Category Archives: Support

Are your Microsoft Office Documents Accessible by Everyone?

When you are creating a document are you considering all of your readers?

Many people who are blind or visually impaired are able to access documents independently with the use of screen readers. Screen readers interpret not only plain text, but also titles, headings, images, and other objects, such as tables and forms. In order for the screen reader to interpret your document properly, there are some formatting rules you need to follow.

Here are a few of the things you can do to make your documents more accessible:

1. Add alternative text to images and objects.

2. Use Styles to create titles, headings, paragraphs and tables of contents.

3. Use meaningful hyperlink text.

4. Use simple table structures.

5. Use page breaks, column breaks, continuous breaks, and text wrapping.

6. Use page numbering, headers and footers.

For how to use these formatting suggestions, and much more, please refer to these links:

Creating Accessible Word Documents

Adding Alternative Text to Images and Objects

Also, did you know that Microsoft Office products contain an Accessibility Checker that you can use to see what needs to be changed in your document?

Where to find the Accessibility Checker

Rules Used by the Accessibility Checker

 

 

 

 

 

Using your Google Drive

google-drive-iconDid you know all NOVA faculty, staff, and students have access to 30GB of storage space on your Google Drive? This is particularly important to know since NOVA’s IT department recently blocked all incoming e-mail containing compressed (Zip) files and executable attachments. Using your Google Drive is a good alternative way to transfer large and executable files.

Your Google Drive is accessed through your VCCS email address. An example of that is: jdoe@email.vccs.edu. We all have one, so if you don’t know yours, or don’t know your password, contact the IT department.

For those blog readers who are not faculty, staff, or students of NOVA, this is useful for you to know too. The only difference is you can access your Google Drive through a normal G-mail account. A normal G-mail account gives access to only 15GB of space, but that is still plenty.

Please click here for your PDF print out with step-by-step instructions on how to access and use your Google Drive.

GoogleDrive

And please feel free to contact us at the office, or via our Facebook page,  if you have any questions about accessing or using your Google Drive

Useful Resources at the FSRC

Did you know we have video tutorials and handouts on subjects such as Blackboard and Microsoft Office on the FSRC Website?

If you are interested in looking at these, here’s what you should do:

  1. 4NavBarGo to our Website at: www.nvcc.edu/annandale/fsrc
  2. Click on “Tutorials and Handouts” on the navigation bar:
  3. Choose a category from the drop-down list:
    • General
    • Blackboard Basics
    • Blackboard Intermediate
    • Blackboard Advanced
    • Microsoft Office
  4. Then you can either download the PDF handouts, or click on the videos.

6VideosPDFs
If you have any questions or comments regarding these handouts and videos, please feel free to call us at 703-323-3855, email us at anfsrc@nvcc.edu or stop by the FSRC at CG 206 on the Annandale campus.

We are currently working on making all of our videos accessible to those who are deaf and hard of hearing. If this is a concern for you, watch this space, because I will make an announcement when all of the videos contain closed captioning.

A Meandering New Year’s Post

Well, it’s taken me nearly the entire month (it gets kinda busy around here at the beginning of the semester, as it turns out) but welcome back everyone and I hope you had a nice relaxing break! Today’s post will reflect my mental state, in that it will be disorganized and touch on only loosely related subjects.

1) Spam email. NOVA’s IT has been working overtime to advise us about the many dud emails showing up in our boxes. This is called “Phishing” and is something I covered in this blog a few months ago. Here is the link to that post: https://blogs.nvcc.edu/fsrc/?p=84. If you’re not feeling up to another post, here’s my helpful checklist for spam emails:

  • If someone asks for personal information via email, do not email it to them. If you think it might be a real request and it’s from a business, call. Even if it’s from your friend, call. Like, on the phone.
  • If there are typos or bad grammar in the email, that is a big red flag indicating it may be a scam email.
  • Just because there’s a company logo in the email or you click on a link that takes you to a website, doesn’t mean it really comes from that company. Just because the email address looks like it comes from a legitimate business doesn’t mean it does. All of these things can be easily faked in an email.
  • Be suspicious of generic greetings like “Dear Customer”.
  • Most businesses will not threaten to close down an account if you don’t provide them with personal information. They WANT you to keep your account!
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
  • If you feel weird about an email, even if you don’t know why, trust your instincts and don’t reply. Better safe than sorry!

