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ALAN ZISMAN ON TECHNOLOGY
Got Windows 10? You don't need to invest in expensive photo editing software to adjust colours in the scans of your old photos
By Alan Zisman © 2020-04-14
Another tech support question...
Suzanne has lots of albums full of photos. She wants to digitize them - and then she wants to correct the colours of her pix - with age, the photos have faded, and typically, as photos fade, the colours shift, becoming more yellow.
She talked about this problem with a retailer, who was suggested that the industry standard, Adobe Photoshop was too expensive and too complex for her needs (true!) and pointed her to Adobe Lightroom instead. Adobe wants users to get either of these applications by subscription - starting at $10 a month. (Yes, you can get a 7-day free trial). I suggested to Suzanne that Lightroom may also be more complex than she wants to tackle.
There are lots of alternatives, both lower-cost and free - some (such as free (Windows, Mac, Linux) GIMP) powerful and complex. I've been using the free (Windows only) Irfanview for years and years, and its Image/Color Correction option would let Suzanne do what she needs - but again, while far simpler than, say, Photoshop, Lightroom, or GIMP, there are just too many options - in Irfanview, organized in old school menus - for many people to feel comfortable with.
These are far from the only options. A search for 'image editor free' claimed to give me 140 million hits! (I didn't verify the results). Image editing software for Windows, for Mac, for iPhone, iPad, and Android. Online image editing - if you have photos in Cloud storage with Google Photos (my recommendation), Flickr, or more, you can perform basic editing like colour correction right there in the cloud.
But Suzanne is using Windows 10 on her laptop - the computer where she plans to save her scans. And that means that she already has software on her computer that will let her do what she wants, with a relatively simple to use interface. So why not give it a try?
Windows Photos is one of the set of apps that is included by Microsoft in every Windows 10 installation (Windows 7 users need not apply). Like several of the others, it's relatively low-powered, but perfectly functional for basic uses - in this case, displaying users' on-computer image libraries and allowing users to perform some basic image editing - crop, rotation, colour correction and more.....
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Don't know how to setup Skype on your Mac?
By Alan Zisman © 2010-04-10
A friend of mine - let's call him Gary - was wanting Skype on his Mac, and not sure how to go about it. These days, with folks staying at home, video calling is a popular way to keep in touch with friends and family. Apple's Facetime is popular - but it's limited to people using Apple products - Macs, iPhones, iPads. Want to connect to a Windows or Android user? Too bad.
Zoom has gotten a lot of attention recently - it's free and cross platform and relatively easy to get up and running, but more recently, it's gotten a lot of flack for privacy concerns. It uses an online meeting metaphor - even if you want to just video-chat with one other person.
(See 6 Popular Video Conferencing Tools Compared).
Anyway, Gary wanted Skype - which has some advantages - it's free and available on all sorts of platforms. it comes from Microsoft, so it has a real company backing it up - with a business model that doesn't rely on selling your personal details. And it uses a phone-call metaphor, perhaps more familiar than setting up a meeting.
Skype's been around for a long time, allowing voice and video calls to other Skype users (on computer, smartphone, or tablet) for free, while encouraging users to send them a bit of money that can be spent connecting to phone services - locally or long-distance - for inexpensive long-distance phoning to people who don't have computers (or aren't Skype users). There are lots of options now - but when Skype was new (it was first released in 2003 and peaked with 660 million users in 2010), it was a big deal.
So let's get Gary started:
Go to https://skype.com and download the installer:
If you're wanting it on an iPhone/iPad/Android device, the website will point you to your appropriate app store. Mac (or Windows users) just click on the blue Get Skype button to download the installer appropriate for your laptop or desktop computer.
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So you think you want to buy an accordion pt 2 - Checking the accordion
By Alan Zisman © 2020-03-01
So you want to get an accordion.
Hopefully you've already looked at Part 1 of this blog and have decided what sort of accordion you want, and now know a little bit about the differences between low-end, mid-range, and high-end accordions.
