Arttober Finale now in 3D

By John Carter

Hi Net Neighbors! Welcome back to Tech Tuesday where we take deep dives into the technology surrounding us. This week we wrap up our Arttober series with the most well known of the Digital Arts; 3D Art. 3D Art has been around for a long time. Much longer than many of you may realize. The Last Starfighter, a movie from 1984 had 27 minutes worth of 3D effects. These days many movies and television programs use 3D Art to supplement, or wholly replace locations. The sort of films which were once completed using super computers are now being made by people in their homes using equipment and programs within reach of most. So let’s take a look at a few options out there.

What is 3D Art?

Although the primary use case for 3D is movies and video games, 3D Art is more than just making Yoda flip across the screen. Many 3D Artists use their media to create works of sculpture or still images of breathtaking complexity. In fact, one of the artists I follow on Youtube, Grant Abbitt, has a contest this month to see who can make the best 3D Halloween scene. Other artists engage in similar competitions. Most of my own work in 3D Art has been more sculptural focused with the end point of them being 3D printing the pieces. That’s right. Just as you can print digital photos and vector logos, you can also print your 3D pieces, if you do it correctly. For today I will not be going in depth into the 3D Art to print pipeline because it is a long one. However, if you are interested in that I would be happy to talk about it in the future.

Okay then, what can I use to do 3D Art?

Depending on the level of complexity to your art, you will need anything from an iPhone to a multi-grand computer.

Wait, what?

Unlike Raster or Vector based art, 3D Art can require a great deal of horsepower to properly handle. Big name studios such as ILM and Pixar need whole rooms of computers running at high speed to make their art. Thankfully you won’t need a super computer for most things. For starters, there are companies now where you can hand them your files and they will do the final render.

Hang on, you mentioned that before. What does Render mean?

Good question. When you watch the newest Pixar film what you are seeing is a final product. If you have the time, I would suggest you pause one of their films and take a good look at it. The water, the way light reflects off surfaces, hair, everything you are seeing requires an insane amount of math to calculate. When an artist is making their movie they are not working with the final, detailed, product. Instead, they are working with much simpler objects. A mass of red curls in the final movie might be represented in on the artist’s side by four or five lines the artist can position.

With their lines in position, the artist can tell the computer to render the scene. As the artist gets up to get their beverage of choice, the computer is working through all the calculations to transform those lines into the hair you gawk at in the theater. There is not enough processing power to actively position all that hair a strand at a time. At least not yet.

Aside from expensive computers, what else might I need?

Well, you don’t need super expensive computers. Like I said, some of this you can do on an iPhone. And there are people who make amazing static pieces on their computer. After all, a static object is not quite as hard to handle as a moving one. Still, many average computers will run the program I am about to talk up and the great thing is it is absolutely free.


Yes, free. And if you know me then you know that free doesn’t mean bad. Today’s program is called Blender. It is a powerful, amazing piece of work made by scores of people and dedicated to being forever free. From humble origins, Blender has become a major player in the 3D space. In fact, it has been competing with several products in the space whose prices start in the high hundreds and quickly rise from there. Blender has reached such prominence that companies such as Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and more have pledged money to its development.

Why? It’s free. I thought these people wanted to make money.

Because Blender is a one stop shop for all your 3D modeling needs. Many programs require you to move files to other programs once you reach certain stages. With Blender though you can make a movie from start to finish all in one program. The Microsoft’s and Apples of the world want to support a product such as Blender because their customers support it. And, if you have a powerful, free, product at your fingertips you can make your own videos without needing expensive products.

How easy is it to use?

That’s the downside, it isn’t easy. At least not on it’s surface. Because Blender can be used for the entire movie making workflow you can very easily be overwhelmed with all the options thrown at you. Thankfully the Blender team has realized this and in recent updates they have made it easier with tabs at the screen top for its different modes. If you want to sculpt, push the sculpt tab and other user interface elements will go away.

Even with this, there are a lot of buttons so I recommend you watch YouTube tutorials. Grant Abbitt is a great person to look up. CG Boost is also a good source, though I would recommend watching that channel after you have gotten some work under your belt.

The great news is that, because it is free, there is no downside with trying it. And, because you can get older versions of the program on the Blender site, if your machine is a touch older you can still use it to create amazing works.

You mentioned the phone?

Yes, for Apple devices you there are several apps, Nomad Sculpt and Forger are two, which you can use on your phone or tablet. They cost a few dollars but since they are optimized for the phone they don’t require all the same processing power. Mind you, these are just sculpting apps. You can’t make a movie in them. But you could create a model in them, export to Blender, and make something even better.

