Rescuing a Critter and the Word “Digitize”

treeIn November, one of our cats discovered an unexpected house guest who had bedded for the winter in a potted plant we had brought in for the winter two months before. I was stretched out on the couch with my fractured leg propped up, when I noticed Peter’s gaze, his head motionless and his eyes glued to the plants that are in front of the window. Something definitely had his attention.

Suddenly, he jumped from the top of the couch – his throne, as we call it – and came to an abrupt halt in front of the the plants; his nose daring to sniff at something. I considered it might be a mouse – not an impossibility, but a rarity in a house with three cats, so considering I was in no shape to rise and investigate, I told myself it was just a spider, turning my attention back to the movie running on my Kindle Fire. Through my peripheral vision, I saw his Edward Scissorhands paw reach up slowly, tap gently on the side of one of the pots, much too close to my late aunt’s antique lace curtains. “Nooo!” I scolded, and sat straight up, enduring the sharp pain that shot through my knee, while the Kindle slid to the floor with a thud.  Peter didn’t budge.  Unusual.  Any ding-dong, bang or whistle normally sends him running to his haven under the bed.

But Peter wasn’t attacking as he would a mouse, so it had to be something he found pretty darn curious. Now, I didn’t much care that he was at play with a bug, and would have actually appreciated his effort to send whatever it was to the next world, but the thought of shredded lace was quite upsetting.  I summoned The Man from his Cave.

“A baby toad,” my hubby announced, stretching out his hand to show me thetoad gray, warted little beast.  Don’t get me wrong, I like toads. They keep my veggie garden free of nasty bugs.  But I did not want a toad living in my house!  I looked out the window at the snow falling and back at the helpless critter curled up to the size less than a silver dollar in Kevin’s large palm, obviously too weak to be frightened.  It wasn’t the toad’s fault, really.  I should have run a pencil through the soil of the pot before bringing it inside.  And it’s not like we didn’t have the equipment to offer temporary shelter, having had our share of turtles and lizards (Kevin has a thing for amphibians).  Then I saw the plea in his eyes when he promised, “Just until Spring.”    Geez.   Okay, I gave in, but only if we agreed it was not a pet and it would not get named.  So, he brought out the lizard tank and made a trip to the local pet shop for a few dozen baby crickets.

After about a month I noticed the toad was a little greener some days than others, its eyes were getting bulgy and its legs seemed to stretch out quite long.  Even the tiny warts on its head seemed to flatten and raise again with darker spots coming and going, as well.  One morning, we found it looking very green in one of several puddles on the floor.  No doubt it had made quite a splash when it somehow pushed open the tank lid and escaped with a giant leap to the neighboring, topless, 55-gallon aquarium for a midnight swim.  Okay, probably not a toad, but definitely an amphibian.

PaddyKevin secured the lid and to appease the little critter we put a bigger pool in its tank, replacing the mayonnaise jar top with a recycled frozen dinner dish. It immediately took a swim and jumped to the side of the tank.    Wait a minute.  Do frogs stick to glass like that?    Then I got a good look at its toes – or perhaps “pad-like suction cups” is a better description.  A quick search at some of the web sites where I’d been surfing for emergency amphibian care revealed that the yellow stripes on its legs clarified it was a Minnesota Tree Frog – a species that has warts and changes color almost like a chameleon.  It’s important to know whether it is a toad, a frog or a tree frog to give it proper care.  Although they are all amphibians, they each need a little something that the other doesn’t and if I’m not careful, this rescueTreeFrog operation could turn deadly.  So after four months of calling it “the toad” we began annoying each other with continuous corrections or we would sputter out, “the toad … uh, frog … er, tree … that dang critter in the tank!”

And that brings me to my two stitches for this post:  

I am a digitizer.   I am not a digitalizer.   To digitize is to create a derivative via technology.  To digitalize is to administer digitalis or digoxin.  (Do not ask me to do any digitalizing for you.  I might kill you.)

There is a growing acceptance of using the word digitalize in place of digitize and it has even become the #2 meaning in some dictionaries.  I suppose it’s because everything has gone “digital” in today’s world.  Look up digitalizing or its base word of digitalis and you’ll find a slew of explanations from its original floral reference to the name of a recording studio.  Look up digitize (or digitise, as it’s spelled across the pond) and it has one precise technological meaning.

