Tutorials on Tutorials (How to Do Screencasts and Screenshots)

This is the third installment in my “Silly e-mails from My Mom” series. Please be sure to check out the other two!

Let me start things off right away by saying that this is going to be one epic blog post.

My mom’s e-mail for today’s post isn’t really all that silly, but it’s still silly. On a scale from 1-10, it’s ridiculous.

This is what my mom wrote (for prior context we’d been discussing an idea I have for a site that will help folks like my Grandma understand the internet):

How about a tutorial for how to do a screencast?

Or, how do you do an email that looks like a web page? Do you make a web page and attach it to your email?

Ot, let’s say I want to send grandma an email or pdf on how to do something on the Mac. I’d like to get good screenshots to include. Do you just use command ^ shift 4? How do you capture the menu?

A sensible person would probably write multiple blog posts to tackle these questions, but I’m gonna try to slam them into one!

1) Well, you can’t really do a screencast of a screencast because the browser and computer get confused (as do I). Maybe you can, but it’s a bit too meta for my taste. Screenshots would be a bit of a mess too. So here’s a quick rundown:

Go to a screencasting site: I like Screenr because it’s pretty straightforward. Please note for Screenr that you will need a Twitter account in order to use it. I also find that it works better with Firefox than with Chrome.

Watch the screenr tutorial video: It’s located on the right side of their homepage. It’s better than anything I’ll be able to come up with right now (That was a pretty lazy answer wasn’t it? Well, I should be sleeping).

2) Screenshots are pretty easy to do. Mom, if your experience with Skitch is anything to go by, it seems like you already know how to do this pretty well. You are correct, all you need to do is type “Command, shift, 4″ for a little target style cursor to appear. I did a quick screencast on how to do it, which you’ll find below. Please note that the cursor shows up as the regular arrow in the screencast but will look different on your actual screen. The title should also read “screenshots,” not “screencasts.” I’m tired, so there.

Other Tips:You may wish to resize your screenshot or edit it a bit. You could use Skitch or upload it to Picnik. To learn more about using Picnik, check out a screencast I did a while ago.

3)The easiest way to deal with PDFs, other than adding them as attachments to your e-mails, is by using the nifty new site Scribd. Guess what? I also did a screencast a while back on how to upload a PDF to Scribd and embed it into a WordPress blog post The only difference in this instance, is instead of embedding the PDF into a blog post, you can select the “share” option and e-mail a link to it to anyone. Then the PDF will pop up on its own page and your recipient won’t have to download it unless he or she wants to save it. If you haven’t already taken the time to explore Scribd a bit, I’d recommend you do so. It’s pretty sweet.

That’s all for now folks!

And, of course, you can view some other screencasts I’ve done over at the BlinkTag Inc blog!

Learning the Ways of the Geek Part 2 [HTML 101]

This post is more for people like my mom. If you’re html savvy, you may wish to skip this or let me know if I am clearly clueless!

Back in the day, I had a LiveJournal, which I’d update from time to time with horrible teenager things. You may scoff now and think to yourself, “How emo/Mark Zuckerberg of you,” but wait! Good ol’ Eljay may seem a bit outdated now or seem to be the region where IRL socially inept folks hang with their virtual buds, but when I was 16 it was the shiz! It, along with that Frontpage lesson I had around the same time, is one of the only reasons I sort of understand how things like html and hex codes work. If you wanted to change your background to have a tiled image of your favorite cat, change your background to be bright pink, or add a “cut” when posts got to be too long, you had to scroll through the LJ FAQs for code to post or tags to add in the right place. I remember thinking, “What is all this #ffffff nonsense?” Or “Why isn’t there some magical way to create an excerpt for my post?” Well, we live in more advanced times-Wordpress times!-and doing some of those things are a lot easier now.

I think I had a point to make somewhere in that ramble…hmm, well something something…ah yes! Now, a mere 10 years later, I have finally taken on the task of making sense of all that stuff. My friend Brendan pointed me in the direction of ¬†this tutorial for creating your own WordPress theme and I’ve found it to be pretty useful. Okay, it is from 2007 and doesn’t have any instructions for Mac users, but whatevs, it’s still pretty good. I also happened to have some nice people help me figure out how to install MAMP and get everything I needed to use up and running (I’m still figuring out what all that is) while I was at Super Happy Dev House over the weekend.

Within the next week or so I plan to do a screencast and post it here about what I’ve learned, but I’ve gotta go to a happy hour at that awesome warehouse I mentioned yesterday, so I’ll leave it for later. For now I’ll leave you with my basic understanding of all this internet stuff. Mom, if you’re reading this, you’ll probably find this pretty neat.

