Saturday, September 7, 2013

Techie awesomeness - Part 4 - Find a Resource

Hi all,

To end this series, I'd like to tell you, that when in doubt, ask questions.

I know there are a lot of people who will tell you that they don't want you to ask questions, they just want you to move over so they can do it themselves.

This is something I'd like to change. If you ask someone a question, and they ask you to move over, pay close attention to what they're doing.  Most of the time, they're not doing anything different than what you're doing aside potentially from going quickly.  They're trying stuff, they're playing, they're searching to find out what is wrong. Playing (see part 2), which you can do too.

If technical stuff is at all interesting for you, or you think knowing it might make it better for you, or people around you, you can follow communities which continually update this information.  My personal favourite is lifehacker - they do a lot of articles on how to use technology better, but there are also some great things that they offer that have nothing to do with technology, just plain awesome.

Also, if you're reading this, you probably know me, but did you know I'm offering my services as a technology consultant? I haven't done very much with it, since I'm kept pretty busy at my job and enjoying time with my family and stuff, but this is a true passion of mine. I'm absolutely not the best at technology consulting, but I pride myself on being different at it.  My main focus is to help people learn, and not do it for them.  I constantly check myself to see if I'm asking people to move over and do it myself, and if my impatience gets me there, I'll often walk the person through what I'm doing while I'm there.

So - selling my services aside, ask questions.  Do a search on google to see if people have already asked the questions you have, and if they haven't find someone near you to ask.  If you'd like, feel free to ask me questions, too, and I'll be glad to see if I know, or can find out the answer.

Thank you!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Techie awesomeness - Part 3 - Cool apps

Hi all,

This entry is all about using apps to make technology work better for you.

All of these apps are free, but some have premium versions. They are all cross-platform apps that will work on Mac and PC, and some on Linux, I think...


Although primarily used for note taking - Evernote can do so much more. It's amazing as a note-taking application, syncing notes you write on your PC, Mac, Tablet, Phone, or anything with a browser, and allowing access to all of the above just as easily.  The only downside is that it requires a connection to the internet to work on mobile devices, but otherwise this is golden.  Have a grocery list you'd like to write out on your PC while home, then have access to it while you're shopping?  Evernote.  See something you'd like to read about later? Take a picture on your phone and save it to Evernote, and you can see it on your PC within seconds. Brilliant.


An amazing way to synchronize files between devices. Starts off at 2GB for free, which is great for transferring around pictures or a movie and stuff. You can access files placed in your dropbox on the web, or through an application installable on PC and Mac to automatically synchronize the files when connected to the web.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that all of these apps are free, and this is totally true.  However, the beauty of Dropbox's "marketing" is that if you refer friends who use the service, you get more space to use yourself.  They often also run promotions to show off their new features (photo and video importing from SD cards), and will give you more space to use those as well. The link above is a referral link, so if you're not using the service yet, I'll get credit :)

Google Drive

On the surface, very similar to Dropbox, a cloud interface that lets you synchronize files between devices, and it even has an app interface and a web interface. BUT Google Drive has Google Docs built into it, so collaboration on documents is way better. Sharing of anything is possible, so you might not need to get Dropbox, but if you want more than what the basic 15GB gives you, I haven't seen the opportunity.  I love having both.


Anything else for media playing is too much work. VLC gets it all done, without any additional codecs, or whatever.  It just works.


Stands for X-Box Media Center, but this software now works on lots of stuff (PC, Mac, Linux, etc). If you're thinking of connecting your computer to your TV, this software makes it easy.


Control your computers from away - it's as easy as that.  I use it to keep track of stuff that's downloading on my home PC, or to help someone out who's away, but there are many other uses as well.  Awesome.

Part 4 is coming soon - finding a resource to help about other stuff.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Techie awesomeness - Part 2 - Just Giv'er

Hi all,

I think that if you consider yourself to be technically inclined, you love to play. I think the elements of play and discovery are paramount to getting to know your world, and your technology.  Getting the most out of your technology takes playing.

So, play.

That's it. Play. And don't be afraid to break it. If you really broke it well, someone might pay you to find out how you did it. Following a method may be boring, but it works. Make one change, and if it's better, keep it.  If it's not better, revert to how you were doing stuff before.  Beats the heck outta making 10 changes, and finding the combination didn't work. How do you know which change sucked, and which change was awesome?


When did you find something about technology just by chance?

Part 3 tomorrow on apps that make technology work better for you instead of wasting time. The wasting time ones can be fun too, but that's another thing...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Techie awesomeness - Part 1 - Shortcuts

Hi all,

My sister recently posted this blog article.  For those who aren't inclined to read it, that's really too bad, you're missing out, but here's the major takeaway for me:

People don't understand technology because it's easy to not know.

The author, both a teacher and network admin (amazing job, in my opinion), discusses a few awesome things, one is that he often encounters people with technical problems, and instead of them attempting to learn how to fix it, they give up. Also, kids who are supposed to know how to use computers, in his opinion, don't.  I think both of these points are absolutely correct, and until reading the article, I kinda thought the opposite of them.  After reading, I am now a changed man.

Since you're reading this post on a computer, or phone, or whatever, you're using technology already.  There are a few things everyone should know about this technology to make their lives better.  The author of the article gave his, and now I give mine:

1 - Shortcuts

If you're using a mobile device (BlackBerry, iOS, Android, etc) as your primary means of tech interaction, these vary depending on what your device is, but shortcuts that are built into your technology will make your life better.

If you're using a computer with Windows, here are my two absolute favourites:

ALT-TAB - pressing these two keys together unleashes some amazing wizardry that allows you to switch between applications very quickly.  By default, you'll end up switching to the application you used last, which is awesome, but what's even more awesome is...
Bonus points - if you hold down ALT, a screen will appear showing you which applications are open, and if you tap on the TAB key, you can switch between all of these displayed.
Bonus BONUS points - if you hold down ALT, then hold SHIFT and then tap on the TAB key, you will reverse the direction you're switching in.

And my second favourite, which is hard to describe:

"WINDOWS-D" - Some people call the "WINDOWS" key, the START key, and they're probably right.

Here's a picture of what I mean:

Yours might not look like that - the Windows logo might not have a circle around it, if you've got a new keyboard it might show the incredibly awesome new Windows logo with all squares instead of wavy whatsits. Either way, it's on the bottom of your keyboard, to the left of the space bar.
Anyway - if you hit the WINDOWS key and D at the same time, you are invoking a shortcut to display the desktop of the computer, just like if you were to hit the icon called Show Desktop.
Bonus Points - hitting this combination again once you're done on the Desktop, brings back everything you were working on before.

The amount of Windows shortcuts is incredible - if you'd like more, check it out from Microsoft themselves.

What are your favourite shortcuts? Mac and mobile users, you've got some right?

Next thing I'll talk about - PLAYING!