Is that everything?

Not in the absolute slightest. We haven’t even reached 1 percent. But for now it’s enough. Next week I will be taking off in preparation for November and National Novel Writing Month. Come November 2nd though, expect to start learning about Ebooks, what they are and how to write them.

Until then, have fun, find adventure, and stay safe!


By John Carter

Hi Net Neighbors! Welcome to Tech Tuesday, where we take deep dives into the issues plaguing you. This week we continue our Basic Computer Troubleshooting series with a common issue…

My Internet is Slowing Down

It’s 7 PM. You’re settling down on your couch to relax and stream some Netflix. Then, it happens. The dreaded ring. Circling over and over, denying you your streaming goodness. You look up at the roof, curse the universe, and the stresses of the day pile up.

Why now? Why does it have to be slow now?! It was fine all day. That week you had off and did nothing but binge watch all seven seasons of Deep Space Nine? The internet was great then. So why is it slow now?

That’s a Good Question, Why is it Slow at Certain Times?

The internet is, vast. Epically, amazingly vast. It wraps around the planet a dozen times. Packets of information travel through it at the speed of light. So why does it slow down at 7 PM on Friday night?

Well I hate to tell you this, but you’re not the only person using the internet. Think of the internet, at least in how it is delivered to you, in terms of water. The vast ocean of the internet collects in local pools represented by huge data centers. These data centers are why a part of the internet ocean can ‘run dry’—perhaps due to a power outage—and the rest of the world can still have internet.

Now, when we connect to the internet we each are connecting to one of the data centers with the digital equivalent of a straw. If we are the only person using the straw then we get all the water we want whenever we want it. This state represents the maximum speed at which your internet consumption can occur. But remember, we aren’t the only ones with a straw. There are other straws. Also, some of us pay for bigger straws giving those people an advantage.

Still on this straw metaphor, imagine if half the city all decided at the same time to use their straw. The water, the data, would have to flow to multiple people at once. That’s why if, for instance, you and everyone you know stream the big game, the game can become jittery and pixelated. There are too many straws in use at the same time.

The good news is that, thanks to the unprecedented turn to work from home initiatives due to the COVID-19 crisis, Internet service providers have increased both the straws people use and the overall water pressure.

Is the problem in the home?

Sometimes the sudden slowness in your internet connection has nothing to do with your neighbors’ straws and everything to do with yours. Are you doing a lot of activities that require the internet? Because if you are that can be the culprit.

A big thing in entertainment these days is 4K movies and televisions. These are movies delivered in incredible detail and quality. If you are using a Blu-ray disc, then this isn’t a problem but if you are streaming in 4K then that may be the source of your slow connection. Your straw might not be able to handle the flow you’re trying to consume.

Video games are another possible consumer of internet speed. This is especially true if the game requires a constant internet connection. Because many gamers are also using voice chat features and play music from online sources one person can use up all the flow for a home.

Computer updates are another big drain on water flow. If you are updating your machine, which you should do, it can be a heavy load on your connection and make it so less of the water is available for the other devices in your home.

Why is my Internet Slow All the Time?

Let’s say you aren’t getting on at a ‘peak time’ when lots of people are online. Maybe it’s five A.M. Maybe it’s midnight. It doesn’t matter when you get on or how few straws others are using, your internet is always slow. For these moments there are a few options:

Have you tried resetting it?

For my frequent readers this will sound familiar. You can fix many problems, including internet slowness, by turning your devices off then back on again. This process includes your router. Your router is also a computer and it too can get confused. This is why the first thing your internet service provider will ask is, “Have you reset it?” If your device has an app, I suggest using it as the app will have diagnostic tools and a handy reset button.

What are you paying for?

Thanks to television and movies many of us have unrealistic expectations regarding the speed of the internet. Before you contact your internet service provider you need to know what you are paying for. If your contract says that you are paying for a speed of 32mbps (megabytes per second)—this is very slow—then that is the maximum size your straw will be. Most internet service providers, despite what they sell you, only guarantee half of whatever you are paying for. So, if you are finding that your speed is too slow, and you’ve reset your modem, you might need to upgrade your internet plan.

Is your internet service provider actually providing service?

Now while I just said that you may need to start paying more for internet, I do not want you to immediately jump into that hole. Before you start paying for more, make sure your internet service provider is giving you what you paid for. If your internet is continuously running slower than the 50% of what you are paying for then call them. Keep records. Keep calling and having people come out until it is fixed.

