Sunday, July 29, 2012

Microsoft Word–Basics

Word is Microsoft Offices word processor for documents, letters, papers, envelopes, ect.  Microsoft Word is a WYSIWYG editor meaning what you see on screen is what you should get when you print the document – in early computing days this was quite an improvement.  For this post I am going to be looking at Microsoft Office Word 2010, version 2007 is very similar, and older versions of Word have similar features; however, they do not have the ribbon interface like 2007 and 2010.


The bar along the top of Microsoft Word’s window is the Ribbon, the ribbon contains all the options and editing features.  For the most part you probably will be spending most of you time under the Home tab (shown in the screen shot above), which contains all the basic editing commands, including Font, Font Size, text alignment, and themes.  One helpful editing tip for selecting content; place your cursor on the left hand margin of document and the cursor should change to an inverted cursor, which by left clicking will select all the content on the line that the cursor is next to, by dragging up or down you can select multiple lines.  Another helpful editing tip is right clicking, right click will bring up quick access menus, for example right clicking on text will show the font options.


The next tab is the insert tab.  The insert tab allows you to insert pictures, tables, charts, page numbers, fancy word art, and other objects.  Something to be aware of when inserting non-text content such as pictures is how the picture will flow (or float) with the text.  When you insert a picture or select a picture a new tab will show up; the Format tab (screenshot below).  The Format tab for pictures allows for correcting images (cropping, special effects, ect.), more importantly though it gives options for  aligning the image, in particular, how to wrap text (or not to) around an image.  I have seen this give new and even somewhat experienced Word editors trouble, so be sure to watch the alignment and how text are being wrapped around images.  Just to note, the format tab will only appear after you select a picture or other object that requires the format tab.



The next tab in the ribbon is the Page Layout tab, this tab is especially important if you plan on printing your document.  On this ribbon's tab you can select the margins of the page (how far from the edge of the page can content be), the size and orientation of the page/paper.


The next couple of tabs – References, Mailings, and Review; are for some of Words fancier features.  The Reference tab for example allow you create papers where you need to cite sources, for example school papers or technical documents.  The Mailings tab allows you to create envelopes and labels.  The Review tab is for correcting, marking up, and reviewing a document, including spell check.  Spell check can also be accessed by pressing F7 on the keyboard; Word is constantly checking the document for spelling and grammar, which are represented by squiggly red (spelling) or green (grammar) lines underneath a word.


The last tab (at least that I am going to talk about) is the View tab.  In the screenshot above I also have and an Add-Ins and Acrobat tab, because I have a couple Add-Ins installed as well as Adobe software.  The view tab gives options for how you want to view the document onscreen.  The view tab has nothing to do with how a document will look when printed!  What view you want to use will probably come down to personal preference.  The view can also be changed along the bottom of the screen by the little icons on the right hand side.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Creating and Working with Folders

A folder is one of the most basic elements of the Windows operating system.  A folder basically holds files and folders, similar to a physical filing systems where a folder holds the files.  Folders are used to keep files organized, even your computers desktop is a folder!  For Windows 7 you can find your desktop folder at: C:\Users\{your username}\Desktop (screenshot below).  For a previous post on files, you can check here:


To create a folder, simply click on an empty spot either on your desktop or in a folder where you want the new folder.  From the right click menu, mouse over new, and click Folder.  When the folder is created it will allow you to name the folder, give the folder a name you desire and either click in a empty spot or press Enter on the keyboard.  You can find more information on renaming here:, works the same for both files and folders.



Now that your folder is created you can add files, additional folders, or whatever you needed the folder for.

Navigating Folders

The main folder (if you want to call it that) is My Computer.  My Computer holds all the hard drives, disk drives, floppy drives, card readers, and other devices with storage.  There is a My Computer or just Computer located on the Start Menu and sometimes the desktop, if enabled.  From My Computer you can access all folders and files on or attached to the computer.  For example, if you put a CD or DVD into the disk drive and nothing happens, you can go to My Computer and open the drive manually.



Another important thing for navigating is the address bar along the top of the Explorer window, in the screenshot above, I am in the “root” folder Computer.  In the screenshot below I am in Computer > Local Disk C > Users > Randy > Downloads.  The real address to this by the way is: C:\Users\Randy\Downloads.  This tells you that you are in the C drive, in the Users Folder, in the Randy folder, looking at the downloads folder.  Clicking on any of the individual links will take you directly to that folder level, for example if I Click on Local Disk (C:) it will take me directly to Local Disk C.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Network Cable Types

There several different types of cable that are used in computer networking. However for must users, especially home users, the only type of cable used is twisted pair "Cat" cable. There are currently seven different category cables: category's 1-7. Category 1-4 cables are not used in computer networking and instead are usually used for analog applications such as phone. Categories 5-7 are used for networking, with each higher number representing faster speeds.

Twisted pair cabling - probably better known as "Cat" cable

Twisted pair cabling is called twisted pair because the pairs of wire within the cable are twisted around each other. This twisting in of the wires helps prevent crosstalk; crosstalk is simply the picking up of unwanted interference, both from within the cable itself and from cables that may be nearby. Twisted pair cable is probably better known by its specifications currently Category 1-7. Only Categories 5-7 are used in computer networking, with the first 4 generally being used for analog applications such as phone. Category cables 5-7 all have 4 pairs of wire, with 2 wires to a pair, for a total of 8 wires. Category cables 5-6 uses a RJ45 termination jack. A RJ45 jack looks very similar to phone jack, except for the fact that it is slightly larger and has 8 connections rather than 4. The most common cable type, at least for home users, is Category 5e. Category 5e has a max speed of 1000Mbs or 1Gbs with a max length of 100 meters.