It’s my observation that the world trends with whatever is most commonly used, I suppose because it becomes tiring and seemingly rude to correct folks.  It’s one thing to not offend a customer, but it’s another to ignore the misuse stated by an industry professional.  While a novice in this industry, I referred to a Melco Digitrac as a “digitalis”, to the repeated frustration of my boss, so I’m not innocent of that error and certainly not trying to judge.  But for the sake of clarity, I’d like to encourage the experienced to kindly correct the newbie.  Don’t let it just slide by.  Maybe my personal plea is a battle I’ll lose in years to come, but eventually, I hope folks will see the value of sustaining a word with one precise meaning and the nonsense of using one with multiple meanings, as well as more syllables than necessary.

In my opinion, if one has trouble getting it right, the word “punching” would be the appropriate alternative.  Although it, too, has many other different meanings, it is quite acceptable, because punching tapes to create an embroidery design was the original method; hence, the original appropriate terminology.

That’s exactly how we are settling our current problem when referring to the critter residing in the lizard tank.  It just seemed to need a word with less syllables than “the tree frog” – a simple, yet more appropriate, word to eliminate confusion (at least that’s what I’m telling myself).  Kevin has named it “Paddy”.     Is it Spring yet? 

Digitized by Oklahoma Embroidery - EmbroideryDesigns.com

Digitized by Oklahoma Embroidery – EmbroideryDesigns.com

 

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Annoying Technology & Click Ripples

The last time I posted anything other than photos was the end of May and now it’s July. What happened to June?! Well, it certainly was a month to write about – quite eventful for me.  But I have to tuck most of those events and photos away as fodder for a number of future posts. Too many stories and too little room to cover it all in one post.  Besides, I’ve always found moving forward a much better idea.

That’s what I told myself when I realized technology had me by the consumer butt once again. I must move forward with technology. I was digging through the refurbs looking for an inexpensive replacement for my personal laptop and couldn’t find what I wanted;  The laptop I have still works just fine, but it’s mostly dedicated for graphics/photo use now and things are getting a bit cramped for writing.  I was in search of one with a WinXP OS because it’s not complicated and I’m happy with it, but it appears that it has become the new dinosaur in the refurbished choices, with Vista not far behind.

I often buy refurbished/recertified computers because I’ve found that they usually last at least as long as the 3-year expectancy of a new one, as well as the current operating system. It really makes no sense to me to buy new, especially for personal use, when a new one isn’t going to last any longer. When electronics are refurbished, they have simply switched out the bad part(s) and then they are tested and re-certified, bringing them back up to the manufacturer’s standards of new. Sometimes (though rarely) there’s a little cosmetic damage – a scratch here or ding there on the external case – but that’s okay. It saves me the pain that occurs when I make the first scratch myself.

I didn’t want Windows 7 even though it is supposedly faster, because WinXP and Vista are more familiar to me, and I’ve never believed either to be slow when properly maintained (delete the cookies and unnecessary files, and scan for bugs routinely).  I have noticed that Windows 7 loads a little faster, but I never thought WinXP or Vista to be slow.  (Why do people need to move in lightning swift blinks, anyhow?!  A brain should pause now and then.)  But there are very few computers available with anything lower than Windows 7 pre-installed, now that Windows 8 has been on the scene awhile.  Windows 8 appears to have been created with a focus on accommodating touchscreens – something I doubt I’ll ever have a use for on anything larger than my Kindle Fire screen.  But the way technology moves, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ll all be forced to use a touch screen eventually, with hand input peripherals antiquated. (Well maybe not.  Artists who are not fond of finger painting would rebel.)

I’ve had Windows 7 on one of my work computers for the last year and I’m just not fond of all the bells and whistles – a bunch of stuff to simply pretty up the view and frustrate the stitches out of me. When I decrease the size of a window and move it up close to the edge, I want it to stay small and out of the way – not blow up to cover the entire desktop. It might be a fast undo with a short slide of the stylus across the top bar, but it’s a stumble that drives me up the wall.  And when I pass the cursor over the top of a minimized window in the task bar, I don’t want to be startled by little windows popping up. Okay, I admit that one is a great feature at times when I need a lot of documents minimized, but that situation happens only for a brief time during my work day and usually never on my personal laptop.  …  So where, oh where, is the option to switch to Classic Windows?  Or is there one?

