How to bookmark websites

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

Create shortcuts to your favorite sites and save new sites to check out later on

by Emily Price

Letters to Mom

aims to help beginners get started with the tech basics of computers, web services, and gadgets. Print out our tips for your mom — she’ll love you for it.

How to bookmark websites

Just like a bookmark you might place in a book, a browser bookmark (or Favorite in Internet Explorer) marks your
place on the web so you can quickly find it again later on. Bookmarks can be a great way to create shortcuts to websites you frequent as well
as remember the address of sites that you stumble upon that you know you would like to visit in the future.

The bookmarks you create on your computer will go one of two main places: the toolbar directly below the address bar on your browser, or the bookmarks menu.

Bookmarks toolbar
The bookmarks toolbar is a toolbar that displays along the top of your browser window. You don’t want to overload this bar with bookmarks, but
it can be a great place to put shortcuts to sites that you know you’re going to want to access every day such as your email, work home page, or
Facebook. Once you’ve added the site you want to keep track of to the toolbar, you will be able to just press the name of the bookmark in order to launch the website.

To add a website to the toolbar, drag and drop the web address for the site from the address bar on your web browser and then drop it on the toolbar. You can grab the website by right-clicking on the icon on the far left of the address and then holding down the mouse button as you move it to your toolbar, releasing the button when you have positioned it where you want on the bar.

ep 300px bookmarksBookmarks menu
Traditional bookmarks are stored within the bookmark menu at the top of your browser. Clicking the menu at the top of your browser marked “Bookmarks” will launch a drop-down menu including all of the sites you have bookmarked using the browser. Bookmarks in the this menu can also be organized into folders; if you plan on bookmarking a lot of sites, this is definitely a good idea. Bookmark folders can be for things such as “Games,” where you might place bookmarks for your favorite online games, or “Work,” where you keep all your work-related websites.

Adding a bookmark to the bookmark menu can be done by clicking the Bookmarks menu at the top of your browser while you are visiting the website, then selecting “Bookmark this page” from the options that appear (it should be the first one). You can also press the Ctrl button plus the D button at the same time to get the same effect.

Your browser will then launch a small pop-up window asking where you would like to save the website. You can choose the toolbar on your browser from this window, as well as any bookmark folder you would like to use. Bookmark folders can also be created from this window, so if you’re marking the first of many related sites, you can create a folder for it and all similar future websites.

One thing to keep in mind while you’re bookmarking: A bookmark can only be in one place at one time. So if you have your work email bookmarked on your browser toolbar, you can’t also add it to a “Work” folder. You can always change where you’ve put a particular bookmark by pressing the Bookmarks tab at the top of the screen, followed by “Organize Bookmarks.”

[Image credit: kmg]

How To Take Better Pictures With Your iPhone Camera

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

How to take better pictures with your iPhone camera

Your iPhone can do a lot more than make calls

by Kingsley Foreman

How to take better pictures with your iPhone cameraOut of all the features added to cell phones over the years, the ability to take pictures has had the biggest impact. Whenever something major has happened in the world, camera phones have provided the first, second, and third images taken at the scene. They have helped to bring down governments, they let friends and family know you’re okay, and they help you remember what you did last night (even if you don’t want to know).

But for every life-changing shot taken, there are millions of terrible photos — and it’s about time we helped fix that!

iPhone cameras are designed to simply take shots; there isn’t a lot of tweaking to the photos that can be done (and there isn’t much you can do wrong). However, with a few techniques, you can turn an average shot into a good one just by being aware of the functions of the camera as well as your surroundings. The iPhone 4 camera has 5 options that can be set: flash on / off / auto, High Dynamic Range (HDR) on / off, front or back camera, zoom, and still / video mode. It’s important to remember that the iPhone 3 and 3GS don’t have flash, HDR, or a front-facing camera.

kf iphone 4 camera 300

Make the most of flash
Flash is a great addition to the iPhone 4. It allows for those photos you want to take if you’re out at night with your friends, and if you don’t expect too much from it, it works well. 

