Let’s Go Digital: Getting Your Daily Paper on Your Screen

So what’s that now, paperless newspapers?

Indeed. Subscribe to any of the Irish daily newspapers online, and you can read it without ever having to fold a paper again. Good for the environment, good for your purse.

How so?

For the environment? Have you ever looked at the pile of old newspapers building up in the corner?

No, I get that. For my purse!

It’s a lot cheaper. €4 per week for the Irish Times ePaper; €14.99 per month for the Herald, €19.99 for the Irish Independent. And they all offer the first month for just one Euro.

Yeah no. I tried it before and it just didn’t do it for me.

Same here. However, I’ve resubscribed to the Irish Times online, and it’s so much better now! Continue reading

Instagram and Skerries

instagram-and-skerries-in-skerries-news-nov-2016Q: So what is this now, Instagram???? Can’t people just share their pictures on Facebook?

A: Well, you go to Instagram to see good, interesting, fascinating, beautiful, handsome, intriguing, happiness-inducing images – mainly shot with a smart phone, and practically always square. You share them – normally not with anybody in particular, but with anybody who is looking. Whereas on Facebook you share pictures with family and friends mainly.
Or, as Instagram puts it: “Instagram is a fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures. Snap a photo with your mobile phone, then choose a filter to transform the image into a memory to keep around forever.”

Continue reading

Coding for All – Really?

For a numberSkerries News September 2016 of years, “coding” has been touted as the next big thing, the skill that our children will need in order to be part of the “smart economy” of the future; the skill that will make our youngsters rich and their parents proud, once they have created that million-dollar app. Coding clubs, so-called CoderDojos, for kids have sprung up all over the world; a number of countries have introduced programming into their curriculum, and in June of this year, the Minster for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, has asked the Irish National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to consider approaches to introducing the teaching of coding in primary schools. But is that really necessary? Is it even desirable?

As a former primary teacher (between 2010 and 2013, I worked in a number of North Dublin primary schools, both as resource and class teacher) and current “digital educator” (a term I may have made up myself, I’m not entirely sure), I can see both advantages and disadvantages of introducing every single child to programming. Continue reading

pegman

You are Here

Google Maps All the Way to your Holiday

july 2016 shot

Published as monthly Techie Column in Skerries News, 01 July 2016

It’s the time of year when holidays are on everybody’s mind. Whether you’re dreaming of going somewhere, or deciding which place to book; in the middle of planning the nitty-gritty of your trip, or getting ready to leave; when you’re actually there – and when you’re back home afterwards, Google Maps can add a lot to your vacation.

Continue reading

cccSkerries – The First Three Years of my Creative Computer Classes

The door to the cccSkerries room first opened in July 2013.

It’s hard to believe that I’m about to begin the fourth year of summer camps in what used to be our guest bedroom and what I now call “the cccSkerries training room.”

In the summer of 2012, I decided to become a self-employed digital educator, and – after four years as a primary teacher – to focus on what I enjoyed most in teaching: Helping kids to express their creativity through digital means, to enable them to achieve their aims through technology, and to have fun in the process.

Looking back, I can say that this was the best move ever!

Continue reading

Start taking the tablet!

Techie Column Header June 2016

A slightly shorter version of this post appeared in the June 3, 2016 edition of Skerries News

If you (or someone you know) belong(s) to those who don’t use the internet much (yet), because computers with their big screens and keyboards don’t suit, and smartphones are just too fiddly, then you might want to consider going the middle way- tablets!

Tablets are great because they can be taken practically anywhere, and yet their screens are big enough to actually see what’s happening.

Two experiences over the last year

About a year ago, a lady came to me for individual lessons. She had been given a smartphone for her 70th birthday – and returned it a couple of days later. She really didn’t like the tiny screen, and the way she never seemed to be able to tap on the correct link or icon. We tried a laptop, but she found it quite frustrating to use mouse and keyboard. But then she got herself a tablet – and never looked back since! The larger touchscreen was ideal for her. After two more sessions, she was able to do what she most wanted to – send and receive emails, take pictures and share them with friends and family, and stay in touch via Facebook and Messenger. I regularly see her updates from Skerries and from Spain, and they always cheer me up.

