Friday, October 17, 2008

Em dash, en dash, copyright, trademark and other useful ascii character shortcuts, tips and Alt key codes

First of all, did you realize you can type in characters such as those on the next line?
▐▀█▄▌— · – ♫ ♪ … ♥ ‼ » ►◄ ☺ ♦ ♣ ♠ ₪  ≡ ░░░ ▓▓▓ ™, ©, ½, ± etc

Dashes and quotation marks are among the handiest to know. But for IM and micro-blogging services like Twitter, wouldn't it be nice to know how to type ♥?

You could just bookmark an ascii example quick-reference page like this one or this one and copy and paste the characters as you need them. For Twitter or places where there is a character limit, notice the the ellipses (…) and double exclamation marks (‼) in the symbols above are each just one character (try selecting just one of those "periods!)

But there are several tricks to make them easier to access. In Microsoft Word, you can just try to Insert>Symbol and then find them from a list. Or for example, if you type three periods (...) and then press space, it will be converted into the single ellipses character in Microsoft Word. But most useful to know is how to create the em and en dashes and different “curly” quotes. (Put these on a post-it note on your computer for handy reference):

Creating an Em dash —
This works on most Windows computers: 

  • On the keyboard: hold down the alt key and type 0151 on the number pad (make sure num lock is on)
  • The Microsoft Word trick: With no spaces type two hypens (minus signs) after a word, type another word (or any character) and then press space. The hypen will elongate into an em dash.
Creating an En dash –
This is the slightly shorter dash. Similar tips here:
  • On the keyboard: hold down alt and type 0150 on the number pad (make sure num lock is on)
  • The Microsoft Word Trick: type any word, then type space hyphen space (" - ") then type another word (or any character) and then press space. The hypen will elongate into an en dash.
Curly quotes
  • ‘    Curly single open quote ALT + 0145
  • ’    Curly single close quote ALT + 0146
  • “    ALT + 0147 (Tip: on a num pad, this uses all the keys on the left)
  • ”    ALT + 0148

Automating curly quotes in Word

Microsoft Word automatically changes straight quotation marks ( ' or " ) to curly (smart or typographer's) quotes (’‘or“”) as you type, and you can turn this feature on or off:
1.    On the Tools menu, click AutoCorrect Options, and then click the AutoFormat As You Type tab.
2.    Under Replace as you type, select or clear the "Straight quotes" with "smart quotes" check box.

You can also find and replace all instances of single or double curly quotes with straight quotes in a Word document. To do this, clear the "Straight quotes" with "smart quotes" check box on the AutoFormat As You Type tab. On the Edit menu, click Replace. In both the Find what and Replace with boxes, type ' or ", and then click Find Next or Replace All. To replace all straight quotes with curly quotes, select the "Straight quotes" with "smart quotes" check box, and repeat the find and replace procedure.

Other useful keyboard shortcuts:

  • –   Endash … Alt+0150 (see above for Word trick)
  • —  Emdash … Alt+0151 (see above for Word trick)
  •  •   Bullet … Alt+0149 
  • ·     Centered Period/dot/small bullet … Alt+0183
  • ¼ One Quarter/Fourth … Alt+0188
    ½ One Half … Alt+0189
  • © Copyright Symbol … Alt+0169
  • ® Registered Symbol … Alt+0174
  • ™ Trademark Symbol … Alt+0153
  • …  Ellipses … Alt+0133
  • ±  Plus/Minus Symbol … Alt+0177
  • °   Degree/Ring Symbol … Alt+0176
  • ²   Squared Symbol … Alt+0178
  • ³   Cubed Symbol … Alt+0179
  • ยต   Mu Symbol … Alt+0181
Fun symbols:
Here's a great list you can use from your browser toolbar (follow the tip under the icons to drag the link to your toolbar). Many of these less usual ones you may need to cut and paste, unless you are in Microsoft Word.