First, make sure that what you’re trying to capture is at relatively close range. The camera’s flash isn’t very powerful, so you want to make sure the subject is within 3′ to 5′ of the camera. Anything further than this will create a hazy effect and wreck your photo.

Second, if there is a reflective surface such as glass or shiny plastic in front of the camera, try to avoid using the flash. The narrow angle of the LED flash will reflect light straight back at the camera, causing big white spots. If you do need to use the flash, try to avoid having a reflective surface someplace where this is apt to happen.

Working with contrast
High Dynamic Range imaging, or HDR, is another new feature introduced with the iPhone 4. In technical terms, HDR is an image processor that allows for greater dynamic range of luminance. In non-technical terms, it changes the contrast of different parts of the image depending on light. This can make clouds and skylines stand out more, light up items on the photo that would normally be darker due to other bright areas in the photo, and generally improve the look of your images by making the color and contrast more intense.

However, there are a couple of downsides. It won’t work with the flash on, and the image size is larger than a standard image. It’s not a bad idea to leave HDR on all the time (except if you need to use the flash), and here’s why: Even if you don’t like the quality of the HDR image, the iPhone 4 still saves the non-HDR version of any pictures you take, too. Comparing the two images after you’ve taken some with this mode will help you get a feel for what it brings to the game.

The last feature of the iPhone’s camera is the zoom. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, try to avoid using it if you can! It is a digital zoom, and because of this, the more zoom you use, the lower the image quality becomes. (This image degradation happens at very low levels of magnification; even zooming in a modest 1.2x really makes a mess of things.) This is because the camera zooms in by using fewer of its optical sensor to take the picture, rather than moving physical lenses (or optics) to magnify the image while still using the whole sensor. It is a cheap man’s zoom, and it drastically lowers the quality of the image.

kf iphone original 3g 4 lineup 300

Great tips for getting a great photo
Try to always use the rear camera rather than the forward-facing one. The forward-facing camera is only really designed for FaceTime (and the odd indulgent self-portrait), and the overall quality of the camera is much lower. 

Light, light, light! The camera sensor on an iPhone is very small, and the smaller a sensor is, the more light it needs. Saying this, you want the light to be behind the camera. After all, when you look toward the sun, it is hard to see anything because of the glare. Cameras have the same issues with bright lights that we do. If you can see what you are taking a picture of easily, so will the camera.

Try not to move while taking your picture — the less you move, the crisper your photo will be. An easy technique for this is to find something to rest your camera on. It might be a park bench, a fence, or even a street sign; you just want something that will be more stable than your hands.

These hints will really improve the quality of your iPhone pictures — but of course, the most important thing to remember overall when taking a good picture is to make sure what is in front of the camera looks good to your eye. If it doesn’t, the camera won’t magically improve it!

You will never get as high-quality an image as you would with a DLSR camera, but the iPhone camera is easy to use and always in your pocket, making it a great gadget to have with you at all times.

[Image credits: saebaryoSean DavisYutaka Tsutano]


Disable Autocorrect on Your iPhone

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

How to disable autocorrect on your iPhone

Turning off your iPhone’s automated spellcheck is a snap

by Emily Price

Filed under: Mobile Phones/Services

How to disable autocorrect on your iPhone

Auto Correct

The iPhone has an autocorrect function built in that will automatically fix the spelling of words that you might have mistyped or misspelled on your own. While it can be nice to have the help, the function isn’t perfect, and you may want to bypass its suggestions sometimes (or even turn it off altogether).


On the fly
As you’re typing on your iPhone, autocorrect will pop up a small bubble with a suggested spelling for the word you haven’t finished entering yet. If you want to use the suggestion, tapping the space bar will insert it, and you can keep writing. If you don’t want to take your iPhone’s suggestion, tapping the X beside the suggested word will remove it from the screen and allow your current spelling to remain.

ep 300px autocorrect

Living without a net
If you decide that autocorrect isn’t for you, you can disable the function through the settings in your iPhone. To turn off the functionality, simply take the following 4 steps:

  1. Press the settings button on your iPhone’s home screen.
  2. Tap General from within the Settings menu.
  3. Select Keyboard from the General menu.
  4. Turn the switch beside Auto-Correction to Off.

