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Getting Along With Your Computer

What’s on your mind?

Three common questions (and answers) from readers: What’s the deal with a Microsoft Account? Can I fix the type size in my browser? How do I print in Windows 8?

 

What is a Microsoft Account and why should I care?

A Microsoft Account is an email address and password that you use to sign in to a Windows 8 computer, and to access certain Microsoft services even when you’re not on a Windows 8 PC. Microsoft provides this video explanation: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-live/sign-in-what-is-microsoft-account.

A Microsoft Account is what used to be called a “Live ID” and you might already have one. If you use a Live ID in Windows Live Mail, that’s your Microsoft Account. If you have an Xbox you probably have a Microsoft ID. If you have a hotmail email address, an outlook.com address, a live.com or live.ca address, that’s your Microsoft Account. Did you ever get around to merging your old Messenger accounts with Skype? You have a Microsoft Account.

Your Microsoft Account gives you access to the Store app. You can’t even download free apps from the Store without a Microsoft Account. You need it for Office and OneDrive (used to be SkyDrive).

If you’re setting up a new Windows 8 computer, you’ll be prompted to sign in with your Microsoft Account. If you don’t have one, you can create one. Check this page for instructions: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-live/sign-up-create-account-how. You can create a brand new address for this or you can just use one that you already have. Fill out the form completely and as accurately as you can, and do not lose your password. Write down your password. Do not lose it. You’ll thank me for this advice some time in the future!


How do I make the print in my browser bigger? Or smaller?

This comes up from time to time, and the email is almost equally divided between people who want to make the browser content bigger and those who want to make it smaller. If your Firefox or Internet Explorer isn’t displaying things just right, that is easy to fix.

The procedure is almost the same in either browser. Click on “View” (If you don’t see the menu bar with “View” on it, press the Alt key one time. That will display the menu bar. THEN click on “View”.) Next, click on “Zoom” and depending on which browser you’re using you’ll see how to make things bigger or smaller by zooming in or out.

 

How the heck do I print something in Windows 8?

Windows 8 apps fill the entire screen. On purpose. There is no little bar or square you can click on to resize the window. That’s how Microsoft intended it to be, and it takes some getting used to.

So when a customer opened up a PDF document in the Reader app that’s built into Windows 8, it filled the whole screen. “How do I print this,” she asked, and I admit to being stumped for a minute.

It turns out there are several ways. What I actually did was use the keyboard shortcut that has instructed Windows to print since Windows 95 (or maybe earlier than that): Ctrl + P. Holding down the CTRL and the P keys at the same time opened the printer dialog, and we printed her document.

Another way is to move the mouse cursor to the upper or lower right corner of the screen (both work) and display the Charms bar. Select Devices, click on the printer and you’re ready to print.

Later I found out the pressing the Windows Key and the K at the same time will also display Devices.

There you have it.

Bonus tip: To bring you the screen shot, I had to learn how to take a screen shot in Windows 8. Hold down the Windows Key and the E. The screen will dim for a second, and your picture will be saved in a folder called Screen Shots in your Pictures. That’s kind of cool.

 

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.



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Say goodbye to Windows XP

It was a great little operating system, but it’s been overtaken by events.

 

 

Turn out the lights, the party’s over

Like it or not, Microsoft ends all support for windows XP (and Office 2003) April 8, 2014. We can complain, we can curse, we can wave our hands in the air, we can sign online petitions. It doesn’t matter. Microsoft will not support a 12-year old operating system (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_XP) any more.

That doesn’t mean your machine will quit working on April 9. That DOES mean no more updates, including security updates and patches. For more about that see this column: http://rlis.com/columns/column441.htm or search the phrase “XP end of support” in your favourite search engine.

Computers being sold now in stores run Windows 8 or Windows 8.1. You can still find Windows 7 computers out there, but you have to look for them. You can have one built for you, or you can purchase through the Dell or HP websites. You’ll generally find these machines in the Business section and they will be more expensive than the regular computers.

Microsoft plans to provide extended support for Windows 7 until 2020 and for Vista, the forgotten operating system, until 2017. If you’re running either of those operating systems make sure you are up to date on the Service Packs. There’s no support for either system unless all the Service Packs have been applied.


