Windows 7 Search

We’ve been using Windows 7 for 9 months now, and Vista for 2 years before that, so the Search feature is second nature to us now, and if you attended any of our Vista seminars, or watched the videos, you know all about Search too.  But, we’ve heard from many people who are just now switching from XP and going to Windows 7.  For all of you, PLEASE learn about the Search feature in Windows 7.  It makes life with the computer SO much easier!

Using XP – i.e. Before Search

  1. You want to use a program called Excel and it doesn’t have an icon on your desktop. In XP you would click on Start, then All Programs, then Microsoft Office, then Excel.  What if you didn’t know that Excel was within Microsoft Office?  You’d just keep hunting and hunting, until, tired and frustrated, you either found the program or gave up?
  2. Another example: let’s say you use an obscure bookkeeping program called Easy Bookkeeper.  You don’t have a desktop icon for it, and you don’t even remember that it is named ‘Easy.’  You have no idea where in ‘All Programs’ it is, but if you hunt long enough, you might find it in All Programs, Easy Software, Easy Bookkeeper.  You’d like to make a desktop icon, but you don’t know how

Enter Vista/Windows 7

Search has now become a way of operating your computer.  You don’t need to know where your programs are, let Vista/Windows 7 find it for you.  All you have to know is the name of the program.

  1. To use Excel, just click on Start (the ‘Orb’ in the lower left.)  You should see that an empty box has opened up directly above the Start button, and your cursor/insertion point is blinking away just waiting for you to type something.  Type Excel.  If Excel is on your computer, you will see it show up at the top of the list.  Now you can just click it, or press Enter if it’s at the top of the list.  Excel is now open and running.search
  2. Now, what about ‘Easy Bookkeeper’?’  Same thing, just click Start and type the name.  If you don’t remember that the name starts with ‘Easy’ you can even type Book and ‘Easy Bookkeeper’ will show up on the list.  Select that, and you’re in business.

A New Interface to Using your Computer

This isn’t just a way to search for something you’ve lost!  This is a new way to use your computer.  You don’t have to find a program and double-click on it.  You just click Start, type the name of the program and press Enter.  If you’ve been using Windows XP and are now getting a new computer with Windows 7 do yourself a favor and learn the new features.  Our video series that was recorded on Windows Vista is applicable to Windows 7 as well.  The big changes came in the upgrade to Vista.  Windows 7 only has minor user interface changes.

Videos to Watch:

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The Best RVing Stories

If you like to read about RVing, have I got a page for you!  Forget about that novel on your bedside table, this will provide you many, many hours of delightful stories.

RV Centennial Stories at RV.net

Did you know that this year marks the 100 year anniversary of RVing?  That’s the theme at The Rally, and there are some vintage RVs here to honor it, the earliest being from 1936!  We’ll take some pictures today and add them here.  And, yes, I had to submit my story as well … actually it’s my parents’ story, since I was only 10 at the time of our first RV trip.

I know I’ve posted this video in the blog before, but I think it bears repeating!  Here’s the video I did about my family’s early RVing days:

And, as long as I’m at it, here’s a little video of our current RV home and how we modified it with our offices: And, here’s a brief overview of where we’ve been in this RV so far: In case you’re wondering, all three of the videos above were created using Photo Story 3 – a free program from Microsoft. We’re teaching a seminar on how to do it (it is SOO easy!) on Sunday here at The Rally.

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New Fulltime RVers ask, “How do we Get Internet on the Road”

Internet on the Road.

Email from Ron, “Hi, We are new-bees and are gearing up to doing fulltiming RVing. We need a wireless service that will do our banking, and pay our bills, we also would like to have the the ability to watch netflix, we need to keep the monthly cost as low as possible but still get all of the above. I was hoping if you can recommend a service with in the $80.00 range  Thanks     Ron

Congratulations on becoming fulltimers!

We got a kick out of the wording of your question.  We too would like a service that would pay our bills and do our banking.