Once you’ve disabled autocorrection, if you find that you miss having the option available, you can re-enable it by going back into the Keyboard menu and sliding the switch beside autocorrect back to the On position.


How to film a Graduation

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Caught on Film: How to film a graduation

Graduation’s a special event worth capturing on video

by Emily Price

Caught on Film: How to film a graduation

Graduation is a popular time to pull out the video camera. However, the process of capturing a graduation on video can be made difficult by crowds and noise. Don’t add to the stress with your own frustration! If you plan on recording a graduation this season, a little advance planning and strategic seating can ensure you record the best video possible and get to enjoy watching your graduate receive his or her degree in the process.

Hit the books
You don’t want to fumble with buttons once you’ve taken your seat at the big event. If you haven’t used your camcorder in a while, take it out at home before you head to the ceremony and refamiliarize yourself with its controls. You should also check out your camcorder’s built-in scene settings so you know what’s available. For instance, graduations outside might benefit from being recorded using the Sunlight setting on your camcorder, and graduations in dark auditoriums may benefit from being shot in Spotlight mode. Read through your camcorder’s user manual, see what options are available to you, and plan your video attack for when you get there.

ep 300px xD Card

Be prepared for class
Most camcorders only come with a 1- to 2-hour battery. If the graduation you’re headed to is for a larger school, you’re probably going to need a longer-life battery to make it through the entire ceremony. While you’re at the event, you’ll also want to conserve your battery power to make sure you don’t run out before the event is over.

Just as your standard battery isn’t likely to make it through a 2-hour ceremony, neither is your arm. If ever there was a time to bring a tripod to an event, it’s a graduation. A tripod can ensure your video stays steady for the entire ceremony, allowing you to sit back and enjoy the event without having to hold a camcorder in front of you for the entire thing.

If your camcorder takes tapes, make sure you have a few extras along for the ride. Likewise, if you’re using a hard disk or flash memory camcorder, make sure you’ve cleared off all the footage stored on the camera prior to the event, to ensure you have enough space to capture every moment of the graduation ceremony.

Head of the class
No one wants to sit behind the guy who’s holding up a camcorder for the entire graduation ceremony. Be respectful of others who are there to see their children graduate, and try to find an unobtrusive place to set up shop. Aisles are typically spots where you can catch all the action yet not be setting up your camcorder directly in front of another person.

Also, try to pick a seating location that is near a speaker. The audio in your video is just as important as the visual elements. People will often talk during a graduation ceremony, and those conversations will show up on your video. Being close to an audio source for the event can ensure you capture all the ceremony audio.

While it can be tempting to zoom in and out throughout the ceremony, you’re typically better off setting a static shot on the stage, capturing everything. You might not get a closeup of your graduate with a static shot; however, you also will ensure that you don’t miss his or her entrance because you have your camcorder focused elsewhere, and you’ll be able to enjoy the ceremony yourself rather than spend it fiddling with your camcorder.

Have any of you recorded a graduation ceremony before? What advice do you have for those who are doing it for the first time?

[Image credit: aprilbell]


Simplifying Email-A Getting Started Guide

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

How to create an email account and start sending messages to your friends and family

by Emily Price

Filed under: Computers

Letters to Mom
aims to help beginners get started with the tech basics of computers, web services, and gadgets. Print out our tips for your mom — she’ll love you for it.

Getting started with email

Email is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways for people to communicate with one another. An email message can be something as simple as “Hello,” can detail plans for an upcoming event, or can even contain pictures of a recent vacation that you would like to share with the recipient. Unlike traditional mail, for which you have to wait several days for someone to receive it, email is for the most part instant, so you can press Send on a message and have it instantly read by someone across the street or across the world. If you’ve never had an email address before, setting one up is easy to do.

