Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Bereavement Thoughts Soon After Loss - T Shoobridge

As a funeral director and son, whose mother recently died, I am constantly subjected to grief and bereavement, probably, as you would imagine?

I read numerous articles and find the teachings for grief counselling, similar and truthfully, that is to be expected. When numerous experiences are reported and recorded, some patterns emerge but often, initial findings, when those affected are still numb, seem to end there? Research may go on for years but all too often, the tender, personal experiences, seem to go unattended – people are left to fend for themselves.

This all may seem somewhat of a natural process after all, most of us are unaffected after the initial ‘shock’ - on a day-to-day basis. That someone else is going home to a situation devoid of a principal role person, with all the mundane topics of conversation that were possibly boring  - missing now, is an abstract. WE are not there, we are not suffering and in truth, did we think of anyone in this situation before our own, unfortunate, ‘event?’

Solitude can have a wonderful place in our lives; peace and quiet is often welcome but what happens when ‘choice’ is taken away? What happens after 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 years of marriage and ‘routine?’ How are we supposed to cope with the ‘new’ situation?

I was corresponding with a friend recently by email and wrote the following (below) but firstly let me say that this person is lucky enough to have a very supportive family living within travelling distance although, some words were spoken to a daughter-in-law which presumably, distanced the son a little – poor timing?

I wrote: (the names are fictitious - Thomas died two years ago, mum - recently)

There's a massive problem with death that remains only at a personal level.

Everybody else, I'd say, almost without fail, assumes - I guess (but really doesn't assume ANYTHING), that 'we' become OK almost instantly?

It's partly because our lives are so busy. It's partly because the effect of the loss is distant or removed? What I mean by that is our 'normal' lives do not revolve around Thomas say or mum. Yes, she's in our lives but we are in WSM or Brighton and ‘OUR’ partner and family are there and our life revolves around them for 16 hours a day.

We all 'know' you miss Thomas and mum but we don't have them under our feet or have them there to talk to and listen to. The decisions on dinner, what flowers to buy, when we cut the grass and all the other mundane things that make our day go by are not affected and this 'habit' is something we think about but DON'T FEEL in the same way.

You talk about motivation or, lack of it. When your whole purpose focuses on your day and your house and you make all these decisions together then, all of a sudden, that 7/8th - for it seems more than 50%, is removed, the question becomes, 'What was the point and, what IS the point going forward?'
What is the actual purpose getting up every day to practice work and chores without an end game? I have no idea Rosemary and personally, I wouldn't bother - in some ways.

I look at all the things that drive me; the areas where I consider I have OCD.

Our Christmas Tree stopped working. It's old, a fibre optic relic but Diane likes it.

I got it going (fixed it) but she bought another smaller one, which she enjoys. The other one stopped working again! The input socket got hot and melted a bit. I said it was unsafe to leave really so we agreed to throw it away. I HAD to fix it!! 
I bypassed the socket, got mega frustrated trying to solder the wires without any flux, swore, cursed, threw my toys out of the pram but, fixed it! I then took it to the dump and ditched it? Yep, that's right - it's the challenge that drives me not always the result.

I will never have the best garden in the neighbourhood. I will never have the best stamp collection in the world. My workshop will never be the tidiest but it's the challenge for me and the, not giving-in.
There are people far better at things but that's not the point - it's the ability to do the best I can with the tools and money I have.

When my dad died, my mum was just about to move house. They were buying their council flat and she had taken advantage of the 50% discount concession (a Margaret Thatcher idea) but was only 23 months into the contract.
Everybody told her, moving to a house with five areas of grass to cut and all that maintenance was crazy! If you're going to be crazy, stay in London for another month then you at least won't have to pay the council back 80% of the concession it will only be 60% - what did she do? She moved to Warminster where she knew no one and did it straight away so lost another 20% of the discount concession!

No grief or bereavement councillor will EVER advise doing that and rightly so BUT, for some folks, that IS the way forward.

New challenges will drive you crazy but, they will occupy your mind. THAT you CHANGE your purpose and try to gather some inner motivation to a NEW project, would work for me; to slug away trying to get inspiration to 'carry-on' in the old frame of mind - NOT for me after all, what's the point?

The other thing is this, YOU ACHIEVED your aim in the 'old' life. You, and Thomas, and mum - ACHIEVED your goal. It's like laying a lawn; you get your ground, you stake it out, you dig and clean it, you get the best seed, you make your lawn, you aerate it, you fertilise it and you make it perfect - you know what's left? MOWING!
Maintaining it is great but a chore and one you KNOW you can handle - no more challenge - you need a new lawn!

Now, getting back to the children: no matter how much they want to be a part of this 'new' adjusted-to life, it is NOT on their minds 24/7 - it IS on yours.

In the same way, this is going on daily, everywhere in the world. Is that fact supposed to help? No but, in the same way, before we were personally affected like this, it WAS happening all over the planet, we just weren't affected.

In the same way, the children are NOT affected but, one day, they will be; their turn will come and they will have similar experiences. It DOESN'T help but it is the way of things.

You know the toughest thing? Those that survive! It is (not really) OK for those who have left us, what do they have to cope with? We are the ones with the problems, with all the practical and emotional difficulties; 'they're' out of it!

So what do we make of all this?
We should take responsibility for the fact that there is still a purpose for us here on Earth. There is still work to be done and people to influence going forward, people who need to benefit from OUR presence, our experience and our personality - I don't know all the reasons yet and it is not important to know all this but look at it from this point of view: We're in our late sixties, right? Given that we have another 30 years of life ahead of us and given that the average age is say 76, (who knows) we don't have long left on this planet.

3 score years and 10 I believe is the biblical life span?

The Earth is 4 billion years old.