Well, there’s not much I can do about technology advancement – some is great, some is bad – but the continual change is annoying.  Right after I’ve learned something well enough, they just switch things up again. So, after searching through the refurbs at Tiger Direct, I gave into buying an HP with a Windows 7 OS for $299 (priced new at about $500). At least the price didn’t hurt, considering it included a 2.3 GHz Pentium processor, 320GB hard drive and 3 GB DDR3. It even has a web cam – though I’d only use it for Skype and only to call my son. (I do not want to spend an hour with hair and make up to call clients and I do not want to scare people.)

As well, it has a 64 bit processor. Now, I’ve been looking at that phrase “64 bit” for some time considering what that exactly meant for me. I know the advantages: increased memory support, enhanced security features and increased program performance (albeit only for those programs written for 64 bit). I’d never wanted a 64 bit, because it meant much of the old software I use couldn’t be installed without a lot of tweaking with new drivers and/or other adjustments as noted at Microsoft support:

What to consider when you install a 64-bit version of Windows Vista

64-bit device drivers may not be available for one or more devices in the computer.

Device drivers must be digitally signed.

32-bit device drivers are not supported.

32-bit programs may not be fully compatible with a 64-bit operating system.

It may be difficult to locate programs that are written specifically for a 64-bit operating system.

Not all hardware devices may be compatible with a 64-bit version of Windows Vista.”

But I decided that I shouldn’t find too many conflicts, because I won’t be installing anything except what I need for writing – Firefox for surfing, Thunderbird for email, both free from Mozilla, and the free download of Apache Open Office software. (No offense Microsoft, but I do not like you or your price.)

Now, if I could just disable the “pen feedback” to stop the “ripple effect” every time the stylus hits the Wacom Bamboo pad, I’d be ecstatic. Each click causes tiny little ripples that look like rain drops hitting the water surface – very annoying. Fortunately, this hasn’t happened on computers I have my design systems on.  (Thought of horror: digitizing between the ripples.)  I don’t like using a touch pad and I find using a mouse is like holding a potato, so after I had discovered the comfortable freedom when using a stylus for my digitizing, I installed a Wacom pad on every computer I use for any length of time during my day.  (And bye-bye carpal tunnel syndrome!)

In recent years, when click ripples first appeared on the screen of one of my PCs with Vista and then on another with Windows 7, I found a way to disable the pen feedback. I even blogged about how I fixed it, but the same directions I used then now disable the Wacom pad (something is different or else I’m missing something).  I’ve tried all the forum tips found online, but they appear to be outdated and those that are current are unanswered complaints, such as mine. I’ve heard it’s not a Wacom issue, but a conflict with the pad caused by Windows touch screen features, and at this point I’m not sure whose side of the fence the responsibility lies. (If you have the answer, please comment. The ripples are driving me mad!)

I’m wondering if an easy solution to this aggravating ripple feature (that no one seems to like) has been included in Windows 8. Perhaps, I need to consider taking advantage of the $14 upgrade I was offered from Windows to buyers of a computer with Windows 7 pre-installed. (I’d include the link, but apparently it’s only available currently via my purchase.) The offer is good thru January 31, 2013 so there’s plenty of time yet to find peace with Windows 7. Then again, it might be a good idea to keep moving forward – if I can keep frustration at bay.

For now, I think I’ll just send my complaints to My Granny Geek and then go find a happy place – somewhere very far away from dripping ripples.

Mission Accomplished – Hello 2012!

This week I should be winding myself back up, putting myself in gear, and looking 2012 in the eye with a here-I-come attitude. I should be. And I would be if in recent weeks I had wound myself down, put myself in park, and chilled long enough to say “good-bye” to 2011. But though I managed a few wonderful holiday moments with family, I couldn’t stop to take a real break, because I was making a deadline on a personal quest – a resolution made last year to complete a project of compiling my grandmother’s stories on CDs and sent to cousins by December 31.

When I began the project, I sat down and decided, “This should only take a few days.” My grandmother had passed years before and it was difficult to trigger recollections, so I delved into history books and watched history TV. A few weeks later, I said, “just one more day” and each following day I repeated the proclamation until it reached completion six years later.  One cousin called it, “tenacity”.  I’m leaning towards “obsession”.  And now I’m basking in satisfaction for not breaking last year’s resolution – even if I did miss that goal the previous five years.

