular Google Account, you need to accept the Terms and Conditions of Service before you can proceed. Some properties or services require you to log in before you can use any part of it. For instance, gmail provides email service, and a gmail email address is required to log in. Without a gmail email address you may not use gmail services. As an aside, I have found that associating a gmail email address with an existing Google Account with a non gmail address causes the gmail email address to become the primary login name (and identifier) for the Google Account.

What is a Blog?

A Blog is short for WeB log, and as the name suggests, is a website which serves as an online log which is a journal or diary.

It is set up to quickly add short articles on a daily basis. Since content is usually fresh and added frequently, generally search engines crawl it more frequently than other websites.

A hand-written journal or diary is usually created sequentially with each new item placed after the last one. The same thing can be done on a Blog, so newer items are at the end of the blog. However, if a Blog is presented like a paper journal, anyone reading the Blog for new entries must go to the end of the list; if the list is long, this could take a while.

The ACSian Nostalgia Blog was the third or fourth attempt at creating a shared website for our cohorts, and it has gained more traction, contributions and visitors than prior attempts.