I don't know how many 70 years there are in 4 billion (4,000, 000, 000!) but, it IS a blink of the eye and what influence are we going to have in that proportion?

What I do know is this: whatever our purpose is, and we do have one, it is NOT our time yet and we only have a short time of 'suffering' before we join our partners! They are not going anywhere; their day is not critical no matter what you believe, their time is done and now, it IS our time and we still have work to do.

It probably won't work for everybody I agree but I find that quite exciting. Yes, we feel sad, yes we feel empty but it also comes down to 'our glass' - is it half-full or half-empty? Do we feel we should have the empathy of everyone close, around us, our family? Did we give the same empathy indefinitely to those we know who suffered similarly? It matters not the answer it is in the journey and ours is still on.

Will it be tough? At times yes but, we will imagine our 'driving force' is still looking down on us, overseeing our actions and progress. They still motivate us and we will try to please them, their memories - who knows OUR characteristic better than them? We will continue to 'perform' for them, we have done it all these years and it is our nature, it won't change - thankfully!

Finally, your house will sell when the time is right - no, 'perfect,' for all timing IS perfect.
True, we don't hold all the cards but, we have faith; faith in those who have departed, preceded us, faith in our children to 'come through' and mirror our teachings. Faith in so many things and in the 'afterlife' no matter whether that is nature or religion but, most of all we have two other faiths - faith in ourself and those who have Faith In US!

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Shoobridge Funeral Services - Serving YOU!

 Mission Statement (and History) the Long Version?

There are numerous reasons to be in business, any business. Passion, belief an ideal or simply, money.
Of course I could dress this up and use fancy words like, monetary or financial gain but one purpose of this article is to eliminate patronising remarks and to speak plainly.

My son, some years ago, asked me why I got into the funeral business, not how but why?
The truth is, it was not a vision of mine but circumstance/s that led me – some might even say an accident, coincidence or fate - I had been seeking a purpose, the meaning of life?
Contradictory it may sound but the reason for living had intrigued me since my father died in 1985 and I had been searching, somewhat unknowingly until the ‘funeral door’ opened in my life in 1989.

To examine my personal route to this juncture briefly, I had always believed in God, through upbringing, culture, habit and I guess, choice. When my father died suddenly, at the age of 64, just 6 months before his retirement, I was puzzled and very angry.

My wife used to have a hairdresser who came to the house. Her neighbour was a Parson and she had recently been converted into Christianity.
As the ‘devil’s advocate,’ I questioned every aspect of her ‘faith’ to the point of being annoying and accepting no answer she gave but she remained steadfast, undeterred and challenged me to attend 'her' church.

Not one to run from a fight, I did attend and consequently became a regular church-goer. Remaining ever the skeptic at 'house groups', asking numerous questions constantly, our meetings became, quite entertaining (to some?) – I am told.

A few years later, my wife and I divorced and the church ‘condemned’ the situation with true 'human driven,' hypocrisy and we parted company for good – that church and me. I still believe but now choose how, when and where to worship without pressure or coercement.

I decided to change the course my life was taking – it didn’t seem to be going anywhere ambitiously and work was becoming scarce as the United Kingdom hit  financial ‘recession’  in the late '80s - poor timing on my part?

Before desperation took hold, I sought and accepted a new job working for a local builder-cum-undertaker. The building work was our primary function but my first full day at work took an unexpected turn – my boss had a heart attack!
At 54 years of age, he was fortunate to be fit and healthy and survived but was not allowed to drive for 3 months – I became his driver.

One of my first 'chauffeur' jobs was extremely unfortunate: one of our workers father died and I had to drive my boss to the house to arrange the proceedings. We were, after all, funeral directors too.
I cannot recall all of my emotions and feelings but I remember they were many and varied.

Apart from this initial introduction to the funeral profession, as part of my duties, I was taught how to attend churches in a new role – funeral services and had to record the names of the mourners attending the service.
One day, we were short of manpower for the duties of bearing the coffin and I was asked if I could help, a pall-bearer? Naturally, I obliged.

From there you could say, 'the rest is history,' but it is not – history, is still in the making as those became simply,  the ‘early beginnings.’

27 years later, my ‘book’ remains unwritten but we are now in our second generation of funeral directors and I imagine, the third will follow.

So what of the work, our work, in a business sense? I constantly read articles, brochures and publications directed at you, the public. The Internet is the new world encyclopaedia and Google reigns so ALL the information is available to you, at your fingertips. Clarity has mercifully, dispelled myths and the secrets are all out – not that there were any to begin with but, transparency is the key nowadays and we live in the ‘new’ world of undertaking.

I could wane lyrically about ‘mission statements’ but I am a funeral director for numerous reasons but one standard exists in my life and was the answer to one of the first questions my son ever asked me: “When I stop feeling empathetic and emotional for and towards my customers, IS the day I quit the funeral profession for good!”

Of course, that sounds very noble and I could write lots of expressions to impress you or try to gain your business but my fault is, I tell it as it is.

Live or die, honesty is an important principle in my life. Diplomacy and tact also have their place but not at the expense of this fundamental and underlying principle. 'Not telling someone everything is not the same as lying to them' and if suffering can be averted by discerning judgement our experience is a key factor in decision making.

This is not the same as deception so let me give you an example: if I prepare or dig a grave, it would be no surprise in the UK that water will enter the grave. With lots of rain, the level of water continually increases and becomes a problem to the funeral director regarding pumping, ground conditions and such.
In summary, the client does not need to know all of this, it is the problem of the grave-digger and the funeral director.  To fully inform the public could be distressing, too-much-information!
Mostly, I choose not to inform people  unless they ask - we never intentionally mis-inform or lie to the public or client no matter the cost. So there it is – we are here to help you with the best use of our experience applied to, and regarding, your personal situation.