But now what? my writer-self asks. What will I do to lose the tension of the day? Where will I go to see things like I never saw before? What will keep me intrigued as does getting to know those ancestors whose lives have grabbed me with surprise, sorrow and delight? How will I experience that sweet ride of the words without having an impelling reason for the quiet tick-tick-tick of the keyboard guiding my creativity and imagination? This sucks.

Then again, perhaps not. I still have many blinking leaves on Ancestry.com and I’m sure I’ll find a new muse from a zillion different stories yet to be recalled and discovered. There’s a lot of darn good tales in that tree left to be written – both truth and fiction. Even seeking information about unrelated historical people can be easily found. I highly recommend Ancestry.com to any writer who needs facts or inspiration, but most of all, researching family history can be an enriching experience for everyone. Simply, it’s great for the soul.

The project even led to the discovery of things I might not have ever known. For example, I made good use of Google Maps when researching Google Earthcensus records to establish a location timeline. And don’t get me started on how fantastic I have found Google Earth to be! A homebody like myself can fly – yes, fly like a bird! – anywhere around the world, into the universe, under the sea, and during different eras! The engineers of this wonderful software app get a high twenty (all fingers and toes) for saving me a lot of leg work, not to mention traveling expenses! And it’s fun!

When it came time to create the CDs, I just couldn’t picture handing Grandma’s special stories to my cousins on a dull, naked disc with the title written in felt pen, and I wanted it to be easily found in a pile of CDs (more for my benefit than others – I lose a lot of discs). Then I recalled the LiteScribe label engraver that had come bundled with my laptop, which I’d never tried, though I had bought a stack of LiteScribe CD blanks, thinking one day I might use them for a Moonlight Design collection. It takes about 15 minutes for engraving each CD, but well worth the time, and I’m sure I’ll be using it more in the future.

I discovered the convenience of using my new Kindle Fire for sharing the CD with my sister who refuses to move into the high-tech world for any reason. She asked if I might print out the stories for her – all 37902 words, along with multiple folders of information and color images. She doesn’t understand the cost of ink. (Who does?) I have a special Kindle mail address where I can send documents that I want to read on the Fire, so now I can call up Grandma’s stories on it and hand it to her (but she will have to tap her own pages. I have to draw the line somewhere!)

And on the “life” side of things … I learned that our history books need more than an update; they require a total upgrade. Better said, let’s revamp – toss them out and start all over! What I was taught in school certainly isn’t what I know now as truth!  Oh sure, the skeleton of facts are there, though inaccuracies are many as stated in “Lies My Teacher Told Me”, but when you start filling in the lives, emotions, beliefs and cultures, a completely different view emerges. After the last six years of merging my grandmother’s stories with American history that covered the last few centuries, seems to me we’ve created a big ol’ tale that has been washed over, manipulated by pride and prejudice and has survived via naivety and ignorance.

Well, that’s just my two stitches.  Now, on with 2012!  🙂

Lovin’ my Kindle Fire!

Well, I did it. I bought a gadget – something I swore I’d never own because I don’t buy anything unless there’s a real need. But when I found I was spending too much time running into the office and turning on the computer only to check for urgent messages from clients while cooking my Thanksgiving meal, I started rethinking my “gadget need” and hit that Amazon.com “buy button” on the Kindle Fire sales page. I’m now one happy gadget owner!

Granted, I wasn’t so pleased last week when my Kindle Fire arrived. Ten minutes out of the box and I was ready to ship it back to Jeff Bezos with a nasty note! But I soon realized I simply had to wait for the cold Fire to thaw (pardon the oxymoron). The box had been sitting in the garage a few hours where the UPS man is instructed to leave all packages – it’s cold in Minnesota. After a sufficient amount of time plugged into its power adapter (included with the $199 purchase), it fired right up (pardon the pun … this is just too easy). But the touchscreen is warm-hearted, getting stubborn when finger-tips are cold, so it was necessary for me to occasionally warm my finger – or tap it furiously. I’ve since purchased a $6.95 Mini Suit stylus that has completely taken care of the problem.

Ebay email opened in the Fire.

I’m quite computer literate, but not gadget savvy, so any mobile device smaller than a laptop is strange territory for me. Nevertheless, set-up took less than five minutes, and when I got to registration, the Fire told me who I was!  Buying it directly from Amazon.com has its perks.

