Computer Survival-

 A Must Read!   (27 sheets if you print)

  Force your staff and friends to use this page!

  Tired of always having computer problems?

  Program Recommendations and Training

 

 

Computer Survival Page Contents:

All the programs you need, but no cost!  Good for experts or novices.  A paragraph of instructions to setup a new computer with links (in order) to commonly needed programs and free open source applications that do everything that expensive commercial programs do!

Top 10 Tips Using a Computer!  Some of the most valuable reminders or tips that every person should read!  Check back often to see new tips. 

Tools  Links of mostly free programs and tools for intermediate to power users.   Example: Every PC user should have a Registry Repair tool to fix problems that defrag and virus scans cannot help with.  One option is listed that fixes all problems for free the first 21 days you have it installed.  This is a great tool to use when helping others.

Training  Beginner to intermediate training that covers several common areas of computer use. 

Advanced Virus Removal Procedures  Intermediate to advanced generalized instructions for removing a difficult virus. 

Trends  Covers some very helpful purchasing principles along with many trends, predictions, and some opinions from an old timer.  Some of this information may be helpful when trying to decide on structure and format for your organization.

 

All the programs you need, but no cost! 

Here is what I personally do with each computer I setup:  I usually get a secondary email address from the person the computer is being used by which is required for some of the program installations.  If needed, I go to Network Places/ View Network Connections/ Add a Connection to get the internet working. If it is going on a network, I also get the workgroup name and run the Network Places/Setup a Home or Small Office Network.  I check to see if it has a trial version of anti-virus such as McAfee or Norton and uninstall it, then I install the free home version of Avast.  I install Spybot with the Tea Timer option.  I normally install the free version of Zone Alarm's Firewall which will usually disable the Windows firewall automatically.  I go to the printer manufacturer site and download the model driver for the OS I am using and install it (without the printer attached).  I install Java (needed for Open Office).  I install Open Office for an office suite by downloading the installation file to my desktop, then running it from there.  I install Scribus for desktop publishing. I install Serif PhotoPlus for graphics work and animated gif creation.  I install Audacity for audio and mp3 editing. I install Camstudio 2.0 for video capture and avi to flash conversion of Windows Movie Maker avi's.  I install Adobe's pdf reader and flash.  I install the PDF Creator program so I can File/Print to the PDFCreator to make pdf's.  I install PKUnzip's reader.  I also open Windows Media and check for updates. I install other free programs like Kodak's Easyshare, iTunes (which will install Quicktime also), or the free version of Real Player depending on the computer needs. I usually install Firefox for a backup browser.  I may take the time to do Windows Update (Start/above accessories) or will tell user how to do it.  I tell the computer user about occasional popups from Tea Timer or the Firewall.  If you are installing or running something, it is usually okay to Accept Firewall or Spybot's TeaTimer questions.  If you didn't start a program or are not installing something, then Deny. Use the Remember checkbox for items that you are sure will be okay.  Make pdf's of any document by printing and changing the printer to PDFCreator, but remember to change it back the next time you print. I tell them they will need to register their free home user account with Avast.com in the next month so they can paste the registration code in before it expires. 

Tools   *Essentials

Training

   

Anti-Virus 

*Avast (Alwil) Anti-Virus Free Program with updates

AVG Anti-Virus Free
Avira AntiVir

Please take the time to read as many sections of this web page as possible and it will save you weeks of work!  
 

Anti-Spyware 

*SpyBot Search and Destroy Free Adware/Spyware Protection  

AVG Anti-Spyware Free   
Windows Defender      
Spyware Terminator   
AdAware         

Recovering Lost Files
Virus Protection
Popups, Adware, Spyware

Virus Scan/Removal (if you have a virus or want to see what another company can find): 

TrendMicro Online Scan  

TrenMicro Sysclean (unzip the Windows pattern file into same folder)

Stinger Virus Remover (find/ fix 52 top viruses if your anti-virus can't remove it) 

Avast Virus Remover (find and fix top viruses if your anti-virus can't remove it)

Symantec Virus Scan
NanoScan Virus Scan         

Firewall Protection
Slow Computers
Breakdowns
Passwords and Logins and Fraud Prevention

Software Firewall 

*Zone Alarm Free Firewall

Using XP 2's Firewall properly

Sunbelt Kerio Personal
Comodo Free
Jetico Personal Firewall

(Tip: Make sure your hardware firewall in your router is working too!)

Preventing others from using your computer
Opening pdf files
Internet Connection Choices

Popup Blocker 

Windows XP service pack 2 built in blocker- activate

Google Tool Bar Free Popup Blocker

PanicWare Free Popup Blocker

Proxomitron

Home or Office Networking
Digital Cameras
Money-Saving Tips

Spam Protection

Spam in E-Mail

Printer Jams and Breakdowns

Advanced Virus Removal 

Sysinfo.org Lookup/Search startup items in System Configuration Utility to see if possible virus. (Start, Run, msconfig to open utility, then click Startup.) Match Name not Command

Hijack This! Detects and removes hidden running programs that were not installed by the user.  Stops your computer from being hijacked.  Be careful to not remove programs you do need!

Top 10 Tips Using a Computer:

  1. Monthly check: Make sure your anti-virus program is automatically updating by manually updating your program to get a "all patterns and programs are current" message.  Update and immunize your spyware program and scan your computer.  Consider an online virus check.  Defrag your computer. 

  2. It is now better to buy a computer than upgrade an older one or put up with slow performance.   Try becoming more dependent on free programs like Open Office, Serif Photoplus, Pegasus, and Scribus so when you get a new computer, you can download the programs you use rather than hunt for cds and licenses, or worse yet, have to buy them. 

  3. Try to keep all files you create saved in as few places as possible so you can: easily back them up, transfer them to a new computer, and make sure you have deleted all your data off a discarded computer.  Most people should keep all files limited to the Desktop folder, My Documents, and possibly Shared Documents.  Some people will even change their favorites folder so it resides in My documents and will setup their Outlook mailbox folder inside My Documents. 

  4. Keep opened printer paper reams in a plastic bag, especially in humid or rainy parts of the year to prevent printer jams from added moisture in paper causing sheets to stick together.   

  5. Buy non-OEM black ink cartridges instead of OEM HERE Example: HP45's for less than $5.00.  Black remanufactured cartridges are normally good for photo printing. Avoid remanufactured color cartridges if you print photos because the colors may vary slightly. Remanufactured color cartridges are normally okay for office use. Trying to refill your own cartridges has the risk of a messy disaster and the extra labor eliminates the savings.  

  6. Get rid of any 17" or 19" CRT monitors!  You can pay for a flat screen monitor quickly by the electricity that you will save from having a 19" monitor always on.

  7. Print quality is mostly about the paper, not the printer!  Spend a few extra pennies to get 94-100 brightness level paper.   Save tons of money by changing your default printer preferences to draft quality (Start/Printers and Faxes/right-click printer icon/Preferences).  This especially works well if you use brighter paper.  Paper is less expensive than ink!  You can always change it back to medium or best for the those occasional important prints (File/Print/Properties).

  8. The problem with newer, less expensive digital cameras (10+ megapixel) is they can create monster files if you have the quality level turned up.  Most 4x6 prints turn out just as good at 1mb as they do at 15mb.  Larger files are slower to transfer to your computer, slower to print, will fill up your hard drive, and make people mad at you when you send them in emails!  Try taking pictures at a lower setting, then print them and compare to prints at higher setting.  If you are going to make a poster, then turn it back up to the higher quality.  

  9. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and repetitive stress injuries (RSI) are real!  Take breaks and use proper equipment.  

  10. Don't use punctuation in filenames except_the_underscore because there are still network, backup, and web issues that are caused by this bad habit!

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Registry Repair (always backup your registry file regularly!)

One of the best tools to keep your computer running at its best!

RegistryFix Download free program that fixes the 1st 45 problems free.  $37 to register for unlimited fixes. (found 333 problems on test computer)

FreeRegistryFix Download free program that fixes the 1st 50 problems free.  $29.95 to register for unlimited fixes. (found 659 on test computer)

Registry First Aid Download shareware version that fixes all problems but is time limited. $21 after time runs out. 

General Internet Safety Training

www.besafeonline.org

Free Content Filtering

K9 Web Protection      
Naomi         

Paid Content Filtering

Integrity Online's Filter   
BeSafe       

Check email stories to see if they are true before forwarding false news or stories! www.truthorfiction.com  Use the search with an unique word from the story.

Lost File Recovery

Demo version that does a great job recovering files up to 64kb in size (most text documents).  It shows larger files, but must buy the full version ($49) to recover them.  File Scavenger 

This program is Freeware and will recover files of any size.  Remember the longer you use your computer after deleting a file, the less chance of recovering it.  PC Inspector

Video/Audio Codecs

Installing will allow you to view dvd/video/audio files that didn't work on your computer before. ACE Mega (Vista, XP, and other OS but read reviews on page before installing) or XP Codec Pack (designed for XP) or  Codec Pack All In 1 (Win 98, ME, and 2000).

Free Video Player Xine plays CDs, DVDs, VCDs, AVI, MOV, WMV, MP3, and internet streams.

Video Capture and Avi to Flash (Convert avi's made with Windows Movie Maker or camera software) Camstudio 2.0 

Computer Suite Software 

Free Office Suite with word processing, spread sheet, presentation program, etc.  Saves having to purchase expensive software!  Open Office v.1.1.5  v2.2.1  v.2.3  v.2.4 New  (Java needed for Open Office)

Free Graphics to copy/paste or save to computer: Ask.com then click Images. (use Skin for nice look)

Desktop Publishing Scribus 

Graphics Editor Serif PhotoPlus (similar to Paint Shop Pro) 

Photo Management Simple effects, printing, and file reduction/emailer. Kodak Easyshare

Convert docx files to htm Convert Microsoft's Office 2007 docx to htm with online converter that sends you a link to converted file to view/save. www.docx-converter.com

Convert pdf to Word, Excel, or RTF If pdf is not password protected or you know it, content can be sent to your email.  Graphics can be harvested from the pdf.  www.freepdfconvert.com

Make PDF's Need a pdf creator that you just change the printer to PDFCreator and print to make a pdf?  