Our aim is to smooth the difficult passage of loss, grief and bereavement for you. For you, this is unfamiliar territory - we are not here to  take advantage of your circumstances or situation.
We are here to inform you of the options available, advise you and help you with the choices you make as a result of this knowledge because, ultimately, these options will be remembered by you in the future as the best possible way you could undertake and move through this sad event.

To say we wish to make it the best experience possible for you, your family or the people affected sounds magnanimous since we are in business and to that last comment, you have my full agreement but, in order to do what we feel we do extremely well, we have to remain available, in business, to exact our skills into your difficult situation.

Truly, we have no magic wand to eliminate your pain; but, if we can, in any way, reduce the stress you are experiencing, we will achieve our aim and putting your needs first is our prime target!

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

SMART TVs? In the FuneralProfession?

Anyone opening our 'Blog' page will doubtless wonder why a page talking about SMART TVs should be staring them in the face?

Regular visitors to our Blog will find a variety of topics which are not all related directly to funerals or maybe they are connected but more, INdirectly!

Breaking away from funeral topics as such, our industry, in fact, all of our lives are surrounded, influenced and somewhat dominated by, technology.

In our workplace, we all have computers. WE all have screens or monitors or, TVs.

In an effort to improve our IT - Information Technology knowledge, we/I have decided to undertake (pun?) to write some pertinent articles and since Internet access is simple, once connected to a network, a Smart TV is simply another tool in our device armoury.

Truthfully, I was asked for advice and decided to share the results here - if the subject holds no interest for you, your detention is unnecessary and should you find a subject of interest here in amongst our Blogs, we welcome you to select accordingly as you feel comfortable.

I was asked for some advice on purchasing a ‘smart’ TV in the UK followed by the comment, “Well actually, if I am honest, I don’t actually know what a ‘smart’ TV is!”

I answered as if I was speaking to the person asking the question: – you might find this interesting, you might not? If it serves as an insight, I have done my job.

Smart TVs
Basically speaking, a ‘smart’ TV is a big computer monitor, PLUS a TV.

If you can imagine sitting at your computer, being connected to the Internet and seeing it all on your 32” monitor screen, you have a ‘smart’ TV.

With anything online comes the problem of, security and monitoring.
If there is nothing on the telly, you can connect to BBC/ITV Iplayer, Youtube anything that streams video, or radio or pornography or anything nasty as well as the good things.

Control is by various options, mostly a complex R/C (Remote Control), sometimes, a Mouse and Keyboard.
It is NOT a computer!
It IS, access to the Internet without the Firewall though doubtless, someone is working on that too.

Unfortunately, everything that you may see as negative with the Internet, is present here. Your Browsing and Surfing History is being monitored constantly by the various Browser giants. Your shopping habits are being monitored constantly too.

You can access your email (webmail) at the touch of a Browser Tab. If it can be hacked, you are open to attack. There are advantages too. You can Skype at full size though mostly, you will have to purchase an external webcam and possibly, a microphone.

The ALTERNATIVE is what you (the enquirer), have in part already and I (Terry Shoobridge), have more fully: Chromecast, MyGiga (Roku) and Apple TV.

These are interfaces (little black boxes or dongles) that access the Internet and come complete with their own PSU (Power Supply Units), and various options. MyGiga has four USB outlets/inputs and can be controlled by a keyboard, mouse or the supplied R/C. Additionally, you can add an external hard-drive for extra (downloaded) media storage though the box has a quad-core processor and on-board hard-drive storage of its own. This is an Android box.

Chromecast 2: Similar but not the same approach as MyGiga etc..
A small dongle with Micro USB 5V (from the mains) power supply (Chromecast 1 had a separate and larger PSU) which uses a smart phone or tablet as a R/C.

Downloading the Google Chrome Browser to your smart phone, Ipad or tablet, enables you (or anyone else with Guest permission), to control the TV content that again, is available on the Internet though much content is by subscription and because your location is known (UK), USA content is rarely allowed.

In B.C., Canada, UK TV content is not allowed so if that was the aim, forget it though, there are ways around it (with some difficulty).

All these external devices require an HDMI input and ‘Source’ input selection on the TV R/C.
Relying on a home router radio connection hinders the first video streaming download but once in motion (buffering delays the process initially), you’re good to go.
To improve the streaming and Internet connection, the ideal placement of your home router (MoDem) would be close to the TV itself. Hard-wire connection by Ethernet would improve your experience and your smart phone has to be connected to your home network in order to R/C the material or program you are watching.

Not everything is available on these devices. If you mirror your experience between Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store, you will have an idea of where you stand and, on that note – Apple TV.

The latest offering from Apple is Apple TV with a Siri smart R/C. Available with 32GB and 64GB hard-drive options (for downloading movies and storage), the costs of these alternative smart TV devices vary between the UK and North America as you can imagine.

Apple TV is approximately $225 CDN at 32Gb or around $300 for the 64GB version. With an exchange rate currently (March 2016) of $1.85/£, this is likely to set you back around £150. Similarly a MyGiga box was $200 over a year ago but is likely to be a bit cheaper now. Google’s Chromecast is without a doubt the cheapest option at around $50 but relies on your smart phone or tablet for controlling content.

There are other ways, which are extremely easy to project content from a smart phone or tablet connected to the Internet onto your own TV.

With faster download speeds ever-increasing on your home network despite the sheer number of devices connected to and accessing information simultaneously, projecting the ‘screen’ from your mobile device onto your home network and connecting that content via HDMI is relatively easy so, the question is this, do you need or want a ‘smart’ TV?

