Last time we explored the map making interface and made our first map in RPG Maker. It looks nice, but there is not much for the player to do.

RPG Maker Edited Map

Enter Events

Events are a collection of commands that happen under certain conditions. Think of these like mini-programs. A shop keeper is an event, a map change is an event, even battles can be triggered by events.

To get started we need to enter Event Mode(F6) before we can start adding events. A grid should appear showing you the dividing lines of each tile. Right click anywhere on the map and you will see a context menu with many options for events. Click new and the event editor will open up.

The Event Editor

RPG Maker new event window

There is a lot going on here, but fortunately RPG Maker splits the window into easy to understand parts.

Title Bar

In the title bar we have the event ID, this is the number that will get referenced by other events and scripts we write in the future.

Name and Page Controls

Then we have the event name, this is for your reference and will not be seen by the player.

Notes are similar to the name in that they are for your reference, but some plugins use them for special commands.

Next we have page editing features. Events are broken up into pages. Most events we will work with will only have one or two pages, but you can have up to 20 different pages. You can see that all sections underneath this part of the interface are in a tab, this is an event page.

Page Conditions

This is where event pages come in handy. We will explain this stuff in detail in a later article, but events that have unmet conditions will not execute. Each page can have a condition. Lets say we want something to happen only once or the dialogue of a character changes each time we talk to them, this is where you can make that happen.

Image

RPG Maker Sprite Seclector

Events are invisible to the player by default, but we can give them a character image. These images can be doors, switches, animals, monsters, or anything else that you would like your player to interact with. Each character image is split into cells. These cells are three by four. This makes an animated character sprite. The first image is the right foot, then standing still, and finally the left foot. The process repeats downwards for each direction. These characters are placed on a sheet of 8 characters.

Images are a bit complex and we will cover them in-depth at a later date.


Autonomous Movement

Movement is another complex feature that could use an article of its own. With autonomous movement you can make a sprite move without any input from the player. This can be random, always moving towards the player(Approach), or defined by you(Custom). Speed is how fast the sprite moves and frequency is how often.

We will be working a lot with movement in the future, but it is okay to set this one to fixed for now.

Options

Options determine how the event will be displayed.

Walking displays animation when moving, this is what we want to use for most of our characters.

Stepping displays the stepping animation while the character is stopped. This makes fire and lights glow automatically. This can also make a character walk in place.

Direction Fix prevents the direction that the image is facing from changing while moving.

Through allows to pass through terrain and events that cannot be passed through.

Priority

Priority determines how the event will interact with the player and others.

Below characters will let players and so on will be able to move on top of this event.

Same as characters will be at the same height as characters, and it will not be possible to go through this event.

Above characters players and so on will be able to move beneath this event.

Triggers

Triggers determine how the event activates.

Action Button activates the event when the player is touching the event and presses the action button. This is how events are handled by default.

Player Touch activates when the player touches the event. You could use this for things like pressure plates.

Event Touch activates when an event makes contact with a player through either their autonomous movement or the player touching them.

Autorun activates as soon as event conditions are met. This is useful for introduction sequences and one time events that must trigger no mater what.

Parallel activates the same way as autorun, but the it runs in the background. This lets the player move and continue playing even as the event is executing. This is great for background elements that need to happen, but should not interrupt gameplay.

Warning
Autorun and parallel can cause your game to enter an endless loop if you do not stop it. Always end your autorunning events with something that stops them from running.
RPG Maker Event Commands

Event Contents

The right side of the event editor contains all the event commands. This is where the magic happens. Today we will only cover a few commands, but these will be the building blocks for more complex systems in the future.

Double click in the contents section to open up a list of event commands. There are a lot of them, but they are broken up into easy to digest Groups.

We are going to start with the Show Text command. This will let us make a dialogue box that the player will see when they activate the event. We can chose a face image to show along with the text. You can change the background and position if you wish. For this example we will have the character say “Hi, how are you?”

Now that we have a question we should let the player respond. We will use the Show Choices command to do so. This will let the player make a choice, we can execute different commands based on their response.

Lets say “Good” and “Terrible” are our choices. When we enter the command you will see that there is text that says “When good”, “When Terrible”, and “End”. Every command we place in the Good section will only execute when the player selects “Good” and the terrible section only executes if “Terrible” is selected. Everything entered after the End statement will execute no matter what.

Lets make our event respond to the player’s choice. Afterwards our event should look something like this:

Now we just need to play test the game. Give it a try and see your world come to life!

Wrapping Up

RPG Maker has many more commands that we will cover in the future. You should read the documentation for more details in what each event command does.

We will start building our database and make more events in the next few tutorials. Look forward to it.

A lot of us hear the word ping used a lot in gaming and when we are having network issues, but what exactly is ping?

ping

ping is a command line tool that is used to measure the round-trip time for messages sent from one computer to another. This is often used to test if there is a connection between your computer and a website.

