Tag Archives: how-to

Spotlight on #Indie, Chris James

Six months ago I published Repulse: Europe at War 2062-2064, and those of you who know me well, also know what I saw when I looked at that word “Repulse” on the cover, and therefore why its modest success is just a mite ironic. Altogether, this little book has managed to get itself over 3,000 […]

via Repulse: Six months of #Gratitude — Chris James’s blog

Chris James is an Indies Unlimited buddy from way back, and he’s also a very good sci-fi writer, but that isn’t the reason I reblogged his post today. I did it to give the rest of us a good news story with a dash of hope.

Self-publishing can lead to success, Chris is proof of that, but it rarely happens ‘overnight’. Behind every ‘Repulse’, you will find years of patient effort during which the only thing that keeps you going is pig-headed obstinacy.

The moral of ‘Repulse’ is that success is possible, if you have the intestinable fortitude to keep slogging away at it. Please read Chris’ post and take heart.

much love,

Meeks


#FFXIV – how to make Dreadwyrm Trance available

I finally learned how to make the Summoner skill – Dreadwyrm Trance – actually work this evening. And no, I’m not talking rotations or optimal usage, I just mean getting the bloody skill icon to light up! Grrrr…

All the forums say to create 3 stacks of aethertrails. They even explain what aethertrails are and how to create them, but they all leave out one vital piece of information, or assume that it’s so obvious it doesn’t need to be said.

Well, I’m a Dummy and I did not know it so, without further ado, here is my Dummies guide to Dreadwyrn Trance.

Step 1 Use your Aetherflow skill so you get 3 stacks of aetherflow as shown below:

aetherflow-pic-1

AND THEN WAIT for the aetherflow skill to come off cooldown. This is critical!

Step 2 Once you have 3 stacks of aetherflow ready to go and the aetherflow skill is also ready again, apply your DoTs – e.g. Bio, Miasma etc.

Step 3 Once the DoTs are up, use 3 of the skills that use aetherflow – i.e. Fester, Bane, Painflare or Energy Drain.

These skills have the added effect of creating aethertrails and once you have 3 aethertrails, the Dreadwyrm Trance skill will light up:

aetherflow-pic-2

Step 4 Use Dreadwyrm Trance.

Step 5 Use Ruin III [because under Dreadwyrm Trance, it becomes 10% more powerful and costs much less mp than normal].

Step 6 Just before Dreadwyrm Trance wears off, use Deathflare [level 60 skill].

Two things that make Dreadwyrm Trance fail

  1. if the aetherflow skill is on cooldown, Dreadwyrm Trance will not be available, no matter how many aethertrails you have up.
  2. if Fester, Bane, Painflare or Energy Drain don’t actually ‘work’, Dreadwyrm Trance will not work either. For example, if you use Fester without having any DoTs up, the skill will have no effect because it needs DoTs to work. And if it doesn’t work, neither will Dreadwyrm Trance.

And that’s it. Now I’m going to take my Dummy self to bed.

Goodnight all!

Meeks

 


#Amazon, US #Tax and #Australian Citizens

meeka thumbs upAnything sold on Amazon – including self-published books – is subject to a 33% withholding tax.

This is a tax that Amazon must take out of the sale before you get your share.

This tax is applicable across the board and non-US citizens are not exempt.

 

Unless………..:

  • their country of origin has a trade treaty with the US
  • and they apply for an exemption under that trade treaty

As an Australian citizen, I am lucky enough to meet the ‘trade treaty’ criterion but until today, I did not apply for the exemption because:

  • I was not making enough money for it to matter, and
  • the process was just TOO HARD

I’m not sure what changed, or when exactly, but suddenly the process of applying for an exemption is so easy I’m still pinching myself in case I’m dreaming.

So what’s needed?

  1. Your country of origin must have a trade treaty with the US
  2. You must have an account with Kindle Direct Publishing [nah..really? lol]
  3. You must have a tax file number [or equivalent] from your country of origin

Seriously, that’s it. With those three things you can log into Kindle Direct Publishing and fill in a very VERY easy online form and you’re done.

