Saturday, January 15, 2011

Recording/Transferring VHS to DVD

If I may talk about a different kind of technology today...I'm having a lot of fun converting my VHS tapes to DVD-r. And its easier than I thought it would be.

I'd originally thought that I'd need a special machine to make the conversion, but not so. All you need is a VHS player - the one you've got now, if you've got one, is fine, and a DVD player that also records. Those are pretty inexpensive, you should be able to get one considerably less than a hundred dollars.

These days, the backs of these machines are color coded, so you know exactly where to plug in the coaxial cable and the other cables, the names of which I admit escape me, but have red, orange and yellow connectors.

You set the machines up so that the VHS machine plays into the DVD-r, which shows on your TV screen. You then just hit record as you normally would. Of course the tape records to the DVD-r in real time, not in super speed.


I'll edit this entry tomorrow to attach photos (I'm typing this at night and my camera flash isn't working, and the light's too dim.)

For now, here's what you need to know.

Coaxial cable
Connect this from Antenna-IN of the VCR to Antenna-In of the DVD-R

Connect the cable with white, orange and yellow connects to the VCR-OUT of your VHS machine, to the DVD- Video IN of your DVDR

Connect another cable with these same collor connects, from the DVD-R OUT to the Video IN of your TV.

And there you go.

Of course when I say I'm having fun... I've got about 300 tapes, most of which I haven't watched since the day I taped them off the TV. Right now I'm going through about 50 Perry Mason tapes starring Raymond Burr. Fun and nostalgic to watch!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Keep A Notebook By Your Computer

And in this computer, document everything you do.

Have a page where you list all the passwords you create - more people forget their passwords than you'd think possible.

If your computer has a habit of freezing or bombing, start a record of when it freezes - what were you doing just prior to freezing, etc. When asking for help, either on computer message boards, to me, or to someone at a computer store, this is the kind of stuff they'll need to know.

Also, if you create webpages - or are going to, in future, use this notebook to keep track of all your work.

You can never have too much information - as long as its sorted properly!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Instant Communication

A nice application to put on your computer is a program called Skype. (Other competitors are Yahoo Messenger.)

With Skype, you can talk to anyone on a computer who also has Skype, or you can call them via Skype, and it only costs 4 cents a minute or so.

But as long as the people you are commicating with have skype, and a camera on their computer (either embedded or one you've purchased) you can watch and talk to each other at the same time.

This is called "instant messaging." You type a message to your friend, who can type a response to you. Some people like to use "text messaging" language, like How R U for how are you, but if you're a decent typist, I recommend typing out all your words. Let's keep some standards!

Go to to check out this application.

there are some things you need to beware of with Yahoo Messenger. I'll talk about that in my next post.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Virus and anti-spyware

If you plan to do any kind of work on the web, it is necessary for you to put anti-virus and anti-spyware on your computer.

Unfortunately the world is full of dishonest people who spend all their time thinking of ways to steal money from others.

You can buy programs, such as Norton Anti-Virus Software or Macafee, or you can download free ones. The one I use is Cloud Panda.

Even with these anti-virus and anti-spyware programs, you must be very careful about what kind of websites you visit and what kind of emails you open. (I will write more fully about dangerous emails in my next post.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Which software package to use?

It used to be, many years ago, that when you bought a computer, it was much more expensive than it is now, and one reason is because it came fully loaded with software. For the PC, it was Microsoft Word, Excel and, I think, Power Point. Now, if you wnat that type of software, you have to buy it. (Every computer comes with a text program, which allows you to type things, but it is like kindergarten typing compared to what you can do with a word processing program like Word or Word Perfect.

If you don't want to spend money on those programs, you can download Open Office. ( It gives you a word processor, a spreadsheet program (so you can do your budget or keep your books), a paint program so that you can do illustrations, and so on. It's totally free, but it would be nice if you'd make a donation (via PayPal or credit card - I'll explain what these are later) of $10 or so or more, just to thank them for their hard work!

The Open Office word processor is relatively sophisticated, but if you intend to publish books or write research papers, I myself prefer Microsoft Word. Word Perfect has never been my favorite program, although I can use it...

But if you are trying to kit out your computer as inexpensively as possible, Open Office is the way to go.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Flash drives and external hard drives

I will probably preface all of my posts with "it used to be." Computers these days have gotten so much smaller than they used to be, and memory has become that much cheaper. It used to be you'd get the bear minimum of memory to play with, and would have to expand your memory each time you wanted to play new game. Now, computers as a matter of course have so much memory - both memory to run programs and storage space (two different things) that the average computer user never has to buy more.

But you do need to buy at least one flash drive, and if I were you, an external hard drive.

These days, an external hard drive is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, costs only about $40, and has as much storage space as the hard drive inside your computer.

You want this, because you want to back up all your files onto this external hard drive. (You don't need to back up your applications or system, you will have the installation discs for these, or the appropriate code to download it from the internet). But you should backup all your files on a daily or weekly basis, and this is very easy with an external hard drive. (There are also internet based backup systems, such as Carbonite, but they costs about $200 a year. If you have the discipline to remember to back up things yourself, you don't need to go to that expense.)

But you must have some back up system. Harddrives do go bad, unfortunately, or someone steals your computer, or some kid sticks a peanut butter sandwich into it and fries it...all sorts of things.

The flash drive replaces the old 3.5 inch discs that used to act as portable storage between computers. They are also inexpensive, and have lots of memory. You'll want at least one of these. (They are also called thumb drives or memory sticks. Despite the name, they aren't "drives" - just storage memory.)

Beware Emails That Look Real

My mail provider is Yahoo allows you to create an email account for free. A lot of providers do this - your own ISP (Internet Service Provide), for example Bresnan Cable, if you are out of Cheyenne, Wyoming, may give you an email address ending in

Recently I've been getting a lot of emails that purport to come from Yahoo. Below is the gist of what these emails say:
Yahoo! Administrative Notice
Sunday, November 28, 2010 8:27 PM
Add sender to Contacts
Yahoo! account holder:

When you set up and use Yahoo! account, you agreed to abide by Yahoo! Terms of Service. According to the terms of service, when Yahoo! notices that you have violated our Terms of Service, or spirit, or your behavior and inconsistency with the terms of the content or spirit of the time (or Other similar situations), we have the right to close your account or otherwise prohibit you to use your account.

Recently, we found that you violated the terms of service. Please read the Terms of Service again, know what behavior will be treated as a breach of the terms in this way before we stop you from using your account. You are therefore required to verify your account information manually after clicking the REPLY button or your account will be suspended for security reasons.

Name: ...................................
ID: .....................................
Password: ...............................
Country: ................................

We will again check your account. If then we believe that the way you use the account is in violation of the terms of service, we may end your account without prior notice.

Yahoo! Account Services

When you get something like this, chances are very good that it's a fraud. Note that the whole text is ungrammatical. That's a clue (well it has been in the past - these days with everything being outsourced to non-native English speaking countries, who knows???) that the email is not genuine.

But more importantly, look at the email address from which this piece of mail came:

That's what's called a "spoof" address. Yahoo owns the url,, so any email that comes to you is going to come from, NOT or any combination thereof.

Whenevery you receive an email that tells you your account may be suspended unless you send them your credit card number, or your password, whether is from Yahoo services, or Paypal, or your credit card company, or what have you, chances are 99% certain that it's a scam.

Look at the URL that is the "reply-to" address, and if it has extraneous words or symbols, that's your proof.

Unfortunately, people are trying to steal your password or other information all the time, using a variety of means. Some are so blatant and obvious as to be laughable, but others are insidious and can fool you if you're not careful.

So - be careful at all times!