PDFCreator-0_9_3_GPLGhostscript.exe

Unzip  Can't unzip or extract zip files?  Free Pkunzip

Flash Need an updated flash player? Adobe Flash 

PDF Reader Need to open pdf's? Adobe Reader

OCR Program Free OCR Program to convert pictures or scanned documents to text.  TopOCR2.5
Sound Editor and Recorder  Audacity is a free editing or recording program that exports finished product as a wav or mp3.  If exporting as mp3, Audacity requires two separate dll related files to be downloaded anywhere on hard drive and installed the first time you export an mp3 file.  Audacity Program  2 extra files for mp3 feature via a zip file: Lame  
RSS to web embedding code creator: http://www.rss-to-javascript.com/p/138.html
Computer Parts & Accessories  Low prices. Surplus Computers
Black Ink Cartridges $4 Black refurbs ok, use oem for color HERE
Top Affiliate Programs (ads on your site): 
Earn money from your website!
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1. Hydra Network
2. Orbitz
3. Shopzilla
4. Advanta Bank Corp
5. The Scholastic Store Online - Scholastic Inc.
6. Amazon.com
7. eHealthInsurance
8. pepperjamNETWORK
9. zZounds.com
10. Carbonite Online Backup

Virus Protection

If you have internet access on your computer, you need to have anti-virus protection that is updated daily!   Many new computers come with a trial version that you must eventually subscribe (pay) to.  I use a free program for home users from www.Avast.com  (30 million users) that is available HERE.  It is just over 10 megabytes.  You will have to uninstall any previous anti-virus programs first (expired or active) from the Windows Add/Remove Software tool before installing.  Once I clicked the download button next to the English version, I clicked Open on the window that came up.  I just followed the instructions after that.  Users are able to use this Demo version for a couple of months before having to fill out a simple registration form HERE to receive a free serial number that is good for 12 months.  After 12 months, users need to re-register for another 14 months.  

Generalized repair procedure when I try to fix someone's computer with a virus after trying a manual scan with their existing anti-virus program:  Use at your own risk!   Read the entire section first before doing anything!  

  1. I install the free home version Avast using the instructions above in the first paragraph and check the "schedule a boot time scan" during installation (restart your computer after installing) may allow you to clean any viruses.  Remember you will have to uninstall any previous anti-virus programs first (expired or active) from the Windows Add/Remove Software tool before installing Avast.  (I normally take the risk of deleting any problems found instead of quarantining if a virus is found. I am not very smart!  Doing this may risk losing a necessary file!)       

  2. If that doesn't work, I start with www.trendmicro.com's Free Online Scan called Housecall available HERE.  I have occasionally found viruses with Housecall that my installed anti-virus program did not catch.   After choosing which Country I am from, I clicked Yes on the Security Warning window from Trendmicro.    Sometimes, I also have to click Yes for a Security Warning window for Microsoft.  Once the pattern and program info is loaded, I check the boxes next to any hard drives such as C and also check the Auto Clean box and then click Scan.  It takes a while.  After it is done, I click Clean first, then Delete if the virus cannot be cleaned. (There is a risk of deleting important required files which could require a reinstall of the program the file is associated with! I usually take the risk though.)   If this did not seem to work, go to step 3.

  3. You may have to look up the virus name at trendmicro.com if you know the virus name to find instructions on how to clean it if it cannot be deleted or cleaned.  Tendmicro often has a fixtool that you can download that will take care of it automatically.  Your antivirus program may squawk when unzipping the tool, so you may want to shut your protection down while unzipping the fixtool (rightclick your antivirus program near the clock and shut it down). There is usually a Trend Micro readme file for instructions. Running the fixtool in Safe Mode usually works the best (press f8 while booting to get to Safe Mode).  If this doesn't work, do steps 4-17.

  4. I make sure I have downloaded (save to hard drive) the two necessary Trendmicro Sysclean files (sysclean and the Windows pattern file) into a folder where I can remember where they are.  You need to go to that folder and double-click the pattern file (lpt???.zip) to unzip into the same folder as the sysclean file.  You have to click a "Select Different Folder" button or browse to unzip into the same folder as sysclean.  Free pkunzip program here if your computer does not offer to unzip when doubleclicking.

  5. I install the Stinger Program but do not scan.  

  6. I make sure the spyware program is updated but do not scan it (if you do not have a spyware program, install either Spybot or AdAware above and check for updates).  

  7. If ME or XP, disable the System Restore feature before running anything. Right click the My Computer icon on the Desktop and click on Properties. Click on the System Restore tab.  Put a checkmark next to 'Turn off System Restore on All Drives'.  Click OK.  If asked to Restart, say Yes and tap the F8 key during reboot to start in SafeMode.  

  8. After starting in Safe Mode, make sure any virus protection is not active (usually right-click icon by clock and shut down).  

  9. Then open the folder where you downloaded the two sysclean files and doubleclick the the file that says "sysclean" to run it and do a full scan and clean/delete anything it finds.  Instructions for sysclean in case you need it.

  10. Still in Safe Mode, run the Stinger Program and do a Scan Now.  Fix/delete problems.

  11. Still in Safe Mode, run the Spybot or AdAware program and scan/check for problems.  Fix/delete problems.

  12. Restart in normal mode, shut down your anti-virus program by right-clicking icon by clock, and run steps 9,10,11 again. 

  13. Make sure your anti-virus program is active again (reboot) and open it up to do a manual scan of your drives. 

  14. Maybe even do one of the other online scans on Computer Survival like Avast, Symantec, or Nanoscan. 

  15. If ME or XP, reactivate the System Restore feature again when it looks like it is clean.  Right-click the My Computer icon on the Desktop and click on Properties. Click on the System Restore tab.  Remove the checkmark next to 'Turn off System Restore on All Drives'.  Click OK.  If asked to Restart, say Yes.  Then even go to Accessories/System Tools/System Restore and do a Create a Restore Point with a name like "after problem" so you know not to use anything before that. 

  16. I would probably run Accessories/System Tools/Defrag afterward just o tune up the computer.

  17. I would do a manual virus scan after a week or so.

Some viruses re-install themselves every time you restart your computer even if you cleaned the virus.  If all the steps above did not help, then searching the net using the virus name will usually let you see forums where you can read replies to get suggestions.  Be very careful anytime it is suggested to change things in the registry (regedit).  Try to find at least two or three sites that have the same suggestion.  If you think you still have a virus installation program after cleaning, you may want to read the section called "virus initiated popups" below to help identify your virus/virus installation program at sysinfo.org.  Some viruses can damage system or registry files and a reload may be the only way to get going.  Backup,backup,backup!

Additional Virus Tips: 

Internet users are now at a place that anti-virus software is required to keep your computer running.  Make sure your program is updated daily if you have DSL or Cable internet.  Dial-up users should take the time to open the anti-virus program and update the pattern manually when they are on the internet for any length of time.

Many of the viruses that are out there are spread by e-mail.  Never open an e-mail attachment unless you know what the attachment is!  Even if it is from your mother!  If a virus creator is smart enough to write a virus, he is smart enough to trick you into opening it!  This includes popup windows that say "Your computer is infected, click here!" Duh!  Always use the Alt  F4 to close those windows.  Cancel buttons can be programmed to install instead of cancel.  Better yet, learn how to use the Ctrl-Alt-Del to End Task the application.  

You may want to click Start, All Programs, Windows Update rather than clicking any balloon that pops up to tell you that "Updates Are Now Ready To Be Installed. Click Here."  Watch out for hoax viruses that have you search for a file and if you find it, do this....  They may be telling you to delete a necessary file that, of course,  your computer has!  You can usually check out hoax viruses at www.truthorfiction.com using the search page and searching for the file you are told to delete.  Finally, remember that many viruses harvest your e-mail addresses from your address book to spread OR your e-mail address is harvested from your friend's address book to send it to you!    You or your friends should not use address books unless they have sufficient anti-virus protection! 

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Popups, Adware, Spyware

Never click on an advertisement popup! (Use Alt + f4 to close it.) See below about how to prevent popups.  If you have internet access on your computer, you also need to have spyware or adware protection that is updated regularly!

For Spyware and Adware:  I use a free program called Spybot Search and Destroy that is available HERE from www.download.com.  It is just about 10 megabytes and will take a little time to download if you have dial-up internet.  I had to uninstall a previous adware program first from the Windows Add/Remove Software tool before installing so it wouldn't cause conflicts (except Ad-Aware).  When I clicked the Download Now button, I then clicked Open and followed the directions using the Next buttons.  I made sure to click the Tea Timer option.  It then asked me to Backup the Registry, Check For Updates, Download the Updates, Immunize, and then run the program.   I clicked OK when reminded that some programs require the ability to interact with my computer.  Once the program was open, I clicked the Check For Problems which takes a while.  After it was done checking, I clicked the Fix Problems and then exited.  I usually check for updates once per week, then download the updates, then check for problems, then fix problems, and then click the Immunize button if there were new updates.  The other benefit to this program is that whenever a change is being attempted to your computer, a window will popup asking you to Allow or Deny (similar to Windows Vista).  If you are not installing a new program, then you should Deny.  It might seem kind of a bother when that window pops up all the time, but think of what is happening to your computer if it wasn't.   Many people will also install the Ad-Aware program as well for even better protection.  You may get a warning that says Spybot and Ad-Aware may conflict, but I personally have never had a problem with running both.  (Remember to click allow in the Spybot window when intentionally installing a new program.)

For Popups: Vista usually defaults to block popups.  

If you have Windows XP service pack 2, you can enable the popup blocker that comes with Internet Explorer.  Open your browser, click Tools, click Internet Options, click the Security tab, click the Custom Level button,  scroll down towards the bottom the setting choices to find the "Use Popup Blocker" and enable it, then click OK, OK.  Then anytime there is a popup, you will be warned with a "did you notice the information bar" window and a sound.  If you want to see the popup, just click the yellow bar at the top and click temporarily allow popups.  This feature is good for sites that hammer you with multiple popups.  

If you have an older Windows operating system, you might try the Google Tool Bar (Google popup Help) or PanicWare which are both free.   Many websites including banks have websites designed to use popups that popup blockers do block.  Usually, popup blockers allow pressing a key on your keyboard (i.e. Ctrl) to allow a necessary popup to appear. 

Virus Initiated Popups: Sometimes I have fixed a popup problem only to find that it returns.  That is probably because there is a virus popup installation file that is run every time I turn the computer on.  So what I do, is go to Start, Run, and type msconfig in the box and click OK.  This brings up a System Configuration Utility window that I maximize (enlarge).  Be very careful not to change anything without knowing what you are doing!  I click on the Startup tab and then write down all of the file names on the left side of the window.  Most of the files, if not all, are required by your computer.  I then search Sysinfo.org using each filename I wrote down.  Usually, it doesn't take long to discover if the file is friendly/required for my computer or if it is a nasty popup or virus file.   If a file is suspicious, I uncheck the the box next to the file name and click OK.  Normally, it will suggest a computer restart.   Usually, I say No to the restart, and then run Spybot first.  Then I open my internet browser and click Tools (or View on older Internet Explorer versions), Internet Options, and make sure my home page is what I want and Delete Cookies.  Then I restart.   If I accidentally uncheck a required file, such as for my internet or printer or program I use, I return to msconfig and re-check the box next to the file needed.  Normal required files are ScanRegistry, TaskMonitor, SystemTray, TkBellExe, and printer, camera, and program files that you have. 

