Category Archives: Explanation

Creating a Google Docs account

This is part of an occasional series of instructional posts on various topics.

If you want to use Google Docs but don’t already have a Gmail or Google Docs account, you’ll need to click the “Create an account now” link below the login box, which will take you to the account creation form. There, you need to enter the following:

  1. Your current email address. This does not need to be a gmail address, but must be a real address where you can get a confirmation email. Your address is OK to use here. Note that this entire address will be the login name for your Google Docs account.
  2. A password. For security reasons, you should NEVER use your WOU password on a non-WOU server. Please create a password that you can remember; it must be at least eight characters long and ideally should include at least one number and punctuation mark. It is OK to write down this password as long as you keep it in a safe place, such as with your credit cards.
  3. Re-enter the password to confirm that there weren’t any typos the first time.
  4. If you are likely to use publicly accessible or shared computers to log in to Google Docs, uncheck the “Stay signed in” checkbox. Otherwise, it is OK to leave it checked so you won’t have to log in as often.
  5. Uncheck the “Enable Web History” button, unless you are comfortable with Google tracking and remembering searches that you make even when you are not logged in. Click the “Learn More” link for more information about this.
  6. Choose your location from the dropdown menu; if you are in the US, the menu will probably already be set to “United States”.
  7. Enter your birth date. Make sure to use a four-digit year.
  8. Type in the verification word. This is necessary to show that you are a person and not some computer program trying to automatically create an account for some sneaky purpose. Unfortunately, their verification words are rather hard to read, because Google is attacked often by hackers and they have to be very sure you are indeed a human. Sometimes the letters are extremely narrow and squashed between two others, but luckily it doesn’t matter whether you type them in capitals or lowercase. If you have trouble with the visual verification, turn on your speakers and click the handicapped icon. After a few moments, you will hear three beeps followed by a slowly spoken series of numbers with a computer-generated random muttering in the background. Sometimes you will hear non-number syllables like “oway”, “no”, or “yow” in the foreground; ignore those and pay attention to the numbers alone. You will hear the words “once again” and the code will be repeated.
  9. If you are so inclined, read the Terms of Service. A more readable version may be found at ““. Here are some important points:

    • You agree to do nothing illegal, nor attempt to hack or otherwise mess up any of Google’s services.
    • You agree that Google can change the features of their service without notice.
    • You agree that Google isn’t legally responsible for what you do with your account, and that you can’t blame Google if you see anything objectionable.
    • You agree that Google does not guarantee that their service will be available 100% of the time
    • Google agrees that you retain any intellectual property rights to content you upload.
    • You agree that Google has a license to display your uploaded content as part of its services, i.e. if you share content with anyone, Google is legally allowed to show it to them. This is the infamous “Section 11.1” which looks very scary when read by someone not versed in legal technicalities; you can find more information at ““. The key point is that the license granted in Section 11.1 is limited by the Google Docs Privacy policy which states that your information is only shared with people whom you designate. Click here for an independent opinion. Further information can be found by doing a web search for “Google Docs Terms of Service Section 11.1” without the quotes.
  10. Assuming you are satisfied with the terms of service, click the button below them that tells Google that you agree and want your account created. You may need to retry once or twice to get the verification text right.

Once you are done with the form, you will get a confirmation email at the address you gave in step one. The subject line will be “Google Email Verification” and it will be sent from “”, so make sure your spam filters are set to allow the message through. You should save this message, because you may need it again if you forget your account name or password. Consider saving it as a file in your home directory, so you have a backup in case the email is accidentally deleted.

Click the verification link near the top of the email. You’ll be taken to a page that confirms that your account is now active and gives you several options and informational links. It is not necessary to link your account to a gmail address or a mobile phone, but you can do so if you want to. However, instructions for those actions are beyond the purpose of this document.

The “Click here to continue” link will take you to Google Docs itself, which I will cover in another document.

Web updates not showing up?

A few people are reporting that they make web edits on the X: drive, save the file, but the changes never actually show up on the web.

If this is happening to you, the first thing to check is the label on your X: drive in My Computer. It should say “wouwebsite$ on ‘Samba 3.3.4 (firefly)’ (X:)”. If your X: drive says ‘sundown’ instead of ‘firefly’, it means that your X: drive was set up manually at some point, and so it couldn’t get changed automatically when we changed everybody else’s.

Right-click the drive and choose Disconnect, then log out and back in to your computer, and whether you see an X: drive and that it says firefly instead of sundown. If you see that, everything should be fine now, except that if you use the Terminal Server, you need to make sure to check there too.

If you don’t see an X: drive after logging back in, let me know. You can reconnect it by going to the Tools menu at the top of the My Computer window and choosing “Map network drive” which should pop up a dialog box. Choose X: from the Drive menu, and type “\\firefly\wouwebsite$” in the Folder box. (Don’t type the quotes, and make sure you use backslashes \ rather than normal slashes /.) Make sure the “Reconnect at logon” box is checked, then click Finish and you should be all set.

