Got a Tech Snag? Don't Panic! Check These Tips Out!

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My Printer Isn't Working at Home! ------What do I Do!?
The Problem:
Gah! It's the night before a report is due it's done, spell checked, bibliography complete, and proofread BUT you're home printer is out of ink or doesn't work!
The Fix:
  1. Is it before 9pm? Go to the Savage Branch of the Howard County Public Library! They have "19 computers available for public use, all of which include Internet access and word processing software!" They'll happily help you print your report and get it ready to be turned in!
  2. After 9pm or don't have a ride to the Savage Library? Email your document (as a .DOC - see below for how!) to THE TEACHER WHO ASSIGNED the report or assignment. How? Go to the MHMS Instructional Staff Web Page and find your teacher! Email your work by cutting and pasting it into the body of an email or attach the .DOC or .PPT or .XLS- HINT: Make sure your subject head has your name, grade & core! :-)

I can't open my report!

The Problem:
You created a Microsoft Works/WordPerfect document, and when you brought it to school, it wouldn’t open.
The Reason:
You saved your document in their default format, and not in a more standardized format like ".doc".
  • Microsoft Works is usually the free word processor that is included with new computer purchases. It is a great, easy-to-use product. However, it saves its files as ".wps", which its big brother, Microsoft Word, won’t read without a converter. So why doesn't Microsoft Word already have the converter built-in for its little sister? Good question…
  • WordPerfect used to be the king of the road back in the early 1990's. It is sometime included on new computers, and is a perfectly acceptable alternative to Microsoft Word. It saves its files as ".wpd". It is really incompatible with Microsoft Word without a converter (which only works half of the time anyway).
The Fix:
Easy. Save all of your documents in ".doc" format. Here’s how:
  1. Click "Save As…"
  2. Where is says "Save as type..." or "Save file as type...", click on the drop-down menu. Choose "Microsoft Word 97/2000/XP Document (.doc)". Sometimes it might say "Microsoft Word 97-2003 Document (.doc)".
  1. Then click "Save".
Once you start saving your documents in the ".doc" format, you'll have less of an issue when you bring them to school for printing/editing.

I don't have Microsoft Office on my computer!

The Problem:
You want to type up a Word document, create an Excel spreadsheet, or make a PowerPoint presentation, but you can't find Microsoft Office on your computer. Microsoft Office includes Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.
The Reason:
Microsoft Office usually does not come with your computer. It is NOT part of Windows. Some computers come with a trial version of Microsoft Office, but it will stop working after 60 days unless you cough up some dough.
The Fix:
There are three ways to fix this. You can:
  1. Buy Microsoft Office. It costs $150 for the Student/Teacher edition, and $500 for the Professional edition that includes Microsoft Access.
  2. Use Google Docs ( This free service from Google lets you create basic Word, Excel, and Powerpoint files online, and save them online for access anywhere in the world. You can also import your existing files, and export your Google documents in many standard formats (even PDF).
  3. Use OpenOffice ( OpenOffice is a free office productivity suite that performs many of the same functions as Microsoft Office. It includes word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, drawing, database, and equation editing software. It can save files in a variety of formats, and export files out as PDF's. It in also available in hundreds of languages (even Swahili).
My philosophy is that technology should be available to everyone, no matter how much money they have. I have used both Google Docs and OpenOffice extensively, and can help you with any issues you might have. Please feel free to drop by the media center anytime for help with these programs.

