Welcome to the MMU "Technology FAQ" blog. Use the search bar to look for answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

eMail eric.hall@cesuvt.org with questions or suggestions for this blog.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How do I post handouts on the web?

One of the simplest methods to distribute handouts electronically is though a class web page. If you want students to be able to view or download/print your handouts outside of class, they can be converted into Google Docs (essentially making them web pages) and linked from a class web page.

1) Log in to your Google Docs account and click "Upload," then browse for the file you wish to upload. It is recommended that you click the box for "Convert documents... to Google Docs format." Now click "Start Upload"

2) Click "Back to Google Docs", open the Google Doc and click on "Share" (upper right) and c"change" the document from Private to "Public on the web." Click Save, and Close.

3) Copy the document URL (actual web address)

4) Open up the web page you wish to link from and click "Edit"

5) Type the name of the handout where you want the link to be (this will become the link), then highlight it and choose "Link" from the editing toolbar. Click on "Web address" and paste in the copied URL. In most cases you will also want to check the box to "Open this link in a new window." Click OK and save your web page.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How big is my file?

Sometimes it is important to know how large a file is, particularly when you are working with pictures, video or music files (often large files).

Windows: right-click and choose "Properties."

Mac: right-click or ctrl-click and choose "Get Info" or simply select the file and use CMD-I.

Sizes are in KB or MB (=1000KB). Emailing anything larger than 3MB is not recommended, and 500KB or less is good for inserting images into documents or web pages.

Resizing Images

The proliferation of high resolution digital cameras and scanners has begun to cause issues when people try to put these HUGE images into documents, on the web or send them via email. Unfortunately the camera industry is pushing us to use much higher quality images than most of us need!

Suggestion#1: Know how big your images are! Windows: right-click and choose "Properties." Mac: right-click or ctrl-click and choose "Get Info" or simply select the file and use CMD-I. Sizes are in KB or MB (=1000KB). Emailing anything larger than 3MB is not recommended, and 500KB or less is good for inserting images into documents or web pages.

Suggestion #2: If you only intend to use your images on the computer (in documents, on the web or in presentations) I recommend turning the resolution DOWN to 3.2Mpx. This still gives you a decent quality image (will still print fine in 8x10) with a  manageable file size. True: Zooming in to choose just a small portion of your picture will result in degraded quality.

Suggestion #3: Learn how to resize your images.

Windows: Our school computers have the "Image Resizer Powertool" installed. This is a free tool available from Microsoft (Google it for the link). Once installed, you can right-click on an image and choose "Resize Pictures," then choose from a list of sizes (small, medium, large). This will create a COPY of your image with the size added to the filename. You can also select multiple images and resize them all at once.

Mac: The Preview program has the capability to reduce the quality of images. Open the file and choose "Save As," then rename the file (so the original is preserved) and move the quality slider to the left. Unfortunately this only works for single images.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

How do I change my desktop background?

Each year when we update computers I receive questions about changing desktop backgrounds. Here it is! If you want to have a specific picture as your background, you must have the JPG file available - higher resolution is better, as pictures get fuzzier when they are enlarged.

Mac Users:

Apple Menu --> System Preferences --> Desktop & Screen Saver

You can choose from Apple's backgrounds or click the "+" underneath the list to add your own photo to the list, or choose from your iPhoto library.

Windows Users:

Right-click on the desktop and choose "Properties," then click the "Desktop" tab. Choose from the list or click "Browse" to find your own saved photo.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

About Macs and Projectors

Several times recently I have received calls or messages about projectors not displaying properly when connected to iMacs, or the iMac display changing when a projector is connected. The solution is to adjust the display settings so that the two displays "match" resolutions.

Although the iMacs are pretty good at automatically sensing a projector when it is connected, sometimes they do not do this properly or may not detect the projector at all if it is connected or disconnected with the Mac asleep.