  1. Log in to your KDP account
  2. Select My Account
  3. Select the option for Tax Interview
  4. Have your tax file number handy
  5. And start filling in the questions.
  6. When you get to the page that asks if you want to do an electronic signature* – select YES
  7. The electronic signature is nothing more than your typed name, email address [same as for logging into KDP] and ‘Submit’.
  8. Be sure to print off a copy at the end and you’re done.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll sit there scratching your head and wondering how you can send an electronic signature. Is there a special program you have to invest in to create such a signature? Or do you have to print the page off, sign it manually and then post it off? Hah!

The answer to all those questions is a big, fat NO. There appears to be no valid reason for doing things the hard way, so don’t.

Having procrastinated for years, literally, I am so relieved to finally have this Sword of Damocles removed from my halo. Thank you IRS and thank you Amazon! Now if only I could be paid via PayPal or EFT I’d be delirious with happiness…

-smack- Don’t be greedy, girl!

Much happy dancing,

Meeks


#howto delete – Adobe Flash Player 20 NPAPI

Before I tell you how to delete Adobe Flash Player 20 NPAPI, there are a few important things you need to know:

What does Flash Player do?

“Adobe Flash Player is a plugin that allows browsers such as Firefox to display Flash media on web pages. Flash is often used for animations, videos and games. This article explains how to install Flash.

When you visit a webpage that uses Flash and the plugin is missing, you will see the message “A plugin is needed to display this content” for parts of the page that require Flash (if at all)..”

That’s a quote taken directly from the Mozilla website. But what does it mean in practical terms? It means that animations created in Flash need Flash Player to work. This often means parts of certain websites that use Flash for bling won’t work…but only ‘parts’. It also means that browser games created with Flash need Flash Player to work. Get rid of Flash Player entirely and those things will no longer work. As far as I know, many of the browser games available via Facebook [?] use Flash. So if you play them, be warned [of course you don’t have to use this version of Flash Player!]

But…having just completely deleted Flash Player from my computer I can tell you that nothing I use on a daily basis has been affected. And by nothing I mean:

  • Youtube works fine [for music videos, haven’t tried anything else]
  • Jigsaws work
  • WordPress works [obviously]
  • Soundcloud works
  • My internet banking works [Bendigo Bank]
  • And my MMOs work

In fact, everything seems to be loading faster, not just Firefox, but that could just be a weird kind of digital placebo effect.

Why delete Adobe Flash Player 20 NPAPI in the first place?

In a nutshell, the latest version of Mozilla Firefox uses this version of Flash Player, but the Flash Player is crap. Mozilla Firefox whined until I updated Flash Player and I’ve regretted it ever since. Despite being a supposedly agile little browser, Firefox became slower and I noticed that crashes increased in frequency. These crashes were preceded by a sudden massive slowdown – as if I were typing each letter of a word with a sip of coffee in-between. And then, instead of getting better, it would completely freeze to the point where I would have to do:

CTRL + ALT + DEL to open Task Manager and then manually END PROCESS on Firefox and Flash Player.

The reason is that this version of Flash Player gobbles up RAM [short term memory for your computer]. I suspect there is a memory ‘leak’ responsible, but Adobe isn’t admitting to it, yet.

Anyway, when your computer runs out of ‘memory’, it’s like a car that runs out of petrol – it stops. The latest version of Firefox isn’t that great on memory either, but I might save that for a future post.  For now, if you use Firefox [which uses Flash Player] and you experience ‘freezes’ then check your Task Manager to see if Flash Player is using oodles of memory.

[Note: as knowing how to use Task Manager is a great computer survival skill, I’m including it below]

How to open Task Manager in Windows 7

  • On your keyboard, press the CTRL + ALT + DEL keys all at the same time.

You will see a pale blue screen with just a few options on it.

  • Click ‘Start Task Manager’.

[Note: it’s not possible to take a screenshot of the blue screen as it seems to be ‘outside’ the Windows environment]

After you select ‘Start Task Manager’, the following screen will be displayed:

firefox taskmanager 1

The default tab [Applications] only shows which programmes are currently open. You can close programmes from this window but it’s easier to do it from the Processes tab where you can also see how much memory they are using.

  • Click the Processes tab to open it.

I can’t show you the Flash Player memory usage because I didn’t think to take a screenshot before I deleted it completely. Mea culpa. Anyway, this is the current list of processes on my computer and will do in order to show you what to do next. So you should now be looking at your version of the Processes tab:

firefox taskmanager 2

In order to see which programmes [i.e. processes] are using the most memory [RAM]:

  • click the column heading for ‘Memory [Private Working Set]’. This will sort everything in that column. If you don’t get the largest usage up the top, click the heading a second time.

