Saturday, December 11, 2010

Electronic Companies Dump Feature-Starved Products on Unsuspecting Black Friday Shoppers

I don't know why I should be so angry over the fact that the Samsung LCD TV I purchased on Black Friday lacks the ability to run apps from the new Samsung Apps Store.  After all, I purchased it as a secondary TV to use in my office to allow me to work out with my Wii and watch movies that my husband doesn't want to watch in the living room.  It does that just fine and I should have been satisfied.  But, as a technology-oriented person, I became excited when I read in the manual that the model I had purchased was wireless enabled and I saw on the Samsung website that they had an Apps store for their wireless products.  I thought it was a great bonus I had not expected.

I also noticed in the manual that a specific LAN adapter was mentioned.  I had an extra USB adapter from my DSL provider so I tried it but was met with a message telling me I had attached an unsupported device.  I also read on the web about other Samsung customers that had problems even with the adapter my manual specified.  So I called Samsung tech support to confirm that the model of TV I had purchased would in fact work with the specified LAN adapter. 

While I was talking to the support representative I mentioned to them that the reason I was so keen on hooking up the wireless was that I thought it would be better to stream my Netflix movies directly to a 1080p TV than to use my Wii to stream the movies.  I was afraid the lower resolution of the Wii would degrade the picture quality.  The tech support person agreed with me that it probably would and installing a LAN adapter on my new TV would be the best choice.  They also confirmed that the LAN adapter specified in the manual would be the one I would need.

On the Samsung website I also saw the link to a .pdf file that listed the apps available for various models of TVs.  I downloaded the .pdf and was gratified to see Netflix on the list for TVs like mine.

I purchased the LAN adapter from Amazon (it was on sale for $62 instead of the regular $79 price) and it arrived yesterday.  I plugged it in and the TV auto-recognized it right away.  I input my WEP security key and was ready to install the apps.  I went up on the Samsung website and set up an account then clicked on the FAQ to read how to begin and it said if I clicked on my Main Menu button I would see an internet@TV menu option.  When I did so I didn't see that menu option.  I checked under other menu options but saw nothing about setting up my internet access.  So I called Samsung tech support back and was told by a different customer representative that the model of TV I had couldn't access the app store and run apps.  I told her I had just discussed running Netflix on the TV a few days before with a different rep who I had called to verify the LAN adapter I would need and they didn't say anything about the fact that the model I had purchased would not do that.  Then I demanded to know what good was the wireless aspect of the device if I couldn't access the internet with it.  She told me I could use it to set up a PC share so I could retrieve images and movies from my computer and display on the TV.  I suppose that is better than nothing but I told her if that had been explained to me I would not have spent $62 for that feature since it wasn't that important to me.  I was fuming by then and told her quite bluntly that companies alluding to features in product literature included with products that aren't equipped to use the features just royally pisses people off. 

When I hung up in frustration, and ranted about it to my husband, he just looked at me calmly and asked why I cared about all that fancy stuff anyway?  I retorted "Because the literature said it could!" 

But Samsung isn't the only company guilty of subtly misleading customers.  On Black Friday, I also bought an LG Blu-Ray player.  The box it was packaged in had all of these logos for Netflix and YouTube and other websites plastered all over it to shout out that it was web capable.  When I got it home and unpacked it though, I discovered it only had an ethernet jack that required a cable between the player and my router.  There was no USB connection to enable you to attach a wireless adapter.  My router is three rooms away from my office so the ethernet jack is useless as I'm not going to drill  holes in my floor and crawl around under the house to run physical cable.  Again, the player does what I bought it for well - plays Blu-ray and regular DVDs just fine and I got it for a whopping $68, admittedly a good deal.  But I couldn't help but be irritated that it has the capability to access the internet but LG was too cheap to integrate wireless or even provide a simple USB connection so the much touted internet capabilities could be conveniently used. 

I read an article that said many companies that normally do not even produce plasma TVs also cleaned out their warehouses for Black Friday to seduce bargain hungry customers with outdated technology.  That is certainly not the way to win customer loyalty if my experience is typical.

I am grateful that the TV I purchased was not the main source of entertainment in our household and I'll definitely be much more skeptical and ask a lot more questions before plunking down a couple of thousand for a 3-D 55+ inch when our Mitsubishi projection TV finally gives up the ghost.  After my experience I also don't think I'll bother to participate in the Black Friday madness again if I were ever looking for another major appliance since it is apparent to me electronics manufacturers just use Black Friday to get rid of feature-starved products that haven't been selling anyway.

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Monday, December 06, 2010

Geekiness a plus when buying a new TV

Since I retired my husband and I have tussled over control of the big screen TV in the living room.  He likes to watch automotive shows like "Chop, Cut, Rebuild" or "manly" reality shows like "Swamp People" or "Ax Men" while I would rather watch programs about ancient history on Discovery, Nat Geo or History Channel International.  In the winter time, he has very little to do outside so spends a lot of time watching TV.  With my publishing and photography activities, I spend much more time on the computer.  But there are times when I do want to watch a particular program and find it frustrating when he won't surrender the remote.

Last Christmas I also got a Wii game system but, again, my husband didn't want to give up watching TV so I could play a game of Wii tennis, go scuba diving in Endless Ocean, go on safari with Wild Earth, go fishing with Bass Pros or work out with Wii fit.  The only solution was to purchase another television.  But my husband balked, complaining that I would spend even more time back in my office than I already did if I had my own TV back there.

Still, I kept researching specifications so I would be prepared if the opportunity to purchase one arose and learned that all 40" TVs are not created equal. My son had told me that I should look for an LCD instead of a plasma because LCDs are more energy efficient and do not suffer pixel "burn out" as quickly as a plasma set.  I'm one of those frugal types who keeps TVs, like my car, for literally decades.  In fact, we are still watching an old picture tube-style television in the dining room that we bought way back in the 80s. (It's so heavy that now I am older I have to have help to move it if I need to clean behind the entertainment center.)  So pixel burn out would be an important consideration for people like me who plan to keep their new HD TV for a long period of time. 

Articles I have read also mentioned that plasma sets were more susceptible to burn-in as well, particularly if you watch a channel that has its logo in the lower corner of the set for hours without changing it. 

My son also recommended getting a set with at least a 120 Hz refresh rate.  Some articles say the average person cannot tell the difference between a 60 Hz and LCDs with faster refresh rates but my son felt he could tell the difference.  Although this would not be a big issue if a set is being purchased primarily for use with a Wii game system capable of only 480p resolution, it may make a difference if you watch Blu-Ray movies on it or eventually use a higher resolution game console like the PS3 or X-box.and enjoy fast-paced "shooters". 