2016-05-08 21.30.50And last month, I once more saw how good a tablet can be in certain circumstances.  My mother, who is 79, was knocked off her bike and fractured her shoulder. She had to have surgery and spent ten days in hospital.  She has been using computers for a good while, and one of the first things she asked me to do when I went over to Germany following the accident was to check her email. She doesn’t have a smartphone (too small, too fiddly), and with an injured shoulder, the laptop wouldn’t have been very useful. A tablet once again was just right. I got a decent, not-too-expensive Lenovo, set it up for her, and brought it into hospital. After a short while (and with some assistance at first), she took to it and was now able to stay in touch from the hospital bed. She could find contact details for insurances and lawyers, she was able to google facts on her injury, and she could also send and receive emails.

Continue reading

Five Thoughts on Email & Seven Quick Pointers for Setting It Up

Techie Column Header April 2016

This column appeared in the 8 April 2016 edition of Skerries News.

First thought: By now, it’s for everyone. These days, it seems to be expected of everybody to be on the internet and to have, at the very minimum, an email address. No computer? The library has some you can use for free!

Second: It’s simple. Using email has become pretty straightforward. If you’re new to it, don’t be shy to ask a friend or family member to walk you through it – after a couple of times, you’ll be able to do it all by yourself.

Third: Beware of spammers and tricksters! “This is Apple Corporation. Your account has been suspended. Please click here.” Don’t! “You have been selected for a tax refund.” No you haven’t! Most of these would end up in your spam folder. Delete and ignore.

Fourth: Don’t send too many Emails yourself, for instance by responding using “reply to all” to a group email, one that goes to many. Make sure that you only reply to the original sender – unless everybody needs to see it.

Fifth: Manage your inbox! A few minutes at a time make it easy to keep on top of it. Don’t let the messages build up… you don’t have to open every single one. Selecting and deleting them unread is often a good option. The subject line will give you a good idea.

Five quick pointers for setting up your email:

1. Choose your email name wisely. If at all possible, I would go with your actual name, with a dot between first name and last name. It’s easiest to read. Of course, if you’re John Smith, then john.smith@gmail.com will be gone long ago, so adding something like e.g. your location might be useful: john.smith.skerries@gmail.com is probably still available! Many use their year of birth – fine, if you’re happy to give it to everyone…. Me, I’d prefer my location.

2. Your password should be something you will always, always remember. Many places require them to be secure, so 1234 or password won’t work. Short Irish sentences do, however, especially when combined with punctuation marks and a number, such as anbhfuiltuanseo!2016 (no, I don’t use that as my actual password for anything, it’s just an example!)

3. Who to go with? Outlook, Gmail, Hotmail all are favourites. Personally, I use Gmail a lot. (More about Gmail in a future column.)

4. It’s probably a good idea to have keep work email and private email separate. For instance, if you are away from the office for a while, you don’t want to have to log on to your office email just to find that check-in information for the flight back.

5. Subscribe to email newsletters – if you are genuinely interested in receiving them! For instance, there is the near-daily Skerries Newsflash (see below) sent out by Skerries Community Association (SCA). This one I definitely do want.

6. Unsubscribe from newsletters regularly. You might have given your email address to a number of organisations, and now they send you emails. Again and again and again. And these clutter up your inbox. Don’t let them! Nearly all of them have an “unsubscribe” link at the bottom. Make use of it. Take some time to go through your inbox and unsubscribe from all the updates that are not useful or amusing to you.

7. And finally: Check your spam folder regularly. About 5% of emails that I receive and that Gmail moves there are not spam at all, and some of those would have been quite important NOT to miss.

Insider Tip: Skerries Newsflash

Every day, Dee Langton, one of the Directors of Skerries Community Association, takes the emails sent to newsflash@skerriesca.com and copies their text into the Newsflash, which then is sent out automatically early in the morning – community news, “small ads” type notices… if you get this, you’re certainly better informed about what’s happening in Skerries. (You can subscribe by sending an email with the subject line “Please add me to the Newsflash” to newsflash@skerriesca.com). Anyone can submit an item, though it is at the discretion of the SCA what goes in.