Command Options
WindowsLinux
Option Description
-t Ping the specified host until stopped. To see statistics and continue – type Control-Break; To stop – type Control-C.
-a Resolve addresses to hostnames.
-n count Number of echo requests to send.
-l size Send buffer size.
-f Set Don’t Fragment flag in packet (IPv4-only).
-i TTL Time to Live.
-r count Record route for count hops (IPv4-only)
-s count Timestamp for count hops (IPv4-only).
-j host-list Loose source route along host-list (IPv4-only).
-k host-list Strict source route along host-list (IPv4-only).
-w timeout Timeout in milliseconds to wait for each reply.
-S srcaddr Source address to use.
-c compartment Routing compartment identifier.
-p Ping a Hyper-V Network Virtualization provider address.
-4 Force using IPv4.
-6 Force using IPv6.
Option Description
-a Audible ping.
-A Adaptive ping. Interpacket interval adapts to round-trip time, so that effectively not more than one (or more, if preload is set) unanswered probes present in the network. Minimal interval is 200msec for not super-user. On networks with low rtt this mode is essentially equivalent to flood mode.
-b Allow pinging a broadcast address.
-B Do not allow ping to change source address of probes. The address is bound to one selected when ping starts.
-c count Stop after sending count ECHO_REQUEST packets. With deadline option, ping waits for count ECHO_REPLY packets, until the timeout expires.
-d Set the SO_DEBUG option on the socket being used. Essentially, this socket option is not used by Linux kernel.
-F flow label Allocate and set 20 bit flow label on echo request packets. (Only ping6). If value is zero, kernel allocates random flow label.
-f Flood ping. For every ECHO_REQUEST sent a period ”.” is printed, while for ever ECHO_REPLY received a backspace is printed. This provides a rapid display of how many packets are being dropped. If interval is not given, it sets interval to zero and outputs packets as fast as they come back or one hundred times per second, whichever is more. Only the super-user may use this option with zero interval.
-i interval Wait interval seconds between sending each packet. The default is to wait for one second between each packet normally, or not to wait in flood mode. Only super-user may set interval to values less 0.2 seconds.
-I interface address Set source address to specified interface address. Argument may be numeric IP address or name of device. When pinging IPv6 link-local address this option is required.
-l preload If preload is specified, ping sends that many packets not waiting for reply. Only the super-user may select preload more than 3.
-L Suppress loopback of multicast packets. This flag only applies if the ping destination is a multicast address.
-n Numeric output only. No attempt will be made to lookup symbolic names for host addresses.
-Q tos Set Quality of Service -related bits in ICMP datagrams. tos can be either decimal or hex number. Traditionally (RFC1349), these have been interpreted as: 0 for reserved (currently being redefined as congestion control), 1-4 for Type of Service and 5-7 for Precedence. Possible settings for Type of Service are: minimal cost: 0x02, reliability: 0x04, throughput: 0x08, low delay: 0x10. Multiple TOS bits should not be set simultaneously. Possible settings for special Precedence range from priority (0x20) to net control (0xe0). You must be root (CAP_NET_ADMIN capability) to use Critical or higher precedence value. You cannot set bit 0x01 (reserved) unless ECN has been enabled in the kernel. In RFC2474, these fields has been redefined as 8-bit Differentiated Services (DS), consisting of: bits 0-1 of separate data (ECN will be used, here), and bits 2-7 of Differentiated Services Codepoint (DSCP).
-q Quiet output. Nothing is displayed except the summary lines at startup time and when finished.
-R Record route. Includes the RECORD_ROUTE option in the ECHO_REQUEST packet and displays the route buffer on returned packets. Note that the IP header is only large enough for nine such routes. Many hosts ignore or discard this option.
-r Bypass the normal routing tables and send directly to a host on an attached interface. If the host is not on a directly-attached network, an error is returned. This option can be used to ping a local host through an interface that has no route through it provided the option -I is also used.
-s packetsize Specifies the number of data bytes to be sent. The default is 56, which translates into 64 ICMP data bytes when combined with the 8 bytes of ICMP header data.
-S sndbuf Set socket sndbuf. If not specified, it is selected to buffer not more than one packet.
-t ttl Set the IP Time to Live.
-T timestamp option Set special IP timestamp options. timestamp option may be either tsonly (only timestamps), tsandaddr (timestamps and addresses) or tsprespec host1 [host2 [host3 [host4]]] (timestamp prespecified hops).
-M hint Select Path MTU Discovery strategy. hint may be either do (prohibit fragmentation, even local one), want (do PMTU discovery, fragment locally when packet size is large), or dont (do not set DF flag).
-U Print full user-to-user latency (the old behaviour). Normally ping prints network round trip time, which can be different f.e. due to DNS failures.
-v Verbose output.
-V Show version and exit.
-w deadline Specify a timeout, in seconds, before ping exits regardless of how many packets have been sent or received. In this case ping does not stop after count packet are sent, it waits either for deadline expire or until count probes are answered or for some error notification from network.
-W timeout Time to wait for a response, in seconds. The option affects only timeout in absense of any responses, otherwise ping waits for two RTTs.
Note: Linux uses ping and ping6 to distinuish between IPv4 and IPv6

Use Case

If you are having issues connecting to the internet many will try to test the issue by sending a ping request to a known working website. We will use google.com in this example.