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Firewall Protection

There are two types of firewalls: hardware and software.   Most routers and access points have a built in hardware firewall. Often they do not work until you take the time to go to your administrator program for the router (i.e. 192.168.1.1 in your browser) and look for where to activate it.  Most hardware firewalls can block unfriendly connections to your computer BEFORE they happen.   Software firewalls may allow some communication with your computer before notifying you.  

A software firewall program can block most hackers from breaking into your computer.  Many anti-virus programs that you pay for have a firewall program but you must take the time to set the feature up.  XP has a built in firewall program but currently does not block bad programs on your computer from sending out information.  Zone Alarm has a free home use firewall for XP available HERE which works with the free Avast anti-virus program mentioned above.  After clicking Download, I clicked Open.  It is just over 5 megabytes and will take a little time to download if you have dial-up internet.   It won't let you install it if you have another firewall program on your computer.  After that, I clicked next and removed the checkmark to receive free offers and then registered with them.  I checked the family PC and network Home when asked.  After starting the Firewall the first time, I selected the Zone Alarm (not Zone Alarm Pro) and clicked Next and Finish.  Then I clicked Next to setup my websurfing programs like IE and Outlook and clicked Done and Restarted my computer.  Each time someone is looking at your computer on the internet, you will get and Allow or Deny option.   Normally, you will click Deny and can even click Remember This Decision.  Then click OK.  Network users: You may have to tell Zone Alarm to trust the ip range of your network (i.e. 192.168.1.1 through 192.168.1.50)

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Slow Computer

Computers are like brakes on a car.  The regular user doesn't notice a problem because it is gradual.  Many people feel they need more ram memory to speed up their computer, but find it didn't help.  (Or buy a new computer and hassle with transferring docs.) The following are major reasons that a computer will get slow:

A file needs fixed.  Sometimes just restarting your computer will fix things!  (Win2000 and XP users can use the next paragraph to fix files.)  Use Scandisk if you have Windows 95, 98, or ME.  Click Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and Scandisk.  Make sure drive C: is selected, Fix Automatically is checked and Standard is checked before clicking Start.  If it seems it doesn't ever finish checking, you may have to Cancel and Restart your computer in MS-Dos mode and type scandisk c: and press Enter.  

Your computer may have fragmented files.  Click Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and Disk Defragmenter.  It takes a while.  Make sure you have drive C selected and click OK or Defragment.  Normally, before doing the above disk defragmenter, I will turn off my screensaver or turn up the time to 60 minutes before the screensaver comes on.  To turn off your screensaver, right click your desktop (wallpaper/background picture), click Properties, click the Screensaver tab.  Change it to None or turn up the minutes.  Click Apply.  While in Display Properties, you may want to click the Background tab and change the wallpaper picture to None to see if it helps.  Sometimes that nice picture you have is a huge file that slows your computer down.

You may have a virus!  Do the online scan above!

Your hard drive is too full!  You can go to My Computer, right click your drive c: and click Properties.  You can see how full it is.  Do not ever delete programs!  Use the Add/Remove Software tool in Windows Control Panel to remove programs you do not use.  You CAN delete picture files and document files if you don't need them anymore or have them on cd or floppy.  You may even want to use Disk Cleanup by going to Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and Disk Cleanup to remove the contents of the recycle bin and temporary internet files, but this is only a short lived help.  

You may have installed and uninstalled so many programs on your older computer that the whole foundation of registry and system files are a mess!  Using a program like Registry Fix or FreeRegistryFix will usually be able to find and repair most of these problems.  Even a computer that seems to be running well, will usually have hundreds of registry problems!  Most online registry repair tools will find your problems, BUT need to charge you to fix them so they can maintain their great service.  Another way to deal with this problem is to do a total reload of windows and format of hard drive OR use your restore CD  which you WILL lose documents, favorites, address books, pictures, other software, and other valuable things.  You may want to consider buying a new $300 computer from somebody like Dell, Gateway, or HP and copy your files from old computer to CD or USB pen drive (many new computers do not have a floppy drive!) rather than paying a computer guy like me $90 per hour to fix your old computer.

You have too many programs running in the background of your computer.  Programs like instant messenger programs, weather programs, etc. may be too much along with things that you have to have like printer, virus protection, spyware protection, and firewall.  Look at your Startup folder to see what programs are loading automatically every time you turn your computer on.  Click Start, point to Programs or All Programs, point to Startup, and look to see what is there.  Right click and delete things you know you do not need.  You may also want to go the Add Remove Software in Control Panel and remove programs that run automatically when you turn your computer on like instant messenger, weather, etc.  If you have some computer savvy, you may want to press Ctrl-Alt-Del to see what tasks are running.  Unfortunately, it is hard to recognize which programs are represented by the filenames unless you know what you are doing.

You may be using too large of pictures in your publication if it takes forever to print sometimes.  If your printer seems to work okay with text documents but is slower than a snail with pictures, you may be using clipart or photos that are, in fact, monstrous files!  Right click your graphic and click Properties to see the size.  Or look in My Documents, click View, and click Details to see your document size.  Anything over 100kb may be just too big to be fast.  

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Breakdowns

How many times have we cried "Oh No!" that there is always somebody nearby that says "You should have saved it first or backed it up!"  I feel that I am the most preventative person when it comes to computers, but I still have experienced lock-ups, unexpected reboots, and disappearing programs!  The point here is that you should always believe your computer is out to get you and prepare as if it were.  Your computer lets you feel comfortable just long enough to get you to trust it, then whammo!  Save, save, save as you work on stuff.   Use the File, Save As option to make additional copies with a different name (i.e. myresume.doc and myresume2.doc) so that you have at least two copies of the important files.  You may get mixed up occasionally on which file is which, but at least you don't have to start all over!  Also, make sure you know how to use your CD Rewritable drive to make copies of your My Document Folder and Shared Document folder on a regular basis.  You can also use an USB pen drive to easily copy your files without having to be a CD burner genius! (Just plug in the pen drive into a USB port and use My Computer or Windows Explorer to rightclick, copy your My Documents folder and go to pen drive letter and rightclick, paste.)  I always store computer driver files that I have had to download for my computer (like printer driver) and put them in My Documents so I don't have to hunt on what to backup.  You can even tell Outlook to keep your Personal Profile in My Documents.  You may even want to move your Favorites folder to My Documents using the Tweakui.inf program (file  instructions) so that all you do is make a copy of My Documents whenever you want to backup your computer.

I maintain over 120 computers and 5 networks.  I know it is not coincidence that I have found that computers seem to always have more problems that use games, instant messenger programs, and randomly surf the web.   Although the company owners of messenger programs, games, and cool websites disagree with me, there is sometimes a connection.

If it appears your computer isn't working right, but it at least can start, you may be able to restore your computer  to an earlier date when it did work if you have Windows Millennium or XP.  General questions about System Restore are answered HERE.   If you can get your computer started, go to Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Restore, and Restore to an earlier date.  You may have to reinstall recently added software but your recent documents should still be there. In rare instances, system restore can resurrect a previous problem, so you may want to do a virus and spyware scan after restoring.  Some computer manufacturers such as Hewlett Packard have a System Restore available when you first turn on the computer by pressing a key like f10 which can bail you out if Windows doesn't start at all.  Check the internet with your manufacturer and model info to see if it is available.  (i.e. search, enter your computer model HP 304 in the phrase box and restore in the additional words box using Google's advanced search.)  Otherwise you may be forced to reload your Windows operating system which still, if done right, can save your documents.  

If your computer just won't power up at all, you may have one of these problems:  

  1. Your power supply box has gone out.  Look to see if the fan is moving on the back of your computer when the power button is pushed.  If the fan is not working, make sure you have power by plugging something else in the same plug in that your computer was plugged into.  Maybe the power strip is bad? Make sure the cable is securely pushed into the back of your computer.  If it has a switch next to the fan, make sure it didn't get bumped off.  Do not mistake the little switch that says 110v/220v being a power switch!  Always leave that switch set at 110v unless you use 220v!  The fan can still work and your power supply is still out.  

  2. Your little battery on the motherboard has finally died.  Usually, your computer will start, but not find an operating system.   Batteries usually last 3-6 years.

  3. Think!  What was the last thing done to your computer before it quit?  Did you recently add something new to your computer? (i.e. something that plugs into the computer)

  4. You may have bent a pin on your monitor cable if you recently unhooked your monitor.  Take it off and inspect.  Make sure keyboard and mouse cables are securely pushed in.

  5. You may have a loose cable to your motherboard or hard drive if you recently moved your computer.  Usually, you will get an Operating System Not Found message.  The cover will have to be removed and each ribbon (data) cable should be checked to see if it is tight.  Do not switch anything around or you will have worse problems!   

  6. Try moving your computer to another outlet that is not on the same breaker.  You may not have enough electricity due to an electrical problem.

  7. It is possible that your hard drive, display adapter, motherboard, or other part may have gone out.  A computer technician can sometimes salvage your documents, even if your hard drive goes out, by plugging your hard drive into a working computer as a second slave drive, long enough to transfer your My Documents to their main hard drive, and then burn a cd for you to copy to your new hard drive.

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Printer Jams and Breakdowns

Printer jams can be caused by a number of problems. The most common jam is more than one sheet being pulled through the printer.  The best prevention is to use fresh paper in your printer, especially during humid or moist times of the year.  Exposed paper will collect moisture in the paper causing sheets to stick together.  You may not even notice any difference in the look or feel of the paper.  Reams should always be stored in a dry place and left sealed (and reams left in the closed ream box if you buy by the case).   Open reams should be put in a plastic bag unless you go through a high volume.  On older printers, you may notice your printer jams when you have too much or too little paper in the tray.  Adjust according to the uniqueness of your printer.  Of course, using heavier paper can cause a jam on any printer.  If you must use a heavy stock paper, use Print Properties to tell your printer that you are using a heavy stock.  You usually have to put only one sheet in your tray and print one at a time.  Always be careful to pull out jams from the back of the printer if possible to prevent damaging your printer.  Rarely, the wrong printer software version can still print but have irregular loading problems.

Printer breakdowns also can be caused by a number of problems.  Wrong software, software with file damage, loose cable, firewall blocking the port, low on ink, or the printer is actually broken.  The most common problem for most people is that a print job is unsuccessful and then all future prints are blocked by the incomplete print job.   (i.e. chose wrong printer to print to (most common), out of paper, bad file, bad communication, etc.)  You can usually double-click the small printer icon in the system tray (near the time) to view print jobs, then cancel all print jobs to clear the problem.  Your top document may take a minute to delete.  You may want to make sure your document is saved and reboot your computer.  Shut off your printer during the reboot, wait a few seconds, restart your printer.  If notified that you have print jobs pending, cancel them.  Normal order of diagnosis to fix a printer problem:

  1. Check cables, printer is on, and make sure you see your printer model in Printer Name when printing

  2. Clear print jobs (maybe reboot and make sure your printer model is displayed when printing)

  3. Shut off and unplug printer from computer and unplug the power cord and wait at least 1 minute

  4. Reinstall printer software

  5. Remove all USB controller devices from System, Hardware Manager, then reboot for reinstall (advanced users only!)

  6. Noisy printer can sometimes be corrected by lifting the printer lid and manually moving cartridges to far left side and close lid to let the cartridges park.  (advanced users only!)