Seriously, all wireless technologies have limits.  We have used all three.  Cellular, Satellite, and WiFi.
Banking and other legitimate money or credit transaction websites have built-in security, so you are safe as long as your computer is clean, up to date, and you are on secure websites.  Look in the address bar for HTTPS:// and the lock icon.

Cellular Connections

A wireless cellular data connection will cost about $60/month.  If you go with a 2 year contract, the cost of the adapter is often free.  We generally recommend Verizon because they have the best overall coverage in the US.  Your choice of carrier may be influenced by where you like to travel.  Most plans will limit you to 5 Gigabytes per month.  A single full length feature film from Netflix is 2 to 3 GB.  If you go over the limit, you will be charged per Megabyte.  That can add up fast.

Satellite Connections

Satellite Internet will cost about $80/month and the initial investment in equipment is pretty steep.  A new automatic system will cost over five thousand dollars, installed.  A new portable or manual tripod system will be over a thousand dollars and cost $60/month.  Service is limited to less than 400 Megabytes of data in a rolling 24 hour period.  Go over that, and your speed will be throttled back drastically.  That is called FAP, or Fair Access Policy.  There is a FAP-free time overnight to allow for large downloads.

Wi-Fi Connections

Wi-Fi is available in many locations and is often free.  No contracts or (usually) download limits.  Speed and reliability are the main issues here.  Your proximity and orientation to the Access Point is very important.  Wi-Fi was never designed to go very far.  External adapters can be purchased for better connectivity.  If the Wi-Fi hotspot is connected to the Internet with a fast connection, you will have good speeds.

Each hotspot is unique with some requiring passwords.  Because it is a shared connection, the number of users on at any one time will affect your Internet experience.  Likewise, the types of activity will affect you.  Most hotspots are fine for casual browsing and email.  High bandwidth activities like streaming movies or VOIP phone calls will slow everyone down.

Safe Travels.
Jim

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Online Medical Records

by Chris Guld, www.GeeksonTour.com

When you live fulltime in an RV, like we do, everything you own is with you, including any medical records.  What happens if you visit a Doctor in Arizona, and lose the written report?  Your medical records will be incomplete, and your regular Doctor in Florida won’t know anything about it.  We try to get a printed report any time we visit a Doctor anywhere.  But, paperwork is a problem in our small home, even though we took out the couch to add filing drawers.

Don’t Count on your Doctor to Maintain your Records

We just spent the entire winter season in our old hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida and considered it a luxury to be able to visit the same Doctors’ office that we did in years passed.  When we returned for a followup visit, we found the doors closed, the phone disconnected and NO information. A new doctor needed some old information and I couldn’t give it to her.

Take a Picture

Without those historical records, I had to go get a new Xray of an old knee surgery in order to know whether there was any metal pins or staples in my knee.  So, this time, when we were looking at the Xray, I asked if I could take a picture with my cell phone.  They said, ‘Sure.’  I also took a picture of the written report.  You’d be surprised at the quality of the results.  I’ve created a folder on my computer called medical records and it contains photographs of all pertinent records. Now *that* doesn’t take up any space!

 

MedicAlert

Because of a family member with Alzheimer’s, I’ve been learning about the MedicAlert + Safe Return program.  The more I learn, the more I think that *everyone* should have a MedicAlert bracelet.  Especially travelers.  The bracelet is engraved with your member ID number and the MedicAlert phone number.  If you are ever in a situation requiring the services of emergency personnel, they will see the bracelet, call the number and be able to find out the phone numbers for your emergency contacts, as well as any allergies, conditions, and Doctor phone numbers.  This is life-saving stuff.  If you change Doctors, you go online, log in to your MedicAlert account, and update the information yourself.  Easily done.  You pay $25/year for the service.  There is a MedicAlert ‘Gold’ program for $9.95/mo to store all your records. 