Initially, I just wanted to make sure that email worked well enough to monitor during my time outside of the office – the main reason for the purchase. AOL Mail, as well as Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, and an “Other” category are pre-installed, making set-up a no-brainer. “Freedom is mine!” I proclaimed, as I walked around the house to test out the WiFi. It dropped a bar in a few spots, but no more than one and not for long. Email arrives instantly and sending emails/texts is easy! (Note, the keyboard expands when the Fire is held to rotate to its side, and typing is a breeze when it’s held either way when using a stylus.)

I bought my Mini Suit stylus and folio case through the Fire using the app for Amazon.com One-Click shopping. My recently viewed items or similar recommendations immediately appeared in the stream, as well as current specials. The Amazon.com search bar is available and the collapsing menu allows access to my Wishlist, Cart and Account Information. Now, instead of driving to a store or even turning on my computer, I can walk around the house taking inventory and shop all at the same time!

Amazon.com Prime members receive free shipping for almost everything sold by Amazon.com, and Prime Kindle members also get access to “Kindle Owners Lending Library” of movies, TV shows and Books. I didn’t expect much more than saving a chunk on yearly shipping costs for my $89-a-year Prime membership, so I was quite surprised at the offerings – there aren’t enough years to watch all of the available movies and TV shows that I’ve wanted to see but have had to sacrifice to keep on schedule.

Although the best sound is achieved with head phones, it’s not unbearable through the small speakers. Movies run seamlessly, and the video/graphics is clear and colorful on the 7″ screen. The Kindle Fire is perfect for viewing movies or shows in bed; it isn’t too heavy, fits comfortably in one hand and if you fall asleep in the middle of a movie, the Fire goes to sleep too, but not before tucking your movie on the Carousel shelf, awaiting for you to “Resume”. (Yeah, that really happened to me!)  “Amazon’s Whispersync technology automatically syncs your library, last page read, bookmarks, notes, and highlights across your devices. On Kindle Fire, Whispersync extends to video.”

The Carousel saves the most recently viewed apps, books, movies, etc. on the book shelf with storage on lower shelves. I was already familiar with Kindle Books, having installed Kindle for PC, and was pleasantly surprised to see a few of my books already on the Carousel. As well, my entire established Kindle Cloud library is tucked under the Books tab.  Thanks to Whispersync technology, I can start reading a book on the Kindle, then finish on my laptop without loosing my place.

The Fire will either play Amazon MP3 purchases or any music file uploaded to the Kindle Cloud. As well, it will surf to YouTube on the web, and I think I even saw an app for that. Using apps that connect via the Kindle Cloud instead of using the Web URL location bar is likely a better idea, as URL surfing requires a tight connection in order to load content quickly. There’s plenty of room to download and store tunes with “8GB internal (approximately 6GB available for user content). That’s enough for 80 apps, plus 10 movies or 800 songs or 6,000 books.”

Facebook runs a bit quirky, with only the status text loading okay, but without some profile images, and posted images won’t load at all. (I suspect there is in issue with the Fire loading Flash content.) According to a very helpful Kindle Fire CSR (thank you Valerie), images refuse to load because my WiFi is weak; and per the Frontier folks, my WiFi connection has a conflict with my neighbor’s connection. Well, I wasn’t about to ask my neighbor to shut off his modem so I could verify the possibility, and I refused to try the “maybe-this-will- work” solutions that Frontier suggested, which required changing passwords in all my WiFi connected computers. I am quite satisfied with the way everything else works right now, so I’ll not be checking Facebook often or any other web sites that contain a lot of content and take too long to load. I have computers for that anyhow.

Facebook folks will also want to know: Facebook Security Settings must be set to Disable “secure connection only” for a mobile device to connect. It took me three days of trying to log into Facebook before I recalled that mobile devices can’t connect if that Facebook security feature is enabled – a rule I’d seen float by in the News Stream a year or so ago. (I had ignored it thinking I’d never need to know that – ha!) I usually go the secure route, so I had chosen to enable the “secure connection only” setting. After trying in vain to hack into my own account I can confirm, Facebook’s secure connection works quite well! I disabled the setting for a temporary test of the Fire and then logged in successfully, but I’m not sure how long I’ll leave it that way. Note that this would be an issue for any mobile device trying to connect to a Facebook account and should not be a consideration when purchasing a Kindle Fire.

