All posts by Darrin Jenkins

Darrin is an IT manager for a large electrical contractor in Louisville KY. He is married and has 3 kids. He loves helping people with their technology needs. He runs a blog called Say Geek!

Google Trying Best Guesses for Search Results

Google seems to be experimenting with a new service which will offer a “best guess” as to the answer you’re looking for when you perform a search, not just web pages that contain your search criteria. Very little information is available regarding this service. It does not appear to be officially announced anywhere on Google’s blogs. I have added some screenshots from various queries I performed so you can see what it looks like.

In the image below, I typed “cast of friends” in the search box. It returned most of the main characters as a best guess. Also notice that it shows the sources for its answer. This particular search also had a feedback button at the bottom. When I clicked it, I had to choose a yes or no answer as to whether this was useful information or not.

Cast

Below, I searched for “who is married to ashton kutcher”. Notice it returned “Best guess for Ashton Kutcher Spouse”. I found the wording a little interesting. Notice there is no feedback button on this result.

Ashton

The last search I tried was “capital of kentucky”. It returned “Frankfort” which is correct.

Capital of KY

It appears the service is designed to answer simple questions that may have one or two word answers. If they ever get this perfected, it may be the ultimate Trivial Pursuit resource. In its current state, however, it is pretty unrefined.   In my experience, it was hard to find a pattern of what it would try to guess on. It seemed to consistently tell cast members of TV shows, but it wouldn’t tell you things like “who was the 15th president of the U.S.” I have to say most searches that I tried did not return the best guess. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was when it failed to answer my query “how many licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop”. Oh well, you can’t blame a guy for trying.

Insert Screenshots Into Your Word Documents

Have you ever needed to create an instruction manual and wished you could insert screenshots? There are lots of software options out there that will help you to do this. One of those options is probably sitting right under your nose and you haven’t noticed it. Microsoft Word 2010 has a screenshot feature that will allow you to take a picture of your desktop screens and insert them into your documents as pictures. In this article, I will show you the steps to do this. Let’s get started.

In Word 2010, click the “Insert” tab and then click the “Screenshot” button. In the picture below, you can see that when you click the “Screenshot button”, you get several options. First, you will see the “Available Windows” area. This shows you a representation of all of the windows that you have open. In this example, I wanted to insert a screenshot of an installation I was doing. I chose the appropriate window from my choices below. The second area I would like to call to your attention is highlighted in purple below. It is called “Screen Clipping”. This option will allow you to highlight a specific region on your screen that you would like to insert into your document. For instance, you might see a logo on a web page that you would like to clip into your Word document, simply click the “Screen Clipping” button and highlight the logo. When you release the mouse button, the highlighted area will automatically be placed into the document.

Screenshot Button

Once you have inserted your screenshot into your document, you can edit it just like any other picture you would insert. You will see your picture with selection handles (dots) all around. Clicking and dragging these handles will allow you to resize the picture. You will also notice, at the top of the picture, a green dot. This green dot will allow you to rotate your image 360 degrees. You may also choose to use Microsoft Word’s drawing tools to put arrows and text boxes on your image like the one pictured below.

Inserted Screen Shot

When it comes to writing tutorials, it helps to have pictures to illustrate what you’re writing. I guess this is supported by the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words”. I hope you find this tutorial useful. If you have any questions or comments I would love to hear back from you.

Sending Out an S.O.S.! – 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Telegraph

Today marks an important milestone in the history of the world: the completion of the Transcontinental Telegraph. 150 years ago, today, the final line was terminated from Carson City, Nevada. Associated Press contributor, John Rogers, compared the Transcontinental Telegraph to today’s internet.

A rudimentary version of the Internet — not much more advanced than two tin cans and a string — had been born. But it worked, and it grew.