Google Health

I have recently started using the free online medical records system by Google at www.Health.Google.com.  In addition to allowing me to enter Doctors, Allergies, Conditions, Procedures and Test results, I can also:

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Trip Planning with Streets and Trips

by Chris Guld, www.GeeksonTour.com

In today’s GPS-connected world, travelers have many choices for navigation devices.  Garmin, Tom-Tom, Magellan, and Copilot are just a few of the brand names for the dashboard devices that will guide you down the road.  Even our cell phone (Droid) has wonderful GPS navigation capabilities today.  But, for planning those trips, nothing beats a computer with mapping software like Microsoft Streets and Trips.

Time and Money Calculator

Streets and Trips, running on our laptop computer, has been our guide for all 7 years of our RV travels.  We’re currently on version 2010.  Below is a beginning level video to give you an idea of how easy it is to plan a trip and have the software tell you where to go, how long it will take, and how much you’ll spend in gas.  Traveling in an RV is a completely different story when it comes to time and money, than traveling in a car.  If you know where to change the settings, the software will take this into account.

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What is an RSS Blog Feed and Why You Want One

Also known as an RSS Feed, a Blog Feed is the raw post data straight from the Blog’s database.  If you look at the example below, you’ll see that the Blog includes a lot of page elements besides the actual post.  The red background, the Blog’s title, and all the content in the right sidebar all come from the Blogger Template.  The ‘Feed’ of a blog is *just* the content of each individual post.

The Blog:  The Blog Feed:    

What does RSS Stand For?

RSS = Really Simple Syndication.  Think of a ‘Syndicated’ newspaper column.  What does that mean?  It means that, instead of just being printed in one newspaper, the contents of the column are packaged and sent out to many newspapers to be reprinted in their format.  Exact same contents – printed in many different newspapers with different formats – and read by *LOTS* more readers than if it was just published in the one home newspaper.

You could publish your own newspaper if you could subscribe to enough quality syndicated content.  The same thing goes for Blogs – you can subscribe to multiple different Blog Feeds and read them all in one place, like your own personal newspaper.

How do you read RSS Feeds?

The RSS Feed itself is straight text.  It is only meant for a computer to read.  The raw data for the posts shown above looks like:

RSS 

In order to make sense to us, we must use a Feed Reader.  A Feed Reader is built in to Internet Explorer.  So, for example, if you use Internet Explorer to browse to www.geeksontour.blogspot.com you will see the orange RSS Feed icon in the toolbar like the screenshot below.  If that button is gray rather than orange, it means that you are on a page that has no feeds.

The RSS Feed ButtonClick that orange button and you will be taken to the Feed for that page.  Internet Explorer will display the feed in a readable fashion like the Blog Feed image at the top of this article.  If you look in the address bar, you will also see the exact URL of the Blog Feed. This is the information you would need to read this Feed in some other Feed Reader.

A Feed's URL

For example, a Geeks on Tour reader recently asked,

“My son wants to read my blog on his cell phone, how do we do that?’ 

First, your son needs an RSS Feed Reader application on his cell phone.  Then, there will be a place in that Reader to put the URL of the Feed you want to read.  Enter the URL you found using the orange button.  Your son should now be able to read your blog posts in a way that works well on his cell phone.

Subscribing to the RSS Feed

Once you click on the orange feed button and you’re looking at the feed, you will have the opportunity to ‘Subscribe’ to this feed.  If you click that, then that blog’s feed becomes a Favorite and you will find it listed on a tab in your favorites area.

IE Favorites ... FeedsThis is an extremely easy way to keep up with all the Blogs you follow.  Just click on the Blog name and you’ll see the Feed.  If you want to just skim the latest content … you’re done.  If you want to go to the full blog, there are links to click on from within the Feed.  There are lots of other Feed Reader programs as well.  For example, if you use Google’s Feed Reader, you will see at a glance how many posts you’ve missed in each blog.

How are RSS Feeds Created?

This is the amazing part.  If you use (most) blogging software, like Blogger or WordPress, or Typepad.  An RSS feed is created automatically.  It’s just part of the whole blogging thing.  Just like archives are created automatically – so are RSS Feeds.  Actually, Blogger uses something called Atom Feeds – but they work the same way – and, if you really need RSS, Blogger supports that too.