And you've checked your local online second hand listings site - perhaps Craigslist, perhaps Kijiji, or other.... or perhaps you're in a local pawn shop or music store that has some accordions. Or you're at a garage sale or an estate sale. Or anywhere where you can get your hands on an accordion - whether you've ever played accordion or not.
How can you tell if an accordion's worth buying? Or if you should just walk away?
I'm assuming you're wanting to know if an accordion's playable or if it needs expensive work to make it playable. If you just want something cool and vintage to put on display, that's entirely up to your tastes.
And only you can decide if this playable accordion is the right choice for the musical style(s) you want to play - though Part 1of this blog can help you see what sorts of accordions are commonly used in what sorts of musical styles. And only you can decide whether any given accordion is too heavy or large for you to work with comfortably. (Don't give up to soon - you can learn to work with an accordion that seems to heavy right now. Within limits).
So you've got an accordion in your hands right now. I'm going to assume you haven't played one before - if you have, you can roll your eyes but still do all these tests.
First things first:
-- the keys go on the right side. (You laugh - but I know two people who started out playing with the keys on the left, and not knowing that it felt awkward for a reason).
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So you think you want to buy an accordion
pt 1: Types of Accordions
By Alan Zisman © 2020-02-28
Deidre posted in a Facebook accordion group: I'm in the US, & looking to learn accordion. I play piano, organ & guitar, but have NO exp w/accordion. Any advice, plz? I want to buy but want to be wise in the process. Thank you all!
I replied... here's what I said with some elaboration (and images)... there's a broader range of types, models, and styles of accordions than most non-accordion players think and it's easy to end up with something that isn't what you really want. Many accordions are very ornate and novice buyers get 'seduced' by a pretty appearance and end up buying something that's actually not in very good playing condition ; repairs are expensive (and technicians can be hard to find) and older models - even in good shape - can be musically limited.
1) Don't be in a hurry to buy...
2) Don't buy online or without trying - unless you know what you want and can see/hear it being played. Philadelphia's Liberty Bellows for instance, posts video clips of each of their used models being played and discussed, which can be a valuable tool to see and hear the differences in various models
(Liberty Bellows also has a very good set of online lesson videos, covering a wide range of musical styles. Great resource!).
3) Store prices are higher than person-to-person 2nd hand prices, but have the possibility of a warranty or return. Hopefully you'll be assured that the accordion is in good condition.
4) New instrument prices can be very high - lovely new models from Italian accordion factories can easily cost €4000-10000. By comparison, there are lots of used accordions listed on my local (Vancouver, BC, Canada) Craigslist around CDN$300 (US$250 or so).....
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Eating gelato in Italy
By Alan Zisman © 2019-07-03
Like pizza, gelato is one of Italy's treasures that now can be found worldwide. But - also like pizza - it's best experienced in Italy. In Italy, gelato is an affordable treat - and one of the few things, in a culture where coffee bars don't offer cups to take out, that you can eat while you walk down the street.
While it might seem that there's a gelato shop on every block in every town, not all gelato in Italy is created equal. There are some things to look for to help you get the best gelato.
Even though Google Translate will tell you that 'gelato' is Italian for 'ice cream', that's not quite correct. Unlike North American-style ice cream, gelato is made with milk, not cream, so it's got much less fat. And slower churning means less air in the mix - though we'll see that there are exceptions to this. But at its best, gelato is denser than ice cream and it's typically at a somewhat higher temperature - both of these result in more intense flavours.
Unlike many Italian food and drink varieties, though, there's no regulation governing what can be sold as gelato. So - especially in popular tourist strips - there will be no shortage of shops featuring poor-quality, but eye-catching gelato.
