Edit and Share Photos with Picasa

Picasa is a free program from Google that can be used for editing and sharing your digital photos. You can download it at http://picasa.google.com/. Click on the download button to get the installation file, then click on the file to run it and install Picasa on your computer.

When you open Picasa, it will scan your computer for image folders and display the list on the left. Select the folder you want to work on by clicking on it.

First, review the album by clicking on the slideshow button (green arrow). As you are watching the slideshow, you may decide that a photo is not good. To discard it, stop the slideshow (move your mouse to the bottom and click “exit”). If the unwanted image is displayed, delete it using the delete key on your keyboard.

Almost any digital photo can be improved by cropping and adjusting the values. To crop a photo, click the crop button in the left tool panel, then click one of the three suggested crops. A cropping border will appear on your image. You can move it around by holding down the left mouse button and dragging it. You can change the dimensions by “grabbing” one of the borders and dragging it. Try grabbing a corner to change two sides at once. Click “apply.” To save your changes, use Cntl-S, or File/Save.

The other buttons on the tool panel allow you to add text, adjust balance and contrast, and apply some fancy effects. Play around! If you do something and you don’t like it, simply hit Ctrl-Z to undo. If you like something, don’t forget to save it.

Notice that you can add a caption to any photo.

When you have made all your changes to the album, it’s time to share it. I do this in two ways: a Google album and a Youtube slide show. Both are easy in Picasa.

If you are still in the edit mode, leave it by clicking “Back to Library.”  Select all images in the album by keying Ctrl-A or right-clicking the album in the left panel and chosing “Select All.”

Share on Google by clicking the button and following instructions.

Click on the Create Movie Presentation button to create a slideshow. Follow the instructions to share it on Youtube.

Copy Files to an External Device

In this example, we’ll backup files from my computer to an external hard drive. The same procedure will work with a flash drive or other external device. For example, copying music files from your computer to your cell phone.

NOTE: Click on the pix to see full size.

  1. Connect external device to your computer. Typically, this means using the USB cable that came with your device. Connects to the computer at a USB port. After it is connected, turn on device.
  2. Open two Windows Explorer windows. Either
    • Start-Documents
    • Win-E
    • Chose “Open Folder to View Files” on autoplay.
  3. Position windows side by side on desktop.
    • In one window (a), navigate to the folder that has the files you want to copy.
    •  In the other window (b), navigate to the folder on your external device where you want to drop the files.
  4. Select files on a by clicking one file and then click on additional files while holding down the control key. (Or select a group of files by clicking one, holding down the shift key and clicking another to select all files between the two.)
  5. Drag the files to a folder on your external device. In this example, I created a new folder called Dropbox_28may12. To drag, hold down the left mouse button, use the mouse to move the cursor to b, then release the mouse button. The files will be copied from one directory to the other.


Minesweeper, one of the oldest computer games, usually comes bundled with MS Windows and is also available free online in many forms. Here’s  how to play:

1. Open Minesweeper. On my Windows XP system, I click Start/All Programs/Games/Minesweeper. The gameboard, 30×16 squares, opens (right).

The counter in the upper left indicates that there are 99 hidden mines. Your job is to find and mark all 99 without hitting one and blowing up.

When you left-click on a safe square, a number appears; this indicates the number of mines adjacent to the square.

When you left-click on mine, it blows up and the game is over (left). Click on the face icon to start again.  When you click on a square that has NO adjacent mines, all the adjacent safe squares are revealed. Eventually, you get a good spread (below), and you can start to find the mines. Right-clicking on a square will mark a mine.

2. Mark known mines. From the layout, you already know where some of the mines are located. If you see a “1” with only one adjacent  blank space, you know there is a mine there. If you see a “2” with only two adjacent blank spaces, you know where two of the mines are located.

A little thought will show that in this configuration, 1-2-1 determines the location of two mines; it is the only way the “2” can have two mines without giving a “1” two mines as well.

Here is the above layout with many of the obvious mine sites marked: 

3. Now you have identified a number of safe (mine-free) squares because, for example, if a “2” has two adjacent mines and another adjacent square, that square must be safe. Mark all the safe squares by left clicking on them. Better still, use this trick: Click with the left and right mouse buttons together on a square that has it’s full compliment of mines, and all the safe squares will automatically be filled in with new numbers.

4. Now you have a bunch more marked squares, and a bunch more information. Continue figuring out mine locations and marking them.

You will probably encounter situations where you have to guess the location of a mine. Good luck!

If you click “Game” on the menu bar, you can view your best times. You can also choose the level: beginner, intermediate or expert.

Web Browsers

web browser is a software application for retrieving, presenting, and traversing information resources on the World Wide Web.

To see just what this means, right click anywhere on this page and chose (left click) “View Source.” The gobbledygook you see is the actual code for the web page, which does you no good at all. You need a browser to interpret the code and display the page on your screen.

If you have a PC, it probably came with Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) already installed and selected as the default browser, so if you click on a link it will open, by default, in IE. This is an example of a general principle: We are Microsoft. You will comply. Resistance is futile. There is nothing wrong with IE, except that it will often be configured with a bunch of links, buttons and favorites that you won’t use and will just clutter up your desktop. After you use it for awhile and are sure they are superfluous, you can get rid of them.

Other popular browsers are Firefox, Chrome and Safari. They are free and easy to download and install. Try one and see if you prefer it to IE,

See also BrowserBasics.pdf

Operating Systems

Wikipedia diagramAn operating system (OS) is a set of programs that manage computer hardware resources. This diagram from the Wikimedia Commons is wonderful.

Hardware is that box of on-off switches in front of you: the computer. User, that’s you.

Between the two of you, there’s an Operating System and a bunch of Applications. Applications are programs (software): a browser like Internet Explorer  to surf the web, a word processor and spreadsheet (MS Office), some games…

Between the applications and the computer, there’s the operating system. If you have a Mac, this is some version of Mac OS X. If you have a PC, you are using Microsoft Windows.

Which version you are using depends on when you bought it. Newer PCs will have Windows 7. Older computers will have Vista or, more likely, XP. Anything older than that is really old!



When I was an apprentice printer many years ago, I took a typography class at LA Trade Tech, and I remember an important point from that class: Everything displayed is nothing displayed. Capitalization is a form of display, and when you use all caps, you are defeating the purpose. In email, it is like shouting; sometimes it’s appropriate to shout, but if you are going to shout all the time, it would be better to speak in a normal voice.

The same could be said for bold and large type faces. Both are forms of display (shouting). Use them sparingly, in a way that makes sense and enhances your communication.


Let’s talk about using Bookmarks (Firefox, Chrome, Safari)/Favorites (Internet Explorer).

Use them! If you come across a page that you think you might want to look at again, bookmark it! That way you will be sure to find it.

Keep your bookmarks organized. If you are actively using bookmarks, you will soon have a long list. You can manage bookmarks to make them more useful. Delete the ones that are no longer interesting. Move some that you want to keep into folders so that you can easily find them. For example, my bookmarks folders include “library,” “tech,” “friends,” “hike,” “newspapers,” and “back.” That last one is very important, because I stick everything in there that I may want to look at again someday, but for now I want them out of the way.

Your bookmarks/favorites will be an important resource if you use them and manage them.