So I tried to keep all of these things in mind as I perused the sale ads.  I knew, though, the biggest challenge would be to catch my husband at a vulnerable moment just to buy one at all.  As Christmas approached I read about HD TVs being the big bargain this season and hoped I would find a way to finally get one.

In the meantime, the old computer my husband used to search for military vehicle parts on Ebay gave up the ghost. I offered to let him use my netbook that I use when I travel but he insisted he needed something with a screen bigger than my Asus' 10 inches.  So, I suggested it was time to buy him a new laptop - another tech product expected to be a bargain this year. 

When I got the stack of sale papers for Black Friday I looked them all over and pointed out that if we could get to Walmart early enough, we could pick up an E-machine laptop with 15+" monitor, 2 Gb of Ram and a 250 GB hard drive for less than $200 - a really good buy and more than adequate for his basic web browsing needs.  However, I also noticed that the local Office Depot had a similarly equipped Lenovo - generally considered a better brand - for only a little more.   I looked wistfully at the great buys on LCD TVs but didn't mention them.  Joe decided we would get up early and try to get one of the laptops.  Since I had never been part of any Black Friday crush and remember the terrible news reports of people being trampled to death at a Walmart back east, I tenuously agreed but cautioned him that we should view it as a holiday adventure and not be too disappointed if we come home empty handed because I had no intention of getting physical with anyone to grab a bargain.

Walmart said their sale would start at 5 a.m. so we got up at 4 a.m. and drove the ten minutes to Walmart.  I thought it was strange there was no line and the doors were open.  We went inside and discovered that Walmart, that is normally open 24/7, had allowed anyone in the store after midnight to pick up the doorbuster specials and put them in their cart.  They just couldn't check out until 5 a.m.  So there were all these shoppers with full carts just loitering around.  Naturally, all the cheap laptops were gone.  So we reverted to plan B and got back into the car and drove over to Office Depot which wasn't scheduled to open until 6 a.m.  There was a line but it wasn't too long. About fifteen minutes before the scheduled opening time, the manager came out and went down the line asking which computer, camera, etc. each person was hoping to buy.  He handed out coupons for each item in stock and still had some of the Lenovo laptop coupons left when he got to me so we were able to get my husband a decent laptop. I was not only relieved to know that we were guaranteed a laptop but glad I wouldn't have to be shoved around by other anxious shoppers once the door opened. In fact, I was very  impressed that Office Depot was so organized and thoughtful.  Then we drove over to Fred Meyer, a local discount department store, so I could get a couple of sale games. 

While I was there, I was chatting with the store clerk about the good buys on HD TVs and she said if I was interested in a great HD TV, I should have been there earlier to get the 40" Samsung that was on sale for less than $500.  I purchased my game and started to walk out of the store but as I passed the sign still sitting there for the 40" Samsung LCD HDTVs (sitting on a stack of 32" TVs) I glanced over and saw there were two 40" TV cartons slid back along the bottom of the stack.  So I walked back in and asked the clerk if either of those were the ones she was talking about.  She said "Wow, I didn't think there were any left".  So, just hoping my husband would relent, I walked out to the car and told him about the sets.  He was still feeling lucky about his new laptop so he just said it was my money if I wanted to buy one.  I could hardly believe my ears So I raced back inside and wrestled one into my cart.

I thought the sale sign indicated the set I was buying had a 120 Hz refresh rate so I figured I was all set.

I got the TV home and hooked it up and was pleasantly surprised to find that it had 4 HDMI outlets, 2 USB ports, DVI audio and video connections for a PC, a couple of different composite video connections, optical audio and an ethernet jack. It's instruction manual said it could also be used with a USB Wifi adapter that, for me, would be much more convenient since my router is three rooms away from my office.  By using WiFi, I could stream Netflix directly to the set and get full 1080p HD resolution instead of reduced resolution by streaming Netflix through my Wii connected via composite video.  I tried using one of my spare Qwest DSL USB adapters but the TV wouldn't recognize it.  Samsung tech support confirmed that I had to purchase a proprietary USB Lan adapter (that I got on sale for $62 from Amazon) - a bit annoying but not a deal breaker.

With additional research, I also learned that the model I had purchased was not 120 Hz after all despite what the sign said .  I  called Fred Meyer but their customer service rep said the model I had was the correct model and that they had never even stocked any 120 Hz models.  Maybe I was wrong about the sign.  It could have been wishful thinking on my part and the sign is long gone.  I must admit I got so excited when my husband agreed to let me buy one I may have forgotten to check.

But, I also learned that this particular model had an excellent contrast ratio (90,000:1) compared to less expensive sets.  I had never considered contrast ratio and learned that the higher the contrast ratio the better range of difference between white and black.

This specification is especially important if you locate your TV in a brightly lit room or a room with a lot of windows.  As it turns out, my TV is on the wall opposite two French doors flanked by two windows - glass from almost floor to ceiling.  But I noticed that there is hardly any glare, the picture is finely detailed and the colors appear rich.   Many times, watching our old projection TV in the living room, my husband and I have been frustrated when movies would have night scenes because all we could see was a black screen.  We could only listen to the audio.

Later in the day on Black Friday, I managed to snag an internet ready Blu-Ray player for only $68.  So, I purchased my first Blu-Ray movie, "Prince of Persia", and when I tried out the new player on the new TV I marveled at how well I could see details, even in night scenes.  Contrast ratio, then must be an important consideration for settings like mine.

Reading over articles like this one  on my How-to-Geek website,  I also learned that pixel response time is considered important as well.  The model I purchased has a 6 millisecond pixel response time.  The 6 ms response time is not ultra fast but I must admit I didn't notice any motion blur with either my Blu-Ray movies or my Wii games so perhaps this spec, like the refresh spec, is not as important as some officianados may claim.  Even if I eventually add another game system, I personally am not interested in fast-paced shooting games so it probably is not that important to me anyway. 

Overall, for the money I spent, I managed to get a set that I think will serve my needs well for a reasonable price.  If  someone were to ask me which features I think are most important, I would rank them in the following order:

  • LCD (instead of plasma)
  • 1080p (instead of 780p)
  • Overall screen dimensions (get as much screen real estate as possible for your budget if your space allows)
  • Number and variety of component connections - at least 2 USB and 3 or more HDMI (especially if you plan to use multiple game systems or other high-definition components)
  • Wifi ready so you can view web-based content like Netflix instant streaming, YouTube videos, and other sites with streaming multimedia since streaming media is the delivery mode of the future (that's also why you need the second USB port until manufacturers start integrating Wifi)
  • High Contrast Ratio for use in brightly lit environments
  • At least 120 Hz refresh rate (a nod to my son's observations although the 60 Hz I ended up with has no problem with motion blur that my older eyes can detect) 
  • pixel response time ( as close to 1 ms as you can get without paying too much of a premium)
  • LED for energy savings if you can afford the price difference

As noted above, I realize an LED LCD would have been more energy efficient but I would have had to up the ante in price quite a bit to get it and since the set I purchased was for infrequent use in my office compared to daylong use in the living room, it was a good compromise. 

