I was going to write a long and drawn out post explaining what SOPA and PIPA are, why enacting them into law would fundamentally change the internet for Americans in a distressingly negative way, and what you could do to make your opposition heard AND counted. However, this infographic combined with this one-sheet breakdown from EFF and this easily digestible website from Google do the job much better than I could have on my own.

So, here’s what you can do right now to stop these two poorly written and ultimately draconian bills from becoming law.

The Simple, Fast and Easy method:
Go to Google’s Anti-SOPA/PIPA site, fill out the form on the right and click “Sign the Petition”.

The Slightly More Involved Method:
1) Look up your senator to find out if he/she supports or opposes.

2) Click on your appropriate representative’s photo or name to get their contact information.

3) Print out the following on a piece of actual paper, sign it and physically mail it to your Senator.

I am writing to you as a voter in your district. I urge you to oppose S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act. The PROTECT IP Act is dangerous, ineffective, and short-sighted. It does not deserve floor consideration. I also urge my representative to vote “no” on SOPA, the corresponding House bill.

Over the coming days you’ll be hearing from the many businesses, advocacy organizations, and ordinary Americans who oppose this legislation because of the myriad ways in which it will stifle free speech and innovation. We hope you’ll take our concerns to heart and oppose this legislation by voting “no” on cloture.

4) Share this post with EVERYONE you know so they can add their voice to the opposition of SOPA/PIPA.

PowerPoint Killed the Video Star

So, you’re getting ready for a big meeting where you’re going to give a presentation to all the bigwig muckity-mucks at your company. Your boss, and even his boss, will be in attendance to hear what you’ve got to say. You’ve spent all week crafting the perfect PowerPoint presentation to wow them with on Monday and now, on Friday at 4:30pm, you are ready to add all the flair and pizazz that you just KNOW is going to get you a promotion.

It’s time to add the videos and music.

You’re no rookie presenter, you’ve been using PowerPoint for almost your entire career, so you know exactly what you need to do to insert your videos and music. You make sure they’re all in the same folder as your PowerPoint presentation and that they’re all in a file format that PowerPoint can use (WMV or AVI for movies and all your music is MP3). Heck, you even went online and made sure your computer’s CODECs were up to date. What could possibly go wrong? You smile as you remember how Smitty’s presentation flopped last year when his video of cats dancing to the Macarena didn’t play during his big presentation because he thought a MOV file could play in PowerPoint on a PC. What a moron. It’s his own fault that he was transfered to shipping with no hope of a promotion. He should know that MOVs are native to Macs and not PCs. He should have converted the files, or at least tested the presentation beforehand. He just got sloppy. The poor bastard.

But that’s not going to happen to you.

Smirking in your superiority, you click the “Insert Movie from File” button and insert the first video. Fifteen minutes later all five of your awesome movies are inserted and you’re ready to do a test run of The Greatest, Most Awesomest PowerPoint Presentation In The World Ever™. You start the show and go through your mental checklist of all the things a PowerPoint presentation must have in order to be considered AWESOME.

  • Light blue, gradated background? Check.
  • Yellow Comic Sans header text? Check.
  • Typewriter or laser sound effects for each bullet point? Check.
  • Wacky and “cool” animations for every-god-damned-thing on each and every slide? Check.
  • Some slides filled top to bottom with 25 bullet points in 8 point font? Check.
  • Indecipherable charts using every color of the rainbow? Double check.
  • Video of polar bears playing with giant rubber balls? Che… what?

The video isn’t playing.

This can’t be happening. It’s not possible. You checked everything, you made sure… DOUBLY sure, that the videos worked before you inserted them into your presentation. You spend the next two fricking days trying to figure out what the problem is but nothing seems to work. You convert the files to WMVs (again), but that doesn’t help. You make sure the videos are in the same folder as your presentation, which they are. You change your computer’s video settings, to no avail. You do the whole Windows Update thing, including updating MS Office, but still no video. It’s enough to drive you completely mad!

