The Ultimate Portable Document

In this post we’re going to show you how to create a document that you can open on virtually any modern device with no special software. Since this document we’re going to create can be read on a phone, laptop, tablet or PC, etc., we are describing it as portable. While you can use it very easily on any of your devices, you will also be able to send it to any of your friends or relatives anywhere in the world and they will be able to open it also. Cool huh?

You may think that a PDF or a text file is universal, they aren’t. While Windows can open a plain text file by itself, it can’t open a PDF file without additional software. Your mobile device certainly can’t open a PDF file by itself and it probably can’t open a text file without some form of reader. That’s the problem we encountered when we were using our Blackberry Playbook. All of our password files were in ‘txt’ format, text files in other words. The Playbook, along with any Blackberry device, doesn’t have a default text reader.

What’s the magic bullet here? You’re looking at it right now, more or less. Every device that we can think of has a web browser built into it right from the factory. What kind of file does a browser open? A simple ‘htm or html’ file. That’s what we’re going to create today. If this sounds difficult, it’s not. We’re Computers Made Simple, remember, not Computers Made Complicated. Here we go:

1. To create or edit your new document, you’ll probably have to use your PC or laptop. Why? Because every Windows computer since time began has included the free Notepad accessory. It hasn’t changed much over the years, thankfully. On Windows 8, Microsoft has even put the icon/shortcut for Notepad down on your taskbar. It’s the one that looks like a blue scratchpad.

2. Open Notepad. You’ll see a blank white space with a cursor blinking up on the top left.

3. Highlight the following text, right click and choose Copy. Go back to Notepad, right click anywhere in the white area and choose Paste. This is the text that you will copy and then paste into Notepad:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html>
<body>
This is a truly portable document. Put your words in here, below the first body above and above the second body below.

</body>

</html>

4.  Either press the Control key and s at the same time or click on file and choose ‘save’. A Windows menu will open. Down at the bottom of the menu you’ll see the words ‘Save as type’.  Click on the far right of Text Documents (*.txt), you’ll see a little arrow icon there. Another choice, All Files, will pop down.

Photo of Save Menu
Make sure All Files is showing then make up a name for your new portable document.

5. Click on All Files and in the little box above it type ‘document.htm’ or ‘document.html’. The last three or four letters after the period could be htm or html, it doesn’t matter.  The name of the file doesn’t matter either, just make sure you put a period after the name you choose as well as either htm or html.

6. Click Save and you’re done. Remember where you’ve saved this file, find it and double click on it. Your default browser will open and this is what you’ll see:

Photo of basic html document
Note the the brackets and spare words are missing. Your browser knows to only show the words between the brackets.

7. Once you have the html/htm file saved, you can edit it in Notepad. Anything you type into it has to be between the opening ‘body’ and the closing ‘body’, right where ‘This is a truly portable document’ is now. Essentially, you can use this as a seed for any future portable documents that you might want to make.

Text files, and that’s basically what this is, are small. That’s the second advantage to all of this. A document created in Word is substantially larger than one created in Notepad. Whether it’s an .htm/.html file or a .txt file, it will be as small as a file can be. On a flash drive or a cell phone, it won’t take up much room at all.

Once you’ve written everything you want in the document, you can email it to yourself and retrieve it on any device that you’ve got linked to your email account. When you want to open it, your device will know what it is and automatically open it in your browser, no matter if you’re using Windows, Android or iOS or, in some cases, a Blackberry tablet or phone. Nothing special needs to be installed, just click and choose Open.

TIP: At this point, you will only be able to put words into this document, not photos or videos. These things can be put into an .html document of course, but we’re only talking about text here, words not pictures. They make things substantially more complicated.

There is one more step to all of this if you want to use a foreign language, in other words something other than English letters and numbers. We’ll get to that in our next post. Stay tuned!

That’s it for today, thanks for reading! Comments and questions are welcome but  Likes on our Facebook page get immediate attention.  Here’s the link: Computers Made Simple on Facebook 

 

 

 

VHS to DVD – A hands-free solution

VHS ruled the home entertainment world for about two decades, from around 1980 up till 2000 or so. The switch from analog tape to digital video discs (DVDs) happened rapidly. Unfortunately many of us were left with hundreds of hours of VHS tapes, usually sitting in boxes in storage.

Getting the information from those tapes used to be a very laborious process. The tapes are analog as we said earlier. Analog data can only be transferred in real time, there are no files that can be copied and pasted as there are with digital data.

We’ve written about VHS transfers before.  Here is a link to our original solution: Archive VHS Tapes  Unfortunately the process listed in that post is very hands-on. We’ve recently found a simpler, somewhat faster answer to the analog to digital problem. Yes, the process is still done in real-time but it’s pretty much hands-free.

The Toshiba DVR630: 

Photo of DVD630
This is the front view of the DVR630. Tape player/recorder on the left, DVD player/recorder on the right.

Priced around $200.00, the DVR630 is one of very few DVD recorders that has a VHS tape player built into it. Memorex has one also, we hear it’s the same unit as the Toshiba, and there may be others. We chose the Toshiba based on the name and the online reviews.