As I think back on all the information I tried to assimilate before taking the plunge of buying an HD TV I can't help but wonder, though, how regular people without the "geek" background that I have sort through all the confusing hype to actually select a TV.  Maybe, ultimately, that is what has been holding back adoption of HD for so long.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Turn a simple search into a nonprofit donation

I received an email today from reminding me that by using the Yahoo-powered service when I conduct my online research I could generate badly needed donations for charities of my choice.  Apparently the service was featured by a major news network but I must have missed the piece - a hazard sometimes of being a television by satellite customer!  Anyway, I checked it out and it seems to be highly recommended.  I'm not used to using Yahoo as my default search engine but I suppose it doesn't hurt to give it a try.  I installed the GoodSearch toolbar, available from their website, into my browser to make it easier to incorporate this new way of giving into my daily work tasks. 

Many non-profits are really hurting this year.  I read that even the uber-rich have cut back their giving by as much as 38% - a real tragedy considering so many agencies that help low income households are literally swamped with so many people unemployed right now. 

" is a Yahoo powered search engine which donates about a penny per search to the user’s favorite charity or school! You use it exactly as you would any other search engine, but it turns the simple act of doing an Internet search into an act of doing good.  And the pennies add up quickly.  Just 500 people searching four times a day will earn approximately $7,300 a year!  And, it doesn’t cost the users a thing!

In addition, the sister site has partnered with more than 1,600 retailers including Target, Apple, Macy’s, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Gap, PETCO and others to donate a percentage of each purchase back to the charity or school of the shopper’s choice (as well as provide thousands of coupons and free shipping offers).
More than 95,000 nonprofits and schools are on-board and seeing the results! (We can give you a list of some in your area.)

GoodSearch and GoodShop have quickly spread via word-of-mouth, the blogger community, and a number of celebrities and their foundations including Jessica Biel, Montel Williams, Jeff Bridges, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw among others. 
  • Supporters of the ASPCA have raised over $37,000 to help animals in need
  • St. Jude Children's Research Hospital has earned more than $13,000 to find cures and save children
  • The National Inclusion Project, which helps children with disabilities, has used the money it earned to send more than 150 children to summer camp
  • A single purchase at resulted in a $284 donation to the Motion Mania Dance Theater in Maryland

Internet users have found GoodSearch and GoodShop to be a compelling idea.  Beth Elson, a lawyer in Chicago, uses GoodSearch and GoodShop to support the Best Friends Animal Society which runs the nation's largest sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals.  “This seems too good to be true but it’s not! I feel fantastic knowing that every time I search the Internet – which I do all the time – I’m helping a cause I care so much about.  It’s a no-brainer to use this site!”

The GoodSearch and GoodShop team is revolutionizing online philanthropy so that no one is denied the opportunity to support the causes most important to them.  “The response to this idea has been truly overwhelming,” said Ken Ramberg, Co-Founder of GoodSearch and former President of JOBTRAK, the largest online career site for college students (which was acquired by “More than 100 new nonprofits and schools nationwide register daily allowing GoodSearch and GoodShop to truly make a difference in communities across the country.  These sites make it possible for everyone, regardless of how much time or money they have, to give back.”

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Friday, November 19, 2010

S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-N-G iPhone Battery Life

iPad, iPhone, MacBook ProImage via WikipediaI've never been one to chat much on my iPhone.  In fact, there are months when I don't use any of my available talk minutes even though I have used the data features.  So, unless there is a crisis of some kind in the works, when I travel a long distance I often turn my iPhone off completely to conserve its battery since I may not be able to recharge it until late at night or, in the case of overseas flights, until sometime the next day.   As a member of the baby boomer generation, I was not raised with cell phones so don't feel "disconnected" when I am not "available".  But for those of you who can't quite bring yourselves to sever your umbilical to your connected friends, family members and colleagues, this article offers other less drastic ways to help stretch the battery life of your iPhone, iPod or iPad.  I'm sure these techniques would also work with non-apple Smartphones as well.

Of those listed, I found the following most helpful to me:

Make Sure the Screen Locks Quickly

Even if you’ve adjusted the screen brightness, there’s still no substitute for having it turn off quickly when you’re not using it. Head into General -> Auto-Lock to set the screen lock to happen as quickly as your device will let you. This makes a big difference if you are always picking up your phone and putting it back into your pocket without turning the display off.
 I have mine set for 1 minute.

Use Airplane Mode When You Don’t Need Internet (iPad/iPhone)

If you’re busy spending the next 8 hours playing Angry Birds, there might not be a good reason to have internet access, so you can consider using Airplane Mode, which turns off both Wi-Fi and the regular wireless radio. Of course, this will prevent phone calls if you’re on an iPhone—but if you’re busy with Angry Birds you probably don’t want the interruption anyway.
 My grandson recently loaded Angry Birds on my phone but I much prefer iFishing, Spear Fishing 3D, Sims 3 World Adventure or Sudoku and I hate to be interrupted if I have a fish on!!

Use Wi-Fi Instead of 3G if Possible

According to Apple, the iPad will get 10 hours of battery life under regular use with Wi-Fi enabled, but will only get 9 hours using 3G—the iPhone gets 6 for 3G and 10 for Wi-Fi. Of course, if you’re heavily using the Wi-Fi, you’ll still be draining the battery—the point is under similar workloads, Wi-Fi is better than 3G for battery life.
I actually can't get a cell signal when I'm at home anyway so I always have my Wifi network configured to ON.

Reduce or Eliminate Mail & Calendar Checking

If you’ve got a bunch of email, calendar, or contact accounts configured, and they are all being checked and downloading email on a regular basis, you’ll be draining the battery an awful lot faster than you need to.
Head into Settings -> Mail, Contacts, Calendars -> Fetch New Data and change the setting to the least frequent check possible. If you don’t use it often, you can just turn Push off entirely and then manually check when you need to.
Now that I'm retired, I don't have to worry about someone other than me updating my calendar and I seldom use my iPhone to check mail.  Since I no longer have to worry about malfunctioning servers or frantic grant researchers who can't perform some technology function and are facing a grant submission deadline, I can usually wait until I'm in front of my regular computer to respond to email.  So I turned off the constant checking and will just manually enable it if I need to take a peek.