Now a word of warning – unless you know what you’re doing, don’t go shutting down processes willy nilly. Some of them use a lot of memory BUT THEY’RE MEANT TO! All you want to shut down at this point is the process for Flash Player and the one for Firefox.

[Note: As a rule of thumb, only shutdown processes which bear the user name – ‘user’. NEVER shutdown anything belonging to ‘SYSTEM’]

  • Click the line that holds information about firefox.exe *32 so it’s highlighted,
  • and then click the button down the bottom that says ‘End Process’.

In the example shown below, I’m ending the process for MSPaint instead of Firefox so I can keep working on this post – because, of course, WordPress only works within my browser. But you knew that, right? 🙂

firefox taskmanager 3

Now do exactly the same thing for Flash Player and then exit from the Task Manager.

How to uninstall Flash Player for Windows XP, Vista and 7 only

If you’ve used Windows a lot you’ll know that uninstalling programmes via Control Panel doesn’t always get rid of all those pesky bits and pieces that end up as programming debris. Unfortunately, that programming debris can keep having an effect on whatever you install afterwards, so this is how to get rid of absolutely EVERYTHING belonging to Flash Player.

  • First, you will need to go to the Adobe page below and download the uninstaller.

https://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/uninstall-flash-player-windows.html

The page looks like this:

firefox Flashplayer uninstall 1

  • Click ‘Uninstaller’ as shown in the screenshot above.

You will be asked to either run or save the uninstaller. I suggest saving it to somewhere that you’ll be able to find it again. On my computer, I have a special folder called ‘Software downloads’ and everything I download off the internet goes there first. Then I scan it with my anti virus software before I actually install it.

  • Next, find the uninstaller – the file is called ‘uninstall flash player.exe‘ – and double click to make it run. If you get a message asking if you really want to do this, click yes.

All done? Okay, we have now uninstalled Flash Player from the main areas of the computer, but there are still some leftovers to get rid of. This is not hard, but if you have not done anything like this before, it can feel a little scary. Just take it slow, check each step and generally do NOT go messing with anything else. At least not until you know what you’re doing. 😀 [I learned that the hard way]

How to find the leftovers

Now you will navigate to 3 different locations on your computer, deleting Flash files and folders in all three.

  • Click on the Start button and

firefox run 1

  • type the word ‘run’ into the search box as shown above:

Windows displays the closest matches to your search word and displays the Run command at the top of the list.

  • Click the Run command as shown.

With the Run dialogue box displayed:

  • Click inside the box as shown and type the following EXACTLY:

C:\Windows\system32\Macromed\Flash

The colon is a colon, not a semi-colon. The slash is a backslash [found under the Backspace button on most keyboards] and THERE ARE NO SPACES.

firefox run 2

When you are sure you have typed the address in correctly [it’s an address on your computer rather than the internet],

  • click the OK button.

At this point you’re just driving to your destination. Nothing will happen if you take a wrong turn! If all went well, you should now be looking at a screen similar to this:

firefox run delete 1

Essentially, the Run command we used simply acts as a shortcut to the folder we want to delete – i.e. Flash.

How to delete a folder

Now that we’ve arrived, we’re going to delete the whole Flash folder, including whatever is still inside.

Make sure the Flash folder is selected – i.e. click on it to highlight the folder like so:

firefox run delete 3

Next, RIGHT click on the Flash folder. This will cause the context sensitive menu to be displayed. One of the options on this menu is Delete. Click the Delete option to delete the Flash folder:

firefox run delete 2

Just two more folders to delete and we’re done!

**Go back to the Start button and type Run into the search box as before. But this time when the little dialogue box opens,

  • type in the following:

%appdata%\Adobe\Flash Player

% does mean the percent sign on your keyboard! And don’t forget to use the backslash under the Backspace key. Your Run dialogue box should now look like this:

firefox run delete 5

  • Click OK.

Again, the Run command will take you directly to the folder we need to delete. In this case it’s called ‘Flash Player’. Click on it to make sure it’s highlighted, then RIGHT click on it to display the context sensitive menu. Select the Delete option to delete the Flash Player folder.

