October 4, 2011

Voicemail Spam

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:28 pm by Carol D.

The other day I was working from home.  The house phone rang so I picked it up.  I was greeted by a male voice with a very heavy accent.  He indicated he was from the “internet network company.”  Really!  Normally my service provider would use the name that comes on my bill.  The caller said he could see that I had downloaded spam and viruses to my PC.  Hmm!  By the way, there are a number of PC’s in my household so just which one allegedly downloaded the spam and viruses?  There would be no way for the service provider to know this information.  Also, all the PC’s in my home run virus and spam protection another dead giveaway this guy was not legitimate.

Knowing this conversation was a pile of garbage I played along to see what he was after.  I asked him to repeat where he was calling from.  This time I was given some frivolous name that included Microsoft as part of the title.  I unceremoniously hung up on the guy. 

The phone rings again, same guy with the same speech, I hang up again.  The phone rings a third time so I let the answering machine pick it up.

Later when I played the message back on the answering machine I realized that the phony network guy had not dropped my line before calling his next target.  On this call the target followed the directions of the supposed network expert.  The caller was directing the victim to his network settings just as the limit on my voicemail message system was reached. 

Much like the scammers that call and try to get a victim to verify credit card numbers or banking information, this guy was looking for access to home networks.  Do not give out your network settings and passwords.  It’s the same as handing over the keys to your house.  You’re granting free access to any data on your PC.  If something in your life requires a password or key – don’t share that key or password, especially with some mystery person on the phone.

July 18, 2011

Virus Protection

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:28 pm by Carol D.

Since my last post was about the need for backups I thought I’d follow-up on the safety theme.  Besides running a backup be sure to protect your pc with a quality anti-virus software.  It really doesn’t matter which product  you choose but I would advise going with a name brand.  They’ll have the depth of personnel to keep the product  up to date to the latest threats. 

Feel free to ignore any email messages from well-meaning friends and relatives advertising the latest internet threat.  Trust me, the anti-virus software vendors are going to know about any new virus circulating long before your second cousin does.  Most viruses these days are not out to cripple your machine.  They’re out to steal your data and your banking information.  You’ll never know you’ve been infected.  So, simply installing you anti-virus software is not enough.  You must update it continuously.  The software I use checks for updates all day long as long as I’m connected to the internet.  It also scans my data continuously in the background.  If you have an older computer and you find the scanning slows down your performance, set the scan to run overnight.  Be sure to leave the  pc on for the scheduled scan to run. 

You can also install an anti-virus software package that incorporates other features such email spam filtering, pc optimization, backups, firewall protection and more.   For most users using the standard installation options will keep you protected. 

The key to protection is vigilance.  Update the software and run the scans.  Pull up the software menu options and make sure you’re up to date with the latest features and settings.  Paying a few dollars now can save you hundreds of dollars in repair bills trying to recoup infected data.

July 7, 2011

Need for Backup

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:39 pm by Carol D.

Regardless of your level of computer expertise, you need to back up your data and embroidery design files.  No one wants to have all of their computer files destroyed in a virus attack or a computer meltdown.  There are some online options that will back up your data for you automatically for a fee or you can do the work yourself.

Personally I back up my to an external hard drives.  This type of hard drive plugs into your computer through an open USB port, just like plugging in your iPod.  Most of these units come with software to back up your files.  You simply click on the items you want backed up by the software and you’re good to go.  But, you have to actually run the backup on a regular basis or it’s of no use at all.

The trick to all of this is to know where your data is.  Some applications create their own directories for data.  In theory, on a Windows-based PC the data would be stored to a folder in your My Documents directory.  However, there are software companies out there who don’t follow the rules and place data files elsewhere.  A certain popular embroidery monogram program comes to mind as does a digitizing software application I use.  If I were to just back up the My Documents directory on my PC I’d be excluding a lot of embroidery designs from my backup.  Pay attention to where your applications write their files.  Generally you can change the destination when you save the file.  I keep all of my data files under My Documents unless the application does not allow me to change the destination folder.  I only have one application in which this is the case.  I make a point of backing up the data for that application in addition to the My Documents directory. 

So what should you backup?  Again, for a Windows-based PC, you should back up your Contacts folder, Desktop folder, My Documents folder, Music folder, Pictures folder, Video folder, Favorites folder and email.  Depending on your version of Windows your folder names my vary slightly.  Also, depending on what application you use for email your email messages and contacts will likely be stored somewhere other than My Documents.  You’ll need to check your settings in your chosen email application to locate the storage folders for messages and contacts.  Be sure these locations are included in your manual or automatic backup. 

I have more than one external hard drive.  I rotate my backups between the drives.  For each backup I create a folder with the current date, ex. 2011-07-07.  I start with the year, month and day so the folders will sort in date order.  Under each Date folder I create a folder for each PC as I back it up.  Once I’ve filled a hard drive it’s easy to see which folder holds the oldest set of backups.  I delete that folder to allow for a new backup folder. 