The beauty of this particular machine is that it has an HDMI out port. Why is that important? This means that you can hook it up to your new HDTV with only one cable. The VHS image you’ll see on your screen certainly isn’t High Def but it’s as good as you can possibly get plus there’s only one cable to hook up. Most HDTVs have more than one HDMI port. If yours doesn’t have enough, you can buy an HDMI splitter for less than ten dollars. Here are the ports on the back:

Photo of back of DVR630
The HDMI out is on the upper left side. Quick and easy; sound and picture all in one cable.

Transferring VHS tapes is a bit confusing to set up but once you’ve done it once, it’s basically a two second job the next time. Here are some of the steps you need to perform:

1. VHS to DVD or DVD to VHS? Yes, you can go both ways but VHS to DVD is the norm.

2. Quality of the recording. You can jam 8 hours of VHS tape on a DVD or just 2. Obviously the quality is better on the latter setting.

3. Once the recording has been completed, you must finalize the DVD before you can view it on another DVD player or on your computer. That process takes less than two minutes.

TIP: To save yourself time, record all of your tapes at the lowest quality, highest time per DVD setting. Why? Because once you get the data off of the VHS tape, you can scan it quickly on your computer or standalone DVD player. If you find something that you’d like to save in higher quality, you can re-record it later. Running through a VHS tape from start to finish takes a long time, even on fast-forward. The process is much faster on a DVD.

If you have a large number of VHS tapes, the whole recording process will take a month or more, broken up into six hour stretches. The beauty of the DVR630, aside from its HDMI out port, is that it stops recording once it has sensed that there is no image data for three seconds. If the VHS tape runs out, the DVD recording stops. All you have to do then is to finalize the DVD, switch the VHS tape to a new and insert a blank DVD and start over again. Let it run overnight, you can’t hurt anything by doing so.

That’s it for today, thanks for reading! Comments and questions are welcome but  Likes on our Facebook page get immediate attention.  Here’s the link: Computers Made Simple on Facebook 

 

WordPress – Lock down your site in two easy steps.

If you are one of the millions of people using WordPress on your website, here are two simple ways to make your installation more secure. One involves a plugin, the other is just common sense.

TIP: If you don’t know who is trying to get into your WordPress site, you’re in for a big surprise. Small or large, your site is most likely under attack from hackers 24/7.

Step 1: 

By default, every WordPress has a user account under the name of ‘admin’. Your job is to get rid of that account entirely. Here are the steps you need to go through in order to do that.

1. You can’t remove the admin account until you create another account with admin privileges. That’s rule number one.

2. When you create another user, use a unique username that cannot be guessed by someone trying to log in to your site. In other words, create a username that has nothing to do with your name, your site’s name or the name of anyone who writes for the site. If all the site’s posts are by Francis and Francis is also the username of the admin account, a hacker has 50% of the information needed to get into your site.

3. Once you create a new user with admin privileges, delete the old admin username.

TIP: If the old admin had posts written under ‘admin’, make sure you rename the author of those posts before you delete the account or the posts might be lost forever. You can do that from the All Posts menu by choosing all posts by admin then selecting Edit under Bulk Actions then switching author to another username.

Step 2: 

Download the WordFence plugin from Plugins, New. We’re not affiliated with  WordFence but we’re very glad that it’s around. The fact that it’s free, at least in it’s basic form, is good too.  Install WordFence, sign up for notices using an email that you check daily and you’re pretty much home free.

Photo of WordFence logo.
WordFence is free, simple to use and it will send notices to you every time someone logs in or is locked out.

Just so you know, we had some security concerns recently. Because of these concerns we went on a search for plugins that would help us lock down our site. WordFence came out on top. It’s free, too. There is a premium version but we find that the free one works fine for us.

Just after we installed WordFence, we received an email that someone had tried to log in to this site. How many times did they try? Twenty. After that WordFence blocked them. Since then, we’ve installed WordFence on every site we own. We’ve also limited the number of unsuccessful log in attempts to four, a reasonable number.

Protect your website now, before you lose it. It is possible for someone to gain control of your WordPress installation, locking you out in the process.

That’s it for today, thanks for reading! Comments and questions are welcome but  Likes on our Facebook page get immediate attention.  Here’s the link: Computers Made Simple on Facebook 

 

Dress Up Your Desktop – Safely!

Did you know that Microsoft offers many different desktop motifs that you can use to change the look of your desktop? Did you know that these themes are free? Well they are. Read on.

TIP TIP TIP (Read carefully): Only download themes and wallpaper from well-known and trusted sites. Many malware sites advertise ‘free wallpaper’ but what you are actually downloading is much more than a simple photo. The download installs malware on your computer which is difficult or impossible to remove. You’ve been warned.

Commonly known as ‘wallpaper’,  there are many different kinds of profiles that you can use to dressup the look of your desktop. These profiles go one step beyond simple wallpaper. Some of them change the way your program windows look, others change your cursor while others can change the default notification sounds. Here’s how to get them:

1. Right click anywhere on your desktop and choose Personalize.

Photo of Windows Personalize menu
Here are all of your installed themes. If you need more, click ‘Get more themes online’.