Lucky last!

Repeat all the steps from ** above but this time, the Run dialogue box should contain this :

%appdata%\Macromedia\Flash Player

The Run dialogue box should look like this:

firefox run delete 4

  • Click OK.

When you are looking at the Macromedia\Flash Player folder, RIGHT click on Flash Player and select Delete from the context sensitive menu.

And that’s it. Flash Player is completely gone from your computer. At this point, you are ready to install an earlier, less buggy version of Flash Player, safe in the knowledge that there are no leftovers to screw things up. Or, you can do what I’m going to do, which is to leave Flash Player off entirely.

If anyone is truly desperate to put a version of Flash Player back on, please let me know in comments and I’ll put together a separate how-to for that.

Phew.

Cheers

Meeks


#howto – search for an image on the internet

My thanks to Pinky for showing me how to do this! Now for the why. The answer is the big C. No, not cancer, copyright.

If you are just downloading pictures off the internet for your own enjoyment, and no, I’m not going to go there, then copyright is not an issue. The instant you use one of those images in anything vaguely commercial, even a simple blog post, you have to be sure you’re not infringing on someone’s copyright.

But how do you do that when you have no idea where the picture originally came from?

This is where Google Images comes in. Google has long been the king of word searches, but now it also lets you search by picture [and voice], and it all starts in the familiar Google search box…sort of.

How to find Google Images

If you are using Google Chrome then it’s easy. Simply click on the ‘Images’ option in the top, right hand corner of the screen:

googleimages 1

That will lead to this:

googleimages 2If you’re using some other browser [I use Firefox], type http://images.google.com into the address box of your browser and hit Enter :

googleimages 3[Note: as soon as the page is displayed, the URL changes to ‘https‘. As I’m a purist I always type the plain ‘http’.]

You should now be looking at this:

googleimages 4[Note: in Firefox, the Google search box does not include the ability to search by voice. This is only available in Chrome.]

How to actually do an image search

Whatever route you took to get here, you should now click on the small icon of a camera as shown above. That will lead to this:

googleimages 5

The ‘Search by image’ dialogue box contains two tabs – Paste image URL, and Upload an image.

Click the tab to Upload an image. This is what you will see:

googleimages 6

Click the ‘Browse’ button as shown. This will allow you to browse your own computer in order to find the image to be searched:

googleimages 7

The next bit assumes that you know how to find your way around the Windows files and folders. If you don’t, you can find a step-by-step how-to here.

Find the folder that contains the image you’re interested in. Click on that image and then click on ‘Open’ [as shown in the screenshot above].

And now the magic happens. Google search will think for a moment or two and then it will present you with the closest match it can find on the internet. This is the result for my image:

googleimages 8

As the image I chose is from a game, I did not expect to get a perfect match, and I didn’t. That’s because game avatars, even when customised, are based on a preset image. So they’re not unique. Photos of people and/or drawings etc., are unique, so they’re easier to find.This also means that if you use a copyrighted image in your blog, it can be found. So be careful!

cheers

Meeks

 


Making #charcoal without tools

It’s been a while since I researched primitive technologies [for Vokhtah], but I couldn’t resist this one:

The thing I love about it is that every single thing he uses comes from a ‘natural’ source [except the starter flame]. It’s almost like a how-to for post-apocalyptic living. If you’ve ever wondered how primitive people did things, this is one video not to miss.

cheers

Meeks


Amazon #LookInside – how to install it

Part 2 of my Amazon LookInside article is now live on Indies Unlimited:

Amazon’s New ‘Look Inside’ Feature for Blogs and Websites [Part Two]

The LookInside feature allows you to turn static images of your books [or anyone else’s books] into portals that allow visitors to read the LookInside excerpt that goes with the book.

Part 2 is a step-by-step guide to installing the feature onto WordPress.com blogs.

cheers

Meeks


Blade and Soul – system error #3746

takhahn pic

The pic above shows my assassin character on Blade and Soul. I have not been able to play him for three days because I keep getting the system error shown in the title of this post. Not fun.

I have just checked the forums and there seem to be quite a few people in the same boat as me – when we try to login we get a system error and login fails. For me, login fails at the verification code stage – I get the verification code, cut and paste it into the verification box and then …system error blah blah.

