Sunday, December 14, 2014

Using Technology for Dinosaurs

I guess the first question I should answer is "Who am I calling a Dinosaur?"
Awhile back my parents were talking computers with my brother.  I don't know the whole conversation just that he called them Dinosaurs and that has stuck.
If we think about how fast technology changes and timeline that - well in comparison they are (assuming that dinos lived a really long time ago).  Sort of like the cat or dog years thing.  

I decided to write this article after reading some thing from another miniaturist encouraging other older miniaturists (by age not experience necessarily) to try learning the basics that they are interested in and then branching out.  I thought that was really good advice but I wanted to expand on that idea with some knowledge I particularly wanted to share.

Using help may require using different terms to find

When it comes to learning sometimes we want to look for help in a program or on the internet. Sometimes it is difficult to get help because of the terms used.  So my advice is to search with the words you think it might be called, then try different words to describe the task until can find the help needed.  

Learn the basics so can build on them

My second tip ties in with the first one - when help is provided in a program, it is a good idea to read the basic instructions.  This is because some programs like math build on knowing how to do other tasks.  We can't multiple or divide until we understand how to add and subtract.  Most programs have basic tools that we need to understand in order to do other tasks.

More than one way to do a task

I am a right click mouse person.  This just means that I like using the right click of a mouse to do things.  I love when programs have a good set of tasks on the right click menu.  But I am not trying to convert you to right clicking so much as to illustrate that there is often more than one way to do a task.  For example, to copy something I have highlighted, I can use the right click menu, use a shortcut key set like Ctrl + C keys or I can go to the menu.  There are also function keys (F12 = Save As).  For the shortcut combos and function keys I recommend doing a search.  I find that it is a good idea to find some to add to my personal 'toolbox'.  I don't need to know each one, but it is good to be aware of them so that if I am doing repetitive steps, then I can save myself some steps.
I also think it is good to review these as it could be there is one to add at a later time.  Maybe right now I don't need it but later I might find is useful.  
Also research the shortcut keys in a particular program as there may be more in one program vs another.

When learning, use real world for you tasks

If you take a class in a program or computer basics, make sure you are also trying to do the things you really want to learn.  I have bought books to learn how to use a program.  For example, I have Paint Shop Pro.  The book provided me with cd containing picture files I could use to make changes to.  Instead of using those pictures, I use a copy of one of my own.  Then when I see the results of that particular task, I know what it might be like for my real photos. The best teacher will be a task you really want done and you learn how to do it for yourself. If we use examples that aren't relevant, then learning process requires us to translate to what we might do with it.  I recommend that if you are taking a class, take an example of something you want to work on and ask the instructor to help with that.  Maybe you have to do so after the class is over, but I believe you will get more benefit from the class you take.  It may help the instructor with ideas of what to teach or to provide as examples.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

When I was in school I hated to practice, but there is a benefit to doing so.  This is true for digital tasks as well.  The more you do the task the better you will become at it.  But also it will give confidence to try again.  

Don't be afraid to try

I get it, computers and software can be intimidating.  There are terms that don't make sense, there are many options to choose from, and there is that scary time when the computer froze and I just knew it was my fault.  Today's computers are not perfect, sure we can mess them up doing the wrong thing or by not doing something (like making sure to keep an active anti-virus software running), but they have come a long way to making them easier to use.  
This is reaffirming what my miniaturist friend was saying.  When we try something we get a feel good when we are successful.  Trying things you want to do and being able to do them, will help to build on trying other things.  

Technology is ever changing. 

We need to change with it.  Change our attitude and try things again that maybe didn't work before.  A good example is cell phones, just 5 years ago, the number of minutes on a plan was a big deal and the cost to go over was exorbitant.  Today, we have plans that are unlimited for less than those 300 minutes a month plans.  The way it was a few years ago is not necessarily how it is now.  

I hope this article was helpful and encouraged you to learn or try something new.  If there is a particular topic you think I could cover or question you would like to ask, feel free to email me

Happy miniaturing!