If we run the command ping google.com we should get the following output:

Successful ping
Pinging google.com [172.217.5.78] with 32 bytes of data:

Reply from 172.217.5.78: bytes=32 time=22ms TTL=53

Reply from 172.217.5.78: bytes=32 time=26ms TTL=53

Reply from 172.217.5.78: bytes=32 time=23ms TTL=53

Reply from 172.217.5.78: bytes=32 time=68ms TTL=53

Ping statistics for 172.217.5.78:

   Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),

Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:

    Minimum = 22ms, Maximum = 68ms, Average = 34ms

If all our packets get replies then we have a good connection. If some of them are lost it could mean that there is some network interference preventing a stable connection. If all of them are lost then we are looking at three different possible issues:

  1. The website is down.
  2. You are not connected to the internet.
  3. You are having DNS problems.

We can test number 3 by typing in the IP Address of the website you wish to ping. If you get no packets then the issue is not likely a DNS issue. If you receive your packets then we may be able to fix the issue by flushing our DNS Resolver Catch with ipconfig /flushdns. To learn more about ipconfig look at our article here.

Many people dream of making a video game. Gaming is one the the ages most popular hobbies and stories of people getting rich off side projects are everywhere. The truth is very few people actually want to make a game nor are the success stories nearly as common as we would like to believe. Building a video game on your own is a massive undertaking and rarely yields success financially. That said, there are options. Over the next few articles we will explore building a small video game in RPG Maker MV.

Getting Started

After deciding we have the determination to make a video game we need to do several things:

  1. Define our goal
  2. Pick a genre
  3. Pick an engine
  4. Refine our concepts
  5. Estimate costs
  6. Build our team

Many are tempted to run ahead and make things up as they go. That rarely works. If you look on Steam or Itch you will see many unfinished projects. These ‘games’ are unpolished, poorly written, and use the generic features of what ever engine the developer could find at the time. To avoid this we need to define our goals beforehand.

Define out goal

Before we begin building our game we need to know the scope of our project, the story, the type of game we wish to make, etc. We need to set expectations and do research around the market we are targeting.

Write our Synopsis

First we will get a general idea of what our story will be about. Some video games are more about the mechanics and some about the world they inhabit, but most start with a story the developer wishes to tell. For this reason we will focus first on a story and then build a world and mechanics that fit that story.

Lets say we want a game following a band of mercenaries who are about to be dragged into a war between two rival nations.

Pick a medium

Would this story play out best as a platformer? Perhaps a shooter? A grand strategy game? The genre we chose will greatly impact the rest of the decisions we make in development. The engine we use, the mechanics we design, and the way we flesh out our story all depend on how the game is played. An action game is going to have fewer cutseens and less dialogue than a RPG or Visual Novel. A RPG will be far more time consuming and costly to develop than a platformer.

With that in mind we will say that this will be a role playing game centered around one particular mercenary who is having second thoughts about the war.

Define our scope

Now we need to decide the scope. Are we building a 100 hour epic or perhaps a 15 minute tech demo? Do we want to show this to our friends and family, release it to the public for free, or perhaps make our millions from Steam and GOG sells? These questions will help us decide how we want to write our story and how we go about marketing it. If we decide to sell our video game it will need a lot more refinement than if we just gave it to a friend for a birthday present.

You must have a realistic goal for your first game, many developers set impossible goals and give up under the pressure. We will be in a difficult position if we are to build a game 100 hour dream game in between work and taking care of the family for example.

Let’s imagine we are working full-time with no other responsibilities. After work each day we will dedicate an hour to game development. Our goal is to build a 1 hour long episodic 2D RPG telling the story of a mercenary as he fights through a war.

Pick an Engine

Now that we know our story and what type of game we wish to make we need to decide on an engine. A game engine is a prebuilt set of libraries and tools that we can use to build our game. These range from a few python libraries to full development environments. There are far too many to count and you will have to do your own research to find the best one for your needs.

In our case we chose to build a 2D RPG so we will pick an engine that has great 2D support and provides us the tools to build an RPG. We have limited amount of development time and few resources. This brings us down to two engines that work well for our project.