When the going gets rough, just shop with somebody tough

I have a netbook that I really love, but it’s running Windows XP and I had to replace it. I bought a faster, lighter, prettier netbook running Windows 8.1. If you’re in the market for a new computer, here’s a link to a previous column with tips about shopping for a computer: http://rlis.com/columns/column420.htm.

And while we’re at it, here are some things to know if you’re shopping for a computer with Windows 8.1 on it.

Windows 8/8.1 is made for a touch screen. It’s nice with a touch screen, but it does not REQUIRE a touch screen. You can use a mouse and keyboard.

Windows 8/8.1 does not have a Start Menu. That is jarring, and it is inconvenient. In my opinion, that was a really bad idea. But it is not the end of the world. You don’t need a Start Menu if you work in the new 8/8.1 environment. In 8.1, just start typing the name of the thing you want anywhere on the Start Screen and you’ll get search results.

If you like the familiar Desktop environment better, you can get inexpensive or free programs like Start8 or ClassicShell that will put a Start Menu back on the Desktop for you, and let you customize it in ways that are impossible in, for instance, Windows XP. See the first item in this column for more: http://rlis.com/columns/column431.htm. And, if you don’t use a Start Menu now because your Desktop is littered with icons and that’s how you get to things, you can litter the Windows 8/8.1 with those icons too, AND when you stop to think about it, the new Start Screen is just like having a Desktop full of icons, except these are bigger and some of them flash.


Are you using Windows 8 or 8.1? Do you have a touch screen? What do you like or dislike about the touch screen experience?

 

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.



Help for two nagging problems

Two really weird problems cropped up again and again these last three weeks. These solutions might save you some aggravation. They might even make you look like a genius when you solve your friend or relative’s problem!

 

Help! Mon clavier me rend fou!

I’ve heard from at least ten people in the last few weeks whose keyboards have taken leave of their senses. Usually the question goes like this:

When I want a question mark this is what I get ÉÉÉÉÉÉÉ. As you can see, if I hit the apostrophe I get this èèèè.

The cause: Your keyboard is speaking French. This can be a real problem if you’re trying to enter a password.

This can happen if you chose the “Canadian Multilingual Standard” keyboard when you set up Windows. But if you only ever type in English, you don’t ever need to switch to the French layout. We can fix that, but that’s only half the solution.

Start by deciding if you are ever going to need a different keyboard layout than English. If not, we can specify the US keyboard and delete the ones we don’t need. If you actually need a French keyboard just implement the second part of the solution.

For older versions of Windows:

  • Click on Start | Control Panel
  • Click on Clock, Language and Region (In XP, Region and Language)
  • Click on Language | Details | Change keyboards
  • Add the US keyboard and save it as default
  • While you’re there, click on Language Bar, then on Hidden
  • OK your way out

Now your keyboard will be set up just for English, the Language Bar will be hidden so you don’t accidentally change your language there.

But wait, there’s more. The other thing that causes problems is the default key combination to toggle between languages in Windows is CTRL+ Left SHIFT. Touch typists, especially touch typists using a laptop, can easily strike those keys accidentally. Suddenly you’re typing en français.

To fix that, disable that CTRL + Left SHIFT key combination. Again, in older versions of Windows, get to that same Region and Language area. But this time:

  • Click on the Keyboards and Languages tab
  • Click on Change Keyboards
  • Click on Advanced Key Settings | Between Input languages | Change key Sequence
  • Change both to Not Assigned
  • OK your way out

Et voilà!

In Windows 8 and 8.1, it’s a little different. When you add a language, a keyboard is added at the same time. To get to those settings:

  • Press the WinKey + X
  • Click on Control Panel | Clock, Language, and Region | Language
  • Remove any unwanted languages (!)
  • Click on Advanced settings
  • Scroll down to Switching input methods
  • Click on Change language bar hot keys | Advanced Key Settings |Change Key Sequence
  • Change both sides to Not Assigned
  • OK your way out


Help! Windows Live Mail keeps insisting I sign in!

