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Help with using MGA27...
....Sheepdog Software's "Learn with Images" application

You don't have to pay anything to try the program. However, eventually, some features will only be available to people who had $upported my efforts to create these things for you.

To try the program, download the zip file. Unzip it. You will get several files.... the .exe file (application), a help file, an ini file and a readme text file which mostly only repeats things already on this page.

You do not have to "install" the program.

The program will not "do things" to your computer, the registry, etc. It does write a file called MGA27ini.txt in the folder the .exe is in. As the extension suggests, that is merely a text file, you can look at the contents. Two lines contain gibberish, but no special characters your text editor won't like.

The program is fully self contained.... you don't need arcane .DLLs, etc, to run it.

Click here to download the zip.

Elsewhere, there is a page with more about the application, if you want to know more before just trying it. Remember: Trying it is free. And what you get is not time limited, etc.

The "help" material...

What can I say? Do email me and tell me what your question was, and I will try to put its answer up here, to save the next person.

Perhaps least self evident:

As I hope you know, you can put new "questions" in the "tests". Suppose you wanted to add the osprey to my "Birds of Eastern USA" quiz set. All you need to do is put a .bmp file showing an osprey, named "Osprey.bmp" (or "Osprey.jpg") in the folder with the other bird pictures.

You only need one copy of MGA27.exe. It can be "pointed at" different folders. Whatever image files are in the folder MGA27 is pointed to determines what images are presented for users' recognition.

You change the folder MGA27 is "pointed at" with the "Choose question Set button".

By means of the automatic updates to the ini file, the application "remembers" what folder it was pointed at when the application was most recently shut down.

If "things" get in a muddle, and you suspect the ini file, you can...

If you have purchased a license key for the application, you will need to edit MGA27ini.txt, changing the two lines in the "[License]" section...

Key= abrponkrnspqrlI:S....
UserCode= apghTKB

(The "Key" entry has 53 characters. I truncated it here.)

The key and user code you purchased will still be in MGA27iniOLD.txt, if that part of things was working properly previously.

Creating new question sets

Suppose you wanted to help someone learning Spanish? You could assemble a set of images of, say, a cat, a dog, a boy, a house, a mountain, a river... etc.

Place these image files in a folder of their own.

Name each file with the Spanish word for what the picture shows.

You can use .bmp graphics of .jpg graphics. (The latter files can be named .jpg or .jpeg)

To help you understand the following warning: "Gato" is "cat" in Spanish.

Beware: You cannot have a file called Gato.bmp and a file called Gato.jpg in the same folder. Well, you can, but the application will ignore one of them.

Not only can you not have Gato.bmp and Gato.jpg, you can't have two images for which the "right answer" would be Gato... or anything else.

All of the images in the file must be identifiable as an image of whatever the filename is, and each must be the only thing which could be thought to represent that word.

You must not, for example, have, say, a picture of George Washington, filename "George Washington" and (in the same question set) a picture of Abraham Lincoln, filename "President of USA". Such a question set would break the "each image must be the only one which 'fits' its filename rule.

You can't, by the way, have, say, two paintings by Renoir in a set of images of paintings. Think about it: the right answer for both would be "Renoir". The answers come from the names of the files... and you can't have two files, both named "Renoir" in one folder. If you called one "Renoir1" and the other "Renoir2", how's the poor user to remember which is which?

Image size: The images should be about 200 pixels by 380 pixels. Or images of a different aspect ratio with the largest dimension being one of those two numbers.

The application will scale images to the right size for the application, but too small images will start to look pixilated, and too large images will just be wasting disk space. http://www.irfanview.net/ is the source for a great free utility for resizing images... and doing a great deal more. Well worth having on your system for a variety of tasks.

Stretch / Do not stretch

The application's menu bar has an item called "Stretch". If you opt for "Do not stretch images", they will be shown at their native size. Too small images won't fill the image pane of the application, and parts of too large images will be hidden from the application's users.

The normal use of MGA27 is to have the "Do Stretch Images" option selected. The "Do Not Stretch" alternative is there primarily for checking whether your images are "just right"... not too big, not too small.

The application will never change the aspect ratio of an image. A tall narrow image will be displayed with some bland spaces to left and right. A wide, not tall, image will fill the width of the allocated space, with some blank space above and below.

The application will "remember" whether you were using "Do Stretch" or "Do NOT Stretch" the last time you used the application.

