Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Why do we compute?

What do you use your computer for the most?
* Communication: E-mail, Instant Message/Chat, VoIP (telephony), video conference/chat, blogging, social networking, presentations, creating documents for distribution, participate in Groups?
* Entertainment: (video) games, online videos/YouTube, IPTV/webcasts, online radio, play music, watch DVD’s?
* Information/Education: obtain news items, research Knowledge Bases (Wikipedia, WebMD), virtual classrooms, Search Engines, product reviews, public opinion, get directions and/or find businesses with Maps, math, read RSS feeds/blogs, check sports scores?
* Business/Commerce: buy/sell items online (Ebay, Craig’s List, Amazon…), collaborate, advertising/marketing, host a Website, research the competition, solicit, documentation, payroll, taxes/banking, perform required duties (yes, that’s kind of a catch-all; but what I mean is your job requires you to use a computer)?

Of course, I have omited plenty of things in this quick list, and other reasons don’t easily pigeonhole — like “to save trees by using less paper”, and “because everyone does”. A highly scientific study I just now dreamed up concludes that people use their computers for a healthy combination of the things I mentioned above, (although all my 12 yr-old nephew does is play video games..) and that they do some of them “online” and some of them not.
This highly scientific study also shows a direct correlation between the rise in global broadband availability and people’s using the Internet– more people are going “online” everyday. (I know of at least six.)

And, computers aren’t as new and frightening to us as they once were, nor do they require aquiring and mastering a foreign language.. like DOS or Unix. Why, just the other day I caught my father (most definitely not a member of the Computer Generation) watching a video on YouTube  (“Why, father, how Late 20th-Century of you!”). No, he was not watching a Smashing Pumpkins music video, but rather, some travelogue of Eastern Europe, but still, you see my point.

Tip of the day: Be nice to you computer and take good care of it. Protect it from viruses and spyware, and keep it clean and well-cooled. Be nice to it, and it’ll be nice to you. I’ve created a 10-point checklist to help.

Today’s free link: There are several things a PC owner should do to have a healthy computer and be safe(r) from online cyber criminals when they browse the Internet. I have compiled a short checklist that you can quickly run down and “check off” the items; and I have provided links to the tools and How To’s for those items you find that need mending– Top 10 Things You Should Do To Your Computer

[Addenda: One of the most common uses for computers falls into my list under “Entertainment”– the viewing of pornographic pictures and videos. (Does that surprise you???) If you (ahem) know someone who uses their machine for this activity, please read Like Porno Sites?–They LOVE you! by Bill Mullins]

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanixpost to jaanix

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June 24, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, Internet, PC, security, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is the "Internet"?

My “real job” is helping folks solve their computer problems. I am a Tech Support Help Desk-type (available at aplusca.com) and a repair technician. Writing Tech–for Everyone is a passion, but it does not generate my income is my point.

I truly enjoy helping people, and I love solving puzzles. Troubleshooting is an art, and it’s a challenge, and I actually get a kick when someone presents me with a new problem.

However, as I mentioned in my article on pebcak’s, the problem usually turns out to be operator error, and this is due to the user not fully comprehending the technology they’re using (they didn’t read the manual). Because of this reality, I frequently wind up giving brief “how to” lessons, and not actually repairing a machine.

In a classic example of not understanding the technology, the other day, to help diagnose their machine, I asked a client to boot into “Safe Mode with networking” (a special, minimal version of Windows) and they replied, “but I am not networked.” (I have heard this a few times, actually.)

Now, I understood that they were saying they only have one computer, but it helps illustrate a common public misconception– just what is the Internet? It is one vast network, made up of my machine(s), your machine(s), and everyone else’s machine(s). They “talk” to each other over the telephone lines.
Websites? They’re just text documents sitting on a machine that has been configured to be a “server” (no special trick); this “server” could be my old P-III that I keep in my basement, or a expensive, specialty model in a back room at GigantiCorp, or some hacker’s laptop. Most of the time, they’re pages stored on a Hosting company’s “servers”, which they rent out to people.

So, yes– if you go online you are “networked” — with the servers at your ISP, and hundreds of thousands of machines (potentially) in every country on the globe. The Internet is populated with every type of person there is — good, bad, and indifferent. Please, remember this, and practice safe surfing.

Today’s free link: An excellent summation of safe surfing, Internet security, and using online anti-malware scans can be found here. I highly recommend, if you use the Internet (and how else would you be reading this?) that you read this article.

Copyright 2007-2010 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved. jaanix post to jaanix.


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June 5, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, Internet, networking, security, tech | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Digital cameras– which one’s for you?

I have been receiving e-mails here at Tech–for Everyone that have been regarding my recent article about the fella who went traveling, and for the first time left his 35mm gear at home. (He only carried a digital camera.)

These e-mails have been asking me which digital camera it was. The reason they wrote is, they want to buy the same one. I had very carefully avoided naming a specific make or model of digital camera, as (believe it or not) I am not in the business of promoting sales.

But I understand perfectly why people want some advice when it comes to buying a digital camera. There is a whole gaggle of them to choose from– an overwhelming variety.. and when you start shopping, it’s easy to become confused by the jargon.
A “mega” pixel is better than an ordinary, everyday “pixel”.. right? (You bet it is. It contains more vitamins and minerals.)

A long, long, time ago I wrote a three-part advice series on buying a new computer, and today I am going to reiterate a bit of advice from there– when buying a digital camera, you have to hold it in your hands. The “right” camera for you will just, well, “feel right”. If you keep accidentally pushing a button, or put your thumb right on the viewer screen.. that’s not good.

Tip of the day: General advice for purchasing a new digital camera.

* Optical zoom is better than digital zoom. Make sure that the “zoom” feature of your camera is handled by a moving lens. Digital zooming is okay in very small amounts, but the way it works will cause funny-looking “pixilation” when really put to work.
* You want image stabilization. Image stabilization is in my opinion simply a “must have”; fortunately, almost every manufacturer provides it. I won’t spend time, here, describing the different types. If you’re curious, click the link.
* The Megapixel. Folks, there is a lot of confusion regarding the camera jargon word “megapixel”. A higher megapixel number does not necessarily equate with “sharper image” or “clearer picture“.. in fact, they usually have nothing to do with each other.
Megapixels refers to the image (data) size and determines how big an enlargement you can make before you start to experience distortions (think of it as being a bit like film sizes). If the largest prints you ever make are 5 x 7, a three-to-four Megapixel camera is all you need. A 10 Megapixel camera is overkill for the vast majority of uses, and it will simply fill your memory card faster, with fewer shots. (But, you can make poster-size prints.)
* LCD “viewfinder”. I think it is important to have a manual viewfinder, as well as the LCD screen.. but that is personal opinion. In terms of LCD, the two factors to consider are placement and size. It should be big enough that you can see what it is showing when you hold the camera away from your body, and, it should be positioned on the camera in such a way as to not cause you to hold your hand in a funny/odd way so that you can see it.
* And I’d like to repeat, your camera should just feel right in your hand.
* Don’t buy features you won’t use. If you are not a photography buff, and don’t want to memorize a 200-page owners manual, then you don’t want to buy a D-SLR; you want a “point-and-shoot”, (You won’t impress anybody with it anyway) and you don’t need 24 “settings” if you’re only going to use one. Right? Right.

Today’s free link: If you are like the fella I mentioned in the original articles, and like to read reviews and technical specs, or if you just want more information about digital photography (maybe it’s your hobby), check out http://www.pcphotomag.com/.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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May 12, 2008 Posted by | advice, Digital camera, Digital Images, how to, shopping for, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments