“I must be old because I still use DOS,” a reader says. He’s not old, he’s smart. It is the fastest, cleanest way to control any PC using the Microsoft operating system. And he gave us some examples of the power.
A bit of an aside to start: It’s often called MS-DOS, for Microsoft DOS. The DOS stands for “Disk Operating System,” and though it doesn’t show up on your regular screen, all Microsoft systems still have it and you can still use it. Back when the world was young and jungle noises ruled the night, this is what we used — and we loved it. When Windows came into general use — mainly to compete with Apple’s graphical user interface — DOS was considered too complex for ordinary users, and was unceremoniously moved to the back of the bus. It’s very roomy back there.
To access DOS, type the letters “cmd” (without the quotes) into the Windows search box. A DOS window will appear. Then type “cd\“ (again without the quotes) into the DOS window to go to the top of your hard drive. You’re in biz.
Example: People panic when an expert tells them they need a new hard drive, our reader says. True enough. They first want to save all their pictures from the old drive. But is this even possible? Sure. With DOS, you can type a few letters, and poof! It’s done. It may sound a little difficult when we describe it, but you will learn to love it.
To save pictures from the hard drive, for example, plug in a flash drive or any other drive and type the following command, being careful to put in a space where there is a space and substituting the letter of your external drive for the letter “K.” The DOS command you would enter is: XCOPY *.JPG K:\ /S (The “S” part just stands for “subdirectory.” It gets everything from inside folders.)
“Viola!, as we say in fractured French: All of the files you have that end in the letters JPG (which stands for JPEG and is the common file format for saving pictures) are now magically transferred to the drive you plugged in. Another common ending is BMP. Whatever format your pictures are in, you can transfer them by using their three-letter ending.
We tried it and it works great. DOS copied 25,945 pictures in a flash. They came in folders organized by date, and all the folders were inside a larger “Pictures” folder on the flash drive. If you want to know how much space they occupy, type “DIR *.JPG /S” (without the quotes) and go to the last line.
You can use the same command to copy all the documents from your hard drive. Just replace “JPG” in the command above with the letters “DOC?” DOC is Microsoft’s three letter ending for “document.” The question mark adds a wild card, so that all your “DOCX” documents are saved too.
You can delete things you never knew were still hanging around on any drive; you can move things around; you can clean up your hard drive with a single command (defrag) so the system becomes faster; you can copy any number of files and move them somewhere else, and on into the night.
You can get lists of all commands just by typing “DOS commands” in the browser search box. There are lots of sites for this and you can go through a few to see what you like. This is the yellow brick road to the Emerald City
Fun in Virtual Reality
We just introduced our neighbor’s kids to virtual reality, by way of our $10 Google Cardboard, (available for $5 from KnoxLabs.com). You lay your phone in the cardboard viewer – which are sort of like cardboard goggles – and are instantly transported – if you remembered to first download a decent “virtual reality” app to your phone.
We started by searching on “Kid VR” in the Google Play app store and in the iPhone app store and found dozens of free virtual reality apps. By far the best one we tried is “VR Halloween,” for Android. It puts you on a train moving past Halloween pumpkins and goblins. It was fun and the kids loved it and didn’t care that Halloween was over for this year. NOTE: There are also thousand-dollar virtual reality systems for home users. But what can we say, we’re cheap, and the kids don’t mind.
- “7 Self-Care Rituals that will make you a Happier and Healthier Person.” Search on that phrase to uncover an article with some unusual tips, including dry-brushing your skin before a bath, to improve circulation and slough off old cells and debris.
- List25.com has lists, including the 25 worst earthquakes in history. One of the very worst hit Nepal last year.
- NewYorker.com/cartoons has what we like best about the magazine for free: the cartoons. (Who can read those 20,000-word articles?)
“Google PhotoScan” is a free app for turning paper photos into digital images you can store or share online. It worked great in our tests.
To start, take a picture of your printed picture. (Sounds silly but stick with it.) The app asks you to move your smartphone’s camera over a series of four dots that appear on your screen. When you’ve done that, the app has taken a picture of the photo from various angles and has stitched the results together, all in the wink of an eye. The app puts a copy of the photo on your phone or tablet. From there, you can upload it to your private account online. If you need to edit it, just open it in Google Photos, an app that comes with Android phones and can be added to iPhones and iPads.
Besides photos, it worked well on old paper greeting cards we didn’t want to throw away because of the message inside. Paper gets bulky and it yellows.