Saving Word Documents for use at Work/School

The Problem:
You have a shiny new computer, and you went out and purchased Microsoft Office 2007 so you could type up your paper. But, those new Word files won't work at school.
The Reason:
Microsoft changed their default document format from ".doc" to ".docx". That makes it incompatible with older versions of Office (without a read-only converter). This has caused many headaches in the business/government/education world.
The Fix:
Do what the pros do: change the default file saving format in Word 2007.
Here's how:
  1. Click the shiny gold Office button that's located on the upper-left of the screen in Word 2007
  2. On the drop-down menu, go to the bottom and click the "Word Options" button.
    Word 2007 Options
    Word 2007 Options
  3. On the left side of the "Word Options" window, click "Save"
  4. Under the "Save documents" section, click on the drop-down box beside "Save files in this format", then choose "Word 97-2003 Document (*.doc)".
    Word 2007 Default
    Word 2007 Default
  5. Click the "OK' button
Now all of your documents will be compatible with the rest of the world.
Note: This also works for Excel 2007 & PowerPoint 2007

Why Can't I Use Wikipedia?

Though sites like Wikipedia or Mashpedia have their place in real time information and popular culture - they're not academic resources that are acceptable in today's high schools or colleges.
If our students go to high school thinking that they can use Wikipedia as the be all and end all research resource they will most likely face some tough talk and bad grades from their teachers and it will make us look bad, too! However, if they're gathering pop culture background information about an opinion paper, I think using Wikipedia along with several other credible newspaper and notable websites devoted to that topic is valid and acceptable as long as it's noted correctly.

OK, but why can't I use Wipedia as a serious research resource?
Why? Because ANYone can edit them and you should be using our Research Databases!

" Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia compiled by a distributed network of volunteers, has often come under attack by academics as being shoddy and full of inaccuracies. Even Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, says he wants to get the message out to college students that they shouldn’t use it for class projects or serious research." - Wikipedia Founder Discourages Academic Use of His Creation The Chronicle of Higher Education

Should I use or cite Wikipedia? Probably not. - from Williams College Library article
"Should you use or cite Wikipedia as a source for an academic paper? The answer depends on your research topic. Wikipedia may be useful as a primary source on popular culture, or for subjects that have not been addressed in the scholarly literature. For more academic topics, however, it cannot compete with the library's specialized encyclopedias and online resources.

But What About Popular Culture?
For studies of popular culture, Wikipedia and other websites may provide useful material, but they should be treated with healthy skepticism. Suppose you are researching a topic like "reggaeton." As a relatively recent pop music phenomenon, there is very little scholarly literature on the subject. In this case, you might turn to the popular press for background information, and to websites discussing reggaeton. Wikipedia is not the authority on the subject, but just one voice among many on the web. As such, it should be read as a primary source and evaluated accordingly.
The references in Wikipedia to other resources such as news articles can be helpful, but these should be verified. For example, if Wikipedia cites an article on reggaeton in the //New York Times//, you should use the library's ProQuest subscription to find and read the article for yourself. In cases like this, Wikipedia and its references can provide basic information, but you must provide the scholarly analysis.
4 ways to use Wikipedia (hint: never cite it) - from Gearlife
This is a great article that says it all...Wikipedia is a terrific brainstorming site, background information gathering resource, or a place to define your search but not a be all end all and NEVER your only resource for a paper or assignment. -Ms. Jones

"You should NEVER cite Wikipedia in an academic paper. Your teacher will think you are at best lazy and at worst an idiot if you do. But that doesn’t mean that Wikipedia is useless; far from it. Here are 4 ways to use Wikipedia to write better papers without needing to cite it at all.

  1. Background information: The Grapes of Wrath makes a lot more sense if you understand the dust bowl of the depression. The fighting in Iraq makes more sense if you understand that it wasn’t until after World War I that it became one country under the British. Knowing the context of your topic can help you understand that material better and write about it more clearly.
  2. Links: At the bottom of every article is a list of external links. These sites are often articles or respected authorities that you CAN cite. For example you could use a few liens from the Woody Guthrie song //Tom Joad// about his experience of seeing the film Grapes of Wrath in a paper on the topic. There are also good links in the Notes section (which are the references for factual statements made in the article).
  3. Keywords: Sometimes coming up with the right keywords for a library or google search is the hardest part of a research project. The Wikipedia page can give you a ton of clues about what word combinations will get you the best results. For example “drought” gets a lot more irrelevant hits than “dust bowl”.
  4. References: Also at the bottom of each article is a list of books and articles that were used to put this article together. Those are things you can read and later cite. A librarian can help you get a copy if you can’t find them yourself.
The goal here is not to take Wikipedia as gospel but to use it to focus your research (via links, keywords and references) and get a little context (via background information). Focusing cuts down the time you spend on the project while context will get you a better grade for your effort."