Disable Bluetooth If You Don’t Need It

If you don’t use a Bluetooth headset or keyboard, you should keep the Bluetooth radio disabled to save some extra battery life. Head into Settings -> General -> Bluetooth to flip it on or off.
Since I never treat talking on the phone as a priority I have never seen a reason to buy a headset so this one was a no brainer for me.

Probably the most important advice was at the end of the article.

Charge and Discharge Your Battery Regularly

Your iDevice needs to be fully discharged and recharged at least once a month to operate at maximum efficiency and keep the battery from dying. You’ll also want to make sure that you don’t store the device with a dead battery, as that can also cause the battery to lose charge capability—when your battery dies, make sure to recharge it quickly.

This one is hard for me since I seldom run my phone's battery down.  This also probably applies to laptops and serves as a good reminder for me since my netbook has only been recharged a couple of times since I returned from Rome in March of 2009.  I'll obviously have to be more dilligent!

iPhone For Dummies: Includes iPhone 4 (For Dummies (Computer/Tech))   iPad For Dummies   iPod & iTunes For Dummies, DVD + Book Bundle (For Dummies (Computer/Tech))
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Excluding digital camera transfer folders from antivirus scan list boosts performance

Recently, I removed McAfee and Spybot and installed Microsoft Security Essentials and my computer performance seems to have improved.  But I am always looking for other ways to improve its speed and I found this article on excluding "known good" folders from your antivirus scan list to speed up computer performance helpful.  I took this article's advice and excluded the folder where I transfer images from my digital camera since I know they are virus-free and take up gigabytes of disk space.

It also recommended excluding folders containing music files as long as you are obtaining your music files from a reliable source like Amazon, iTunes, or  I have an Audible subscription and download large audio book files from them every month so I guess I should exclude those as well.

The article points out that you should always exclude by file folder rather than by file type or file name.  As long as you keep files from particular sources (like your digital camera) in their own folder that is kept separate from folders with downloaded files from the internet, it works quite well.

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Friday, October 22, 2010

HDMI 4.1 fills the bill even for 3-D devices coming this holiday season


Until I read this article I thought HDMI was the only choice for new HD electronic components but I guess there is something called Display Port.  Since I retired I guess I'm getting a little slow on tracking electronic trends!

Image via Wikipedia

DisplayPort is another new video connector that’s being included on newer equipment, especially laptops.  It was designed as the successor to DVI and VGA on computers, but hasn’t seen as much adoption as either DVI or HDMI.  However, it is being included on all newer Macs and many Dell, HP, and Lenovo computers.  It is actually very similar to HDMI, so it streams both HD video and audio on the same cable, and can output up to 1920×1080 resolution and 8 channels of audio on a single cable.
 On the good side, DisplayPort does support HDCP, so you can use it to playback protected HD content from Blu-rays and more.  You can also connect it to an HDMI or DVI port with a  convertor, since the digital signal is compatible.  The problem is, few monitors and TVs include DisplayPort ports, so you’ll almost have to have a convertor if you want to connect your laptop to a larger screen. -What’s the Difference Between HDMI and DVI? Which is Better?

 I was relieved to see that "Geeks" agrees with my favorite bargain hunter, Stacy Johnson, who says a cheap $10 HDMI cable is all you need too.  Monster cables costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars are a ridiculous waste of money.  That company needs to reinvent itself now that digital video is becoming so widespread.  

The one question this article didn't answer for me, though, was whether the current crop of HDMI cables will handle true 3D that will be available on HD televisions this holiday season.  But, I found this statement about the new HDMI 4.1 standard.

The latest version of the HDMI standard establishes critical infrastructure for implementing 3D video in the home, defining input/output protocols that will allow 3D displays and source devices to communicate through an HDMI link. It’s a major milestone on the path to bringing true 3D gaming and 3D home theater to the mass market, supporting resolutions up to 1080p in 3D.
3D technology is evolving rapidly, with several competing approaches under development, so the HDMI 1.4 specification establishes protocols for a number of popular 3D display methods, including:
  • Frame, line, or field alternative methods
  • Side by side methods (full and half)
  • 2D plus depth methods

 16' x 9' Home Backyard Theater System Projector Screen    Optoma HD20 High Definition 1080p DLP Home Theater Projector (Grey)   Optoma HD65 720p DLP Home Theater Projector
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Saturday, October 02, 2010

Compromised credit cards a pain when used for autopays

A couple of days ago I received ANOTHER call from the security department of a credit card that I use for all of my online autopayments telling me that a new card they just sent me a month ago has already been compromised.  I'm afraid I lost my temper and really gave the poor security representative a piece of my mind.

As a retired director of information systems for a college at a major university for over 20 years, I am well aware of hazards involved with e-commerce and have always taken all of the prescribed precautions.  I have used online credit transactions since the time they were first introduced on the internet and I have gone years without problems.  Now in less than two months one of my credit cards has been compromised twice.

Naturally, this makes me immediately suspicious that the bank's own database has been compromised, especially since the new card had not been used for anything but autopayments to my electric company, my satellite TV provider, my long distance company, etc. but they insist that it hasn't.  I asked them how they knew to call me to check on a suspicious transaction then and they told me that the perpetrator of the fraudulent purchase did not use the correct security code or my correct address.  These types of thieves use a number generator to generate random 16-digit numbers that are then used online to see if they will be accepted for online purchases.  If a small transaction goes through, it lets them know the number is a valid credit card number.   Then they attempt even larger purchases. 

So I asked them why, then, did their system allow the transaction to go through? I've written computer programs and I know their system could be programmed to automatically deny these types of fraudulent purchase attempts.

I also explained to them that I was using their credit card for my online autopayments so having to reset all of my account information for all of my service providers was very time consuming.   They just kept repeating to me that they were sorry for the inconvenience but wasn't I gratified that they were so observant.

Then they asked me how I wanted to receive my new card.  They "offered' to send a replacement card to me for ONLY $30 by express delivery.  I snapped back that I wasn't going to pay $30 for what I deemed was their mistake!  I told them if they would put the new card in US mail I would have it in a couple of days anyway.  Oh no, they said.  It would take time to prepare the new card so I wouldn't get it for 10 days to 2 weeks.  I just snorted back that I had a whole drawer full of empty credit cards and I'd just pick another one, then, to use in the meantime!!  I don't think the credit card rep expected that response.

This last ploy to get $30 out of me made me suspicious that the bank itself was pulling a scam trying to get yet another fee to replace all the fees they used to make before the government cracked down on them a couple of months ago.  After all, both compromises occurred right at the end of the month when autopayments are being processed.  Both compromises involved two very small transactions from an online vendor I couldn't even find online.

Anyway, now I had the problem of what to do about my autopayments again. 

So, I decided to use a card for my autopays from a different bank.  I have a Bank of America card and I noticed that they offer a free service called "Safe Shop".  To use it you set up an online banking account then you go under your credit card account and click on a link for More Details.  There you will see a link to set up a Safe Shop card. 