First, look for a shop that claims its gelato is 'artigianale' - the same word is used to indicate craft beer. It's meant to suggest small batch, locally-made gelato as opposed to mass-produced factory-made stuff. This is not, however, fool-proof - while food names like 'parmeggiano' or 'prosciutto' are strictly defined, there are no regulations governing what can be called gelato artigianale. If you see 'fatto in casa', that will tell you the gelato is 'home-made' - made in the shop, rather than trucked in.
Next, take a look at the display counter. Here's a stock photo:
And here's a photo taken at the counter at Spoleto's prize-winning Gelateria Crispini:
Notice any differences?....
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How to Install an SSL Certificate on a WordPress Site
First of all, what exactly is an SSL Certificate? SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and this digital certificate authenticates the identity of your website, and in turn encrypts all the information being sent to the server using SSL technology.
Having this certificate serves as a type of electronic passport, which in turn establishes your credentials while doing business on the Internet.
Each SSL certificate is made up of the following information:
● The name of the certificate holder.
● The serial number and expiration date of the certificate.
● A copy of the certificate holder’s public key.
● The digital signature of the authority who has issued the certificate
Having this certificate certifies that there is a secure channel between point A and point B on the Internet.
So you want to have an SSL certificate for your WordPress site. Since all of the above may be nonsensical to you, here are the reasons why you should have the certificate. If you have an eCommerce site, you will need to have this certificate before you can accept any form of payment.
If you have any password-protected pages on your website, you also want to know that this is protected by an SSL certificate.
What if you don’t buy and sell anything on your website, but you do collect sensitive information from your visitors? With an SSL certificate, all information is encrypted and secure.How else can you secure your website?
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You want to print a page? It's not as easy as it used to be
By Alan Zisman © 2019-03-06
Okay, so maybe when you were young your parents or grandparents talked about how much harder it was when they were your age - how they had to walk 5 miles every morning to get to school without complaining about the rain or snow. Or.....
Well, when I got my first personal computer, in 1988, most programs (i.e. apps) ran from a DOS command line - you had to know what to type to get them started. And each had its own set of non-discoverable commands to do common functions like print or even quit the program. In the popular Word Perfect word processor, you pressed the F7 key to quit the program, while pressing Shift+F7 opened the Print dialog.
In the popular Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet, pressing the 'slash' (/) key displayed a list of potential commands. Nothing in common with Word Perfect.
Microsoft Windows had been around since late 1985 and promised that - like the Mac, released the previous year - you would only have to learn how to do a task once and it would work the same way in every program. Every program designed for Windows, that is - and there weren't a lot of those. It wouldn't be until Windows 95 was released that Windows became really popular.
But for a while, say the decade after the release of Windows 95, it seemed like you really did only have to learn how to do something once, in one program, and you could do it the same way in any program.
Software designed for Windows had pretty much replaced DOS-mode programs - Microsoft's Office suite, with its Word word processor and Excel spreadsheet had become pretty standard, with both Windows and Mac versions. If you were part of the minority using Windows versions of Word Perfect or Lotus 1-2-3 you could use those 'classic' commands that had been drilled into your memory. But you could also use the same point and click commands that worked in Word and Excel and so many other programs: To print, click the word File in the menu bar, then Print in the drop-down menu.You'd get a similar Print dialog box in whatever program you were using.
To close the program, click File, then Exit. (Or Quit if using a Mac). Having a common user interface made it easier for people to become comfortable trying out lots of different programs.
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'Your system files are automatically deleted'. Should I worry?
By Alan Zisman © 2019-02-17
The other day, a scary message popped up in my web browser.
In order to figure out whether I should be worried or not, let's back up a few steps. What was I doing online at the time?....
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© 2018-10-24Few of today’s advancements would be here without the marvellous natural phenomena that drive them. It is precisely one of these wonders - light, that is the subject of this post. Here are five grand things that people did in celebration of light.
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What is a VPN?
