Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Studying for the A+

I have a fair amount of hands-on knowledge about computers, or more accurately, PC's, but only recently did I actually change my career choice to the IT field.

IT is great because just about anyone can enter it without having a prior knowledge of computers. You start just by doing one of its countless certifications, by studying training materials such as books or videos, and then writing a certification exam. 

I decided to write the CompTIA A+ certification exams to start, and registered for an online video course through a local college to prepare. The A+ exam basically tests your knowledge of PC computer hardware and (Windows) software. The course objectives are not terribly complicated, but studying for it is not a piece of cake either since it covers quite a lot of material.

In studying for this certification, I decided to try a new study technique for me: creating a series of questions and answers instead of making traditional notes. In other words: flash cards! Making "flash cards" on a computer is a lot easier than making actual flash cards (I still remember some students using those back in the 80's). Mnemosyne is a nice program I found to make these flash cards.

As well, as a result of typing up all my notes, my typing speed has gone up! Now let's hope that all that typing will have been useful for me to pass the exams! :-)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Flash Memory

Isn't it amazing how much storage can fit onto a USB drive or flash memory card nowadays. I was very intrigued when these USB drives, and later SD cards, first started appearing on the market. It wasn't that long ago when the maximum storage capacity of internal hard drives, were 40 megabytes. They were the physical size of small books. Now, on micro SD cards smaller than your thumbnail, you can fit 16 gigabytes!!

Scientists were innovative enough to improve consumer computer storage capacity of cards, a thousand times over, in a few short years.

Flash memory is no doubt a great invention. But I wonder: Didn't flash memory technology exist even before the popularity of portable drives and cards? The CMOS chip in every computer is a flash memory chip, and they have been around for decades.

Maybe it took one person to think, "Duh, why don't we take these chips out of computers and use them as a portable storage drives?!"

However they came about, I love cheap, massive storage on an itty-bitty card!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Friend, Aravin

Aravin is the same age as me. We were both born in India, and both grew up in Canada. He, in Hamilton, me, in Brampton. Our families would often meet each other when we were kids, which was when our friendship started. I always liked going to his house. It was, and still is, a nice, cozy place in Stoney Creek. which seemed to be a more laid-back city than Brampton, and especially Toronto!

Since we were both born in '75, our childhood years were during the 80's home computer craze. He got an Amiga, an amazing computer, and I got a Commodore 64 (Amiga's cruder cousin; I was always so jealous!) We were both interested in programming at that early age, but he was much more interested in it than I was. So much so, that his occupation became programming!

We still live in different cities, so that makes it hard to meet, but we keep in touch through chat. I like chatting with him as he always tells me about some new technology that he's using. Years ago, he was using Google before it was well-known. Just recently, he told me about a nice music website called Grooveshark.

Aravin is a kind, gentle soul, and I'm glad to have known him and know him. Did I mention he is an amazing 3D artist as well?

Cheers, Aravin!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bookmarking in Firefox

Firefox is a great alternative to Internet Explorer, but of course, with anything, there is always room for improvement.

Bookmarking, in particular, is not very convenient in Firefox, at least initially. When bookmarking a web page in Firefox, it goes right into the Unsorted Bookmarks folder. For some reason though, my Unsorted Bookmarks folder was missing. It turned out to be only accessible through the Organize Bookmarks app.

For a long time, rather than going through the two or three steps to access the Unsorted Bookmarks folder for the latest web pages I bookmarked, I would just drag favourite web pages from the address bar into a folder on the Bookmarks toolbar, or into the Bookmarks drop-down menu. This was okay, but not terribly convenient.

Awhile back, I discovered a nice Firefox add-on that solves the problem of the missing Unsorted Bookmarks folder which, when loaded, once again reveals this folder in the Bookmarks drop-down menu.

More recently, I was pleasantly surprised to discover "one-click" bookmarking in Firefox. With one click of the star icon at the end of the address bar, I could bookmark a web page. Cool! I always wondered what that star was for.

But the problem of not being able to conveniently access Unsorted Bookmarks, was again, a problem. If only one could create a shortcut to this folder!

I tried to drag and drop the Unsorted Bookmarks folder, with the intention of creating a shortcut, but it just ended up copying the folder and its contents. Not very useful.

I finally learned from this website how to get a shortcut to the Unsorted Bookmarks folder:

What you do is first create a new bookmark (preferably on the Bookmarks toolbar). Once the New Bookmark window appears, enter place:folder=UNSORTED_BOOKMARKS, into the location box. Enter in a name for this folder now, because you will not be able to change it later. I named it "Latest Bookmarks."

Additionally, if you want a shortcut to the entire Bookmarks Menu, do the above, but enter place:folder=BOOKMARKS_MENU, into the location box.

Note that in Firefox 3.5 and later, these nifty folders you have created are not accessible until you restart the browser.

Happy Bookmarking!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Your Song Cover

Please listen to a cover I did of Elton John's Your Song.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Brain Training

My short-term memory capacity was labeled as "relatively poor" in my elementary school days. I came to accept this label, however, I viewed it as a disadvantage.

Only recently, with my interest in self-improvement, did I try to look online for information on how I could improve my memory capacity. I stumbled on something called the dual n-back task. It was claimed that training with this task improved working memory and fluid intelligence. Working memory is a type of short-term memory. Fluid intelligence is intelligence used to solve novel problems.

What is the dual n-back task? It may be easier to first explain what "n-back" means. In an n-back task, where n represents any number, a series of stimuli is presented and one is given the task of deciding whether the current stimulus matches a previous stimulus n times back in the series. For example, In a 1-back task, suppose the following numbers are presented:

4, 6, 3, 4, 4, 2, 6

A correct match would be occur when the fifth number in the series is presented, the fifth number being a 4, since the number 1 time back in the series was also a 4.

A dual n-back task requires us to follow two types of stimuli. Adding to the numbers example above, suppose the numbers are coloured, the colour being the second type of stimulus. If we presented the following series:

red 4, red 6, green 3, blue 4, blue 4, green 2, orange 6,

in a dual 1-back task, a colour match would occur when the red 6 is presented (since the colour 1 time back was also a red), and a colour and a number match would occur when the second blue 4 is presented (since the colour 1 time back was also a blue, and the number 1 time back was also a 4).

I searched for dual n-back software that I could train with and found a great one called Brain Workshop on, a website I have mentioned in a previous post.

Here's to improving our intelligence by using our computers!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Picture Viewer Delay

For the longest time, I had an unusually long delay in opening pictures in Windows XP with the built-in Picture and Fax Viewer. My computer had adequate memory, so that wasn't slowing things down. I tried defragmenting the hard disk, and doing a disk cleanup, but the problem persisted.

For awhile, I gave up on fixing it until recently when I found a solution in this discussion thread.

According to h41cyon, what is happening is that there are dead shortcuts in the same folder as the picture. (When I say "dead" I mean the shortcut is pointing to something that has been moved or deleted) Picture and Fax Viewer was delaying bringing up the picture because of these dead shortcuts. Delete the shortcuts, and the problem is solved. Guess what? He was right! Thanks h41cyon!