I have tried resetting the password, but now I get a new message – account locked due to suspicious activity. Apparently, attempting to follow their procedures is suspicious.

Oddly enough I agree. I suspect there is a massive problem in the whole security/gameguard area of the game. For starters, having to enter a verification code every time the IP address changes is insane – most people, myself included, do not have static IP addresses. Change is part of the definition! And now this.

In some ways, though, I am thrilled. I am thrilled that I resisted the urge to go for one of the premium packages. I am also thrilled that I resisted buying anything in the cash shop. At least, now, all I’ve lost is some time and about 20 GB of bandwidth. Some people who can’t get into the game are paying for that privilege.

Talking about paying, another reason I am thrilled by all this is that I hate how closely the game is tied to the cash shop. I don’t mind paying for cosmetic items, but having to pay just to upgrade your weapon is a bit rich.

Weapon upgrade a.k.a. Breakthrough

Basically each class gets a purple weapon very early on in the game. Then as you progress you upgrade that one weapon.  So far so good. But then you very quickly hit the ‘Breakthrough’ point, and suddenly things get sticky.

Breakthrough is like a plateau in the weapon’s power. In order to take your weapon to the next plateau, you have to breakthrough by using a special, low grade weapon that is class specific. Now the packages that contain these low grade weapons are easy to get BUT, they have to be opened with a key. Ordinary keys are easy to get as well, but if you use ordinary keys to unlock the weapon package it’s up to luck as to which class specific weapon you get.

So far my character has accumulated 4 of one class weapon, 2 of another and one each of every other class in the game. The only thing I don’t have is my own class specific weapon.

But wait! If I go to the cash shop and buy a Veridien Key, it is guaranteed to unlock my class specific weapon. Do you see the trap here?

As I refuse to pay for such a basic and necessary item, my character is a level 14 assassin using a level 5 weapon which I cannot upgrade. Not without paying.

I don’t know if I have just been extraordinarily unlucky or the game is rigged to push your frustration levels to the point where you cave in and pay just so you can continue to level. Either way, I hate it. This is game design at its most greedy.

So I guess that’s it. Bye bye Blade and Soul. What a disappointment.

cheers

Meeks

 


How to fix missing ebooks on your Kindle Fire 6

Last night I went to bed, got cosy, opened my Kindle Fire 6 and discovered that the ebook I’d been reading the night before was nowhere to be found. What the…?

This morning I discovered that missing ebooks are a known problem with a couple of solutions/workarounds. I could:

  1. De-register and re-register my Kindle, or
  2. Reset my Kindle to factory defaults

Not having a Wi-Fi modem* and remembering how hard it had been to register my Kindle Fire when I bought it [I had to go into work and ask to use their Wi-Fi connection], I quickly decided that the first option was not for me. Instead, I chose option 2 – resetting the Kindle to the factory defaults.

<<cue ominous music>>

This is where my geek friends roll around in fits of laughter, and my reputation as a baby geek takes a nose-dive. Let’s just say I should have known better. In my own defence, I have to say I did know that resetting the Kindle would mean losing all the ebooks I’d downloaded from Amazon, but in my wisdom I thought it would not matter because :

a) I’d already read those books anyway, and

b) I could always download them again from my Amazon account if I wanted to re-read them.

It did not even occur to me that there might be an option ‘c’ to consider. 😦

So…I did the deed. I’m not providing pictures because I don’t want to make this too easy in case someone does it by mistake, or in a drunken fit. Anyway, the steps are detailed below:

With the Kindle Fire 6 turned on, swipe to unlock, tap Apps, tap Settings, tap Device Options, and finally, if you’re brave [or foolhardy] tap Reset to Factory Defaults. You’ll be given one chance to change your mind, but once you tap OK you won’t be able to stop the process; everything currently on your Kindle Fire will be erased.

Sadly, it was only when the screen prompted me to register my newly empty Kindle that I realised I’d done the very thing I had not wanted to do – i.e. I’d erased the registration data along with everything else. Ut oh….

I won’t detail the choice words that flew around my office at that point. Suffice to say I was not happy. I did consider asking my neighbour if I could use her Wi-Fi connection to re-register my Kindle Fire, but embarrassment stopped me before I could dial her number. I hate having to explain that I’m not really a complete luddite, just a scrooge. [I built my house with Cat 5 cabling in the walls so my network is hardwired. I don’t need Wi-Fi…except at times like these.]