You cannot believe that you’re going to crash and burn like poor, stupid Smitty.

Then, after clicking through your billionth search result you stumble upon a possible fix that is so utterly, ridiculously, stupendously simple that you cannot believe it could possibly be right. But, because you’re already at your wit’s end, you decide to give it a try.

And, by great Odin’s beard, it works.

Fina-FRICKING-ly, your videos play correctly in PowerPoint. The Greatest, Most Awesomest PowerPoint Presentation In The World Ever™ is ready to wow your boss and get you that pomotion you’ve always wanted. Even better, you still have three hours before you need to get up for work so you can get a little sleep.

Maybe even take a shower, praise the lord.

As you drift off to sleep your mind wanders back to the genius on that message board from 6 years ago who pointed you to the solution that just saved your butt. The fix was so simple that you didn’t even need a special program or hacker skill set to implement it. All you needed to do was… and you STILL can’t believe it… shorten the filename and/or file path of the videos. How crazy is that? Somehow, even though Windows itself allows filenames (including the file path) to be up to 255 characters in length, mplay32.exe (the actual video player PowerPoint 2003 uses to play videos) can’t play a file with a filename (including the file path) longer than 124 characters! How the hell ANYONE would ever figure out that THAT was the problem when their videos didn’t play in PowerPoint is beyond you. Lord knows Smitty would have peed himself and resigned before he ever figured it out. Lucky thing you found that old message board or you might have been weighing packages and stamping boxes eight hours a day like that poor SOB.

Ah, who are you kidding? You’re a fricking GENIUS!

So, let that be a lesson to us all. If you must include an insipid piece of video trash in your PowerPoint presentation, keep your file paths and names as short as possible or your fabulous videos may not play properly. And we all know that without those stupid fricking videos in PowerPoint all your presentations would suck anal lint from angry badgers.

And for god’s sake, stop using Comic Sans!

Minor GMail Hack

If you’ve run into the GMail limit for checking your other email accounts using POP3 then you might find this helpful.

If you have a lot of email accounts all over the place and want to use GMail to manage all those accounts, you might have run into the limit GMail places on the number of accounts you can access using POP3. There is a quick and easy workaround for increasing the number WAY past the five that Google allows. All you need to do is create another GMail account that will access up to five of your email accounts and forward all the email it receives to your primary GMail account.

Simple, no?

For example, let’s say you need to check 10 email accounts but your main gmail account only allows you to check 5. So, if your main GMail account is “SuperDuperEmailMan@gmail.com” you could create another gmail account “SuperDuperEmailMan1@gmail.com”, have it check 5 of your email accounts and then forward all the mail it receives to “SuperDuperEmailMan@gmail.com”! There. Now you can create millions of email addresses and still check them from your main gmail account.

Go knock yourself out.

I Hate Thumbs

I was going to write a whole diatribe about Windows 7 and the usually un-deletable Thumbs.db files that clutter up the folders on your hard drive that contain pictures and/or videos and then give you step-by-step instructions on how to solve the annoying problem, but thanks to Technoleros I no longer need to spend the time doing it! Fred has written an excellent how-to post on fixing this annoying issue here so now I can spend my time doing far more important things…

Like eating Cheetos and watching Riptide.

Define Thyself

I wish people would stop mistaking me for a Nerd.

A lot of people keep calling me a Nerd without understanding that I’m a Geek, or even that there’s a difference between the two. So, since so many people don’t know the difference I think I’ll try to explain it here so everyone out there who wants to know can finally find the answer. Or at least my best attempt to answer this complex conundrum. And then, when some fool tells me that I’m a Nerd I can calmly tell them they’re mistaken and give them this URL so they can become educated on the subject and thus save their life because I won’t stab them in the uvula with a fountain pen.

My sincerest apologies, Frank. Get well soon.

In the hopes of making my personal definitions of Nerds and Geeks as simple and easy to comprehend as possible, I’ve tried to come up with a simple phrase to help describe the differences. Something that would be easy to remember. A defining catch-phrase that cleverly illustrated my point.