SCA Newsflash Promo Nov 2014

As smart as it gets – how a phone helps you track and motivate yourself

header March 2016
Now that the days are getting brighter, and summer is approaching, you might find yourself thinking of ways to improve your health & fitness – and you may even be thinking of that bikini or those shorts you’d love to be able to wear at the beach without embarrassment…. So here are some ways in which you can utilise your constant companion, that smartphone, in this quest!

So where have I been…?

Personally, I swear by tracking all my walks (and runs and – though rare – cycles) using a fitness app called Strava. Strava was originally aimed at athletes in training, and allows you to link it to a heart-rate monitor using Bluetooth. This means that, if running or cycling, you can analyse your activity level afterwards, and also see your speed and heart rate for any point of your walk.strava dot com

Do you remember Count Count from Sesame Street? He was one of my favourites. I love keeping track of things, and since I discovered Strava for tracking walks, runs, cycles, and much more, I haven’t looked back. The free version is enough to get you started (and, as in my case, probably hooked, if you’re that type of person).

What I like most about Strava is that it records where I go, and lets me draw red lines on maps by simply walking around. To me, that is hugely motivating.

2016-03-02 12.36.40A loop walk from our house in Kelly’s Bay via Skerries Rock, Townparks, Dublin Road out the Dublin Road, up towards Milverton, past Ardla Cemetery and the gates of Ardgillan, down to the sea and back via Barnageeragh to our house is 8.8 km and includes going up and down 91 m in total. Who would have thought!

You can add comments and photographs, and it builds up to a wonderful collection of tracked wanderings. I must admit that I am much more likely to take an extra walk, especially when abroad, just to create another entry in my personal time line!

You can share your data with “friends,” connect with others, write comments, like people’s efforts and follow them etc. – which isn’t what I do, as it’s enough for me to see for myself what and how I’m doing, but many others love that aspect.

Balbriggan

Balbriggan

Another great thing is that when I’m in a new place – like recently, when I went on a walk in an area of Balbriggan I had never seen before – I can see where I am while I’m walking, if switching to Map View. I like walking for a certain amount of time, say 15 minutes, and then turning round and retracing my steps – but as my sense of orientation isn’t always great, it helps being able to see the line on the Strava map, and just making sure that the bleeping dot that indicates where I am stays on that blue line. That way, I’ll certainly find back to my car without too many difficulties!

Ellmau, Austria (skiing)

Ellmau, Austria (skiing)

Strava can be set to a large number of sports, including skiing, mountain biking, etc.; it’s optimised for cycling and running. For those, you can even specify which bike / pair of shoes you are using (and they let you know when they think it’s time to replace them, too).

Get in that extra walk.

Wangerooge, Germany

Wangerooge, Germany

Sevilla

Sevilla

What’s more, you can even use Strava when abroad, without it costing an arm and a leg in roaming charges – just set “location” to “on,” but “data roaming” to “off,” and you can record as normal & look at your mapped walk afterwards when you’re back where you can get WiFi. A whole new dimension to exploring a new city or going on a long, leisurely stroll along the beach – now you can figure out how many glasses of Sangria or ice creams you have just earned. Careful! Don’t undo the good work you’ve just done with that walk…

This blog article is based on my monthly column on all things digital in the March 11, 2016 edition of Skerries News.

If you have comments, questions, or suggestions for future columns, you can contact me at Sabine@cccSkerries.com

 

Cloud Storage And You

The Cloud is For Everyone

If you have any files (photographs, documents, spreadsheets), you should seriously consider using a cloud storage service. The cloud is for everyone!

Clouds on a blue sky over Skerries

When people speak of “the cloud,” they mean networks consisting of a large number of connected computers that are normally located in computer warehouses. Rather than being stored on one specific computer, data is shared across these networks, with in-built redundancies: If one computer goes down, the data is still available on another computer.