The Transcontinental Telegraph connected the war-torn eastern United States with the newest member state, California. California was admitted to the U.S. in 1850 and had a booming economy at the time. Most of the eastern U.S. was already wired, as well was California, but there was no means of connection between them. The importance of communication between the union and the newest non-contiguous state became immediately apparent, which prompted congress to authorize the U.S. Post Office to spend $40,000 per year to build and maintain an overland line. In 1860, the Pacific Telegraph Act awarded Hiram Sibley, president of the Western Union Company, the funds to make this overland line possible. Sibley was able to build a consortium between his company and the California telegraph companies to share in both construction and profit of the new line.

Construction of Transcontinental Telegraph
Courtesy of WikiMedia Wood Engraving after George M. Ottinger

It is really amazing when you consider the parallels between the Transcontinental Telegraph and the internet of today. For instance, the struggles that the U.S. Postal service is having today due to the impact of e-mail and instant messaging, is reminiscent of the impact the telegraph had on the Pony Express. Before the telegraph, the Pony Express was the fastest means to get messages between California and the Union. Upon completion of the Transcontinental Telegraph, the Pony Express shut its doors two days later.  It is hard to measure the impact that this new technology had on the nation. The government in Washington could communicate with the distant west in real time. Business could now be done across the country at mind-blowing speed. Much like today’s internet, the telegraph connected a society across great distances.

Samuel Morse's Telegraph
Courtesy Wikimedia.org Samuel Morse's First Telegraph

I would be remiss if I did an article on the impact of the telegraph without mentioning the father of the U.S. telegraph, Samuel Morse.  It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. This statement certainly rang true in the invention of the telegraph. Samuel Morse, a scholar and inventor, was also a great painter and was commissioned to do some work in Washington. While there, he received a message via a horse messenger that his wife was ill. By the time reached her back home, she was already buried. This was the motivating factor in his working on a long distance communication medium. Morse’s chance encounter with Charles Thomas Jackson on a sea voyage home inspired him to develop the single-wire telegraph. It wasn’t long after that his telegraph became the standard across the U.S. and the U.K. Morse is also credited with the invention of Morse Code which became the standard method of transmitting telegraphic information.

So, today, when you type that e-mail or Tweet something out to your friends, take a moment to remember the early pioneers who truly connected the world with wires. When you type LOL today, remember that HEE was  Morse  code for humor intended long before you or your grandparents were even thought of. It seems appropriate to remember such a milestone on the same day that Steve Jobs’ biography is released. Maybe the thought of the great men behind world-changing technology will inspire us all to achieve a little further today.

 

Steve Jobs Biography Released Today

On February 24, 1955 a child was born to humble beginnings. Born out of wedlock and put up for adoption, who could have known the impact he would make as a young man? Even more stunning was his untimely demise in a battle against pancreatic cancer a little more than two weeks ago. With the life and death of Steve Jobs fresh on our minds, his biography is being released to the public today. Written by former Time Magazine editor, Walter Isaacson, this book is sure to provoke many thoughts and emotions. Even as I ponder the life of this brilliant innovator, I am inspired by the impact he made in his short life, and reminded that time is short.

Steve Jobs Bio

Steve Kroft, of 60 Minutes, interviewed Walter Isaacson last night. Isaacson, author of  Benjamin Franklin: An American Life  and Kissinger: A Biography, revealed that he felt that Jobs was being “presumptuous” when he approached him to be the author of this biography seven years ago. At the time, Isaacson was not aware of Job’s cancer diagnosis. Below, you can see the video interview posted on the 60 Minutes website.

Isaacson conducted more than forty interviews with Jobs. He also interviewed scores of friends, colleagues, competitors, and family members. Jobs gave Isaacson full rein on the biography. He had no skeletons to hide and wanted it to be an honest account of his life.

What little I have gleaned from the interview with 60 Minutes, as well as the description on Simon and Schuster’s website, it appears that this book is well worth reading. As with so many great men, Jobs’s life was  multidimensional. His victories were great, however his tragedies were, as well.

I hope that those who read this book find the same inspiration that I have while researching this article. He was not a perfect man, but there is no doubting his contributions to the world. As cruel as life can be at times, the great ones, like Jobs, learn to endure and rise above. I also believe that the great ones embrace the words Jobs shared at a 2005 commencement at Stanford University:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life!