Do you want your habits online known to the world and do you want the whole range that is available? Connecting THREE devices (Chromecast, MyGiga and Apple TV) will give you an extremely ‘SMART TV’ with input sources (HDMI) a nightmare – most TVs only have two HDMI inputs currently.
The other thing to consider is HD, High Definition.
Streaming HD content over the Internet is not yet as efficient as receiving HD content by Cable or Satellite though it is improving. I wouldn’t doubt that a dedicated Smart TV would be subject to far less signal loss and interference than your Home Network but what do you want from the TV? Yesterday we were happy with SD now we demand HD. If you go to a friend’s house, do we consider the quality of the content we are watching? Possibly, yes.

So, a smart TV with a webcam and microphone could be a cheaper option than an Ipad image projected onto a regular TV through your Home Network; Chromecast as a fully equipped add-on (with Google Chrome Browser initiated) is without a doubt the cheapest option as you can still use your phone’s or tablet’s on-board microphone and webcam efficiently – it’s all a matter of choice after all, a Smart TV will be easier on your cable chaos at the rear of your TV and, probably one less R/C to deal with, scramble over or lose on the floor or sofa!

Note: from a software point-of-view, as the name of the operating system suggests, where Android, IOS or Windows for Mobile Devices are concerned, Apps. are downloaded as with our other mobile devices, from the Apple (App.) Store or the Google Play Store. Hard drive capacities may influence the amount of Apps. that can be downloaded and used though the limit seems, almost endless.

ps I knew it would happen:                       Yet Another R/C!

5-Port HDMI Switch (Switcher Selector), 5 In 1 Out, Support 3D, Remote Control, Auto Switching, 1080p + Power Adapter

List Price:
CDN$ 29.99
CDN$ 18.95 & FREE Shipping on orders over CDN$ 25.
You Save:
CDN$ 11.04 (37%)
  • Able to connect 5 HD sources to just 1 HDMI port on your HDTV/monitor
  • Support FullHD 1920x1080p and 12-bit deep colour, retaining the crispy clear images
  • Auto-switching and/or switching with a remote control
  • Avoid frequent plugging or unplugging of HDMI cables which also wears out your precious HDMI connector
  • Support LPCM, DTS/DTS-HD, Dolby Digital/Dolby TrueHD

To completely bore you further, content not allowed by location can be circumvented.
Businesses that want to securely share files and information between clients and colleagues or consumers that simply don’t want their browsing history recorded or for those who want to watch content from, for example the US or the UK in Canada where this is not allowed, can subscribe to a VPN – Virtual Private Network.

A small subscription will enable your IP Address to be hidden or, located by choice to appear to be in the country you wish thereby enabling the content to be downloaded. Logs and records are not kept and added encryption ensures security at higher levels.

The downside is that connecting to the ‘foreign’ server initiates a slight delay on your system but lots of video content is now being provided in a ‘buffered’ state, which will reduce the initial streaming download time tremendously.

Ever onwards, upwards (and downwards)!

Lesson 5 Explorer & Finder

Home Computing Lesson 5         Windows Explorer (and Finder)

As we continue our home computing overview and practical approach, I ask myself how I should address instructing students further?
That might seem somewhat puzzling since I create the topics and the lessons?

Receiving no feedback and not being a regular tutor, I recognise there are many routes to individual destinations and there have been so many books written on the subject of IT, Information Technology and computing that we all have some knowledge and experience since we have grown with computers from the early days of calculators, progressing to simple bat-and-ball video games, through Commodore VIC 20 - from Sir Clive Sinclair and IBM in the 70’s and 80’s.

I can hardly think of anything we do today not having a computer somewhere in its application and though we may not have been directly involved, it HAS affecter our lives.
My problem is where are you in your personal journey, where do you want to go and how long will it take? Of course, the last question is to gauge the length of a piece of string.

When we open a word processing program, I can make assumptions, ask questions but I can easily err in their answers.
In Lesson 3, I advised you to play with MS Word and see what you could achieve.
I demonstrated how to save a program and where it could be located – somewhat.
I am tempted to teach all about menus, toolbars, constructing and inserting tables, what all the different buttons do, how to undo an action and re-do the same action. How to insert a text box, a photograph, a picture or shape and delve into publication productions but I want to focus on the technological side of computing and the extremes or word processing are quite a separate topic.

How do we store information? We have talked about compression for media and the same applies to text and other information but that does not answer the question.
Every computer has an electronic processor. Every computer also has a hard-drive, sometimes shown as HDD within it’s physical enclosure. The processor and hard drive work together. The hard drive contains data and important information. The processor needs this information to actually work, to start up. Once started, the resultant information from processing and from other sources or inputs, is returned to the hard drive which stores it for future use.

The size of the hard drive is denoted in GB - gigabytes, packets of digital information. This storage is a measure in metric units though insignificant to our knowledge requirements at this stage.

The hard drive can be divided digitally into sections so that each section can operate separately within itself or, in conjunction with the other section/s.
In the past, information was input using a device called a ‘floppy’ disk. This was descriptive to a point and typically could hold 700Kb kilobytes, of information.
The disk capacity was increased over time to 1.44Mb megabytes or twice as much as the original 700Kb and despite being invented during the 60’s, became ubiquitous in the 80’s.

Long since superseded, external disk drives can be found and information can still be accessed if there is a reason?
The physical drive for floppy disks was denoted by the letter A//: and, before hard drives were used, this A//: drive was the method of input to start the computers processor’s actions.
In efforts to speed up computing, high end and professional machines added another floppy disk drive to work separately or in tandem – this was similarly denoted as the B//: drive.

Returning to modern hard drives, our first drive available seems to be denoted by the letter C//: and this still remains the main drive of our Windows based computer.

When we divide out hard drive into sections, it follows that our next available drive will be called D, E, F, G, H and so forth.
Defining a drive is possibly not as easy as one might imagine but, it is, easy that is.
Every device we plug into our computers - be they on-board or external, becomes a drive. Therefore, an SD Card is a drive, a flash-drive is a drive, a dongle is a drive and an external hard drive is a drive – even a CD or DVD device will show-up as a drive. More on these later.