If we’re using the internet, we’re in the cloud. We often don’t even think about it, just take for granted that we can see our email, log onto Facebook from any computer that is connected to the internet, and our posts, our photographs, everything will just be there for us – stored on some server somewhere in the internet. So there we are, using “the cloud” on a daily basis.

Cloud storage has real advantages for the individual. There are a number of ways that each of us can use it. The most common ones are Dropbox, Microsoft’s OneDrive, Apple’s iCloud and Google Drive – you’ve probably heard of them, as most new laptops come with a certain amount of free storage space, such as OneCloud.

Once you have saved your files to the cloud, you can access them from any computer with internet access – a great advantage! No need to bring documents on USB sticks, or to lug your own laptop around with you. Your sister wants to see those videos you made at Mam’s 60th? No problem. Fellow u-12 coach is interested in your training plan? Just find a computer, go online and call it up. Bingo!

Cloud Mode 1: The cloud as your back-up

The Cloud is a useful place to back up your data and has taken the place of an external hard drive for many people. Maybe you worry about losing your files on your computer – hard-disk crash, theft, or just a failed upgrade to a new operating system can all endanger your things. In this case, using storage on the cloud is a safe and easy way to back them up. You may have to be selective, if you want to store videos or large amounts of photographs –  or you may wish to pay and increase your storage space. For many, it will be enough: The free space of 2 Gig, offered by Dropbox, for instance, can hold 480 songs (based on average song length), 1,200 typical photographs, or over 40,000 Word doc pages.

If you need more space in the cloud, you can pay for it. Typically, €2 per month already gets you a sizable increase.

Cloud Mode 2: The cloud is where your data lives – and your applications!

Let’s say you have very little, if any, space to store files on your device (e.g. you have a Chromebook, or a HP Steam netbook). Or you constantly use different computers, like in libraries or internet cafés (maybe you’re travelling a lot).

Google Drive and Microsoft’s OneDrive have online storage AND online applications. That means you can create documents (texts, presentations, spreadsheets…) online, without having to download or own any program. I’ve used Google Drive a lot in different contexts, and it’s very straightforward. While the Microsoft Office suite has a lot more powerful tools, you may only need those in rare circumstances.

And then there were three… Working together online

An additional bonus of cloud storage is the ease with which you can share documents. It’s very important, of course, to choose the right access level! You can let others view files (lowest level), or comment on them, or edit them (highest).

If you are preparing a presentation with others while using Google Drive, for instance, you can edit the same document at the same time. You’ll be able to see who else is working on it right now, and you’ll see their changes on your screen. There is even a chat function so you can discuss what you are doing.

Beware…

Having sung the praises of cloud storage, I must add a warning, too.

When your data is in the cloud, you don’t have 100% control over it. There are, of course, data protection procedures which especially the larger players like Apple, Google, Dropbox and Microsoft have to abide by. Still, it’s better to familiarise yourself with the situation by actually reading the terms and conditions, and not just checking that box. This includes the question whether third parties might get access, such as the state or the Gardaí.

A very good background article on Cloud Storage was written for Gizmodo by Adam Clark Estes. It’s called “What Is The Cloud – And Where Is It?” and tackles the origins and history of cloud computing as well as security and safety concerns. Overall, Adam too comes  down on the side of “life without a hard drive.”

If you’d like to get an idea how often governments ask for user data, you could start with the Google Transparency Report.

So what to choose?

New computers often come with free storage space on the cloud, and you may find it best to go with the package included with yours.

Personally, I started with Dropbox some four years ago, and I love it. Once installed, it looks like an additional drive on your computer, and all files are physically stored on your hard disk as well as synchronised to the internet. You can access your material online, but you can also work on them when there is NO internet. We are so used to having internet access all the time, but being able to do offline editing may still be necessary in a number of other circumstances (for instance, I’m writing this on the train where there is unreliable WiFi access), which is why I like having my files on my laptop. Dropbox automatically synchronises all files when I’m online; when I’m offline, I have a copy of everything on my laptop, the way it was when I last went online and the computer synchronised. You do need to check that your files are always up-to-date, though, because it can happen that you work on an older version.

