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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Clean Up and Maintenance of Your Computer

This is one of those important things that no one tells you to do and you always feel uncomfortable knowing that there is probably something you should be doing. Then if your computer breaks down one day you think it must be your fault. 

Actually taking good care of your computer is not too difficult or confusing. There are things that you can do beyond what I talk about here, but they are not necessary for most home users. See links below if you want to know more.

There are things that EVERY computer owner should do regardless of if you are using Mac or PC and then a few specific things to each operating system.

  1. The MOST important thing to do for any computer is to BACK UP regularly. It can (and does) happen that your computer completely shuts down. You do not want to lose all of the files that you have on your computer, so it is important to have a second copy. You can use an external hard drive, a CD or DVD, or somewhere on the Cloud using a service like Dropbox, iCloud, SkyDrive, Google Drive or one of the many others. Here  is a link to several reviews of free back up software.  When you back up your files are all backed up so that you can get to them again, but not your programs. If you want to have a backup of all of your programs so that you do not have to download them individually again you can use Acronis or Norton Ghost which will "take a snapshot" of your whole hard drive. 
  2. Physical cleaning of the outside of your computer. This is important because the crumbs that get into your keyboard, the dust that gets into the fan and the general grime can cause your computer not to work as well as it can. Here are suggestions for each of the parts.
    • Screen - Use screen cleaner that does not have ammonia or alcohol. For a laptop, set the back of the screen onto a towel or something soft on a table while holding up the keyboard with one hand. Spray the cleaner onto a soft cloth and clean the screen gently with a circular motion.
    • Keyboard - Using a similarly damp cloth clean the outside of the keys. Use compressed air to clean out the crumbs and dust that collects under the keys. You can use an antibacterial wipe on the keys since lots of hands touch a keyboard.
    • Wipe outside with the damp cloth.
    • Clean up the files on your desktop by either putting them into folders that are meaningful OR moving them to other folders in your file system. Each thing on your desktop takes up some of the memory that your computer needs to run. Your computer can slow down if there are too many things just left on the desktop.

    Always do the updates that your computer recommends. Most of the time a window will pop up saying that you should update something and you can press OK or cancel. If you always cancel these things you may be stopping your computer from doing some things that can really help.

    One more good habit to get into is to empty the trash weekly or even daily depending on how much you use your computer. Everything in the trash is taking up some of your memory until you empty it out. The whole reason that the trash can exists is so that you can change your mind and drag something back out of the trash if you decide that you need it. Once you are sure that everything is not needed empty what is there so that it does not take up space.

    Use a surge protector for plugging in your computer. If the electricity is interrupted (like when you are struck with lightening) it will protect your computer from burning out.

    Completely shut down and restart your computer regularly (maybe overnight?). When your computer shuts down and restarts many things happen in the background that clean up some of that background stuff that the computer automatically does.

    PCs (by this I mean any computer that is not a Mac. It could be IBM, HP, Dell or one of many other companies. You should add these practices to the above in order to maintain your computer. 
    • Make sure you have a good Anti-Virus program and that you keep it up to date. There are lots of Anti Virus programs that you can download and you probably have one that came with your computer. There are free ones and also ones that you can pay for like Symantec, Norton or Barracuda. Do not load more than one on your computer because they can conflict with one another and will not be effective. 
      • Regularly download updates because hackers are always busy creating new ways to get into your computer. If you want to avoid getting a virus there are a few things that you can regularly do. 
      • NEVER open links from email if you don't know the person or even if you know them and they JUST sent a link with nothing else. There are hackers that send out email with a link and make it look like it is coming from someone safe. The link might open to a website with an automatically downloading virus 
      • Do NOT trust any email from a bank, PayPal, Amazon, Western Union, or any company that looks legitimate, but tells you to give them an account number, send them money or anything that sounds fishy. It probably is a scam. There are lots of these going around and it is REALLY easy to click on a link from one of these to find out more, but it is better to just delete them. If it is from a real company they will NEVER ask for personal information like account numbers in email. You can often look in the TO: section at the top to see who it was sent to. If it was sent to a bunch of people that you do not know it is spam.
    • Defragment your computer hard drive monthly. As you save, delete and move your files around they create gaps in the hard drive space which are not used because they are small bits stuck inbetween other stuff. Defragmenting pushes all of the stuff together creating more open space. This is less important than it used to be since Hard Drives are bigger than they used to be, but it might help if your computer is running slowly. The Defragmenter is on your computer. Most likely you will find it under System Tools-disk defragmenter.

    On a Mac
    1. Remember the things above that appled to both computers. Macs have TimeMachine installed which can do your back ups on a regular basis. There are some features of other programs that you can pay for which TimeMachine does not have. Macs get fewer viruses, but it can still be an issue. You can pay for a virus protection program or get one free. Here is a link to a free one:
    2. If your Mac gets slow and bogged down there are a few things you can try to see if they will help. Your Mac has something called Disk Utility which is a program that you can run to see if there are any problems on your hard disk and it will fix them. You can find it by clicking on Mac HD, in the Applications File under Utilities. You can also run a program like Onyx which can clean off the HD of any issues that are slowing it down. Some articles I read called for using the Disk Utility regularly, like every three months. 
    MacWorld's Maintenance Calendar - MacWorld offers a free download of a calendar to remind yourself when to do different maintenance tasks.