  7. Clean front/back clear-looking data ribbon that cartridges follow by using a soft dry paper towel.  Pinch paper around both sides and wipe, being careful NOT to pull ribbon off. (advanced users only!)

  8. Always try to accumulate the same printer models so you can swap printers quickly to rule out  software/computer problem.

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Money-Saving Tips

For computer parts and accessories, you may want to visit Computer Parts & Accessories- Internet's BEST DEALS!

Printing-$100-500 per year savings!  Implement these six essentials!  

1. Buy non-OEM black ink cartridges instead of OEM HERE Example: HP45's for less than $5.00.  Black remanufactured cartridges are normally good for photo printing. Avoid remanufactured color cartridges if you print photos because the colors may vary slightly. Remanufactured color cartridges are normally okay for teacher/office use. Trying to refill your own cartridges has the risk of a messy disaster and the extra labor eliminates the savings.  

2. Change your default printing preferences on all school computers to draft or fast draft which prints faster.  Draft mode normally works great for school use.  Users can always change their preferences for individual prints from File and Print and Preferences when they want a better print quality.  You can change the default settings to draft for all jobs in Control Panel (not from printer preferences in your browser or publishing program).  This will save you a ton of ink!   

3. Spend a little more for paper with a higher brightness number (i.e. 92-100), because paper is less expensive than ink!  An extra dollar for a ream of paper makes draft printing look like normal printing and will save you several dollars of ink! 

4. Try making most school documents available from your website, and let users consume their own ink.   Many e-mail programs now let you create newsletter-looking messages that you send out via e-mail.   

5. Many chain stores (varies by area) will trade your empty ink cartridge for a ream of paper or give you money off a purchase.  

6. Most people are now purchasing multi-function type printers.  This essentially puts a copier on each desk. This is great for small copy numbers as long as a person doesn't get lazy about using the company copier for larger jobs because the multifunctions can be from 5-20 cents per copy.  

Computers-     The CEO of Intel was quoted in an Oregon newspaper a few years back saying "my job description is mainly trying to figure ways to convince the consumers that their computer is obsolete."  If you need to buy a new computer, remember salespeople naturally will try to talk you up.   Unless you are doing something unusual like playing war games, you can get a nice, new computer in the upper $200 range ($325 with CRT monitor or $375 with LCD monitor) for office, home, and internet use.   My recommendation is to have at least a 2500+ mghtz (2.5 ghz) AMD or Celeron processor, 1 gigabyte of ram, 80 gb hard drive, Windows Vista included, NIC (network card), a modem if you use dialup, and a DVD/RW (burner) drive.  Most computer geeks are now gasping!  By the time you need something more, the price of a bigger, better computer will be less than this one.   Computers are not real estate!  They will never increase in value.  Do not plan for future needs, only what you need now.   Optional: You may want a dual monitor video adapter for projector use.  You may want an extra CD-Rom drive if you are making illegal cd copies.  You may want 2 gigabytes of ram and a processor that has a "D" after it like Celeron D or Pentium D for around $450 if you do a lot of graphics or occasional video work.  You may want to consider a monitor upgrade in your package if you really need one  (good way to get a less expensive flat screen than buying separately).    Personally, I like Dell, HP, Gateway, and Emachines because I have had several donated to our ministry and like how they worked.  HP usually has a good Restore feature for fixing problems.  

Monitors-    Remember larger, standard monitors take more electricity.  A 19" will use more electricity than a 14".  Some older CRT monitors should be powered off (not sleep mode) whenever not in use due to electricity consumption.  LCD monitors usually are energy efficient. The newer wide screen flat panel monitors will eventually be the norm. If you are in the market for a monitor, shipping can prohibit the competitiveness of internet shopping.   You still may want to shop online at a place like HERE for some fantastic deals on new and refurbished monitors.  The nice thing about shopping locally, is that you save shipping and if the monitor conks out, you can walk in and trade it without the hassle of shipping it back.

Digital Cameras-   You can find good information HERE before you buy a digital camera! You shouldn't spend over $100 right now because the prices are coming down!  Click HERE to look at the $79-99 Kodak cameras 6x-8x megapixel with optical zoom.

 

 

 

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Internet Connection Choices

Essentially there are four choices besides a wireless connection:  Dial-up, DSL, Cable, and Satellite.  (I expect to see the power companies jumping into the telecommunications business in the near future.)

Dial-up is the least expensive but many websites are not designed to be viewed with this speed.  Although there are some as low as $5 per month, national companies like Earthlink.net are around $10 once their trial periods are over.  The advantages are that it is easier to block out internet use for children because of the necessary password for each connection and the cost.  The negatives of dialup are that your phone line is busy while on the internet, it takes longer to connect or get on, you can get kicked off sometimes if someone calls or a family member picks up another phone to call out, and many web features and pages are now designed for broadband (dsl or cable), and not dialup.  If you don't use the internet that much, it might be worth considering.  A typical dialup account will usually give you 45kbps downloads.

DSL costs between $12-$60 per month.  Many companies offer an introductory plan and then the price goes up.   Static IP costs more than dynamic IP,  but static IP is usually necessary if you plan on having a web server.   Dynamic works fine for networks.  You can use your phone line and internet at the same time if you use an included filter for each phone in your building.  Many businesses use DSL on their fax line because DSL does not usually work on standard business phone systems.   I have seen one DSL account supply internet for a network of over 100 computers.  The advantages are only needing one phone line at home, much faster than dialup, and your computer is always connected so you do not have to wait.   The negatives are the justification of cost and the greater need for a firewall.  Installation consists of the company activating your phone line to DSL and then installing a DSL modem to a phone jack, then connecting the DSL modem to your computer's NIC (network card).  Usually most individuals can install their own modem software if they are pretty sure their computer's network card is working.  Some companies even offer a wireless option that includes an Access Point for setting up wireless connections around your building.   The wireless option should be setup by someone with experience or great patience with reading instructions.    A DSL account will usually give you 96-1500 kbps downloads.

Cable is touted as being the fastest, but can also be the most expensive.  Many companies offer an introductory plan and then the price goes up.   Since the bill is combined with cable tv and telephone, the bill might shock you!  If you have cable tv and use your phone through your cable provider, then adding the internet might not bump the bill up too much.  Cable is similar to DSL in that you have a cable modem that is connected to your tv cable (like it was a tv) and then the cable modem is connected to your NIC (network card) on your computer.  The advantages are that you do not need a traditional phone line to your house if you have your phone service through cable, it is fastest, and you aren't paying bills to several companies.  The negatives are like DSL, you need to justify the cost and the need for a firewall.  Normally, the cable company may not let you do a self-install.  Both cable and DSL mean you have computers that are always connected and children can access the internet.  Some internet providers like Comcast are not very friendly towards relaying other e-mail accounts through Outlook (i.e. using both home and work e-mail through a cable connection).    Cable companies in some areas also offer a wireless option that includes an access point.   A cable account will usually give you 3000 kbps downloads and more expensive options can go up to 10000 kbps.

Satellite costs around $99 for 768kbps downloads (slower speeds as low as $39 and T1 for a couple hundred per month).  Normally, you have to pay upfront for dish and modem ($300 up).   Many companies give you 1 static IP (needed if you are running a web server).   One account could supply internet for a small network.  The advantages are that you have faster internet out of city limits or in another country where broadband is not available, mobile equipment for RV's available, seems lightning fast compared to dialup and your computer is always connected so you do not have to wait.   The negatives are the upfront equipment cost, having a 1 meter dish on your building, justification of monthly cost and the greater need for a firewall. Also, satellite users share bandwidth so you will be limited to a set amount of downloaded data. Many services disable your internet or slow it down to snail speed if you go over your allotted downloaded data limit.  Most of them give you enough for average surfing if you are not downloading music and videos.  Currently satellite internet usually cannot work with internet phone service (voip) or using a web camera.   Installation is often included to your computer's NIC (network card).  Example companies:  www.mybluedish.com   groundcontrol.com

Wireless usually means your computer has the ability to pickup wireless internet or network connections in the immediate area (such as from installing a wireless router where cable or dsl comes into your house).  However, A nationwide wireless service such as Verizon's Air Card allows broadband internet access in many areas around the United States.  This is beneficial for people that live in the country or travel.  Verizon who recently purchased Alltel charges approximately $50 per month if you commit to a minimum length of service and usually includes the required adapter.   Your computer needs either a wireless USB adapter ($40), or a wireless PCI card installed (Highly recommend D-Link DWL-AB520), or a wireless PMCIA adapter for notebooks ($20-$40), or a built in wireless notebook adapter.  There are several companies that make these devices, but the main item to be interested in is if it is 802.11b or 802.11g (also known as wireless G).  Wireless G has more range, capabilities, costs more, and can pickup both standards of signals mentioned.  802.11g can usually connect with Blue Tooth systems too.  In order to receive a wireless connection on your computer, a computer nearby with internet must  have what is called an access point (AP is a small box like a modem with an antennae $50-$120) connected to its broadband modem (modem comes with a DSL or cable account) to send out the internet or network signal.  This access point can be either an 802.11b or 802.11g standard.  Both wireless standards will sometimes advertise their range on the box, but you should chop the distance at least by half for every wall you go through.  The access point may be set up with kind of a password system called WEP security.  Many people who install the above devices do not know to set this up, so neighbors are able to use the internet connection and possibly able to view the computer files of the person with the access point (at least Shared Folders).  Both the access point and the remote wireless computer need to have the WEP key match in order for the connection to be made.    I can see four wireless connections available in my home, which means that three of my neighbors do not use the WEP security.  Someone could easily install a wireless adapter and use their neighbors internet, and not even have to pay for a monthly broadband connection until the general public learns to use WEP.    Little key chains sell for about $30 that tell you if a wireless connection is available wherever you are.  They are occasionally available at Computer Parts & Accessories- Internet's BEST DEALS!.  The advantage of a wireless notebook or PDA is increasing every day.  Airports, coffee shops, homes, and businesses are adding access points. 

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Home or Office Networking

Quick Overview: Advantages- Internet access for all computers on network, do not need a printer for every computer, can share or backup files on another computer, can use multiplayer or networked data programs.  Disadvantages- Less security if extra steps are not taken (viruses and file access), few extra maintenance problems to watch for, some extra cost.

Quick Suggestion: Use switches and not hubs.  Use a wired network and not wireless if possible.  Use an Access Point for a router instead of a regular router so you do have at least a wireless option.  Write down your ISP username and password on your ISP documentation AND also tape to the modem.    