Visit the site where you would like to set up your email account. Popular places to set up free email include Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to explain how to set up an account on Gmail, but the same general rules apply to any site you decide you want to set up an account on. Once you get to the homepage of your choice, find the link on the page marked “Create a new account.” This will almost always be located right beside where someone who is already a user would type in their username and password. For Gmail, it is a huge gray button located below the login window. This will launch a page with space for you to fill in information such as your name and birthday, as well as select the username and password for your account.

Your username is what your email address is going to be, so you want to pick something that will be easy to tell friends and family and simple for them to remember. For instance, if your name is Walter Morris, then you might try picking WalterMorris as your username. Assuming the name was available, that would make your email address WalterMorris at Most email sites have been around for a while, so chances are someone has already taken the username that you’re interested in. Experiment by adding numbers or additional words until you find one available. For
instance, if Walter were a fisherman, he might consider WalterMorrisFisherman as his username. Get creative. In the case of Gmail, there is a Check Availability button below where you select a username. Clicking the button will let you know if your desired name is available, and if not, offer suggestions for similar names.

For your password, you want to select something that is easy for you to remember but difficult for others to guess. A combo of numbers and letters in a password is also typically much safer than using just words. Walter the Fisherman may try a combo of the name of his favorite boat in conjunction with his house number: Delila2370. Check our tips for making strong passwords if you’re having trouble.

Once you’re done answering all the sign-up questions and reading the terms and conditions for the site you are using, press the button at the
bottom of the screen to create your account. In the case of Gmail, this says: “I accept. Create my Account.” This should take you to your new email account, ready to use.


Every new email account typically comes with at least one new email from your email provider welcoming you to the site and giving you a few pointers
on how to get started using their service. The first time you open your email, you’ll probably see that you have one of these messages. Click on that email in order to open the message and read it. Any new messages you receive from friends will also be in the same place you saw that first message and will be opened the same way. Once you’re done reading, go back to your inbox by clicking the word Inbox on the side of the screen. If it’s a message you never want to read again, you can click the Delete button on the bottom of the screen to remove it from your mailbox.

ep 300px emailSending messages
Now that you have a shiny new email address, it’s time to start sending
messages to your friends. In Gmail, you can create a new message by
clicking the gray button on the left side of the screen marked “Compose
mail.” This will launch a page with several boxes to fill in where you
can start writing your message. So what are you supposed to put in all
these boxes?

The To field is where you will type the email address of the person you would like to send a message to.

stands for Carbon Copy, and BCC stands for Blind Carbon Copy. CC is where you would type the email address of someone you wanted to send a
copy of the message to, and BCC is where you would type the email address of someone you would like to send a copy of the message to, but
without anyone else who was receiving the email knowing.

The subject of your email is a sentence about what your message is all about. For instance, if Walter was emailing pictures of the fish he
caught on his last fishing trip to a friend, he might type “Pictures from the fishing trip last week” in the subject line.

ep-300pc-attachAttach File
The link below the subject line is what you will click if you want to send a picture or other file off your computer along with the email. To attach a file to your email, click the link and then select the file you would like to attach from the window that appears. You select a file by clicking it once, and then clicking the Open button on the bottom of that pop-up window.

The large window below the subject line is where you would type the message you would like to send.

At the bottom of the message window is a button labeled Send. When you’ve finished writing your message, pressing this button will send it to your recipient(s). In Gmail, the send button is also at the top of the screen.

You’re now ready to start passing out your email address to friends and family and to start sending and receiving messages. Just like you do with your home address, don’t give your email address out to people or businesses who you don’t want to send you messages. Be super cautious about emails you do receive, and in general, never send money or give out passwords to people who contact you via email, even if they claim to be from your bank or a businesses that you use frequently — more than likely, they’re not.

Look What My iPhone Captured

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

I had my iPhone so I could capture this.

How to transfer CDs to your iPod

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

This is another great post by Emily! I know my sister was asked by her son to send him a iPod with new music in it while he was serving in Afghanistan. I wish I could have directed her to this post then to simplify the process of adding music to his collection.

How to get your music onto your iPod, iPhone, or iPad so you can listen on the go

by Emily Price

Filed under: Audio/Music Players

Letters to Mom aims to help beginners get started with the tech basics of computers, web services, and gadgets. Print out our tips for your mom — she’ll
love you for it.