1) On all of our school Macs you should see the Displays icon (looks like a monitor) in the menu bar (upper-right) in Finder. If your resolution has been reduced you may need to minimize/hide programs in order to see it. The first thing to try if you are not getting a correct image is to choose "detect displays" from this menu. This will force the Mac to check what is connected.

2) The second item in the Displays menu should say "mirroring on. " Mirroring means showing the same thing on screen and projector. Mirroring OFF will give you a spanned display: Think of an ultra-wide display showing across two monitors side-by-side, with the projector showing the right-hand monitor. There are times when this might be useful, like if you wanted to work on something on your screen while showing students a short video or website on the projector. If you ever see just your desktop background on the projector, it is likely that mirroring is off.

3) Sometimes connecting a projector will "dumb down" the iMac display, making everything larger or showing you a narrower screen. To fix this, start by changing “number of recent items” in the Displays menu to 5 (default is 3.) Next, scroll down the Displays menu to the lower section (iMac Display) and choose "1280 x 800." This is the point at which the two displays "match" and show a good image on both.

What makes this whole thing a challenge is that the proportions are different: our projectors are designed for 4:3 and the iMacs are 16:9. This is also why Windows computers do not have these issues, since they are designed for 4:3 display.

The iPhoto library

Most people find the iPhoto and iTunes applications an easy way to view organize pictures and music, and iPhoto has great slideshow, printing and editing features as well. One drawback of both programs, however, is that they "hide" your files from you, making them difficult to find or manage on your own. Because both programs use a database to help organize your files there can also be times when the program "loses" your files, making you think all is lost.

So where ARE your picture and music files? iPhoto stores everything in the iPhoto library, located in the Home --> Pictures folder. Although this looks like a single file, ctrl-clicking on it and choosing "show package contents" will show you a folder that includes many database files and a folder called "originals" that has your actual JPEG images. This understanding can be particularly helpful if your database becomes corrupted: you can pull out the "originals" folder, rename or delete the iPhoto Library and re-import them.

iTunes works in a very similar way, however the "iTunes Music" folder containing all of your actual files is not hidden: it is located in Home --> Music --> iTunes.

Monday, June 7, 2010

How do I back up my Bookmarks?

Firefox bookmarks "live" on one computer, but can be backed up any time and moved to other computers as needed. This process is recommended in preparation for summer computer maintenance, during which all information will be erased.

1) In Firefox, choose "Show All Bookmarks" from the Bookmarks menu (in older versions this might be "Organize Bookmarks")

2) Click the star icon at the top of the Bookmarks window (Mac) or the "Import and Backup" drop-down (Windows) and choose "Backup." Save the file to a network location for future use.

To restore your bookmarks to another computer, follow the same process but choose "Restore" instead of "Backup," then browse to the saved file.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Where can I find video online?

Here is a brief summary of options for finding and viewing video from the web:

1) Both schools subscribe to Discovery Streaming service, which has thousands of titles that can be viewed by chapter. Signing up for an account is quick and easy - please contact myself, Jen or Nancy for information and assistance.

2) YouTube is a good source for some content, but the page includes other distracting (and occasionally inappropriate) content. For a cleaner page and teacher-selected resources (many of which are on YouTube as well) visit teachertube.com. Another way to avoid extraneous content in YouTube is to use safeshare.tv, which puts a "mask" around the YouTube video as well as allowing you to crop it. Copy the URL of a youtube video and paste it in at http://www.safeshare.tv

3) Other content-specific media sites can be found at http://www.wdsdvt.net/medialinks

Regardless of the source, it is possible to download video in advance from most of these sites. This will always be a "sure thing" vs. relying on an Internet stream. All of our teacher computers have the Download Helper plugin loaded into Firefox - click on the spinning, colorful icon to the left of the address bar to see your download options. Most online video is in Flash format (.flv files) and will play on any of our computers in VLC player. PLEASE do not save video into your network folder: keep them on your computer or use the Media Storage folders on our networks.

As always, please contact Eric with questions or for assistance with any of these sites or applications.