 

Remote Control Your PC from Your iPad with Splashtop Remote!

OK, IT managers out there, listen up! If you want to make a real splash with your boss, then listen to what I am about to tell you. My boss came to me the other day and told me he was going on a trip. He was taking his iPad with him and he wanted to be able to access his files that reside on his work computer. Now, you know there are tons of ways to go about this. The first thing that came to mind was Dropbox. The problem with this was that I would either have to redirect his My Documents folder to his Dropbox folder, or he would have to move into there whatever files he thought he would need to access while he was away. I decided against this option. I did a little homework and came across a great app for the iPad called Splashtop Remote.

Splashtop Remote

Splashtop has developed several nice apps, including one previously covered on Techie Buzz called Splashtop OS. Splashtop Remote can be purchased from the iTunes store for a very small fee. After you purchase the app, there is one more FREE piece of software that you need to make this all work. It is called the Splashtop Streamer. As a side note, this might be a good time to let you know that the PC version of SplashTop Remote, which allows you to remote control a PC from another PC, is a FREE app. It’s a decent way to connect to a remote PC. The Splashtop Streamer runs as a service on the PC that you wish to remotely access. It is what makes it possible for the Splashtop Remote iPad app to connect.

Installing the Splashtop Streamer on your PC is pretty simple. Below, I will outline the basic steps to getting it set up. First, you will see the image pictured below. Click Go and agree to the license agreement.

Streamer Setup

The next major step is entering an access code for your computer. This adds a layer of security so people just can’t hop on and take over your PC at will.

Enter Code

That is pretty much all there is to installing the software. Now, if you plan on being away from your PC, like on a vacation, and you want to access it on the iPad, you will need to set up the “Network” settings on the Streamer. In the picture below, you can see where I have the “Network” tab selected. Notice that it uses a Google account. If you don’t have a Google account, just click the link that says “Create One”. It is free and  quick to do. Without this account, you will have a hard time accessing your PC when you are away from your office.

Google Sign In

The app on the iPad will also need to be configured to use the same Google account. This will synchronize the PC and the iPad, which will allow you to access the PC from the iPad via the internet.

Once you connect to your PC from the iPad, you enter your security code and you will be remote controlling your PC from your iPad. Now you can edit Word documents, read Outlook email, or watch YouTube videos that are playing on your PC from your iPad. The remote app on the iPad uses finger gestures to do common Windows tasks. For instance, pressing and holding your finger on the screen will perform a right-click on the PC.

I hope that you enjoy Splashtop Remote as much as I have. My boss was thrilled with how easy it was to use. There is nothing fancy to overwhelm him. It just plain works. He doesn’t have to worry about keeping files in separate places or trying to access them via a VPN connection. Everything looks the way he is used to seeing them on his PC. I also would like to point out that there are Android and iPhone versions of this app as well.

What about you? Would you like to be able to remote control your PC from your iPad? What ways would you use this software?

As always, we love to hear from our readers!

Can’t Touch This! MC Hammer Introduces New Search Engine – WireDoo

In an effort to show the world that he is still too legit to quit, MC Hammer introduced his newest endeavor – WireDoo! The announcement was made at the Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco yesterday. News.com.au reports that the rapper-turned-internet-pioneer’s company slogan is “Search once, see what relates”.

Tweet

MC Hammer admitted that the world didn’t need another search engine but that WireDoo is “about relationships beyond just the keywords”. Apparently, this new service will strive to find content surrounding the key words entered. It will use “deep search” and “relationship search” technologies to get better results. At this time, the details are vague. As you can see from the picture below, WireDoo is not yet available. You can sign up for their beta test and they will notify you when they are ready.

 

Sign Up

MC Hammer is currently CEO of Alchemist Management, a mixed martial arts management and marketing company. The “About” section of their website describes him best, saying, “Legendary music icon and master of reinvention MC Hammer is CEO of Alchemist Management. Most recently, Hammer became one of the most influential personalities on the social media platform Twitter with over 1.8 million followers.” Wow, who would have ever thought that. I guess that rebel spirit of his is the secret of his success.