As has been explained, our main drive had been denoted, C, C//:
Remembering back to Saving As, from our drop-down menu on our MS Word document, we were taken to a box, a dialogue box which contained options that we didn’t understand? We were given choices.

Whenever we either don’t understand the choices or can’t choose the best option which could be unknown to us at any stage, there is a ‘default’ location allocated to the user. In the case of a Windows computer, known as a PC – a Personal Computer, ‘My Documents’ is the default location for this ‘Save As’ option.
My Documents IS located on the C//: drive.
Also located on the C//: drive, is the actual operating system! This can be seen as Program Files and Windows and really shouldn’t be altered unless you have sufficient knowledge and expertise.
These ‘programs’ and storage places are known as Folders and New Folders can be created very simply and added to the C//: drive.
These additional Folders can be at the discretion of the User – for example, I can create a Folder and I can name it, ‘Terry March 2016.’
If I now go back to my MS Word application, when I press the menu key for File > Save As, I will get the same dialogue box open as I did before but now I will ALSO see the Folder – Terry March 2016.
IF I highlight or choose this Folder/location and Save As ‘Job Application – Science’ it will simply be stored in the new folder C//: Terry March 2016.
When I next need to access this file to alter it, use it for another job application or add to it in any way, I will ALWAYS find it located here until I change or move it.

If you remember our lesson regarding the Windows logo button, pressing Windows + E, will automatically open the Windows Explorer function and take us to all the drives and storage information on our computer at any given time.
This is as I indicated, a view into our brain or the storage and reference library of our computer.

Apple’s Mac does exactly the same thing but it does it differently. I believe the illustration in Windows is far more helpful and will aid our understanding better before looking into how Apple does things. Picturing a Library is so familiar to us that little imagination is required to see into the process; with Apple, that is to some extent, illusive but, opinions differ. Purist Apple dedicated users will argue, no doubt, but since I am the author of these lessons, I am at liberty to choose my own approach. If you as the student prefer to look elsewhere, I am sure you will not be alone - you will have many colleagues on your path to confer with – if I were to hazard a guess and state your life will be Apple or Windows, I would simply be, foolish.
Your future, your job, your life will depend to some extent on knowing the basics of both operating systems and your true versatility will be realised as a result – you will of course HAVE to add Android, Windows for Mobile Devices and Apple IOS to your repertoire as soon as you are able. Simply put, if you are less than 95 years of age, there is, NO escape!

Information About This Mac can be found under the Apple Logo in the top LHS of the screen and you will find exactly what you would expect there/here.
In the Dock, Apples’ equivalent to the Taskbar in Windows, both of which can be located at the bottom of the screen but can be moved to the top or either side, we see a blue and white, split, smiley face. This is Apple’s Finder or, explorer equivalent. Next to this we find Launchpad and Settings and from Launchpad, certain programs can be accessed and opened as the name suggests.

Items or programs can be added to or removed from the Dock as the User decides and the Dock can be hidden too.
A quick reference back to the Mouse: by default, the main, LHS button we depress or, click, is the button to open or select our options. For some reason, possibly to avoid accidental openings, MS decided to initiate programs by double-clicking this LHS button.
In our choices, we can elect to use a single-click to perform the same function – in Windows. Apple, unfortunately stands by second clicking (to my knowledge) but, with the development and emergence of quite ‘intelligent’ touch pads on laptops, sensitivity has improved terrifically and one-touch (click), on the touchpad will usually suffice.

In Windows and Finder, we can control our libraries and another image I find useful, is that of a filing cabinet where drawers represent Folders and ‘Hanging Files’ represent, Files.

Our filing system on both formats is virtually the same. The files and folders can be easily renamed to improve our filing system and my advice would be to keep things extremely simple, almost phonetic and think, “How will I return to this File or Folder in two weeks time? How will I remember where it is located?”

Looking back for ease into Windows Explorer, we have two viewing panes in front of us. On the left hand side, we can see an array of Drives, Folders and other depictions including the default folder, My Documents.
Alongside the Folders, we find an small arrow IF, the Folder contains more than one File. Clicking on the Folder arrow will produce a drop-down list of Files contained within that Folder. If there is another arrow by the side of the File, then similarly, there is more than one item involved. Clicking on these arrows simply performs two actions: a drop-down box or, sub-menu is created at the Folder or File position on the screen and an action takes place on the RHS of the viewing pane – the contents contained in the Folder or File are clearly listed.
These lists can be viewed differently as a List, an Image (sometimes), with all the recorded Details or as an Icon – go to the top of the screen/page and select View; options are present to change how you indeed view the file or folder contents.

Note: Using the RHS button of the mouse when highlighting or moving the cursor over a file or folder contents will open the Context Menu when clicked. Options for certain actions will now appear and we can change certain things relating to the file or folder (it usually has to be closed rather than, open). Renaming a F or F; Copying the contents; Printing the contents, Deleting the F or F are all possible so again, experience your options here. If you delete an F or F, it can usually be recovered from the Recycle Bin or the Trash but read the screen, some actions cannot be reversed.

The size of the viewing panes can be altered to suit the User and the information available that relates to the file on the RHS of the Viewing Pane, VP, can be selected. If you want to know what type of file it is, the size, when it was created - these details are hidden by default but are optionally available. There is always a lot to learn but trying to accomplish everything to begin with would be impractical and to focus on the basics or essentials is the most efficient use of our time. You will undoubtedly make mistakes – ‘nothing is irreversible’ would not be a true statement but most actions can be reversed and computer crashes are really quite rare and we will address this later in Windows and though, even rarer on a Mac, there is a procedure for dealing with freezes and such (Force Quit).