Godot

Godot Video Game Engine

Godot is a free and open source (MIT) general purpose game engine for both 2D and 3D games. It has support for all major platforms (Linux, Mac, Android, Windows, FreeBSD, OpenBSD and Haiku and iOS) and multiple programming languages. The catch is that you will have to build most of your resources from scratch. Godot does some of the heavy lifting, but you will have to write the scripts and make the artwork yourself. Godot is not ready to make a RPG out of the box, but it is powerful enough to do so.

RPG Maker MV

RPG Maker game engine

The latest release in the RPG Maker series of engines, RPG Maker MV is a proprietary engine that supports all major platforms and utilizes JavaScript and HTML5 for programming. The engine is easier to use than Godot and is built for our particular task. All the functions for a RPG already exist and it comes with many resources prebuilt for our use. The catch is that it is proprietary, not as flexible without putting in effort, and costs money. That said there is no royalty fees and you are getting a lot of resources with it.

Due to the cost of hiring artists and scripting we will use RPG Maker MV for this. It does cost more initially, but we can get away with using the default assets till we are ready to publish our game.

Estimate Costs

We have made it to the final stages of planning out our game. We now need to estimate how much this project will cost us. If we are going to do this by ourselves or with friends who are willing to donate their time and skill, the costs will be that of the engine and the time we put in. If we need to hire a programmer for a specialized system or voice actors, however, we will be needing a much larger budget.

We need break down our costs

$80.00 – Engine

$25.00 – Main Character Portrait

$150.00 – Tileset

$300.00 – Title Theme Music

Etc.

Refine our Concept

Now that we have our video game planned out we need to actually flesh out our story, gameplay, and other plans. We need to build a detailed game design document that explains the setting, characters, story, and gameplay. How is combat going to work? What abilities does the main character have? How does our key mechanic play into a particular level? All these things will be important to the development of our game.

Our RPG’s game design document may start something like this:

[Insert Title] is a turn-based RPG that follows a mercenary during a great war. Combat is the focus, with each character having unique abilities that will change the outcome of battle. Each level of the game takes place as an episode during the war and consists of self-contained goals. After completing a level, the player will be awarded a grade and rewards based on performance. These will aid the player in the next level.

It is a bit rough, but it will do for a start.

Next time we will start exploring the RPG Maker engine and design the first level of our video game.

The less time you use the mouse the faster you can navigate a computer. That said, sometimes keyboard shortcuts are not enough. When you need to launch programs or search for a file quickly for example. Enter in Launchy, the open source application launcher.

Launchy: What is it and how it works

Luanchy Default ThemeLaunchy is a program that lets you open programs and files on your computer. All you have to do is press the keyboard shortcut (Default is alt+space) and start typing the name of the program or file. You can add new files to the program’s search database, but any program that adds items to the start menu or desktop should automatically be added.

You can download Launchy form its website. After installing let the program build a database. The time this takes will depend on how many programs you have installed.

Program Settings

Luanchy General SettingsThe first thing you will want to do after installing is go through the settings. To do so, press alt+space on your keyboard. This will open up the search window. Before typing anything click the gear icon in the topmost right hand corner.

In the general settings you will find the ability to edit the user interface, setup internet proxy settings, control how many options appear in the suggestion list, and some general options for how the program behaves.

These settings are explanatory for the most part.

The next tab is the skin settings, you can customize the way the program looks here. You can find new skins on Devientart. Just place the skin’s folder in the program’s skin folder (Default: C:\Program Files (x86)\Launchy\skins).

Launchy Settings Search DatabaseThe catalog is where things get interesting. This is Launchy’s heart.

Launchy will scan the files in the directories you chose. If the file matches the file types set in the list to the right, it will appear when you type. Press the plus (+) sign to add new paths and file types and minus (-) sign to remove them. Including executables will allow you to directly launch a program, but I recommend that you use shortcuts to do such work. Directories will let you search the directories and launch an explorer window to them. I recommend that you keep this unchecked as well.

Launchy Settings PluginsThe last tab is for Plugins. These extend Launchy’s abilities beyond what it can do be default. This includes Calcy for performing math calculations and Weby for searching the web directly from Launchy. As there is too much variation with plugins, they will not be covered here. You can toggle them on and off with the check boxes in the left window.

Now you can launch any program on your computer from the keyboard. You will save time, improve your typing speed, and not have to deal with the start menu.

What would you like us to cover next?

Many of us have old games laying around and realize that they just don’t work right. This can be due to many issues, but today we will cover DirectX issues using WineD3D for Windows.

WineD3D for Windows is a “DirectX 1-11 to OpenGL wrapper based on WineD3D”. Normally WineD3D is used to run DirectX games on Linux, but some old Windows games do not run on Windows anymore. Lets take Star Wars Battlefront 2 for example. On Windows 10, some maps have issues displaying the right colors. To fix this we will need a replacement for DirectX 9.

You can download WineD3D for Windows here.