One other point, check the files on the  backup.  Open a couple of files in various folders and make sure you can access them.  It doesn’t do you any good to have a backup you can’t read. 

Ideally at least one copy of your backup should be offsite from your PC location.  In the event of a fire, flood, earthquake, small children or other hazard, a copy of your data would exist outside the disaster zone.  Even if the offsite backup is not your latest and greatest backup copy, it would still be better than starting from scratch.  All those Freebie embroidery designs you’ve collected over the years are likely long gone from their original websites.

March 21, 2011

What’s in a name?

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:11 pm by Carol D.

What did I name that file? The answer to the question can be simple if you establish a naming convention for your embroidery design files. 

Everyone loves to download freebies.  The trick is to name and store them so you can find what you’re looking for later.  The method I use starts with creating a main folder for my embroidery designs.  This folder can be called EmbroideryDesigns, MyEmbroideryDesigns, or whatever you like.  Create this folder under My Documents on a Windows PC.  Notice the folders names I have listed do not have spaces in them.  Adding spaces to folder or filenames sometimes create problems when they are emailed.  Keep things simple.  Abbreviate words and use upper and lowercase letters to make the filenames easy to read.  If you want your embroidery design folder to be at the top of the list in My Documents add “AAA-” or something similar to the front of the filename.  It will now be at the top of the list. 

Once you have created your main design folder it’s time to create sub-folders (new folders under main embroidery design folder, AAA-MyEmbroideryDesigns).  Note, I do not actually have any design files in the main folder.  It’s simply a header within My Documents.  All of my designs are saved in sub-folders.  I create a sub- folder for each embroidery design website or designer.  I store the designs saved from each site in the sub-folder.  If you have a number of designs from a particular website you can create category folders within a designer’s folder.  For Example:

  • My Documents, AAA-MyEmbroideryDesigns, CastlehillDesigns, Animals

Castlehill Designs is the designer, Animals is a category.  Within the animals folders I could have any number of designs of animals. You could even make a sub-folder under Animals for specific animals like monkeys, bears, butterflies, etc.

Once you’ve established a set of categories that works for you, duplicate them in the design folders of your favorite designers.  I almost always have a Redwork folder, a Quilting designs folder and folders for various holidays. 

Don’t forget to abbreviate and save yourself some typing.  Though I spell out embroidery and redwork in the samples above, I’d likely just use “emb” for embroidery and “RW” for redwork.  FSL is a common abbreviation for free standing lace.  Establish a set of naming conventions that work for you.  You’ll be able to find those elusive files more easily the more consistent you are in naming your folders and files.

February 28, 2011

Take the Shortcut

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:46 pm by Carol D.

There are a number of keyboard shortcuts that are pre-defined in Windows.  Other applications written to the Microsoft specifications will use these same keyboard shortcuts to perform the same functions.  Once you learn some of the basics you’ll be able to use the shortcuts in most Windows-based applications. 

Here are four of the handiest shortcuts.  First up is Control-C for copy (Ctrl-C).  To copy, select and highlight the text you wish to copy.  Hold down the Ctrl key (like you would the shift key for a capital letter).  While holding the Ctrl key press the letter C.  The selected text has now been copied to the Windows Clipboard.  The  Clipboard is just a temporary storage location for Windows to store data such that the data can be accessed anywhere in Windows.  Now, place your cursor where you would like the copied text to be pasted.  The text can be duplicated within the same document or application or somewhere else entirely.  For example, you could copy text from a Word document and copy it into a cell in Excel.  To paste in the copied text type Ctrl-V.  Again, hold down the Ctrl key and press V.  The text will be inserted to the right of the cursor. 

Suppose you want to move text from one location to another.  In this case instead of copying the text  you’ll want to “cut” the text out and paste it to a new location.  To “cut” use Ctrl-X.  To paste to a new location use Crtl - V to paste.  You may repeat the same Ctrl-V to paste the same data multiple times.  Ctrl-V will paste the same data until something new is copied to the Clipboard. 

What if something goes wrong?  Ctrl-Z, is the answer.  Ctrl-Z will undo your last command.  You can press Ctrl-Z multiple times as well to back out multiple changes. 

Check your embroidery software.  If  it’s written to industry standards these shortcuts should work for you! 

February 17, 2011

Learn to Explore

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:17 pm by Carol D.

When you need to find a document, photo, spreadsheet, etc., most users will click on the My Documents Icon on the desktop (the main screen you see when your computer first loads).  There is another option.  Right click on the Start Button on the bottom left of your computer monitor.  You’ll be presented with what Microsoft calls a Context Sensitive Menu.  In other words, when you right click on an object you’ll be presented with a menu of items that are relevant to the item on which you clicked.  The menu presented will vary based on the object on which was clicked.  In this case select the Explore or Open Windows Explorer option depending on the version of Windows you’re running. 

