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Intermediate Course

In addition to these notes there are exercise associated with some parts of this course. The link to them can be found after each section or you can go directly to the exercises page here.

Difference between Hardware-Software and Firmware

Computer Hardware is described here Computer Software described here And Firmware is described here

The main distinction between hardware and software is that you can see hardware because it is physical items where as software is ideas, thoughts and concepts that are stored on computer media like a hard drive and so can not be seen. An analogy would be a book. The paper the book is made from is like a hard drive or a CD but the story or information of the book (thoughts, ideas and concepts) being the software.

Firmware being software built into hardware is simply software that usually is not changed and is often used to start the stored (on media, like a hard drive) software.

Understanding the Operating System

Wikipedia has a explaination of what an Operatiing System is.

The operating system that we are using in this training course is Microsoft Windows XP. If you want a deeper explanation of what the operating system does you should do a Google search on operating systems.

Task manager

To get a better appreciation of what the operating system is doing you can look at the windows task manager. You can achieve this by whilst holding down the CTRL and ALT keys the same time and press the Del key. The windows task manager window should be presented which shows 4 tabs. Programs, Processes, Performance, Networking and Uses.

A reasonable explanation of what task manager does and how to use it can be obtained by clicking on help.

It is a good idea to keep an eye on the CPU usage and memory usage on the performance Tab. You are not using any programs both of these should be relatively low. If the CPU usage remains at 100% without you operating any programs, this indicates that something is not right. A program or process is taking up all the resources of the CPU. To determine which process it is Click on the processes Tab, click on the CPU heading sufficient times so that the highest CPU number remains at the top of the list. The “System idle process” is not a process itself but nearly the amount of time that the system is idle.

Also if the memory usage is a very high this indicates either you have very little memory installed in your computer or I have lots of programs and or applications operating

What is interesting to appreciate is the difference between applications that are currently running and process running. You’ll also notice even if you do not have any applications running you’ll still have quite a number of processes operating. Processes are used by the operating system to control various parts of the hardware and other functions. However there are a number of processes that could be operating that are of no benefit to you or that you do not want to operate. Examples could be part of programs that you no longer use or schedules to download later versions of applications that you no longer use. It is a good idea to do a Google search on the name of each of the processes you have running in your computer to determine if it’s necessary in your situation

Exercises on Task Manager

How to stop programs from automatically starting

The operating system itself as well as some application programs set some programs or process to automatically start when the computer starts. This is done in the startup menu or as part of the operating system itself. You can stop programs from starting in the startup menu by simply removing them from the startup menu. (Start, all programs, startup, delete the program you don’t want by right clicking and selecting delete).

To stop process from starting when you first start the computer, do the following:

Start, click on Run, type in “msconfig” and click on OK. Select the Startup Tab.

Un-tick the items that you do not wish to start when the computer starts and then click on Apply.

Warning: Do not un-tick items that you do not know what they do as this may result in your computer not working, at all. Always do a Google search on an item before un-ticking it.

Installing and Uninstalling Applications

Applications are usually installed by executing the install program and simply following the prompts. Many modern applications have a new uninstall function as part of their menu. If they do simply execute the uninstall program. If they do not, use the following procedure:

Start, control panel, add or remove programs. From the list of programs select the one you wish to uninstall and click on the Change/Remove button and follow the prompts.

Installing and uninstalling Applications Exercises

Deeper explanation of "My Computer" & Windows Explorer

Information about how to use Windows Explorer can be found here. If you also want to do some Windows Explorer exercises, they can be found here.

What is the difference between Windows Explorer and My Computer?

They are in fact the same program. If you open My Computer and then click on the folders icon, the folder panel will be presented such that now appears exactly as would Windows Explorer.

To find out more information about Windows Explorer click on it’s Help menu. You’ll notice that will direct you to the Help and Support Centre. Enter the text “windows explorer” in the search bar and press enter. Under the Overview, Articles and Tutorials will be Using Windows Explorer. Click on it, read the information and followed this with Related Topics.

How else could you find information about Windows Explorer?

Spyware and viruses etc.

For a brief introduction to Viruses see the beginners course material on the subject.

A more detailed explanation of what computer viruses are can be found by doing a Google search on the term “computer viruses”, or “Anti-virus”.

A distinction needs to be made between Viruses, Malware, adware and Spyware. Wikipedia is most likely the best place to look for a defination and explanation of each of these.

Anti Virus software

There would be 100's of anti virus software programs on the market. In this training room we are using AVG

Which ever anti virus software you use it is important that its virus profiles are kept up to date. That is it is aware of the latest viruses that are currently around. This is usually achieved by the anti virus software automatically connecting to the authors web site each day to download the latest virus profiles. You usually have to be connected to the internet for this to happen.

Some anti virus programs also do a virus scan of all the files on you computer every day to insure that none of the files contain a virus. There is usually a schedule that does this automatically for you. However to perform this function your computer must be switched on at the time of day the schedule is due to perform the scan. If a virus is found whilst doing a scan the anti virus software will usually attempt to remove the virus from the infected file. If it cannot remove it, the files will be placed in a virus vault. That is in a folder on your computer where the virus can not do any harm. It is then up to you to determine if the files in the virus vault is required to operate you computer. You can determine this by doing a Google search on the file name. If it is an important file you will need to obtain a copy of it and put it back where the anti virus software removed it from. This will be shown usually in the anti viruses log file.