In that endeavor I failed miserably.

The best I could come up with was to co-opt and bastardize Bruce Lee’s famous description of Jeet Kune Do and liken Nerds and Geeks to water. But before I get to that, let me fully define to you the differences between Nerds and Geeks so you’ll fully grasp the utter lack of originality and cleverness of my catchphrase. That way, when you read it, you’ll have even greater joy as you write a hurtful and inflammatory comment making fun of me, my website, my lineage and my stupidity.

Hey, I always give the audience what they want.

So, to start off, how about we define what a Nerd is? OK, first off Nerds are fricking SMART. They usually have a vast and deep knowledge of a very narrowly defined subject like relational quantum mechanics or the theoretical viability of dimensional travel using man-made wormholes. Nerds are also, for the most part, socially awkward or even inept. They do not do well in public settings and have a really, really tough time interacting with figures of authority or people of the opposite sex. And if they are so unlucky as to be forced to attempt interaction with someone who is both a figure of authority AND a member of the opposite sex, then the poor Nerd will most likely spontaneously explode in fiery giblets from the sheer magnitude of their fright. Nerds usually have a very good sense of humor, but only if your IQ and area of expertise matches their own. Which is probably why 95% of the world thinks Nerds aren’t funny unless they’re getting into awkward situations on a sitcom, or involved in elaborate pratfalls in a movie.

Geeks, on the other hand, are also intelligent but just not to the extreme of a Nerd. They also have very large areas of knowledge and can carry on a conversation with nearly anyone as long as the conversation doesn’t get too deep into the minutia of a subject. You see, whereas a Nerd knows nearly everything in there area of expertise, a Geek knows a little bit about a vast amount of different subjects. Geeks want to know something about nearly everything that catches their fancy, while a Nerd usually only cares about knowing everything there is to possibly know the few things that interest them. This helps make Geeks far more socially adept than Nerds because a Geek can speak on a whole array of different subjects and thus integrate more easily with whatever social group he or she finds themselves engrossed in conversation with, while the poor Nerd would feel either ostracized or bored due to their lack of knowledge about whatever the subject du jour was. Lastly, a Geeks sense of humor is far more approachable to the average person because of, and due to, the Geeks wide pool of knowledge from which they can connect seemingly unconnected concepts. An obscure factoid gleaned during a late-night conversation with someone three years ago will, at the most opportune moment, be remembered by a Geek and used during a conversation today to make a hilarious punchline. In essence, Geeks thrive in social settings where they can use humor, while Nerds wither unless their expertise is being utilized.

Thus, the difference comes down to depth of knowledge (Nerd) vs. breadth of information (Geek).

This is why to me a nerd is like a very deep but frozen lake and a Geek is like a fast-moving but shallow river. Nerds are way, way, WAY smarter than Geeks on certain subjects and have a depth of knowledge on those subjects that few others could ever hope to comprehend, let alone match. Geeks on the other hand have larger areas of interest and thus a much wider pool of information to draw upon. Geeks know enough about nearly any subject to at least hold a conversation with someone where the Nerd simply could not. And that is why I classify myself as a Geek. I do fine in social settings, I can hold my own in nearly any conversation on almost any subject, but I’m just not anywhere near smart enough to be a Nerd. That’s not to say I’m not a little Nerdy on a few subjects (Anime anyone?), and I’m betting most people are Nerdy about a few things, but usually the differences between Nerds and Geeks spelled out above help to classify whether someone truly is a Nerd or a Geek.

Another way of putting it; Geeks are smart but Nerds make Geeks look stupid.

Nerds are frozen lakes with hidden depths of knowledge and Geeks are frothing rivers of information. If you want to have a conversation with someone where you’ll probably laugh while learning something new, talk to a Geek. If you want to truly understand a subject in great detail skip the Geek and go straight to a Nerd.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Presidential Freebie

Did you know you can spend money to buy money which SAVES YOU MONEY?

