Saturday, August 19, 2006

Computing for dummies

How to burn a CD, change the size of a JPEG file and other useful tips
by Nick van der Leek

For those of you who know your way around computers, this ought to serve as a quiz. If you know (and have experience of) all seven of these suggestions (and software) then consider yourself an advanced user. 5 or more, intermediate. 3 to 5 makes you a beginner, and less than 3: well print out this page and keep it.

Creating shortcuts

You’ll need a shortcut to open those files or launch programs that you use everyday, or a few times a week. If you find yourself needing to search for a file, then you really need to create a shortcut for your desktop. (The desktop is the screen you’re left with when all other windows are closed). How you create is a shortcut is simple. Right click on the folder, or on the program icon. A box will open up, and you need to go to the ‘Send to’ row (probably 4th from the bottom). Click on ‘Desktop (Create Shortcut)’ and Bob’s your uncle.

Changing screensaver or desktop

To change your desktop (the appearance of your screen with no software programs or documents running) is equally simple. Right click with your cursor on the desktop background, and click properties. Click on ‘Desktop’ and then go to Browse to select the new picture from your picture files. If you don’t have any, you can do a google search (set to images) for something appropriate. Beside ‘Desktop’ is ‘Screensaver’, and here you can set the time it takes for the screensaver to kick in, and you can select from a number of screensavers. The screensaver I have uses my ‘My Pictures’ file to roll through a continuous slideshow. If you have enough pictures, this can be very entertaining, especially for people visiting or friends, who might comment on pictures of themselves of other people. And to the right of screensaver is the ‘Appearance’ tab. Here you can change the size of the icons on your screen. I have a big screen, so I like my icons to be fairly small.

Open with...

Ever get frustrated that when you click on an image or a movie file it keeps opening using the wrong program? To remedy that, you once again right click, and go to ‘Open with’, and then select the program you want. Sometimes you set the same program to open by clicking a ‘default’ box. When the ‘Open with’ option doesn’t appear, you sometimes need to press ‘shift’ and then right click.

Burning to a CD

Once again you save your file, then right click on the file name, folder, or icon and then click on ‘Send to’. Select the option for CD drive (it should be ‘D’ or ‘E’ drive. Make sure you have a writable CD in the drive. Once the file has bent sent, a balloon ought to pop up asking you to write the files, or else you can simply click on the appropriate drive and follow the instruction: “Write files…” on the left, at the top.


This is a useful tool for saving DVD’s onto your harddrive, and (or) cloning your DVD’s. I think you can download this software for free off the internet, but if not, there are plenty of alternatives, like Nero Showtimes and others.

The versatile VLC media player

If you find some of your movie files work on some of your software, but not on others (for example if you see pictures but no sound), try using the VLC media player. It tends to be able to play anything, and chances are, the files it can’t read, almost nothing else can’t.

Changing size of JPEG

Well this is bizarre. Perhaps it’s the lateness of the night because I haven’t been able to solve this one. I did this recently but now I can’t recall how I did it.
I do know how to reduce the resolution of an image when exporting images out of a photoediting suite called ‘Picasa 2’ – an excellent package. When you hit export you have the option of:
Using the original size
Or resizing to X number of pixels (I’d recommend 500 or so)
And I almost always use this method to change resolution. However, for those users who don’t have or use Hello’s Picasa, the question is: how to reduce the resolution of those 1 meg or more images?

When you want to email images (to for example) and your connection is slow (or the person you’re sending to has a slow download rate), you might want to send lower resolution images (low res). Do you know how to do this? If you do, or if you have any other shortcuts or useful tips, share them with us.

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