Almost all anti virus software has a resident shield. That is it constantly monitors your computer for virus attacks and will warn you if one happens. In theory the shield should be all that is necessary to stop viruses but because of the extreme complexity of computer software and the fact that computer programs are written by people that a fallible virus authors use this fallibility to accomplish their aims, what ever that might be.

The most commonly used internet application is email, which is also most likely the most common way of getting viruses. Therefore most anti virus programs will scan client based email messages and their attachments for viruses as they are being received and notify you as necessary.

What is also common are Virus Hoaxes see Virus Hoax

Anti Virus software Exercises

Adware Removal

A description of what adware is can be found here. You need to appreciate that by itself adware is not a computer virus, also it is not necessary a bad thing. Just like advertising on free to air TV allows you to watch TV adware can allow you to use some software for free. However there are times, where you will not know that you are being subjected to advertising or the adware is, unbeknown to you, sending information about you computer usage or web browsing habits to someone for the purpose of targeted marketing to you.

To overcome this there is software that can scan your computer for adware and if you want, remove it. One such, free to use, program is Ad-aware by Alvasoft Like anti virus software it can scan your computer for known adware and if necessary remove it. However you should realise that removing adware could result in software that you do use and do want, to be removed from your computer.

Adware Removal Exercises

Spyware Removal and Prevention

A good description of spyware can be found here

in addition to ad-aware another spyware detection and removal program is spybot

Spyware Removal and Prevention Exercises

Help Files and how to operate them

The beginners course has a referance material on how to use Help files.

Also there are exercises on using help files

Hints on using Help files

  1. Start by looking at the contents to see how the help is organised
  2. If the start has a Glossary skim through it for words or phased you have not come across before
  3. It can be faster to do a search on help if you know specifically what you are looking for
  4. If you can not find what you are looking for in Search try a word of phrase that means the same thing

What ever happened to context sensitive help?

A number of years ago a concept was developed called context sensitive help. This allowed you to press the F1 (help key) or click on a help button and you would be presented with a help screen that provided help on the function you were performing at the time. To accomplish this the help screens had to be programmed into each programs screen. Some people, in particular those working at Microsoft, must have felt to was to much effort and so it is very rare to see context sensitive help now.

Creating Folders

See the training material on Windows Explorer and Windows Explorer Exercises

How to change which program starts when you double-click a file in Windows XP

How did I find this information?

When you have a list of files what happens when you right click on a file? What is the difference between Open and Open With? How can you find out?


When do you right click and when do you left click the mouse

You left click (called click) when you can see something to click on. These items you can click on are called controls (See controls used in Windows).

Right clicking (called right click) will always cause what is called a Context Menu to appear. There is never any indication as to where you can right click. The way to find out if you can right click on something is to right click on it. Context Menus are menus that appear in relative the current control you are positioned on or the function you are performing. Generally the functions of context menus can also be performed via the normal menus that appear at the top of each window. These are called pull down menus. The benefit of using context menus is that you do not have to move the mouse pointer to the top of the window to access the pull down menus so they are easier and faster to use. Eg’s Cut, copy and Paste


Tool bars on programs and altering them

Flash drives and how to operate them

How could you find information about flash drives?

A Flash Drive will install itself just like any other drive and so will be given a drive letter beyond the other drive letters eg E:

Because they operate like any other disk drive you can copy, move, delete save, etc files to them like you would any other drive. See Windows Explorer and Windows Explorer Exercises

The Programs that we get you to copy to your flash drive are all contained in a folder called “Applications on this PC”. An explanation of what each program is and can do can be found here



Copying, cut and pasting,_copy,_and_paste

See also Clipboard

Some concepts:

After copying you can paste multiple times. It is possible to cut or copy and then paste to other programs. See Copy to from multiple programs

With the appropriate software it is also possible to copy from one computer to another and from a program running on one computer to a different program running on a different computer


Word processing on WordPad

To do some of the below exercises you may need to resize or switch between windows. If you do not know how to do this then read Switch between Programs, Resizing windows and Moving windows

Exercises on Using Wordpad

Word processing on Open Office Writer

Using the above WordPad Exercises as a guide see if you can repeat the exercises using Open Office Writer

With Open Office Writer open click on help and select writer features and read it. Also read Instructions for Using Writer



