Author Archive

Turn Your Computer Into a Recording Studio

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009


Most of us who own a computer haven’t used it to its full potential.  Listening to songs or podcasts is great, but what about making our own audio files?  I am going to describe how to record to your computer in a very basic way.

You may have seen a little headphone jack on your computer, but did you notice a “mic jack” (hole for a microphone)?   Holes labeled “mic” or “line in” are where you can plug in a microphone to record speaking or singing, for example.  In addition to microphones, you can also plug in any audio input.  For example, you can plug an electric guitar into the “line in” jack. 

(Note: For a PC to be able to “hear” the microphone or device, you may need to open your volume controls and un-check the “mute” box for “line in” or “mic in”).  If your microphone cord is too thick for the jack, you can buy a low-priced adaptor.

The next step is to record yourself to a program on the computer.  One FREE program that I love to use is Audacity.  It is available as a free download through their site.  With Audacity, you can edit your sound files (trim their length, splice segments together, and add effects), and multitrack (sing along with yourself, or speak along with background music).

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Google Searching with Phrases

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008


If you “Google” something and get millions of results, you shouldn’t pat yourself on the back.   If the result you know you want is in the top 5, that works fine.  However, if you search with a bunch of words and are confused by your results, here is an important idea to consider.

If you are searching for a particular phrase, use quotation marks around it.  Example: Do you want sites that mention text and highlight, or do you want only sites that use the following wording: “How to highlight text“?  Song lyrics are a good example.  Let’s say you get a song in your head and are dying to know who sang it, and you Google How does it feel to be on your own.  It is best to use quotation marks to keep the words together, and you can put the word lyrics next to it (and outside of the quotation marks) for added precision.

Caution: Use quotation marks if you are sure of the wording.  If you get zero results, you should rethink your wording instead of giving up.  You can search for “How to jump start a car”, but you might not get the results from “How to jump start YOUR car”!  One way to get around this is perform the following Google search: “how to jump start” car.

When searching for a phrase (or a whole sentence), you are essentially getting in the minds of the people who made the pages, trying to use the wording that they used.  This is just one powerful tool to consider when Google searching. 

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Netbooks: Cheap, Small and Portable Computers:

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008


As the years have gone on, it has been exciting to see electronic devices get smaller and cheaper.  Also, the price of computers has gone down while their capacity and speed has gone up. 

Laptops have traditionally been much more expensive than larger desktops, and that gap appears to be narrowing.  An extreme example I am excited about is the new line of “Netbooks” – small, cheap, and technologically lean mini-laptops.  

Currently, the cheapest of these (the Asus EEE) is sold for around $299, which is much cheaper than laptops or desktops.  So, what’s the catch?  With very little storage space, a keyboard made for tiny hands, and no CD drive, these Netbooks are generally thought of as a person’s second computer. 


The cheapest Netbooks rely on open-source technology, such as Linux (instead of Windows), Google Docs (instead of Word) and Firefox (instead of Internet Explorer).  Luckily, these computers come with multiple USB ports in case you want to add a mouse or some extra storage. 

My assessment?  Try it before you buy it, and look at multiple brands and different sizes.  Make sure you are comfortable with the small keyboard.  Many users complain about the small space bar, backspace, and right shift keys.

For more info on Netbooks, check out this article, here.

For YouTube videos comparing these Netbooks, click here.

– Toby

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