Thursday, July 7, 2011
Don't neglect your computer
Computer Care: Don't neglect your computer or the bad guys will win
By Arthur Glazer
POSTED: June 11, 2011 1:00 a.m.
Too many computer users expect to turn their machines on and just use them. They have little, if any, knowledge or skills to help them operate, maintain or repair their own computer.
It is tantamount to getting into a car without knowing how to drive. The computer is an expensive, complicated electronic device that should be treated with care and respect. Too often it is not.
Sure, it doesn't take a neurosurgeon to click a mouse, but there is much more to computing than simple mouse-clicking.
I have had many clients tell me that they had an anti-virus program installed. Why did they get an infection? Upon a little investigation, I found either outdated programs or outdated virus definitions. Many times the computer had simply never been scanned. Having the program installed is not enough. It has to be run.
"I didn't know," has been the general response. You need to know. You have a lot invested in that device, not just in money but in the data you have entrusted to it.
It is in your best interest to learn the basics of computing. Know how to operate your computer effectively, how to use Windows properly and how to browse the Internet safely. That's where your infections likely will come from.
Even I have been tricked into clicking on a wrong link. Had I followed through, I'd be removing an infection instead of writing this.
This was the scenario. There are nocturnal malcontent brainiacs whose only joy must be to infect others and attempt to get their money. They send virus-laden emails. They offer free programs and screensavers. They even create bogus websites.
I Googled a product, found some links and clicked on one. It ended up being something that sounded like what I was after, but was not the real McCoy. Just before I was about to download what was no doubt a bogus program, I realized what was going on. They asked me for a credit card for what was supposed to be a free program. That's when the light went on over my head.
When I suggest a program or a utility, the reason I don't list the address is due to its length. I let you Google it. But you need to use caution and be certain that you get what you are after, not end up with an unreasonable facsimile, as I almost did.
Now I'm going to break the rule I just mentioned, just this one time. Here are a few websites that will help the computer noob, as they as called online. If you are wet behind the ears when it comes to computing, these free sites may help.
Easycomputertips.com is one. Basic-computerskills.com is another. Also look at gcflearnfree.org/computerbasics and tech.tln.lib.mi.us/tutor/ for the absolute beginner. There are lots of others. Alternatively, you can call someone like me to assist.
Often the difference between what you want and what you get is the difference between a .com and a .org or a dash and an underscore. You need to be careful.
It's generally safer to cut and paste, instead of retyping what you read. Click on the beginning of a web address, drag the mouse across until the end of it, making it highlighted. Then right-click on the address and choose to copy it. Next click on the address bar and then right-click again and choose to paste. Hit "Enter" and you are there. Don't worry about prefixes like http or www. They are understood.
Ultimately, you are the only one responsible for your computer's health. If it gets infected, runs slowly or has a fragmented hard drive, it is on you.
Learn some useful keyboard shortcuts (Control + C is copy and Control + V is Paste), alter the Windows theme, adjust your mouse speed, pick a new desktop image or play with system sounds (instead of listening to the dings that came with the computer).
You can discover how to video conference with friends and relatives out of town.
Along with the fun things you can learn, also teach yourself the basics. Know what Control Panel is and how it can help you. Discover and learn how to use both and System Restore and Safe Mode.
Like a car, computers should be tuned twice annually. Basic maintenance and troubleshooting can be performed by you, the user, for many things. That vigilance help will keep people like me, the tech, from showing up.
You don't need to know programming but, you should know how to defrag your hard drive, reset your modem and check for malware.
Your eyes should be open wide to the dangers and vulnerabilities of cyberspace. It is a wonderful place to explore, but you need to be secure in your venture.
Be armed with protection against infiltration, along with the knowledge of how to operate your computer and traverse the Internet securely.
You don't drive with blinders on. You shouldn't compute with them on, either.
Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly on the Business page and on gainesvilletimes.com.