2. In the window that opens, look through the standard profiles that are already installed on your computer. If none of them seem interesting, look for the words ‘Get more themes online’.

3. A new window on the Microsoft website will show up in your browser which will list many different themes, more than you can possibly use. They’re all free and totally safe to download and install.

4. Use the menu on the left side of the Microsoft page, find some interesting ones then click download. Once the file has downloaded, click on it and the theme will install itself automatically.

Photo of Themes Online
There are many different themes here. We’re sure you’ll be able to find some that will interest you.

5. Once the theme has been installed, it will appear in the original menu, the one you get when you choose Personalize when you right click your desktop. Click on any of the ones there and it will automatically replace your current theme.

Tip: Note that some Windows computers with the basic version of Windows 7 cannot use these themes. You cannot use any wallpaper or theme on these computers.

Tip: While you can use any photo as simple wallpaper, these themes are more detailed. They change more than the look of your desktop. If you don’t like the one you’ve got, you can change it. There are lots of choices.

That’s it for today, thanks for reading! Comments and questions are welcome but  Likes on our Facebook page get immediate attention.  Here’s the link: Computers Made Simple on Facebook 

Windows 10 – First Impressions

Interested in Windows 10? Hate Windows 8? We were in the same boat so we  headed over HERE , downloaded the Windows 10 preview and installed it on an older laptop. Wow! Are we glad we did!  Here’s what we think of it so far.

Background: Our older Lenovo laptop gave up the ghost recently. It wouldn’t boot into Windows 7 no matter what we did to try and fix it. Since we’d done a full back-up on it very recently, we decided that it would be the perfect guinea pig for Windows 10.

In the past, Microsoft has warned us against installing a new O/S (operating system) on an older computer. We were very thankful that this wasn’t the case on our older Lenovo. There was never a mention or warning that there might not be enough CPU power or RAM, normally the two main problems when upgrading. Thankfully, Windows 10 installed perfectly and has run smoothly since.

TIP: In order to install Windows 10 from the file that you download from Microsoft, you have to burn the iso file to a DVD. That’s the easiest and simplest way although you can use a flash drive. The flash drive process is more complicated and involves other software so, for now, burn the iso to a DVD using Burnaware, the free software that we recommend highly. (Make sure you get the FREE version, it works perfectly.)

Photo of Windows 10 desktop
See the start button on the left? It’s a window now but it’s there. Phew! Thanks Microsoft!

First Impressions of Windows 10

The biggest and most lasting impression is that Windows 10 is NOT Windows 8. That comforting impression cheers us up every time we start using it. An O/S shouldn’t get in the way of your work. It should run in the background and, simply, allow you to get things done, whether those things are for work or pleasure. No one needs an O/S that tries to be something else. That’s what Windows 8 tried to be. We’re not sure exactly what it was masquerading as but, trust us, it wasn’t pretty.

Windows 10 is much like Windows 7 except it’s faster, faster in just about every way we can think of. Booting up is quick, so quick that we originally thought that we were missing something, that the version we had wasn’t the full one. Turns out we were wrong. Microsoft has somehow managed to streamline the boot process to a level that we haven’t seen in years.

Everything is where it should be. There’s the Start menu, the desktop, familiar icons across the bottom of the screen…it’s all there. No weird looking screen with a jumble of unknown icons blocking your path to productivity. That in itself is very calming. We know that Windows 7 can’t last forever but if we were faced with Windows 8 as the only alternative, we’d nurse Windows 7 along for years. No need to now. Windows 10 is here!

Wait…if you can

If you’re in the market for a new computer, see if you can wait until the public release of Windows 10. This is mainly to save you some money. If you get a laptop or desktop now with Windows 8, you’ll have to spring for a copy of Windows 10 when it comes out. If you can wait until closer to the release date, you can almost always get a very substantial discount on the upgrade. You’ll be offered that discount by Microsoft when you purchase a qualifying PC within weeks of the Windows 10 release date. It’s been that way in the past and we don’t see Microsoft changing this.

If you can’t wait, don’t worry. Virtually any laptop or PC you buy now will run Windows 10. Just make sure you get at least 4 gigs of ram and a dual or quad core CPU. Both of these are pretty much standard now except for the very lowest priced laptops or refurbished PCs. Our Lenovo was over two years old and runs Windows 10 just fine.

Remember that the version of Windows 10 that we have installed is NOT a permanent version of the O/S. It will expire at some point. Because of that, don’t install this on your main computer. Either get another hard drive or use a spare PC/laptop, not your everyday computer. That’s partially because it will expire but also because this is a beta or trial version, not the final retail one. It might crash, taking all of your personal files with it. We’ve found it to be very stable but you never know what might happen in the future.

We loved Windows 7, hated Windows 8 with a passion but, right now anyway, we think that Windows 10 will surpass Windows 7 in popularity. It’s that good. We’ll post more details on it as time goes by.

That’s it for today, thanks for reading! Comments and questions are welcome but  Likes on our Facebook page get immediate attention.  Here’s the link: Computers Made Simple on Facebook 

 

a little bit of hi-tech, a little bit of common sense and a lot of fun