Safe Shop is like a virtual credit card with its own number, its own security code and its own credit limit that you set that is connected to your real credit card.  If you want to set up a recurring payment for something like Netflix you create a virtual Safe Shop VISA and specify a maximum amount allowable per month for the transaction and how many months of transactions you wish to authorize up to a maximum of 12 months. 

For example, I generated a Safe Shop VISA for Netflix and set a $10 payment limit for 12 months.  Then I logged into Netflix went to my account settings and entered the new "virtual" Safe Shop VISA information as my new source for autopayments.  Each Safe Shop VISA can only be used at one location. 

To set up my next autopay for my puppies' pet insurance account I generated another Safe Shop VISA, set a credit limit sufficient to cover the premiums for 12 months then called VPI (my pet insurance company) and gave them my new Safe Shop VISA information for their account. 

Only Bank of America has the association key to link these virtual VISAs to my real credit card.  My real credit card number is never given to any online vendor and each vendor has a different virtual VISA number that cannot be reused so it eliminates the possibility that an employee of any of the online vendors could use my credit card number anywhere else. 

I just have to set myself a reminder next September to go back and reissue new virtual VISAs for my next 12 months of autopayments since the maximum number of months of credit you can set per virtual card is 12.  It's worth an hour once each year to be able to take care of bill paying in a more secure fashion.  By the way, you can also generate a virtual VISA for just a single online purchase too for those occasional online bargains!

The service is entirely free.

I realize this process is not as convenient as the One-click shopping that many larger vendors are attempting to get you to use but it's worth the piece of mind.

Museums take baby steps with iPhone Apps

Edward Rothstein, art critic for the New York Times, gave his take on the museum iPhone apps that are popping up all over New York.  I think he is right on target when he points to GPS as the key to make the retrieval of information about objects in a particular collection much more seamless for the visitor.

Imagine standing in front of an object with an app that, sensing your location, is already displaying precisely the right information. It might offer historical background or direct you through links to other works that have some connection to the object. It might provide links to critical commentary. It might become, for each object, an exhibition in itself, ripe with alternate narratives and elaborate associations. And, best of all, you could save it for later, glance up from the screen and look carefully at what faces you, all scrims removed, all distractions discarded.- Edward Rothstein, From Picassos to Sarcophagi, Guided by iPhone Apps
I must admit, though, that I was surprised he pointed out that the app information may not even be equal to the information on the item's printed ID card.  Why aren't museum inventory databases connected to such information retrieval systems so a visitor can view at least all of the information on the ID card if nothing else?

I was also surprised that he complained that many objects' search tags are so obtuse.

Monet’s “Church at Vernon,” (from the Brooklyn Museum of Art) we learn, is tagged “blue,” “dreamy,” “hazy,”  Rothstein observes, puzzled.

At first I thought he meant that only those tags were entered.  However, by looking at the link Rothstein provided to the Brooklyn Museum's actual object record for this painting, we see there are 28 tags for this work of art and the museum invites visitors to add more tags.  Tags like "dreamy" actually serve to record a visitor's emotional response to the painting and although such a tag is subjective I agree with the museum's inclusion of it since art is suppose to evoke an emotional response from the viewer.  I had never thought about tagging art with emotional terms before but I like it!

For those of us who are trying to assist educators and students by providing photographs that we have taken of museum art objects and artifacts, how about an application that we can use to sync the Geocoordinates recorded as XIF data in the images from our cameras with the museum's inventory records so we can be  certain we are labeling images correctly.  Now I have to remember to photograph the image's ID card and, if the information is provided in a list of object descriptions, align the information in such a way that I can distinguish it from entries above and below it.  Similar objects are often displayed together so its not always obvious which description goes with which object unless you take an image that includes the item's number.  I take a lot of detail closeups that do not include the item number so I may not have a number for reference when I am working on my images in post production.

In fact, a perfect application based on the Flickr API using the Flickr Uploader interface would match the image coordinates with the inventory records then use the Title, artist, date, location made, and medium for the Title field, populate the tag field with the museum's tags formatted as needed for Flickr then populate the description field with a "Photographed by (photographer name) at (linked Museum name)", like I do now manually. 

I like the way the Brooklyn Museum displays related works by tag groups in their records.  Ideally, I think it would be even more helpful if the related object images were linked to a gallery map indicating each related object's location so a visitor that was interested in comparison could easily find them.

In fact, a visitor tracking system based on GPS could alert visitors to small exhibits in adjoining alcoves that might have been missed if the visitor begins to leave a main gallery space without a travel path into the adjoining alcove.  I usually try to be quite thorough when I am photographing museum collections but on my second visit to the Getty Villa, I noticed a display of ancient coins and jewelry in a small alcove off of one of their main galleries that I just hadn't seen on my first visit.  I'm very fortunate that I travel to the LA area on business at least once a year so I've been able to visit the Getty three times.  However, when I'm overseas, I may be in a museum only once - perhaps in my entire lifetime - so I don't want to miss little treasures tucked away in obscure areas of the museum. 

Museums could also analyze these travel path records to determine if objects could be displayed differently to avoid visitor oversight.

Understanding GPS: Principles and Applications, Second Edition   GPS: Theory, Algorithms and Applications    PEACH - Intelligent Interfaces for Museum Visits (Cognitive Technologies) 

Friday, October 01, 2010

Star Trek vs. Star Wars Fake Movie Trailer Points The Way to Online Remix Service

This morning I received a link to a fake movie trailer where the Starship Enterprise and her crew (circa Star Trek: The Next Generation) race to save planet earth from Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader and their evil minions.

The YouTube producer 2SunsNoWomen did an excellent job of integrating scenes from:

Star Trek (2009)
Star Trek First Contact
Star Trek Generations
Star Trek Nemesis
Star Wars A New Hope
Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars Return of the Jedi
Star Wars Revenge of the Sith

Yes, I was an original Trekker and seeing scenes from Star Trek is like savoring a mouthful of my favorite dessert.  Star Trek must still be the favorite dessert for a lot of other people as I see the video has almost 40,000 views in less than a week!

My dream would be to easily have the ability to create a similar mashup of movie clips and share online with an online movie subscription and an enhanced remote control.  I have read that some Blue Ray DVDs include a mashup feature but I'm told its pretty primitive compared to a clip like this one .  I can only speculate as, alas, my husband says I can't get HD until our big screen bites the dust (which could be quite a while since we just replaced the convergence component last year).  I must admit even I want to wait until the dust settles around 3D integration but my resolve weakens everytime I walk into Best Buy or the entertainment department of Sears.