  1. Start Irfanview. Resize the windows so that you can see these exercises and the irfanview window. There may be time where you need to switch between these notes and the Irfanview window
  2. From File menu , click on Open and then go to a file that has a Red Splat icon on it or a file extention of .JPG (a graphics file) and click on Open. Now Exit Irfanview
  3. Enter Window Explorer by, whilst holding down the Windows key press the E key
  4. Navigate to a folder that has Graphic images in it and double click on the first one. If Irfanview is the default graphics program the Irfanview icon will be on any graphics files that Irfanview can open
  5. Press the Enter Key. What Happened? Press Enter again. What Happened? What does Enter do?
  6. Press Enter until the image is the full screen. Now press the PgDn key. What happened? Press PgDn again. What happened? Press PgUp. What Happened. What do you think will happen if you press PgUp again. Try it
  7. As you are now at the first image in the folder what do you think will happen if you press PgUp again? Try it. Click on Cancel
  8. What do you think will happen when you press PgDn multiple times and get to the last image in the folder? Try it. Click on Cancel
  9. Press Enter until you can see the menus. Click on Help, then Irfanview Help. Click on the Contents Tab. Double Click on Available Hotkeys , then Click on Hotkeys. Read this. Close the Help window
  10. With an image presented Press the + key. What happened and Why. Press the + key multiple times. What is happening and why? How far can you go pressing the + key? Try it.
  11. From the File Menu select Reopen. What happened and why.
  12. Press the – key. What happened and why? How far can you go pressing the – key?
  13. Use what you have learnt above to get to image back to its original size. Hint with the menus showing (may have to press enter to show them) the status bar at the bottom of the screen shows in the third box from the left the % you are zoomed
  14. With the Menus showing, drag the mouse over a small portion of the image. What happened and why. Put the mouse pointer inside the rectangle you have created. What happened? Click inside the rectangle. What happened and why? Repeat this point a number of times. How far can you zoom in?
  15. Use what you have learnt to make the image 100%. With the menus showing drag the mouse over a small portion of the image. From the Edit Menu click on copy. Nothing appears to have happened, why? Drag the mouse over another portion of the image and then from the Edit Menu click on Paste. What happened and why? Drag the mouse over yet another area of the image and whilst holding down the Ctrl key press the V key. What happened and why? Continue making different shape rectangles on the image and pressing V whilst holding down the Ctrl key. What is the significance of the shape of the rectangle? What is Holding down the Ctrl key and pressing the V key equivalent to on the Edit Menu. These are sometimes called hot keys. Look at what is at the right of most menu items. Note the other hot keys you can use.
  16. Use what you have learnt in the above point to swap the heads of people in an image that has multiple people in it
  17. From the File Menu select Reopen. What happened and why
  18. Drag the mouse to select a small are of an image. From the edit menu click on Crop Selection. What happened and why?
  19. From the File Menu select Reopen. With Irfanview still open Start Irfanview again. You can have multiple versions of Irfanview operating at the same time. Make sure you have a different image open in each version of irfanview. Use what you have learnt above to copy part of one image to another image in the other version of Irfanview
  20. On the Edit Menu are Cut Selection and Cut Leave Selection. Experiment to determine the difference between them. Dragging the mouse make a selection.
  21. Using the Irfanview Help, experiment with each of the items on the Image Menu. How could you use each of these?
  22. Using the Irfanview Help, experiment with each of the items on the Options and View Menus. How could you use each of these?
  23. From the File Menu select Thumbnails. What happened and Why? Right click on any of the thumbnails. Experiment with each of these options
  24. Open any image. From the file menu select Save As. Move the Save Quality Slider on the GPEG/GIF Options window so that it is about 20. Add the word Small to the end of the File Name and then click on the Save button. Start another session of Irvanfiew and open the file you just saved and compare it with the original. How are they different? Using My Computer or Windows Explorer compare the size of the two files. How much are they different. Why?
  25. Make you screen so that you can see these notes and part of the Irfanview window. Press the PrtSc key. Nothing appears to have happened. In the Irvanviev window from the Edit Menu click on Paste. What happened and why? Click on these notes. Whilst holding down the Alt key press the PrtSc key. In the Irvanviev window from the Edit Menu click on Paste. What happened and why? NOTE: The PrtSc Button works in any program to copy the entire screen, or if whilst holding down the Alt Key the current selected window to the clipboard as a graphic image. It is not text. Any graphic program like Irfanview or MS Paint can then be used to accept the graphic of the screen by pasting.

Irfanview is only a very simple image editor as is Faststone. For a more sophisticated Free Image editor see Gimp

The Batch processing capability of Irfanview and Faststone are very handy to rename or resize multiple images in the one process

Photo Story 3

It’s a very simple video production program that allows you to create slideshows based on still digital photos. It has the disadvantage in not being able to convert its output to a DVD format that can be played on a domestic DVD player. The only format it saves the story in is WMV (Windows Media Video files). However there are free programs on the internet that allow you to convert WMV files to a format that can be used to create disks that can be played on Domestic DVD players

Start Photo Story 3 Click in the Help button and read the help

Go through each of the steps to produce a Photo Story.