Check Settings for your Feed

If you’re using Blogger, there are a few settings that you want to look at for your feed.  The main one is to specify whether you want the feed to include the entire post, or just a short snippet.  If you choose the short option it means that people reading your feed will only be able to see the first few sentences.  Then, they’ll need to click on a link to the real Blog in order to read the rest.  This can be very important if you depend on people seeing the Ads on your blog. 

If you do use Ads – you might also want to edit the setting to put your Google Adsense code at the bottom of each Post Feed as well.   If you *don’t* want a feed created, you specify ‘None’ as the Blog Posts Feed.

Blogger Feed SettingsIf you want to read a lot of Blogs, using an RSS Feed Reader is a great way to easily keep up.  If you have a Blog, and you want the greatest number of people to have easy access to keeping up with you … make sure that your Feed is working and easily accessible.  You can even use Feedburner.com to make the feeds available to subscribers via Email.  hmmm – that sounds like another article … coming soon.

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Geocaching by Droid

We started Geocaching several years ago, but we had a very old hand held GPS.  It was not very accurate and that made it too difficult to find the caches.  We soon tired of the effort. Now with our Droid ‘app phone’ it appears we’re back in business.

Geocaching by Droid

In case you don’t know what Geocaching is, let me give you a brief overview. It’s a high-tech game played by people all over the world where a player hides a Cache (what’s in it varies) and records the latitude and longitude of the hiding place. This information is entered on the website Geocaching.com where millions of players look up available Caches in their area and make a note of the coordinates. Then you go on an adventure to find the Cache. A handheld GPS device is a necessary tool for the hunt. When (If!) you find the specified Cache you should find a log book with it where you record the fact that you indeed found this particular Cache. Then, you put it back where you found it so the next player can have the same fun.

This is a wonderful game for RVers since we’re always some place new. The Geocaches are usually hidden by locals – so the chase gives us a reason to get out of our RVs and explore the local territory. It’s also great for geeks who need some reason to buy new toys! Or, in this case, new uses for current toys.  The Droid is our latest new toy, it’s a cell phone *and* a hand-held computer – see last month’s newsletter for our introductory article on the Droid.

Since the Droid includes built-in GPS, Jim decided take a look at the Apps to find one for Geocaching.  The one he decided to try is called ‘GeoBeagle’  It’s available for free on the Droid Marketplace.  You don’t have to have an App to use the Droid for Geocaching, you could just search for the coordinates and use Google Maps (pre-installed on the Droid) – but, using a specific Geocaching application is easier and more accurate.  We only tried it this once and are not ready to make any recommendations.  It was just too much fun to keep it to ourselves!

One Geocaching tip … don’t let yourself get so buried in looking at the computer screen that you don’t appreciate the view and read the earthbound signs:

Beware of Alligators
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Photo Story 3 Works on Windows 7!

by Chris Guld, www.geeksontour.com

I’ve had my Windows 7 computer for 6 months now and the only disappointment has been that one of my favorite programs, Photo Story 3, would not install on it.

Photo Story 3 Now works on Windows 7

I’m so excited to report that it has now been fixed!  I don’t know what or why, but IT WORKS.  Why am I so excited? 

No more Boring Slide Shows

Here is a simple slide show of our recent visit to St. Augustine, Florida:

 

So – that’s nice. I hope you like the pictures and the captions.  But, a movie is SOO much better.  Photo Story 3 makes it extremely easy to add narration and music.  The movie below was created using the same pictures but bringing them into Photo Story 3.  It took about 20 minutes to arrange them and add the narration and music. The end result is a .wmv file that I uploaded to youtube:

 

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Droid watches Traffic

by Chris Guld, www.GeeksOnTour.com:  We were recently at a State Park in Georgia (Fort McAllister – a wonderful park) when a fellow traveler advised us that we might want to avoid I-95 on our way south.  “There is a lot of construction on I-95 between here and Florida”, he said.

