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Tag: Computers

Big Technology Secrets

People who don’t consider themselves good with computers have been trained to believe they will never be able to learn computers. People who don’t enjoy using computers, will continue to struggle with computers because they honestly believe they will never be able to understand computers.

Computers used to be the domain of scientists, programmers and geeks. Today, there is no reason anyone, and I mean anyone can’t be good with computers. Windows has not drastically changed in well over a decade. Windows XP was released in 2001 and has not changed how it looks and works since then.

Windows 7 is a nice collection of minor changes. But it’s really the same thing as it ever was with a different coat of paint. WIndows 8 is where the craziness happens. Just like the Ribbon interface in Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010. These are both big changes. But they are both understandable with a bit of time and a little learning each day.

I am not saying everyone should become a computer expert. But there are a few secrets that can make sure experience using them far more pleasant.

Computers are big and scary and there are so many moving parts they intimidate the average user. Let me share a couple of secrets of technology which will hopefully make computers friendlier.

First Big Technology Secret

It is very hard to break anything on a computer so it can’t be repaired quickly. Let me say that again. You really have to try to break a computer to where it can’t be easily repaired. And often times, if you try, the computer will warn you that what you’re doing is not a good idea.

There is very little you can do to seriously damage your computer. You’re not going to catch a virus or delete your programs without a fair amount of work. Sure, you can do things that confuse you or make a computer act oddly. But with some help, they can be undone. No permanent harm will befall you or your computer.

Second Big Tech Secret

Once you learn the basics, the rest is just details.

I’m serious. Don’t think about all the things you can’t do. Focus on what you can. You can surely turn the computer on and login. Now, you can find and open programs and files you need. Need to print? You know where that is! Need to save? You’re a pro already!

Now that you know the basics, the rest is just details. Make an effort to learn one new thing everyday. It will speed up your work and make you more productive.

For instance, you copy and paste often don’t you? Did you know you can hold the Ctrl key down and press C to copy and then hold Ctrl and press V to paste.

Isn’t this faster than moving your mouse up to the Edit menu, locating Copy, clicking it. Moving your mouse to where you’d like to paste. Going up to the Edit menu again, locating and selecting Paste.

Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V is much faster. And Ctrl + X is Cut. Now you can Cut, Copy and Paste like a pro. All without moving your hands from the keyboard. Now you are ready to type and keep working. It’s not a huge thing, but it will save you a couple of seconds every time you do that. Even 5 seconds multiplied by every single time you need to copy and paste turns into hours at the end of a month or a year.

Let me share another tip with you. I live by a mantra, Save Early. Save Often. Whenever I am working on anything, I make sure I am always saving it. When I have made a little progress I press Ctrl + S. This will open the Save dialog. I create a file name and save it. Now I can keep working without fear. Many programs such as Microsoft Word will automatically save your work. But you need to have saved it at least once first.

Even as I am typing this, I am pressing Ctrl + S every couple of sentences. This makes sure if something were to happen to my document, it’s being saved early and often. The worst feeling in the world is completing your work, and when you go to print or save it for the first time and there is an error, or your computer crashes. All that work you’ve just done is gone. It’s like you never did it! Save Early. Save Often. It will keep you from having to redo your work. And who likes redoing work?

If you are feeling adventurous, open the control panel. Look at what’s there. Everything is very clearly marked. Printers. Networking. Display. All of these things are self-explanatory. Do you need to add a printer? Click Add Printer. Are things too big or too small? Click on Displays grab that slider. Make it bigger or smaller and the screen will change. But don’t worry if you’ve made a mistake, in 15 seconds it will revert to where you were.

Third Big Technology Secret

You don’t need to know everything.

You only need to learn what you’ll actually use. There are a huge amount of settings and options. Most people only use a tiny number of them. Computer techs familiarize themselves with every menu and option so we can act as guides.

We dig into the nooks and crannies of an application to learn them so we can help our customers. Most people have absolutely no need to do this and can safely ignore most of the options. Just learn what you need and leave the rest. It’s not worth filling your head with knowledge you’ll never use.

Fourth Big Technology Secret

Computer techs don’t know what everything is either.

It may seem like your IT guy knows every inch of the computer you have. They know exactly what that weird error means and what this program is. The truth is we know a lot from seeing it over and over. And we search. If I don’t know what a program is, I’ll search its name and usually the first couple results will have what I need.

In most technology matters, my knowledge is a mile wide and an inch deep. I know a bit about a lot of things. But I only know a lot about a very few things. The rest I search when I need to. The knowledge is out there, you just have to know how to look.

