Carolyn asked: I’ve been using Yahoo! as my home page for years, and today when I turned on my laptop and loaded the browser, everything looked completely different. And, to be honest, Office 365 looked different today than it used to as well. Is my laptop broken?
We can’t tell you how often we get asked, usually by family members: “Suddenly, my computer looks different. Is it broken?” We always chuckle a little because it never is. The problem is that Carolyn (and perhaps a family member) was using web-based services, and the user interfaces for these services change regularly. Whether the user interface changed because the vendor wanted to add functionality or whether the vendor changed the interface in order to simply “spice things up,” the changes can be confusing. The funny thing is the day before Carolyn asked this question, Ken noticed an article in the Wall Street Journal about the user interface change —it was that big a change!
The fact is when you rely on an online service, you can be guaranteed that sooner or later, the user interface will change. You need to be willing at any point to look around on the screen and locate the information you need. You don’t have any control over where Yahoo, or any other online service, puts the various bits of its online information, so it’s up to you to be flexible and peruse the screen. We certainly know people who cannot function when a single icon on their screen changes location, much less the entire user interface. In this case, both Yahoo and Microsoft’s Office 365 had updated their interfaces in the same week, so we guess it could appear that the computer was somehow “broken,” when, in fact it was just progress. As you well know (and to misquote Heraclitus, that famous Greek philosopher), the only constant in the computer industry is change.
Easy way to share photos
Jerry asked: I have photos on my phone, and I want to be able to display them on the web so anyone can look at them. I’ve looked at services like Flicker and Google+, and they’re too complicated for me. Is there some brain-dead simple way to share photos publicly without having to do any work at all?
There are certainly a ton of photo-sharing services out there (not to generalize, but it seems that the millennials feel the need to share every detail of their lives in the public eye, something we baby boomers have a hard time with). Pinterest (pinterest.com) is one of the most popular, and its apps for phones are simple to use. It isn’t really what Jerry was looking for, however — he wants to be able to create online photo albums that his friends and family can peruse, and he doesn’t want to have to upload each photo individually.
We’ve mentioned our favorite solution here several times in the past, but it continues to do the best job with the least effort, as far as we’re concerned: Dropbox. Not only does DropBox make it simple to share files, it handles photos specially, automatically creating an online photo album for the photos. You simply create a new folder inside the Photos album in your DropBox folder, and DropBox creates a nice display of the images in the folder as a photo album online. Another great alternative is Copy.com, a newer file-sharing service. Copy.com doesn’t require you to place your photos in a special folder — if it detects that a folder contains photos, it provides a nice user interface for viewing the photos.
Both services are free, and using either of the following links gets you some extra free space when you sign up. For DropBox, use http://db.tt/61wCYxV. For Copy.com, use https://copy.com?r=YMHsL9. Both services do a great job displaying photos publicly without any extra effort on your part.
Doug Behl and Ken Getzspent years answering technical questions in private, and are minimizing the questions by pre-emptively publishing the answers. Hear Doug and Ken’s tech tips on KNCO radio weekdays at around 8:21a.m. and 5:38 p.m.; find full write-ups including links to the products they mention at http://blog.techtipguys.com. Submit your own technical questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.