MC Hammer
Courtesy of Alchemist Management Website

There is a disappointing lack of information on the Web 2.0 Conference’s website. I am not sure if there are legal issues that surround posting videos of the rap mogul, or whether they are simply not taking him seriously. I am very curious to see where his newest endeavor takes him. It may not reinvent the web, but I think it will be fun to watch.

What do you think? Will this new endeavor go the way of parachute pants, or will it be a roaring success?

 

Kinect Makes Learning Fun With Sesame Street and National Geographic

Today, Microsoft introduced, as part of its “playful learning” initiative, the “Kinect Sesame Street TVexperience. It was announced at an event in New York, and appears to be scheduled to come out in the spring of next year. It is designed to be a truly interactive experience between children and the Sesame Street characters.

Sesame Street on Kinect

A motion-sensing camera allows the children to interact with the characters through the use of voice and gestures. Characters on screen will respond based on what the child is doing. For instance, Grover will be able to tell a child to throw coconuts and will respond based on how hard the child throws. In the video below, you can get a first-hand glance at some of the features to come.

The people of Sesame Street are excited about this, as well. Miles Ludwig, managing director of content innovation and Sesame Workshop, said, “Now kids will be able to have adventures with their Sesame Street friends and be a part of the adventure in a way that’s never been possible before. We’re very excited about this partnership with Microsoft that will capitalize on new technologies to bring altogether new kinds of educational and of course, entertaining experiences to families.”

National Geographic is joining in the fun too. “Kinect Nat Geo TV” will work in conjunction with Nat Geo WILD starting this spring. The Kinect will scan the room and transform it into a wildlife habitat. Children will interact with the room as if it were the wild outdoors. The Kinect even transforms their heads into animal heads onscreen. They can pretend to be foraging for food in the forest. Brad Dancer, senior vice president of digital media and research at the National Geographic Channel, said, “Because our programming is so information-rich we can only show so much, but Kinect Nat Geo TV’ offers the ability to go further than what the television show can do”. It’s truly interactive TV.

As a parent, I understand the concern many parents have about the amount of “screen” time kids have. As much as I love computers, I try to limit my kid’s exposure to the TV, internet, and video games. I strongly believe that children best learn through interaction with a parent. That being said, I like the idea behind games like this because they engage kids in more than just visual ways. Being prompted to move and respond physically will improve learning retention.

What do you think? Is this a passing fad or will interactive entertainment be the wave of the future?

Amazon Prime Strikes Deal With PBS

Amazon announced in a press release today, “an expansion of a licensing agreement with PBS Distribution that will allow Amazon Prime members to instantly stream, at no additional cost, current and archived PBS programming”. This will bring their count up to 12,000 videos by the end of the year.

PBS Logo

Amazon Prime is an annual membership program made available by Amazon.com. It’s similar to a membership in a wholesale club, like Sam’s, for instance. For a $79 fee, members are able to get free two-day shipping on millions of items at Amazon.com. Recently, they have started providing Prime Instant Videos, which gives their members unlimited access to certain movies and TV shows online.

Seeking to compete with the likes of Netflix and Hulu, Amazon Prime continues to add to its video collection. Back in September, they were able to secure a deal with Twentieth Century Fox. The PBS agreement adds shows like  NOVA,  Masterpiece  and  Antiques Roadshow. They will also be adding several PBS news programs and the ever popular cooking show, The  French Chef, hosted by Julia Child.

I believe that this will be a welcomed addition to Amazon Prime. This service seems to be gaining momentum. Hopefully the service will receive a boost from those who recently purchased their Kindle Fire. All Kindle Fire customers receive 3 months of Amazon Prime for free. Amazon better make a good showing while they have this captive audience.

What about you? Have you ordered your Kindle Fire yet? Do you think you will give Amazon Prime a try?

