(updated 1/20/2016)

Tips, news and views, for 09-10-2006...

To email PCN, try cam at concordnorth dot ca...


Downloadable Toronto Star, colour printing test, One Zone, email account options, data backups...


Downloadable Toronto Star...

Satisfy your afternoon craving for news with this new, downloadable afternoon newspaper, every weekday starting Sept. 5, 2006.

It's free. With the Star's new afternoon daily newspaper, Star P.M. It's a customizable bundle of breaking news, weather, traffic updates, sports, business news and fun ready for downloading every day at 3:30 p.m. We'll even update it at 4:15 with the final business numbers.

It's easy to grasp. Our standard edition is 8 pages with a mix of news, local information, sports, entertainment, business and puzzles - with your choice of up to 4 additional pages based on your interests: Sports Extra, People, Lifestyle and youth culture.

Readable, Printable, Holdable... Star P.M. is available as a PDF and is formatted for standard letter-sized paper, so it is easy to download and print out. Read it on your screen in full colour or print it out and take it with you when you leave.

Delivered weekdays at 3:30. Download Star P.M. weekdays at 3:30 p.m. (4:15 p.m. for the business final edition) starting Sept. 5 right here at www.thestar.com/starpm - or sign up for the free email alerts, which will notify you when your Star P.M. is ready for download and deliver the links right to your in-box.


Colour printing test...

To print a test page on your printer, click on Start > Settings > Printers. Double-click the line with your printer identified, and a window will open. Pull down the Printer menu and choose Properties. Click the Test Page button on the lower right of the screen. A test page should print. (Note: the troubleshooting dialogue that Windows offers is not too helpful, so I never use it.)

Now, the test page that Windows prints has so little colour in it that is hard to tell if your colour cartridges are printing properly. And printing a colour image comprised of anything but solid blocks of cyan, magenta, yellow and black is little help either. If you can create and print a short document with some solid objects in the colours aforementioned, you could learn a lot.

A simple way to produce something that can prove your cyan, magenta, yellow and black cartridges are all printing could be something like this - a dozen capital "I"'s, in 30 point Arial.


Or this...


These two representations can be copied into most word processors, then saved and printed.

Here is a link to a PDF containing a pageful of the bars (above). printing_test.pdf

Other things could be added (like a small photo, or fine-line boxes) as need be.

Now, it might be a bit tricky to make up these kinds of tests when many programs do not offer cyan and magenta specifically. But in most cases, you can formulate cyan and magenta by creating a custom colour.

In Microsoft Word, colours can be created by selecting some text, then choosing one of several common ways to access font properties. Once there, access the colour of the font and choose More Colours. This screen should appear. Cyan can be generate by choosing full green and blue (255 numerically, for both). Magenta can be created by choosing full red and blue. And, though yellow is generally available in the most common colour sets, it can be generated by selecting full red and full green.

Red, green and blue are the only colours that our eyes can detect. Subtractive synthesis gives us the cyan, magenta, and yellow. Process printing techniques (whereby transparent CMY inks are printed in dot patterns overtop each other give us the full colour "process" artwork we see in print today. Black can be created with heavy saturations of CMY, but it is simpler to print it as a separate "key" colour - hence the familiar CMYK.

To learn more about colour printing, visit this Ontario Science Center webpage. Wait for the short program to load, then drag the RGB circles overtop each other to see what you get. (Note: if you overlap the red, green and blue, you'll get white.)

In the left image, you can see what transparent inks would do when overprinted in an offset printing process.

In the right image, you can see how overlapping beams of red, green and blue light create the cyan, magenta and yellow we need for printing. (White, in special cases is printed on a press as a separate colour, but the colour printers we typically use can only "print" white by not printing on a white substrate.

Note: when I copy the test characters from this email into Word, they do retain their colours, but I am not sure what they will do for you. If you are suspicious that the cyan, magenta and yellow you receive are not accurate, check them in your word processor to see what their colours are.


One Zone...

Toronto Hydro Telecom has brought high-speed Internet to the downtown core.

Borrowed from their website, here are the instructions for connecting...

How to Use One Zone

Using the One Zone WiFi network is simple. First you need to be located within the parameters of the One Zone™ network. Next you will require a WiFi enabled device along with a cell phone with text messaging capabilities. From there simply follow the steps below and get ready to visit your favourite website, check your email or even access your office remotely online.

