Career fair at the Hilton

On Monday, I got notice at Pronet (http://www.pronetreno.com/) that there was going to be a career fair at the Grand Sierra in Reno (http://grandsierraresort.com/). About the time I was getting ready to go, I got a phone call from a potential customer.  He wanted to know if I was the 20.00 flat rate guy (how can anybody work for that) and I told him no.  He told me his computer was infected and I told him that I could go there in the afternoon.  I told him that the first half hour was free, and that in that half hour I could at least tell him how much more it was going to take, or if it was worth fixing.

This put me late to the job fair.  I arrived at about 11:30 and it seemed like somebody must have told a few other people about this job fair.  There must have been 300 people in line in front of me.  I walked to the head of the line just to see how long it was.  I was mostly going there to network and let people know about Blivit Design so I started handing out business cards to the people who were waiting in line.  Once again, I’m networking with people who have no jobs and no money.  I had about 30 business cards in my pocket and I handed out those (with free computer advice for anyone who asked for it) and then went out to my car to get some more cards.

I got to my car and found maybe 30 more cards.  I didn’t really have time to go home, so I just got those 30 cards and about 20 of the fliers that I had made up to hand out around the neighborhood.  I decided to hand out the fliers first, so I started at the head of the line again.  The line had moved since I had gone out to the car so there were no repeats.  After I handed out all of the fliers and started in on the remainder of my business cards, some guy came out and told me “No soliciting in the hotel”.  I thanked him, and told him OK.  I walked around a corner and started in again of course.  After all, I only had about 20 cards left.  I’m pretty sure the way some people were taking the cards, they thought I was handing out coupons for free slurpies at 7-11 or something.  When people don’t speak English, it’s kind of hard for them to understand me talking about computers to them.

Well, it was fun and I did get a lot of cards handed out.  So far, the phone hasn’t rung.  I did call the guy who wanted me to work on his computer, and apparently he was able to get enough from our phone conversation to fix his own computer (or maybe the 20 dollar guy called him back).

I’ll keep you posted.

Posted in Marketing, Sparks Nevada computer repair | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Teaching Computers in Reno

I went into Pronet to get my teaching kit last Wednesday and I was told that the class had been cancelled.  They told me that only three people had signed up for the class, so they were going to have them come in next week.  I really don’t understand this, because we’re all volunteers anyway.  Nobody was informed the class was cancelled so we all took time out (from our busy days) to teach the class.  I at least found out about the cancellation by going to Pronet so I didn’t have to drive all the way out to Reno town mall to find out about it.  The people that they got to help me didn’t find out about it at all until no one showed up over there.

After I found out that I wasn’t teaching, I went to mail my mom a bottle of Rum (who knew they won’t let you mail booze).  Failing that mission too, I decided to stop in to several small businesses and see if they needed any computer help.  Not really.  I did have a really delicious burger at the place over by the shell station on the corner of Vista and Baring.  I will find out the name and edit this post at a later time to fill it in.  It was REALLY worth stopping in.  The Bacon cheese burger with a Large drink was less than 5 bucks.

I got back out to the car where I had unwisely left my cell phone, and found out that I had two panicked calls from my usual helpers for the Wednesday computer class.  Nobody told THEM the class was canceled even AFTER I had shown up at Pronet having not been told myself.  If tomorrow’s class is cancelled, I think I’ll just uncancel it and teach it anyway.

I could say something about why a volunteer organization can’t be run as well as one that people are paying for, but it’s been my experience that they are. (Every bit as well.)

P.S.  I found out that although they won’t let you mail rum, they WILL let you mail a bottle of vinegar.  (well of course that’s what’s in there…)

Posted in Sparks Nevada computer repair, Teaching Computers | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Latest computer class

Last Wednesday, I checked the voice mail on my phone and I’d received a message from the new class organizer for the computer class I have been teaching the last few weeks.  I had to leave the Pronet meeting early on Monday and the person who had been appointed the new class organizer could not get a hold of me.  I don’t know why she didn’t get contact information from Pronet or from the previous class organizer, but it didn’t happen.  I found out I had been replaced as teacher.

Somehow, I managed to get fired from a job that I wasn’t even being paid to do.  I think that’s quite an accomplishment.  They were upset at the performance of my students last week because only two people were successful at setting up their email address.  It seems that when setting up a Hotmail account, if you guess wrong on the “Mystery Characters” at the end of the setup process three times, you are locked out of completing the sign up process for one day.  Somehow, everybody in class but one did exactly that.  You must understand that almost every one of these people have never sat down in front of a computer.  Most can’t touch type so they don’t know where the keys are, and they’ve never used a mouse.  The second person to get an email account that day was locked out of the Hotmail system, but I stayed after and helped them set up a Yahoo account.