Small Business Grant Scam Floating Around Facebook

Beware of a new scam making its way around Facebook masquerading as a service that helps people find FREE government grants. In the picture below, you will see what appeared on my Facebook feed. It plays on several themes. One, is people’s dismay with the government as it states, “finally the Gov is helping their people!” Second, the poor economy is a great motivator for people to fall for these kind of schemes.

Facebook Scam

Right away you should notice that there are some things wrong with this picture. What legitimate business says “Gov” instead of government? The other thing to note is the web address it points to, “just9u.com”. That is a very random domain name. Usually that is a sure sign that this is not a legitimate offer.

If you are one of the unlucky ones who click this link, you will be taken to a website outside of Facebook. In the picture below, you can see a copy of what this website looks like. As you can see, it appears to be a news report. It attempts to build credibility by adding logos of several recognizable news agencies. Beware of these type of schemes. Take a look at the two areas highlighted in red below. First, notice the name of the website. It says “dailynetnewstoday.com”. Strange, didn’t the link above say “just9u.com”? Also whenever you mouse over any link the bottom of the webpage shows the link “dailynetnews.com/agrant/grants.php”. It seems odd that putting your mouse over CNN’s logo would show that link don’t you think? Go with your gut on this. IT IS A SCAM!

Grant Site

If you click anywhere on the page picture above, you will be taken to another website where you can fill out a form. The website is “grantassist.com”. For a fee, they claim they can help you get all the government grants that you are entitled to. In reality, they are out to take you money and charge your credit card fraudulently. I did a little homework on these guys. They are a company based in Nevada.  I found they had an “F” rating on the Better Business Bureau’s website. These people had 131 complaints against them.

F Rated on BBBThese type of businesses skirt the law and fly under the radar to do their dirty schemes. You have to be careful and look for the signs of scams. Do they use well known logos that don’t link to the actual logo’s site, such as CNN? Do the URL’s have strange names that don’t make much sense? Does the site ask you for money or prevent you from clicking the close button? These are all signs of scams. Don’t fall for this stuff and don’t help it spread. If you see this type of post on Facebook, please warn your friends not to click it. I hope this article will help prevent some future mistakes.

 

Sesame Street’s YouTube Channel Hacked With Porn

Katy Perry can breathe a little easier now. It turns out she wasn’t the steamiest thing to hit Sesame Street after all. According to ABC affiliate, KGO, YouTube took down the children’s entertainment channel for  “repeated or severe violations of our Community Guidelines”. The violation you ask? Porn!

Katy Perry

Before you fall out of your chair, know that Sesame Street’s channel was hacked. The hackers uploaded several porn movies to the site. According to an article by Naked Security (no pun intended) author, Graham Cluley, the porn was available for the world to see for about 20 minutes before being taken down. At this time, YouTube and Sesame Street are staying silent about it.

Not only did the hacker’s upload porn, they also managed to change the profile page for the channel. Here is an excerpt, which was caught by Naked Security’s blog:

WHO DOESN’T LOVE PORN KIDS? RIGHT! EVERYONE LOVES IT! IM MREDXWX AND MY PARTNER MRSUICIDER91 ARE HERE TO BRING YOU MANY NICE CONTENT! PLEASE DON’T LET SESAME STREET TO GET THIS ACCOUNT BACK KIDS :( PLEASE…LET ME AND MRSUICIDER91 HAVE IT AND WE GONNA MAKE ALL THE AMERICA HAPPY!

The YouTube profile MrEdxwx, mentioned in the quote is a legitimate channel, but they are adamantly denying having any role in this hack. It appears they are a gaming channel. According to their profile  they state, “Please understand i did not hack sesame street , i RESPECT youtube community guidelines !” They also posted a plea in the form of a video, which you can view below.

It has barely been a year since Sesame Street pulled a duet between Katy Perry and Elmo from their show. Her outfit is pictured at the top of the article. You can see why some parents were a little concerned about the amount of cleavage their 6 year olds were going to be exposed to. Compared to today’s events, Katy Perry pales in comparison.