The reason for running Explore versus the My Documents option from the desktop is that the Explore view provides two panes of information.  The left pane provides a list of folders with the right pane displaying what’s in a selected or highlighted folder.  By viewing in the mode it’s easier to drop and drag an embroidery design or file to a new folder or to copy it to another hard drive for backup.  It’s just so much easier to move files around when you can see the whole picture not just one folder at a time.

The other topic I wanted to touch on from this screen is the basic layout for Windows applications.  You’ll notice the top bar on any window is by default blue.  This blue bar is called the Title bar. Typically you’ll find the name of the application you’re running on the Title bar such as Word or Excel.  In the case of Explore the title bar is blank. 

Below the Title bar is the menu bar.  Applications written to Windows specifications will always have the menu options File, Edit, View and Help.  Other options will also be present depending on the features of the application.    Newer versions of Windows and Microsoft Office applications have modified this scheme somewhat in that these options are now tabs that present various functions across the top of the screen depending on which menu item has been selected. 

Click on the File option on the Menu Bar or Windows Icon in the upper left in newer versions of Windows (such as Vista or Win 7).  You’ll see the typical selection of Open, Save, Save As, Print Preview, Print, Close, and Exit.  Do this same task in another Windows application such as Word, Excel, or even your embroidery software.  You’ll see that these same functions are located in the same menus.  You’ll find the same is true for the View, Tools and Help menus as well.

Ever notice those little arrows next to a menu item on one of the drop down menus?  Do you know what those mean?  Select one of these items and you’ll get another drop down menu of items from which to choose.  What about those three little dots next to an option on the drop down menu?   The dots indicate that you’ll be presented with another dialog box if you select that item.  Don’t be afraid to click on the menu item and see what the options are.  You can always click on Cancel or press the Esc key to back out. 

Next time you’re running one of your familiar applications in Windows, poke around on those menu options.  You might find some great features you didn’t know were there.

February 9, 2011

Welcome to Computers For Embroidery

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:01 am by Carol D.

Welcome members of the machine embroidery world.  My name is Carol.  I purchased my first embroidery machine, a Brother 8500 in 2003.  I’d been eyeing embroidery machines for a couple of years.  Two years later I upgraded to a Brother 4000D.  I have one of the black machines.  I have to keep it covered when not is use or it looks like I never use it or dust it. 

Within the machine embroidery world there are a lot of users who need assistance in using their computers in coordination with their embroidery machine.  The goal of my blog is help fellow machine embroidery enthusiasts get more out of their computers and embroidery machines while minimizing the stress and frustration. 

My background is in computers.  I’ve worked in technical support, as a systems engineer, and as a software product manager.  I’ve trained technical and non-technical users.  I promise not to talk over anyone’s head with a bunch of techie terms.  I also promise not to be condescending.  We all start at the beginning.

February 8, 2011

First Things First

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:51 pm by Carol D.

Let’s start at the beginning. I’ll explain some basic terms. The computer is composed of several parts. The actual “computer” is really the CPU or central processing unit. This is the brains of your computer. It does all the work. In addition to the CPU, the computer has memory. The memory on your computer is like a note pad. The CPU stores things in memory it’s currently using. When the CPU is done with an item in memory it clears that page and makes it available for new notes. Information that needs to be retained long-term is saved on the system’s hard drive. The hard drive is designated by a letter. The main hard drive in a computer is called the “C” drive. In the old days computers used to come with two floppy drives in addition to the hard drive. Those drives were given the letters “A” and “B” and the hard drive was given the next available letter of “C”. Depending on the make up your particular machine you may also have “D”, “E” and “F” drives (or more) for additional hardware such as CD players, DVD players, etc.

For our purposes it doesn’t really matter what type of CPU you have or how much memory you have. Just remember more is better. More gigahertz means the CPU thinks faster. More megabytes of memory means you can run more applications faster. Larger hard drives allow you to store more data be that documents, photos or music.

As for operating systems, in the PC world (non-Apple) anything from XP to Windows 7 will be covered in this blog. I’ll do my best to cover the differences when describing features. Windows operating systems have been around a long time. By now most software manufacturers follow the Microsoft guidelines when creating computer programs. Keyboard shortcuts are consistent from application to application. The applies to menu options as well. Understand some basic menu layout and keyboard short cuts and you’ll be able to apply that knowledge to almost any Windows-based program. Do you know the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-esc (hold the Control key down like a shift key and press the escape key)? This pops up the Start menu without having to reach for the mouse.  Take a look at some of the drop down menus on your favorite software applications.  Notice the cntl+ entries (could be other keystroke combos as well) to the right on the drop down.  Those are the keyboard shortcuts for the commands on that particular menu.  Try a few and see if they don’t save you some time and wrist stress.  You don’t always need to reach for the mouse.


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