Category Archives: technology

Getting Started on Facebook

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1. Go to http://www.facebook.com/
2. Change it to your language if you’d like to make it easier. Languages are at the bottom of the page. You can switch languages any time.
3. Enter your name and other information. Yes, you should probably use your real name. Why? Because it will help your friends find you. (Also, Facebook requires it.) You can hide all of your other information from people that you don’t know.
4. There will be a “captcha” image. Type in the words to prove that you’re a real person. Click “try different words” if you can’t read it.
5. Facebook will offer to look for your friends who are already on Facebook, using your email. This is a good idea if you have a compatible email service, but be careful.

  • First, it will ask you to log in with each account if you’re not logged in.
  • Then it will ask you to agree and continue.
  • After a while, it will show people in your email address book who are already using Facebook. It will say “Select which contacts to add as a friend from the list below.”
  • Click the box to the left of anyone you want to add as Facebook friends.
  • Click “Add as Friends.” (If there wasn’t anyone you wanted to add–for example, it was just people from your job–click “Skip” (cancel/etc.)).
  • DANGER! Be VERY careful to not accidentally email your entire address book in this step! Now it will say “## contacts aren’t on Facebook or haven’t listed their screen names.” You can invite people or skip (not do) this step. I think you should click on “Skip” — don’t invite anyone here. If you do want to invite a few people, click on “Invite some friends.” Do not click “Invite All Friends.” So click “Skip.” You can come back to this page later. It is very useful as long as you don’t accidentally invite everyone!

Click “save and continue.”

6. Fill out basic profile information like your high school and where you work. Later, you can use this to find people who went to the same school at the same time, worked at the same place, etc. It’s also really helpful when an old friend or distant family member is looking for you. Currently, there are 600,000,000 active accounts on Facebook. There is probably someone else with the same name as you. If you want to change it later so that people who aren’t your friends can’t see it, you can. However, this means that people who are looking for you won’t get any help. Click “save and continue.”
7. Add a profile picture. You can use your computer’s camera, upload a photo of you, or upload a picture of something else. It’s nice to use a photo of you–I contacted a classmate from several years ago, and she didn’t remember my name, but she said “As soon as I saw your photo, I remembered you! I’m so happy to see you again!” Some people use a childhood photo, a photo with sunglasses, a hat, or part of their face covered. Others use a regular photo. Some really don’t want a photo of themselves, even if it’s useful, so they use something else. Click “save and continue.”
8. Now you’ll see your main page. Of course, it’ll be pretty empty right now. There will probably be a notice at the top that says “Go to your email to complete sign-up.” Facebook should have sent a confirmation link to your email, something like “Just one more step to get started on Facebook.” Look for it in your email. Find the link in the email and click on it.
9. This should take you back to Facebook. It should tell you that you’ve registered succesfully. Click “Okay.”
10. The next thing you should do is fix your security settings, which I’ll write more about later. After that, you have two more fun things to do: Finish setting up your profile and go look for more friends. I’m going to stop here, though.

If there’s anything that you’re confused by, or worried about, PLEASE ask! If you have advice or suggestions for other users, please tell me.

Next I’ll talk about how to enjoy using Facebook and how to stay safe!

What is Facebook For?

Readable Blog

For me and most of my friends, Facebook is a good way to connect with our real-life friends and family. Unlike Twitter, the people that we are “friends” with on Facebook are usually people that we know well. We also use Facebook to become “fans” (or “like”) the pages of businesses that we use a lot, brands that we like, media such as newspapers and TV stations, celebrities, local government and nonprofit groups, publishers and educational organizations, school and alumni groups, and so on.

The updates from our friends’ personal accounts and the photos and articles from the organizations’ pages are all shown in the same area, called the News Feed, when I log in. (Normal users have Facebook accounts; businesses and so on have Facebook pages. I, the woman writing this blog, have a Facebook account under my name, but there’s also a Facebook page called Readable Blog.)

I use updates from the Facebook pages two ways: First, I read and enjoy the updates myself. I get more information this way than on Twitter, since it’s not limited to 140 characters. I can watch videos or look at photos from inside Facebook. Some Facebook pages also have contests and coupons. (There are games and apps, too, but I don’t usually do those.) I comment on some of the interesting things. I also click “like” on stories, photos, and videos that are interesting and useful to me.

Second, when I see something that I think my Facebook friends would also like, I click “share.” This means that my Facebook friends will see it, too. They can comment on it, “like” it, and share it, too. Unlike Twitter, when my friends comment on it, they’ll all wind up talking together, which is nice.