How to transfer CDs to your iPod

You’ve finally gotten an iPod, iPhone, or iPad and want to start using it to listen to music. If all your music is currently on CDs, you can easily import it onto your computer to start playing on your i-flavored gadget. For the purpose of this tutorial, we’re going to talk about an iPod, but the directions are the same for
transferring your music to your iPhone or iPad as well.

Get ready

Before you can really do anything with your iPod, you need to download and install iTunes on your computer. iTunes is a music program made by Apple specifically to work with its devices. You can download iTunes for free from Apple’s website.

Get connected

Connect your computer to the internet before you start importing your CDs. Connecting your computer to the web will allow iTunes to identify all of your CDs, adding song title and artist information to their listings on your computer. If you’re not online when you import your music, you may have to manually enter all of that information, which can be a little annoying for just one CD and borders on ridiculously overwhelming if your collection includes hundreds of CDs. Do yourself a favor and let the computer and iTunes do the tedious heavy lifting!

ep 300px itunesImport away

Begin by launching iTunes and inserting the CD you would like to import into your computer’s CD drive. iTunes will ask you if you would like to import the CD; choose Yes in order to begin the process. Depending on the length of the CD and the speed of your drive, this should only take a few minutes to complete.

If you don’t want to import the entire CD, select No, uncheck the songs you don’t want to import, and press the Import CD button at the bottom of the iTunes window when you’ve finished making your selections. Repeat the process for all of the CDs you would like to add to your iTunes library and, ultimately, your iPod.

Transfer all the hits

Connect your iPod to your computer using the cable that came with it. If this is the first time you’ve connected your iPod to your computer, a window will launch asking you to name and register it. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete that process.  Once that’s complete, click on the icon for your iPod on the far right iTunes menu bar to select your iPod. Press the Sync button to simply transfer all of of the music you currently have stored in iTunes to your iPod.

Customize your selections

You can customize what music is added to your iPod by creating playlists within iTunes. A playlist is simply a list of songs in the order in which you would like them to be played. You can create a playlist by clicking the + icon on the bottom left of the screen. For instance, you might create a playlist called “Driving Music.” Once you create the list, it will show up in the far left menu within iTunes, and you can drag and drop songs from the main menu into the list. Next time you sync your iPod, the playlist will show up on your iPod as well.

Only want to sync your Driving Music to your iPod? After selecting your iPod from the left menu, click on the Music tab, and then select your Driving Music playlist on the screen before syncing your iPod. Depending on the size of your iPod and the amount of music you have, you may need to customize you selections, simply because all your music won’t fit on your iPod.

Looking in a mirror

Your iPod creates a mirror image of whatever you have in iTunes each time it is synced. Keep that in mind when you make changes to playlists or choose
to delete music off your computer. If you delete a song or playlist from your computer, then it will also be deleted from your iPod next time you sync it.

[Image credit: abbyyy]

Getting started on Facebook

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Facebook isn’t just for kids anymore

by Emily Price

Filed under: Computers

Letters to Mom
aims to help beginners get started with the tech basics of computers,
web services, and gadgets. Print out our tips for your mom — she’ll
love you for it.

Getting started on Facebook

Facebook is quickly becoming how many people, particularly young adults, communicate with one another. The
site allows you to keep friends up to date on what you’ve been up to, show off pictures you’ve taken, or invite people to an event, as well as comment on what your friends are saying and doing too. Originally developed as a way for college students to communicate with classmates, Facebook later opened to the public. Once it did, adults flocked to the site not only to keep up with their current friends, but also to reconnect with friends and classmates from years past. Getting started using Facebook is simple to do.

Quick, easy registration
The first step in using Facebook is registering for an account. You’ll find a link to create a new account on the Facebook home page ( Fill out the required fields with your name and email address in order to get started. If you want your friends and family to be able to find you on the site, it is probably in your best interest to use your real name and primary email address when signing up.

