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Computing With Bifocals
by Nancy Carroll Gravley

A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....




A Hunting We Will Go
April 28, 1999

When I was a kid I was a prolific reader, but a terrible speller. My mother, who learned to read using phonics, was an excellent speller; but whenever I asked her how to spell something she told me to go look it up in the dictionary. I would get so angry because I didn't know how I was supposed to look something up in the dictionary if I didn't already know how to spell it. Well, my spelling hasn't improved a great deal, but my ability to find out how to spell something (spell check not withstanding) has improved tremendously. If nothing else I use the Thesaurus to find a word that means about the same thing and I can usually track a really difficult word that way. I mention this because recently I have received letters from readers who get really frustrated trying to find what they want on the internet. Previous columns have covered some basics of using the internet effectively. (September 30, 1998, March 3, 1999,) Still, it takes time for the novice to really get comfortable with it. A reader recently suggested that I pick a topic to research and follow it from start to finish. He said that if he could then “trace my steps” it would be easier for him. I though this was a great suggestion and have been trying to think of a good subject to research. Today it landed in my lap.

I found out that later this summer I will be going to New Orleans for several days for a training conference in a subject very important to my job. Even though I was born in Georgia and have traveled back and forth from Texas to Georgia on several occasions, I have never been to New Orleans so there is a lot I have to find out. There are certain “givens” for this trip, such as the date, hotel, and such. But there is lots more that I need to know to have a successful trip. For one thing, I don't know north from south from east from west and I will be driving. I once set out to go to Fredericksburg Texas to give a speech. I went 80 miles in the wrong direction before I realized that I had goofed. To plan this trip I made a list of the things I need to find out. 1) How to get there from Austin. 2) How to find the hotel. 3) The cost of a 3 or 4 day stay. What kind of extras am I going to have to pay for above what the state will allot me for the trip. 4) What fun things do I want to do in my spare time. 5) Do I want to make the drive in one day or two. You get the idea.

The first thing I did was go to the search engine of my choice. In this case I picked www.google.com. Because I am looking for a very specific subject I don't need to use one of the sites that does a multiple engine search. When I had Google open I typed in Louisiana. The site gave me several link choices. I choose tourism. This led me to www.crt.state.la.us/crt/tourism.htm. This site offered me links to the subject of general interest like history and culture; to regional information that divides the state into five regions; and to statewide information. There were also links to welcome centers, calendar of events, and a tour guide that I could request by mail. I wanted to see the calendar of events so I clicked on the link for calendar of events and it took me to www.crt.state.la.us/crt/calendar. I was given a choice of months, and once I had chosen one and clicked on it; the site listed several pages of upcoming special events. After I reviewed the page I went to the top of my screen and hit the back button which took me back to the tourism page. I wanted to get a list of the welcome centers so I would have a point of reference when (not if) I got lost. When I clicked on the welcome centers I was linked to www.crt.state.la.us/crt/twelcome.htm. There are a number of welcome centers each with e-mail links, the hours of operation, and the location. I printed these pages for future reference. Then I once again hit the back tab at the top of the screen and went back to the main tourism page where I clicked on the link for regional information and was sent to www.crt.state.la.us/crt/regional.htm. From there I linked to information on the French Quarter, www.frenchquarter.com where I got an overview of the area.

My next stop on the information highway was at www.mapquest.com. I have used this site frequently to find my way from one place to another. When the site came up I clicked on directions and then typed in Austin, TX as the starting point and New Orleans, LA as the ending point and clicked on city-to-city directions. I received a full color map plus written directions. Unfortunately for me, the written directions say things like go east on US 183. I have to cope with that as best I can which is another story altogether. However, for the normal person this is more than sufficient. I now know that it is approximately 525 miles from here to there. I printed the map for future reference.