2) Copyright. Shirley Nuhn and I did a training on copyright for educators during the Power Up Your Pedagogy conference in early January and hope to offer it in more venues in the near future. The original blog post is here: https://blogs.nvcc.edu/fsrc/?p=41. I also found this cool resource today: http://nationalparalegal.edu/public_documents/courseware_asp_files/patents/menu_patents.asp

3) Lastly, a good article on the top 10 good tech habits everyone should have. Developing these habits can save you from the many pitfalls of computer use and ownership. And yes, the last one is true! http://lifehacker.com/5978861/top-10-good-tech-habits-everyone-should-have

5 Tips For Getting Your Tech Questions Answered

It happens to all of us. Yes, even me! Our tech breaks down and we need help. But sometimes help is hard (and uncomfortable!) to get. Here are 5 tips, reblogged from The Chronicle’s Profhacker blog, one of my favorite Instructional Technologies resources. These are geared towards asking for help on Twitter, but replace “Tweet” with “email” and it still applies. Since I worked tech support for a software company before coming to NOVA, I’ve been on both sides of the fence and these tips will make your support person (including me) LOVE you!

  1. Be as specific as possible: What, exactly, is the problem you’re experiencing? If you’re creating a web page and you have a validation problem, which document is the one giving you trouble? Share the link to the document, if possible. If it’s a software problem, what is the error message you’re getting? What operating system are you using?
  2. Avoid ambiguous use of “it”: Don’t Tweet something like “It keeps saying my header isn’t valid!” or “It won’t let me send the email!” We can’t help you because we don’t know what “it” is. The browser? Your text editor? The W3C Validator? Your desktop email client? A web-based email system? (See 1. above: “Be specific.”)
  3. Include a link: If a particular page or file is giving you trouble, share a link to that page or file so we can look at it, too. Otherwise, we’re just guessing about what your problem might be.
  4. Use a link shortener: You don’t want your link eating up the 140 characters in your Tweet, so use a service like Google URL shortener. (In my experience, the built-in Twitter link shortener is inconsistent, but your mileage may vary.) If you don’t like Google’s there are several other shorteners to choose from. (Okay, this one isn’t THAT relevant, but check out link shortening anyway; it’s pretty handy. -CB)
  5. Include a picture: If you are getting an error message of some kind, or if your web page looks funny, or if you’re not sure what kind of port you’re looking at, including a screen capture or a picture along with your Tweeted question will allow others to see what you’re talking about.  (PLEASE do this! It’s super easy to do, especially in Office 2010. If you want to see how to include a picture, let me know and I’ll teach you! -CB)

As for me personally, I’m much better at doing tech support face to face, with a computer (preferably the computer that is acting up) in front of me. So never think that you’re inconveniencing me if I tell you I need to come visit you in person. I’m happy to do office calls!
 

Phishing and Hacking, part 2

Last week I discussed the internet/email scam known as “phishing”. Did you notice that IT sent out another message about a phishing email that’s going around? Remember, NOVA IT will NEVER ask you for personal information in an email. If you get such an email, it is probably a scam and you should not reply. If you are unsure about what to do, call the IT Helpdesk and they can tell you if the email is legitimate.

Now that we’ve recapped phishing, I want to cover malware. Malware, which is an amalgamation of “malicious” and “software”, is designed to disrupt computer operation, gather sensitive information, or gain unauthorized access to computer systems. You may also hear of worms, trojans, viruses and adware, all of which are forms of malware. You can accidentally install malware on your computer by surfing the internet, downloading files, checking your email or clicking on a pop-up window.

The most important thing to remember about malware is that it is not targeted specifically at you. I know lots of people who say, “Why should I worry about malware? No one wants my computer files!”. Well, that’s correct…but what malware does want is your computer itself. Malware uses your computer’s processing power to disrupt your computer’s functions, disrupt other people’s computer’s functions, send emails (using your email account without your knowledge or permission), collect your personal information like bank accounts, contact info, etc., and passwords. Some people create malware to collect information that can be used to scam people, and some just like to cause problems for others. But the important thing to remember is that anyone can be a victim.