HTML: HTML is sort of like the skeleton of your website and looks like this (the text in blue):

You use it to make sure that all the pieces your structure needs are there. Just as your body has two arms, two legs, two eyes, a nose, etc., your website (or at least your blog) will need a title, a header, a footer, and space for posts and comments. You can edit the way it all looks to some extent with HTML, but it’s fairly limiting and is more functional than it is pretty.

CSS: CSS is where style comes in. Sticking with the body analogy, it’s kind of like your DNA (I don’t do science so please forgive me if this makes no sense). It looks like this:

What makes you unique from others (other than your sparkling personality, of course) is how you look. Do you have green, blue, or brown eyes? A short or round face? Short torso and long legs? HTML gives you the basics but CSS lets you make your website stand out- at least in appearance. Change your font, give yourself that pink background you always wanted, or add a margin somewhere. This is where the fun happens.

PHP: This is what makes a lot of the magic happen. It’s kind of like the connections between your brain and the rest of your body- maybe a bit of your memory too. It looks like this (the white text):

PHP performs functions so that stuff actually happens on your site. If you want all of your blog entries to list a title, author name, and a link to the next post, you have to include a PHP code. From my very basic understanding of it, you ask it to perform a certain task, such as search for posts, and it will display the result. So if you add a command to include a “Next Page” link after every 5 posts, it will search to see if you have enough posts on your page. If you have fewer than 5, no link will appear. Once you have five or more, the link should show up on your site. Similarly, if someone searches for something on your site and it doesn’t exist, he or she will receive a “Not Found” message- or whatever text you’ve indicated (I chose “nope” for my draft site!).

That’s all I’m going to attempt to explain for now because I am running late for that happy hour!

Does any of this make sense?

My Mom Learns How to Use Skitch

The latest installment in the E-mails from my Mom series. Visit the first one here.

I was going to blog about what I learned at Super Happy Dev House yesterday, but this was just too good to pass up.

Either my mother has yet to figure out that my blog now has a series dedicated to her e-mails or she doesn’t care. I say this because a couple of hours ago I received one from her titled, “Something fun.” It is amazing.

The text content:

In case you’re not familiar with Skitch, check out the link my mom included.

To show me how Skitch works, she came up with this:

I’m not sure which is better, the halo over my cat or the arrow pointing herself out as “Mom.”

Precious. Nice work, Mom.

Update: my mom just e-mailed me to ask if one of my friends has a “Twitter name.”

Super Happy Dev Whatever

Hangin’ at a dojo, but sadly not the martial arts kind.

It’s Saturday afternoon and instead of partaking in a Santa themed bar crawl (Santacon 2010), I am sitting on a couch at Mountain View’s Hacker Dojo for Super Happy Dev House. I’m pretty sure I’m one of 10 females here- I’m guessing there are at least 100 people here overall. The picture I’ve included of the other C is sort of supposed to be a representation of the geekery here, but I’d say he’s a bit cooler than the rest (just a bit).

At least it’s supposed to rain so I shouldn’t be too sad about spending the day on my computer. My goal is to learn something awesome so I’m not such an internet n00b anymore. While everyone else here is discussing iPhone apps, language code that sounds kind of like qoeiurfsrerery, and probably Star Trek, I will be reading CSS: The Missing Manual. I will possibly update later if I figure something out, or am not feeling horribly lazy.

Attempting to amp up the nerdery while C is out of town.

The W Bossy Gene

This stuff really can’t be made up

Let me be the first to admit it- I have failed nablopomo. I was doing okay the first half of November but I have slipped way too many times during the second half for me to be a true participant any longer. Oh well, I’ll still do what I can these next few days and hope that I continue to post at least once a week, which is really what I was aiming for in the first place.

One way I figure I can keep up the blogging is by having certain topics I post about regularly. So far I’ve got my stupidest website posts and hope to continue with the photos of tourist taking photos- but I’ll need to take a few more photos for that to truly work out! I would like to turn Procrastinatory Fridays into something regular, but I’ve kept putting it off for some reason (ouch).

So, here’s something that could potentially turn into a regular blog topic: Silly E-mails from My Mom (I’ve had an inbox folder titled this way before that Shit My Dad Says Twitter account ever showed up). I know she reads my blog from time to time so she will either find this amusing, horrible, or a combination of the two. We’ll just have to wait and see- hopefully she won’t stop sending the e-mails in order to avoid winding up on here. I may also throw in some horrible comments from my dad from time to time (example: he calls the place where they leave my cat over long vacations “Catanamo Bay”-punitentiary worthy, I know).

Today’s feature comes from an e-mail thread my mom’s side of the family (let’s call them the W Family) started a couple months ago that had the subject line, “can’t make this stuff up.” One of my aunts found it amusing that my Grandma and cousin (he’s been living with her during law school) are equally stubborn and do not like being told what to do. This prompted multiple responses from aunts, uncles, and cousins who not only mentioned the “W Family Bossy Gene,” but also provided several examples. There were mentions of power tools, food, “multi-tasking,” and a virtual head nod from my uncle who recently married into the W Family.