Suggested Parts Needed: 

NIC- Each computer needs to have a NIC (network card) or a wireless adapter installed.  Most newer desktops come with a NIC.  Most newer notebooks come with a NIC and a built in wireless adapter.  DSL and Cable self-install kits come with at least one NIC in the box in case you do not have one.  

Modem-  Usually, DSL and Cable self-install kits include a modem.  In rare instances, certain models of modems require a crossover cable to connect to a computer instead of the normal straight through or patch cable.  Many times, people need a longer cable from the modem to a computer or router than what came with the modem.  Before replacing the cable that came with the modem, look at both ends of the included cable to see if the wiring colors are the same order (straight through or patch) or if the colors are in different order (crossover) so you know what kind you need to extend your distance from the modem.  

Wireless Access Point- This also serves as a router that lets you hook up 4 more computers without needing a switch.  AP's cost just a few dollars more than a plain router and also give you a wireless connection around your building.  You should get 802.11G that goes up to at least 5 GHz (not 802.11b). Cost around $50.  When setting up the AP or router, most will use a PPPoe connection option where you need your ISP username and password.

Switch-  A switch is needed if you have more than 4 or 5 computers on your network.  A 5 port switch costs less than $20.  The access point will usually let you network at least 4 computers, but you may want a switch to add more computers.  OR you may only want to run one cable from your internet modem and access point on one end of a building to a switch on the other end of the building that is near a cluster of computers and then use the switch with shorter cables from there (so you don't have to run a lot of long cables across your building).  You can use as many switches as you want in a daisy chain fashion to add more computers.  You lose one port when daisy chaining, so a 5 port switch will let you add 4 more computers.

Cables-  Cat 5 or Cat 5e cable is used to connect computers to the switches or access point.  Do not buy cables called "crossover"!  Although you can buy shorter cables for a reasonable price, longer ones can be costly.  If you need to go over 150 feet, you need to add a switch to boost it another 150 feet.  Make sure to shop because many discount stores charge a lot for cables to make up for their loss leaders.    You may want to measure all your cable needs and take your list to a computer geek or store and ask them for a quote to custom make your cables.  The biggest problem of a wired network is that you have ugly cables to deal with unless your building was originally wired for a network.  This is why switches are used like an electrical strip, where you have one cable that turns into several outlets where you need it.  If you are doing a large project, it is better not to put the ends on the Cat 5 cable until you have run them through the walls, so your holes can be smaller.  In this case, you can go to Home Depot, or something like it, and buy a roll of cable and and install it in the building yourself, and then hire someone to come in and put the ends on the cable.

Wireless Option-   Because of the ugly cable problem mentioned above, you can use a cable or DSL modem with an Access Point ($50) near one main computer and have all other computers use a wireless connection.   (See Internet Connections above.)   Remember when signing up for internet, look for a wireless modem or router option which can be less expensive than buying the parts individually.  This usually works good for homes, but may not work for larger buildings.   I have purchased an Access Point Booster which helped a little ($70-$100). I have also bought an external higher gain antennae ($30-$50 for 15+ db omni directional) for my access point. Special access point antennas are available that can share access miles away if it is in line of sight and antennae is pointed precisely.  You can also purchase a repeater bridge for a larger building ($40-70).  Each computer will need a wireless adapter and a NIC (network card).  Wireless adapters cost from $20-$40 each.  WEP security should be installed so neighbors cannot see your files or use your internet.  I have found that wireless connections are not as dependable as wired connections, can be be slower when someone else on the network is downloading or streaming content, and sometimes requires restarting the modem, access point, or the computer.  I have used what is called a "Wireless Bridge" to extend a network to another part of a building or nearby building without cables.  The modem and access point can communicate without cables to the bridge.  The bridge ($100-$130) then has a switch ($20) connected to it, so several computers at that location can be wired directly to the switch.  (Invest in power company stock because people will enjoy the benefit of network capabilities through existing wired buildings! Just kidding, but who knows?)

Typical Scenario for most Homes: 

  1. You need a broadband account ($13-$70 per month):  It can take up to a week to activate after signing up.  You should always try to get the fastest download option if offered, even if it costs more.  You only need one computer that will meet their requirements to setup the service.   Computers that are less than the requirements can still use your home network/internet.  Most people can do a self-install to avoid a hefty expense.  The broadband company will usually supply a broadband modem.  The broadband company may include a free wireless router/AP with their package (otherwise approximately $50 for a wireless router/AP at a local discount store).  DSL companies will usually include several filters in the kit.  
  2. Determine Supplies Needs ($0-$100):  Determine what you need for cables, switches, and wireless router.  The router may come with your self-install kit from your broadband company. Usually the modem from the broadband company will include a short network cable to go from the modem to the router (or single computer).  Routers also come with a short network cable to go to one nearby computer.   

If you only have one computer and it can be located where your broadband enters the house, you will not need anything.  

If you have two or more computers around your building, then you need to determine if you will run individual cables from the router to each computer, run one cable to a switch and connect computers to the switch, use wireless, or a combination.  Generally, it is better to run one cable from your router to another floor or part of the building and connect it to a $20 switch where you can connect several computers to the switch with shorter cables (rather than making multiple long runs of cable to each computer from the router).  Consider drawing a picture of your building and draw your wiring needs to determine if a switch will be helpful.  You should measure the distances for cable planning.  For longer cables it is better to find a local computer shop that can make the cables the length you need rather than buying expensive fixed lengths from a store.  Walmart has a DLink 5 port switch for $20.

  1. You need one computer temporarily near where the DSL phone jack or cable comes into your house to setup your service. You can also use a longer network cable from your computer to where the internet comes into your building (where your modem and router will permanently reside).  Normally your modem and router should be permanently located near where the cable or DSL phone jack are located.  They are small and require AC.  One or more network cables will go from the router to computer(s).   Many companies now require Windows XP or Vista to setup the internet.  You should inquire if you are using Win98, Millennium, or Win2000.  Once you have setup your modem and router, you can move the computer elsewhere.  
  2. Setting up the broadband:  Once your service is active (usually you will get a phone call or at least an e-mail), open your self-install kit. Make sure you know the username and password to use and also write it down and tape it to the modem!   If you will be using DSL, take the small filter adapters and plug into each phone jack that you use with a telephone. Make sure you use the right jack on the filter to connect to your phone, if your filter has two options.  You will also need a filter for the jack where you will be setting up the modem and router.  Most broadband companies have very good instructions to follow.  For cable, you will be connecting your cable directly to the modem.  For DSL, you will be using a normal phone wire to connect from the DSL filter on your wall jack to the DSL modem.  Your instructions will tell you what to do, but keep in mind that you will need one computer nearby to set it up. You should always write down the login the company sets you up with.  Normally, you will completely install the modem first and end up having it connected to the computer.  Then you will setup the router and end up with the modem connected to the router's WAN jack and one of the 4-5 router LAN jacks connecting to the computer.  Once you have completed this step, you need to setup your network.
  3. Setting up your network:  You really do not need a network setup if you just want internet access to several computers. However, you will usually need to do some setup work on each computer to have internet.  If you want to share a printer or share files, then you have a few extra steps to setup a network

Anti-virus: You should have updateable anti-virus software on all computers on your network.  A great free one is available from http://avast.com/eng/download-avast-home.html and click the English button and click Run when asked.  Always uninstall old anti-virus programs first, even if they are trials or expired!  Just click Next, OK, or Finish when installing.   You may want to check the schedule the boot-time scan if asked so when you restart your computer, it will check your computer.  If you have any viruses, click the Delete All option.  You have a couple months to register your free home-version license.  

Wiring: Generally, you do not want to staple, but use plastic wire ties or plastic clips to secure.  Network cable can be run through conduit or plastic pipe.  Network cable should not be run in the same conduit as AC.  If you use network wall boxes, make sure to use "A" or "B" wiring consistently through the building.  

Win98: Start/Settings/Control Panel/Network and make sure Primary Network Logon is set to Client for Microsoft Networks.   Click the Identification tab at the top of that window and enter a short Workgroup name (use caps) that will be the same on all computers.  Give the computer a Computer Name that is unique (i.e. shop1 or upstairs).   Click the Configuration tab.  Look for a TCP/IP listing for your network or Ethernet controller. (Sometimes you will have one listed for the dialup which is not the one we want.)  Click once on the TCP/IP listing and click Properties.  Make sure IP Address is set to Obtain Automatically.  Gateway should not have any listed.  DNS Configuration should be disabled.  WINS Configuration should be set to Use DHCP at the bottom.  Click OK on that window.  Click the File and Print Sharing button.  Check both checkmarks.  Click OK.  You may need a Win98 CD in the drive.  Any Win98 CD should work. If you try to proceed without the CD and it requires the CD, put the CD in and click OK. Close the Welcome window if it pops up. Click OK on the Network window.  You will probably have to restart the computer.  Once you have your network card setup, you will be prompted to have a network logon when the computer starts each time.  Remember whatever login you are going to use for that computer.  Normally the username should signify which computer it is so it is easy to understand the network.  Have to enter password 2x the first time you setup a login.  Keep logins short and easy to remember.  Yes, you can click cancel on the Network logon and still use the internet, but not use the network.

XP: Start/My Computer/My Network Places (on left)/Setup a Home or Small Office Network.  I can't remember the buttons, but just be agreeable.  You will use the internet connection that is always on.  Make sure to use the same workgroup name for all computers on your property (it will use caps).  You may have to use Start/My Computer/My Network Places (on left)/View Network Connections/Create a New Connection/Connect to the Internet/Setup Manually/Broadband that is Always On/Finish. 

To see or have access to files on other computers:  Win98 computers have to have which folders that can be seen by other computers manually setup.  Open My Computer, doubleclick drive C, look for the folder you want to share (usually My Documents), right-click that folder and click Sharing, click Shared As and enter a short share name (usually same as computer name), usually click Full, enter an optional password 2x (simpler to not use passwords), click OK.  XP computers are already setup to share the Shared Docs folder, so just save files that you want to share in that folder.

Normal Network File Use: Win98-go to Network Neighborhood/doubleclick the computer icon that has the file/doubleclick the My Docs or Docs icon and double click the file you want.  You must have that program on the computer (i.e. .xls file will need Excel loaded on computer).  Never use punctuation or symbols when naming a filename or you will get a file in use or read only message when opening from another computer.

Computers that has printer attached:  Win98-Start/Settings/Printers/right-click installed printer/Sharing/click Shared As/give the printer a Share Name such as HP1511/click OK.  XP-Start/Control Panel/Printers and Other hardware/View Installed Printers/right-click installed printer/Sharing/Share this Printer/change Share Name if desired/OK.   All computers that do not have a printer will need to do this one time:  Win98-go to Network Neighborhood/doubleclick computer icon that has a shared printer/doubleclick the printer icon and attempt to install the printer by clicking Yes.   Normally, it will tell you it cannot install the files without extra files, so cancel if that happens and follow the alternate instructions (A,B, or C) below. 