I say this from a position of experience. My own internet used to die, like clockwork, in the 7 – 8 AM bracket. I called and called. Multiple service technicians came out. They replaced every cable in my home. They put me on another node on their line at the pole. They replaced their router four times in a month. Finally, after all the headache, all the, “Have you reset it,” it turned out that there was a faulty node five miles away.

So before you pay a single cent more, make sure you are getting what you paid for.

Where is your router?

The placement of your router can be critical to how you consume the internet. In the off-chance that every device in your home connects to the router via an ethernet connection, meaning a physical wire, then the position matters less. We are going to push such notions aside for now though.

Your router has two main radio transmitters in it, what we call Wi-Fi. One, the 2.4GHz is slower than the 5GHz, the numbers being an indicator of radio frequency. To use the straw metaphor, your router is analogous to the data center and the frequency is the size of your local straw. The 2.4GHz band is slower but more universal, meaning more devices in your home are probably using it. The 5GHz band is faster and newer so your phone might jump onto it but not your printer.

The frequency also determines where you can place your router. 2.4GHz can go further in your home and is blocked by less things while 5GHz has a shorter range. Also, because we are dealing with radio frequencies, we must remember that things like brick and metal can slow or block the signal. If you are in a brick building reinforced with steel, then you might not get signal in the next room while in a wood building you could get it from the other side of the house.

Consider placing your router near where you intend to get the most use from it. If you need it strong in your office, then put it in your office. If you need it near your tv in the middle of your home, then place it there. And if you need WiFi throughout the home but your home is not cooperating then consider purchasing WiFi boosters that can pick up your router’s signal, amplify it, and broadcast to a wider area.

Or go completely crazy like I have and run Ethernet cable through your home. The cable is fairly cheap and then you never have to worry about dropped WiFi signal.

How do I Know How Fast My Internet Is?

Good question. It is hard to refute what your internet service provider is saying without some hard evidence. Thankfully it is easy to find your current internet speed. All you need to do is google ‘speed test’. When you do this, you should be presented with a button saying “RUN SPEED TEST” or “Start”. Press the button and sit back.

Once the software is done you will receive three numbers: the Ping, the Download, and the Upload. Ping is a measure of how quick information leaves your computer, travels down your straw to a data center, then returns. Usually, Ping is under a millisecond and is honestly the number I worry about the least.  Download is a measure of your straw itself. The larger the number of your Download the more information is coming down your straw. When I tell you to make sure you are getting at least half of what you pay for, this is the number to look at. Upload is the measure of how much information is going up your straw to the data center. As a rule, this number will be much smaller than your Download, often by a lot. Unless you are doing something that requires you to have a high Upload number, I would not worry about it.

Anything else?

On this particular topic? Maybe. But as I have proven with these last two posts, I can talk a lot on a topic. Therefor I am ending this one here. Besides, this is the easy stuff. Anything beyond what we’ve talked about today is in other’s hands. Stay tuned for another post in this series where we discuss THE boogeyman of the digital era. Viruses.

*cue lightning bolt and spooky music*

Until then, have fun, find adventure, and stay safe.

By John Carter

Hi Net Neighbors! Welcome to Tech Tuesday, where we take deep dives into the issues plaguing you. This week we continue our Basic Computer Troubleshooting series with a common issue…

My Computer Keeps Restarting

You’re sitting at your computer, working on the next great American novel and it happens, your computer restarts. Oh no! You’ve just lost hours of valuable prose. Surely a virus must have stricken you!

First of all, take a breath. Most word processors save your work automatically. If you are using Word, Google Docs, or Apple Pages at most you have lost 15 minutes worth of content. Less if the system saves changes as you make them.


It’s Probably Not a Virus

Wait, what? But isn’t it always a virus?

Not really, viruses usually want your computer to keep working. If your computer stops working how can you spread the virus? No, when your computer keeps resetting on you there are usually reasons other than a digital cold. One in particular is especially timely given that we are now in the midst of a Florida Summer.

Your Computer is Probably Overheating

Heat is the bane of any digital device, be it a phone or computer. When these devices get too hot they are often programed to turn off in order to save itself. So, if your device keeps turning off then maybe it is getting too hot.

A way to check this is to just check around your machine. If you have a traditional tower-based desktop and you have stacked a lot of stuff on and around it, you might be blocking the airflow to your machine. Also, check the vents. If they are covered in dust, then use a vacuum cleaner. If you are really comfortable with taking apart your computer, then pull the case off and vacuum the inside. Be sure to turn your computer off before you do this though, otherwise you run the risk of shorting something out.

You can also place a fan facing the tower to force more cool air to run over it. I am doing that right now as I write this, and my computer stays well in expected ranges.