Getting it Working

There is a readme in the zip folder that WineD3D come in. For Battlefront 2, we will copy the d3d9.dll, libwine.dll and wined3d.dll into the data directory that the game’s executable is located. BattlefrontII.exe is located here.

When you load it up, the game works as it should.

Battlefront2

Battlefront 2 Data Directory.

WineD3D

WineD3D for Windows Zip File.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The game should now run properly. This works with many games, but is not guaranteed.

WineD3D is far from perfect and has issues: Some games will not work, stutter, or lock to low resolutions. If you would like to help improve it, it is open source under the GNU LGPL Version 2.

Earlier we mentioned how to customize Firefox. Personas are like wallpaper for Firefox and give some basic customization, but what if you wanted to make your own instead of using the ones provided by others?

Fortunately you can with some photo editing and a Firefox addon named Personas Plus. This little addon will give you the ability to create your own personas.

Creating the Persona Images

Custom Persona

My attempt at making a persona.

To start you will need some images to use as the Firefox Header and Footer. The header is the image that is displayed at the top of your browser, behind the toolbars and tabs. The footer is the image used for the addonbar at the bottom of Firefox. These two images should be simple as to not interfere with text.

The files have specific requirements:

  • Header: 3000px x 200px, PNG or JPG format, 300 KB maximum file size.
  • Footer: 3000px x 100px, PNG or JPG format, 300 KB maximum file size.

You can use your favorite image editing program to crop larger images to size if you wish or make your own.

Persona Plus Settings

Persona Plus SettingsNow that you have your images, you will need to install Personas Plus. You should find an icon for the addon on your toolbar. When you click on the icon a menu should appear with the option to edit a custom persona. This will give you a menu where you can chose your header, footer, text color, and accent color. Make sure that your colors do not conflict with the persona you made as this will be the text color for the toolbar.

Now you you can have a unique theme for your browser. There are more complicated ways to make and edit Firefox themes, but that would require some css. Perhaps we will touch on it in the future.

The reason we chose Firefox as our web browser in the Introduction to Computers series is due to its great customization features. By using Extensions and Personas we can make Firefox our own. Make sure that you have the program installed before continuing.

Personas: Firefox’s Skin

The easiest way to customize Firefox is with a Persona. These are similar to wallpaper on your desktop, but cover the browser toolbars. You can find them on Mozilla’s Firefox addons site under themes. To apply a Persona just click the “+ Add” button. You can also test a theme without installing it by hovering over it with your cursor. Persona ExampleIn the past Firefox had a much more powerful theme system that could change the whole layout of the browser. Due to some unfortunate design decisions they have simplified the system and made it more difficult to achieve system wide changes.

If you would like to know how to make your own persona you can, we will go over how to do so in a future tutorial as it will require some image editing.

Extensions: Make Firefox Better

Firefox is rather powerful on its own, but some things that should be default are not and some things need to be fixed. This is where extensions come in. These are bits of code that add functionality to the browser. All of the extensions that are peer and Mozilla reviewed, if something is bad it will not stay for long if it ever gets approved in the first place. You should not install addons/extensions from untrusted sources.

We will go over some of the most useful and fun extensions in this article.

Adblock Plus/uBlock Origin

Disable AdsMost websites make money using ads, without them we could not afford to keep in business. There comes a time, however, when ads are obnoxious or even harmful. Video ads, animated ads, scams, etc. Ads slow down your browsing experience. These two extensions are the most known and respected ad blockers around. Either one will work, but Adblock Plus has had some shady deals with advertisers and has some issues with high CPU usage.

If you chose to install Adblock Plus, disable “Allow some non-intrusive advertising” option in the options.

Also consider adding us to your browser white list by clicking on the extensions button and clicking “disable on this domain”

You can add either one by simply clicking the “+ Add to Firefox” button.

Classic Theme Restorer

Classic OptionsI have already gone over this extension in the past. Remember how I said that Firefox use to be more customizable? This plugin gives some of that customization back. You can change the style of tabs, the menus, and more importantly the search box. One of the biggest issues with the design direction in the newer Firefox is the search box functionality. The decision prevents you from quickly switching between search engines in favor for one click searching. In the Classic Theme Restorer options you can set the behavior back to a more useful state.

Stylish

Keeping with the theme of Customization, Stylish allows you to to theme websites with custom CSS. Basically personas for websites. If you find that a website is too light or has a bad color scheme, you can change it yourself or in most cases find a theme that someone has already made for you. Though it is mostly cosmetic, it is useful to have and will surprise your friends when Google looks different.

Greasemonkey

Moving away from cosmetics and into functionality, Greasemonkey is the Swiss Army Knife of extensions. It functions similarly to Stylish. By itself, Greasemonkey is useless, but by applying userscripts you can change anything on the web. Userscripts are like mini-extensions written in JavaScript. Some auto-load the next page on Google, wist others change the way Facebook works all together. You will have to work at this one for it to be useful, but useful it is.