Normal Printing Procedures After Setup:  Click File/Print and make sure to choose the printer you want to print to before clicking Print.  The networked printer and computer must be on to print.

Alternate Instructions A for Win98 network printing on non-printer computer: You will need to find the cd for the printer. Go to Network Neighborhood/doubleclick computer icon that has a shared printer/doubleclick the printer icon and attempt to install the printer by clicking Yes.  Click the Have Disk and browse to the cd drive.  Try just pointing to the CD drive letter first.  If that doesn't work, browse to your best guess for a folder that has the drivers.  You may have to browse to a win98 folder or ENU or try all until it works.  If you are asked to turn on or connect to the printer click install without testing or finish or close.  You may even have to restart the computer.  Then do the Network Neighborhood/doubleclick computer icon that has a shared printer/doubleclick the printer icon and attempt to install the printer by clicking Yes.   If it asks to use existing, say Yes.  If it asks to browse to files, go to Program Files folder and open or click on the Printer folder that represents the printer cd you just installed.  You may even have to go into the Program Files/printername folder and look for a drivers folder.

Alternate Instructions B (if A doesn't work) for Win98 network printing on non-printer computer:  You will need to find the cd for the printer and install the program on the non-printer computer.  If you are asked to turn on or connect to the printer click install without testing or finish or close.  You may even have to restart the computer.  Then do the Network Neighborhood/doubleclick computer icon that has a shared printer/doubleclick the printer icon and attempt to install the printer by clicking Yes.   If it asks to use existing, say Yes.  If it asks to browse to files, go to Program Files folder and open or click on the Printer folder that represents the printer cd you just installed.  You may even have to go into the Program Files/printername folder and look for a drivers folder. 

Alternate Instructions C (if can't find cd) for Win98 network printing on non-printer computer:  Go to the website of the manufacturer (i.e. hp.com, epson.com, lexmark.com) and find the home/small office drivers area to download the right model's driver to your My Documents on the computer without the printer.  Normally, you should just save the entire file, then double-click it to install after downloaded. If you are asked to turn on or connect to the printer, click install without testing or finish or close.  You may even have to restart the computer.  Then do the Network Neighborhood/doubleclick computer icon that has a shared printer/doubleclick the printer icon and attempt to install the printer by clicking Yes.   If it asks to use existing, say Yes.  If it asks to browse to files, go to Program Files folder and open or click on the Printer folder that represents the printer cd you just installed.  You may even have to go into the Program Files/printername folder and look for a drivers folder. 

  1. 1st Time Setup of Wireless Router:  Normally the CD and paper instructions in step 4 must be completed first to setup the wireless router.  It is required to have a computer that is directly connected by network cable to the router/modem to install your wireless router the first time (even if you plan on using that computer wirelessly after you are setup).  Read the Already Using Wireless paragraph below so you can possibly set those settings during the install process.  You may not be able to setup wireless security when first installing the router (depending on brand) and will need to follow the instructions below after you have your internet running.  You should read information below so you will understand modem/router setup questions.
  2. Wireless Security: If your router or access point (AP) has a wireless feature, you will need to access the admin program to turn on security so other wireless users cannot use your wireless signal.  Besides neighbors seeing your shared folders, they can drain your bandwidth or use you internet access to do illegal activities.  Most routers will let you get to their admin program from a browser opened on a computer connected to your network.  Usually you will enter 192.168.1.1 in the address box (where google.com would be typed) and it will bring up a login window.  Linksys usually has a default of blank for username and admin for password.  If you changed this when installing, you must find the login you used.  Once logged in, go to the wireless section and check the following options:

Adding Wireless Security After Already Using Wireless:  Make sure you have entered a SSID name (usually something short but not your name).  Make sure you have entered Mixed if asked for wireless G or B. Click Save Settings if you made a change. Look for a Wireless Security Section where you can choose WEP or WPA.  WEP and 64K is good for most situations.  You may have the option generate the keys by entering a short phrase.  Normally you can leave it so it uses the 1st key for a default.  You should write down your passphrase and 1st key to have on hand when you setup other computers.  Click the Save Settings button.  You can close the browser window.  On every computer that will be using your wireless network, you or they will have to View Wireless Connections on the wireless computer and click your SSID and go to Change Advanced Properties to activate secured connection with a 10 digit key from above.  Do not use the "key is provided for me" option.  Each adapter is different, so you may have to hunt for a way to change the SSID to use the key.  

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Spam in E-Mail

It is almost impossible to keep from receiving junk e-mail.  Here are some suggestions that will help.  

You should have at least two e-mail accounts.  One is for real use and the other is for registering with websites (and other required e-mail address needs).  Never use your main e-mail address for signing up on a website!  Always take the time to look closely for agreements to receive news, offers, and other stuff whenever your e-mail address is required.  Usually you can uncheck those agreements before proceeding.  Keep in mind that websites make money from selling your address to others.   

Make sure your virus and spyware protection is up to date.  Many e-mails are propagated through a virus.  Unfortunately, your Aunt Martha has your address in her address book on her computer. She has a virus but doesn't know it.  The virus grabs your address to send you horrible things or attempts to spread the virus to you.  Maybe the virus is just collecting your e-mail address for spam.  Keep in mind that home computers are more likely to NOT have up-to-date virus protection. 

Never put your e-mail address on a website!  E-mail addresses are harvested by marketing companies from websites.  You should use a form that visitors can fill out and send messages to your e-mail rather than posting your e-mail address.  Also, most websites will automatically make a posted e-mail address a link, which when clicked, will open up Outlook.  Many people use webmail and the Outlook program will not work, but they don't know that, and when it does not, they will think your website doesn't work or the e-mail address is wrong.   Use a form to allow people to send you messages! 

Consider using a spam-blocker, confirmation, or challenge feature.  Most challenge-type features will send an automatic letter to each of your message senders, requiring them to manually reply to let their message come through.  Usually, first-time senders are the only ones that have to complete this extra step.  This will usually help screen out automated messages from marketers and the mail received from Aunt Martha's virus.  I have the opinion that it does not stop all spam though, and "deadlock" will happen if two people using a confirmation system try communicating with each other.  SentWeb mail does have this option if you use the Contact Us page.  

Manually block a sender from within your e-mail program.  Many e-mail programs let you manually block a sender if their message does come through.  Keep in mind that spammers change their IP, MX, and From addresses to get around this type of block, and just send to you again using a different From.  There are also spam-blocking programs that companies sell which use a variety of techniques to keep you from spam.   Here is a .pdf file with more technical anti-spam techniques.

If you receive unwanted e-mail, take the time to unsubscribe from the bottom of their message.  All marketing e-mail messages are required by the Can-Spam Act to give you this option.  Of course, you will quickly notice that not all marketing messages follow the law.  There is also the risk that unsubscribing is confirming your address as an active e-mail account for the spammer.   If you are receiving dozens or hundreds of messages, you may want to get a new e-mail address and start over using the spam prevention suggestions mentioned here. 

You could be the target of a practical joke or someone trying to make your life miserable.  Although the Can-Spam Act requires a double-opt in, many mailing lists do not use this structure.  (Double opt-in: when you signup to be on a mailing list, you are sent an e-mail that you must confirm to be added to their mailing list.)  Someone can take your e-mail address and submit it to several marketing mailings in only a few minutes.  You would then be bombarded with hundreds of marketing e-mails each day.  Getting a new account may be the only easy way to fix this scenario, so be careful who knows your main e-mail address.

If you are the main e-mail account for your website, your e-mail program may have your e-mail address setup as a catchall for mistyped e-mail messages to prevent missing important messages to your organization.  Unfortunately this can send tons of spam because many catchall systems do not go through your normal account filtering.  You may have to concede and ask your web person to turn off your address as the catchall for your organization. 

Most e-mail programs have a filter or rules option that will automatically send messages to the trash.  This is useful for messages that are always coming from the same address.  Of course the nasty junk messages use different From: addresses every time.  You still may want to apply word filters that apply to the body of the message that block certain words like porn, cialis, etc.  Keep in mind that spammers will use variations of the spelling like c1alis.  Also, keep in mind that when you block words like porn that you may not get some church messages which have the word in the message addressing the problem.  Some e-mail programs have a blocker feature that will let you click Block next to the message, so you will never receive a message from that address again.  If your program does not have a Block feature, then you would have to take the time to set a rule for the address so it is put in the trash if that address shows up in the From: field.  

If you want to receive a newsletter, etc. from someone but your spam protection is blocking it, add the desired sender's address to your address book or contact list.

If you do not want to receive Group Forwards from people, you can use the above mentioned filter/rule method to deliver mail to the trash if your address does not show up in the To: field.  This will block all messages to you that were sent to groups of people.  You would use the rule or filter of requiring myname@mydomain.com in the To: field or reject the message.  You will not receive any mail when your address is in the CC: or BCC: field.  However, you may want to think this over first, because this will usually only block messages from friends or co-workers that are forwarding messages.  Marketing companies usually use programs that DO put your address in the To: field.  ALWAYS take the time to let users of group mail know that they should use BCC: (blind carbon copy) to send to groups instead of CC:.   Otherwise it takes extra sheets of paper to print and everybody can see everybody's address, including yours!  

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Passwords and Logins and Fraud Preventions

Passwords and Logins

With so many usernames and passwords, what can we do?   If you write them down and someone steals your purse or wallet, you are cooked!   The following works for me:

I try to use only four different passwords for everything I do.   One is for online financial.  One is for ATM pin numbers.  One is for online bill-paying.  One is for e-mail and non-important online logins.   By only having four different passwords, I do not have to write passwords down in my wallet.     I can still write the usernames down WITHOUT the passwords.  DO NOT USE the same password for everything.  Some non-bank sites are not secure and your password could get captured!  If the thief has your bank and e-mail password, you might have big trouble!

Whenever I change a password for financial (credit cards and banks), I change ALL the financial account  passwords so I can remember them.  Banks recommend that you occasionally change passwords.  Do not use birth dates, names, or other easy to guess passwords.  

Increasing daily,  e-mail messages appearing to be from reputable businesses such as banks or even e-mail providers are sent out to millions, but are FORGERIES! It is very simple to copy any website and duplicate it, put it on the internet in another location, write an e-mail with a link to the fake website asking to update information, and record the victim's username and password when the victim tries to login to the fake site. NEVER UPDATE YOUR BANK ACCOUNT FROM AN E-MAIL LINK!  If you are asked to update something, type in business web address in your browser and visit the site directly (example: type www.citibank.com in your internet browser in the address box to visit the site). Do not click on a link in an e-mail to update an account even if it says www.citibank.com, because it can take you anywhere!  Most credit card and bank companies have a fraud department online where you will see this happens all too frequently.