For laptop owners simply raising your computer off the desk by an inch or two can do wonders for heat removal. You can also get a stand for your laptop that has fans built into it. They tend to be inexpensive and can add years to your computer’s life.

Are You Running Updates?

As we have covered before, computers can often be fixed by shutting down and turning it back on. This is because the restart cycle has a series of tools built in designed to fix common errors. These tools are also at work when you install system updates.

When you install updates to your computer, especially a Windows computer, your machine may turn off and turn on again several times. Each time it does so the machine is installing an update, running the error tools to ensure everything is working right, then installing the next update. This process can take a few moments or several hours depending on more factors than we can address here. Either way, if you started the install process sit back and wait. Don’t try to do anything with your computer until you are sure it is done.

Could Drivers be Malfunctioning?

Remember drivers? Those instructions your computers use to do everything? As we saw last time, sometimes these drivers can become corrupted or out of date and start interfering with your use of the computer. When this corruption hits an especially vital part of your computer the internal defenses can trigger a shut down to protect itself and fix the problem. This usually happens when you are asking too much of the computer at once and it metaphorically throws its hands in the air.

A good way to know whether your problem is driver related or something else is to keep track of when your computer shuts down. Does it shut down every time you open a specific program? If so, then you probably need to update the program to remove any issues. Does it shut down whenever you plug in, or access, a particular device? If so, then you probably need to update the drivers for said device.

Anything else?

On this topic, not really. While there can be other reasons your computer keeps restarting these are the basics and the ones you can fix rather easily. If, after taking these steps, you still have the problems then I recommend taking your machine to a professional as there may be a deeper issue. And while that sounds ominous, remember there can be issues with your car that might take you hours or days to figure out but a trained professional can solve it quickly. The same is true for computers.

Next time, we will be looking at another common computer complaint; My Computer is Slowing Down.

Until then, have fun, find adventure, and stay safe.

By John Carter

Hi Net Neighbors! Welcome to Tech Tuesday, where we do deep dives on the issues you are having with technology. Today we are going to take a look at Google Photos, a popular online photo service.

First, a little background. For the longest time any picture you took with your cell phone, if you had Google Drive on your phone, would automatically back up to the Drive. While pictures would be seen in Google Photos and Drive, they really were in the latter while the former was just a convenient interface. Then, in 2019, Google decoupled the two platforms and now all your pictures are solely in Google Photos.

Why are things different?

Believe it or not, Google thought this would be an improvement. According to them, they had complaints that things were too complicated. Therefore, in their mind, disconnecting Photos from the standard Google Drive experience is their way of ‘Making things easier’. The issue with this change is that all your new pictures are going to Google Photos while the others are in Drive.

Wait, you’re telling me I’ve got Photos in two places?!

Yes, yes you do. If you were using Google Photos before the changeover you will have all your old pictures in Google Drive and all the post-change items in Photos exclusively. You can, if you want, merge the old with the new but that is the direction it will go, Old to New. Everything is in Photos now, not Drive.

Although, you could, I guess, move all the pictures manually into Google Drive. I wouldn’t though because of the hit to your storage you’ll take.

How much storage do I have?

Good question. Well according to their site, if you store your pictures at their original quality then you have whatever storage is in your Google Drive. This means, unless you are paying, you will max out at 15 GB. As with most things in life though, the storage number comes with a caveat. If you choose to lower the quality of your pictures from Max Quality to High Quality your storage cap rises from 15 GB to Infinity. Meaning that you can store as many pictures as you want forever. So long as you keep them in Google Photos.

What does it mean by High-Quality?

If you choose the High-Quality option that means your pictures will be reduced in file size to 16 MB per picture. Now that may not seem like a lot, but a picture taken on my iPhone 8 Plus, with its 12 mega pixel camera, clocks in at 3.2 MB. With these numbers I would never hit the max size limit and my pictures would never be reduced. Even in pictures whose quality has been reduced, most of the compression is hard to impossible to detect with the naked eye unless you zoom in to 500% or more. So even under the new system you shouldn’t run into any problems with storage limits.

But I like how it used to be! What do I do?

You have a couple of options. One, you live with the changes and merge the Drive pictures with Photos. Not ideal but it is an option. If you continue this way, if you just look at your pictures while they are in Albums and ignore the master list it will seem as if things were somewhat normal. Two, you can stop using Photos and move to another system such as OneDrive, where you can absolutely use the most complicated folder system you can devise. With OneDrive you will have, by default, 5GB worth of storage with the option of upgrading to more expensive solutions. If you pay yearly or monthly for Office 365 you have 1TB of storage; that’s 1000 gigabytes! Just download the OneDrive app, set it to your account and to backup photos, and sit back.