Anyway, that was when desperation made me remember something I’d read about using a mobile phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot. Could I do it?

Much research later, I finally found a video clip that detailed how to turn a Samsung Galaxy S2, Android version Jellybean [exactly what I now have] into a mobile hotspot. And this is it:

It’s a great video, but it does go very quickly so I’ve provided a sort of step-by-step transcript below:

  1. Make sure your S2 is fully charged
  2. Turn it on and swipe to unlock
  3. On the home screen tap Apps
  4. Then tap Settings
  5. Then tap …More settings
  6. Then tap Tethering and portable hotspot

The next bit involves a slight change of technique.

When you see an option called Portable Wi-Fi hotspot, don’t tap it. Instead, tap-hold-slide the slider bar from ‘O‘ across to ‘I‘ as shown below:

Wifi hotspot 1

Now tap Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot. You will get a warning message that says turning the portable Wi-Fi hotspot on will turn the phone’s Wi-Fi off. Tap OK.

Next you will get a message saying ‘enabling Wi-Fi Hotspot’. When it’s finished doing what it needs to do, the display changes to show the ‘I’ lit up in green:

Wifi hotspot 2

Tap the Portable Wi-Fi hotspot option to display the configuration options as shown below:

Wifi hotspot 3Your phone will have a default name and password. At this point you have two options, you can either change the default name and password on your phone, or you can leave it as is and simply connect your Kindle to the phone’s default hotspot settings. Either way, your Samsung Galaxy S2, Android version Jellybean is now an active mobile hotspot.

Now to connect your Kindle Fire to the Wi-Fi.

Keep your phone set to portable Wi-Fi hotspot.

Turn the Kindle Fire on.

Swipe to unlock.

At the top of the screen, tap Apps.

Tap the Settings option.

Tap Wireless and VPN.

Tap Wi-Fi.

The next Wi-Fi option is set to ‘Off’. Tap it once to change ‘Off’ to ‘On’.

You should now see the name of your mobile phone in the list of available hotspots. If it’s not there, tap ‘join another network’ to make your Kindle sense the mobile phone’s presence.

Once you see the name of your mobile phone on the list, tap it to select it.

You may now be asked for the phone’s password. This will be the password shown on the configuration screen of your mobile phone!

Tap in the password and the Kindle should show a connection to your mobile hotspot. Yay!

Now, follow the Kindle Fire onscreen prompts to complete the registration of your device.

Note: The email address required to register your Kindle will be the email address you use to login to Amazon. Similarly, the password will be the normal password you use to log in to Amazon.

Once you’re done, your Kindle Fire should sync with your Amazon account and display your most recent purchases. I downloaded my two missing ebooks via the mobile hotspot but doing so does chew up quite a bit of the data allocation – i.e. it’s expensive so be warned.

Finally, when everything is ticketty boo again, close Wi-Fi on your Kindle Fire.

Now to fix up your phone.

If the screen has gone black, just tap the ‘On’ button at the side of the phone to wake it up. It should still be showing the configuration screen for the portable Wi-Fi hotspot.

Turn the portable Wi-Fi hotspot off by moving the slider bar from ‘I’ back to ‘O’.

Your mobile hotspot is now off but you are not finished yet. Go back to Settings/Wireless and networks and turn the [ordinary] Wi-Fi option back to ‘I‘.

[Do not get confused, this is the setting your phone uses. It is not the portable hotspot setting].

And that is that. A lot of work to fix a silly error. The only good thing to come out of this is that I’ve got my new ebooks back and I’ll have something to read tonight. Oh and I’ve learned some new stuff about my phone. 🙂

cheers

Meeks

*Normally when I buy ebooks from Amazon, I download them to my pc and then sideload them onto my Kindle device[s].

 


Gmail for Beginners, Part 5 – opening an attachment & attaching a picture [Windows 7]

Part 1, Getting Started is here.
Part 2, Finding and Reading emails is here.
Part 3, Replying to an email & Saving a Contact is here.
Part 4, Composing an email & inserting a smiley is here.

Warning! Some of the screenshots and step-by-step instructions appearing in Part 5 are only applicable to Windows 7.

