Could your files be held for ransom?

In case you haven't heard about "ransomware," let me fill you in on this criminal act. A program like Cryptolocker will find files on your computer (including attached drives and networks) and encrypt them. Once it has finished encrypting the files, it will show a popup that tells you that your files are encrypted and you have to pay a ransom ($300) to decrypt them before the 96 hour countdown completes. If you do not pay the ransom during the countdown, the private key used to encrypt the files is destroyed and your files become unrecoverable. If you want to protect yourself against this type of invasion, you can install a free utility called HitmanPro.Alert 2. Go to for information and download.

When you open a browser, HitmanPro lets you know it is vigilant to keep out intruders.

Don't lose out! Be sure you've backed up off-line.

Sometimes we think we're covered with our backup plan. However, if you have a connection that is connected at all times, you could be at risk. There is a virus called CryptoLocker that could take advantage of your situation. When it gets into your computer, it encrypts your data. Then it asks you for $300 to receive the unencryption method. The virus attacks not only the data on your computer's drives, but also the backup folders if they are connected. It would be horrible to lose both sets of data, wouldn't it?

There is no shortage of hackers out there. Be prepared for an attack.

You'll like VLC Media Player

I used Camtasia to create some video training modules for a client, but she said she couldn't see the video portion. She could only hear my audio. She was using Windows Media Player. I asked my assistant to view the avi files on his computer. He used Windows Media Player. He couldn't see the visuals either.

Then he opened free open-source VLC Media Player--and everything ran perfectly. I loaded VLC on my client's computer, and all runs smoothly.

I would recommend VLC Media Player.

Publisher can solve your formatting problems

I admit that Publisher is not as mature a product as Word or Excel, but it does have its benefits. I recently had an opportunity to teach an introductory class for business owners. They were impressed with what they could do in a 2-hour class. In Publisher, all text is within text boxes that can be resized and moved. If there is too much text for the size of the textbox, you can create a link to another textbox where the "overflow" text will appear. This is great for newsletters and brochures.

Picture placeholders maintain a shape so that you can change the picture without changing the size. This is helpful for last-minute changes. When the whole document has been laid out, you don't want to mess with a picture of a different size or proportion.

When pictures are inserted, the text in any conflicting textbox wraps around the picture without any work on your part.

There are helpful free tutorials on Goodwill Community Foundation's website.

Excel Pivot Tables are S-o-o-o EASY to create!

I taught a class today about Excel formulas, functions, and pivot tables. Instead of presenting pivot tables at the end of the 2-hour class, we worked with several samples at the beginning. I didn't want them to get slighted. I was one who used to feel inept with pivot tables, but the newer versions of Excel make it so easy, it's a crime not to use them. If you deal with raw data and would like a quick way to analyze it, you must consider using pivot tables. They're fast and they're flexible. And there are plenty of free tutorials out there.

Websites I found very useful

I was glad to find the website which had exactly what I needed when working in Word on a 200-page engineering document. Her instructions ("How to create numbered headings or outline numbering") showed me step-by-step what to do. Shauna mentioned she had pulled a lot of information from Word "Most Valuable Professionals" site at I found a helpful compilation of Word keyboard shortcuts. It thought I knew a lot of them, but I haven't taken full advantage of the Function keys. (Whatever happened to those plastic templates that used to fit around the Function keys? Wow, I go w-a-y back!))

I also get regular help from e-mails sent by Allen Wyatt's site

When will Dvorak keyboards take over?

I shared with my students last night the difference between QWERTY keyboards and Dvorak keyboards. The QWERTY keyboards most of us use were designed to SLOW DOWN typists who used to jam their typewriters. However, Dvorak designed the keyboard to be MOST EFFICIENT. I hope schools are teaching new typists to use the Dvorak method. Will young people adopt it? I hope so. For most of us, it would be as difficult a change as going from feet/inches to the metric system. But once we had made the change, we wouldn't want to return to QWERTY.

Here’s a website that did some testing of both keyboards. They did a short study showing relative finger movement between Dvorak and QWERTY with the 12 most common words. The Dvorak typist used 1/3 the finger movement of the QWERTY typist.

I have wanted to switch to Dvorak, but I work with so many clients who use QWERTY, I’d have a hard time keeping both in my head and fingers. Or would I? Do you know anyone who can do both without trouble?

Unfortunate misconceptions about folders and files

folder icon file managementI’d always wondered why people have such difficulty understanding folder and file management. It wasn’t because their lives were disorganized. It’s because they have a basic misconception. Their visual image of a “file” is a manila file folder. Picture the boss asking his secretary to bring him “the Anderson file.” Of course, it is actually a “folder” full of papers. A recent client enlightened me to this error when she asked, “A file is the same as a folder, right?” No! I wanted to draw pictures to change her mental model of a file and a folder.