Kindle Fire comes preloaded with 10-15 apps. I fail to recall the exact number and I’ve since added a few to the shelves like Adobe Reader that will retrieve any PDF file I email to my very own @Kindle.com addy in the Kindle Cloud. I have suddenly become app happy, digging through Amazon.com’s Android App Store available via the Fire, and that led to searching for a way to delete unwanted apps that were piling up on the shelves: hold finger on top of the app and wait for a menu to appear that asks if you’d like to “add to favorites” or “delete the app.

I love the preloaded PULSE app that gives me news and feature stories of various interests. The first article I read was about the Kindle Fire from TechCrunch. I thought it appropriate. Well, actually, I worried it might be one of those “beware, don’t buy” warnings but was relieved by its report, “New estimates from IHS iSuppli have Amazon shipping 3.9 million Kindle Fires this quarter, which would make it the No. 2 tablet after the iPad 2 (with an estimated 18.6 million shipments). The Kindle Fire will become the No. 1 Android tablet by a wide margin (the Samsung Galaxy Tab is the next biggest, with an estimated 1.4 million shipments).”

Personally I agree, even if I can’t rightfully compare the Fire to anything else. There’s a lot of us non-gadget folks out there who don’t need the features of a Smartphone and don’t like the size or the price of an iPad — the Fire fits my budget and it fills my needs. Combined with Amazon’s excellent service and brilliant way of bringing it all together the Kindle Fire is smokin’ hot! (Seriously, no better choice of words!)

Sometimes Change Ain’t So Bad

Ping, pong, the game is on! Within a week after Facebook launches Smart Lists, Google+ opens the public gate. I find the strategy of these two social network giants fascinating. It reminds me of the product wars that have kept us entertained throughout the years like Coke verses Pepsi – neither side will ever win at pleasing everyone all of the time, but their battle achieves pleasing most of the people some of the time. Each challenges the other by making improvements that require changes, keeping users on their toes. As I’ve said many times, I hate changes. They interrupt my work and slow me down. Just when I learn how to do something well, the rules change. But that’s life on the Internet for you. There’s just no sense in arguing – it’s easier to just hang on for the ride.

The last couple of decades getting to know the Internet has been a carnival ride for me. Sometimes it goes up and down, or bumps and slides or spins around, but unlike a bumper car or Merry-Go-Round, its appearance, as well as its functions keep evolving. I’ve learned to bend with it, because without the Internet, my digitizing service might not exist. I actually have to laugh at my resistance in retrospect of the changes I had complained about – those that eventually made my world a much better place to be – and I’m really only irritated by those that didn’t happen soon enough.

Take email – or should I spell it e-mail? Actually, at one time I didn’t like the dash (-), thinking it unnecessary. It was a new communication method at the time; certainly it deserved a new complete word!  But I gave in, and now that the dash has been drilled into my finger’s little brain, they (whoever makes these decisions) have decided: dash or no dash is acceptable if consistent throughout the piece.  That is not always do-able when quoting a published article.  Often I have to remove or add the dash, to be consistent with the quote that I don’t feel the right to change.  It’s little changes like that drives a writer buggy. (Thank goodness my finger’s little brain also knows where the backspace key is.)

Besides the spelling change, functions of email clients continue to upgrade with changes that occasionally boggle the mind. I admit, sometimes it’s for the better as for security reasons and spam control, but other times I suspect it’s just to make you think they are busy creating things you need – trying to ping another email client’s pong. Well, I don’t need all of the glam, tabs and options – just let me read my emails!  But whether or not I’ve liked the changes in email functions, acceptance has been necessary to continue communications for custom digitizing orders. In its beginning, email saved at least a week of discussion-time, because it allowed receiving colored artwork for quotes, eliminating the need to ship artwork via overnight services, and there became no need to interrupt someone’s day with a phone call for discussion about the job. Eventually, changes by email engineers made it possible for binary attachments, allowing instant delivery of the design file in time for the embroiderer to test it and report any errors like a forgotten lock stitch, which then allowed getting a revision back to them within minutes. That was a moment we old dogs proclaimed, “I love email!” (dash or no dash).