Miss Piggy and KermitI remember back when Miss Piggy and Kermit were the only “steamy” romance on the block. It is a real shame that people have nothing better to do with their time than try to expose millions of children to pornography. I have to wonder if this has anything to do with Reddit’s recent decision to ban /r/jailbait, which was a very controversial child porn site, being shut down recently. Who knows? What I do know is that if these folks have the knowledge to hack a site like this, they ought to have the knowledge to do something constructive for society at large. Instead, they spend their time victimizing the most innocent of us all, our children.

Create A Cool Photo Album With PowerPoint 2010

Have you ever gone on vacation and wanted an easy way to share photos with your family and friends? Maybe you’re an art teacher that teaches an online class and you would like to share slides with everyone in the class. There is a super easy way to create a photo album slide show in PowerPoint 2010. It is also extremely easy to share this photo album with anybody in the world using a free service built into PowerPoint 2010. Let’s get started!

We’ll begin by opening PowerPoint. By default, you should see a blank PowerPoint show. Click the “Insert” tab on the ribbon toolbar and then find a button that says “Photo Album”. Click “Photo Album” and choose “New Photo Album” from the menu. See the image below for an example.

Insert Photo Album

A dialog box will pop up, as pictured below. Click the button that says “File/Disk” to bring up a file selection window.

File Button

In the file selection window, navigate to the folder that contains the pictures you would like to have in your album. In the picture below, you will see that I have selected multiple pictures. I did this by holding the ctrl key down and clicking each picture that I wanted to select. Once you have all of the pictures that you want to include selected, click the “Insert” button.

File Selection Window

You will be taken back to the “Edit Photo Album” dialog box. There are several options in this dialog, as you can see in the picture below. You can rearrange the order of the pictures. On the far right side, there is a small toolbar for quick photo edits, such as brightness and contrast. You can also change the layout of the slide to hold multiple photos. The “Theme” dropdown lets you pick one of PowerPoint’s built in color schemes.

Edit Photo Album

Below, you can see what a photo album slide show looks like.

Finished Album

Now that we have our photo album designed, we have to figure out how we want to distribute it. There are two ways I would like to show you how to do this. The first way is to save it as a PowerPoint show. A PowerPoint show can be emailed and the person on the receiving end can see the slides without having to see them in edit mode. One thing you might want to do, if you set it up as a show, is configure the slides to automatically change. To do this you click on the “Slide Show” tab and click the button that says “Set Up Slide Show”, as pictured below.

Set Up Show

Below, you can see a picture of the “Set Up Show” dialog box. Here you can configure the slide show to open full screen and to advance either manually or automatically. This is also the place you go if you want a presentation to loop over and over until you stop it.

Use Timings

Now that we have the settings in place, let’s save the show. In the save window pictured below, you will notice a “Save As Type” dropdown. In this instance, we want to choose “PowerPoint Show (*.ppsx)”. This puts it in a format we can email to people for viewing.

Save As

The second way you can share your PowerPoint show is via a new feature in 2010 called “Broadcast”. The broadcast will allow you to present your show online for free. A link is generated that you can send to people. When they click the link, they will be taken to a web page where they view the show in real time as you present it to them. In the picture below, you can see how this is done. Click “File”, “Broadcast Slide Show”, then click the “Broadcast Slide Show” button.

Broadcast

A “Broadcast Slide Show” dialog box appears, where you click the button that says “Start Broadcast”.

Start Broadcast

A link is created that you can send to the people you want to view the show. Now you can get everyone in a conference call and click the “Start Slide Show” button. As you click through the slides, the people you invited will see the slide advance on the web page they are viewing. It’s as simple as that, and it’s free!

Share Link

I hope you have enjoyed today’s tutorial. I think that this is a great way to cross geographical boundaries and share photos and presentations. What about you? Have you used this service? Do you have any ideas that you would suggest for its use?

As always, we appreciate your feedback. Thanks for reading Techie Buzz!