Now I wanted to find out about the hotel that I will be staying in. I know the name, St. Marie Hotel, and I know the address. I went back to www.google.com by going up to the top of my screen and clicking on the Netscape icon that says go. It lists every stop I have made so far, so all I had to do was move the cursor down to Google and I was instantly taken back there. In the search box I typed in St.+ Marie+hotel+New Orleans. This directed the search engine to give me only sites that contained all of those words. I chose this method rather than “St. Marie Hotel New Orleans” because that would have required the search engine to give me only sites that contained those words in that order. I did not know if St. Marie Hotel or Hotel St. Marie was the correct listing. Google linked me to www.hotelstmarie.com/main/html. Once there I was able to verify that the address was the same as that on my flyer and I checked the place out. There was a virtual tour, listing of rates and details, extras, reservations, and general information. I found out the hotel is near Bourbon street, has balconies on many of its rooms, charges the same room rate for one or two people, has a restaurant and a bar, and has valet parking. This means I better take money for tips for parking in addition to other things. I also found out the check out and check in times.

All of this took about 40 minutes, but at the end of it I was ready to plan my trip. The next question I had concerned a place to spend the night on the way. This was a more difficult search because I was not familiar with what cities I would be traveling through other than Houston, and believe me I've been there - done that. To get this information I needed a better map, something like AAA or perhaps one of the car rental companies. If, at this point I had had on hand a paper map I would have used that because it would have been much simpler. However, I don't travel much and have no current maps. So -- I went to www.altavista.com because I remember from previous searches that AltaVista has subject links on their first page. I went to the bottom of the page and clicked on Travel and Vacations, which led me to Guides, Maps and Chat, which led me to Maps. Maps offered me several options and I choose Driving Maps USA. There were a number of links and I choose one sponsored by Avis with an address of www.avis.com/maps_and_directions/driving_maps/us/. I entered Louisiana as directed and was sent to www.avis.com/maps_and_directions/road-maps/. There I was able to quickly identify the cities of Lafayette, Lake Charles, and Baton Rouge as all located on I 30; any of which would offer an interesting over night stay. Lafayette is almost 400 miles from Austin so Lake Charles seemed to be my best bet. I knew I could gamble there, but I wondered if the room rates would be high because of that.

I went to the top of my screen and hit the Netscape Go icon which once again allowed me to quickly click on Google. Once there I asked for a search of lake+charles+hotels. I linked to www2.travelnow.com/usa/louisiana/city/lake_charles_hotels.html. Within about 10 minutes I had reviewed all the hotels/motels in my price range, and selected a place to stay. Included in the site was very specific street directions to reach each hotel or motel from I 30. So, I am all set (except for saving money) and can relax and look forward to my combination business meeting and vacation. This whole search took me about an hour and I have printouts of everything that I will need. My best advice if you are trying this for the first time is to pick a time when you know you can spend an hour or more. That way you won't feel rushed and get so frustrated. And let me know what kind of success you have!

Reader Input.

I received a nice letter last week from Kevin Burk with the Burk Design Group in San Diego, CA Kevin was commenting on the Norton Utilities column and he offered some good information, including explaining why the volume bit map is so important. “The volume bit map is a very important part of how the computer stores information; when it becomes corrupted, which it will from time to time (particularly if you have to do a soft or a hard reboot), it can effect the performance of your system, and be the cause of more serious problems such as lost data.” Kevin went on to explain that “when Norton finds a problem with the directories, it patches the problem--which is at best a temporary fix. The best solution is to use a different program, DiskWarrior.

DiskWarrior isn't cheap--it's about $80, and it only does one thing--but that one thing that it does isn't done by any other program out there. DiskWarrior will completely rebuild and replace your disk directory which will fix all of the "major" problems that Norton Utilities (and Tech Tool Pro) will find with your catalog b-tree and volume bitmaps, and more importantly, will insure that the same problem won't keep popping up again.” This is valuable information and I appreciate Kevin sharing his knowledge and experience with us.

If you have any tips, hints, or thoughts on these topics, make sure you write me so that I can share your thoughts with other readers.


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.


Post your comments below.
Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!

A Capacious Catalog Of Computer Tips

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.


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