One of the best features of Windows Explorer is the ability to control the folders and files and this we do in three ways: on the LHS of the VP; on the RHS of the VP and across the VP centre line.
We can move, duplicate, rename, copy and paste just by clicking (or double-clicking) with our LHS button or by way of our Context Menu (RHS button) on the mouse.
If we click on the My Documents Folder on the LHS of the VP, the contents are displayed on the RHS of the VP.
Because this is the default location where we saved our files, you may find some files that had seemingly disappeared into thin air and it is always a good place to look periodically for peace-of-mind.

Accessing Windows Explorer is possible by other actions apart from Windows + E. Right clicking on Windows in the bottom LH corner of the screen will reveal an Explore command; selecting this will take you to Explorer. There are other channels of access too and a quick look on any browser search box will reveal all the numerous answers and possibilities.

On the LHS of the VP, you will also see such items as Computer and Drives.

When we click on these items, sub-menus appear and we have actually ‘expanded the tree.’ Re-clicking will ‘compact the tree’ and these actions are continuous throughout Windows and our Apple, platforms.

The Mac Finder system works similarly and it’s first primary offering is All My Files which, can be harder to arrange the longer the task is left undone and as the User, it is advisable to devise a system with which you are happy and works for you – Explorer is a great educator for this task.

You will also see Applications, Desktop, Downloads, Pictures, Music, Movies and other folders that have been created by the User and some Software applications that may have been downloaded like Skype for instance. Here you can start to sort and move your files around to suit your filing system, you can also create new folders and place relevant files into their correct places though they will also remain as duplicates in the All My Files list.

Reverting back to Windows Explorer, under Computer, the Drives are listed. Obviously we will no longer see A//: or B//: but we will definitely see, C//: since our operating system works from here and all our basic storage is also located on the C//: drive.

Next up, where one is present, we usually find the CD or DVD drive or, drives. Sequentially named D//: drive (and possibly E//: drive) any other on-board active drives will appear as F//:, G//: and H//: etc..
When we plug a USB Flash-drive into our computer, connect a camera or camera card (SD Card) to our computer, the computer will sense the connection and automatically name the drive in order.
Windows ‘tells us’ that it is a plug-and-play device which, essentially it is. This means that at our discretion we can plug a drive or attachment, a printer in when we choose and remove is also when we choose.

Going back to our earlier lesson when I gave the analogy of a Librarian’s chaos in placing each book back into its correct placement before the library re-opened (switch off – switch on the computer), Windows professes, plug-and-play but doesn’t always like it!
In the bottom RHS of the computer (Windows), access is possible to a small icon that looks like a small drawer with a green arrow. This is the ‘Remove Hardware Safely,’ command and should be exercised when disconnecting external physical drives of any description. If you forget, all may be well but if you remember, it will be well!

Ejecting this external drive allows windows to know that there is a vacancy now for that drive name and inserting another device means that drive name can be allocated accordingly though it, Windows, may simply allocate the next drive ‘up’ the alphabet.

A the end of the session, Remove Hardware Safely can be exercised on all active external drives although, turning off the computer will effect the same outcome.
Apple has a CD drive type icon that has to be ejected in the Finder section under Devices.

If the Printer is detected and shows up in the Remove Hardware Safely window, ignore  it and switch off the PC in the normal way.

As with many of us, moving around globally is more a way-of-life than ever before; for work for pleasure for vacations. Carrying our ‘home-on-our-back’ like a tortoise is not very practical; neither is taking our home/desktop computer. Obviously, taking a laptop is better but even its size is a hindrance sometimes and its capacity is limited as is the power availability.
To get around this problem, using a cross platform (Windows and Apple OSX) device would be a good solution. Most solutions require some compromise and PSUs have been limiting factors in the past. Progress has improved storage device capacity, access speeds, write-to speeds and reducing the size has remained one of the biggest problems.
Enter the External Hard Disk Drive (HDD)!
Operating on any computer’s 5Volt electrical Bus (supply provision), be it laptop or desktop, the hard drive can be attached to any set-up, anywhere in the world, in minutes!
Having these drives formatted to work on Apple or Windows requires some separation UNLESS, the file extension (type of document or application) is the same. Bearing in mind the compression factor we spoke of earlier, taking photographs as our example, a JPEG photo is a JPEG photo on a Mac or a Windows computer. A MS Word document is exactly that on either platform so can be opened on either machine.

Observing these rules gives rise to possibilities and answers to true portability as these drives measure approximately four inches square, are lightweight and literally, fit in the pocket.

There are other ways we can use these external HDDs with both formats but it is unnecessary to explain this now but dual formatting on one HDD is possible and there is a format converter that allows both Windows and Apple files to be view, used and stored.

Operating systems can also be installed on these drives and effectively, ‘boot-up’ or start a computer into action. The other major advantage of external HDDs is security and storage space.

Virtually every electrical action on a computer takes power and the processing slows down - a small amount. With very thin laptops, the on-board HDD is often small in its storage capacity and acts often as a ‘quick’ drive or ‘flash-drive.’
As heat is another problem, keepings devices small but cool is our aim and electrical processing produces, heat. If we use an external storage and operating device such as an external HDD whose capacity has increased to an admirable 2TB recently (if not more?) without requiring a separate PSU, we can securely take our information and data with us, on-the-go, and simply plug it into a device at our destination be it our laptop or a family machine or an Internet café or someone’s desktop – the possibilities are almost endless.

Of course, for data, information and media storage, we now have the CLOUD!

Companies such as Google, Amazon, Apple, Dropbox and many others, offer ‘cloud’ storage. The idea is the server, the ISP or these other Parties, store your data online, in cyberspace.. All your photos, videos, files and music can be uploaded by the subscriber to a ‘data-bank-in-the-sky.’