Do you have a rewards credit card? Does it offer you cash back for purchases? Then you can use this little “cash-hack” to earn rewards without really spending any money. For example, if your credit card offers you 1% cash back on purchases then you can use this little “hack” to earn that 1% and not actually spend any money while earning that reward. So if you spend $1,000 you’ll get $10 free. Spend $10,000 and you get $100. Spend $100,000 and… you’re an idiot. But you get the basic idea.

Free money?! But how?

Here’s how. The U.S. Mint is selling Presidential $1 coins at face value with free shipping and handling. That means you can buy money from the U.S. Mint, receive the money in the mail, deposit the money in your bank and then pay off your credit card with that money! See?! You can earn rewards from your credit cards and it doesn’t have to cost you anything at all. It’s even better if you have a rewards card with a higher cash back percentage, 3% is the current leader I believe, but any free money in this economy is good news, right?

Wow, never thought I’d live to see the day George Washington’s face on a coin gives me a woody.

Drop Shadow Kick

I know The Secret.

No, not that Secret, which I think is more of a con than a real secret. No, I’m talking about The Graphic Designer’s Secret to Fame and Fortune. What is this Secret, you ask? For years and years it’s been shrouded in mystery, kept hidden from the mere mortals who we, the Graphic Artist’s and Designers, call the Useless-If-Not-For-Their-Money “Paying Client”.

But now I set this Secret free.

This is the bestest money making secret a graphic designer has, and once you understand it’s power you too will be enabled and empowered to do the undoable. To please the unpleaseable. To make the mundane into the extraordinary.

How, you ask?

You wish to know this Secret? You want to please your boss and make his next PowerPoint presentation look so amazing that he promotes you right then and there? Well, here’s The Secret to unlocking your inner Graphic Designer. No matter what you’re designing, no matter what other artistic devices you might use and no matter what the artistic direction you’ve been given by those in charge… add a fricking drop shadow to EVERYTHING. Your client/boss/friends/family will go into joyspasms.

Drop Shadows kick ASS.

Geekgasm 360

I still got it.

Right now, I’m listening to music that resides on my networked attached storage device which is being piped through my home network to my home theater system. Some of you might not think this is such a big deal, and to you people I say, “You just don’t know.” This is SUCH a big deal, and not only because I’ve got the music playing over the network. No, that wouldn’t be very exciting since most people nowadays listen to their music through their computers, so of course my doing it is not big news.

Unless, of course, you take into account that I’m not using a computer.

Yeah, that’s right. No computer necessary for my music listening pleasure. I finally figured out how to directly stream music from my “server” (the aforementioned NAS) to my home theater sans computer. Why is playing music (soon to include picture slideshows and even movies) without needing a computer so important to me? One reason is that my NAS is always on but my computer isn’t. In fact, my computer has to travel with me when I go on the road for work which means if I’m not home then poor HoBiscuit wouldn’t be able to play ripped music or watch recorded movies until I returned.

And that would be bad.

Also, streaming directly from the NAS means that my computer is free to do other things, like photo editing, without having the added overhead of processing and streaming the music. And let me tell you, the less strain on my computer while I’m working on 500GB image files, the better. Now, if only I could figure out how to get the movies to stream without needing a computer to do the heavy lifting of on-the-fly transcoding, I’ll be in Geek heaven. The mere thought of watching all my… ahem, ‘free’ anime on the home theater’s 106″ screen has my mouth watering in anticipation.

And ohmygod, larger than life Pr0n!!!11

How Bizarro

I don’t like Superman.

I never really “got” Superman. He always seemed to be too much. Too powerful, too nice, too wonderful. It really irked me. I’m more of a flawed-hero or reluctant hero kind of guy, so I wasn’t in any rush to see the Superman Returns movie. But I got a copy this weekend and watched it and, while I enjoyed the movie, I came away from it with lots of questions. The more I thought about it, the less I liked the movie. And then, the less and less I liked the idea of a Superman character. But, after just a little while of thinking about it I began to… well, question the whole concept of the character. And I came to the conclusion that Superman, as a whole, is so flawed that it’s just dumb.