Alternatively a tutorial of how to use Photo Story can be found here


Installing Open Office

Open Office is a free to use sweat of programs similar or equivalent to Microsoft Office. It can be downloaded and used for free from:

  1. To install open office you double click on the open office install program.
  2. An introduction screen will be presented telling you that the installation files must be unpacked. Click on the Next Button to continue.
  3. The Select Folder screen will be presented. Click on the Unpack button
  4. After a short period the Welcome to the Installation Wizard for Open Office Org window will appear. Click on the Next Button
  5. The License Agreement screen will appear. Click on the I accept the terms in the License Agreement and then click the Next Button
  6. The Customer Information window will appear. Under User Name enter your name and under Organization: Enter what ever you want. Then click on the next button
  7. The Setup type window will appear. It is best to leave it set to Complete. Click on the Next Button
  8. The File Type Window will appear. If you do not have Microsoft Office installed on your computer already you should tick each of the three boxes, otherwise leave then un-ticked. Click on the Next Button
  9. The ready to install the program window will appear. Click on the Install Button
  10. It may take some time for the install process to take place. A bar will show the progress of the installation.
  11. If all has gone well the Installation Wizard Complete will be presented. Click on the Finish Button

Graphics in Word Processing

Most modern word processing programs allow you to insert other objects within the text. Theses objects can be Pictures, Clip Art (drawn images) Sounds, videos and objects from other programs such as spreadsheets or databases that can either straight copied in or embedded so that if the base information changes in the originating program changes the change is reflected in the word processing program.

Adding a simple image in Open office writer

  1. Start Open Office Writer
  2. Type “this is a picture” and press the enter key twice
  3. From the Insert menu click on Picture and then from File
  4. Navigate to a picture file and Click on Open. (NOTE: If you have Preview ticked you can see the image before you insert it)
  5. Notice the Picture Floating toolbar will appear when the image is selected (clicked on). Try the various options on this toolbar
  6. Drag the bottom right handle (little green box) on the image up and to the left to make the image smaller
  7. Point at the middle on the image. What happened? What do you thing will happen if you drag now? Try it
  8. Notice the Anchor icon. Drag it over the text. This means the image is now anchored to the text so that if the text is moved the picture will move with it (supposedly).
  9. Right click on the image. Try each on the items on the menu. If you can not determine what they do look them up in the help

Drawing images in Open Office Writer

  1. Start Open Office Writer if it is not already started
  2. Type in the text “This will be Drawings”
  3. From the view menu click on Toolbars and make sure Drawings is ticked. The Drawing tool bar may be at the bottom of the Open Office Writer window
  4. Try using each item on the Drawing tool bar. NOTE: You usally have to click on item on the toolbar and then drag on the document to activate the tools function
  5. Try changing and moving some of the drawing items you have created.
  6. Right click on a drawing object you have created. What happened? Try each of the items on the menu. If you don’t know what they do look them up in the help

Working with Tables in Open Office Writer

  1. Start Open Office Writer if it is not already started
  2. Type in the text “This will be a table”
  3. From the Insert Menu click on Table
  4. Set the Columns to 4 and the Rows to 4 and click on ok. What happened?
  5. Click in to the first row first column. Type “one” press the Tab key and then Type “two”. Continue like this up to the fourth column and the press the Tab key again. What happened?
  6. Now that you are in the second row type “More information than can fit in” What happened when it filled the cell?
  7. If you click on any cell in the table, the table toolbar may appear. Try each of the items on the table toolbar. If you don’t know what they do look them up in the help

NOTE: If you wish to do a lot of work with tables it could be easier to use a spread such as Open Office Calc

Greater understanding of the Internet

The separate internet and email train course material can be found here.

The internet as described in Wikipedia The history of the Internet

Other web browsers

Internet explorer is not the only web browser. There are quite a few other web browsers that you can use. Examples are:

Mozilla Firefox, Netscape and Opera

Using Tabed web pages in IE7

Rather than having the one web page open, with Tabs its possible to have multiple pages open at the one time and switch between them by clicking on the appropriate Tab rather than having to go back with the back button. Instead of clicking on a link right click on it and then click on Open in New Tab. Depending on how you have Tabs configured (Tools Menu, Internet Options, General Tab, Tabs – Settings) you will either be presented with the new tab or you will remain on the current tab but see the progress of the new page being loaded on the tab bar.

Rather than right clicking on a link to open it in a new tab you can hold the CTL key down whilst clicking. Holding down the shift key will open a new window. CTL + T will open a new blank tab and CTL + N will open a new window.


Searching Without opening a web page

Normally to do a search you have to open the web page of the search engine. For example however with IE7 it is possible to enter what you are searching for in the search box ( this is to the right of the address bar) and the search criteria will be passed on to the search engine. The default search engine for IE7 is Microsoft MSN. You can change this By clicking on the downward pointing triangle to the rights of the search box and clicking on change search defaults.


Internet Terminology

Use the internet and Tabed web pages to find the definition of the following word or terms:

3G, ADSL, Blogs, Broadband, Cable, Content Management System, Dial-up, e-commerce, E-mail, Encryption, Fiber-Optic, File Server, File Sharing, FTP, Hot Spots, HTML, HTTP, Hyperlinks, Instant Messaging, Internet, Internet Cafes, IP, IRC, Mirror Servers, Peer-to-peer Networks, Podcasts, Satellite, Search Engines, Security, Streaming Video, URLs, Video conferencing, VoIP, Web Browsers, Web Page, Web Servers, Web Services, Web site, Webcams, Webcasts, Wi-Fi, Wiki, World Wide Web

A Hint. Copy the above word or term and in Google type Define followed by a space and then paste (CTL + V) the word.