It’s this mix of entertaining and useful news, video, and photos from all over the world, plus my friends from all over the world commenting together, that makes Facebook something I like. Also, it doesn’t take much time to use. If I want to share something I see on Facebook, it only takes a second to click “share” and type a comment. If I want to share something I found somewhere else, I just paste in the URL. Facebook makes it a link automatically. It’s faster than blogging, but there’s more detail than Twitter.

In the last two days, I shared some news about a charity for tornado victims in the southeast US, a comic strip about English vocabulary, a news article about a 9/11 memorial, and a music video. I clicked “like” on a lot of things, including my friend’s status update (kind of like a tweet) that she was accepted at a university, a message from a local park page announcing a free festival, an article from a travel magazine, etc. I also commented on lots of status updates and a few other things. Oh, and I entered a contest win an around-the-world airplane ticket! Heehee.

Finally, one thing that a lot of my friends do is play games and use other “apps” (mini-programs) inside of Facebook. Mixi started to also use this idea a while ago, and so did other SNSes, so you might be familiar with it already. Some of the games are really pretty good.

In some other posts, I’ll tell you how to get a Facebook account, how I use Facebook (literally–where I click and so on), how to stay safe, and how I think you can best enjoy using it.

Later, I’ll add some pages to this blog with more details (like my Twitter pages).

If you have ANY questions, please let me know!

Twitter Lists – Reading Material

I know that many of you use Twitter, so I’ve made some lists of Twitter accounts that you might like to follow.

I started working on this about 8 days ago. I stopped because of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I was watching the news and trying to contact friends. Then, after that, I thought it wasn’t a good time.

However, now a lot of people are saying that are really stressed out. They want something to take their minds off of the news. They can’t do anything right now besides donate, wait, and hope for the best. So I decided to go ahead and share the lists. There are funny things, interesting things, and useful things on various accounts. You might find something that you like.

Of course, I’d be happy to get more recommendations. I’d especially like to know about Twitter accounts that tweet links or articles that are easy to read. Please tell me if you know about any. Thanks!

You can read about the lists on two new pages that I’ve made: 1) Twitter Lists — How to Use Them 2) Twitter Lists by @readable.

These lists include the community college anime club students who wanted to meet Japanese Twitter users, so please go read about them and follow them if you’d like!

If you have any questions, please ask me on Twitter.

Blogging in English follow-up

If you would like English-speaking commenters and readers on your blog, please be careful about the service that you use. (Especially if you would like commenters who don’t speak your language!) I just tried to leave a comment on an English-learner’s blog. The blog is on Livedoor. My comment was rejected (it was not accepted and would not be posted). I was really surprised because I had entered a username and e-mail address. I thought I had done it correctly, but I got an error message in Japanese.

If you got that error message and you couldn’t read Japanese, you would give up, right? I tried to read the message, but it was pretty difficult. Finally, I realized that the blog’s settings automatically rejected any comment that did not have Japanese in it. If you write a comment in English, your comment will not be posted. The blog owner will never see it. Oops! I guess that’s a kind of spam control system. But it doesn’t work if a blogger is writing in English and would like people to answer in English.

There are usually also problems with things like “Comment” “Name: ” “E-mail: ” “Submit” and so on not being in English. That would make it really hard for English-speaking commenters to use.

Some blogging services let you control those settings. In that case, you can change it and it may be OK. Other blogging services don’t even tell you about those settings, so you can’t change them. (That’s too common–I commented on an English teacher’s blog once. His blog had a setting that limited comments to a very short length, so my comment was rejected. He didn’t know about the setting! Finally, he was able to find it and change it. But sometimes you don’t have a choice.)

So that’s why I recommend using Posterous, WordPress, Blogger, WordPress or Movable Type installed on your webhost, etc. You can probably find a guide to the blogging service in your language to help you. (If you have to use the blogging service in English, you’ll learn a lot of useful technology vocabulary.)

Of course, if your blog is basically a journal or diary for yourself, it doesn’t matter. In that case, you don’t even need comments. But many learners discover that they are more motivated, write more often, and write better if they feel like they have readers. (For example, on WordPress.com, even if people don’t have time to comment, you can see that you have readers.)

Again, if you decide to blog a) good luck! and b) tell me about it so I can read it!

Blogging in English

If you’d like to write more in English than you can on Twitter, try blogging.

A great way to have a really simple English blog is to use Posterous. Posterous is so easy that you can even blog just by writing an e-mail! It will be posted to the blog automatically. Yes, even if you attach photos. (It’s amazingly easy!) Posterous is in English, but there are many “how-to” guides in other languages. Just search for “how to use Posterous” in your language. Here’s a guide in Japanese, for example. You can even share a Posterous account with other people, which is really nice. (So several people can write a blog together.)

Using a service like Posterous, WordPress.com, or Blogger may help you get more international readers and commenters. If you use a blogging service that is based only in your language, it may be more difficult to find English-using readers.