I also use Google Drive a lot, because it makes collaboration so easy, and because I can use it with students who may not be using the same computer every time we work together. Also, it’s possible to search (Google) images and information straight from within your document – another bonus.

Outlook: Cloudy with a chance of more?

The cloud is here to stay, and it has serious advantages for the everyday user. For safety (backup), ease of access, and collaboration, it beats external hard drives and USB sticks hands-down. If you’re not using it yet, do give it a try!

This blog article is based on my monthly column on all things digital in the Feb 12, 2016 edition of Skerries News.

If you have comments, questions, or suggestions for future columns, you can contact me at Sabine@cccSkerries.com

 

Useful links

drive.google.com

dropbox.com

onedrive.com

icloud.com

IT Pro: Google Drive vs Microsoft Skydrive head-to-head review

 

Google Search: I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

techie column beam

Digital Thoughts for Non Techies – a monthly column in Skerries News

Just Google it!” That’s what many of us do when we come across something we don’t know, or to settle a dispute. That actor in the movie everyone seems to be talking about. The difference between cappuccino and latte. Ray O’Shaughnessy. Ham Sandwich.  Population of Fingal.

Over the years, search has gotten a lot simpler, and a lot more sophisticated at the same time.

You can now just type in questions, and Google makes sense of them for you. Like:
How to draw a minion, how to eat a pomelo, how to bleed radiators. (All of these were among the top 10 “how to” searches in 2015!)

what is skerries like

Google even personalises search results, based on what it knows about you – some people find this useful, others creepy. I tend to be more on the “useful” side – as I teach coding to kids, for instance, the “Scratch” I’m interested in is the one to do with computer programming, not the one to do with DJs, nor the one dealing with the paint of cars; and when I type in “Doctor Who Episodes” I get results relating to a certain BBC television programme, not something about a doctor who deals with episodes of, say, influenza.
Google also knows where you are (if you allow it to see your location), so when I for example type in “weather,” it shows me the current temperature in Skerries. Handy!

weather

Beware, however, of advertisements that look like search results… A lot of the time, the top links have a small yellow rectangle on the left-hand side, with the word “Ad” in it. And these are not the actual results (also known as “organic search results”), but – you guessed it – ads! Especially when looking for flights or insurances, you might end up in the wrong (and more expensive) place…

ryanair not ryanair

By the way, if you see something on the internet that you’d like to search for, simply select the word(s) with your mouse, then right-click and click on “Search Google for”…””. Google will open up a new tab with the results for you.  No need to type!

right click to search

There are some other great search tricks – such as:

  • get information on a flight if you know the flight number – try “EI105” – very handy if picking up people from the airport, you can easily check if the plane is on time!
  • get the weather forecast for any place – try “forecast Vancouver”
  • set a timer (type in “set timer 10 min”)
  • type in “translate [foreign word]” and you’ll get the translation straight away, no need to click anywhere else, Google will even find the language for you – try “translate do rogha”
  • type in a maths problem – the answer will be in the search results, together with a calculator app! Try “56088 / 456”
  • find out when your favourite series is on again, or was on last: “ros na run episodes”
    This one is also great if you want to quickly get to a recap of an episode you may have missed.

Insider Tip: Seven search terms for those who like the (slightly) unexpected…

Type in (or of course select, right-click and select “search Google for…”) the following and see what happens!

  • Do a barrel roll
  • Google in 1998
  • Blink html
  • Fun facts
  • askew
  • zerg rush
  • Atari Breaktout [then click on image search]

And possibly my favourite:
– A long time ago in a galaxy far far away

a long time ago in a galaxy far far away

Did you try any of the suggestions here? What do you find Google most useful for? What would you like me to explore in one of my next monthly columns? Let me know!
This monthly column on all things digital from a Skerries perspective is written by Sabine McKenna, who has been using computers since the 1980s, and set up Creative Computing Classes Skerries in 2012. If you have comments, questions, or suggestions for future columns, you can contact here at Sabine@cccSkerries.com

The above article appeared in the mid-January 2016 edition of Skerries News.

Jan mid 2016 Skerries News front page