That’s right, I said it. Superman is dumb.

Superman, as a concept, sounds like a good character. A guy who can fly, shoot lasers from his eyes, lift a bajillion pounds and is invulnerable sure sounds like a great idea for a fun time, doesn’t it? But, even using the made-up logic of a comic book world or more recently of the movie world, Superman just doesn’t make sense. Let’s even forget the whole “flying so fast the world spins backward and time reverses itself” shenanigans and concentrate on simple things. Little things that, when looked at, cause the whole character and comic-movie world to fall apart.

How about we start with the sun?

Superman, no matter how human he might seem, is actually an alien who gets his powers from the sun because our sun is yellow and the sun from world he came from, Krypton, was red. Got that? Our yellow sun makes him Superman. Now, this alien planet he came from was so technologically advanced that they could shoot a baby into space, across millions of light-years, and not only keep that baby alive when it could not possibly eat anything on its own, but also land the spaceship on the far-away planet they chose without harming the child or ship. Amazing, right?

Then why the hell didn’t all those Kryptonians have super-powers?

All they needed was to change their red sun rays into yellow sun rays and voila! Instant Supermen and Superwomen. A race as techno-savvy as they were supposed to be couldn’t figure out that certain types of radiation would give them super-powers? Come on! That doesn’t make sense! But let’s forget about that. Let’s accept the fact that our yellow sun gives Superman his powers and no one on Krypton figured that out in time to save the planet from exploding and move on to other, even simpler things about Superman that don’t work.

How about sex?

Superman is not human. He’s an alien, with an aliens physiology. How amazing, how utterly astonishing it would be, for two species from two completely different worlds to be able to mate! I mean, a man and a monkey look pretty similar but can’t have offspring, yet somehow we are to believe that an alien and a human can just because they look outwardly similar?

But, OK. Let’s accept that, too.

Let’s say that somehow, through a miracle of evolution, Superman has the same equipment as humans do and he and Lois Lane have sex. What would happen? Well, sperm happen. And what are sperm? Basically, they are egg-seeking missiles. Their one mission is to find a female’s ovaries and fertilize an egg. So they swim upstream until they reach one and fertilize it, or die trying.

But, remember. These are Supersperm.

They wouldn’t be constrained by a woman’s body. They could reach their target at supersonic speeds by destroying any barrier in between it and its goal. Even the woman’s flesh itself. Plus, once the nearest egg was fertilized, the other 100 million sperm would seek out other eggs. And since these are supersperm they could fly around the world in seconds, impregnating 100 million women by ripping right through their bodies to reach their destination.

Doesn’t that sound wonderful?

There are a myriad of other problems with Superman. Like how the rock and dirt from his home world reached the earth at the same time as his ship, even though it should have taken those fragments millions of years. Or how about Kryptonite, Superman’s one weakness? Why is he weakened by it? Wouldn’t that mean he would have died at birth on his home world? And even if Kryptonite for some reason caused him to become ill, wouldn’t the yellow sun rays change the Kryptonite radiation into something harmless or even helpful to Superman? Yellow sun rays give Superman his powers, why wouldn’t it also make Kryptonian rocks good for him? But let’s say they do cause him harm, why aren’t there ever any lasting effects? If the sun heals him from the long-term effects, why not from the short term?

It’s crazy.

And how about the people around him? Despite the hundreds of photographs of Superman, no one thinks he and Clark Kent look alike? Lois Lane is such a bad investigative reporter that she can’t put two and two together when Clark disappears for the millionth time and Superman suddenly appears? Lex Luthor is a genius who can find Kryptonite almost anywhere whenever he needs it, but can’t figure out how to make Kryptonite bullets or a bomb? Doesn’t it all seem a bit… stupid?

But hey, what do I know? I’m a SpiderMan fan.

The 5 Steps: The Function

Or, what do you want the computer to do for you?