Class photo time
You’ll definitely want to upload a photo to use as your Facebook profile picture. This picture will show up on your profile page and be visible when people search for you. If you have a common name such as Bob Smith, your profile picture can help people figure out whether or not you’re the Bob Smith they’re looking for.

During the profile setup process, you’ll be given the option to upload a picture. After your profile is created, you can
upload more profile pictures, as well as pictures of your vacations, pets, or anything else by clicking the Photos tab on your profile page and then selecting Create a Photo Album.

Make new friends
Facebook is almost entirely pointless if you don’t have any friends on the site. “Friending” someone on Facebook acknowledges that you know that person and are willing to share some of your life with them. The status updates
for those you friend on Facebook will show up in your News Feed; those people will be able to see your status updates and things you upload, just as you will be able to see theirs.

Obviously, you don’t want to friend people you don’t want knowing anything about you. If there is a group of folks for whom you’d prefer to limit or restrict access to what you’ve got on the site, set that up in the privacy settings. We’ll talk about that a little later on.

ep 300px facebookStatus symbol
A status update is a way of letting your friends know what you’re up to
or what you’re thinking about. Typically around a sentence long, a
status update can be something as simple as “Wow, it’s cold outside
today!” or something longer such as “Planning a trip to the Bahamas this
summer, does anyone have any travel suggestions?” You can say or ask
anything in your status update, and it will show up in your friends’
News Feeds for them to respond to.

Keep up on the news
When you log in to Facebook, you will be instantly taken to a News Feed page listing all of the latest updates by your friends. If you see something you’d like to respond to, you can click the blue Comment below their update in order to respond to their post. That comment will then show up below your friend’s post, allowing the folks who see the original postto see your reply.

If you want to check up on a specific friend, click on their name in your News Feed to go to their profile page, or type their name in the search box at the top of the screen to pull up their profile and see only their updates.

Be Like-able
One thing that happens a lot on Facebook is “Liking” something. Liking is similar to expressing verbal approval (or giving a high five, a thumbs-up, or laughing at someone’s joke). You’re letting that person know that you enjoyed (or agreed with) what they shared that particular post with you.

To Like a post, simply click the blue Like below it. This will display a thumbs-up icon below the update with your name,
as well as that of anyone else who has also Liked it. You can also Like certain pages or things on Facebook, letting others know what some of your interests are. For instance, you might Like bacon, the Rolling Stones, or even us!

Private lives
Depending who you friend on Facebook, you may or may not want to let everyone see everything that you post on the site. Clicking the Account button on the top right of the screen and then selecting Privacy Settings from the options will take you to a page where you can customize what information people are able to see about you. At the very least, you may want to restrict some things (such as your pictures) so that only your friends can see them. Privacy settings can be adjusted for large groups
of people or even for just single person. For instance, if you don’t want your children to see pictures from your trip to the Bahamas, you can block them from being able to do so.

This article
by the Electronic Frontier Foundation provides a lot of great information about Facebook’s privacy settings and how to set them up. are some of the basics to get you started using Facebook. Once you get some friends and start using it, you’ll quickly discover more site features such as games, videos, and questions! We’ll talk about these in a later article — but in the meantime, try not to get too addicted.

Do you need some help? Check out our service page. We will coach you through a personal facebook or business page facebook set up.

The 5 things you need to know about video game systems

Monday, March 21st, 2011

5 tips to make your gaming experience great

by Adam Holisky

The 5 things you need to know about video game systems

1.  Buy what your friends play.


Letters To Mom: Buying things on eBay

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

eBay can help you find deals on new things you might need

Learning ebay so quickly is awesome! Thank you!

by Emily Price

Letters to Mom aims to help beginners get started with the tech basics of computers, web services, and gadgets. Print out our tips for your mom — she’ll
love you for it.

Letters To Mom: Buying things on eBay

eBay is a popular online auction site where you can purchase anything from a car to a pair of pants. Just like traditional auctions you may have been to, each item starts at a set price, and then bidders have the opportunity to place higher bids for the item. The highest overall bid wins the ability to purchase it. If you have items in your home you would like to
sell or if you’re in the market for something new, then eBay may potentially be a good place for you to do so. (more…)