IT Guys and Gals are not lords of their domain. We just do this day in and day out so we learn by repetition. Most of the customers I serve do jobs which are completely foreign to me and I’d be terrible at them.

Everyone has something they love and are extremely knowledgeable about. Everyone has something they know more about than anyone else they know. It may be computers, science, literature or music. Everyone has their niche. I hope this has made working with computers a little less scary. We’re all in this together.

Please contact your system administrator

I’ve thought a lot about how people interact with the computers they use. I’ve often wondered why people in offices know so little about the computers they use 40 hours a week. In many cases, the machine has not changed in years. The Operating System is the same. The Office applications are the same. They perform the same tasks day in and day out. They’re the 21st Century versions of assembly line workers.

They perform a skill. They perform it repeatedly and anything outside that small skill set is foreign and deemed impossible in their minds.

I often thought about the several times I’ve had to revisit the same people for the same problem over the course of weeks, months, or in some cases years. I see the same people for the same problems and I ask myself, Why?

Why am I solving the same problem for the same person so many times?

I thought perhaps it was a lack of understanding. Maybe the tasks were too difficult, but in comparison to what they did everyday, it was no more difficult, just different.

I thought maybe it was willful ignorance. They knew what they needed. They didn’t like computers. They resented having to use the computer so they were determined to learn as little as possible about it.1

I thought I was failing them in some way. I was not educating them. I was not providing a way for them to understand. I was speaking to them in techno-gibberish. I needed show them. I needed to help them to understand.

I was wrong. Thomas Brand and he gets to the root of it better than I ever could.

He writes,

Windows users are different though. Enterprise Windows users never had to fend for themselves. They never made a meaningful transition to the new and different. They stuck with what the company gave them, the clear and popular choice, and never identified themselves by the technology they were provided.

Relegated to having to ask for administrative rights to do anything on their computers, most Enterprise Windows users never learned to take an interest in administering their own machines because they never could.

This lack of understanding, and the security vulnerabilities of early Windows operating systems made Windows users the primary targets of malicious software and phishing attacks.

Worst still, companies reactions to these threats have been less about user education and more about tightening controls. This gave Windows users even less of an incentive to learn about the machines they sit in front of 40 hours a week.

He works in a role where he supports Mac and Windows computers and the people who use them. He is writing about Enterprise Windows customers in comparison to the Enterprise Mac customers. 2

They have never been challenged. They have never had the ability to go outside of their pre-defined corporate box. I’ve seen effects of his last paragraph all too often.

Anytime there is a threat, the immediate reaction is to clamp down on rights and abilities on the computers instead of educating people about the problem. Security is always the battle cry instead of Education. Why educate people when you can simply ban them from doing anything to hurt themselves or the company’s equipment? Security seems like the easy answer.

Working in the IT field, I have never been on the other side of the administrative rights fence. I have always had the ability and knowledge of working around problems and the abilities to do so.

I never had to call and ask for permission to install software. When I wanted something, I would load it on to a USB drive and run portable versions of the software I wanted to use I knew the company would not approve.

Corporate computing rewards the compliant and punishes the inquisitive. There is no benefit in learning more than what is required to perform a task. There is no room for exploration and learning. The corporate world rewards conformity and obedience. The structure of the system explains the results of that system. Why would anyone take in interest in something denied to them anyway?

  1. There is some truth to this one. Certain people are set in their ways and no amount of help you can offer will make them help themselves. 

  2. Macs and PCs in an Enterprise environment versus a Home environment are extremely different, especially on the Apple side. 

Solace in the Post-PC World

All day long I fight computers. I battle PCs and Macs. I have a long-standing feud with Canon printers and fax machines as a species. I work in computer support. It is my job to come to your desk when something breaks and unbreak it.

I explain why that thing did what it did and what that error message means. I add and remove software, install new hardware and replace faulty components. I spend my days wrist deep in atrociously messy keyboards and desks that resemble my own scattered brain.

My apartment has all the hallmarks of a computer nerd. I have an iMac, PC desktop, Mac Mini, a couple of PCs laptops of varying vintages, a netbook with a busted screen, and a CR-48 Chromebook. This is in addition to the 1st Generation iPad, iPhone 4 and an original Motorola Droid. This doesn’t take into account the various external hard drives, network equipment, printers and other technological devices scattered around.

However, when I get home more and more often I reach for the iPad. I don’t want a computer. I don’t want the hot, heavy, error-prone devices I do battle with every week day.

I love the simplicity of the iPad and the iPhone. I can still read Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and my RSS feeds. I write my 750 Words every day. ((I just passed 65 straight days today!))

