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Computing with Bifocals - Reader Letters: Help, Arrogance, & Weirdness
by - November 3rd, 2004

In today's column I am going to answer readers letters, including some iTunes help, a letter from Mr. Arrogant, and the second weirdest letter I have ever received from a reader of this column.

Listening to the Radio

The first letter came from a reader who uses a PC at work and a Mac with OS X at home.  He listens to the radio over his PC at work and wants to know how to do the same thing at home on his Mac.  He was a bit frustrated, he said,  because usually things were easier to do on his Mac, but he couldn't figure out how to do this.  He also noted that he had tried finding the directions using Mac Help from the Finder Toolbar, but it had not helped.

Mac Help

I tried to search Mac Help using a number of different search words related to radio and I didn't have any luck either.  The closest I came to the right answer was links to iTunes and music.  The missing piece to this is the basic knowledge that radio stations are accessed through iTunes.  Once I opened iTunes and then opened the iTunes Help menu, I instantly found the exact directions I needed to access radio stations on my Mac.

iTunes Help

Here are the steps.

Open iTunes.  

Sample iTunes Window

Make sure the sound is turned up loud enough.

iTunes Sound Adjustment

In the far left column you will see a Source list.  One of the items in the list will be Radio.  Click on Radio.

To see the stations that are available, click the triangle next to the type of music you want to listen to.

Sample Radio Station List

To tune in, double-click a station.  It will start playing instantly.  The station will continue playing as long as you don't quit iTunes.

If you use a modem to connect to the Internet, choose a station with a bit rate of less than 56 kilobits per second (kbps) for best results.   The kilobits per second are listed to the right of each station.

To retrieve the latest list of music categories, click the Refresh button in the top-right corner of the iTunes window.

You also can add a radio station that is not listed if that station offers streaming radio.  As an example I will use my favorite station KUT.  KUT is a local public radio station and when I visit their Web site,, I can tell they offer streaming radio because they have a link to it.

Sample Radio Web Link

When I click on the link, in this example "listen now," I get a second window that offers me 4 options for accessing the station.  For my Mac I choose iTunes by clicking on it.

Selecting Source for Accessing Radio

Clicking on iTunes causes a playlist image to download to my desktop.

Playlist image

Double click on that and my station shows up in my iTunes music library and starts to play.  You only have to go through this process once for each radio station you choose to add.

A Puzzle Application

Another reader wrote recently asking about jigsaw puzzle applications.  She wants to switch to OS X from OS 9, but has not done so because she does not want to lose her ability to put together puzzles on her computer.  She stated that she lives in the country and has a very slow dial up internet connection and every time she tries to look for new applications she gets shut down before she can find anything and wonders if I can recommend something.   I think I have a good recommendation for her.  It is called Puzzles Forever 1.0.  It will work on OS 9 or OS X, but is much more effective on OS X.  I checked out a trial version and found the puzzles to be quite challenging.  A puzzle can have anywhere from 48 pieces to 900 according to the specs although the trial version only offers 48.  Puzzle pieces can be turned 90, 180, and 360 degrees.  Registered users can use their own pictures to create new puzzles.  The game costs $15.  The version tracker site does not specify the product creator.  A trial version can be downloaded here.

The Weird Letter

About that letter that I consider the second weirdest I have ever received - I shall the letter speak for itself:

Dear Ms. Gravley,

I have a problem and since it is all your fault I think it is only fair that you be the one to solve it.  My mother is in her 60s.  She lives several hundred miles from me and, as I am a very busy man, I have tried for some time to get her to use a computer so I can keep tabs on her and make sure she is OK.  I purchased a very good Dell computer for her, and showed her how to use it, but she refused to do so.  She worked in my father's office for many years prior to his death so there doesn't seem to me to be any reason for her refusal,  nevertheless she would never use it, stating that it was too contrary. 

Then she met you at some meeting and the next thing I knew she had gone out on her own and bought a second-hand Macintosh computer.  Now, suddenly, she thinks she is some computer whiz  She is doing genealogy research and wants games for presents.  I do not have time to try and find software for a Macintosh, but I would like to please my mother.  I assume there are a few games available for Macintosh computers and that you must be aware of what they are.  I would appreciate it if you would give me what information I need to purchase some for my mother to help keep her busy.  I believe she likes puzzles and card games. 

You really should think about the repercussions before you start talking elderly ladies into buying computers.

My first response to this charming note was a huge laugh.  My second was, just for fun, to try and figure out which of the several professions that require arrogance 101 as part of the educational degree plan this man must practice.   My third was to know absolutely that since he did not say please anywhere in his message that I was not going to do his research for him. 

However, those darn good manners that my parents insisted that I learn reared their ugly head and I did send him a link that would allow him to do his own searching.  After all, I don't want his mother doing without.  She obviously had plenty to put up with already. 

In case you are wondering, I haven't a clue who his mother may be.  I do tend to talk about Macs wherever I go and it is not uncommon for me to give out a business card with my column URL and TMO e-mail address so I guess that is how he knew how to contact me.  My last thought is that when this gentleman learns, as we all learn at some point, that the sun does not rise and set in his back pocket, I hope that he benefits from the experience.  Meanwhile, us "elderly ladies" will keep on buying whatever computers we want to buy.

If you are curious about what I consider to be the weirdest letter I ever received concerning this column read on. 

Back in May of 2000 I wrote a column in the form of a fairy tale that addressed some of the issues related to growing up a female in the 1940 - 50s when the "accepted" roles for males and females were strongly defined and women were not encouraged to have careers or have skills necessary to support themselves or their families. 

In my fairy tale those who could escape to the "Land of Macintosh" were able to gain skills that allowed them to be treated as equals.  That particular column garnered a great deal of response, perhaps the most of any column I have ever written.  Almost all of the response was extremely positive. 

Then I got this letter from a man who accused me of "trying to destroy the American family as we know it."  Those were his very words. He informed me, in no uncertain terms, that his wife was perfectly happy staying home and raising the children and keeping house.  I read my column again, looking to see if I had somehow advocated for the dissolution of the modern family structure or suggested that all women had to work outside the home to have a happy life.  I didn't see it, but hey, everyone to their own opinion.  My evil mind wanted to ask his wife what she thought, but I just thanked him for sharing his opinions with me. 

It's those darn good manners again.

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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