The next concept that is hard for some to understand is the subdivision of folders. When I say “subfolder” to a client, I still don’t convey something meaningful. I have some examples, and I hope one of them will ring a bell. 1) I suggest thinking of the list of folders as if it were an outline—the kind we learned to create when we were in junior high. Each new level is indented. 2) I suggest an organizational chart or a family tree, but such charts are usually laid out on paper differently from the folders and subfolders.

Do you have any helpful analogies?

You can't BREAK the computer!

This note came from a woman in one of my classes who had been told by her husband not to mess with their computer because she might break it. "Thank you. You've taught me the MOST important thing: I will not break the computer and I can learn. Yahoo! I really am excited and delighted. Health issues will only slow me a bit. They cannot stop me now that I'm no longer afraid.

"So, thank you. You are so wonderfully calming to your students. you are enthusiastic and extremely kind. Great teacher."

You can imagine how good I felt when reading her note. I have no doubt she will overtake her husband in computer skills. :-)

Tips on how to select a laptop

I often get asked "Which laptop should I buy?" I found this information from Microsoft and felt it had some good ideas. I especially like the idea of comparing two laptops side by side. It would be very easy to see which size of screen worked best for you. Seven Tips for Buying a Laptop Additionally, I find most of my clients over 40 prefer to use a mouse rather than the touchpad. When using the mouse, turn OFF the touchpad. Otherwise your wrist skims across the touchpad and creates confusion on the screen.

Professionals accelerate sales as a result of computer training

It’s gratifying to see clients receive training eagerly and “take off” on their own. Two people I’ve worked with recently have impressed me. Both are over 60 but still willing to learn more computer skills for their professions. Ann [name changed] is a sales rep who had a desktop PC and traveled a week or two at a time. When the PC died, she invested in a laptop. She says it has dramatically changed her life! Instead of stockpiling paperwork during the week that she’d have to enter into her computer on weekends, she keeps up with it while on the road. She’s also purchased an iPhone that is streamlining the way she works. She gets frustrated that some of her vendors are not more computerized.

Bill has maintained a service profession for many years but was not keeping up with the move to computerized reports for clients. He’s not ready to retire fully, so he bought software designed for his trade and has made amazing progress. He shows sample reports to potential clients and he gets chosen for jobs. Instead of hating the learning, he has embraced it and actually enjoys it. What a gleam of pride shines from his eyes as he shares with me what he has achieved!

Saving bucks using internet phone

Some people drop their landline phone and use a cell phone only. From home, the quality of my cell phone is not very good. I still want a landline phone so I don't have to question if my caller can understand me. But there's another option... Two months ago we ditched our landline (and the monthly payments of $38) and bought an internet phone device. Our one-time hardware investment of approximately $220 will be paid off after about 8 months. I would say the service is free except we have to pay a few dollars each month for communications tax.

The voice quality is good, far superior to my cell phone. The vendor we use is OOMA.

Get training for free!

With the web, so many things are at our fingertips. I searched for free on-line tutorials and found several nice ones in a short time. I sometimes assign sections of these tutorials as homework for my students. They can return with questions about the material. E-mail basics: GCF (

Microsoft Word 2007: Baycon Group (

Microsoft Excel 2007: Baycon Group (

Windows 7: Top-Windows-tutorials (

Why is Office 2010 better than 2007?

If you’re still using Office 2003, it’s time to upgrade. Skip 2007 and leap into 2010. Although 2007 and 2010 share the “ribbon” menus, there are several new things to mention. First, Microsoft got rid of the stupid “Office Button” that had no words on it to alert the average user that there was something behind it. Its replacement is a tab (bright red color) called “File” which takes the user to the “Backstage” area which is full of options and information.

Second, you can share via the web. For example, you can “broadcast” a PowerPoint slideshow to people all over the world. You receive a URL which you can share with your guests who view the show on-line. That’s powerful. Like getting WebEx for free.

Third, several applications allow co-authoring: Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote. As different people edit, updates appear on each author’s screen. I imagine it would take a little practice to get used to it, but it would be so handy.

Next, Outlook allows you to choose “Conversation View” which collapses a conversation thread into one main e-mail instead of all the individual components. You can delete one or all of the components.

There is something new called WebApps which allow you to edit documents online. This would be great when you are traveling and don’t have your laptop with you. The web editing behaves like Office 2010.

There’s a lot more to learn. I’m soaking in more every day. What have you discovered?