VimFx

VimFx brings Vim-style keyboard shortcuts to Firefox. It is a bit complicated to go over in this article, but keyboard shortcuts make everything faster. With VimFx, pressing “x” will close a tab, “t” will open a new tab, “o” will activate the search bar, and “i” will disable the shortcuts. The extension is not perfect, you cannot exit insert mode when on YouTube as it has its own shortcuts for example, but VimFx provides great shortcuts that will save anyone time.

Firebug

Firebug allows you to make live changes to a website’s source code. This may sound a bit complicated to a normal user, but it is very useful. Some website will have full page ads that block content and do not go away even with ad blockers for example. You can disable the ad by erasing the line in the source code or adding a new CSS rule. It is also useful for web developers and designers when mocking up website changes.

Disconnect

Most websites track you. Ads track you, Facebook, Amazon, even my website has some trackers. Sometimes they are harmless, just to keep you logged into your account. Often they are malicious. Amazon and Facebook do not need to know that you are looking into buying a computer and that random Chinese advertising agency does not need to know that you are talking to your grandma on Facebook. To help prevent these issues Disconnect blocks the invisible tracking elements on websites. This will often speed up website load times as an added benefit. Remember, you should never need to sacrifice privacy.

Add to Search Bar

Have you ever been on a website or custom search engine and wanted to search with it directly from the search bar? Unfortunately very few web browsers have a way to easily customize your search engines. Fortunately this extension gives you the ability to add any search box to your search engine list. If you are a student you can finally add that search database that your school uses to Firefox.

We hope that you have found this article helpful. What web browsers do you use?

The majority of what you will be doing online will involve Google and Email to some extent or another. Your email is more than just a way of contact, it symbolizes your online identity. To get the most of the internet you need an email address, just like you need an ID to get the most out of citizenship in most countries. Many of the services that you will be using will be run by Google, this will require an email address. Fortunately Google provides both.

Google

Google is the largest internet search engine and one of the largest advertising agencies online. At first Google was just a website that indexed other websites to make it easier to find others, but now it has its hands in every corner of the internet. Unfortunately this makes it difficult to avoid their almost omnipresent eyes. Fortunately this make things easier to manage.

Google’s main uses will be searching the internet and for email. Google also runs other services such as YouTube and Android’s main development branch. You have been touched by their influence, even if you have never touched a computer before. It is best to be acquainted with them.

Setting up a Google Account

Google Home

Making a Google account is easy and quick. The first thing you need to do is open up your web browser (Firefox/Chrome/Etc.). In the search box just type up Google.com. At the top right of the screen there should be a blue button that says “Sign in”. This will take you to a page where you can sign into an account or make a new one. Underneath the login prompt asking for an email address is a “Create account” button, click it.

Google Account CreationThis page asks for some basic information. Your name, the username you wish, a password, birthday, gender, Phone#, and email. Remember that you do not need to use your real name, but what name you use will be an important identifier for many online actions.

You can omit the phone# and email. You will need a phone that can receive text messages or a call to verify your account on the next page. This is a safety measure that cannot be avoided easily. They will not use your phone # for any other purpose unless you allow them. They will send you a verification number. Enter the number and continue on.

Congratulations on your new Google account. Your email will be what was entered as the username with an @gmail.com.

Gmail

You will be given a short tutorial on what each button does and be sent back to the Google home page. If you look at the top right of the screen, in place of the login button, there is a icon of the first letter used for the name of your account. Near that button is an array of 9 squares set in a 3×3 arrangement, click it. This will bring up a list of Google services that are available. You will want to check your email first. Over time we will explore what these other services do in detail.Gmail

Click Gmail. This is Google’s email system. A short promotional slide presentation will play. Afterwords you should get access to your inbox. As you can see the interface is quite simple. On the top of the page you have a search box for your emails and the same options on the right as everywhere else on google. Underneath is your inbox and options for each option such as moving messages between folders and deleting them. On the left sidebar is a list of folders. Some will contain messages automatically, others you will have to populate yourself.

The Inbox is where all messages that you receive are stored. You will want to keep this as empty as possible by always organizing your email into other folders once read. The Starred are emails that have been marked as important, sometimes messages from people you often write back to will automatically be stared. As you can see the message that is in our inbox right now has a white star next to it, if you click it the message will be stared. Sent Mail is self-explanatory, these are messages that you have sent to others. Drafts are messages that have been started, but not completed. If you click the More button you can see the spam mail you receive and create a new folder by clicking the “Create new label” button.

Above your Inbox is a couple of tabs that are designed to help organize the inbox. This can be both helpful or a hindrance depending on how much email you receive and how you teach Gmail. Depending on how you read and write messages and what you mark them as for organization will determine the effectiveness of organization. You can move an email from one of these tabs to another by clicking and dragging it over to one of them.