The screenshots and instructions pertaining to Gmail – i.e. how to open an attachment – will be the same for everyone, but the instructions for finding a picture on your PC [in order to attach it to an email] will only be relevant to Windows 7 users. This is because people using other operating systems – such as a MAC or Windows XP, Vista, or one of the 8’s – may not see the same things on their own PCs.

What are attachments?

Attachments are simply files that you send along with your email message. Most of these files cause no problems whatsoever, but some hackers will use attachments to sneak viruses onto your computer. These viruses are triggered when you ‘open’ the attachment. For this reason, ALL attachments should be treated with caution.

Internet security and staying safe

When I first started browsing the internet I thought I would be safe from viruses because, well, you know, how would a hacker even know I existed? It was not as if I was someone important.

-blushes with embarrassment-

What I did not know was that hackers do not care about me personally. In fact, they do not target me at all. Quite simply, hackers throw out huge, baited nets and wait to see what bites. And yes, my PC did get infected.

I’ve learned a lot since then, and one of the things I’ve learned is to be very, very wary of attachments. Before I click on an attachment I check a couple of things carefully:

  • do I know the sender? If the answer is ‘no’, I automatically assume the attachment is suspect and  delete the whole email,
  • does the sender [someone I do know] sound a bit odd – i.e. is the email a generic sounding one-liner such as ‘hi, thought you might like this’ or something similar? If it is, I’ll delete the email and the attachment first and apologise, if necessary, later.

This lack of certainty when it comes to attachments brings me to a bit of netiquette – if you are sending someone an attachment, it is a really good idea to tell them about it in the email message itself.  It’s a small thing but will reassure the recipient the attachment is safe to open.

As a general rule, however, I will never open an attachment if the filename ends in ‘.exe’ or ‘.zip’.

[Note: for a description of filenames, seeHow can you tell what’s a picture file and what isn’t?below].

There are exceptions to this rule of thumb, but beginners should probably delete first and ask questions later.

So what attachments are safe to open?

Picture files are generally safe to open, unless there is something else suspicious about the email – e.g. it’s from someone you’ve never heard of, or promises something unsavoury.

How can you tell what’s a picture file and what isn’t?

Like people, files have a ‘first name’ and a ‘family’ name. The ‘first name’ describes what’s in the file while the ‘last name’ describes what kind of file it is – i.e. one of the picture files, a text file, a music file, etc.

To illustrate this naming process, have a look at the following example:

picture file exampleThis is a simple picture created in Windows Paint. It was saved as a file called:

picture file example.jpg

‘picture file example’ = the first name of the file

‘.jpg’ = the family name of the file – i.e. what type of file it is. In computerspeak, this part of the file name is called the file extension. The file extension tells the computer how to handle the file – i.e. as a picture file rather than, say, a music file.

Examples of picture files

The following are examples of the most common types of picture files. Notice that only the file extension changes in each filename:

mypicture.jpg

mypicture.bmp

mypicture.png

mypicture.tiff

If you get an email from a friend, and if the attachment in that email ends in any of the above file extensions, the attachment is safe to open.

How to open an attachment in an email

Returning to our friend, Kenneth, I discover that he has sent me an email at meekasmind@gmail.com. The email has a file attached. When I read the email, this is what I see:

gmail attachment received 1

As you can see, part of the picture has been truncated in the preview. To see it all, I point the mouse at the picture. This causes an overlay to be displayed:

gmail attachment received 2This overlay shows the full filename of the attachment, including its file extension which tells me it is a picture file. Also of interest is the ’15 KB’ which tells me how big the file is.

[Note: A huge picture file would be shown in GB, an average picture file would be shown in MB, and a small picture file would be shown in KB. Thus the attachment from Kenneth is quite small and will take next to no time to load]

The overlay also contains the buttons for two options – Download and Save to Drive.

Save to Drive option

Clicking this option will save the file to Google Drive [a storage area in the Cloud]. This option is not covered in the Beginners guide.

Download option

Clicking the ‘Download’ option will copy the file from the email and save it to my own PC. Once the file is on my PC, I can do whatever I want with it. This is the option we will be exploring.