Advanced Searches using Google

Before going into the advanced search options within Google it’s worthwhile understanding how Google works. Rather than explain it here, just type in “how Google works” into Google.

The best way to find out how to do more advanced searches in Google is to click on “Search Tips” near the bottom of the Google search results page.

Additionally, on the initial Google search page is “Advanced Search”. Clicking on it will take you to more advanced options for searching in Google.

Many web sites offer a search function that only searches with in that web site. Even if they don’t, in the advanced Google options you can restrict a search to one specific web site.

Sometimes after you go to the result of a search is still difficult to find what you are looking for. Rather than having to read the whole web page use the browsers “Find in page” function that is usually under the edit menu.



By far the easiest way to get computer software is to download it from the Internet. Web sites that have software that you can download usually have a download button. Clicking on this usually instigates the browser download function. IE7 may give you the option to download or install the software whereas Firefox has a download manager which records that you have downloaded a file and we you have downloaded to.

In addition to the normal downloading method there is also what is called BitTorrent downloads which is described here. Traditionally BitTorrent has been used to download music and videos, that can be used to download any files, and requires special software such as Limewire to be installed on your computer


Webcams and simply cameras connected to the Internet such that anybody with Internet access can view what the camera can see. The cameras can be static and only take pictures periodically, say every 60 seconds or can be video cameras that show live video. Additionally some cameras can be controlled by the remote viewer. That is they can be paned left, right, up, down and zoomed in and out. The best way to find Webcams is to a search for them via a search engine.

Web 2.0 Applications

What is Web 2.0

Google Docs Is basically a word processor and spreadsheet on the Internet. That is you do not have to install software on your own computer and your files are accessible on any computer that has access to the Internet.

Google Earth allows you to see three dimensionally satellite imagery and aerial photos of any place on earth.

There are separate training notes on Google earth here

Wiki is described here. Other than being used to collaboratively create and disseminate information on the Internet (eg Wikipedia) they can also be used by businesses to provide collaborative working and as knowledge management systems. That is, record the combined knowledge of all people working within an organization All this material was produced in a wiki called DocuWiki



By far the most common use application on modern computers is email. However email does have its limitations that many people are not aware of.

One of these is security. Most email messages pass through multiple computers to get to their destination, two of which are the sender and receivers ISP computers. It is possible for any person at any of the intermediary computers to read a message. Messages can be made more secure by encrypting them. See Making Secure

Another limitation of the emails is the size of an e-mail you can send and the size of the emails that can be received. These limitations are imposed by the ISP of the sender and receiver email. As a general rule only, the limitation is around 10MB. Although most people do not type messages of such size is not uncommon to have attachments beyond 10MB.

Additional ISP’s usually have a restriction on the total of all messages in a person’s inbox at the ISP as distinct to the inbox on your computer, if you’re using client email.

Yet another restriction of the emails is that they have to be seen as text. Therefore graphics and binary files (programs) get converted to text before they are sent. This can increase the size of information being sent by up to 1/3.

A way to overcome some of these size limitations of the email is to use web pages or a FTP (File Transfer Protocol) server

Making Secure

Normally emails are sent exactly as they are and can travel via quite a number of computers to get to their destination, hence anyone that has access to those computers and intercept and read the message. To overcome this you can encrypt the message. In Outlook express this is achieved by selecting Encrypt on the Tools Menu of in the send window.

Return receipts

It is possible to set up all or specific messages so that the receiver can acknowledge that they have read the message. This is something similar to registered mail. However unlike registered mail, with return receipts it is possible for the receiver to read the message and not acknowledge that they have read it.

In Outlook Express on the Tools Menu of the sending window you can select request read receipt


What is spam? Defined here. How do you stop receiving spam? Most client email programs have anti spam functionality that will move the spam you receive to a separate spam folder within your email or delete the spam. However you are still receiving the spam even if you don’t read it. A better method is to have your ISP to filter out the spam for you, so that you do not receive it at all. Some ISP’s provide such a service at no cost and some charge for it. If your ISP does not provide Spam filtering or does and you do not want to pay for it you can set up anti spam software on you own computer that filters out the spam and does not move the spam messages to your computer from your ISP’s computer. It will either leave the messages on the ISP’s computer or delete them from the ISP’s computer.

Such a program is Spamihilator,

Burning CDs and DVD’s

Before copying or burning any CDs or DVDs you should be aware of the copyright of the material you are copying and the consequences of copying that material.

What is the difference between a CD and a DVD? What are the various types of CDs and DVD’s CD’s are described here and DVD’s here

All the above and the new Blu-ray technology are what is called optical storage. This is as opposed to hard drives which use magnetic storage. Magnetic storage stores information by magnetizing very small dots on sealed fixed rotating plata (disk), where as optical storage uses a laser beam ( very high strength beam of light) to burn very small holes on a exposed plastic disc that has a special surface. All magnetic media can have information written to it and read from it whereas optical media can be either ROM (Read Only Memory) or RW, can be read from or written to.

By far, the greatest difference between optical and magnetic storage is the read write speeds with magnetic being much faster than optical. Consequently optical media tends to be used for backup and longtime archival of information whereas magnetic media is used for fast online processing.