Click an email to start reading it.An emailYou can see who the email is from and their email address, the day and time the email was sent, and some options for staring and replying to the email at the top. Then follows the email’s contents. The email that is resting within the inbox by default is just a promotional mail for other google products, but it is a good example. After the contents of the email there should be a little reply box. This email is auto-generated so you should not reply to it, but if you are emailing your friends it is much easier for organization to reply instead of starting a new message.

Composing a Message

Go back to your inbox and then click on the compose button.Email

You type the email address of the person you wish to write an email to in the first line. If  you already have them in your contacts you can just type their name and it will automatically type their email. Then you have the subject line. It is important that you fill this out. Most email that lacks a subject will be regarded as spam and even then it is rude.

The main body of the email is after the subject line. You fill this out just like a letter. By the send button you have text options to modify the font and create bullet lists. Next to that you can upload attachments using the paper clip button, this is an easy way to share small files. Other options are to include files for google, send money, insert a picture, link photos, and emoticons. At the end of the screen there is the option to delete the email and the arrow has more options like moving the email to other folders and checking for spelling mistakes.

Once you hit send, the message will be sent to the email address you intended. You can send an email to multiple people by entering more than one email in the subject line.

For more information on how to use Gmail you can look at the account setup option underneath your inbox.

Not that was a long and boring track, but now we can get into the more fun parts of computers. Look forward to more articles in the future.

A Complete Email

Last time we went over computer hardware. Today we will be installing Windows 10. Windows 10 is the most recent version of the Windows Operating system (OS). We will first go over installing the OS from a disk, if you bought a computer with Windows 10 on it you can skip ahead to part two.

You will want to Select your Language

Windows 10’s Localization Selection

Part 1: Installing from Disk

To interact with menus in windows you will use the left mouse button to select items and the keyboard to type information.

The first thing you will see when you start installing the system is the localization settings. You will want to select your language, time and currency format, and keyboard to mach your region. In the screen shot we have everything setup for a United States computer. Then hit Next.

On the next screen you should screen Install now and a Repair your computer button. Click Install now.

02 Enter CD KeyWindows will ask you for your serial number. It will be on the case of the installation disk. If you do not have it you can click I don’t have a product key, but you will run into trouble later if you cannot find it.

The next window will ask if you want to Upgrade or do a Custom install. We want to do the second. Click Custom.

You will just need to click on your hard drive and then the next button on the next screen, unless you know what you are doing.

We will go over partitioning in a later article.

Windows 10 Install

Windows 10 is installing, it will only take a minute.

The next window will show the installation progress of Windows 10. This will take a few minutes. After it is done your computer will restart.

Part Two: Setting up Windows 10

Now we start setting up Windows 10 for use. This is where things get tricky for the uneducated user. Windows 10 will do everything in its power to get you to consent to giving more information than you should. If you do not care about your privacy you can ignore the next part of the article, but you should care. “but I have nothing to hide.” is an evil and dumb statement, never consent to giving your information when it is not required.

05 Express vs CustomizeThe next screen will ask you if you want to Use Express settings, you do not want to. Each point that the installer makes about why you want to use them is another piece of your private life that Microsoft can use for marketing and something that can be used against you.

There is a small Customize settings button near the bottom left of the screen, click it.

The next few windows will have a lot of options you will want to click off.

Microsoft's Privact Setting

Oh where art thou, oh where art thou privacy?

You will want to click each one of these option to off. These options will allow Microsoft to track everything you type, your location, your calendar information, and the

contact information of others. Most of the programs that use these “features” are more prevalent on cellphones, so you do not benefit much by giving this information to Microsoft.

Once you have everything off click next.

Connectivity and error reporting:

Computer security 101: Never connect to a network you trust, ever. The next three options are more dangerous to have on than just giving Microsoft your information. When you connect to a network you make your computer open to what is on it. You will want to change these to off.

Sending error reports to Microsoft actually sounds like a good idea, but in my experience diagnostics never return results. It is better not to give Microsoft this information as you will not see results and Microsoft will sell what they get from you.

More options to turn off:

Settings to turn off.

More things to turn off, hooray!

Windows 10’s SmartScreen feature is useful if you go to less savory websites, but in exchange, Microsoft gets to know where you have been online and what you are downloading.

Page prediction will be useless for us as we will be using a third party program to brows the internet. If left on, Windows 10 will send your internet and download history to Microsoft. Even if you do use the integrated web browser, you will not benefit much by having this on.

The last option will use your computer to send updates to others and allow you to receive them from others. This will use your internet connection, thus wasting bandwidth and slowing down your internet.

Turn these off.

Windows will restart after you click next.

