A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....
Something Neat, Something Helpful, Something Weird, & Something New September 26th, 2003
In this column I have a neat trick, a reminder of something helpful, an explanation for those weird messages, and some tips. Something, I hope, for everyone.
HINT:New computer users may be unfamiliar with some of the terms used in this column. If you come across something you are unfamiliar with you may go to the Computing With Bifocals Index for help.
I taught a Mac class recently wherein a number of the participants were bifocal or trifocal users. As we worked I realized that some of "us" were having trouble seeing their screens. After bringing up the issue it was apparent that these folks did not know about computer glasses. So, please let me say again that computer glasses can solve all kinds of problems for those of us who wear glasses, for instance, the shoulder and neck pain caused by bending your head back to read the screen through whatever lenses work best for you. I have been using my computer glasses for a couple of years and will not use the computer without them.
In a nutshell, computer glasses are set up for the reading distance between your chair and your screen, which is a different distance from that of ordinary glasses, which are set up for reading a book or newspaper. I wear trifocals and there is a strong distinction between the 3 levels of vision options in my glasses. What works best for me is to view the screen through the middle portion of my glasses, but they are trifocals and the middle portion is not really large enough to comfortably see the whole screen. Away from the computer I use that portion only for things like reading book titles in a bookstore or prices at the grocery.
So I asked my doctor to create my computer glasses using only the middle portion of my prescription. My doctor did note that for individuals who look between their screen and typed text frequently, it is suggested that they retain two levels of lens strength in their computer glasses.
The Neat Trick
I got an e-mail recently from Observer Thomas Lomonte. I really enjoy hearing from readers with feedback on my column. Within the content of Tom's message was a small picture of him, statically placed in the top left corner of his message. It seemed to be built into his message as it was there the moment I opened the message. I thought that was so cool, and as I told him, it instantly made a stranger into a real person. Tom has a .Mac account and adding his picture to his e-mail is one of the attributes of having that account The .Mac account is a special option offered by Apple. It is especially useful to people who use more than one computer, travel a lot, and/or use palm pilots.
There is a US$99 a year charge for it although Apple offers a 60 day free trial if you are interested in checking it out. However, even without a .Mac account you may exercise the option of adding a photo to your e-mail messages along with any text you want. For instance, Tom's message is a quote from Tom Clancy, to wit: "Never ask a man what computer he uses. If it's a Mac, he'll tell you. If it's not, why embarrass him?"
I use the Mail application that comes with OS X. (I love it. The best thing about it is the built-in ability to significantly reduce the amount of spam that comes through each day. In my case, I usually get 200-300 spam messages a day, but only about half a dozen get through the filters. The rest go directly into the trash where they are automatically dumped every 24 hours.)
To add a picture to my Mail account I went to the Mail preferences, chose Signature, and then chose Add Signature. When the new signature window opened I added my name and a photo. That was all there was too it. The photo is automatically set to size and can't be adjusted. To add that particular signature to an e-mail message I simply select the signature option when sending a new e-mail. For those who use other e-mail systems go to the Preferences options for your particular application and see what your options are.
The Weird Messages
About 3 weeks ago I got the first weird e-mail message. It was from Mail Delivery Subsystem, and the subject line was "Returned mail: User unknown." "Hmmmmm," says I. (I am always so bright and sparkly first thing in the morning.)
The message said in effect that my e-mail to bubba at AOL didn't go through. Now, I may not have been wide awake, but I knew for sure that I had not sent any message to bubba. This weirdness has continued, with 3 or 4 notices of undelivered mail coming through every day. Some slime bag has stolen my TMO e-mail address and is using it to send spam. (Note to Editor: Do not remove reference to slime bag. Like Popeye, I calls them the way I sees them. [OK - Editor])
I don't actually know what spam message is being sent which is probably just as well for my peace of mind. I mention all of this not only for the pleasure of ranting, but to point out that there is actually nothing that I (or you) can do about this when it happens to any of us. I also don't think that any legislative efforts are really going to put a stop to spam unless someone comes up with a way to back track the messages to get to the real sender. These people are already breaking the law when they steal our e-mail address so it will take something strong to put a stop to it.
Print Center is a great asset to your OS X options, particularly if you are connected to more than one printer. Print Center is actually hidden in your Utilities folder. If you have need of it, it certainly helps to add it to the Dock. (Drag the icon of any application to the Dock and release it to the left of the vertical bar. To remove, drag the icon from the Dock to any blank space on your screen.) The print center allows you to add printers, select a specific printer, check on the status of print jobs, or delete print jobs.
Speaking of the Dock. There are times when it just flat gets in the way. It can be particularly annoying when you are working in a window that goes behind the Dock, preventing you from getting to the resize option or moving the scroll bar. Command+Option+D will quickly move the Dock out of the way. Hitting it again will bring the dock back.
Save Registration Numbers. Any computer user will tell you how important it is to save registration numbers for your software in case you have to reinstall it at some point. Mine are in a list in a book that I keep. But here is another way to keep up with them quickly. The Get Info option in OS X has a Comments section. (Click once on the icon for the application, then choose Get Info from the File Pull-down menu. Select Comments, add your information and close.) It is not a good idea to use this method as the only source of your registration number, but it can be a great quick reference.
If you have simple tips that serve you well, please drop me a note and I will include them in a future column.
Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping. To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.
Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color,
covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.
Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.