In simple terms, a VPN (Virtual Private Network) assigns you a different IP address by allowing you to connect to one of its provider's servers. Your identity is hidden and you're protected from the spying eyes of hackers, government organizations, and ISPs and dangers such as cyber crime.
Benefits of using a VPN
All traffic communication between you and the VPN server is highly encrypted through cutting-edge security and encryption software so that all your sensitive data such as passwords or credit card details are kept under wraps and protected from any malicious software. Through a VPN you're in full control of your online activities, you're protected against intrusive surveillance of any ISPs, hackers can't tap in and intercept any data and you can bypass any censorships.
To help you decide which VPN is best for you we've rounded up the top 5 VPNs providing ultimate
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Getting around Italy by Train
By Alan Zisman © 2018-09-18
We love Italy and go there whenever we can - though it's more of a ordeal getting there from the West Coast of Canada than, say, the UK. We just got back from our 10th trip this week. Much to the surprise of some folks we know, though, we've never rented a car - when we're there, we get around on foot much of the time, and when that won't work, we go by train.
The Italian train system goes to all the big cities and most of the small towns. (Not all of them - once in a while we have to take a bus. But not usually). And train service is reasonably comfortable, reasonably quick, and reasonably inexpensive - about half the cost of comparable British service, for instance.
There are some quirks - magnified by language, though the Italian train system tried to offer its services in English alongside Italian.
A few things to know to get started - most of the trains are part of a nationalized country-wide network run by Gruppo Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane under the name Trenitalia. There is some competition from ItaliaRail - but they only operate between major cities. There are some local, independent rail lines, like the Circumversuviana line that goes between Naples and Sorrento, with stops including Pompeii. But most of the time, you'll be dealing with Trenitalia - and that's what I'm going to focus on.
Trenitalia offers three levels of trains: Regionale trains are the local trains - they run, mostly within a single region, as the name suggests - stopping at many small stations along the way. Slowest, due to the frequent stops, but also the least expensive option. No reserved seats. You can buy first class or second class tickets - first class has 3 seats in a row, second class has 4 seats in a row, but otherwise there's not much difference. (Not all trains have first class seating available).
Intercity trains make fewer stops at small stations - making for a faster run at a higher price. Generally, tickets include reserved seating on these trains.
'Freccia' trains (Italian for 'arrow') offer the fastest service - only available between major cities. You pay extra for the extra speed. For instance, you can travel from downtown Rome to Venice in 3 hours and 45 minutes on a Frecciargento ('Silver Arrow') or Frecciarossa ('Red Arrow') for €50-75. Or you could take 11 hours (including 2 changes) on a series of Regionale trains for €42. Or 6 hours on an Intercity train for €57. I know which I would choose!
You can book trips online and in advance - I'm told that tickets can be discounted if bought online and in advance (and also if you purchase round-trip tickets). I've rarely done this - My travel plans are rarely so carefully organized that I want to commit to a specific train long in advance. (You may be otherwise). However, I do find Trenitalia's online scheduling information very useful and refer to it often - both before travelling and while I'm in Italy. It lets me know if there is train service where I'd like to go - and if so, how often it runs. If there are a couple of trains each hour, then I can be pretty flexible in my planning. If there's just one train in the afternoon and one in the evening, though, I want to make sure I get to the station on time!
Trenitalia's website is available in English: https://ca.trenitalia.it-inter.com/ - you can customize it for your country, prefered currency, and language. New feature (Sept 2018) - you can now enter Italian city names with your choice of the English language name or the Italian name: Rome vs Roma, Florence vs Firenze, Venice vs Venezia, etc. Previously, even if you were using the English language version of the website, you needed to use the Italian version of city names.
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The role of VPN usage in the brave new internet
The popularity of VPN usage is growing in a constant pace. In fact, this piece of software
that was once used by "high tech people" and experts is now a commonplace go-to for all
sorts of users. If you're in China and want to WhatsApp your friends back home, you revert
to VPN. If you are in Russia and want access to non-censored content, you use a VPN. If
you want to download certain files anonymously, you… double click on the HMA! logo on
your desktop. From occasional use to permanent use, there are reportedly hundreds of
millions of people across the world who choose to use a VPN.