How to Teach Wikipedia Comic Tutorial

(click below for larger sizes)
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How to Download YouTube Videos for School Use

(click below for larger sizes)
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Keeping Your Computer Clean of Viruses

Fake Antivirus
Fake Antivirus

Over the weekend, I read about the best advice for dealing with fake antivirus pop-ups:

"If The Internet is telling you you have a virus, then it is lying. Don't do whatever the message is asking."

The easiest way to stop the fake antivirus from infecting your computer is to simply click "File > Exit" in your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.). Alternately, you can CRTL+ALT+DEL to the Windows Task Manager, click on "iexplore.exe" and end the process. This will immediately stop the fake antivirus in it's tracks.

When a fake antivirus gets into the system, it is often hard to clean it out. It creates constant pop-ups wanting you to "pay" for their service, and they will even ask you to "pay" them for uninstallation (In other words, extortion). In fact, many credit card fraud cases can be traced back to users who willingly gave up their information to the criminals who created this malicious fake antivirus.

You can help prevent these infections by running a good antivirus program. There are many free products available for home use:
Microsoft Security Essentials (
Avira AntiVir Personal Edition (
Avast Free Antivirus (
AVG Free 9.0 (

Once you get infected, you can install and run MalwareBytes Free Version (home use only) ( That usually cleans up many computers. It's probably a good idea to install and run it before an infection strikes. Always remember to update the program's definitions before starting any scan. In MalwareBytes Free, you have to update and scan manually.

More serious infections will require professional attention. Make sure you have backed up all of your documents and photos, because the quickest way to clean it is to reformat/restore the system to a fresh state.

Making a PDF

How many times have you needed to send a file to someone who doesn't have the ability to open it? Like the time when you created a pamphlet in Publisher 2007, but your teacher only had Publisher 2000? Or what about the time when your printer broke, and you tried to take your paper to a friend's house, only to find out that they didn't have Word?
There is an easy solution to this problem: Save your file as a PDF. PDF stands for "Portable Document Format", and is associated the most with Adobe Acrobat Reader. When you make a PDF, you are printing out a virtual piece of paper that can be moved to any other computer for viewing and printing. The PDF standard is cross-platform compatible, and can be viewed in all versions of Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. But remember: you can't change a PDF once it is made (well, easily anyway). It like a real piece of paper, and if you need to make a change, you have to edit your original document and "reprint" the PDF.

Support for PDF printing is built into Mac OS X, OpenOffice, and Google Docs. However, it is free (and easy) to add it to Windows. Here's what you do:
  1. Download and install "PDF Creator" from . It is free and open-source, I use this personally on all of my Windows machines.
  2. If you don't want the "PDFForge Yahoo Toolbar" or "Browser Helper" , just un-check them during install.
    Yahoo Toolbar
    Yahoo Toolbar
    Browser Helper
    Browser Helper
  3. Then print to it like any printer. Choose "File > Print" and select "PDFCreator" from the list of printers. You can customize the document information, and click "Save"
  4. Give it a location to save to, like "My Documents" or your flash drive. Then you're done!

Free Antivirus/anti-malware from Microsoft

This week, Microsoft released the free Microsoft Security Essentials for computers running Windows XP, Vista, and 7. It has received good reviews from the blogs I have read. If you currently do not have an antivirus/anti-malware program on your home computer (or a sub
You can download the free program at

Every tip except for the first one was created by the totally AWEsome Mr. Tony Smith for the Media/Technology blog of Eastern Wayne High School in NC!