It’s fine to write a short blog post. It’s a good idea to decide that you will post at least once a week and choose a day to do it. (It’s easy to forget about it if you don’t!) However, I’m not good at doing that, either… Anyway, if you try to blog every day, you’ll probably get too tired and stop doing it.

Picking a theme makes blogging much easier. Of course, you can always write about your daily life, your language-learning, etc. That’s fine too!

Here are some things you can write about:

  • Reviews of restaurants in your town
  • Anything else food-related, like grocery stores, bakeries, etc.
  • Photos and comments about how English is used in your area
  • Pet/animal/nature photos and descriptions
  • Photos and information about people’s fashions
  • Your cooking or crafts
  • Interesting places to go in the area near you
  • Reviews and your thoughts about TV shows, movies, music, or video games
  • Reviews and your thoughts about books or comic books/manga
  • Explaining local traditions (festivals and so on)
  • Your outdoor activities such as hiking
  • Cool or funny things from stores
  • etc.!

And yes, it’s really fine to write about things in YOUR town in Japan, Korea, Hungary, or wherever. Many times, there’s not much English information about a place on the internet. If you write about a bakery, temple, hiking spot, etc., and give its name, location information, and so on, people will be happy to read about it. (A friend was very happy to find a blog post about a Korean sewing shop in Seoul once! She was able to go there and buy supplies.) So most people will not mind if your grammar is not perfect. It can be fun to write things that people want to read!

Of course, if your blog is mostly for yourself, it’s OK too.

Remember that your blog is public (on most blog services), so be smart about how much information you give out!

If you start a blog, or if you already have one, please tell me about it! Comment here or tell me on Twitter. Thanks!

Spam

You probably know about Spam, the meat product. Do you know about the connection between Spam and the English verb/noun “spam”?

The noncountable noun/verb “spam” means “e-mail and other internet messages that you don’t want.” Usually, these messages are advertising something (“BUY SOFTWARE CHEAP NOW”). People also use this word to mean “posting too often” or “posting a message over and over again.” Imagine that your Twitter account has a problem. It accidentally posts your Tweet 5 times. You might apologize by writing “Sorry for spamming everyone. It was an accident!”

You can get advertising spam on your blog, in your e-mail, on Twitter, etc. Recently, someone spammed Readable Blog on Facebook! That’s why I started thinking about the word “spam.”

Spam (the meat product) is not very common or popular in the US. However, we don’t usually use it as an insult. So how did it become the word for internet messages that you don’t want?

Monty Python is the name of a British comedy group. They were most active during the 1970s, but they are still popular today. In the US, they are especially popular with geeky people. Below is one of their famous sketches (comedy performances). The “Spam” sketch starts around 0:32 and ends around 2:41–sort of. Two people are in a cafe trying to order breakfast. The server or shop owner is telling them what she can serve them. (Yes, all of the main performers are men.) Warning: There are a couple of body-part words in here. Don’t watch it at work, and don’t watch it if you are under age 16 without your parents’ permission.

It might be hard to understand all of it (Monty Python’s comedy is very strange). But I think you’ll get the main idea. You can watch a higher-resolution official video with no subtitles here.

When the internet was still new, there were online games and message boards. People who used these games and message boards sometimes typed the words of the “Spam” sketch or just “Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam.” After a while, people started to call this kind of annoying activity “spam.” Later, people also started to post messages to message boards trying to sell things or get others to join money-making plans.

In 1998, the New Oxford English Dictionary added this definition to “Spam”: “Irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent on the Internet to a large number of newsgroups or users.” (There’s a long explanation about all this on Wikipedia.)

And now we get spam all the time. It’s everywhere, just like the Spam in the comedy sketch.

Annoying!

English-language Word Processing

NeoOffice Logo

Several of my students have had Japanese computers and Japanese operating systems, with Japanese versions of Word. They needed to write English essays for their classes. However, it’s difficult to get the settings (line spacing, paper size, etc.) correct in Japanese, because everything is different. For example, English essays are spaced by line: double-spaced, single-spaced, etc. Japanese essays are spaced by character. It’s really confusing to try to make it match!

I know some people must be able to do it correctly, but I couldn’t figure it out.

Anyway, I recommended downloading either NeoOffice or OpenOffice.org (Yes, “.org” is part of its name…). Both are free office software packages (including databases, presentations, word processors, etc.). If you download the English version, it’s good practice. You will be able to find the right settings for writing in English. If you’re using a non-English operating system, the website might try to make you download another language. Just look for an “Other Languages” option and choose English.