1) Open your WiFi enabled device

2) Use the network connections manager on your WiFi enabled device to view available wireless networks.

3) Select the SSID One Zone_High Speed Internet

4) Open your web browser and visit the new user page.

5) Enter your mobile phone number in the space provided.

6) Within minutes you will receive a text message containing your username and password.

7) Enter your username and password.

8) Start surfing.

Free for six months, the service will cost $29 per month after that.

WiFi modems will be available for those wishing to sign up similarly to Sympatico an Rogers, and connect from fixed locations without a wireless device. See the FAQ (frequently asked questions). Noted in the FAQs - the service connection speed can reach 7 mbps in optimal conditions.

People with Internet email addresses (like Yahoo, MSN, G-mail), VPN connections, and just general web surfing needs could all take advantage of this service.


Email account options...

I had some issues with my own email the other day, whereby I could not send or receive from Outlook Express. Turns out a program running on my PC was unknowingly blocking the ports OE uses for incoming and outgoing email.

While I was trying to figure this out, I was still able to get to the Internet, so I set up my Yahoo account to get my Sympatico email as well, and brought it all in together there. This put me back on line, though I missed using familiar OE as my default email interface.

In sending out new product info during this time, I think some of you did not receive the MP3 player email, so it is recreated below...

Now, so you don't lose touch, while at home or away, these are some things you should know...

1) you should have more than one email address

2) you should have at least one "web-based" email address - Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail (Google email), etc.

3) you should have one "disposable" Internet email address for communicating to strangers

4) you can have a different email address for each of the divisions in your life (family, business, clubs, interests, etc.)

5) you can get your provider's email (Sympatico, Rogers, etc.) at their website, from any PC, as well as into OE on your own PC

6) you can set up any of the email interfaces you now use to retrieve email from any other POP email accounts you may have

You will need to know your different email addresses and their passwords, and the names of the email servers from which you retrieve your email. And you will need to investigate how each different email server permits external POP email access and retrieval. Visit Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, Rogers, Sympatico, to learn more...

Visit Microsoft's site and learn about setting up email accounts of all types in Outlook Express.

Note: web-based email addresses typically have ten times (or more) the storage of a your email address with a provider, so they make it much easier to send and receive large-sized email containing photos or music. If you are getting error messages pertaining to size limits, this knowledge can solve your problem.


Data backups...

As we all know, having copies of the files we create, and the files that make our computers work, is very important. And, as we all know, many of us do not have such copies. In the event of a simple accidental deletion, or a catastrophic failure, restoring a PC will require putting copies of any missing files back into their original places.

In an effort to explain the risk of data loss, here are some facts. You can then decide from these facts whether or not you have copies of your original work, and if your copies are satisfactorily secure.

Hard drives...

1) hard drives (the internal storage component) have a life expectancy of perhaps 4 to 5 years

2) hard drives have exchange or replacement warranties of up to 3 years

3) hard drives can fail or become corrupt at any time (power failures, physical shock, virus activity)

4) hard drives that do fail are replaced with new ones (bad drives are seldom repairable)

5) hard drives that become corrupt generally need re-formatting, which effectively erases them

Types of files...

A system file would include any file installed during the process of installing Windows, including hardware drivers (programs that control your computer's components). A data file is something you create while running the programs you have. Included would be: your email, address book, Internet favourites, word processing documents, spreadsheets, graphic images, digital photos, music files, etc. System settings are those tweakings of program files that we all do when we deviate from the defaults and alter menus, backgrounds, screen resolutions, colours, program features and other options - to suit ourselves. These settings are usually contained in small data files that are managed by the associated programs and Windows itself.

When no external devices and no media storage is in use, all files reside on the hard drive.

A computer is not "a hard drive", though a hard drive is installed inside virtually every computer. This is where your files are kept.

This is a hard drive...

Ways you can lose your data...

1) losing your PC - to electrical damage (lightning, power surges), fire (or smoke) or theft

2) losing power, or turning the power off while files are not closed and safely stored

3) unrecoverable physical hard drive failure (media failure, reading head damage

4) unrecoverable "logical" hard drive failure (accidental formatting, partition- or FAT table corruption)

5) shutting down without saving your work

6) accidental file deletion

7) virus activity

Now, a system bought from a reputable source should come with a Windows CD, a driver CD for every hardware component, and a program CD for any installed program. These may be CDs or DVDs. Small items might even come on floppy disks. After some kind of catastrophic failure or accident, a computer can be restored to working order with these, but there will be no data files of your making on the restored PC.