This is part 4 of an ongoing series devoted to helping people discover a better way to purchase a computer. In this series I am explaining in detail how I go about helping friends and family through the confusing process of making a computer purchase when they don’t know very much about computers, other than they need one, by pretending to have a conversation with a fictional friend named Sarah.

For those just joining us, click for parts 1, 2 and 3.

Sarah and I had been discussing my 5 Steps for buying a computer for about 10 minutes now and so far we had figured out her Budget and The Form she wanted the computer to come in. Since she had come to me nearly in a panic, overwhelmed by all the choices she thought she had to make about things she didn’t understand, I thought we were doing very well. Sarah must have thought the same because she actually smiled as she reached for her fifth cookie.

I tried not to smile as I took a bite of my first.

“So, GeekMan. What do you mean when you say ‘The Function’?”
“Well Sarah, when I say ‘The Function’ I’m talking about what the computer will do. Specifically, what you need the computer to be able to do to satisfy your computing needs.”
“How am I supposed to know that if I don’t know what my needs are yet?”
“Sarah, you already know what you want the computer to do, you just haven’t thought it all the way through and itemized it for yourself yet.”
“What you talking about, GeekMan?”

I couldn’t help but laugh. Sarah may not know much about computers, but she sure does a great Gary Coleman.

“That was great, Sarah.”
“Thanks, but the question still stands.”
“OK, let me try to answer you by asking you a few questions.”
“When you came to me for help you said you needed a computer, right?”
“Why did you need a computer?”
“Well, I’ve been staying later and later at my office, trying to catch up on all the work that’s been piling up, and I thought it would be a good idea to get a computer to use at home at night instead of staying so late at the office. Plus, sometimes my friends send me emails inviting me out but, because I can only read them when I’m in the office, I sometimes don’t get them until the next day, which is usually too late.”
“What programs do you use most at the office?”
“Not too many. Email, web browser, Excel, Word and the occasional PowerPoint presentation.”
“Anything else?”
“Well, sometimes, if I’m alone and working late, I listen to music.”
“OK Sarah, you’ve just described your computing needs.”
“I did?”

Sarah looked confused for a moment as she mentally reviewed the last few moments of our conversation, but she quickly realized that I was right and she gave me a sheepish smile.

“Oh, I see. You mean the computer I buy needs to allow me to work from home, surf the internet and listen to music, don’t you?”
“She can be taught!”
“Ok, ok. I admit it, I was a little slow to catch up there, but I did figure it out… eventually.”
“Yes, you did. Congratulations, have a cookie.”
“Don’t be mean. So, is that it? Is that really all I need to satisfy this step?”
“Not exactly. While we could stop now and find you a computer that fits your current needs very well, it probably wouldn’t grow with you as well as it should. What we’ve got so far are just your basic needs, the things this computer needs to be able to do at a bare minimum to satisfy your computing needs. Now we begin the dreaming phase, where you think about all the things you might want to try doing with the computer in the future.”
“Well, I don’t really know what else I’d like to do, really.”
“Alright, let’s start with a few more questions that might help.”
“OK, do you own a digital camera?”
“Oh yeah! I’ve got one of those cute little ones, and it takes great pictures! I’m always taking pictures of my friends whenever we get together. So much so, that a lot of them make fun of me for it.”
“So, would you like to be able to edit those pictures on the computer?”
“I guess so. But I know that the best way to do that is with PhotoShop, but I can’t afford to buy that, can I?”
“I wouldn’t recommend it, especially since it would probably be overkill for simple photo editing and printing. But there are plenty of alternative to PhotoShop out there, from free software widely available on the net, to products like PhotoShop Elements or Paint Shop Pro for under $100. It’s not necessary to know which product you want to buy right now, although that would help. You just need to know what you might want to do on the computer so we can get one that will be able to handle doing it.”
“I see. So you’re saying I can start with a free or cheaper version of the software I might need to do whatever it is I want to try doing, but I’ll need to make sure the computer itself can handle doing it before we buy it.”
“Exactly. Going back to the car analogy again, it’s like buying a truck with the expectation that one day you might need to haul something. Or buying something with four-wheel drive and low gears because your area gets a lot of snow during winter and you don’t want to get stuck. Or buying a minivan because you’re planning on having kids someday. None of those scenarios might ever happen while you have the car, but if they do you’ll know your car can do what you need it to do.”
“Very Nice.”