Some of the uses for a VPN are not the ones I encourage. If someone is masking his IP
through a VPN because he commits whichever cybercrimes, that's wrong. If someone is
using hacked materials that breach copyrights and stay on the down-low through his VPN,
that is something I would often condemn that. Some of the potential uses of a VPN are positive,
though, at least in my book.
With the end of Net Neutrality era, no one can really feel too safe over the internet. If your
government is in preference of commercial bodies over citizens, you cannot accept them to
do anything but protect themselves. A VPN is a way to protect yourself from several things,
for a very cheap price. Here are some of the risks eliminated or mitigated by usage of a VPN product:
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A few website-building questions
By Alan Zisman © 2018-04-21
I got an email this morning - Steve, of Adirondack Wildlife Refuge & Rehabilitation Center, wrote that he found my 'article on Netscape Composer on line, and found it very informative'. Hehad a pair of questions:
1. When creating links from images or symbols, how do I set up the the link, so that it will open into a new web page, without closing the page the link is set up on?
2. Is there anyway to insert a slideshow or video into a web page?
The Netscape Composer tutorial was one of several tutorials that I'd posted online to help people working with that - and other - free software.
Netscape Composer is way, way out of date. It was replaced by the open
source Kompozer - though even that hasn't be updated since 2010. That
said, I continue to use Kompozer for web page creation - and I'm going
to assume that's what you're wanting advice about. (An interesting article entitled 'Whatever happened to Kompozer.net' is worth a read - note, however, that even though Kompozer is not being actively developed, it still be downloaded, installed, and used - by Windows, Mac, or Linux users).
The trick for the things you're wanting to do is that you need to edit
the actual HTML code - Kompozer doesn't let you do any of those things
in its main 'Normal' (word processor-like) interface. If you look down
at the bottom-left of the Kompozer window you'll see several tabs -
clicking on the 'Source' tab will show you the HTML code for the
HTML code can seem intimidating - and I'm not going to try to teach
you to edit HTML code from scratch. Luckily, most of what you need
will simply require copying and pasting code from other sources....
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You Can Connect Your Android Device to Your PC or Mac - but be prepared for a few 'gotchas'!
By Alan Zisman © 2017-09-25
There are a lot of things I like about Android - the operating system used by the majority of the world's smartphones and tablets. I use both Android and Apple's iOS (and both Windows and Mac computers), and there are a number of things I prefer about Android.
One of them is how users can connect their Android phone or tablet to their Windows or Mac computer using the USB charging cable and transfer photos, music files, movies and documents from their device to their computer or from their computer to their device using the same file management apps and techniques you might use to transfer files to a common USB flash drive.
Apple would prefer you either plug in your iOS device and then use its cumbersome iTunes software or subscribe to its iCloud service and use that as an intermediary between your iOS device and your computer. Either way is awkward.
Transfering files, photos, music, (etc) between your Android device and your computer is simple and straightforward - at least if you're more or less comfortable with file management on your PC or Mac. And it may 'just work' (as Apple fans like to say) for you when you connect your Android device and computer.
In that case, you can skip the next section and jump down to here. Congratulations!
But in most cases, there are a couple of geeky steps you have to do first. The good news is that the first step you'll only have to do once. The bad news is you may have to do the second step every time you plug in your phone.
The First Step - Enable USB Debugging
It seems like Google, Android's developer, assumes that only software developers will ever want to connect their phone or tablet to their PC or Mac. So they make users jump through a few peculiar hoops before their phone is ready to be plugged in.