The reason we left Google Mail as a provider and went to yahoo was because we were prevented from finishing the sign up process on that program because of some kind of server problem at the Reno Job Connect office.  I understand that they have fixed that problem.  The reason I left Yahoo and went to Hotmail was because there was a second set of Mystery characters at the first use of the Yahoo account that I was afraid would push my students right 0ver the edge.

Although I didn’t teach last Wednesday, I did help people in the class.  There were 11 students and I helped the 6 people in the two rows in the back of the room.  I absolutely did NOT allow them to fail to get their email accounts up.  I’m not sure this is a good thing, as I did some of the work myself in getting the students set up.  Since the class organizers are basing their idea of success on how many students get their email address set up, I guess this class will be seen as a ringing success.  I’m not sure how many of the students I was “helping” will be able to get on a computer and actually USE their email account, but we will probably never hear about that.

I looked at about five different free email setup accounts yesterday and they were all about the same.  There is really no way of making them any easier that I can think of.  You have to select a user name and password, and they all have the “secret question” and the “Mystery Characters” in the sign up process.

If I teach the class this Wednesday again, I know what I will do differently.  Before we do any computer instruction, I will have my students write down a user name and password.  I will make SURE they write down a user-name and password.  I will go to everybody’s desk and VERIFY THAT THEY HAVE WRITTEN DOWN A USER-NAME AND PASSWORD!  This will end a lot of the confusion we have been having setting up an email account.

As usual, I’ll keep you posted….

Posted in Not working, Teaching Computers | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Advertising at the Rib Cookoff

On Friday, I made up some signs with “BlivitDesign.com Computers!” and my special logo, and I put them up in strategic locations at the “Best in the West Rib Cookoff”.  This is an annual Bacchanalia in Sparks where we pig out (!) on pork ribs, beer, corn on the cob, margaritas, and various other delights for about 5 days.

The signs stayed up for at least two days through Friday and Saturday.  I put up three signs and when I went back on Monday, there was one sign still up. (These were pretty cool signs so I would imagine people wanted to take them down for souvenirs.)

My Sign

This is the artwork for my sign

I have since heard that this years Rib Cookoff had a record crowd of half a million people.  The signs were out there where people could see them, but for some reason, it didn’t seem to generate any web traffic.

My next try is going to be putting up signs on the roadside in a Burma Shave manner.  (Oh yeah sure.  I bet EVERYONE remembers Burma Shave….)  I think I need to stress that the first half hour of computer service is FREE.

I guess no business takes off over night.  I do have another client waiting for me tomorrow morning.  I think he is another person that has no money though.

I had fun at the rib cookoff.  I was there twice on Friday, once on Saturday, and once on Monday.  Lots of good food  (and of course, Great Basin Beer http://www.greatbasinbrewingco.com).  I took some pictures with my phone camera.  Check them out at http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=71423&id=1630646763&l=1d4609f6d8.  My personal favorite was Butch’s on Friday at lunch time.  That was when the ribs were cooked to perfection.  I guess the winner this year was “Bone Daddy’s” but I never made it over to that place this time around.

I bet somebody took my signs down on Sunday morning.  I have no way of knowing.  One person emailed me and told me he saw one of my signs.  I have to write him back and find out when he was down there.

I’ll keep everybody posted (all of my many fans) as to how the advertising campaign is coming along.  This could take a while (what about flashing exploding signs?).  Maybe I could stand out on the street corner dancing and waving around a BlivitDesign sign huh?  Maybe I could get into shape doing that.  One thing I have to do is get some bigger signs, and get some car door magnets for both my and my wifes car.

Tomorrow, I’m off to teach my computer class again.  I’m going back to Gmail, because Hotmail locked so many people out before they could finish signing up. (three strikes and you’re out for a day).  As usual, I’ll keep you posted.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Computer Repair Client

I got another client yesterday for the computer repair portion of my business.  The repair part was fairly straight forward.  The computer had 13 Trojans on it (MS Word demands that Trojan be capitalized since I must be talking about the sports team).  These Trojans were preventing my client from going on the internet.  I removed the Trojans and the internet connection started working.  It worked with Firefox, but I never did see it working with Internet Explorer.  He told me that it never HAS worked with Internet Explorer and that it was just a feature(?) of his ISP.  I didn’t feel very good about that but my time there was limited.  I also installed a new anti-virus anti-malware program, redid his home page, made an easy link to his email account on Firefox, and set up and installed his printer/scanner/fax machine.  It all went OK, but I still think his computer is running slower than it should be.  The fact that it won’t go on the internet using IE is vexing, and I feel that a more thorough hardware test is in order.  Maybe I’ll just have to go over there and do it for no charge.  I hate walking away from a job with that feeling that something just isn’t right.  What I really felt like doing was a complete re-installation of Windows, but we all know what a pain that can turn out to be. (Comments?  Suggestions? Taunts?)