This ‘cloud’ storage is accessible anywhere in the world with an Internet connection on any of the subscriber’s devices so you could upload a music file from your home computer and play it on your phone in a different location or country so long as you can connect to the Internet.
Of course, there has to be a disadvantage and, there is – depending upon your perspective? The cloud providers allocate free storage space to a certain level; this is not always well disclosed or clear but, once that allocation is used, a subscription service follows and you will have to pay for further data storage or, find another cloud provider and start again though having different providers for different media, could work.

Businesses usually have to purchase multi-user accounts and pay an annual fee from the beginning but worldwide sharing of information securely and with access so easily available, is an important solution to numerous practical problems and cloud suppliers usually add in another level/s of security.

Lesson 3 Getting Started

Home Computing      Lesson 3    (Mac/Apple)               Getting Started

All of our devices have an optional form of protection once switched on. It makes total sense to ‘password protect’ our devices and therefore, our data but, it can be inconvenient. Getting past passwords has become harder which is no less than we would expect but with Apple’s refusal to assist the FBI recently in breaking into a piece of equipment and with numerous ‘used’ Ipads out there that are locked, I would advise careful thoughts before electing any action.

Switch on your device; enter your password and hit Enter – the ‘carriage return’ key we used to use on our typewriters, located on the right hand side, RHS, of our keyboard.
For the purpose of this lesson, we are using a Macbook Pro Laptop but this is simply an equivalent of a PC desktop or laptop although some of the keys on the keyboard are slightly different.

Located on the bottom LHS, we find keys such as fn, ctrl, alt and cmd. Some of these are replicated on the RHS and between them sits the ‘space’ bar. Windows laptops have the Windows Logo button and I love this button as it is a shortcut to numerous (quick) screens, e.g., pressing the Windows button and the E button at the same time opens an ‘Explorer’ window on your monitor/screen and this it the whole filing cabinet or library contained on your computer and where we simply take control of all of our files, folders and hard drives - our total content in fact. Not so much on the Mac.

Pressing the Windows Logo and the letter D at the same time will take us quickly back to our Desktop, no matter how many windows or pages are open.

A word about the ubiquitous Mouse: an extremely clever device that changed how we use computers. When most of us heard about computers, it was with the onset of Windows 95 Operating System. Prior to this and from about 1981, IBM’s DOS, Disk Operating System dominated the computing world. However, the commands used in DOS are the basis of all commands and equate to things in Unicode, which is unimportant to us as users.
The Mouse, replicates the commands we type-in using our keyboards and handily, these typist style commands duplicate or are duplicated, by the Mouse actions. It follows therefore that an experienced typist with a good memory, can work more quickly in some instances than a typist in conjunction with a mouse. ?
If the typist knows the key sequence that the mouse is performing and can type the same commands from the keyboard, there is no point lifting a hand to engage with the mouse to locate the cursor to perform an action.

These shortcuts come into ‘their own’ in word processing.
In any of the word processing programs, certain actions are choices. Whether we choose to Left Justify (start our typing from the left hand side -  LHS) of the page or whether we centralise our layout, Right Justify or Fully Justify our text, is a matter of choice or purpose.
In the menu at the top of the page (toolbar), (radio) buttons are provided to enable these choices and with a click of the mouse (depressing the LHS button), you select accordingly.
IF you know the ‘keyboard shortcut’ for the action e.g., Ctrl + L = Left Justify or, Ctrl + E = Centralise Text or, Ctrl + R = Right Justify, then selecting this option from the keyboard is simply a breeze.

Numerous other shortcuts exist and probably one of the best known is Ctrl + P = Print.
Printing doesn’t actually happen but, a Print dialogue box opens and asks you what exactly you want to print and how – the user ALWAYS gets choices!

The CMD button on a MAC keyboard operates as a Ctrl button with Windows. Not all the shortcuts are the same and you can personally assign key sequences to actions if you so desire.

The Mouse: various models exist and as we learnt in our previous lesson, multi function mouses have taken over from the humble two-button original. Two button? The mouse has always had an under-used function namely, a Context Menu. Replicating some commands from menus, pressing the right button gives access to some of these actions however, as with the keyboard, some further actions can be assigned or added to the context menu.

These actions speed up operators or users and improve efficiency greatly. Adding more buttons, making wireless or radio mouses came next and optically operated mouses with trackballs to prevent mouse physical movements are a boon – if you like or get used to them? They do attract dirt through movement and require periodical cleaning to keep the actions smooth but without a doubt, the third addition was the most useful and took the shape of a wheel which scrolled and that scrolling action was seen in the screen as a cursor that followed up and down without the need to initiate the scrolling buttons (Up and Down arrows/pointers on the RHS) on the screen itself.

On some mouses, two more handy buttons have been added and by default, these buttons go back one action or forward one action e.g., when browsing, the back button will take you back a page (if it has already been viewed) or forward one page from the previous page (again, if it has been viewed already).

Studying Keyboards and their respective layouts is mostly, self-explanatory. Some keys do not match the identifier action depicted. We tend to assume that we are English speaking and we acknowledge differences between American English and UK English but does it end there? Of course it doesn’t. There are other variants of English and then all the other languages of the world; consider being French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese or Russian?

Many keyboard differences become apparent and necessary but, staying with English keyboard layouts itself presents some difficulty especially if people emigrate and take their equipment with them. There are a few common problems that occur regularly and accessing the Keyboard Settings Menu on your computer allows some changes to be made but some characters no longer can be found, some are located in the wrong indicated place and some are there but totally elusive.

