Converting Cassette Tapes to MP3

Recently, friends of mine wanted to convert tapes to play on a new iPod and asked me for advice. Well, it had been a while since I had done it and about all I could remember was that I used audacity and had to buy a cable; the rest was well down in archives.

I think I made some notes at the time, but if they were digital, they too are lost in archives – it seems these days it is faster to search and download information again than hunt for it on my hard drive (doesn’t say much for my filing system, I know, but it’s the truth)

Anyway, I went looking again and found a tutorial on a very good site I sometimes use that showed exactly what to do.  I thought I would share it with my senior readers as many of you, like me,  probably still have tapes in the cupboard that you haven’t played for ages, but don’t want to throw out.

The site is Top-Windows-Tutorials.com and the article can be found at http://www.top-windows-tutorials.com/tape-to-mp3.html

I’m not affiliated with this site in any way, but it has a number of  good tutorials & is well worth a visit if you’re after any other Windows training.

Best wishes
Trish

Share Folders Free with Dropbox

A very useful tool I use, mainly for backing up online and sharing files within my own network , but it has the potential for much much more is Dropbox. Yes, there is an upgrade option, but you can use the free version very well. There is also an option to get more free storage space when someone you tell about Dropbox signs up.

So what does it do?  It lets you share your files and folders with others by sharing an existing folder on your PC or creating a new one to share. Once you add other members to the folder, it will appear in your friends or colleagues own Dropbox just as it does in yours. Any changes made to the shared folder’s contents will appear instantaneously to everyone who is a member of that folder. You can create a folder in your Dropbox folder just as you would anywhere else on your hard drive.Can you see the potential in this?

There are two ways to setup Dropbox, as a local application or online. The procedure is pretty much the same either way.

Read more

Software Crashes – Prevention & Recovery

These days, most of us have a lot of software on our PCs and we need to know how to take care of our system to minimize the possibility of a crash.

(For beginners, the following words  have a computer specific meaning)

1. Crash – When a program or your entire computer stops working and you cannot move the mouse or use the keyboard, and the screen is frozen.

2. Reboot – When you restart your computer after a crash.

3. Control Panel – A feature of Windows that will give you access to system utilities and settings.

4. PC – just another term for your computer (short for Personal Computer – from early computing days)

What should you do first if your PC crashes? Try to stop work, go away & leave it for a few minutes. Often, the computer is trying to process a whole string of commands and might just need to take a little more time. Pressing more keys will just add to the computer’s processing queue, maybe even forcing a crash.

Most of the time the hardware is OK, but the software has caused a problem. A good way to try to recover from a problem is to press the Ctrl + Alt + Delete keys. In XP this will open the Task Manager and show you all the programs running. Note that at least one will probably have a non-responsive indication. Try clicking one at a time on the programs listed that are “Not Responding” and click “End Task”. After that, close the dialog box and see if your computer is working again.

This should solve about 98% of your crashes. If your computer is not responding after all this, you can try restarting. Switching off the entire power is the last resort and should not be done unless everything else has not worked.

To prevent computer crashes, it’s worthwhile to carry out ongoing file maintenance. Check that you have room on your hard drives. To do this, open My Computer and right click on the drive you want to check (e.g. C:) and then click “Properties”. You will get a pie chart showing how much used & free space is on the drive. Windows needs plenty of working space & the suggestion is not to go over 70% usage of your total hard drive space.

You may need to delete or move  any large audio or video files that are occupying too much space to another hard drive or a CD.  When you are short of space,  it is also advisable to remove software programs that you don’t use by going to “Start”, “Control Panel”,  “Add or Remove Programs”.

Make sure you have enough Memory or RAM (Random Access Memory).  If your RAM is low,  help out your computer by not opening too many programs at once.  To find out how much RAM your computer has, select Control Panel from the Start Menu, Double Click System Tools, and then open the System Information tab. The total and available memory is listed towards the bottom of the right panel when you click on System Summary.

Software programs that use the most RAM are those that include a lot of graphics, video or sound capabilities. If your system runs slowly and you use this type of program a lot, it might be worthwhile to upgrade your RAM

Back up your hard drive regularly. There are notes on how to do this online and it is very important and should be done consistently. This way you will not lose a lot of work should you have to turn off power or restart your computer due to a crash (or a power failure!). Losing work is never fun and can be avoided by a little preventive maintenance.

Best Wishes
Trish

Computer Crash! Prevent Loss of Your Valuable Data

Have you ever had a computer crash and all your data was lost?