Of course there is also the problem of accessing clips from films produced by different studios.  I noticed after working in higher ed for over 20 years that a lot of people used to talk about the synergy that could be achieved with interdisciplinary courses but very few professors actually tried developing them.  Perhaps when we finally get enough critical mass of streaming customers to motivate the studios to move all movies to online delivery maybe they'll introduce a movie remix service that will let us add multiple movies to a project space much like Microsoft MovieMaker does, mark start and stop points on a movie to isolate desired scenes, edit, then save to Youtube and share via email, Twitter and Facebook.

I'd love to take a crack at a remix of Oliver Stone's "Alexander".  The introduction of the theatrical release was so slow and drawn out that even I was tapping my foot impatiently on the theater floor waiting for something to happen!  I purchased the director's cut when it was released on DVD and it was an improvement but still too low key for a tale about such a dynamic conqueror.  I think I would have started with the scenes of young Alexander (Connor Paolo) and King Philip II (Val Kilmer) in the dank cave below their palace in Pella looking at paintings of legendary heroes on the cave walls.

I would intersperse live battle scenes at points where the camera shows a closeup of  drawings of the eagle pecking out Prometheus' liver, the helmeted warrior with an arrow protruding from his eye and Herakles thrusting up the body of one of his children, then cut away to Alexander looking over the aftermath of the battle of Gaugamela followed by the camera pulling back and up to encompass the whole battlefield.  Then I would proceed from that point on. 

Sorry Sir Anthony Hopkins, you're a heck of an actor but listening to an old character ramble on for twenty minutes is not the way to open an historical epic IMHO.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Filemaker Workshop: Linking Tables with Many to Many Relationships

This post is another in a series of posts that represent classroom exercises that I used to conduct as a Filemaker Pro instructor. These exercises are designed for new Filemaker Pro users  or those unfamiliar with structuring a database with related tables.  This lesson can be used with the sample file Students.fp7 . It can be downloaded by right clicking on the link and selecting "Save Link As" or "Save Target As" depending on which browser you are using.  My instructions and screenshots are based on the Windows Version (8.5) of Filemaker Pro.  Mac users can generally follow the same instructions with only a few minor menu differences.

In this exercise the student will:

Create a new table
Create new fields
Create new relationships
Create new layouts
Create a portal
Create a value list that uses two fields, one for input and one for display
Format Field with a dropdown list

Let's begin!


When you related the "Schools" and "Students" tables in exercise #1, you established a one-to-many relationship between those two tables.

In more complex databases, a many-to-many relationship may exist. For example, each student can potentially enroll in many seminars and each seminar can potentially have many students enrolled in it.

Whenever you have a many-to-many relationship between two tables, you cannot link those tables together directly. You will need to create an intermediate table between the two to act as a "bridge". This "bridge" table needs to include only the information necessary to record a single event. For example, if a student registers for a seminar, we only need to record the ID of the student and the ID of the seminar that the student has requested.  We may also wish to record additional information about the student's participation in the Seminar like Show or No Show, Grade or Assessment Notes.  But we do not need to include any more information about the student themselves other than their ID.  If we wish to view their enrollment records directly, we can simply add related fields from the Student table to view their full name, their address, their phone, etc.

Likewise, we do not need to include any more information about the seminar they attended other than the Seminar ID.  If we wish to view the instructor name, the course title, or any other details about the course, we simply add related fields from the Seminar table to our layout based on the Registrations table.

Creating an Intermediate "Bridge" Table:

1. Open the Students.fp7 sample file.  Choose File ->New->Database and click on the Tables tab.

2. Type "Registrations" in the "Table Name" field and click "Create".

3. Now select the Fields tab and enter Student# in the Field Name box, select Number for the field type and click Create.

Repeat this process and create another number field named Seminar Number.

4. We will now need to define the relationships between the Student and Registrations tables and the Seminars and Registrations tables. ( I have already created the table Seminars and populated it with sample data for you.)

5. Choose the Relationships tab.

6. Click on the "Student #" field in the Registrations table and drag the field over on top of the Student Number field in the Students table.  Note: Related field names do not have to be identical.

Now double click on the relationship line between the tables.

Check  "Allow creation of records in this table via this relationship" and "Delete related records in this table via this relationship" under the Registrations table in the dialog box and click OK.

This will enable us to create a layout based on the Student table and embed a portal based on the Registrations table that we can use to enroll students in a new seminar or view the seminars they have already taken.

7. Now select the field "Seminar Number" in the Registrations table and drag it over on top of Seminar Number in the Seminars table.

Now double click on the relationship line between the tables and check "Allow creation of records in this table via this relationship" and "Delete related records in this table via this relationship" under the Registrations table in the dialog box and click OK. 


This will enable us to create a layout based on the Seminars table and embed a portal based on the Registrations table that we can use to enroll multiple students in a new seminar.

Note: Pay close attention to which table is directly above the checkboxes you are selecting.  We want to be able to create new records in the Registrations table from a layout based on the Seminar table - not the other way around!

Now click OK to close the Define Database dialog box.

Let's create a basic layout to view records in the new Registrations table.  Select View->Layout Mode then Layout->New Layout.  Select the table Registrations and name the layout Registrations and select the Standard Form as the layout type and click Next.

Now click the Move All button then click Next.  Select an appealing template then click Finish. Select View->Browse and you'll see we don't yet have any records.

Now we'll create a layout to use to enroll students in seminars using an instructor's viewpoint of the Seminars table.

8.  Select View->Layout Mode then Layout->New Layout.  In the New Layout dialog box select the Seminars table to "Show Records From", name the layout Seminar Enrollment then select the Standard Form layout type and click Next.

On the next screen click the Move All Button to select and move the Seminar #, Seminar Title and Instructor fields in the layout field list and click Next.  Select an appealing design template then click Finish.

9.  Now click on the portal icon in the design palette on the left hand side of your layout screen.

Your cursor will change into a crosshair.  Hold your mouse button down and draw a rectangle about 4" wide.  In the Portal Setup dialog box select the table Registrations.  Check the "Allow Deletion of Portal Records" checkbox and the "Show Vertical Scroll Bar" checkbox and set the number of rows to display to 5 then click OK.

In the "Add Fields to Portal" dialog box, double click the field Student# from the Registrations table

then select the table Students from the drop down list

and double click Last Name and First Name.  Then click OK.

Now we'll set up a value list to be used to format the Student# field in our portal so whoever is enrolling the student can choose from a list of names and doesn't need to know the student's ID number.

First, though, let's create a calculated field that combines the student's Last Name with their  First Name.

10.  Select File->Define->Database and choose the fields tab.  Select the Student table then name the field LastNameFirstName and select Calculation from the Field Type dropdown list. Then click the Create button.

