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Understanding the Basics of Computers, Issue #012
September 30, 2009

Ezine issue 12

Understanding the Basics of Computers

Your source for computer tips and tricks for the beginner computer user

September 30, 2009 Issue 12

School is in full motion and we are busy with homework. Are you brushed up on all of your computer skills for classes or a new job? Video tutorials are still a work in progress, but should be available the end of November. It is taking me longer than I expected to get them put together. For all of my readers in the Denver metro area, please consider my one-on-one training. The cost is $40.00 for a 1 hour session. All lessons are project based and if you don't feel like you learned everything you anticipated I will work with you free until you understand. Please contact me if you are local to the Denver metro area and interested in a personalized training session. I am also working on making the web pages easier to find things so look for changes at and let me know what you think. If you have any suggestions for the website please email me at and let me know what you think or what you would like me to add.

In this issue:

  • Instant Messaging and Video to stay in touch
  • 3 PC problems you can fix yourself
  • Use Excel 2007 to manage your finances
  • New Technology - Windows 7 Coming October 22, 2009

Instant Messaging and Video to stay in touch

Windows live is a great way to stay in touch with your friends and family. I can let my kids talk to grandma and grandpa in Minnesota using instant messaging and my webcam and they can literally watch their grandchildren grow up from miles away.

The best thing about Windows live is it integrates with the Microsoft programs. You can download the program at . Next you will need a webcam. Some laptops come with a webcam built in. You may also want a microphone so you can let young kids talk instead of typing back and forth. Webcams are fairly inexpensive and you can get them just about any place that sells electronics.

Once you have your webcam and windows live installed on your computer entering contacts is very simple. You just need to type your contact's email address in and send them a personal invitation to join you.

Making a webcam call is as easy as making a call from the telephone in your kitchen. The big difference is that you're using your computer to make the call.

To make a call with Windows Live Messenger:

  1. Click Actions.
  2. Click Video.
  3. Select Start a Video Call.
  4. Select a contact to call.
  5. Click OK.
  6. When the other party picks up, start talking (and viewing!).

In addition to making a call where both parties talk to and see one another, there is another feature on Windows Live Messenger you can send webcam videos to someone that are not live.

To use Windows Live Messenger to send your webcam to someone else:

  1. Go to Actions and click Video.
  2. Click Send My Webcam.
  3. Select a contact from the list provided.
  4. Click OK.
  5. When you are ready to hang up from either a video call or sending a webcam, just close the chat window.
  6. Chatting during video calls
  7. Speaking of chat windows, did you notice that one automatically opened with the person you were calling or sending your webcam to as you made a webcam call? With Windows Live Messenger, you can chat with the person you are talking with—if the sound isn't working, for example, you can send messages quickly to one another to troubleshoot the problem. Or perhaps you want to send a file during your video call—that's okay, too.
  8. Chatting during a video call with others is also easy to do—just open up a chat with anyone else on your contact list and multi-task to your heart's content. The person you're chatting with will never know that you are also on a video call, but be careful: the person on the video call will see what you're doing and where your eyes are.
  9. Video and IM tips
  10. With instant messaging, it's easy to overdo it. Little messages pop up on your screen at the oddest times, and it's difficult to resist them even when a work deadline or other important task needs to be completed. If you have a lot of people in your contacts list, you could spend half your day instant messaging. To help you stay on track and in touch, here are some instant messaging tips:
  11. Use the My Status feature to alert others to your availability. This feature tells others at a glance whether you can chat, or whether it might not be a good time for you. Conversely, respect the status of those you want to chat with. If someone has the red Do Not Disturb icon on their name, for example, don't bother sending a message until they become available. To set your status in Windows Live Messenger, go to the File menu and click MyStatus, then select the option that describes your current availability: Online, Busy, Be Right Back, or other option.
  12. Establish regular times for video calls. You can always be spontaneous, of course, but remember that some folks wear pajamas half the day and may not want to pick up a video call at all times!
  13. Regularly check the video settings for your webcam. First, check your video settings in Windows Live Messenger by going to the Tools menu and clicking Webcam Settings. When the Camera Settings dialog box opens, you should see yourself in the window. (If you don't, check your webcam properties in My Computer to make sure that you have set up your webcam properly.) Adjust the brightness, contrast, and other camera settings by using the sliding arrow.
  14. Staying in touch with family and friends is actually a lot of fun when you use instant messaging and video. With the way people are scattered around the country and even the globe these days, it's also a practical way to communicate.