Part Three: Creating a Local Account

We are almost done! Unfortunately Microsoft tries to ware on your willpower by making it easier to just hand over the keys to your life.

Windows 10 Account Setup.

It is a trap! Do not fall for it.

Windows 10 will ask you to sign in to or make a Microsoft account. This account will allow you to connect your devices and will allow Microsoft to put a name, address, email, and phone number to all the data they collect.

They make it hard to say no by making the Skip this step and Microsoft privacy statement buttons small. Read that privacy statement, it is vague and misleading, but it basically states that Microsoft will be sharing your information with the government, sending it to advertisers, and using it for the improvement of Windows 10.

We will want to Skip this step. There are some honest benefits to using a Microsoft account, parental controls and online backups, but there are alternatives that do not want to sell you ever chance they get.

Creating a Local Account

Local account setup.

This is the screen that they should greet you with.

We are going to setup the account for the first user on this computer, this will be the system administrator and will have full control over the system.

The user name can be your name or anything you want. On this system I will be using “Random Thoughts”. The password is very important. This is what keeps others out of your computer. It would be a shame to have gone through all that effort to lessen Microsoft’s grip just to hand the keys over to someone else. Use the keyboard to enter one that uses a combination of Upper and lower case letters, symbols, and numbers. Unless you are expecting someone with physical access to your computer to brake into your computer, it does not need to be overly strong.

An example password could look something like this: hTF1%g%#Gl#6U

Never use password as a password.

The password hint can help you remember what you have entered here, if you forget your password you will not be able to access your computer.

Now Windows 10 will play an animation as it sets things up for the new user. Just wait wist it finishes.

We are done.

We are done, just one more thing to do.

Congratulations, Windows 10 is now installed. There is just one more step. If you have your computer connected to the internet already, you will want to decide if you want your computer viable to others on the network. If you are at home you can select yes. If you are using a laptop or a computer that is on a public network you will want to say no.

If you have no plans on running a server or doing anything regarding computers interacting with each other you are better off saying no, you can always change this option.

We will be going over the windows interface next time and setting things up for you to use. We will also install our first few programs in the next article.

Before we learn how to use a computer we must understand what a computer is and the underlining concepts that allow computers to work.

At the most basic level a computer takes data (input) and processes it into information (output). Lets say you us a calculator to solve a 2 + 4. The numbers 2 and 4 are your input along with the plus (+) sign. The plus sign is an operator that tells the calculator how to process the input. The output will be 6. This is how computers work, everything you wish to do on a computer follows this principle.

ENIAC, the first general purpose computer.

ENIAC, the first general purpose computer.

Brief History of The Computer

Technically commuters have been around for thousands of years, but we are only interested in the past two hundred years.

Charles Babbage conceptualized programmable computers and began to build a Difference Engine in 1822. After building his Difference Engine, he thought it would be possible to have a system that used punch cards for input. This punch card system was called the Analytical Engine. Unfortunately Babbage died before he could get it working.

Ada Lovelace wrote the first algorithm for the Analytical Engine. Wist the Engine was not finished, Lovelace wrote what is attributed to be the first computer program.

These Difference and Analytical Engine are both mechanical computers. Though there where electronic computers near the beginning of the 1900s, the first general purpose electric computer was announced in 1946. This computer was named the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC). ENIAC combined the abilities that other earlier computers had and ran at a much faster speed.

Computers Today

Computers come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from so small that 150 of them can fit on your thumb (M3) to ones larger than ENIAC. The smallest computer we will be going over in this series is your cell phone and we will not be building server farms so we will not concern ourselves too much with size.

Computers have become such an integrated part of our society that it is almost impossible to get a job without knowing how to use one. Even cash registers have computers integrated into them.

Types of Computers

We will be going over several types of computers during this series. This includes:

Smart Phones:

Smart Phones have largely replaced standard phones for most things. These phones are computers that can connect to cell-phone networks and WiFi networks. This gives the phones the power to both access the internet and make phone calls. Smart Phones can run software to do anything that a desktop computer can, from playing games to doing your taxes.

Single-board Computers:

Single-board Computers have one circuit board with all of the components soldered to it. These boards are often used in manufacturing and hobbyist projects. The most notable computer of this type is the Raspberry Pi. These computers are often inexpensive and perfect for simple tasks like weather tracking. We will go over Raspberry Pi projects some time in the future.

Laptop and Desktop Computers:

Laptops are computers that have a folding screen that comes down over the keyboard. Laptops are more expensive and less powerful than Desktops, but run off battery power and are portable. Desktops are cheep and powerful, but are not as portable as laptops. Both run the same type of software and the same principles apply. This is the type of computer this series will focus on.

Next time we will go over the basic hardware that will be needed and how hook everything together.

For further reading you can read the Wikipedia pages for concepts we have covered:

Ada Lovelace

Charles Babbage and His Work in Computing

ENIAC