You should let your spouse or another trusted person know your system in case something happens to you!  Make sure they understand the need for the security of your logins!

Letting Anyone Else Use Your Computer or Internet/Network

Why not let others use your computer?  They can see sensitive documents. They can download illegal programs from your IP address.  They can access illegal websites and ruin your reputation.   They can mess up your computer.  But also criminals can steal your identity or install web programs or setup remote access to run illegal operations from your computer so they are untraceable back to them (called hijacking).   

If I can set at your computer for 30 seconds, I can install a keystroke logger program that e-mails me everything you type including account numbers and passwords!  Some viruses (spyware programs) do the same thing!  Or if you are not looking, I can plug in a very small USB keystroke logger to the back of your computer as I walk by that records everything you type into this little device.  Use an anti-spyware program like the one mentioned above to stop the e-mail and network keystoke loggers.   Familiarize yourself with where your USB ports are on your computer if you are in a suspicious work environment (see the Digital Camera tips) so that you might notice something unusual plugged in.  

Preventing others from using your computer: 

1. While computer is on: Use a screensaver password so when you leave your desk, your computer is unavailable. (Right-click your Desktop, left-click Properties, left-click Screensaver, check the password box, adjust minutes, OK)   

2. Turning on computer: Windows 98 users: Boot your computer and go into Setup (f2 or Del) and put a password on your Setup program AND system so you have to have a password to turn it on.  (Refer to your computer manufacturer's website for your model if you need help.)  This prevents people resetting your computer to get around your screensaver.   WinXP and 2000 users: Start, Control Panel, User Accounts, Change an Account, make sure all other accounts are off except yours, click your account and add your password. 

3. Network Access:  You need to understand that your Shared Documents folder (XP users) is accessible if you are on a network.  Win98 users' folders that have a hand underneath the icon are also accessible. Installing a firewall is always recommended.  Your firewall can protect you from most intrusions, but understanding which folders are accessible is important in case you accidentally allow access with your firewall program.  Keep sensitive documents out of the Shared Documents folder!

4. Wireless Access: If you have a wireless router or access point, you should set up the security for it unless your intention is to offer public access. People that offer public access should have two broadband accounts so one of them is secure for office computers.

How to secure your wireless network: 

  1. Go to your router/AP's homepage (http://192.168.1.1 in your browser), 

  2. Change the SSID from "linksys" or "dlink" to something else.

  3. Disable SSID broadcast.

  4. Enable WPA-PSK (pre-shared key) encryption, and remember the 'key'.

Each computer with wireless access:

  1. On each computer, from Network Places, right-click the WiFi adaptor, then click 'Properties'. 

  2. Click on the Wireless Networks tab, and remove any existing networks you have set up.

  3. Add a new network, enter the new SSID, and set the encryption to WPA-PSK, and enter the 'key'.

  4. Apply/OK all the dialogue boxes.

Extra Security:

  1. Unplug the CAT5 cable and reboot the PC for good measure.

  2. On each wireless PC, do Start > Run and type 'command'

  3. At the command prompt, type ipconfig /all to write down the MAC address of each wireless PC.

  4. Going back to the router/AP's homepage 192.168.1.1, enable the MAC filter list and add your MAC addresses. This will allow only your computers to access your network.

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Opening pdf files

Here are the problems people can have: 

Pdf files can be large files and require waiting for the file to download.  It is not uncommon for broadband users to have to wait from 15-60 seconds.  It is not uncommon for dialup users to have to wait 1 or more minutes.  It can sometimes seem that your window has locked up, but is actually doing something!  Be patient!  Some people may find it beneficial to right-click the pdf link on the web page and Save Target As, then save the pdf file to their Desktop or My Documents, then double-click the file from there to open.

The most common problem is that your Adobe or Acrobat reader program is checking for updates whenever you open a pdf.  This slows down any pdf from appearing, but more importantly, the update window can hide under the loading Reader pdf window because you have clicked somewhere on the Reader program while waiting for the file to open (such as to maximize the window or being impatient).   Unless you click update, cancel or skip in the update window, the file will not continue to open.  But if the update window is hiding under the waiting reader, you do not know to do anything.  The best practice is whenever you click on a pdf file, do nothing else until it opens (do not click your mouse)! Another  solution to this is to open your Acrobat or Adobe Reader program and (usually) go to Edit, Preferences and click Updates and set it to never check for updates.  

Sometimes, the person that created the pdf is using a newer program that is not compatible with your older version of Acrobat or Adobe Reader.  Take the time to download and install a newer version from adobe.com or use the update feature within your current reader.

Sometimes, organizations use a pdf format that lets you type into the document.  Beware!  Many of these do not save your information when exiting or if you click File/Save As.  Always print before trying to save a fillable pdf document!

Use the free PDFCreator available from the top menu (ghostscript file).  Install it, then anytime you want to make a pdf, open your document in its original program, click File/Print, change the printer to PDFCreator, click OK, Save, tell it where to put the pdf file, done!

If you are creating pdf files for use on the web, learn how to resample your clipart before inserting into your original document.  Some clipart pictures can be rather large files because they are intended to be used as large pictures.  Even though you resize them, they can retain their file size.  You may want to use a graphic program to resample or reduce the graphic to the size you need before using in your document.  Try taking a larger clipart and resizing/resampling it and then save to your hard drive with the word "small" behind the filename.  Then compare the file sizes of both the original picture and the newly saved picture (right-click the files in My Computer and click properties) to see if you have been successful in your method.  If both pictures are still the same size, your resizing efforts are not working.  Get a graphic program.  This can drastically reduce the final file size.  This is important if you have a lot of users with dialup.

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Recovering Lost Files

Ever lost a file?  We all have!  Of course if you read the prevention information in the section called Breakdowns, you probably won't need this section!  Here is an overview of what can and cannot be done.  

Scenerio1-Although this scenario is not really dealing with losing a file, it is perceived the same way.  Whenever you use a web tool to create something such as writing an e-mail, you must keep in mind that most web programs are written to close your connection (timeout) after a given amount of time to keep your account secure and to improve server performance.  If you are writing a long e-mail and take quite a bit of time, your e-mail program may timeout.  When you click send, you are taken to a login window and/or your letter disappears.  Even though you log back in, your hard work is lost!  If you are taking quite a bit of time using a program that does timeout, you may want to first write your document in a word processor/notepad and then copy your contents to your e-mail program.  If it appears to have been successfully sent, you can close and not save your word processor/notepad work. Sometimes you may not know you are going to take so long to write!  If you write longer than you thought or were interrupted while writing, make sure to copy your message before clicking Send (just in case)! Often you cannot right-click and save information in a web-mail type program when composing, but you can highlight and click Edit, Copy at the top of your browser to copy!  This scenario may be needed with several types of online tools.

Scenario 2-You need only a paragraph or picture from an older existing document to put into a new document that you are working on.  However, you decide to hack the older document since it is laid out like you are going to need for the new document.  Even though you planned on saving it with a different name, you get busy and forget that you were hacking the older document.  You click save and now you can't find the older document.  That's because the older document is gone forever!  If you accidentally save a document with the name of an already existing filename, the older existing document is gone!  The older filename treats the file overwrite like it has been updated.  There are some methods to recover from this situation, but it will usually take someone with special skills and may be more expensive than recreating the document.  The best prevention for this is Never Use The Save Icon, Always Use File, Save As to save a file!  This habit slows you down just enough that it you usually keeps you from overwriting something valuable.   You should get in the habit of giving all new files that you create a name followed by the date (i.e. filename 071506) so that accidental overwriting doesn't happen.  Also, remember to avoid using symbols in filenames (i.e. " -  /  ,  ' ) so you don't lose network access and backup ability.  Filenames with symbols cannot be backed up using some methods.

Scenario 3- You have deleted a file you need and even emptied the recycle bin.  Or you had to reload your computer's operating system and you even fdisked (partitioned) and formatted your hard drive.   You need that file!  What can you do?  Well, there are several programs that allow you to recover them.  The sooner you try to recover your file, the better chance of getting it back.  Normally, you install your file recovery program first.  Most of them suggest installing to another drive other than C: such as a pen drive or a 2nd hard drive or even a floppy. You then run the program and search for the lost file.  Recover or restore it. Done!  Here is a program with a demo version that recovers files up to 64kb in size (most text documents).  It does show larger files, just can't recover them without buying the full version ($49).  File Scavenger  FYI- I installed it on the same drive as my files (C:) and was still able to recover files, but I would never suggest doing this unless you are looking for documents that are not that valuable!  

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Where is the Pied Piper Taking Us? (Trends)

Everybody has opinions about where we are headed!  Here is mine.  Technology has three fundamental characteristics that we can use to tell the future.  It always gets less expensive, it improves (speed/performance), and it usually gets smaller.

So how do we benefit from knowing this?  

Know When to Buy: If we know things will get less expensive, should we wait? Short Answer: Yes!  For older people like me, this is a hard concept to believe since we have seen prices inflate in so many areas of our lives.  My general rule of thumb for most people is to not buy anything that is brand new technology.  It will usually be at its highest price, and in some cases, even though it was alpha and beta tested, the first year of public feedback often exposes needs and weaknesses that can be improved upon for later releases or manufacturing.  We also benefit from hearing unbiased customer opinions and testimonials.  

Formula for buying: 

Rule 1: Do not fall prey to marketing pressure, impulse buying, fads, or keeping up with your peers.  The corporate world works day and night with marketing propaganda to convince you to buy the latest product.  Don't be lazy and let someone tell you what you need!  Research and figure out what you need for yourself.  You are the one that should know what you need!  

Rule 2: When shopping for technology, buy for what you currently need, not for what you might need or will eventually need!  If you are like me, I know what I need now, but don't always know what I will need later.  Often consumers rationalize they might need extra features later and buy for future needs (like newlyweds shopping for a house in case they have children). Big mistake!  By purchasing for actual needs instead of future needs, the money saved allows you to purchase for your needs as they arise. 

Rule 3: Try to buy something that has been on the market for 12 months or longer.  I have been following technology since the late 70's.  For over 30 years, most technology products have dropped their retail price in half after a year.  Often, another 12 months and it drops in half again.  If you buy something that has been out for 12 months, then it is often 50% of the original release price. So instead of buying something for $3000 that just came out, buy something a year old that meets your need for $1500.  When you outgrow it or wear it out, you can use the $1500 you saved to buy again (and now you even have an extra).  Since you spent less, you are more likely to purchase for your needs sooner than the person who will wait to justify the $3000 he spent.  This formula allows you to average newer technology than the person who buys new technology.  

Rule 4: Beware of waiting too long: The corporate world has learned many things during this rapid advance of technology.  Take for instance that cd rom drives arrived on the market with a 1x speed.  Then shortly after, 2x, 4x, 6x, 8x, 10x, 12x, 16x, etc.  Consumers noticed how rapid faster drives became available and developed this mentality: "If I wait a little, I can get a faster one!"  Companies soon realized releasing new improvements too fast slugged the market and became an inventory management nightmare for them.  Remember, if you need it, get it!  Don't wait for a deal if it's costing you time and frustration.     