Considerations when burning CDs and DVD’s

Before burning files to CDs or DVD’s it is worth considering what you want to do with the information. If the information is unlikely to change, for example photos, its probably best to burned to the ROM type of CD or DVD. Is also worth considering how much information you are going to burn to the optical media and hence if you should burn as a multi session disk or a closed session disk. Multi session disks allow you to add information, even to ROM media, until the disk becomes full, whereas a closed session disk does not allow any information to be added regardless of how much capacity of the disk has been used. Some domestic CD and DVD players will not play multi session disks.

RW, read and write disks allow information to be written to, added to, erased and rewritten multiple times, according to the manufacturers over a thousand times. However the media itself is more expensive than ROM media.

Additionally there are two ways of using RW optical media. The conventional single and multiple session burning, with burning software or formatting the RW media such that it can be used equivalent to a hard drive with applications like windows explorer or my computer.

You should also consider the relative storage capacities of the various media’s before deciding which one to us. Even if your intention is to have long-term storage it would not be economical to back up, say, the photos to ROM media every time you download photos from a camera. It will be more economical to burn to RW media until that media is full, then burn to ROM media and reuse your RW media for future photos.

Burning software

As with all computer applications there are many different types of burning software. Few are shown there: Windows itself Windows XP and Vista both have burning functionality built into them. XP can only burn CDs whereas Vista can burn both CDs and DVDs. The burning process in both cases is accomplished the same way as if you were copying files, except that you copy to the CD/DVD drive. After copying to the CD/DVD drive windows will ask if you wish to burn a disk and will guide you through the burning process.


Nero is a very popular burning program, however it has to be purchased .It operates by presenting a Windows Explorer type of the screen and allowing you to drag files to the burning area. You then have a number of options as to how the disk can be burnt such as single and multi session. Simple instructions for using Nero Express

Each of the following programs, are free:

Burn4free BurnAware Free InfraRecorder

Copying music CDs

Each of the above programs will give you an option to burn a data or a music CD or to fully copy a CD. This is because information is stored differently depending on if it is data or music. It is also possible to record your own music or sound and burn this to a CD that can be played in a conventional CD player.

A modern form of storing music or sound is via MP3 files. These are sounds that have been compressed so that they take up far less space than a conventional music track. MP3 files are stored as a data on CDs or DVD’s. Consequently you can have a CD with a 100 music tracks or a DVD with 1,000’s

The process of converting conventional CDs to MP3 he is called ripping. A Google search will reveal many programs that do CD ripping. An example would be FreeRIP

Copying DVD’s

Generally movie DVDs are what is called dual layer. That is they have information on two physical layers as of the disk. Although you can purchase dual layer burners, the dual layer blank media is not common and so tends to be expensive. The problem then is to get the contents of a dual layer disk onto a single layer disk. This is accomplished via a program called DVD shrink. DVD shrink takes a movie DVD and compresses it by removing some of the frames and hence some of the quality of the movie such that it will fit on a single layer DVD. The quality of the resultant movie will depend on how large the original movie was. Typically, DVD shrink writes its output files to a hard drive, which you then use burning software, using the make movie disk option, to burn a DVD

Using Nero Express

Simple Steps to Use Nero Express

  1. Start Nero Express
  2. Click on Data, Data Disk
  3. Start Window Explorer. Eg Hold Down the Windows Start key and press the E key
  4. Select the files or folders you wish to burn by clicking on them or holding down the CTRL key whilst clicking
  5. Point at any of the selected files and drag then down to the Nero Burning ROM on the task bar. DO NOT RELEASE THE MOUSE BUTTON.
  6. Point at the middle of the Nero window and release the mouse button
  7. Click on the Next Button
  8. Optionally change the Disk name
  9. Click on the Burn Button
  10. When asked to, put a Disk in the drive
  11. The burn process will be displayed

Backing up Data

The one thing you can be sure about when using a computer is that you WILL lose some of the hard effort you went to to put information into your computer. There will be many reasons for you losing your information but all of the them will be because of yourself. This will be because there are methodologies and techniques you can use to almost eliminate the possibility of you completely loosing information. The major method of doing this is to maintain good data backups. Wikipedia has a good description of what backups are here.

My experience has been the most likely reason you will lose data from you computer is because of yourself. That is you do something that causes the information in you computer to be lost. The second most likely cause is hard drive failure. All computer hard drives will fail at some time such that the information on them will no longer be accessible.

How and how often should you backup and what information should you backup on your computer?

You should backup as often as you are willing to repeat the work you did to get the information in to your computer in the first place. If it takes you a day to enter certain information into your computer and you are willing to only backup that information once a month, you are saying you are willing to repeat a months work should for any reason the information be lost from your computer. That is assuming you are able to repeat the work at all. In the case of something like digital photos or movies it may never be possible to re photo or film past events. The information that should be backed up is that information that is not already backed up. Generally the copies of the Operating system and application programs on your computer already exist on some storage devise (usually CD's or DVD's) and so are already backed up. If you have previously copied information (a form of back up) and that information has not changed since you copied it then there in no need to back it up again. However see multiple backups later. So basically you should backup anything new you put or enter on your computer or anything you change on your computer that you had previously backed up.