Get 50GB Free Space on Box.net for Lifetime

Apple fans: As if things weren’t good enough already, Box.net has an offer that will blow your mind! , Social Media Manager at Box.net, announced on their official blog, that iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch users will get 50GB of lifetime storage for free if they sign up for a Box Personal account.

50GB Free

The offer started at midnight of October 13th and will extend for 50 days. The Box account isn’t restricted to just the mobile device, either, so you can use it with your PC. Below are the instructions stated on their website to set up a new account.

  1. Visit the app store and download the Box app for your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch
  2. Log in to your account or register for a new one directly from the app
  3. Start sharing and collaborating in the cloud
  4. (optional but recommended) Tell the world how you’ll use your 50 GB with the hashtag  #Box50GB

It is obvious that Box.net is trying to capitalize on the iPhone 4S euphoria. Not only that, but you have to believe that the introduction of Apple’s iCloud has a little to do with it, as well. All new Apple devices now come with the iCloud. This basically gets you 5GB of online storage for free. The iCloud’s seamless integration with iPhone/iPad devices threatens to take market share from companies like Box.net. It’s understandable that Box.net would come out in full swing.

This is a great promotion and, according to their blog, there will be other contests and tips coming in the next 50 days, so you might want to stay tuned.

What about you? Is this a service that you would like to take advantage of? Let us know your thoughts and if you are considering this as part of your app collection.

Don’t forget to read our earlier article about how you can mount Box.net in Windows Explorer.

RIM Service Outage Frustrates Blackberry Users Worldwide

Research In Motion announced on it’s website today, that they are continuing to struggle with intermittent service outages. Problems began for the ailing company on Monday in Europe and have continued to spread to the U.S. and Canada today.

Blackberry Down

There is a link on their main page to the service updates. Below, you can see quoted from their website what has been announced up to the time of this article.

BlackBerry Service Update

Wednesday 12th October 9:45 (GMT-5)
BlackBerry subscribers in the Americas may be experiencing intermittent service delays this morning. We are working to resolve the situation as quickly as possible and we apologize to our customers for any inconvenience. We will provide a further update as soon as more information is available.

Wednesday 12th October 12:00 (GMT+1)
We know that many of you are still experiencing service problems. The resolution of this service issue is our Number One priority right now and we are working night and day to restore all BlackBerry services to normal levels. We will continue to keep this page updated.

Tuesday 11th October – 21:30 (GMT+1)
The messaging and browsing delays that some of you are still experiencing were caused by a core switch failure within RIM’s infrastructure. Although the system is designed to failover to a back-up switch, the failover did not function as previously tested. As a result, a large backlog of data was generated and we are now working to clear that backlog and restore normal service as quickly as possible. We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused to many of you and we will continue to keep you informed.

Tuesday 11th October – 16:00 (GMT+1)
Some of you are experiencing messaging and browsing delays. We are working to restore normal service as quickly as possible and we apologise for any inconvenience this has caused.

Monday 10th October – 20:46 (GMT+1)
Our sincere apologies to all of you affected by today’s BlackBerry service issues.

Monday 10th October – 15:00 (GMT+1)
We are currently working to resolve an issue impacting some of our BlackBerry customers in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. In the meantime, we apologise to you for any inconvenience, and thank you for your patience.

It appears that problems began in North America sometime late Tuesday night. One of the Project Managers at my company experienced the problem this morning. Phone calls were coming through to his phone, but he could not browse the web or get email.

Frustrations like this are the last thing RIM needs right now. The iPhone and Android phones have almost wiped the Blackberry out of existence. According to a Business Week article, “RIM, based in Waterloo, Ontario, fell 1.8 percent to $23.97 at 10:48 a.m. New York time. Before today, the stock had dropped 58 percent this year.” A failure like this could prove to be a fatal blow if they don’t get this resolved soon.  There have been calls for a change of leadership in the RIM organization. It is hard to blame leadership for hardware failure, however, stack this on top of all the other challenges they face and it can’t help.

Are you a Blackberry user? If so, how has this affected you and will it affect your future purchasing decisions?