Seeing Into the Future!

My friends say I have had uncanny spatial skills.  Many of them are amazed that I am not a billionaire.  Haha!  Proverb: Putting your eggs in a basket too early can keep one broke.  

Example of being right: Over fifteen years ago I told students in my training classes to expect to see a cell phone, stereo, camera, video camera, computer, internet, and gps multi-function device.  They laughed and said no one would want to pull a wagon around to carry this machine!  Example of being almost right: Back in the early 80's as I was using Tymnet, I told people this is going to take over the world.  A very similar system called the internet did 10 years later.  Example of being wrong:  I said that Commodore would conquer the PC market.  I believe they still would have if they would have added a hard drive to the C64.    

I remove things from below as they come to pass to keep the info practical.  

What I think is happening or going to happen: 


Education:  

(Mid 90's, but updated 2003)
Technology will become a core subject like math, English, science:  
Over the last 150 years, schools have had the core subjects of language, math, science, and social studies (or reading, writing, and arithmetic).  Information Technology will be added to this list. 

  • Computers started by collecting dust in most classrooms, 

  • then became an elective for a few grade levels using math flash cards, geography programs, and games, 

  • to becoming an elective for most grade levels using some keyboarding and academic programs that usually did not sync with classroom curriculum, 

  • to becoming an elective class teaching keyboarding and version-based office suite skills instead of academics,

  • to more advanced programs having students work on a website as a group project.  

National standards and business sector demands will eventually force a "build from the bottom" scope and sequence technology curriculum.  Then we will see it become a core subject and leave its "enhancement" title behind.  Technology will become more prevalent on standardized tests. Technology stranding in other subjects to solely meet technology training needs will fail miserably (without a separate technology curriculum). Schools will have to revamp their entire classroom furniture structure (and possibly requirements to use certain devices) to prevent lawsuits from repetitive stress injuries.  This will bring students back to a computer lab looking classroom. Trainers and curriculum writers will figure out teaching should be concept-based instead of version-based (teaching how to drive any car instead of how to use all the features of a 2003 Ford Thunderbird).  Enough historical data will eventually exist to prove that most software products appearing to be immortal actually have very short life spans.  The philosophy of education will also change with more focus on "It's not what you know, but it's if you know how to find the answer".   Individualized, self-paced, mastery-based approaches to learning with a social network feature will eventually take over.  

 

(late-80's) Competitive Structure in Global Education:  Although the United States has excelled in education for decade after decade, global competition may influence long standing U.S. educational philosophies.  The U.S. system is somewhat geared to educate students to prepare them for virtually any direction after they graduate.  Because students receive this long, narrow column of training to keep the doors of any direction open, they must wait to receive specialized training in the area they will pursue until after graduation.  This concept seems to work as long as all students enroll in a post secondary system.  Unfortunately, many students do not pursue post secondary options or drop out before they get past general educational (non-specialized) classes.   Due to options that educational technology will bring to schools, we may see students' career inventories being evaluated at a much younger age so students can pursue a specialized track as young as junior high school.  In order to keep the long, narrow column of training and offer a specialized track, students may have to go to school more often such as Saturdays, summers, or longer days.   

Business:  

(mid 90's) Outsourcing will continue to increase in all facets of life:  Outsourcing has been around since before the pilgrims landed.  People have been using others' skills for thousands of years without calling them an employee.  Instead of it being an anti-American movement, the recent technology advances have just made it possible for this concept to work in many more areas now. If it could have been done a hundred years ago, people would have outsourced more then.  Efficiency is the real reason outsourcing will become more prevalent.  Businesses can pay for only what they need and when they need it.  Often the outsourced service has lower costs due to the volume of their specialty, not just because they are in another country.  Often the outsourced service has better performance due to the volume of their specialty.   Technology has affected the way businesses look at employees.  It used to be hard and take a long time to find someone with a special skill.   The employee pool is much larger now due to technology.  People with specialized skills have a much better chance of success due to global networking.  

Technology:

(early 90's) Software is on its way out, web-based applications in.  I told people this in the early 90's and they thought I was nuts! Consumers are tired and frustrated with having to be rocket scientists to keep their computer running.  Smaller companies have had it with the expenses and nightmares of keeping their network running.  This is how it is going to work:  Computers are going to come back full-circle into being terminals, only this time with the internet.  All of the programs/applications needed will be accessed by getting on the internet and going to the page where the program is.  After logging in, the user will have access to saved documents (available from anywhere on planet earth) and be able to create or edit whatever they need.  The data will be saved in a web-friendly format (not Word, Publisher, etc.) for easy availability to put on other websites.  Computer owners that get hammered with viruses, bad registries, hardware failure, stolen computers, or other problems won't dread reloading their computer, since it doesn't have software and files to save!   Computer doesn't work right, just pop the restore cd in and reboot.  Next, next, next, Finish.  Computer runs fast, programs and files are available, and the consumer is happy!   Organizations will not need complicated networks anymore, only internet access!  Computer manufacturers will have mixed feelings about all this.  People aren't going to go out and buy another computer to fix their problem anymore, but the consumer will have no barrier to getting a newer computer since they are not dreading the transfer of files and reloading of software.   

(2000) Open Source will take over a majority of applications.  Open source (scripts, code, programs that are available for personal or business use without cost that can be customized) has already made rapid gains against the giant software companies.  This phenomena of people offering their hard work to the public has allowed collaboration of others to improve upon it.  As soon as the more technologically advanced younger generation gets a little older, you should see open source applications being used by more users than for paid applications.  Areas such as games and other entertainment will hold out the longest before going to open source.  

(2000) Owning a server is on its way out, leasing servers in.  Companies that lease server space can save money, have better security and faster connection speeds.  Many smaller organizations can save monthly T-1 or T-3 expenses and save staff costs by outsourcing their server needs.  Server leasing companies have staff that specialize in each facet of maintenance to provide better support/security than just one company employed network IT.

(early 90's) Wired networks will be improved by using power lines for data transfer.   Although there may be better methods to achieve bandwidth improvement, the use of power lines makes sense from an economical standpoint.  Older buildings would already be wired.  Markets in rural areas and poor countries could be tapped without the overhead of deployment.  The concept of multi-functioned wiring simplifies construction and consumer use.  Wireless technology may advance before this happens, but not likely due to interference and bandwidth limitations.  2007 Note: development of this concept is finally in a test market.

2000 Better interaction with human senses.   Much of this paragraph covers things that will be way down the road, but the principle is worth notating.  Humans have at least five senses: sight, smell, hearing, taste, and feel.  Without getting into whether Artificial Intelligence or Virtual Reality is good, improving interaction with human senses is always going to be sought after.  You will see many areas of technology that will try to capitalize by adding or improving how something interacts with the human sense.  Better sound or better visualization to the maximum absorbable level of the human sense should be expected for any product as it matures.  An upcoming product example you should see is a sound system that uses sonic waves to target selected listening areas.  An application of this would be in automobiles so four different people could listen to four different things without harmful headphones.  However, technology has not been able to take advantage of smell, taste, and feel because it hasn't been developed or hasn't been mass-marketed to be affordable yet.   We will see the smell, taste, and feel senses simulated at first by exterior methods. A vibrator system in a chair or suit for feel.  A device that mixes chemicals for smell and taste.  Dimensional improvements for visual depth.  Then, the ultimate goal for sense improvement will be to tap into the nervous system.  The benefits would be that it is small (no huge monitor or speakers), portable, and that it allows for quality up to the maximum sense that a human body can understand  (maybe even more than reality).  

(mid-90's) Personal Identification.  Many people thought for the longest time that body identification methods would be implemented for financial reasons.  However it will be facilitated because of disease/terrorism/crime and THEN financial motivations will take advantage of the system.  If every single individual could be identified and their travel pinpointed both before and after an event, what benefit would there be?  Almost all repeat crime would be eliminated and contagious diseases would be quickly quarantined to name a few. The use of a human chip/scan bar would be an obvious consideration, however there will be obvious resistance to that concept.  The use of reading natural, identifying features such as fingerprint, retinal, voice, blood veins, dna, or other unique body makeup will be accepted long before a computer chip.  People will less likely question their religious beliefs with this type of method.  People will not need to take the initiative to get a unique identifier before it is required since they were born with it.  There will still be unsecured methods of putting a name to the identifier (i.e. corrupt driver's license examiner, sympathizing passport issuer, computer hacker), but the system will make it easy to know where a person is or backtrack where a person has been.  People born into this system will make the system even stronger since they will be tracked before they grow old enough to become lawbreakers and before they have a need to hide their identity.  Personal Identification still does not prevent first time crime, but it does make a good deterrent and answers law enforcement questions.  Probably the method that can read the person's identifier the furthest away from the body will be the most common system.  I believe only a large crisis such as a pandemic or nuclear detonation will perpetuate the acceptance of a chip/scan bar on the human body before technology advances far enough to implement a worldwide, natural body identifier system.   The body identifier is not that far off (along with an enormous amount of acceptable use policies to be decided).

(early 90's) Global Communication will vastly improve.    Written documents such as web pages and e-mail will automatically be translated into the language of choice.  That's old news, but what is new is that it will be accurate, and all languages and dialects will be available.  Computers will also translate voice instantly to allow webcams and phone calls to be understood (using speech to text, conversion, text to speech).  This is a high priority for development due to economic motives.  This will increase more foreign labor options; improved global sales opportunities; and more education opportunities.  However, the real impact will be the people of the entire earth will be able to work together as one on health cures and even more advances in technology.  This raises some theological issues though.  Genesis 11 tells us that when the people were of one language and worked together as one on something that nothing was impossible.  Is it possible we are now technologically returning to one language again?  Will areas like longevity of life and other biomedical goals be realized?  The Lord stopped mankind once before.  Will He stop him again?  Knowing man's fallen nature and what other things he will do with this ability, I believe God will intervene. 

(late 80's) Our Lifetime's Chapter Title In the History Books.   We have seen the introduction of computers.  We have seen the introduction of the internet.  We have seen other changes that will impact the future like energy and environmental policies being formed.  We have not been exempt from war or terrorism.  Hundreds of medical breakthroughs have happened in our lifetime.  DNA code work has had major breakthroughs. We have seen beginning exploration to Mars.  We have seen diseases such as AIDS, West Nile, Bird Flu, and others make global appearances.   Many other events or new technologies have happened, but our chapter title will be "The Information Age".  The ability to share information with anyone anywhere instantly along with access to vast resources of information for the first time in history will be remembered as the key to the acceleration of technology and changes in social structure. This chapter title was pointed out to me by Dr. Donald Howard around 1988.  

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