EDIT: We have now changed things so that you can no longer make changes if your X: drive is connected to the wrong place. If you went into your X: drive and saw only a text file that told you to come here, that’s why. If you go through the above process (remember to do it on the terminal server too, if you use it) and it does not fix anything, please let me know!

All recently changed files in the old server (sundown) have been moved to the new server (firefly) as of 1:00 AM on Monday August 30. Again, please let me know if anything is missing or looks wrong.

So how does the Web really work, anyway?

I’m always fascinated to learn how things work, especially stuff we completely take for granted, like for instance how electricity gets from a power plant to your house. So in the hopes that there are others like me out there, I’m going to describe the inner workings of something most of us take for granted: the World-Wide Web.

Naturally this is going to take more than one post, since I’ll try to start from fairly non-technical concepts, and use analogies. Those of you who already know most of this may find the explanations not quite accurate, because I’ll leave out a lot of the nitpicky details, especially at first. I don’t have an outline in mind, so I can’t say exactly how this is going to go, but here’s a basic idea of what I’ll try to cover:

  • Internet 101
  • What is a protocol?
  • Before the Web was born
  • HTTP vs. HTML
  • Why are there different browsers?
  • What’s a URL and how do I read it?
  • What is actually happening when I click that link?
  • How does the page get to me?
  • What if there’s a problem?
  • How forms work
  • Secure connections (HTTPS)
  • E-commerce and shopping carts
  • Web video
  • More security concerns
  • What’s “Web 2.0”?

Hmmm, OK, just off the top of my head I came up with a lot more than I thought I would. And there’s a lot more where that came from! So we’ll see how far I get, and how many entries it takes.

Using the W drive

As of mid-September 2005, most of the WOU domain migration is complete, except for the website files. This will be done in a month or so, but meanwhile any access to the W: drive is more complicated than usual. Since the website files are still on the old domain (“Aviation”), you will need to map the drive with your Aviation password (In other words, what your password was before the migration.)

Here’s how to do this:

If you use a Mac, the old instructions should still work, as long as you remember to use your old password. If you use Windows, you will have to set up a special command file on your machine and run it every time you want to use the W: drive. If you work with multiple computers, you will need to put this file on a floppy disk or USB drive or some other means of portable storage. The file itself is only two lines of text. It must be plain text; do not create it with Microsoft Word unless you know how to save files as plain text. The easiest way to make the file is to open Notepad (Start Menu – All Programs – Accessories – Notepad) and type the following:

NET USE W: \\maverick_nt\wou_website$ /USER:aviation\username

Be careful to type the text exactly, except that instead of “username”, you need to put in your own username. For instance, if your username is jdoe, the first line would be:

NET USE W: \\maverick_nt\wou_website$ /USER:aviation\jdoe

Once you have typed both lines in, save the file onto your desktop as “mapw.bat” (without the quotes, obviously.) Actually, you can use any name, as long as it ends with “.bat”. If Notepad insists on adding “.txt” after the “.bat”, go ahead and save the file anyway, but before you do anything else, right-click the file, choose “Rename” from the context menu that pops up, and delete the “.txt” from the end. If you have done this correctly, the icon for the file will be a blue and white square with a yellow gear inside it. If you want to use the file on multiple computers, drag and drop it from your desktop to the floppy drive or USB drive you want to use it from.

When you are ready to use the W: drive, double-click the file. It will pop up a black window and ask you for your password. Enter in your old password from before the migration. If you do not remember this password, email Ron at with your full name, V-number, username, and a new password; the password will be changed and you will receive confirmation by email. After entering the password, the window should wait a few seconds and then say “The operation completed successfully.” If you get an error message instead, email it to Ron at; also copy both lines of your file in the email. (Do NOT send the file as an attachment!) Whether or not you got an error, the window should also say “Press any key to continue . . . ” on the last line. When you press a key, the window should disappear, and if you didn’t get an error, the W: drive will be be available in “My Computer.”

This is only a temporary situation. In a month or so, we will be moving the web files to the new domain (“MASH”) and then the W: drive should come up automatically as it did before. In that process, we will have to re-enter everyone’s access permissions; to ensure the least possible disruption, please email me now and tell me what parts of the website you have access to. (If you are a student, this will need to be confirmed by your faculty or staff supervisor, or the advisor of your club is you work woth a club website.)

None of this will affect public_html websites! Those have already been migrated along with the rest of your H: drive, and you still edit them by chening files in your public_html folder. You still access them on the web at (where “username” is your username, not the actual word “username”.) However, if your public_html website still doesn’t work, please email me at and let me know. Include your username if you aren’t emailing from your email address.