The only way you can put your data files back onto a restored PC (or a new PC, or another PC) is to copy them back onto such a PC from an unharmed source. This source might be whatever you made a copy onto, including - a floppy disk, a ZIP disk, a burned CD, a burned DVD, a second internal hard drive, an external hard drive, a flash memory device, another PC, or an Internet repository (e.g. an email with a data file attachment sent to an Internet email address).

Of these "destinations", some have risks - depending on how the data gets lost in the first place. Think about it - if the cause of loss is fire, only an out-of-the-building destination will have saved the data. If the cause of loss is theft, only a destination away from the crime scene is likely safe. If the cause of loss is simply a failed hard drive, then almost any of these destinations would make for recoverable data.

Note: duplicate files on one hard drive can be considered a backup of sorts, but all is lost if the one hard drive fails.

Some devices become impractical, depending on the size of the data that needs protecting. A single word processing document would likely fit on any of these destinations, but combinations of documents and pictures, and email, and favourites, and whatever else might simply add up to more than a single media element can hold. Then again, it doesn't pay to put "all your eggs in one basket", and use one large-capacity destination to hold everything. A balanced approach is advised.

And the commonality of a destination device is important, as the backup media should not be out on a branch of the evolutionary tree of computer electronics such that the device you use becomes obsolete i.e. not connectable to other PCs or systems in the foreseeable future.

So, where does this leave you? Let's leave the system files unprotected at the moment, as a good technician can deal with even total system file loss without too much trouble. Do you have any important data to protect?

If so, you need to...

1) identify and locate your particular creations on your PC (email, address book, Internet favourites, documents, images, photos, etc.)

2) consider how large a destination you need to have to store all this

3) consider the destination choices to see which is suitable

4) consider multiple destination choices (separate branches)

5) consider the backup (file copy) techniques available

Your solution...

...may simply be to burn CDs or DVDs and keep them in, and out of, your residence. A flash drive makes good sense, but cannot be your only copy (due to easy loss, or theft, or its own media failure). Floppies and ZIP disks are pretty much passé. Internet repositories make good sense, but there are security issues and speed issues for transmitting large files. External hard drives are attractive, but they contain standard hard drives, so life expectancy and other hard drive perils (listed above) apply.

Your best solution is likely a combination of storage destinations, which brings you to the question of available time and financial constraints. Only you can know how important your data files are, how unique and restorable they are. What would it mean to you if a once-in-a-lifetime photo was irretrievably lost, or your life-long literary project needed re-writing? How deep are your pockets, how valuable is your time, and how good is your memory?

Floppy disks - up to 1.44 MB per file, per disk. New PCs don't have them. Disk life is 5 years. Maybe 50 cents each.

CD-ROMS, CD-RWs, DVD-ROMs, DVD-RWs - from 700 MB to 8.5 GB, depending on the type. DVDs are the newer optical media. Disk life may be 100 years. About $1 each.

Flash drives - 128 MB to 2 GB commonly. No known life expectancy, though manufacturers speak of 5-year warranties and 20+ years readable. $20 to $70 each.

External USB hard drives - 80 GB, up to 250 GB economically, 1000 GB next year. Require some setup, limited as any hard drive is limited. $100 to $150 each.

The quickest destination is arguably the external USB hard drive or USB flash drive. The slowest (by far) is the floppy disk. CDs and DVDs are the most economical and the most disposable.

How to...

The simplest, and surest, technique is manually copying your files from where you know they are to where you want to duplicate them, as often as you feel you need to. Windows Explorer can be used to accomplish this. Backup software may be helpful, but restoration techniques must be completely understood. Compression should be avoided, as decompression may become impossible if a compressed file is damaged in the least way, making an entire data set unusable. Never "move" data from drive to drive, as any small glitch can mean total loss of both the original and the destination copies. If you can't be "knee-deep" in copies, be at least "three-deep".

Things to do...

Do your backups!

Take a Windows Explorer tutorial...

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