I know I’ve made it sound scary, and I hope I haven’t frightened you off the internet entirely, because there are ways to protect your computer from malware. Make sure you have antivirus software installed on your computer, and make sure it is up to date! Hackers create new malware all the time. Your NOVA computer comes with antivirus software pre-installed (it’s called Symantec). You can also download this software for free if you go to http://www.nvcc.edu/about-nova/directories–offices/administrative-offices/ithd/faculty/software/index.html and follow the instructions there.  There are also lots of other antivirus programs available; I like Ad-Aware, AVG and Malwarebytes and they are all free to download.

That being said, it is not possible for any software to protect your computer 100%, which is why it’s very important to practice Internet safety. PC World has a very good article about safety here: http://www.pcworld.com/article/210891/how_to_avoid_malware.html. But, in a nutshell, if anything looks a bit unusual on a website or an email (pop-ups, misspellings, bad grammar, a file format you don’t recognize), don’t click on it.

If your NOVA computer starts acting strangely and you suspect you got a virus on it, back up your important files on a flash drive and contact the IT Helpdesk immediately. They can come remove the malware from your machine before it causes further damage. If you leave it alone, the malware can infect other computers, the network, your flash drives and your files. So get help right away!

Sea Creatures in your Email?

We recently received yet another email from the IT Helpdesk informing us that more “phishing” emails have been getting into NOVA email boxes. So what is “phishing”, why is it bad, and what do we do about it?

“Phishing” describes methods employed by scammers to get you to divulge your personal information, like your social security number, credit card number, or the logins and passwords to websites you frequent. It’s called “phihsing” because it’s like “fishing”…the scammers are throwing out lots of lines and hoping someone bites. No matter how convincing they sound, they don’t know who you are and they don’t know anything about you. You are not being targeted specifically; they got your email off the internet one way or another and you are just one of millions of people they emailed. But if you “bite”, then the scammer has phished successfully. Why the “ph” in “phishing”? No idea. Maybe it just looks cooler.

Email phishing involves email messages designed to make you give up some personal information. One of best-known scams is the Nigerian Letter scam, in which the usual story is that a person, often a government or bank employee, knows of a large amount of unclaimed money or gold which he cannot access directly. The scammer begs you to help him claim this money and offers a reward. This is also called the “advance-fee” fraud, and though most of us know we aren’t really being emailed by a rich foreign government official in exile, this scam can take many other forms. If someone makes you any kind of offer that involves wiring money or sending you a check to cash on their behalf, be suspicious. Do not trust any links or phone numbers in these emails; these will all lead you to false information.

Some scammers even make the email sound like a cry for help from a friend or relative of yours (they do this by hacking your friend’s email account and sending messages to all of the contacts). Never ever send money (especially through a wiring service) to someone who emailed you without calling them personally to see if they really sent the message.

The most recent phishing attempt at NOVA informed users that their email box was over the storage space limit, and asked the user to click a link to “fix” the problem. The email appeared to come from NOVA IT, but it didn’t. It came from scammers who were using that link (which they created) to collect personal information from NOVA employees. This example shows us how convincing a phishing scam can be. Along the same lines, scammers may send out emails telling you that your credit card account/paypal/amazon/bank account will be shut down if you don’t provide your password/credit card number/pin number/social security number. Some emails provide links to websites that look like real businesses. These are fake. No legitimate businesses will ask you for personal information in an email. If you believe one has, call them to verify (using the phone number listed in the phone book, NOT one in the email).

I know this is a lot of information but it’s very important to be safe when you’re using your email. Here’s my quick advise for dealing with phishing attempts:

  • If someone asks for personal information via email, do not email it to them. If you think it might be a real request and it’s from a business, call. Even if it’s from your friend, call.
  • If there are typos or bad grammar in the email, that is a big red flag indicating it may be a scam email.
  • Just because there’s a company logo in the email or you click on a link that takes you to a website, doesn’t mean it really comes from that company. Just because the email address looks like it comes from a legitimate business doesn’t mean it does. All of these things can be easily faked in an email.
  • Be suspicious of generic greetings like “Dear Customer”.
  • Most businesses will not threaten to close down an account if you don’t provide them with personal information. They WANT you to keep your account!
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
  • If you feel weird about an email, even if you don’t know why, trust your instincts and don’t reply. Better safe than sorry!

For even more information about phishing scams, check out http://computer.howstuffworks.com/phishing.htm.