There are may ways of backing up information but the easiest is to copy the files that constitute the information to a storage devise that is completely removable from your computer such as a CD or DVD, a memory stick or a external hard drive. Some other methods are to copy files to other computers via a local area network, email them to another person or use what is called FTP over the internet (backups over the internet). The last two methods can be impracticable if the amount of information is very large.

Multiple Backups and off site copies

It has happened that the backup media has been become unreadable or that the backup process does not work. As a precaution against this you can do multiple sets of backups. This is simply backing up the same information multiple times so that should something go wrong with a set of backups you still have another set. An additional advantage of performing multiple backups is that it allows you to keep one of the backup sets at some other physical location should something disastrous happen to your house like it burns down.

Backup Recovery

Any backup system should also have a tested recovery system. That is a tested and proven way of getting the information from your backup media back to your computer. This will depend on the method you used to perform your backup but should also consider that the reason you want to recover from the back up could be because the hard drive on you computer no longer works or your computer no longer works, has been destroyed or stolen. By tested and proven method means that you have to test the recovery of the information including in the circumstances described above. If you had previously backup onto zip drives (a popular backup media some time ago before CD and DVD drives were popular) and you zip drive no longer works you would not be able to recover your information to your computer.

Safe Mode

Safe mode allows you to operate your computer in a minimal state. It only operate the basic components such as the Screen hard drive keyboard and mouse. It is designed to be used when you are having trouble with other than these basic parts so that in this “safe” mode you can fix the parts you are having trouble with.

Directions for starting a computer in Safe Mode can be found by clicking Start, help and support, then typing “Safe mode” into the search box and clicking on search , then double click on “Starting Windows in safe mode“. Notice that the instructions tell you to print the instructions because at one point the computer will be switch off. As there is no way to print help instructions, you’ll need to copy these instructions to a program like notepad or Wordpad and prints them from their.

System Restore

Windows XP usually saves its internal settings once a day in what is called a restore point. Should something go wrong with your computer you can revert to this restore point Thus reverting back to a previous point where the XP system was at. This only applies to Operating system files and does not apply to application programs. It is therefore important that you back up all application data associated with the programs you operate .

To find out more about restore points and how to go back to a previous restore point enter the appropriate information in the search box on the Help and \Support from the start menu. The system restore functions can be accessed from the Help and Support opening screen under the Pick a Task Heading.

Defrag in Safe Mode

Defrag, short for Defragmentation, is the process of attempting to store all files in continuous spaces on the hard drive and consolidating full free hard drive space into one area. Wikipedia has a very good explanation of the defragmentation process

From the Start Menu, go in to Help and Support and enter Defrag as the search, to find out how to do a defrag.

How to restart a computer in "Last known good configuration"

There may become a time when, because of a change made to your computer, you cannot start it at all. In this case you will have to start your computer in the “last known good configuration”. To discover how to do this go to help and support and search for “system restore”, select and read the system restore overview, then read recovering your system , in particular , the last point about the operating system not starting and it’s link to “ To start the computer using the last known good configuration”.

On reading this you will notice that it asks you to print the information. However If your computer cannot start you will not be able to print the information. It’s therefore necessary to have this information already printed or have access to another computer.

Helpful hints

Keyboard is faster then the mouse

In most cases it is faster to use the keyboard rather then the mouse. To learn which keys do what, note the keyboard equivalent to menu functions when the menu is displayed. They are usually to the right of the menu. For Example Copy will be shown as Ctrl+C which means whilst holding down the Ctrl key press the C key.

Menus themselves can be activated via the Keyboard by holding down the Alt Key whilst pressing the key that is underlined on the Menu. E.g. Whilst down the Alt key and pressing the F key the File menu will be presented. Then when the menu is open you will notice that most menu items have letters underlined. Pressing the underlined letter will activate the menu function as if you had clicked on it. e.g. in the file menu press the S key is save. So Alt+F then S will save a document, which is faster then moving the mouse all the way up to the menu or the toolbar.

When you are presented with a list of items that more then fills a window usually you have to scroll down the list to find what you are looking for (like in My Computer or Windows Explorer). However there is a quicker way. Click on any item in the list and then press the first letter of the item you are looking for. For example if you are looking for Fred. Press the F key and if something in the list starts with F you will now be positioned on it. If nothing in the list starts with F Windows will beep and leave you where you are. You can commence another search by just typing another letter. E.g. pressing z will take you to the fist item that starts with z, if there is one. If their are many items starting with the letter you type provided you type the letter quickly enough Windows will position on the correct one, if it is in the list. E.g. If their were many items that start with F in the list, quickly typing Fred will position on Fred, provide their is a Fred in the list. If their was a delay between when you press the F and the r, Windows would position on the first item that starts with r. So you do have to type reasonably fast

This is all called incremental search and can be used in most places where you have a list of items.