In the "Specify Calculation" dialog box, double click the field "Last Name" then click the ampersand operator - & - and in the calculation text area enter ", " - quotation comma space quotation - then click the ampersand operator - & - again.  Now double click the field "First Name".  Select "Text" as the type of calculation result then click OK then OK again to close the Define Database dialog box.

Note: The ampersand operator is used to create a concatenation - the adding together of strings of text.  The result of the concatenation above, if the student's name was John Smith, would be Smith, John.  We had to insert the ", " so the two names would not run together like SmithJohn.  When building a concatenation, you must enclose nonfield text within quotes so Filemaker knows you are referring to text and not a field name.

11.  Now let's define our new value list.  Select File->Define->Value Lists and click the New button.  Name the Value List Students and click the "Use Values From Field" radio button.

Select the table Students from the dropdown list and single click on the field Student Number.  Now click the "Also display values from second field" checkbox and click the field LastNameFirstName.  Now click the value "Show values only from second field" and click OK

Note: The "Show values only from second field" lets us display only the Student's Last Name and First Name without displaying the Student Number although when this value list is used to format a field, it will actually input the Student Number into the field when the student's name is selected.

Then click OK and OK to close all dialog boxes.

The reason we selected the Student Number as our first field is that we are going to use this value list to populate the field Student Number in the Registrations portal on our new enrollment layout.  However, by displaying the Student's LastNameFirstName field beside it in the drop down list, our enrollment personnel don't need to look up a student's ID number, just ask their name.

Now we're ready to format the Student# field in the first row of our portal.

12.  Now click on the Student # field in the portal on our layout.  Select Format->Field Control->Setup.  Select Drop Down List as the display type, select Students as the value list you wish to use click the include arrow to show and hide list box and check the Create label checkbox.  Then click OK.

Note:  You will notice that there is a choice called "Pop Up Menu".  This format option looks very similar to a drop down list but only the option Drop Down List provides the ability to "type ahead" to find your choice.  This is very valuable when you are dealing with a very long list.  If you click on a field formatted as a drop down list you can begin typing your choice - in our case the student's last name - and the list will jump down the list based on what letters you are typing.

Click the text label and drag it above the Student# field.  To label any other fields in the portal just double click the field and check the Create label checkbox and click OK.  Then drag them above their respective fields.  Now select View->Browse Mode.  Click in the first field of the first portal row and you will see a list of students.  Click on a name and you will see their Last Name and their First Name show up in the portal without any further data entry.

13.   Now select the layout we designed call "Registrations".  You will see a record in the Registrations table - the "bridge" table - with the Seminar # and the Student# entered.  By creating a layout based on Seminars table and placing a portal based on the relationship to Registrations on the layout, Filemaker automatically knows to enter the appropriate seminar number in the Registrations table when we enroll a student.

If we wish to prepare reports to display all students who have enrolled in particular Seminars, we would base the report on the Registrations table ("bridge" table).  But that's another lesson!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Filemaker Workshop: Defining A Relationship and Converting a Multiple File database to a Single File database

This post is one in a series of posts that represent classroom exercises that I used to conduct as a Filemaker Pro instructor. These exercises are designed for new Filemaker Pro users  or those unfamiliar with structuring a database with related tables.  This lesson can be used with the sample file Students.fp7 and Schools.fp7.. It can be downloaded by right clicking on the link and selecting "Save Link As" or "Save Target As" depending on which browser you are using.  My instructions and screenshots are based on the Windows Version (8.5) of Filemaker Pro.  Mac users can generally follow the same instructions with only a few minor menu differences.

In this lesson the student will:

Create a new table
Create new fields
Create a relationship
Import records
Create a value list
Recreate a layout

So let's begin!

Open the sample files Students.fp7 and Schools.fp7.


If we look at the Students file you will notice there is one record per student.  Each student has an identification number that is unique to that student stored in the Student Number field.  We also have other fields to record the student's address, city, state, zip, phone, music instrument and music style.  All of these fields contain information unique to that specific student.  Each student record also has a field for School Number that indicates the school they attend.  If this file did not have a related file to provide all the information we need about the school the student attends, each student record would have to have a field for School address, School administrator, etc.  However, all of that information is stored in the file Schools.fp7 which has one record for each school including a field named School# to identify that specific school.

By relating these two files on the fields "School Number" and "School#", called the "match" field or the "key" field, we can add fields from the Schools file to any layouts in the Student file.  Then as we create a new student record, we simply input the number for the school the student attends and all related information about the school will display on the Student's layout without inputting any duplicate data.

In versions of Filemaker Pro before 7.0, each database table was created as an individual file like our two sample files. But, Filemaker 7 and newer provides the opportunity to create separate tables to store different collections of data within a single file.

Placing multiple tables within a single file allows all the tables to share common resources such as value lists and scripts.  There's also no need to duplicate security settings in each of the many files of a large solution. A FileMaker Pro 7 or newer file lets you set those privileges once, and they apply across an entire large, complex solution with numerous tables.

For example, using the old method, if we related the separate files Student and Schools on the key field School # then wanted to create a menu layout in the Schools file to produce a report listing all students attending a particular school, we would first have to design a report and write a script in the Student file to subsummarize all student records for each school. Then we would have to write a script in the Schools file that called that external script in the Students file.

However, if we use a new version of Filemaker (7 or newer), we could create a single file (Students.fp7) then within the file Students we would create a second table (Schools).  If we write a script to produce a subsummarized list of students per school that single script could be called from a menu layout that could be accessed from anywhere within the file.

So how do we convert a collection of Filemaker Pro files from an earlier version of Filemaker Pro to the new single file format?  Let's step through the process with our sample files.

Note: If your Filemaker Pro files are still in an earlier format, you will need to begin by opening each file with the new version of Filemaker Pro and saving each file in the new format.  I have already done that for you with the sample files.

Creating a Relationship in Filemaker Pro and importing data from a converted Filemaker Pro 6 (or earlier) file.

This procedure changed between Filemaker Pro 7 and later versions of Filemaker Pro.  I will explain each method separately.  Filemaker Pro 7 required users to manually create a new internal table (New users of later versions should review this procedure just to become familiar with how to create a new table):

1. Open the file Student.fp7. Select File ->Define ->Database and select the Tables tab. Enter Schools for the table name and click Create.

Now select the Fields Tab. If not already selected, select the Schools table. Create a number field named School # and text fields named School Name, Dept Coordinator, Dept Phone, City and StateSchool# will be our "matching" or key field.  This field MUST be unique. 

Note: If  I was creating the School table for the first time and not planning to import existing data, I would set the field to AutoEnter a computer generated serial number.  However, we have existing records with School Numbers already attached so we will not set that option.