3 PC problems you can fix yourself

You keep getting a "your system is running low on virtual memory" message

Perhaps you're more than familiar with this scenario: You're working on your PC and notice performance getting gradually slower and slower. Programs become harder to open and close. You wait forever for Web pages to be displayed. And then, you get some serious-sounding "virtual memory is too low" message, like the one in the following graphic.

Don't worry: This message isn't as scary as it sounds. Virtual memory is the space your computer uses when it's short of RAM (Random Access Memory), which is the memory used when running programs like Microsoft Office Word or Microsoft Office PowerPoint.

So what can you do to correct this problem and prevent this message from coming up in the future? The following are some solutions to keep your computer from displaying the "virtual memory minimum is too low" message.

The first solution is to increase your computer's virtual memory settings. To do so, you first need to determine how much RAM you currently have.

If you keep getting that dreaded "Your system is running low on virtual memory" message-even after you increase your computer's virtual memory-then you may need to buy more memory for your computer. The more RAM you have the better. XP needs at least 256MB. Vista needs 512MB.

If you do need to purchase some more memory, stop by your local computer shop. You can probably buy memory from them, and they'll probably install it for you. Or, you can buy memory online.

Your windows slide off the desktop-and you can't grab them

Solution: Use your keyboard to help move your window

  1. Select the program window you're trying to move, and then, press ALT+SPACEBAR on your keyboard. The program's shortcut menu is displayed.
  2. Click Move.
  3. Use your LEFT ARROW, RIGHT ARROW, UP ARROW, or DOWN ARROW keys to move the window so you can see its title bar on your screen.
  4. After you move the window where you want it, press ENTER.

Your taskbar has disappeared

The taskbar is that horizontal bar at the bottom or your computer screen that displays open programs on your desktop. The taskbar also contains the Start menu, which allows you to navigate to various programs installed on your computer. There is nothing more frustrating than going to start a program, only to find the taskbar gone.

The following are possible reasons why your taskbar has vanished, as well as solutions to keep your taskbar from ever running away again.

Solution #1: Find your taskbar behind other windows

If you don't see your taskbar, minimize all windows on your desktop. See if your taskbar is hiding behind your open windows.

To set your taskbar so it's always on top of all desktop windows: 1. Right-click the taskbar, and click Properties. 2. Select the Lock the taskbar check box. 3. Select the Keep the taskbar on top of other windows check box.

Now your taskbar will always be visible, no matter how many windows you have open. Locking your taskbar also keeps you from accidentally moving it around.

Solution #2: Find your taskbar elsewhere on your screen

If you have tried minimizing all windows on your desktop and you still don't see your taskbar-perhaps it has been moved. Maybe you've moved it yourself by accident. Or, perhaps someone's playing a practical joke on you. Regardless, the following will help you get your taskbar back to its proper size.

  • As you did in the previous steps, minimize all windows on your desktop. If you don't see your taskbar at the bottom of the screen, perhaps it's hanging out to the side or top of your desktop.
  • Click-and-drag your taskbar back to the bottom of your screen.
  • Right-click the taskbar, and then click Properties.
  • Click to select the following: The Lock the taskbar check box; The Keep the taskbar on top of other windows check box

Solution #3: Thicken up your taskbar

You can make your taskbar a thin line-so skinny it's hard to see. To see if you've done this unintentionally, perform the following:

  • Minimize all windows on your desktop. Look at each side of your screen. If you see a thin strip, that's the taskbar.
  • Point your mouse at the strip. It changes into a double-sided arrow.
  • Click-and-drag the mouse toward the center of the screen to thicken your taskbar.
  • After you thicken the taskbar, you can drag it back to the bottom of the screen by following the steps in "Solution #2" above.

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Use Excel 2007 to manage your finances

Microsoft has come up with so many things that make our lives easier. Go to this link and you will find of 80 spreadsheets that you can download to help you manage your personal finances. These spreadsheets are already built for you with all of the formulas already in place. All you need to do is download the spreadsheet and enter your data and save it someplace where you can find it again.

Play with some of these and if you have any questions please email me.

New Technology -Windows 7 Coming October 22, 2009

Microsoft has set a release date of October 22 for Windows 7. I am hoping to have tutorials on the new software posted by the end of November if you are one of those people that loves the latest greatest software. Take a look at cnet and you can watch a preview video of the new software.;contentBody

I hope this issue of Understanding the Basics of Computers was helpful. If you have any suggestions for next months issue or comments on this issue please let me know.

Keep learning about your computer,
Jennifer Anderson

P.S. If you would like to purchase ad space in my e-zine please mail me with Ad in the subject line.

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