A website that lets you create… skateboards?

By | November 1, 2010
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In the Computers newsletter this time:


  • A website that lets you create… skateboards?
  • Renewing library books online – a tip Dad passed on
  • A bit more on fake security programs – a reader replies…



This time I’ve got a snippet from a reader, a tip my Dad passed on and a clever website that isn’t from Google!  Some useful stuff, so let’s dive straight in:

Interesting website – www.zazzle.co.uk

Every so often, I hear about a website that I find really amazing or clever in some way.  Half the time it seems like it’s something new that Google have brought out – but this time it isn’t!

This site lets you create your own mugs, T-shirts, aprons, caps, bags, ties… even skateboards (ok… you’re less likely to want a skateboard with a photo of you and Aunt Maud at the beach on it, I grant you).  By ‘create your own’, I mean you send them a picture and they put it on whatever it is, along with any writing you’d like to add – so you can have an apron with a picture of you cooking on it (or of you washing up – that could make a good his and hers set! I’ll leave you to decide who gets which one).  Or a tie with a local club logo on it.  Or a mug (or beer stein) with a photo of the family.

Now some of these things have been easily available before.  But it’s the range that really impressed me.

Not only that, though.  If you like, you can get it to list the thing you’ve created for sale on their site – paying you a royalty for each one sold.

Now if you’ve just created an apron with a picture of Aunt Maud at the beach on it as a present for her, you probably wouldn’t want to do that.  And you might not get many takers if you did!  (Though I suppose that depends on Aunt Maud!)

But if you created a tie with a local club logo on it, you could list it for sale so any other members could get one if they like.  They wouldn’t even have to contact you – just go to the website.

Or if you created a sweatshirt with a particularly good photo of a sunset over the River Thames on it or a great photo of your local town, you might find other people would want to have one – even people you’ve never met.  (Of course, if you think of ways to promote anything you’ve created, it’s more likely you’ll sell more)

It’s not going to make you a fortune but it could certainly help with present ideas at Christmas and who knows, it might also make you a few pounds if someone else buys something you’ve designed!

Renewing library books online

From time to time, when I’m talking to someone, they assume that because I’m into computers, I don’t like books.  Or at least, that if I do like books, I’ll read them in electronic form on the PC or on an “ebook reader”.

But in fact I’m a big fan of proper, paper books.  I’d much rather curl up with a nicely bound hardback or even a cheap dog-eared paperback than with an electronic “reader”.  (I’m a big fan of Anthony Trollope’s books, which always takes people aback when I say I’m going to curl up with a Trollope…)

Which is why I like libraries so much.  But the snag with library books is I never know how quickly I’ll finish them.  Sometimes I’ll have a lazy Sunday with nothing I have to get done and I’ll whizz through them.  Other times, I’ll be so busy with tidying the house, looking after Alastair and so on that I don’t get a chance to open them at all.

But Dad told me about something the libraries do where he lives that I think is a great idea.  (Sadly Cumbria doesn’t seem to have caught up yet – the disadvantage of living in the middle of nowhere I suppose!)

In most parts of the country, you can renew library books online.  So if you haven’t had a chance to read them, you don’t need to go in to renew them.  You just go onto the library webpage, tell it who you are and then tell it which books you want to renew.  And, unlike going to the library, you can do it any time of the day.

Not every area has this facility, but lots do – you can check whether yours does (and find the webpage to use) here.

Before you use it the first time, you’ll need to get a number to identify you.  This works in a slightly different way in each Council area but the webpage at that link should tell you all about it – or simply ask at your local library.

A bit more on security – a snippet from a reader

My article last time about fake security programs struck a chord with one reader, who’d had exactly that problem.  It had seized up the PC and even McAfee couldn’t seem to sort it.

The problem with some of these scam programs is that by the time McAfee has started up, the scam program has already started – it’s got in first.  So McAfee can’t get rid of it.

But what this intrepid reader did was use the options you get while the PC is starting up.

Usually I wouldn’t recommend using these – but when your PC is in this much of a state it’s a bit of a special case.  While the PC is starting up, it should flash on the screen which “f key” to press – it’s often F2 or F9 but it varies depending on the make of your PC.  That’s not the key F and then a number – it’s one of the F (or function) keys across the top.

Press whichever one it says (usually by the time I’ve seen which it says, I’m too late and have to turn it off and on again).  It’ll go into a series of options, including something called the BIOS (Basic Input and Output System) which lets you change various things.

In particular, some Anti-virus programs will let you select from here to do a full scan – and since the scam program hasn’t had a chance to start yet as Windows hasn’t started, McAfee (or whatever security program you have) has more chance to get rid of it from here.

And that’s just what this reader did – getting rid of the scam program and getting his PC working properly again (and saving paying PCWorld or a PC “doctor” type to do it!)

As I say, it’s not something to use all the time, but worth being aware of.

Tim Wakeling

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