There is another option out there if you don’t mind dealing with Albums of a sort, and that is Amazon Photos. If you have an Amazon Prime account, you have unlimited picture storage as one of the million other hidden benefits. The real restriction here is that you cannot use the service to store pictures you are using for a business, as that is a separate account. If you want to go this route, just download the Amazon Photos app, set it to your account and to backup photos, and sit back.

So now what?

Really? Just take your photos. If you have decided to use another of the apps then use those. If you are staying with Google Photos, then keep taking pictures. Either way, don’t let the varying machinations of a distant corporate machine keep you from enjoying your day.

And remember, have fun, find adventure, and stay safe.

By John Carter

Hi Net Neighbors! Welcome to another installment of Tech Tuesday, where we do deep dives into the technology we have all around us. Today we are going to look at something that, if you use the internet, you’ve heard mentioned before; Cookies

Mmm, Cookies. Who doesn’t love an ooey, gooey chocolate chip cookie?

Wait, no, not those Cookies, sorry. Today we are going to talk about Cookies in your computer. If you have been anywhere on the internet these days, you have probably encountered something mentioning Cookies and asking your permission to use them. So, let’s do a deep dive into them.

What is a Cookie?

At its most simple, a Cookie is a tiny piece of information placed on your computer by someone else’s computer. Now let’s talk about that, because it sounds scary.

Let’s take a step away from the digital world and back into the real one. Imagine for a moment you have a business card. It has your name, address, phone number, and anything else you would like people to know about you. Easy enough, eh? Even if you have never had one yourself, you’ve seen them on tv and in the movies. Now the purpose of a business card is, when you meet someone or visit a place, you can leave a reminder of who you are, that way people can find you again. Sometimes those people and places that have your card will add additional information to make it easier for them to remember you. This is very similar to how Cookies work.

When you visit a website, it will often ask you if they can place a Cookie on your computer. This is their ‘business card’ so, the next time you visit, they can remember who you are. Depending on the site, this Cookie will take different forms. Most are just a long string of numbers and letters that correspond to your account on their systems.

The kinds of things using Cookies though are integral to the internet. Ever go shopping online and the ‘Shopping Cart’ remembers what you put in it? That information is being stored on your machine via a Cookie. Ever go to your email and you don’t have to sign in? Well the login authentication was done via a Cookie. Ever go back to YouTube and they remember where you left off in a video? That was a Cookie too.

To then answer the question, what is a cookie? One must conclude Cookies are one of the most essential parts of the modern internet.

Cookies are okay then?

This depends. Cookies are used both to track your purchases and reduce the number of times you must sign-in to a site. There was a key word there though, track. Along with being helpful, Cookies are recording what you are doing on your computer so someone else can have access to that information. Most of the time this access is benign but not always. If you are someone who objects to the way modern companies track you and then use the data they gather to advertise to you, then Cookies are not as friendly as they might have been intended.

Okay, so why do people tell me to delete them?

Great question, glad you asked. Although not completely, this notion of deleting Cookies and clearing the cache stems from earlier generations of computers. Being a simple text file, Cookies do not occupy a huge amount of space on your computer. However, what is a small amount of real estate now was a much larger amount of space in the comparatively smaller hard drives and processors of twenty years ago. Back then, when your computer ran slow it made absolute sense to jettison every little bit of stuff clogging up storage and Cookies were an easy place to cut some metaphorical calories. These days, with as powerful and robust as modern computers are it is less necessary to remove them. Additionally, your computer’s browser automatically deletes Cookies that are too old.

So, what should I do about Cookies?

Largely you can ignore them. These days Cookies manage themselves. There are options in your browser you can activate to minimize the use of Cookies on your computer. However, if you choose to use the internet without ever using a Cookie your experience will be less robust than intended.

Then why do all these sites tell me they are using Cookies?

You can thank the European Union for these notifications. The EU Cookies Directive states that any site owned by EU citizens or directed to EU citizens must inform users of the Cookies they use and gain consent for operation. It can be annoying to be sure, but at least you are being informed.

Now what?

Have fun on the internet knowing why the browser keeps mentions Cookies. There are things other than Cookies to be worried about these days, Viruses and Malware. We’ll get to those next time.

Until then, have fun, find adventure, and stay safe.

Tech Tuesday – Incognito Mode

By John Carter

Hi Net Neighbors! Welcome back to Tech Tuesday, where we do deep dives into the technology powering our lives. Today we look at something you may have never heard of but can be a powerful tool for keeping yourself safe online. Although called several different things depending on the browser, today we are going to stick with Incognito Mode. While the name may sound ominous, it really isn’t. In fact, it could save you a great deal of headaches down the road.