Most likely your computer’s hard drive failed & this happens more frequently than we’d like and for all sorts of reasons. Another major risk to your data is fire, flood or theft. The following strategies will help you to protect and recover your data.

Although the software files for the programs that run on your computer is also data, you don’t need to back that up as it is easily recoverable from the installation disks you received when software is purchased.

The data that we will focus on is “user” data specifically, the data that you create from the software programs that run on your computer.

For example, if a word processor is used to create a document or a letter, the word processor provides functions to save this data. The data that is created and saved through the word processor is “user” data. Most programs will create and save data somewhere on the hard drive.

There are many kinds of user data that are usually stored on the hard drive, do you have some of these?

  • letters you write in a word processors
  • flyers / posters for your clubs
  • business cards
  • spreadsheets
  • greeting cards you’ve made
  • accounting data from a money management program
  • picture files
  • music files
  • video files
  • email and email addresess

This is not a complete list, but to give you an idea of what you might have created and could lose if your computer crashed or in a fire or theft. Most people do not pay enough attention to this basic fact about computer systems until it’s too late. Don’t let this happen to you!

Remember, the key is “prevention” and in order to prevent loss of valuable data you must be prepared, so let’s look at some basic backup plans.

Option 1: Save your data to CD or DVD disks
This is by far the cheapest option and a very good approach to securing user data, especially if you don’t have too much. All that is needed is a CD or DVD burner and some blank disks, which cost very little these days.

When using this option, make two copies so that one of the copies can be stored off site, to protect you against fire, flood & theft. Another reason is that a CD or DVD backup can also become corrupted & it’s better to have two or more copies.

Option 2: Use a memory stick (USB stick)
This will cost a bit more than option 1, but USB sticks are getting cheaper & cheaper all the time, and holding more data as well. One advantage is how small they are and easy to carry around. I bought a waterproof one when they first came out for my client’s data and was very glad I did so, as it went through the wash twice and still worked fine! (I did have other backups though & I still use that drive today!.)

Option 3: Consider having two internal hard drives, especially if you have a lot of user data, especially big pictures or music files.

Most home computers generally all come with only one internal hard drive, which stores both software and user data. This means that this one single hard drive is experiencing a lot of wear and tear. Every time a program is launched it’s being accessed. Every single function that the operating system invokes will likely hit the hard drive etc. This heavy wear and tear can eventually lead to physical failures.

Also, many viruses are designed to hit the operating system & if the user data is on the same physical drive as the operating system, then it can be severely impacted by viruses as well. The disadvantage of this method is that it doesn’t protect you from fire, flood or theft, etc, but it is probably the easiest way to automate backing up your files.

Option 4: Attach an external USB Hard Drive to the system

With the price of hard drives getting much cheaper, this is another really good option. By attaching an external USB hard drive to the system, special backup programs can be installed and scheduled to run over night. There are many cost effective backup programs available. Some will be built into your operating system and others are available free – search on the internet and you’ll find plenty of options. The advantage of the external drive is that your work is still physically separated from the main hard drive and can be taken off-site with you.

Option 5: Online backup service
The services are fairly inexpensive (typically about $5 a month), and the best ones won’t noticeably slow down your PC use or Web browsing (after the initial large upload, at least). They also encrypt your data before, during, and after it’s been sent to industrial-strength servers. There are no discs or USB drives to worry about, either. The service can start processing and uploading files automatically on a schedule or in the background when there are enough free cycles available.

How often should you make backups?

This really depends on what your data is. If you are only using your computer for emails and writing letters, perhaps once a week is sufficient. When you’re doing work for someone else, it’s wise to keep doing incremental backups as you go, every ten minutes, every hour perhaps. It’s a decision you need to make for your personal circumstances. I personally do my backups before I go away from my work area and every night. The main thing is, remember to DO IT!

Summary

  • You need to backup your user data in case of computer crash or fire or theft
  • Back-up frequently, as often as needed to make it easy to restore your work to where you were
  • Use at least two different methods
  • Keep one copy of your backup data away from the computer (prevent loss if fire or theft)

Hopefully this helped you become more aware of the importance of your data and the need to back it up.

The options presented here are the very same methods used by many highly experience data processing centers and can be easily adopted by the average computer user. The most important point to remember is that good planning for potential disasters is the best protection against loss of valuable user data. You may not think of it this way at first but the user data that you accumulate on your computer takes time to build up and acquire.

If you value your time then you’ll value your data. Your data has a lot of value. So why not take a few simple steps to protect it.

New Blog for Senior Computer Users

Hi everyone, welcome to the new blog.