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Want to play DVD videos in Windows 10? There's an app for that
By Alan Zisman © 2019-09-19
Windows 7 included an app named Windows Media Centre. It played video DVDs - along with other media functions - just fine. Along the way to Windows 10, though, it got dropped with the result that many people with Windows 10 on their computers insert a video disc into their DVD drive and are surprised to find it doesn't work as expected.
I suppose the thinking is that most people are getting their video content from on-line streaming services like Netflix or from YouTube. Nevertheless, lots of use still want to watch a movie from a disc on our computers now and then.
(Many laptops no longer come with built-in DVD drives, especially small and compact 'ultra-book' models. I plug an external USB DVD drive (about $40 at Staples) into my Windows laptop).
Some people may find that DVDs play just fine - some manufactures routinely include a third-party media player on their models. And if you've upgraded your computer from a copy of Windows 7 or 8 that included Windows Media Centre, you'll see a new Windows DVD Player app installed.
If you don't have the Windows DVD Player app in your installation of Windows 10, Micrsoft is happy to sell you a copy for US$15 from the Windows Store - that suitcase icon on the bottom taskbar. It's bare-bones but it works. At least a lot of the time. (Note - it doesn't play Blu-Ray discs).
There's a better - and free - solution, however. My recommendation: go directly to VideoLAN's free VLC Media Player. Note however, that there's a Windows Store version which doesn't play DVD or Blu-Ray discs. Don't get that one. Instead, download and install the 'classic Windows' version from VideoLAN's website.
VLC Media Player plays a huge variety of media file types and discs - audio and video. It can save streaming music and movies, and convert between file types. As a result, it has a lot of options and can look confusing. Here's how to make it work quickly and easily when you insert a movie on disc.
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Can a $50 tablet be any good?
- I get an Amazon Fire HD 8 on sale
By Alan Zisman © 2017-07-28
When Apple announced its original iPad in 2010, it was yuge! The next big thing. Proof that we were now in a post-PC age. Maybe you were slow to get a smartphone, but you could still prove your cool by being early to jump on the tablet bandwagon.
(Embarassing admission - I bought a 1st-generation iPad the weekend they became available - paying CDN$1066 for the most expensive model - 64 GB of storage/WiFi+cellular data and a keyboard. It was also the only model still in stock on Day 2 of availability. Was I cool, or what?)
No surprise, various Android-powered tablets soon came to market, though none have been mega best-sellers. Fairly soon, smaller tablets, with 7 or 8 inch screens, joined the original 10 inch models. More recently, Apple began to sell an 12 inch 'iPad Pro' model.
But after initial success, tablet sales have slumped. Vendors have been disappointed to discover that tablet buyers seem content to hold onto to older models longer than smartphone users, who've tended to get a new phone every two or three years. That iPad 2 you bought in 2013 is still working just fine, thanks.
And the recent popularity of larger-screen smartphones (first Android, belatedly iPhone as well) has pretty flatlined the market for 7 and 8" tablets - Apple, for instance, seems to have stopped updating its 8" iPad Mini line, suggesting it's only a matter of time before it stops selling these models.
As for me, I replaced my original iPad with an iPad 3 a few years later. Half the storage and no cellular data, but a lot less expensive than what it replaced - especially since I bought it second-hand. My generation one model was - like lots of first generation technology - slow and no longer supported by new operating system and software versions.
But I found I wasn't using the replacement iPad that much - instead, I was reaching for my laptop. It was more powerful and let me do things - like creating this blog post - that I couldn't do easily - or some cases at all - on a tablet....
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Okay, not exactly a blog posting, but I've been offering a series of technology workshops at Vancouver's Brock House - each with a webpage summary + links that others may find useful:
-- Introduction to Android
-- Introduction to Windows 10
-- Files and Folders and Drives (Oh My!) - an introduction to file management
-- Introduction to Digital Photography
-- Introduction to Facebook
-- Introduction to digital security for Windows users
-- Better Travelling With Technology
-- Using the Internet better - email
-- Using the Internet better - the Web
- Older blog postings....