I wouldn’t be too concerned except for a few conundrums such as @, £, €, and #. The @ is so necessary in all email addresses that it cannot be ignored so finding it is vitally important. The # known commonly as the ‘hash’ (also hash tag throughout the world), symbol in the UK and the number or pound symbol in North America is common in use too and all the characters can be found if you know where to look but, our focus is not on these assignations at present.

Accessing the Internet at ANY stage and typing in a question as basically as needs be, will produce numerous results to any and (almost) every query in the world. Remembering every detail has now become unnecessary due to this very reason and, unless there is a world-wide crash of computers, information and data will be ever-present.

All keyboard questions have been answered many times and all keyboard shortcuts are readily available for all operating systems, keyboards and languages.
Additionally, on the Macbook you can choose to display the keyboard icon on the top of your screen; clicking the icon opens a keyboard layout depiction and pressing keys with the cursor, demonstrates the actions as they will be in reality.

There are also dedicated buttons for accessing the Home page of a website when browsing; volume increase, decrease and mute; brightness increase and decrease; Play, Pause, Forward and Rewind along the top row and most importantly, an Escape button.
More useful on a Mac than a Windows device, the function often facilitates a quick exit from situations that don’t always bode well; it also has some positive functions as well.

Cursor Up, Down, Left and Right come in the form of Arrows < > and á â and the Shift function enables Capital letter typing whilst àI is the Tab key and moves across the page in steps or jumps open pages in sequence – more on this later.
Keyboard shortcuts quickly take you to the end or beginning of a line and also, the start and finish points on a page. There are ways to scroll down or up the page quickly too.

One common thing we have to do throughout our lives is compose letters for communication purposes. Similar in construction to the lessons we learned in school, the principles remain the same but the layout is simple but quite important – an example exists below:

The Principal                                                                                                                 Mr T Shoobridge
Faraday Higher Education Authority                                                                                  Park House
Nelson House                                                                                                                        Silver Street
The Strand                                                                                                                                    Honiton
London                                                                                                                                             Devon
W1T R2D                                                                                                                                     EX14 1QJ
                                                                                                                                   16 September 2018

Dear Sir
Re Employment Vacancy Ref 27345 Science Project Leader

I wish to apply for the vacant position indicated above, as advertised in the local press and as such, please find my Curriculum Vitae attached for consideration.

I will be available to attend an interview at your convenience and my contact details are as indicated above. Alternatively, I can be contacted by telephone on either of the following two numbers – xxxxx xxx xxx, xxxxx,xxx,xxx.

Yours faithfully

T Shoobridge

T Shoobridge

As you can easily see, the format is probably quite familiar to you and the contents, succinct? The information is minimal but perfectly adequate; to the point and not wasteful in words or reading time. The contents define the purpose clearly and all the necessary information is present.

My suggestion is that you ‘play’ with your individual keyboards and computers, learn how and where your keyboard skills lie and can be developed and simply practise some basic functions and exercises.

Keep your eyes on the ‘drop-down’ menus (Toolbars) at the top of your monitor screens and simply press buttons to see what happens. There is virtually nothing you can do that will harm the computer. Select ‘New’ from the ‘File’ document to open a new document and try highlighting a section of text by clicking the left button (possibly double-clicking) at a start point of your choosing and moving your mouse along a line of text. Unclick the mouse LH button and look for the Cut, Copy and Paste buttons in the menu at the top of the screen. If you select Cut, you can move the cursor to a new point and click Paste. This will drop the “cut” text where you decided to put it.

At any stage, clicking Ctrl or Cmd + Z will undo your last action (repeatedly).

Ctrl/Cmd + X will also Cut selected text, Ctrl/Cmd + C will Copy highlighted text or an object and Ctrl/Cmd + V, will Paste the selected Cut or Copied text.

Fn keys are Function keys and their action should follow that which is depicted on the keys of your keyboard. Shift + T will print a capital ‘T’ whereas, pressing T on its own with no Shift will produce a ‘t.’
Shift will also type the upper depicted character on the top row (2nd row down) of your keyboard.

Explore all the functions and actions of a word processing program as the versatility you will gain will be used in numerous applications including emails. There are simpler programs that can also be used for word processing but I advise you to use, to the fullest extent possible, Microsoft Word, Open Office or Libra Office’s equivalent as quite complex publications can be achieved as well as art, picture, object and photograph insertion. A word processing program of this nature is the fundamental program you will need in computing life – the backbone of nearly every writing program you will encounter.

Tables, charts, flow-charts can easily be created and numerous templates (patterns) are not only available as a standard part of the software but can easily be downloaded from the Internet for specific purposes.

Templates exist for CV construction, Booklets, Posters, Flyers, Newsletters, Business Cards and many other publications.

Finally, we need to Save our work or, discard it. With ‘>’ depicting the ‘next action’ instruction, this little sequence will illustrate how exactly we Save our work:
(Menu) File > Save As > (type in the name you wish to call your document) – you will see at the top of the Save As box, a location e.g. C//: My Documents.
We will go into this in more detail later but click OK and the document will be saved in that location with the name you decided. You can now click the Close (X or X) and the document will disappear from sight.
On a Mac computer, the program MS Word will remain open until you click on the word, WORD at the top LHS of the screen and select Quit Word  from the drop-down menu – the program will now close.

Though some of the explanations are in their basic form here, I’m sure most readers will have some appreciation and experience of these basic actions and functions?
The author does not wish to stagnate on instructions that cover the very basics unless the student really has no knowledge of these explanations and instructions?
Please email tshoobridge@btconnect.com if this is relevant to your situation.

Ctrl/Cmd + I will italicise the highlighted text.
Ctrl/Cmd + B will make the highlighted text Bold (blacker)
Ctrl/Cmd + U will Underline the selected/highlighted text
Pressing any of these buttons again when the text remains highlighted or, is selected again, will reverse the action of, Ctrl/Cmd + I, B or U.