But the greatest example of them all was what my mom wrote. Please note that this was the ninth e-mail in the thread and the only thing she had written up until that point.

I may have actually had tears in my eyes when I read this because it was so ridiculous. I responded to the thread and made a bit of fun of her, because that’s what offspring are supposed to do. I’ll just leave it at that, partly because I don’t think I could really add anything else to it and partly because I’m heading into NYC in a couple of minutes!

Parents are probably the silliest types of people.

A 5 Year Friendiversary!

It’s hard to believe it’s only been 5 years since it oftentimes feels like I’ve been stuck with her forever, hehe.

Earlier today I realized it has been just about 5 years since my friend Lisa and I got our tattoos. That means we’ve pretty much been LPs (or Life Partners for those of you not in the know) for five years now. We’ve done some pretty stupid things together since 2005.

Activities have included:

-Riding on the back of strangers’ mopeds in Uruguay
-Flying over Iguazu waterfalls in a helicopter
-Parading through New Orleans on Halloween weekend next to drag queens and odd musical instruments
-Taking several different buses through Uruguay and Brazil without knowing any Portuguese.
-Driving around the East Coast
-Becoming certified whiskey tasters in Northern Ireland
-Putting up with my ridiculous parents in London
-Sneaking into an armed convoy in India
-Deciding to go to Reno at a moment’s notice
The list goes on and on.

Check out the photos above for proof.

Woohoo for friendiversaries!

I Can Haz Cheezburger Social with Cake

So much excitement at one time in one place.

This morning I woke up and felt compelled to do laundry for one reason (okay, a few…I was running out of pants): I wanted to wear my new favorite shirt. It’s called “Catt√® Mocha” and it looks like this (click on image to enlarge). So far it’s my only Woot item, but it is pretty much the best one ever. If you are too lazy to click on the link, it is fat cats made out of coffee stains. Cute!

Anyways, this is significant because in the afternoon I was made aware of a “Cheezburger Social,” hosted by the Icanhazcheezburger (lolcats) people at the WordPress office, Automattic. I don’t believe in fate, but! it was fate!

Not only did I get to experience the WordPress office for the first time (which is the blogging site this very website uses!!), but I also got to eat tiny cheezburgers, cake, and meet Ben (aka Professor Happycat), the founder of lolcats. ZOMG! It was way awesome. Multiple people, including Professor Happycat, complimented me on previously mentioned Woot t-shirt and proclaimed that I am truly a cat lover. Some people may find this dumb. I find it awesome. My cat, Zoot, was discussed quite a bit- she will even receive an autographed copy of the new kitteh’s book! Shh, don’t tell her, it’s for Christmas.

Too. Much. Cheez. And. Cake. And. Kittehs.

Learning the Ways of the Geek [HTML 101]

I realize I’m over a decade late on this, shut up.

There’s nothing like returning from your average Sunday night drag show (this week’s theme: Tranny Lennox) to attempt to learn some geeky computer stuff.

Back in high school I had to take a web design class as part of a computer education requirement in order to graduate (helllooooo prepositional phrases!). I learned some html using Microsoft Front Page, which I’m not sure still exists. A Google search results in the Wikipedia entry and something about the 2003 version, so I’m guessing probably not. Using my extremely advanced skills, I created an html page dedicated to selling cows (yes, I had quite matured by the tender age of 17). Well, a few years have passed and I figure it’s about time I properly learn how to do some of this stuff.

Earlier today, the other C showed me a few things, including Photoshop (which is a lot like my fave childhood game: Kid Pix!). I’m still trying to figure out how to do all these things (and don’t even have a decent text edit program or Photoshop on my computer) but perhaps I can take a stab at something simple. Here goes nothin’. I make no apologies if your computer and/or your eyes crashes and burns upon viewing this.

Conner is a n00b

Conner is a n00b

Conner is a n00b

Conneris an00b

Just check out all that scrolling text! In so many directions! Excuse me while I go pop Eiffel 65′s “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” into my MiniDisc player. That is what the kids are listening to these days, right?

This may be the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. Even more so than that stunning cow website.

Reason #8 Bajillion to Love Living in San Francisco

Yup, it’s Saturday again, which means time for a short little post!

Normally by November 13 I would be freezing through my very bones, wondering when I would finally cave and break out the winter coat.

But not this year! Today it was 67 degrees and sunny. What a perfect day to discover Glen Canyon Park, an area filled with eucalyptus trees and beautiful trails a mere 2 minute BART ride from where I live. Pretty flippin’ sweet.