Posted in Running a home business, Sparks Nevada computer repair | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Another Computer Class

I taught another computer class in Reno yesterday.  I teach a beginning computer class at the Reno Job Connect office in the Reno Town Mall for unemployed adults. These are people who are finding out that many employers will only accept online job applications, and that you need to have an email address to apply.  This is a class that introduces people to the computer that have never actually used a computer.  We teach the basics of mouse movement, the computer desktop, Microsoft Word (2003) and setting up and using an email account with Hotmail (at least that’s our latest free email try).

I thought the class went well, but I think some of the students were less than thrilled. I went over almost all of the pitfalls that have bedeviled my students in the past.  I had two helpers instead of three.  It was a full class and I started out with 11 students.  One of my students got a call on his cell phone about 10 minutes into the class and he never returned.  I hope it wasn’t anything serious.  We got through the “mouse training” part of the class OK, and the MS Word part seemed to be alright too.  When we got to the email set up, I ran into problems.

First, they have to find a user name that no one else has used.  I told them that when they found a user name they could use, write it down on the handout, and then write down their choice of a password.  Most of them wrote their first choice for a user name down before they found out if it was available, and then didn’t write their password down at all.  I don’t know what I can do to get people to pay attention.

Maybe if I dressed up like Ronald McDonald people would take me more seriously (or maybe pay attention at least).

The biggest hurdle seemed to be the messed up text at the end of the email setup process.  This is where the computer displays a nonsense word with all the letters distorted for the user to type in.  With Hotmail, it is sometimes very difficult to read the letters in the nonsense word.  It’s supposed to be impossible for a computer program to read, not a person.

Something else about Hotmail that I found out was that if you try three times to set up the email address and fail, Hotmail makes you wait a day to make another attempt.  This really messes things up for my students who are taking a two hour class in order to come out of it with an email address they can use to apply for a job.

Next week maybe I’ll go back to Gmail.  The problem I was having with Gmail was that about half the computers in the class locked up just as the students were completing the set up process.  I think Yahoo was having similar problems.

Maybe someone can suggest to me a free email site that doesn’t have the drawbacks of Yahoo, Gmail, and Hotmail.  The class is supposed to last two hours, but I’ve never finished in less than two hours and fifteen minutes and some of my students don’t end up with a usable email address (drat!).  You can leave a comment at the end of this post with any suggestions you might have for me…

Posted in Running a home business, Teaching Computers | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Pictures from my trip to Austin.

I told everyone about my trip to Austin, but I didn’t include any pictures. Here is a link.
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=62737&id=1630646763&l=f837a152c0
I think anyone can go there. I also left favorable reviews for the Cozy Mountain Inn and Middlegate Station bar/restaurant at Yapp and TripAdvisor.

Posted in Family Time, Not working, Using online resources | Tagged | 2 Comments

What you don’t know, can hurt you.

Most people think that if they install an antivirus program from some company with a BIG well-known name, they’re protected.  Unfortunately, this isn’t always true.

The best way to get infected is to open up every email attachment from everyone you don’t know and clicking on these attachments to execute them.  If you never open up an attachment from somebody you don’t know, you can still get infected just from your day to day web surfing activities.

Usually, people don’t call me about their computers until they are so clogged up with malware that they will barely boot, or they can’t get on the internet any more.  PLEASE DON’T WAIT THIS LONG!!

Usually you can keep your own computer in good shape just by doing a weekly scan with Malwarebytes’ anti-malware.  It’s a free program ( http://www.malwarebytes.org/mbam.php ) and it’s very effective at removing those nasty’s.

If you don’t do it, your computer could (without your knowledge) be enlisted in a vast Zombie Computer Army that could go out and ruin the internet for everybody.

Malwarebytes is a great program (It’s even better if you get the version you pay for) but it doesn’t protect against viruses.  Viruses are a little harder to catch from just web surfing.  I usually use an active anti-virus program to detect and prevent virus infestation.  Panda Cloud anti-virus is a good one. It has a free version too.  You can get it on the CNET site http://download.cnet.com/Panda-Cloud-Antivirus-Free-Edition/3000-2239_4-10914099.html

If you want even better protection, you can buy these programs.  This would make the programmers happy too!

Posted in malware, Sparks Nevada computer repair, Using online resources | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Fixing anything

After I fixed the water heater, and the washing machine, and the central air conditioner, my wife thinks I can fix anything.  I got a call Friday from a local machine shop (the guy knows my wife) who had a CNC machine that they picked up used and it isn’t able to spin the work piece in a forward direction.  They had a partial set of schematics, but I wasn’t able to tell what all the sub-assemblies were, and they are using different symbols for all of their electronic parts.  Their symbol for a transformer (for instance) looks like two resistors in an outline with a single bar between them.  The only reason I could tell it was supposed to be a transformer because it had (apparently) 100 volts on one side and 200 volts on the other.