Even now, I am typing into iA Writer on a Bluetooth Apple keyboard tethered to the iPad. I am sitting on the sofa with my headphones on listening to Moby’s performance from Moogfest and typing happily on the keyboard in my lap while the iPad sits on the arm of the sofa.

It is a relief at the end of a long day to be able to sit and use a device so powerful and yet so simple. I welcome the Post-PC era with open arms.

Apple Fanboy

Apple fanboy: Someone who is tired of technology being difficult and knows there is something better; someone that loves to get the job done instead of working on their machine; a person that isn’t afraid of breaking the status quo; someone that appreciates quality design and workmanship; a person that realizes cheapest isn’t always best.

via Definition of an ‘Apple fanboy’ and those that use the term.

I bought my first MacBook because I was tired of tinkering.
I was tired of fighting malware.
I was tired of half-assed software.
I was tired of program that never worked quite right.
I was tired of using subpar solutions.
I was tired of things that never lived up to their promise.
I was tired of my computer being something to be worked on.
I was tired.

When I bought my first MacBook I used my computer.
I abused my computer.
I left it running for days.
I designed.
I wrote.

I had a computer that got out of my way and let me work. I didn’t have to worry about it. I didn’t have to wonder if I’d come home to a blue screen. I didn’t have to wonder if one of my applications had mysteriously stopped working. I didn’t have to wonder if I would have a working computer. I spend my days as a computer technician so fixing computers has never been a problem. However, the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was work on another computer.

It sounds trite, but Apple computers just work.

Macs are too expensive

The price of things is all relative to how often you need to buy them. Would I spend $100 on toilet paper? Never. I need to buy rolls and rolls of the stuff every month to keep enough around to use. Would I spend $5000 on a used car? Yes, the money I spend for the car is meant to last for many years. My 2001 Ford Taurus is still humming along nicely $5000 later. It’s paid off and I have no need to replace it.

The same goes for computers. Week after week people tell me they will never buy a Mac because they’re “just too expensive” and the PC they have or just bought was much cheaper. That’s fine. I will not argue with you. I will simply ask two questions, how many PCs have you owned in the past 4 years? How much have you spent on repairs and troubleshooting?

If the answer is one and “covered by warranty” then you may stop reading right here and go on with your day. I am sorry to have wasted your time.

However, if you’ve had two or three or more than I have to ask why? Why would you keep buying something you need to replace or repair on a yearly basis?

Before my MacBook died, it was the only machine I used for nearly four years. I upgraded the operating system as new ones were released. I maxed out the memory and installed a larger hard drive than the factory option at the time. But beyond that, I did not make any other changes and that machine served me well. I took it everywhere and used it everyday.

I have never had a Windows-based computer, laptop or desktop last anywhere near that long. I’ve had hardware failures and operating system corruption long before that. I’ve had to reinstall Windows more times than I care to count and troubleshoot a host of problems that sent me delving deep into forums and knowledge bases, often finding little knowledge.

Sure, I fall squarely into the realm of computer geek and not “normal computer user” which may make me an edge case for computer usage. However, in the nearly four years I had my MacBook it never suffered a hardware problem. ((Beyond the plastic case chipping that was evident with most of the first generation MacBooks))

I can count on one hand the number of times the machine kernel panicked on me during that time. In short, I rarely had any sort of problem with it and what little problem I did have was easily remedied with a reboot. I don’t know of anyone who can boast that about their Windows computer. ((I am not counting little old grandmothers who use theirs once a week to email their grand kids.))

Would you skimp on the cheapest television or refrigerator on the market?

How many hours do you expect to spend on your computer in the next week? The next month? The next year?

Why would you skimp and buy the cheapest machine you can afford? You may save $500 now on the laptop thrust at you by the closest Best Buyer in Blue. How many times will you need support on that machine in the next three years?

With Apple computers, you have a year of technical support and repairs from Apple. With the purchase of Apple Care, the only extended warranty I’d ever buy. you get an extra three years of support on your equipment.

This means any hardware failures are covered, free, no questions asked. Just walk down to the nearest Apple Store and speak to a Genius and they’ll take care of you. What other store can boast that? Will Best Buy take such good care of you? Will Microsoft offer to help you troubleshoot Windows or Office in person?

Apple also offers free one-on-one training in their stores. Buy any Apple product and they’ll teach you how to use it. They also offer classes on various higher functions like simple video editing, backing up your data and any other questions about their products.

You’re going to spend more money on that Apple laptop but it will come back to you many times over in the next three years. When you buy an Apple computer, you’re not just getting a computer. You’re also getting a year of support an answers. You’re getting a quality computer that you’ll spend far more time using than fixing.

If your time is valuable, you owe it to yourself to buy a Mac.