The free- to- use version

When you first install MGA27, it will set itself up in a version which you can use for free, forever.

If you like the program, and wish to continue to use it, you should pay for it, please.

You contact the author, and say you want to buy a license for the full MGA27.

At the present time, the price to license the software is only $15... that is likely to go up.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that you don't have to "re-install" the application to upgrade to the full version. In return the fee, you will be given a license key and user code. You just....

... an you should find that it comes up functioning without limitations.

When you apply for the license, tell me what you want the license text to say. "Licensed for use in the home of John Q. Smith", for instance. If you want it to say "Licensed to be used by anyone at East Haddam High School", and East Haddam has 1000 pupils, be prepared to discuss a higher license fee. ("Licensed to be used in the presence of Mrs. Jones" might be a way for East Haddam to get some use of the program without having to pay too much. (Mrs. Jones is a teacher there.)) (The license terms should not be longer than about 45 characters, please.)

As with all Sheepdog Software products, some special dispensations are available. I give free licenses to schools, etc, in South Africa, for instance.

Limitations in the free- to- use version:

Some will be obvious... the nag messages, the "freezing" of the scoring after ten questions.

Not so obvious, perhaps, is that if you "point" the application at a folder with many image files, you will only encounter a few of those images in a given session. Which images you see will vary from session to session, but you will only be seeing a subset in any one session.

Questions, questions, where are the questions...

With the "Choose Question Set" button, you can "point" MGA27 at any folder on your system... even a folder on a temporarily inserted thumb drive or CD, if you wish.

The application will "remember" which folder it was drawing questions from when it was shut down.

In case it isn't easy to guess, let me explain a detail about choosing question set folders...

When you launch the "Choose Question Set" procedure, you get to something similar to that which you use to, say, open a file for your wordprocessor.

Within that, you can browse your backing store.

When you find the folder holding the files you want to work with, double click on one of those files, any one of them, to start getting questions from that folder.

Multiple set ups...

Suppose a teacher wanted to have two instances of MGA27 available on a shared classroom computer. One instance would, in our hypothetical world, always present questions about who painted different paintings. And the other instance would be for learning the names of the different birds.

Here's what the teacher could do...

Make two folders, say "MGA27painters" and "MGA27birds"

Put a copy of MGA27 in each folder... this is perfectly okay, under the terms of your license to use the software, even if you are using it in the free mode.

Either put a copy of MGA27ini.txt in each folder by hand, or run the two instances of the application, and then stop them, in which case the application will make am MGA27ini.txt file in the same folder as the .exe file.

If you have bought a license to use the application with all its features, quit each instance of the application, edit the ini file to add your Key and UserCode to the [License] section

Restart each instance of the application. "Point" one of them at the folder with the paintings' images, and the other at the folder with the birds' images. Shut down the two instances of the application. The next time either is started, it will be pointing at the required question set. Of course, you have to persuade your users not to change the question set. I suppose I could put a "lock" on the "change question set" button, if you really need it?

Speaking of question set folders... what happens if the folder the application was "pointed at" the last time it was run has been deleted since then, and you start the application again? It will "notice" the folder is missing, and try to use the folder the application's .exe file is in. Thus, it is wise to have a set of images in that folder, just in case. Six images should suffice.

The application also seeks image files in the folder the application's .exe file is in if there is no ini file when the application starts, or if that ini file doesn't have a [Questions] / Where section.

If I do say so myself...

You don't "need" to know this, but I want you to!...

If, say, the right answer to the fifth question was "Rembrandt", then Rembrandt will not be the right answer for either of the next two questions you are given. Other than that, the questions and the distractors (wrong answers) are drawn at random.

This program not only tests your knowledge... it builds it. Suppose you are looking at a painting by Canaletto, but don't know his work. You have to use what you do know to make a guess. Let's say that the distractors are Van Gogh and Vermeer, and you have an idea of the sort of thing Van Gogh painted, and you don't think that what you are looking at was painted by him. You've already given yourself a 50:50 chance at getting the answer right, by thinking. Whether you get it right or wrong, you know immediately if your guess was right, and this helps you to know the right answer next time.

In some Sheepdog Software applications, if you get a problem wrong, the application is written so that you see it again in the near future. I'm afraid that MGA27 isn't clever like that... yet. But it may gain that feature.

Any other questions?

As I said... I will be delighted if you email me, if you have other questions.

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