The purpose of this blog is to create a community where folk of senior years and other beginner computer users can all learn from each other and support each other in our journey towards making more use of our computers and finding ways to earn extra income from them and from the internet.

For those unfamiliar with the word ‘blog’, it is derived from the term ‘web log’ and is basically a website, usually maintained by an individual, with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. These entries are commonly displayed in reverse chronological order.

Blogs are a great way to involve people because they give everyone a chance to make comments on any material posted or to send in helpful answers to problems other members have written in about, so this blog will be replacing the newsletter that some of you were receiving.

Many of you don’t know me, so I’d like to introduce myself. I am a baby boomer, living in Queensland, Australia at present, but thanks to the internet, am in frequent contact with people all over the world. I have two daughters and three grandchildren living on the other side of Australia and the rest of my family living in New Zealand or scattered all over the globe. Naturally I am a frequent user of email & Skype to keep in contact with them. (For those who don’t know about, or use skype, it uses the internet to make long distance phone calls that are free to other skype users or allow you to ring someone’s regular phone very cheaply. We will be doing an article about skype and other similar systems – so stay tuned. If you register to receive email notification of new posts, you’ll get the news immediately this topic is posted.)

I have been a computer buff for twenty years or so after buying my first home computer. Believe it or not, it didn’t have a hard drive at all, just 2 single sided 5.25″ floppy disks and just a little amber screen about 150 x 100mm!

While not an expert in any area, over the years I have helped many, many people to learn how to use their computer better and about eight years ago I started giving structured, one-on-one computer lessons, mainly for seniors.

During this time, I came across a great number of people who had acquired a computer by various means, some by being given an outgrown desktop model from family members who had upgraded, or buying a cheaper PC (personal computer), new or second-hand for themselves or even, as my own mother has done, buying a laptop for the convenience of being able to use it anywhere (like in a warm room in winter!).

One of the things that saddened me was to find that many of these owners would like to get more use from their PC, but were scared to do much in case they damaged something; they didn’t know how to do more than just some of the basic tasks and in many cases, ended up only using these marvellous tools for email and playing patience (or solitaire, if that is how you know it). If this is you, don’t worry – playing solitaire is a great way to become proficient with your mouse!

Now that’s fine if you are happy to be just using your computer for email because it certainly allows you take keep in touch with distant relatives and friends almost instantly. However, for those who would like to take advantage of other functions and features, I’m hoping that the information in this blog, and the comments from others, will inspire you and bring you information and tools to assist you as you learn to make your computer work for you.

Learning can be great fun or it can be a drag, it all depends on how you approach it and what you want to get out of it. Naturally the reasons for people wanting to learn more will be many and varied so the plan is to present some projects/information for beginners and some in varying levels for more advanced users. I won’t be re-inventing the wheel, but will be bringing together ideas, games and projects devised by others into this blog, so that you have a base to work outwards from.

Working along alone is sometimes hard and we lose momentum and hope. I’ve found from personal experience that by belonging to a community of like-minded people, there’s nearly always someone ‘out there’ who can help with something you’re stuck on, or just to say ‘hey, I know what it’s like. I nearly gave up, but hang in there, try this and you’ll soon have the hang of it’.

Do you know that studies have shown that the point where most of us give up is when we are nearly there? I’m sure this resonates with some of you, it certainly did for me when I first heard it. So, hang in there, ask a question, make a post – just don’t feel isolated as there are thousands of people our age out there getting a great deal in so many ways from our PCs.

There will be articles from other senior clubs and forums, ‘how to’ articles, reviews of products and also a special area devoted to using your computer and the internet to earn money. I doubt that there is anyone, not matter what age, who would not find it useful to have another stream of residual income, so there will also be links to information, programs and products that could be helpful on your journey.

I would love to hear suggestions from readers on topics they’d like to learn about so please write your ideas in the ‘Suggest Ideas’ area. You also have the opportunity to make comments after any post. Perhaps add extra ideas or methods that have worked for you and would help others. If you think what is written is rubbish, you are free to say that also, but please abide by the rules, no spamming, no personal attacks and no offensive language.

It is my hope that by coming here often to check out what is on offer we can become a community that shares and grows together.

If you would like to be sent an email whenever there is a new post, enter you name and email address in the form on the home page.

Please be assured, this site is not primarily to push you to buy anything. I would be happy for you to join in, contribute your ideas and never buy a single thing, but please respect the position of others who may want to do so, especially if they are building an on-line business. I would not be where I am today without buying products and mentoring along the way so there will be space for featured & recommended products as well as helpful hints, ideas and general information here on the site. If any readers wish to contribute original articles, please email me.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes, Trish