Windows Live Mail has interesting quirks. If you have a Windows Live ID/Microsoft Account (from Hotmail, Livemail, Outlook.com, etc.) you can use that Live ID from within Windows Live Mail to access online photo albums among other things. To do that, just click on the “Sign In” icon at the far right of the Home tab.

But what if you just don’t want to be signed in? Windows Live Mail will continue to prompt you until you tell it to stop doing that! Here’s how:

  • Open Windows Live Mail
  • Click on the little down-facing triangle in the top left corner of the program
  • Click on Options
  • Click on Mail
  • Click on Connection
  • Click on Stop signing in
  • Click on OK

Close and reopen your Windows Live Mail, and you should not see that irritating prompt any more. You can still sign in with your Live ID any time you want by clicking the Sign In button, but there will be no more nagging.

Got a nagging problem? Send email to [email protected] and I’ll try to help.

 

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.



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The three most important things

Are you having trouble with your computer? If you can provide a good description of what the computer is not doing and when it started not doing that, you’ll save a lot of time and probably a little money. If you know nothing else about your computer, know the answers to the three questions here.

 
What version of Windows are you running?

The Operating System --- OS for short --- is the boss of the computer. (You thought YOU were the boss of the computer, didn’t you?) It’s the program that tells all the other programs and all the hardware how to get along. Examples of Operating Systems are Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8. There’s a big difference between how we do things on Windows XP and Windows 8, including how we fix things. That’s why it’s important to tell the person you’re asking for help what OS you’re using. If you don’t know what version of Windows your computer is running, it’s very easy to find out.

In Windows XP through Windows 7:

  • Click on Start
  • Right-click on Computer
  • Click on Properties

In Windows 8:

  • If you’re on the Start Screen, click on Desktop
  • Once you’re in Desktop mode, press WinKey + C to open the Charms Bar
  • Click on the Settings Charm
  • Click on PC Info

Now, no matter what version of Windows you’re using, you’ll get the system properties window which will tell you what version of Windows you’re running.

Want a quicker way to do that? In any modern version of Windows, press the WinKey and the Pause/Break key at the same time. You’ll go straight to that system properties window.


How much RAM do you have?

Random-Access Memory (RAM) holds information while the computer is on. It’s not permanent storage --- that’s the hard drive. The amount of RAM in your computer is important because it is largely responsible for the speed at which your computer operates. If your computer is slow and you don’t have enough RAM to meet what programs and websites require these days, that presents a different set of problems and solutions than if you have plenty and the computer is STILL slow.

How do you find out how much you have? It’s in that same system properties window as the answer to the Operating System question, so follow the instructions in the previous section!


What browser are you having trouble with?

If someone tells me they can’t get to the Internet, I ask them about their browser. A browser is the program you use to view websites. On Windows computers, the most common browsers are Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome. Did you notice that “Google” is not an answer to the question, “What browser are you having trouble with?” That’s because “Google” is not a browser. It’s a search page in your browser. You can use Google from any browser. Here’s a good, quick, clear explanation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrXPcaRlBqo.

How do you know what browser you’re using? The browser’s logo is one big clue. Internet Explorer’s is a lowercase blue “e” with a gold swoosh through it. Firefox’s is an orange fox wrapped around a blue globe. Chrome’s is a circle or a globe with blue in the middle and yellow, red and green on the outer part. A very easy way to get the name AND the version of the browser is to visit http://www.whatsmybrowser.org/ . A good way to tell your tech support person is to copy the link at the bottom of that page and paste it into an email to your techie.


But wait, there’s more

There are other helpful things to know, like your email and WiFi passwords, who provides your internet, and what happened in the moments before the printer just quit working for no reason. But all that is either discoverable or irrelevant. Concentrate on the big picture and know the answers to the three questions above.

 

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.

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About the author...

Cate Eales has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible and fun for over 20 years. She lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric, and her dog, Sandy. Cate is a partner in Computer Care Kelowna, helping individuals and small businesses with virus, spyware and malware eradication; personal computer training and management; digital image management; music transfer; and website design, hosting and management.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with your comments, suggestions, or questions. To browse the column archives, visit the Real Life Internet Solutions website at www.rlis.com.




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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.


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