Tuesday, August 6, 2013
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Keep It Clean
I consider the DVR one of this generation's greatest inventions. We're no longer hostage to a TV schedule. The events and shows we watch regularly are scheduled to record automatically, allowing us to watch them at our convenience.
There's no need to be sitting in front of a box by kickoff, afraid we'll miss our team return the opening kick for a touchdown. We can watch the green flag drop when we're ready, in case the driver we want most to see lose blows a tire and careens into the wall early in the race.
And we can fast forward through the commercials. Especially those that prey on ignorance.
Understand I'm not calling people stupid. What I'm saying is that we all have our unique skills, talents and knowledge. And we count on others to fill in the gaps for those areas where we have no experience.
A heart surgeon is an extremely intelligent individual, yet they may likely need a technician to repair their car. They're ignorant on the mechanics of an internal combustion engine.
So when I see these commercials for products that "clean your PC and make it run like new," I have to wonder. They go on to explain that they work by closing holes in unpatched software.
I know that none of you readers have actually spent money on these products. You already know how simple this is to do yourselves by reading articles in GCFlash, like the one here.
Newer versions of software and operating systems have changed the locations for some of the functions explained in this article, but the advice remains the same. The article provides an outline you can still follow.
Disk defragmenter runs automatically in Windows 7, as does registry cleaner. But you can change the frequency or when the process occurs.
If you're running Windows 8, you have more problems than keeping your disk clean. You probably haven't had time to clutter your hard drive yet. You're still trying to find how to launch traditional office software with its reconfigured Start button. And not return to the Start screen every time you touch your mouse pad.
Keeping your software updated is another matter. Windows will automatically update, but unless you're using newer cloud-based versions, the rest is up to you.
Hackers attack the most popular software often. There isn't as much to gain by tinkering with lesser-known products so they focus where the prize is biggest.
The popularity of .pdf files makes Adobe products a prime target. Knowing this, they make updating easy by including a Check for Updates item on their Help menu. Regular users should check once a month. Those who use it less frequently might want to make a habit of clicking that link every time they open the software.
A good deal of web content relies on Java. Its uses and update instructions are covered here.
There are several free products that work reasonably well for those of you who prefer not to perform your own maintenance. Do a quick web search before you choose a product to assure you're only downloading a safe utility and not a malicious payload along with it.
For all the convenience of technology, it brings frustration and anxiety as well. A little preventative maintenance can eliminate a lot of the performance issues that make life more stressful.
For many people, back-to-school shopping includes the electronics department. This is especially true if you have a student entering college this fall.
The computer you choose is probably the most important purchase you'll make. Forget everything you learned last year. Technology changes so quickly that you need a refresher course.
You'll want something portable, so we'll focus on laptops and tablets here. Size and weight will be your deciding factors. A screen size of 13"-15" should work for most purposes. A unit that weighs five pounds or less will be easier to tote around.
Next option comes platforms. This is a matter of preference.
Many students flock to Windows machines because of the cost. You can typically find them priced well below their Apple Mac counterparts.
Yet everything is not always as equal as it appears on the surface. Macs often come with a lot of the programs you'll need already installed. Windows allows you to choose which programs you want separately. And charges you accordingly.
Examine the list of programs pre-installed on the Mac. Will you really use all of them? Check out pricing on those you will need and add it to the base price of the Windows machine to calculate which is the better price option.
Schools are usually equipped to give students access to either platform. This shouldn't be an area for concern in making your decision. But the school may have specific requirements you'll need to know before buying.
In the early days of hacking, more viruses were distributed through Windows than Mac systems because of their volume in the marketplace. Macs were rare outside of specific industries like publishing or graphics shops.
Mobile devices have changed all that. The popularity of iDevices has made them an equal target today. It's no longer the safer choice. They all carry equal risk now, and require equal diligence in protection.
Compare specifications. How much hard drive space will you need? If you're merely writing papers, you can get by with something smaller. Text and image files are relatively small so a 200 GB-250 GB hard drive will fit your need. But if you're a musician or theater student, you'll need a larger drive to store files the size of music or videos. Go for the gusto with something 500 GB or larger.
Processor speed is important. The more sophisticated your usage, the higher speed you'll need. If you watch movies or run CAD programs, you'll need at least a 2.5 GHz system. Low end users can get by with less. An Intel Core i3 or i5 should work quite well, no matter your requirements. Off brand processors can be a bit quirky.
RAM (random access memory) is where calculations take place. How many programs can the computer run at once? Gamers or hardcore techies will need at least 4 mb of RAM to process their data without bogging down. If all you're doing is sitting behind a keyboard writing, you don't need quite so much. You can get by with 2 GB of memory.
Look for features that are important for your student. Will they need a built-in webcam to stay in touch via Skype? Do they need a high-definition screen, fingerprint reader or Bluetooth? How long does the battery last?
The best gift you can give your child is a subscription to a cloud-based backup service, and configure it yourself to backup nightly to assure they don't lose valuable data when they leave their laptop behind on a bus. They may be off on their own, but as you well know, they are still a child.
Tip of the Week
Are you a longtime Excel user, struggling to find features that were obvious in pre-2007 versions? Click on the office button, select Excel Options and Customize and Select. From there, click on Commands Not In the Ribbon to choose options you want returned to your fingertips.
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