Geeks On Tour Newsletter      Subscribe to this Newsletter        July 23, 2007


Traveling with Computers

Oh Boy! On the roadWe are on the road! After staying in and around South Florida since November 2006, we're back on the road and headed for Oregon. I love the fact that traveling makes me 'clean the house' every day. I never was very good at 'a place for everything and everything in it's place', but I've had to get good at it in order to live in a motorhome!

Computers, especially, need their own place, at least desktop computers do. It took us a while to realize that our desktop computer did *not* like being jostled about. After about 6 months on the road, it developed severe problems. I would get the 'blue screen of death' when I turned it on at our destination, and Jim would have to work his magic to bring it back to life. We suspected that vibrations of the road were causing problems with the hard drive - and maybe other components as well. So, we rigged up a nice 'bed' for it. A thick piece of foam rubber in a box just the right size for laying my computer on it's side. We haven't had any more trouble with it, and that's been a couple years now! Laptops don't need this level of care, they were built to withstand a certain amount of bumps and bruises. Desktop computers weren't. They expect to be used on a desktop, in an office, on solid ground!

One other thing to know about traveling with any kind of computer is that you need your original CDs with you. I remember meeting 'Tom' in an RV park in Kansas. His Dell computer had crashed. He couldn't get it to turn on regardless of his efforts. He found out that Jim is a computer tech and asked if he could help. Sure! The first thing Jim needs is the original installation CDs so he can boot the computer and restore the operating system. "Uhhh," Tom says, "you mean those CDs that I keep in a box in my office .... in Michigan?"

Yep, those would be the ones! Lucky for Tom, Jim is a Microsoft partner and has quite a collection of CDs for every operating system they make. We also had an Internet connection because of our satellite dish, so Jim could go to Dell's website and download the drivers needed. He was able to get the computer back up and running, but without his accounting software, or his photo software, because that was all back in Michigan too. He did have his navigation (Streets and Trips) software with him, so he was able to find his way back to Michigan!

Many people have told us, 'But, my computer didn't come with any CDs.' Well, yes, that may be true. But those that came without the CDs *did* come with instructions on how to make your own recovery CDs. It's a pain, but that should be the first thing you do when you buy a new computer.

How to check your Email from anywhere

Our first stop on our travels out of Florida is my Dad's house. He has a nice big driveway, and he even installed 30amp electrical service so we can plug in and run our air conditioning! It's a great way to visit.

He recently took a short trip to North Carolina and he took his laptop computer (with WiFi) with him, but he said he couldn't get his email because that always comes into Outlook on his desktop computer at home. I taught him how he can check his email from anywhere, and the same technique should apply to you as well.

His email is So, all you need to do is go to - or whatever the website is for your provider - and find the link to log in. On there is a spot in the upper right that says, "Sign In". It doesn't mention email because that is just one of the services provided for customers. Once you sign in with your account's username and password, you will see a link to check your email. Other providers' websites specifically link to 'Webmail' or 'Check your Email'. The point is, as long as you know your username (same as your email) and password, most providers give you a way to see your email thru their website. You don't have to have Outlook set up. You don't have to have a specific webmail account like Yahoo! or Gmail or Hotmail, you can check your regular email on your provider's website.

Once you know how to check your email from your provider's website, you can make a shortcut to that on your desktop, or put it in your favorites. The video that teaches how to make a shortcut can be found on the 'Essential Skills' page, then click on 'shortcuts.'

If you are going to be traveling for extended periods, you may be canceling your service from Bellsouth, or Comcast, or whatever you use at home. Then, having a gmail account is a great idea. We like gmail a lot! We have a tutorial video on our website about how to sign up for a Gmail account. Just go to 'More' videos, and click on 'Get a Gmail account.'

Sharpening Photos with Picasa

originalsharpenedCan you see the difference between the photo on the left, and the one on the right? The one on the left is the original. The one on the right has been 'sharpened' by Picasa. In Picasa, you double-click on the photo you want, then, in the left column of Editing commands, click on 'effects'. Sharpen is the first one. Each time you click it, it gets 'sharper.' Once is usually enough - I clicked this one twice to be sure you can see the difference.

The first picture is not out of focus. I took it with my Canon Digital SLR camera. It's a very good camera, with a very good lens. It's a fact of digital photography that, where two different colors come together, it blends them slightly, giving it a soft look. The 'sharpen' command finds those 'edges' and increases the contrast. I find that every photo can benefit from one click of the sharpen effect, so here's the real kicker: in Picasa, if you click on the Picture menu and then 'Batch Edit', you can sharpen all selected photos at once! If you decide you don't like this effect on any given picture, you can always 'undo' it!

For a video that shows how to do this, go to the Picasa tutorial page and click on 'Improving Photos.'

That's all for now. Thanks for reading, . Your next issue will be in a couple weeks. Any questions, please email us.

Chris Guld