2. To populate our new internal table with the data in the old Schools.fp7 file, we must import it. With Filemaker Pro 7 you will first need to create a layout based on the table schools that contains all fields from the table Schools. 

From the application menu, select View->Layout Mode then select Layout->New Layout/Reports.  In the New Layout/Reports dialog box select the table Schools from the drop down list next to "Show Records From:".  Name the Layout "Schools".  Select the Standard layout form then click Next

Then click the "Move All" button in the next dialog box and click Next.  Choose any theme you prefer and click Finish 

Now select File->Import Records->File and select the file Schools.fp7 and click Open. Make sure field names are arranged opposite each other (you may click and drag fields in the right hand column up or down if they are not - notice the two sided vertical arrow) and be sure they have a black arrow next to each field on the left pointing to its corresponding field on the right.  If there is just a dash, click it once with a mouse to change it to an arrow.  Then click Import.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Whenever you perform an import in Filemaker Pro, always select a layout based on the table you wish to import the data into.  This will automatically set the import target table.  If you are performing an import to update existing records, be sure to select Records->Show All Records first.  Imports only update records in the Current Found Set.

If you are using Filemaker Pro 8 or newer, the creation of the Schools table is done automatically during the Import process.   Select File->Import Records->File and select the file Schools.fp7 and click Open.  In the upper right hand corner of the Import dialogue box click the drop down list and select New Table ("Schools").  then click Import. A new table called "Schools" and a layout with all fields in the table Schools will be created and populated with the data that was in the file Schools.fp7. 

Regardless of which version of Filemaker Pro you are using, you now need to establish your relationships between the tables in your solution.

3. Select File->Define ->Database from the application menu.  Click on the Relationships tab. Click on the Schools table field School #. Holding the mouse button down, drag the field on top of the School Number field in the Students table and click OK.

Note: Fields do not need to be named exactly the same to be used as a "match" field. 

Now click on the little box containing two lines in the center of the relationship connecting line. You will see that the fields are now specified as equal to each other in the Edit Relationship dialogue box. Notice the Add button. Beginning with Filemaker Pro 7 or newer you have the ability to specify more than one match field.

For example, at the University we identify a course by a unique CRN number. However, CRN numbers are reused in subsequent terms. Therefore, if you have a table of course information that includes information from multiple terms you cannot use a CRN as a unique record identifier. In older versions of Filemaker Pro we had to create a field that autofilled with a calculation that combined the CRN and Term fields.  Now we can establish a relationship using the field CRN and a second relationship using the field Term.

You will also notice that the relationship operator is a dropdown list. The default is "=". However, with Filemaker Pro 7 or newer you can also choose other operators. Why would we wish to?  Well, at the University we designate terms by year and term i.e. 201001 (Fall Term 2010). If we have a Student table with one record per student and a Registrations table with one record for each course the student has enrolled in ( a one-to-many relationship) we can create a layout with a portal that views all courses the student has taken.  But a student record may include years worth of enrollment information. 

What if we only want to view courses taken in the last three years but retain the ability to view the entire student's history if we should need to?   If we first create a field in the Student table called Target Term then create a dual relationship between the Student table and the Registrations table on the fields "Target Term" and "Term" with the operator set to ">" (greater than), we could use the "Target Term" field to "filter" the records we wish to view in the Registrations table by setting a value in the "Target Term" field in the student table. 

We'll explore this technique further in another class.

You also have the option to "Allow creation of records in this table via this relationship", "Delete related records in this table when a record is deleted in the other table" and "Sort records".  If we wish to create a layout based on the Schools table with a portal that views the Students enrolled in that school that we can use to enroll new students, we need to check the "Allow creation of records in this table via this relationship" option directly under the Student table. If a School is removed from the tracking system and you wish all student records connected to that school removed from the database, you would check the "Delete related records in this table when a record is deleted in the other table" optionThis option should be considered carefully, though, based on how you wish to manage the records in your database.  If you want to retain all Student information regardless of which school they attend and the Student record is of primary importance while the School information is only secondary, you would not check the "Delete related records in this table when a record is deleted in the other table" option.  In other words, it is very important to understand the "viewpoint" of your records system.

The import process does not include resources like value lists or scripts.  We must recreate any value lists we may need that originally existed in Schools.fp7. 

4. Using our Students.fp7 file select File->Define Value Lists. Click on New and enter School Names for the value list name and click the radio button for Use Values From Field. Select Schools from the Tables drop down list and click on the field School# then click "Also display values from second field" checkbox and click on the School Name field.  Then check the "Show values only from second field" checkbox and click OK.

We will use this value list to format the Student Number field to create a drop down list for our records personnel to choose from to assign a school to a new student.  So our records personnel don't have to memorize a list of numbers we have configured our dropdown list to display the second field only - the School Name.   When the choice of school is made, the School Number will be entered into the field even though a name was selected from the drop down list.  Recording the school number is really the only information we need in the student table to relate a student to a school.  This also eliminates the problem of schools with the same name.  Each school is assigned its own unique school number even if it has a name identical to another school.  We can add a related field from Schools on a Student layout to display the School name.

Note: If we had a value list in the Students.fp7 file that was based on the old external file Schools, we need to edit that value list so that it now refers to the table Schools instead.

Because the file Students.fp7 now contains the tables Students and Schools, the value list can be used on any layout referring to the Student Number field from either table. 

Recreating layouts

All tables and value lists should be imported/recreated before attempting to recreate layouts so fields formatted to use value lists will retain their format and all fields will map properly to their corresponding fields in the new tables.

In the new file, create a new layout based on the table that is appropriate for the layout you are attempting to recreate.  Select View->Layout Mode then Layout->New Layout.  Select the appropriate table from the list of tables, name the layout EXACTLY as it was named in your old file and choose Blank Layout and click Finish.

Open the old file and select the layout you wish to recreate.  Select View->Layout Mode then Edit->Select All.  Then copy (Control-C) and paste (Control V) all objects into the new blank layout in the new file.  If your fields are named exactly as they were in the old file, the fields will map themselves to the new fields in the new table.  If not, the field will appear blank without the field name showing in Layout Mode.  If you see a blank field, double click the field and select the table and field to display.  All fields formatted for drop down lists or check boxes will remap to the appropriate value list if they were created first as well. 

Note: If you have background objects that are "Locked" on your old layout, you will need to click on the locked object first (in Layout Mode) and select Arrange->Unlock before you perform the Edit->Select All step. 

Scripts can be imported using Scriptmaker. However, all tables, value lists, and layouts should be recreated  (in that order) before you attempt to import scripts so script steps referring to specific layouts, etc. will not "break".  All imported scripts need to be examined after import for Missing File, Missing Field or Missing Layout references and remapped as needed.