  • ♥   Alt+9829
  • ☺ Alt+9786
  • ► Alt+9658
  • ♪  Alt+9834
  • ♫ Alt+9835
  • ♀ Alt+9792
  • ♂ Alt+9794
  • ♦ Alt+9830
  • † Alt+0134
Related word processing keystrokes:
Nonbreaking Space … Esc-space-h
Nonbreaking Hyphen … Esc-(hyphen)-h
Straight Quote Single … Ctrl+'
Straight Quote Double … Esc "
Foreign characters and Math symbols

General basics everyone should know
This is from the New York Times (click the headline above). This is a very short must read. If you know it all, send the article to the people who look to you for help. It's short, and there are also a lot of great tips in the comments.

Read more!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Greenspan now agrees there is a need for regulation, admits accountability?

Alan Greenspan is famous for not making clear what he's thinking. But he was clear about one thing: he said markets should be deregulated.

Those favoring market regulation said people can't be trusted not to act in their own self-interest, and so markets need regulation. Regulators felt that humans were vulnerable to motives of greed and power, and that creating opportunities for people to indulge their greed caused people to demonstrate a lack of integrity.

Now the New York Times points out that Greenspan says the reason markets failed is because people can't be trusted not to act in their own self-interest.

As the Times summarizes: "The problem is not that the contracts failed, [Greenspan] says. Rather, the people using them got greedy. A lack of integrity spawned the crisis, he argued in a speech a week ago at Georgetown University, intimating that those peddling derivatives were not as reliable as “'the pharmacist who fills the prescription ordered by our physician.'”

“In a market system based on trust, reputation has a significant economic value,” Mr. Greenspan told the audience. “I am therefore distressed at how far we have let concerns for reputation slip in recent years.” Or as he said in an earlier time: “There is nothing involved in federal regulation per se which makes it superior to market regulation.”

The New York Times reports that in 2000, speaking to Congress, "Mr. Greenspan said that Wall Street could be trusted. 'There is a very fundamental trade-off of what type of economy you wish to have,' he said. 'You can have huge amounts of regulation and I will guarantee nothing will go wrong, but nothing will go right either.'”

So really, is Alan signaling that he agrees with the need for regulation? Here's a summary:

  • Regulators: People demonstrate a lack of integrity when given opportunities to indulge in greed. They need to be regulated so they will not abuse the system for their own self-interest.
  • Greenspan: People using derivatives got greedy. A lack of integrity spawned the current crisis. The market would have worked properly if people had more integrity.
  • Conclusion: Greenspan agrees in principle with those who seek more regulation, and (almost) admits some accountability in creating the mess we're in.

Okay, he finally came out and admitted his error.

Read more!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Solving multimedia problems on Vista

A video production user with many Directshow filters and plugins installed simultaneously (they take video from many different formats, hack them and put them back together) found this was a huge help to them. They had to import lots of video not native to the program they needed to use, or needed to use a media splitter/demuxer to fool the application into importing the video at all.

Got high cpu loads caused by audio/video apps hanging, or related to the "Multimedia Class Scheduler?"

If you are an advanced Vista users, visit and after you uninstall Quicktime and anything that relies on Quicktime (such as itunes), install:

  • K-lite codec package
  • Quicktime Alternative
  • Quicktime-itunes addon
If you edit, process, or format video for a variety of devices, this will help media apps dependent on media splitting, demuxing, or importing through directshow from hanging and using a high percentage of your cpu cycles.

Almost anyone who works heavily with media can benefit from the K-lite codec package.

I put it on virtually every system I configure or maintain. And if you've been having Quicktime/iTunes issues, is a good place to know about. Anyway, as Joe Glessner at says, "Never install iTunes on a Windows machine. There are other options for managing your iPod, and iTunes is a resource hog."

Read more!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Blue Screen of Death: Common Windows Stop errors and what to do

If you use Windows, one day you may see the dreaded "Blue Screen of Death," cryptic information on a blue background obliterating the screen and requiring a forced shut down.

What to do? Here's one idea: print out this list of common BSOD errors (from DailyGeeks) and  keep it handy.