We heeded his warning, but also have our own reluctance to travel on two lane roads with a lot of stop and go.  So, we decided to check the map on our Droid app phone.  It has a layer you can turn on for Traffic information.  Here’s what we saw:

 

You can click on the picture for a larger image.  The fat green line going vertical is I-95.  If traffic was moving slowly it would be colored yellow or even red.  This is real time traffic data.

We decided to take I-95 after all.  Yes, there was definitely construction going on, but it did not slow down traffic

The Droid continues to delight and amaze us.  If you have a Motorola Droid from Verizon, you can see this traffic feature by touching the ‘Map’ app icon (it comes with your phone, it’s Google Maps – all free.)  Once the map is displayed, then touch the menu button on the Droid -  

image

and you’ll see an option for ‘Layers.’  Traffic is one of the layers you can turn on.  Touch it, and you’ll see the green checkmark – and you’ll be back at the map with the traffic data showing up.

If you don’t have the Droid, do you use any other traffic data tool?

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Wi-Fi is Like a Box of Chocolates

by Chris Guld, www.GeeksonTour.com

Wi-Fi can be the best way to connect on the road:

  1. All current laptop computers have the capability to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots
  2. Wi-Fi hotspots are easy to find.  Lots of RV parks, cafes, truck stops, and libraries have Wi-Fi hotspots.
  3. There’s no contract, it’s pay-as-you-go.  Many hotspots are even free.
  4. Some Wi-Fi hotspots are extremely fast.

BUT …

“You never know what you’re gonna get.”

You may get a Great Wi-Fi Hotspot

One RV park may have multiple Access Points (the antennas/routers you connect to) and have a full T1 connection to the Internet (a high-capacity, high-speed, direct line thru the phone company.)  In this park, you could be just about anywhere and get a good connection.  When you do, it will be a nice fast web-browsing experience because of the T1.

You may get a Poor Wi-Fi Hotspot

Your next RV park may be using a residential size satellite dish for their Internet connection and only have one Access Point/Router.  A residential size satellite dish may be a good way for one person to connect to the Internet – but not for dozens of people to share.  And the one Access Point means you need to be close to it – it may only work in the clubhouse.

You may even get a Great Hotspot that Turns Bad

Lots of things can change or go wrong.

  1. You may have a great connection – and then some large RV pulls in next to you and blocks your signal so you can’t connect to the hotspot.
  2. Radio Frequency (RF) interference may unpredictably limit your connection to the hotspot.
  3. The hotspot may get its Internet connection from a local cable company, and the cable company has an outage. This happened to us once when a construction crew mistakenly cut the cable.  In this case you’re still connected to the hotspot, but the ‘backhaul’ connection to the Internet is non-existent so you can’t browse.
  4. You might even be at an RV park hotspot where your Internet usage is monitored and you exceed your limit so get cut off.

#4 is fairly rare, but it has happened to us.  We’d had a series of RV parks with poor or non-existent Wi-Fi.  We had to rely on our Verizon tethered phone connection and were approaching our monthly limit,  then we pulled into a park where the Internet was screaming fast.  We were so excited!  We downloaded all our updates, watched our favorite TV episodes and TED videos, and caught up on lots of work.

Then it died.

We were getting no better than dial-up speed.  Only then did we notice the fine print on the login screen, “This service is designed for email usage and web browsing; Downloading large files or excessive use of bandwidth will result in automatic limitation of Access”

Although it was aggravating to be on the receiving end – a hotspot that monitors bandwidth usage is actually a good thing.  We used to support Wi-Fi hotspots and know how one or two users can ruin it for everyone else.

If you really need the Internet …

The main lesson to be learned is that, if you really need the Internet, you need more than one way to connect as you travel.  Wi-Fi can be great, but when it’s not, you need cellular or satellite.  If you do use cellular or satellite, remember that Wi-Fi can be a good alternative when you’re in a bad cell area, or when there are too many trees for your satellite dish.

Lots more Information

There are many more articles here about this topic, just use the list of tags above and click on Wi-Fi.

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