When I click the Download button [in Windows 7], the screen changes to display the last location at which I saved something. In the example below, you can see that it was in ‘Libraries, Documents, My Documents, My Games, Final Fantasy xiv – A Realm Reborn’. This is not where I want to save the attachment.

gmail attachment download 1

To make it easier to see where I’m going, I will close the Documents folder I am in. To do this I simply click on the small arrow next to ‘Documents’ in the navigation pane:

gmail attachment download location

I can now see the main folders quite clearly, including the folder I want to reach. It is called ‘Pictures’ :

gmail attachment download location 2

A single click on the ‘Pictures’ folder causes the ‘Pictures Library’ to be displayed. In the Library is a folder called ‘Sample Pictures’. This is where I want to save the attachment:

gmail attachment download location 3

The easiest way to open the folder is to click on the ‘Sample Pictures’ icon once. This will highlight the icon, and it will cause the ‘Save’ button to change to ‘Open’ [as shown above]. Now all you have to do is click the ‘Open’ button.

Once ‘Sample Pictures’ opens up, the ‘Save’ button reappears.

Click the ‘Save’ button to save the attachment to this location.

Now that I’ve saved the picture file to my PC I can edit it if I want to. I do, I did, and this is the result:

picture file example black and whiteNaturally, I want to share the new picture with Kenneth so I compose an email to him [see Part 4].

Before I click the ‘Send’ button, however, I click the small ‘Attach Files’ icon shown at the bottom of the compose form.

It looks like this:

picture file attach icon

Clicking the attach icon in Gmail causes the following screen to be displayed in Windows 7:

gmail attachment send location 3

This screenshot is almost identical to the one we saw before…except that in this one, the image peeping out of the folder is of the edited house. That’s because I saved the edited file to the same location as the attachment.

Click on the ‘Open’ button [as shown above]. The following pictures are available for you to attach to your email:

gmail attachment send location 4

Clicking on an image displays information about it, including its dimensions and size. You will also see a much larger preview of the image. When you are sure you have the correct image, click the ‘Open’ button as shown.

You should now be back in Gmail, looking at the message you typed to Kenneth. Down near the bottom of the form, you should also see the name of the file you have attached to the email. This is what mine looks like:

gmail attachment send location 5

Click the ‘Send’ button and that’s it. As always, Gmail will display a yellow confirmation message telling you your message has been sent.

Before I finish, a quick word about the other way of attaching a photo to an email. And yes, there is another way. It looks like this:

gmail attachment insert photo1

The difference between ‘Insert Photo’ and ‘Attach Files’

If you click the ‘Insert Photo’ button, you will be given the choice of inserting an image as an attachment or as an inline picture.

If you select the ‘Inline’ option, the image will be embedded into the body of your email message like this:

gmail attachment insert photo3

Sometimes it’s nice to embed a photo like this because it means the recipient doesn’t have to do anything but look at the email. Unfortunately, the drawbacks are that:

  • the process is not quite as straightforward as it should be, and
  • the recipient cannot easily download the image onto his/her own PC. It can be done, but not in a straightforward way.

If I ever do an Advanced Gmail how-to [shudder], I will include the ‘Inline’ function, but given the unfinished state of Gmail at the moment, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

I did not intend to review the new version of Gmail, but after a month of working on it for this series, I can honestly say I am not impressed. I had to work around certain key functions – like Contacts – because the interface was so poorly designed and/or implemented. And even the Inbox functions leave a lot to be desired. Too much is hidden, making not-so-advanced functions hard to find, hard to use and hard to explain.

In many ways, the new Gmail reminds me of Windows 8. There too, key functions were hidden, or implemented in ways that were not at all intuitive. And people hated it, myself included.

I truly believe that function should never be subordinated to form. I don’t care what something looks like so long as it works. Sadly both the new Gmail and Windows 8 placed form well and truly over function.

To be fair, I understand that mobile devices have made it necessary to simplify all applications in order to conform to the new ways of doing things, but we have not yet reached the point where serious work is done on those devices. Imagine trying to write your magnum opus on your mobile phone! Or if that’s not your style, imagine trying to create a complex spreadsheet on your phone.

Mobile devices are simply too limited for the kind of work we currently do on desktops or laptops. Therefore it does not make sense – from a user’s point of view – to reduce everything to the common denominator of the mobile device. Yet that is exactly what Windows 8 and this new Gmail are attempting to do.

As the younger generation would say – ‘Fail’

cheers

Meeks

 

 


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