Common Windows services

If you're troubleshooting, you might want to Ctrl-Alt-Del to bring up the Windows Task Manager and view the processes tab to see what's running. Ditto for looking at the Windows Event Viewer when trying to see what happened. Click the link above to view the most common running services.

Read more!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Update your website yourself: get kompozer free, and use free web templates

Every time I check, I read that most businesses that want to have a web site, don't have one. Some business owners have had a site, or started the process to get a site, but eventually still ended up not having a site. Others have a site, but don't know how to update it themselves so they either get rid of it, or pay someone to update it for them.

If you can send an email link, you can create  your own website.

There is an excellent, free and very easy to use program called kompozer that makes updating and creating websites nearly as simple as writing emails. My advice is simple: Get this free program right now! (If you are a web developer and want to help your friends and clients, start by downloading KompoZer portable to a USB drive.) Kompozer is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get program (WYSIWYG) like Microsoft Word.

If you feel unsafe clicking links, go to and search for " kompozer" (CNET's safe downloading site) or just "download kompozer." Otherwise, click here and follow CNET's instructions. It doesn't install ads, spyware or anything of any kind you wouldn't want on your computer. In fact, there is no installation process. It just lets you create and update website pages.

But, download the software now, before reading further. Do it NOW! If you don't use it later, fine. But if you want to use it one day, it will be on your computer, and you won't have to find this download link again. I suggest saving it to your desktop so you can find it easily. So: stop reading, and download the software first. Right now!

Start using KompZer

It's a relatively small program, and won't interfere with the operation of your computer in any way, so the next step is copy it somewhere so you can use it. Right now. No installation necessary. Double click on the file that was downloaded to your computer and a window will open. There will be a folder named "Kompozer" with a number after it. Copy that folder to your desktop (or wherever you wish) and double click on the folder. Look for the file named kompozer (or kompozer.exe). Double click that file and the program will open.

Type a few words in the big empty space in the right-hand area of the window that opens. Now highlight a word or two and experiment with clicking the a A B I U letters in the toolbar near the top of the window. These will make your words Bold (B), Italic (I) and so forth. You are now formatting text on a web page!

KompoZer tutorial and user guide

Next step: either read this kompozer short tutorial, or keep playing with the program to familiarize yourself with it. I suggest not using the help within the program. Instead, for the KompoZer user guide, click here. Really: click the link for the user guide. You won't find this information easily anwhere else.

Here's a useful tip for editing an existing page: type within what you want to change so the formatting stays the same. Say you had yellow bold text and highlighted text you wanted to keep (for example). Follow this three-step example:

  1. This is the page before editing 
  2. Type inside the existing words when making changes:
    This Different words go here is the page before and more words here editing 
  3. Then delete the words you don't want:
    Different words go here  and more words here
If you want to use the formatting from one part of a page on another part of the page, copy some of what you want to the new location, then type inside as shown above.

Formatting on a web page can be endcoded in many different ways. If you are editing something that is already formatted, save yourself the headache of learning about CSS and HTML formatting and just use the above method to ensure you keep what is already working on your page.

Advanced tip for updating your site

Once you have a website that you are working on, you will be creating or updating pages on your computer, and then sending them to the website so the world can see them. The "sending" part is done by what is called "ftp." I use Kompozer for editing, and a separate program for sending by ftp (which just means "file transfer protocol"). The site manager sidebar in Kompozer works fine for this, but is missing one option: automatically send all updated pages.

If you want a one-click solution that will automatically update your website with whatever changes you have made, read this article about using a separate program for ftp. Works on Window, Mac, Linux, etc.

Use design templates to create your own site

Here are some great sites that give away excellent free website designs:

Alternatives for free WYSIWYG design software for creating an add-free site on your own domain

Blogger is one service that lets you have your own domain, and still use their hosting, templates and editor. Unlike many other free services, they don't require you to show their ads. Some I've seen that look like a good fit (but that I haven't tried) include:
Continuing education and advanced techniques


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