Sarah’s impersonation skills were really good and I couldn’t help but laugh at her dead-on impersonation of Borat.

“OK, so now that you understand you don’t need to spend a whole lot on the software right away, do you think you’d be interested in photo editing in the future?”
“Yeah, I think I’d really like that.”
“Great, then we’ll make sure we spec out a computer powerful enough to be useful for photo editing but still within your budget.”
“Sounds good. Anything else?”
“Do you think you’d ever want to watch movies on your computer?”
“I don’t think so. I mean, I’ve got a TV and a VCR so why would I want to use a laptop when my TV is, like, three times the size?”
“OK, no movie watching for you. How about movie editing?”
“Don’t you need a super-powerful computer for that? And doesn’t the software cost more than my entire budget? Didn’t you just say I didn’t need to up my budget? There’s no way you’re going to convince me to spend $10,000 on a computer just so you can come over and make a movie on it!”

I couldn’t help but laugh at her as she began wildly waving her arms to make her point. She really looked like a crazy woman, or maybe a giant, angry chicken.

“What’s funny now?”
“Uhhhh… nothing. Look Sarah, I’m not going to try to convince you to spend more than your budget will allow. Remember, I’m the one who made you decide on the budget in the first place!”
“Yeah, well I still won’t spend more money on movie software when I don’t even know if I’ll use it.”
“Fair enough. But allow me to point out that just like photo editing software, movie editing software has changed over the last couple of years and now you can get pretty powerful editing software for under $100.”
“Yeah. And to be honest, you can do some pretty amazing stuff with even the ‘basic’ video editing software you can find for free on the net.”
“I can?”
“What else could I do?”
“Well, how about making your own music or editing music? Or playing games? Do you think you’d like to create your own websites, or do animation or 3D graphics? How about making cards or other crafty things? There’s really no limit to what the computer can help you do, you just need to know what you might, or might not, like.”
“Well, would I need a more powerful computer?”
“I got you! You’re trying to make me spend more money!”
“Calm down, Sarah. I’m not trying to get you to spend more money. Your budget will easily accommodate a laptop able to handle almost everything I mentioned, even moderate video editing or light 3D animation if you’re patient. In fact, most computers sold today with mid-level hardware will handle almost anything the average user might want to do. There’s no need to up the budget, we just need to know what you want to do so we can make sure the computer will fit all your needs.”

Sarah sat back and thought about that while I sipped my hot cocoa and nibbled on my cookie. I had to say, Sarah was beginning to grasp the method behind my 5 Steps pretty quickly. Truthfully, she seemed to be starting to enjoy the process a little bit, even if she still didn’t really care about the computer itself.

“Ok then, let me see if I can speed this up a bit. I think that I would definitely like to do some photo editing, and possibly even some video editing in the future, but nothing big. And making my own cards and calendars and stuff sounds interesting, too, but I don’t know if that’s really something I’d do on a regular basis. Maybe only around holidays and birthdays, you know? And I like listening to music, but I’m not at all interested in creating my own, so I don’t need anything like music creation or editing software. I also don’t care about games, except the occasional hand of solitaire, so that’s out. Lastly, I’m definitely not interested in 3D graphics or animation. If I want to see that kind of stuff I can always rent a movie.”
“Very well said, Sarah.”
“You’re very welcome. And now that we’ve got a good idea of what your computer will need to be able to do to satisfy your needs, we can move on to outfitting your computer with the things it will need to have in order to meet those needs.”
“Does this mean we’ve finished with Step 3?”
“Yep! Now we move on to Step 4: The Inside…”

To be continued…