Email led the way to global connections via “Email Discussion Lists” where people of the same industry or interests all over the world could communicate and share their ideas. Ah yes, the first “cloud” had arrived. And it worked so very well for years, a go-to place to find answers, share information, meet new people and get in touch with groups of old friends; not to mention emails could be stored in an organized manner on or off line. Some lists were generated through private forums and others were found in groups at sites like Yahoo.com. It seemed a good thing, though it was not without its restrictions, with each list establishing rules for the content of posts – the most effective way to offend no one and keep the peace.

Then back in about 2007 or so, some college guy came along with “The Facebook”. I signed up shortly before they eliminated the “The” but I never really expected to use it much.  At that time, it appeared pretty blah in its simplicity, and I was content with my Email Lists, anyhow. So my Facebook profile sat empty for quite some time until a few clients encouraged the idea and I began using it with a focus on its possible use for business networking. Gradually, the benefits came to light as many industry folks started adding up in my Friends List. I could upload photos of work to share without using another network photo site, or post a question about creating my web site using direct links without getting accused of spamming, or even make a complaint on my own wall without getting branded as a flamer – not that I am, just that I can.  Alas, freedom – that is, until my non-industry friends and family showed up and trying to “cross-communicate” turned into a roller coaster ride.  How could I post a cheerful embroidery post to my industry friends when a non-industry friend had just posted his dog had died?  So, I began posting more cautiously to not appear thoughtless, but that meant trying to keep up with reading all my friends’ posts. Eventually, I took advantage of the Lists feature that allowed reading a Stream of only posts in each list, but then came another problem of sorting through each list to be sure I didn’t miss anything important. I desperately needed organization.

In the last couple of months, I’ve been taking rides on a Tilt-A-Whirl, spinning in the beta, limited-member Google+ Circles while considering the switch from Facebook. I was drawn in by having the ability to send out a status post to only those in one particular Circle, such as my “Industry Circle”.  It certainly would avoid confusing friends and family with comments of embroidery language like, “use a craft blade to slice away the birdnest below the plate.”  Nope, Uncle Charlie just wouldn’t understand.

So the Google+ Circles feature was looking pretty good and the only problem was trying to get everyone to move on over, but it seemed only a few of those using Facebook for business were interested. Others couldn’t see the benefit, unless there was a way for a fast, total migration of info, photos and notes – not an option Facebook would allow.  Folks became infuriated, claiming it was their stuff, but Facebook had other plans in the works. Then last Friday I logged in to discover Smart Lists and suddenly heard Eric Claption singing, “Come back baby, you’ll find a change in me!

With only brief announcements to the general public that Smart Lists would become a standard feature of Facebook, some folks have been voicing loud complaints since its launch on Friday.  The 3-5% of us who had pre-existing lists under Most Recent found them moved to the left column along with a few additional lists, such as those in the local area or high school pals; and those who didn’t have lists discovered that lists were automatically made for them by smartly comparing information in profiles. Many Facebook folks who never had a reason for using the previous optional list feature were angry about the change, but as for me, I’m standing up in grand applause!

So, I figure, since it’s made me quite happy and others not, I should at least offer some information to help the nay-sayers who now feel like they’re walking through a confusing carnival Spook House. The Facecrooks Blog explains that Smart Lists is “pretty useful when you’re sending invites to a select group of people, as it automatically lists those who are close by.” The blog post also notes a few flaws, such as, “… since the list depends on the data listed on user profiles, it runs the risks of some people getting excluded. For example, if an old classmate did not list his school on his profile, then he might not get counted when the classmates list is developed. In this, Facebook has basically given people another incentive to complete their profiles.” Facecrooks offers a lot more helpful information in the post in how to use this new Smart List feature – or not, up to you.

And that’s the bottom line – Facebook members are not obliged to use Smart Lists. Even though the lists were automatically made for each member during the upgrade, Smart Lists are simply there if you find its function more convenient. You also need not keep particular members in the lists that were automatically created; it’s a completely editable feature. Take a little time to check out the Facebook Smart List FAQ page where you will also find info about posting a status to only one list or another, or to everyone as you have in the past. Also, don’t forget to check out your Privacy Settings for new related options.

No doubt about it – Facebook has definitely made a change that makes me smile! But yeah, since Google+ has ponged Facebook’s ping by opening membership to the public, I’ll still be hangin’ around those Circles now and then to see who shows up. I never could resist a ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl.

Additional note: More new functions arrived after this post and likely more changes will continue to occur. To ease some of the confusion, check out a very informative article at AllFacebook.com.