Category 1 cable type is not commonly used any more, and is listed as unsuitable for modern communication devices. Category 1 cable supports a frequency bandwidth of 0.4 MHz and was originally used for telephone and modem communications. Category 1 cable was never recognized by the EIA/TIA as a valid cable type.

Category 2 cable is not used anymore and is listed as unsuitable for modern communication devices. Category 2 cable supports a frequency bandwidth of 4 MHz. Originally category 2 cable was used for ARCnet and 4 Mbs Token Ring networks. Category 2 cables was the first cable to support speeds of up to 4 Mbs, which back then was fast! Category 2 cable was never recognized by the EIA/TIA as a valid cable type.

Category 3 cable is currently used primarily for phone and modem communication devices. Category 3 cable supports a frequency of 16 MHz and is cable of speeds up to 100 Mbs. Category 3 cable supports 10BASE-T and 100BASE-T4 (which simply means it uses all 4 pairs), as well as Token Ring and ATM25 networks. Category 3 cable is still recognized by the EIA/TIA as a valid cable type.

Category 4 cable is not commonly used except for phone/data communications, which is not common. Category 4 cable supports a frequency of 20 MHz and is cable of speeds up 100 Mbs over 4 pair. Category 4 cable supports 10BASE-T, 100BASE-T4, and 16 Mbs Token Ring. Category 4 cable is no longer recognized by the EIA/TIA as a valid cable type.

Category 5 is not commonly used anymore; instead Category 5e has superseded Category 5. You may still find Cat 5 cables bundled with cheap electronics as well as in older network installations. Category 5 cable supports a frequency of 100 MHz and speeds up 1000 Mbs. Category 5 cable is most commonly used in 100BASE-TX and 1000BASE-T. Category 5 cable is no longer recognized by the EIA/TIA as a valid cable type.

Category 5e is probably the most common cable type and is found in most new installations. Category 5e (enhanced) has bascially the same specifications as Category 5.

Category 6 cable is starting to replace category 5e, especially in applications where higher speeds are needed. Category 6 cable supports a frequency of 250 MHz and has better resistance to crosstalk. Category 6 cable can support up to 10 Gbs; however, using a Category 6 cable for 10 Gbs will result in a shorter allowable length of only 55 meters. Category 6 cable can support up to 10GBASE-T.

Category 6a has similar specifications as category 6, except it supports a frequency of 500 MHz and allows 10 Gbs to be run for the full 100 meters.

Category 7 is the newest cable type and supports speeds up to 10 Gbs. Category 7 cable supports a frequency of 600 MHz. The main difference between other cable types is the fact that category 7 cable is even more resistant to crosstalk. Category 7 cable has shielding around the cable as well as around each pair of the cable. Category 7 supports 10GBASE-T.

Category 7a cable has similar specifications as category 7, except it supports a frequency of 1000 MHz. Currently the highest speed supported by category 7a is 10 Gbs; it is possible in the future though that it might support 40-100 Gbs.

All the different wires I listed above have one thing in common, 4 pairs of wire. The wires inside the cable are all color coded starting with blue, white blue, green, white green, orange, white orange, brown, and white brown. In my experience cable manufactures vary the color on the cables that have white, sometimes they are all white with a colored stripe or sometimes they are all colored with just a white stripe.

Which cable type should you choose? It basically comes down to what speed do you want? For most home users Category 5e will be sufficient, which allows for speeds up to 1 Gbs. Although, you may want to consider Cat 6 for future applications.

Of course twisted pair cable is not the only type of cable you can use for networking; there is also coaxial and fiber. On top of that you also have Ethernet over power lines as well as Wi-Fi. I will just quickly mention these other types of cables since they either are not used any more or are used in business settings for high-speed backbones.

Coaxial cable comes in two types, thicknet (10BASE5) and thinnet (10BASE2). Thicknet has a max length of 500 meters and thinnet has a max length of 185 meters. Coaxial cable supports a max speed of 10 Mbs.

Fiber cable is for long cable runs (miles) and high speeds without out having to worry about crosstalk. Fiber cable contains a glass inner core that transmits light, because fiber cables use light they are not affected by electrical magnetic interference. There are two types of fiber cable, multi-mode and single-mode. The main difference between multi-mode and single-mode is multi-mode cable has a larger core, which makes it cheaper, but shortens the distance and speed of the cable.

Ethernet over powerlines relies on existing wiring, namely your electrical wires. This eliminates the need for you to run cables and allows you to get to places that might normally be hard or impossible to reach with a regular networking cable. For powerline networking you will need adapters that plugs into your outlet. Powerline networking is slower than using a regular network and is also affected by the length and quality of your electrical wires and connections. A good use for powerline networking are places where Wi-Fi might have trouble reaching, such as through thick walls or multiple floors.

Wi-Fi is wireless networking and has grown exceedingly popular over the last few years as more people are using mobile devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Wi-Fi with the proper equipment can also be used for long distances. Wireless routers or access points can be setup as a wireless bridge, you can use this setup to bridge a distance without a wire and then on the opposite end have a wired connection available.