Also, sorry about the lateness of this.

Okay, so what is Incognito Mode?

As we discussed in a previous post, your Browser—Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari—can be thought of as a car driving down the road that is the Internet. Well as you are moving through the Internet you are seen by every site you visit and your Browser keeps records of everywhere you go, in case you want to quickly get back. Your Browser will even remember your passwords and log-in information if you let it. All of this is handy when you are talking about your own computer, most people would love to not be required to remember their password. But what about a friend’s computer? Or when you’re at the library? You probably don’t want those computers remembering you. That’s where Incognito Mode comes in

When you are using your Browser’s Incognito Mode the Browser behaves as if no one had ever used it. Sites you go to will ask for your passwords and will require any additional proof of identity you may normally bypass on your home machine. What’s great about this lack of remembrance on the Browser’s part is it also protects the normal user of that computer from you accessing their information. Even better news is that, when you are done with Incognito Mode and you close the Browser window it will forget everything you typed inside, so your accounts are not compromised.

Wow, that sounds amazing, but where do I find Incognito Mode?

Good question, humble readers. If you are using Chrome then you will find Incognito Mode by clicking on the three dots in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. When you do so it should be the third option down from the top.

That’s great for Chrome but I don’t use it, does that mean I don’t have Incognito Mode?

You probably have it, it might just be called something different. Some alternative names for Incognito Mode are Edge’s InPrivate Window, Firefox’s Private Window, and Safari’s Private Browsing. No matter the name though, you can still use this valuable feature and keep yourself safe on the internet.

Now what?

Now, it’s time to take the internet into your own hands and make the most out of this valuable tool. We did mention something important in here, Cookies, and with websites always mentioning that they are using Cookies we should probably have a discussion about them. That is for next time though.

Until then, have fun, find adventure, and stay safe.


Tech Tuesday – The Address Bar

By John Carter

Hi Net Neighbors! Welcome to another wonderful installment of Tech Tuesday, where we take deep dives into the technology issues plaguing you. Last time we talked a bit about internet browsers but there was still a lot left to be discussed. Today I would like to pick up where I left off by introducing you to the Address Bar. But before we get started, I want to remind you of the metaphor we used last time to talk about browsers. That they are cars on a road that is the internet.

What is the Address Bar?

I’m glad you asked. The Address Bar is a critical part of any browser, it is also the part most people miss when they first open a browser. You are probably reading this in a browser right now, if so look at the top of the screen.  See that long bar with followed by what seems like a stream of nonsense? That’s the Address Bar.

What do I do with it?

The Address Bar is used, in modern browsers, for two separate tasks: direct navigation and searching. Let’s take a look at both.

Direct Navigation

When we speak of direct navigation, we are talking about actively visiting a site. You directly navigate to web sites all the time. Ever type in a web address such as or If you have, then you have directly visited a site using your address bar. When we want to go to these locations directly we simply click in the Address Bar and type the address followed by the ENTER key. As soon as you do, you’re there. It might take a minute, it might be an instant, but as soon as you hit that fabled key your computer does the rest, navigating the ‘roads’ of the internet to reach your destination.


Sometimes though, you don’t know a site’s address, or you don’t know there is even a site for your topic. In those cases, the Address Bar can still be a real asset. Remember how I said under Direct Navigation that, if you know an address you just click on the Address Bar and type it? Well, the same is true for when you are searching for something.

Want to find out how to change a tire? Then type how do I change a tire and hit ENTER. Need to know where the nearest Thai place is, then type that. Gone are the days of complex Boolean logic-based searches, just ask. Ask it like you were asking someone where you might find the nearest gas station.

Is there anything I shouldn’t do with the Address Bar?

Don’t feed it to your cat, it is not that type of bar.

In all seriousness, the one thing you should never do is type your email address into the Address Bar. I know, it sounds counter intuitive. As we’ve previously discussed, an email address is a location on the internet. The reason you cannot use the Address Bar for your email is the same reason you cannot use tell someone your phone number when they ask for your address. Web addresses and email addresses are different things and need to be interacted with differently.

To help you remember the difference, remember this. If you are trying to type an address into the Address Bar and you use the @ sign then you are not typing the right thing. What you should be typing is what comes after the @, the domain. So instead of typing into your Address Bar just type

Now what?

Well, if you are asking the Address Bar questions and going to websites then you are off to a great start. Once you get comfortable with that, we are going to talk about Search Engines, which are vital tools in the kit you are building.