This drives me nuts.  In the electronics industry, we have a perfectly reasonable set of symbols that we use for all of our electronic parts.  When you look at a schematic for an automobile, or an air conditioner, or a CNC machine, they use a completely new set of symbols to describe the same thing.  It didn’t help that much of the text was also in Japanese.

And another thing… I decided to get dressed up to go see the guy in the machine shop.  Big mistake.  I couldn’t even crawl all over the CNC machine with my good clothes on (without ruining them) so the guy had to do all the crawling around.  I might be able to fix that thing (or at least find out what is wrong with it) if I had a week or more.  It’s really hard without some kind of wiring diagram and maybe some pictures to tell me what the heck is going on with the signals.  Somehow, the big ass electric motor must be commanded to change direction, but I couldn’t figure it out with the cursory inspection that I gave it (at least not in my good clothes).  Maybe I could take CNC machine mechanics school or something.  I would probably have to go to Japan to do it though.  In case anyone doesn’t know, a CNC machine is a computer controlled milling machine.  It is a big metal lathe that is controlled by a computer program.  This particular device was built sometime in the 80’s

Posted in Sparks Nevada computer repair | Tagged | 9 Comments

Teaching Computers to the uninitiated

I taught my forth computer literacy class at the Reno Job Connect center at Reno Town Mall (formerly Old Town Mall).  My students are people who have avoided computers for all of their lives.  Mostly people who have gotten caught out in this crappy economy and who have been working for years.  Probably the last time they applied for a job, they filled out an application at the place of business and just turned it in like everyone has done in the past.

I found out that employers no longer operate that way.  Now, you can’t get anyone to talk to you if you haven’t already filled out an application on line.  You also need to have an email address before anyone will try to contact you.  If you’ve never used a computer before in your life, this can be very intimidating.

First, I tell people how important basic computer skills are (they already know usually) and then I tell them to go out and buy a thumb drive (flash drive, USB flash drive, etc.) so they can store their vital information on it and take it from computer to computer.

Next, I show them the mouse.  You’d be surprised at how difficult it can be using a mouse if you’ve never put your hand on one (even once).  I’ve had some folks that tried to steer their mouse like a car to get to different places on the screen (Lord help them if the pointer is above the thing they want on the screen). The first thing I tell them is to keep the cord facing the monitor.  Sometimes there is a language barrier (and I don’t mean that I’m speaking Tech Talk).  You can never be sure someone understands you even if they smile and nod their head a lot.  I tell them about the buttons, double clicking, click and drag, context menus (right click), and the scroll wheel.  This can be very confusing.  Sometimes they discover that the scroll wheel will act as a button too, and this leads to no end of trouble.  I always tell people that they need to play some computer solitaire so they can get more used to the mouse.  I don’t know if they will, but it is an excellent way of gaining skills with a mouse.

I show them some of the important keys on the keyboard like shift, caps lock, Ctrl, Esc, space bar, Enter, and Tab.  Then I proceeded on and forgot what I told them about how to use the Tab key to move between boxes on a form.

Next, we start up MS Word. The version of Word we are using is 2003, so if they get on one of the newer versions, they’re hosed.  Sometimes I think we should be using Notepad or at most WordPad because it’s so much simpler than MS Word.

I have them type some things, maneuver around in their text with the arrow keys and the mouse, use the backspace and delete keys, and then save a file.

I’m pretty sure this goes in one ear and out the other, but they do have a handout that they can take home that may be some help.

The last thing we do is help them set up an email account.  This usually takes up the remainder of the two hour class.  I usually run two hours and fifteen minutes easy.  We’ve tried yahoo mail and gmail.  Now we are using Hotmail.  The ladies in the class always get a kick out of my use of the term “Hotmail”.  They think I’m talking about myself.

None of these email programs are very easy to use.  Yahoo and Gmail keep locking up before they are finished.  I usually get about 8 out of 10 people to successfully set up their email account.  If I do the work for them, I don’t think they will be able to log on by themselves.  I really hope that I’m helping these people.  I think one lady has signed up for my class for the third time.

One thing I always have to watch out for is speaking in Jargon.  I can usually tell when I’m doing this by the blank stares.  Also, sometimes I get carried away explaining some cool thing you can do with windows when they haven’t mastered the double click yet.

The saddest part of this is that it is all volunteer work….

More on the subject later.

Posted in Not working, Teaching Computers | Tagged , , | 2 Comments