Copy and Paste rather than type

If there is something in your or any computer you have access to, it is not necessary to type it in. You should be able to copy it. With very few exceptions most items in a computer can be copied by selecting (dragging over it with the mouse) invoking a copy function, going to where you want the copy placed, and invoking the paste function. Most data formats can be copied, including, but not limited to text, images, videos and sounds

Search within a document

Rather than read a document to find something you can get the computer to find it for you. This is usually achieved via the Find Function that is usually in the Edit Menu. You usually enter what you are looking indicate if you wish to search forward or backward through the document, sometimes some other options and then click a search or find next button. The program you are using will either position on the text or highlight the text.

Repeating functions

If you find you are repeating function multiple times then there is usually and easier way. Computer and computer programs are designed to reduce repetitive tasks so there is usually a way to do those tasks automatically. One way is to multiple select Items. See Multi Selecting of files Also within Microsoft Office there are Macro’s which are ways of recording multiple functions that can the replayed multiple times. Also there are independent Macro recording and playing programs

Multiple views of the one document (Multi Document Interface, (MDI))

If you are working on a large document and find yourself often going back and forth through out the document there is a way by which you can see multiple parts of the document at the one time. To do this the program you are using has to be Multi Document Interface (MDI) enabled. A program that is MDI enabled usually has a Window function on the menu that allows you to create a new window and split a window into separate panes. Using this MDI functionality allows you to see multiple parts of the one document at the same time. Any editing you do in one window pane will be reflected in other panes if that part of the document is currently visible in the other pane.

Copy Screen to clipboard

If you are working on a large document where you want to see multiple parts of it at the same time and the program is not MDI enabled or a program that presents different information at different times and you want to see those information at the one time you can accomplish this by coping the window of the application to the clipboard by pressing the PrtScn key whilst holding down the Alt key. Then open a graphics program, such as Microsoft Paint, and operate the paste function. The screen of the program will be presented. You can then rearrange and resize the application and the paint program so you can see both at the same time. Although this method allows you to see two pieces of information at the one time you can not edit any text in the paint program because it is in a graphic format.

Use Multiple Screens

If you are fortunate enough to have two computer screens and the video card on your computer has provision to operate two screens or you have two video cards in your computer, Windows allows you operate two screens at the same time. You can simply drag program windows from one screen to the other and the mouse pointer seamlessly can move from one screen to the other. It can be very useful if you have multiple programs operating at the one time or even within the one program if it has a MDI you can have part of the program running on one screen and the rest on another screen. The benefit is you have more space to spread out the programs you are operating.

Part of this video shows the functionality:

Optical Character Recognition

This is special software that converts a graphic image of text into text that can then be edited. If you have a scanner and scan text the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software can convert the scanned image into text that then can be used by any program that uses text like a Word-processing or a Spreadsheet. OCR is usually only about 90% accurate, which sounds good but that means that it will get 10 character wrong in 100 meaning that you have to check the results of OCR software.

When you purchase some scanners or multi function printers they sometimes come with OCR software.

Voice Recognition

This is software that takes the words you speak and converts it to text. It is much faster to use than often even the fastest typists. But just like OCR it is not 100% accurate and you have check the words it writes. Microsoft Office from 2003 onwards comes with Voice recognition. Before you can use it you must train it to recognize your voice. This involves reading passages of text to the computer via a microphone and can take up to a few hours. But once done it makes the production of text much faster than typing.

Text to Speech

This is where the computer reads text you nominate using a computer generated voice. It is part of Office 2003 onwards but also a Narrator that reads windows dialog screen comes as part of Accessibility functions on the Accessories menu. Voice recognition can be handy if you wish to check data entry of text and numbers. The computer reads what has been keyed in as you check read the input document.

Marking where you are up to when reading and scrolling text

Often it can be difficult to know what point you are up to when you are scrolling and reading text. To overcome this problem select the text (drag over it) before you scroll it. That way you can see the point you are up whilst you are scrolling. Note that if you click on the text rather than scrolling you will lose the point where you marked (selected) the text, so make sure you point at the scroll bars before scrolling.

Making wide text easier to read

It can be difficult to read very wide text because at the end of reading a line your eyes have to scan back to the left and drop down to the next line. Often you end up reading the same line again or may be miss one line. This problem is overcome if the width of the text is narrower as in newspaper width columns. In most cases you can achieve this by resizing the window to made it narrower. See Manipulate windows in the beginners course material and exercise on it here

Keeping the current window in Focus

One of the great advantages of using a Graphical user interface (GUI) is that you can have multiple windows open, even if you can't see them, at the one time. However this can sometime cause confusion if you do not know which window you have in focus (are working on) so you are looking at a window and say keying, without anything appearing to happen because it is happening in another window that you are not looking at or may not even be able to see.

The indication as to which window is in focus (you can work on) is that its title bar (top of the window with the name of the program or files you are working on) is a darker shade than other windows. To make a window come into focus you click anywhere on it or click on its entry on the task bar.

In some rare occasions, usually because it has been programed incorrectly, a window will be in focus but will not be visible because it is covered by other windows. In this case try clicking on each item on the task bar until the window is in focus. However sometimes a window will be in focus behind other windows without it having an entry on the task bar. In this case you will need to go into the task manager and use the “Switch to” button to force that program to be the foreground window.

intermediate_course_notes.txt · Last modified: 2014/05/29 16:16 (external edit)