Until then, have fun, find adventure, and stay safe.



Tech Tuesday: The Cloud 

Hi Net Neighbors! Welcome back to another Tech Tuesday, where we take dives into topics across a host of domains all linked by a common thread and that’s Technology. 

Today we are going to look at something we mentioned last week, The Cloud. Now I’ve spoken to many people over the years and this is a topic where many of us get confused. So, let’s take a step out into the Neighborhood and look at The Cloud. 

What is The Cloud? 

To understand The Cloud let’s look at something a little more mundane, a safety deposit box. Even if you have never used one, you have probably seen them on TV and in movies. All a safety deposit box is, is a place at a location, usually a bank, were you and only you can store your important items. Other people have boxes next to yours, some larger some smaller, but only you can get into your box because you have proof of identity and you have your key. The problem with real safety deposit boxes is that they are only at one bank, you can’t have a box in Jacksonville and go to a bank in San Francisco and ask to open your box. Not very convenient eh?  

Well using the safety deposit box metaphor, let’s look at your email. Your email is a secure place where you can store messages. You access it by going to a ‘bank’, in this case your email provider;,,, Once at your ‘bank’ you need to state your identity with your username and have a key with your password. Only after typing your username and password does the ‘box’ open and you can see the contents. And because all of this is being done on the internet you really can make your email in Jacksonville and access it in San Francisco. 

So, what is The Cloud? It is a collection of internet-based services accessible from anywhere on the planet with the use of a username and password. 

Does that mean The Cloud is just for email? 

Heavens no! The Cloud is so, so much more than just email. Email is just getting your foot in the door.  Once the door is open, there are so many options I would not blame you if you were a little scared. But let’s stick with email for the moment. There are many Cloud-based options available thanks to your email.  

Let’s look at the domains of and  

If you look at the top of either site you will find a square of nine smaller squares, what many call the waffle. You may think it looks like the numbers on a landline phone. When you click on the waffle you are given a wide array of options depending on the domain. And that is key, this is domain specific. Remember last time, we mentioned that the part of your email address after the ‘@’ is your domain. Each domain is owned by a different company so there will be different options attached. 

In you have a YouTube account, a place for your contacts, a calendar, a storage box in the form of Drive, along with Docs, Sheets, and Slides, the Google versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Did I mention that you get all of those for free? Because they are. Not a single cent spent.  

Meanwhile, in land, you get OneDrive, Microsoft’s version of a storage box, contacts, a calendar, and honest-to-goodness Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. All also for free. 

Contacts and Calendars? I just save those to my phone. 

Many people do and if you are one of them that is okay. But I recommend another way. Save your contacts and calendars to the cloud. More than once I have had people come to me with a new phone wondering where all their contacts are. Either they got an upgraded phone or their prior one was damaged. Whatever the cause, the phone store didn’t/couldn’t transfer the information and now they are at square one. 

Even if they could have transferred the information, I have seen people sit in a store for hours waiting for their data to move. Not waiting for someone to do it. Waiting for the computer to move their numbers and calendar. 

The thing is, this wasn’t necessary. All this hassle didn’t have to happen. If you know one or two username/password combinations you can have access to all that information if you have saved it to a cloud. I personally store my information in Google, mainly because my first smartphone was an Android, but I could have stored it in my iCloud, my or really any other cloud service. Whenever I get a new phone or device where I need all my personal information, all I do is sign into an account or two and everything is there. It may take a few minutes most and then I’m ready to go. 

And, because they are being saved to the cloud, when I make a change on one device, it is changing the information on all the devices. This saves a ton of time and ensures that I always have the most up to date information. 

Okay, I’m interested. What else can I do with The Cloud? 

Good question. Like art or photography? Then you have Adobe’s Creative Cloud which, at 53 dollars a month, gives you Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and the rest of Adobe’s products along with 100 GB of storage. Although, if you have an email ending in .edu you might be eligible for a student account bringing Adobe down to 20 dollars a month.  

If paying that much seems insane to you, then you can still do photo editing thanks to, one of many free alternatives. Meanwhile is one of several free vector graphic illustration options. 

Want to try your hand at 3D design and modeling? Great! You have many options, though I am going to focus on two; and both of which are free. With you have a place where you can make complicated replacement parts, toys, and gifts using an easy, intuitive environment. Your work is automatically saved online, so you never have to worry about losing anything. And if you like either Legos or Minecraft then has tools which will allow you to plan out your designs before you lay the first brick. Meanwhile, in, your artistic side can run wild thanks to a robust sculpting system tailor made to make your imagination a reality. Though don’t forget to hit that save button. 