Facebook Introduces iPad App

It’s finally here! The long awaited Facebook app for iPad has finally been released, according to the Facebook blog. This much anticipated app is sure to please iPad users far and wide. It took a while for Facebook to get the app developed. It looks like a lot of thought has gone into this app. It is feature rich and intuitive.

One of the great features of this app is how it handles picture albums. As you can see in the picture below, all of your albums are viewable. It has a very nice look and feel on the iPad. You can pinch a picture to zoom it in and out.

Albums
Photo Courtesy Facebook Blog

The app features a very nice navigation tool. Pictured below, you can see there is a menu on the left side of the screen with easy to find shortcuts to all the apps and tools you use on Facebook.

Navigation
Photo Courtesy of Facebook Blog

Featured at the top of the screen, is the notifications area that you are used to seeing on the desktop browser versions of Facebook. There you will be able to see when you get notifications such as friend requests and messages.

Notifications

The big news with the iPad app is the ability to play games in full screen. One challenge all along has been that IOS hasn’t supported Flash. Now Facebook has worked it out where many popular game developers have HTML5 versions that work cross platform. The ability to chat from the iPad app is also a great feature. You can see an example of the chat pictured below.

Chat

One thing Apple developers are hoping for is that Facebook users will help spread the word about new apps.  Of course, one major challenge to being an app developer is getting your name out there.  Facebook users will now be able to tell what apps their friends are recommending and using.

It will be interesting to see how Facebook and Apple work things out. What other developments may come from this relationship has yet to be seen. What do you think? What other features would you like to see in the Facebook for iPad app? As always, we love to hear your comments.

Easily Cut Out Pictures Using PaintdotNet

One of our readers posed a question to me yesterday and I thought that I would share the answer with all of you. The reader had been scanning scrapbook pages and wanted to know how they could separate the scanned pages into individual pictures. There are hundreds of ways to do this, however, I would like to show you how I would accomplish something like it. Plus, I have a free program suggestion, which makes this tutorial that much better!

The first thing we need to do is download a free program called Paint.Net. This is a pretty nifty program. Here is a little blurb from their website to give you a little background on the program.

It started development as an undergraduate college senior design  project  mentored by Microsoft, and is currently being maintained by some of the alumni that originally worked on it. Originally intended as a free replacement for the  Microsoft Paint  software that comes with Windows, it has grown into a powerful yet simple image and photo editor tool.

Once you have the program downloaded and installed on your computer, open up an image. In this tutorial, I am going to copy a piece of a picture and paste it into a new picture. Let’s say, for example, I want to cut my picture out below and make a thumbnail of my head.

Image In Paint.Net

If you look on the left side of the screen, there is a floating toolbar. Here, you will find lots of really cool tools you can use to edit your picture. Let’s find the “rectangle select” tool. You can see it highlighted in the image below.

Rectangle Select

Click the “rectangle Select” tool. Click and drag over the area of the picture that you would like to cut out. In the image below, you can see where I highlighted the area around my face.

Selected Area

In this tutorial, I don’t want to crop this picture because that would affect the original image, which I want to keep as-is. What I want to do is create a new image from the selected area above. To do this, I need to copy the selected area. Click the edit menu, as pictured below, and select copy from the menu.

Select Copy

Now, here is the really cool part. Let’s click the “New”  button in the upper left corner of the screen. Paint.Net actually recognizes the size of the image that you copied onto the clipboard. Notice in the picture below, there is a dialog box that pops up with image size already filled in.

New

Once you click OK, there will be a blank picture perfectly sized for the image that is on the clipboard. Now, all you have to do is go to edit and click paste, as pictured below.

Paste

There you have it! The selected area from the original picture is now a separate picture. I will point out that if you look in the top right corner of the screen, there are thumbnail images that show you all the images you have open. See the image below for an example.

Thumbnails

Paint.Net is one of the easiest image editors I have ever used. I hope to do more tutorials soon. It has a lot of the functionality of Photoshop, but it also is intuitive for people used to using Microsoft products. Since it’s free, you can’t beat the price.

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