NeoOffice (Mac OS X only–I use this one)
OpenOffice.org (Windows, GNU/Linux, Sun Solaris, Mac OS X)

(I didn’t include the OpenOffice.org logo because their website says you have to ask their permission. Um, okay …)

Continue reading

New Laptop

MacBook image from Wikipedia
MacBook image from Wikipedia

I have a new laptop. I didn’t want a new laptop, but I have one.

On May 28, I came home at night after I went to a convention. My door was open a little bit, and the frame (the part around the door) was damaged. I realized that someone must have broken in to my townhouse. My friend and I looked inside, just a little. I saw that my laptop was gone. I wasn’t really surprised, because it’s a nice laptop. We called the police, of course. The police came and looked for fingerprints, but they didn’t find anything. The police officer said that the thief or thieves would probably not use the laptops–they would probably break them into parts and sell the parts. Since they didn’t take the power cords, I guess he was probably right.

This has never happened to me before, but the economy is pretty bad. I know people in several different countries who have experienced break-ins. And it could have been worse–nobody got hurt, and we have renters’ insurance.

Renter’s insurance is a kind of insurance for people who are renting their homes. You pay some money each year, but if you break or lose your things, or have something stolen, your insurance will pay to have it replaced. Since I had a MacBook Pro, which is kind of expensive, and we had a couple of other laptops, and a lot of books, etc., we got renter’s insurance about a year ago.

Anyway, it took some time to get our new laptops, but now I have a very nice new MacBook Pro. Our insurance paid for most of it. It has a new operating system and other new features that my old MacBook Pro didn’t have. Unfortunately, I’m missing a lot of files and photos, because I didn’t back up my data often enough. :( I’m very glad that I have a laptop again, though. I’m still setting it up (getting it ready) by downloading my favorite programs.

Have you ever had anything stolen from you? It’s not very common here (I know everyone thinks the US is really unsafe, but it’s usually pretty safe here.) It can happen anywhere, I think.

Continue reading

A New Way to Read

If you do not live in an English-speaking country but you really want to read a lot more English, there is a new way to do it. Amazon.com has an “e-reader” called Kindle that lets you read books electronically. It’s very nice because the screen is very clear, like paper. It’s easier to read than a computer screen.

However, the old version had some problems. One of the problems was that it only worked in the USA. Now Amazon says there will be a new kind of Kindle, the International version, which you can use in a lot of different countries. This is pretty cool because you can buy and download English books to it very quickly.

The Kindle uses cell phone networks, not wifi. You don’t need to be in an internet cafe to download books–you can be almost anywhere. For example, if you are waiting on a train platform and you decide you want to read a book on the train, you can quickly use the Kindle to buy and download the book. In 5 minutes, you can start reading it. Of course, most of the books aren’t free. (Some books are free–just look up “free Kindle books” on Google to learn how.) When you use the Kindle, Amazon will charge your credit card for the books you buy. Because it’s so easy to buy books, you should be careful!

Also, some people have problems because the Kindle’s USB connection doesn’t work well with some computers.

You can use the Kindle to use the internet, but only on really basic, text-based sites like Wikipedia.

I don’t have a Kindle because I can buy English books cheaply since I live in the US. But if you want to improve your English and English books are expensive where you live, the Kindle might be a good idea for you. Remember, reading a lot is one of the best ways to improve your grammar, use of articles, use of prepositions, use of idioms, overall fluency, understanding of English-speaking cultures, and add to your vocabulary. If you are already advanced, then you can buy lots of regular English novels. If you’re still learning, you can find many books such as Staying Together, a Level 4 Cambridge English Reader, for Kindle. You can also subscribe to Simple English News on your Kindle, which is a newspaper that you will get every month.

If you see a book that you want that isn’t available yet, you should click below the book’s photo, where it says “I’d like to read this book on Kindle.” That will tell Amazon and the book’s publisher that people want a Kindle version to be made. They are adding Kindle versions all the time.

This map (move to the right to find Asia) shows where you can use the Kindle International Edition. In other countries, it won’t work wirelessly. It includes many countries, but not all of them. It should work well in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, France, Italy, Spain, and many other places.



Have you tried a Kindle for reading English? What did you think? Would it be useful for you?

(Note: If you buy a Kindle or something else from Amazon after clicking on these links or the Readable Bookstore link, Amazon gives me a small amount of money. It doesn’t change the price for you, however.)

Reading This Blog on Your Phone

The words “poll” and “survey” are similar. Both can be nouns or verbs. To “poll” or “survey” people (verb), you ask for their opinions about something, and then you share the answers. Newspapers and TV news shows often report on polls and surveys (noun). For example, “A new poll today showed that 89% of people like chocolate” or “A survey of English learners showed that 75% wish they could practice speaking more often.”

I’d like to know your opinions, so I’m going to have polls sometimes. Please choose your answer and let me know what you think!

[survey_fly]