With the new year many people want to get into coding but they don’t know what to download. Thankfully has you covered there. has over twenty different coding languages you can work in and the system will run your code directly in your computer’s browser. And it is completely free. 

What about iCloud? 

Sigh, okay you got me. I’ve left out iCloud from the discussion on purpose, mainly because its name is really confusing. Brought to you by Apple, is just their version of If you don’t have an Apple Product, meaning an iPhone, iPad, or a Mac, then you don’t have to worry about If you do, then you have free access to contacts, calendar, photo and everything else storage, along with Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, the Apple spin on Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Calling it iCloud was just a fancy marketing gimmick. 

How safe is the cloud? I hear it’s not very secure. 

Not to answer a question with a question, but how safe is your bank? Has a bank ever been robbed? It doesn’t hit the news as much anymore, but it happens, yet we still put our money into them. The Cloud is the same way. People have had their information stolen, though it often happens to people who are higher profile such as movie stars and internet personalities. The good news is that, since your information is not stored on just one computer but a vast network, if one copy is lost others in the chain can replace it. 

My advice is to be smart about things, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Don’t have the same password for every service. Where possible, have your accounts secured to your phone, so bad guys must know your username, password, and phone number. Though remember to keep your phone number if you change phones, otherwise you might lose access to your accounts. And remember, if someone asks you for your username, password, and phone number don’t give it to them. You wouldn’t give a stranger your safety deposit box key, why would you give one the internet equivalent? 

So now what? 

Go out and explore. You have a huge variety of tools out there just waiting for you, try them out. If you don’t like something, or don’t want to use a service, then don’t. Just remember to be safe, be smart, and keep an eye out. If you do that your browser will treat you well. 

What? Your browser? Don’t worry, we’ll get to that soon enough.  

Until then, have fun, find adventure, and stay safe. 



Stop Worrying About Your Battery

Hi Net Neighbors!

I am back today with another Quick Tip, this time focused on your devices’ batteries. Over the years I’ve met many a fine soul who was fearful of harming the battery in their phone or their computer. Today I am going to invoke a powerful piece of advice from none other than Douglas Adams, “Don’t Worry.”

Now you may be thinking, “But Mr. John, I’ve heard that we need to be careful with our batteries. That’s why I don’t charge mine until it’s almost dead.” If this is you, that’s okay. A lot of people think the same. But like Mr. Adams said, it’s time to stop worrying about your batteries.

Many of the fears we carry surrounding batteries date back to when many devices ran on NiMH, and NiCd batteries. These had ‘memory’ problems where if you charged it wrong the battery would remember where you were. So if you plugged it in at 90% you might only be able to use 90% of your battery. This is no longer true. Instead we use Lithium Ion batteries which do not have a memory problem. So if you are in your car, and you’re going to be there for a bit, then plug in your phone.

But what about Overcharging the battery? Won’t that hurt it?

Nope! You can’t Overcharge your battery. Do you know what happens when your battery is still plugged in and hits 100%? If you guessed it stops charging you would be correct. The computers governing your battery automatically stop charging and switches to run off the power cord. So plug it in, leave it over night, let it sit on your desk. It’s fine.

Hi Net Neighbors!

Today I’m back with another Quick Tip, this time surrounding video chat and your battery. With more and more of us going virtual for our meetings and gatherings it’s more important than ever to understand how these activities can impact your battery life. The great news is that there isn’t much required to get the most bang for your buck.

First things first, the easiest way to not burn through your battery is to plug your device in. That’s it. Now I know it’s not always an option, maybe you’re in the wrong place or there are no safe plugs. Just don’t forget this option though, it can save a lot of headaches.

Next, it’s time to dive into your device’s general settings. Nothing extravagant, just the items you might have access to with a swipe up or down. In those quick settings there is often a slider for your screen brightness. Just turning the brightness down a little can save a lot of power. Also, the greatest thing about the brightness trick is that it doesn’t change what others see of you.

Another great way to save power is by changing the network you’re on. Did you know that Wi-Fi uses a lot less power than mobile data? Think about it, Wi-Fi usually extends just past the edge of a building whereas mobile data can talk to a tower blocks or miles away. It’s the difference between talking and shouting. So if you’re going to be doing a lot of talking use Wi-Fi. Not only is it energy efficient, it’s cheaper!

That’s it for this Quick Tip. It’s a little longer than the last but it’s good information. Give what I’ve said a try and see if you notice any change. I’ll see you next time.

Until then, have fun, find adventure, and stay safe.