    For even more on cleaning your mac look at this MacWorld article:

    Monday, February 18, 2013

    Ten Tech Skills That Everyone Should Have: Part Two

    Here are five more tech skills that EVERYONE should have. If you need help with any of these you may want to give "I'm not a" a call at (512)560-2609. I am looking for some people who want to try learning long distance (giving me access to your computer screen so I can see what you are doing), so even if you do not live in Austin give me a call or email to  

    Now to the tech skills:


    Internet/Email/Social Media etiquette - The proper way to use the internet, write professional emails, use social media in relation to your job.

    The main rule to this Net-Etiquette is to consider who you are sending something to. Often people do not think before pressing "send" and end up forwarding lots of junk to other people or saying something private to a whole group. If you use ALL CAPS in an email it is like yelling since there is no intonation when someone reads your note. Also, it is easy to be misunderstood when you are sending a joke or being sarcastic. Be careful.

    The first link takes you to Wikipedia which is a great place to learn many things. This article is helpful, but in some places difficult to understand. The second link is an online book which is much easier to understand and you can choose which pages you are interested in reading.

    Netiquette - Wikipedia

    Netiquette - Online Book - This one is easy to navigate


    Some security and safety issues are: Antivirus, spam, phishing, sharing too much personal information sharing, stalkers and more. It also involves creating good passwords.

    Most of us know what a Virus on your computer is and what spam is, but you may not have heard of phishing although it has been around a long time. Phishing is when someone sends you something in email that looks legitimate, but is not. They often have links to what looks like your bank or paypal, but actually are not. The goal of people who do this is to get secret information from you like your bank account number, passwords or other information.

    When I get anything asking me to click on a link (URL) first I look to see if it is from someone I know. If not, I roll the mouse over the URL and it shows in the bottom left corner where it is really going. It may look, from the address like it is going to Paypal, but when I roll over and look at the left bottom of the screen it shows that actually it is going somewhere else. If I am not sure I just delete it. People who send messages will understand and resend the message if they do not hear from you. You should also never send messages that just have a link and no message.

    Link to more information about phishing

    Cyberstalking means that someone is trying to harass you with multiple emails or saying things that are not true about you through Social Media

    More about Cyberstalking

    Google How You Can Protect Your Family Online - This has lots of links to information that is readable about different things you might need to know.

    Common Craft Video - How to make a good password


    Look for more information about this in the post coming next week called "Clean Up and Maintenance of Your Computer"

    There are so many apps (applications or programs) available and it is hard to know which ones are good and how to choose. 

    Quixey is a helpful search engine that will look for all kinds of apps for you. There is a way to look for only free apps for a PC, paid apps for a mobile device

    FreeNew (FN)
    This is the place to go to find free apps for many different devices and download them easily, even doing several at once.  

    With the addition of computers and the ease of copying and pasting everything Copyright has totally changed. It used to be something that only librarians, inventors, musician, artists and writers needed to think about. If you do anything that you would not like to see replicated somewhere else without your permission (photography is one example) you should take a look at the Library of Congress' Copyright Page. 

    These tips are rewritten and reworked from

    Tuesday, February 5, 2013

    Ten Tech Skills That Everyone Should Have: Part One

    This post is based on a blog that I read online a while ago. I thought it had some helpful tips, so I have edited it and added a bit of my own stuff. It was written by someone who was thinking about what students need to learn about using technology in school. We are all long passed school, so I wonder how many of these skills you feel comfortable with? Here is the URL of the post it is based on:

    Do you know how to do an

    effective Internet search?

    Common Craft videos are a great, simple and fun way to learn things about technology. This one is about searching. It does have some extra words on it to protect people from downloading and using it because they make their money from people who subscribe to use the videos.

    Common Craft Video on Web Search Strategies

    Do you know how to create, edit, and save

    documents, spreadsheets and presentations?

    These are common uses for computers. Almost everyone knows how to create, edit and modify documents. There are many people who are unsure of themselves when it comes to spreadsheets or presentations. Most people use Microsoft Office to create documents, spreadsheets or presentations. 

    There are other low cost and even free options now. Open Office is a free product that is very much like MS Office. You can download it for free and try it out. When you save your document you have to tell it that you want it to be a .doc so that anyone can open it. Otherwise it is automatically an Open Office document and can only be opened with that program. When I downloaded the newest operating system to my Mac none of my Intel programs would work. MS Office was one of the casualties. I have downloaded and used Open Office and it takes the place of word just fine. I have not tried it for presentations.

    Another possibility is Google Drive. It used to be called Google Docs and was upgraded to Google Drive. The difference is that you can download a program to your computer so that you can access your Docs even when you are offline. A future post will have more about Google Drive. It has a word processor, a spreadsheet and a presentation software and some other things. All of your documents are automatically saved and you can even share them with other people and work on the same document collaboratively.

    Do you know how to get help when you need it?

    Recently I have learned that you can find answers to almost everything by just going to Google and typing in what you want to know.  I am soon going to do a post on maintaining your computer and so just to be sure that I don't miss anything important I am going to go to Google and type "computer maintenance". In the first page of links I will probably find links to some very helpful pages. The main problem with this approach can be that you do not understand what they are trying to tell you. If that is an issue here are some links to other sites that may be helpful.

    This site is a lot of fun. It is posted as a letter to your parents where you send them videos about things that they may need to learn. You fill in all of the blanks and then press the PREVIEW button at the bottom and it takes you to where you can watch the video. This is a great way to learn and there are lots of choices of videos.

    Can you type?

    For the longest time I have been told that "soon people will not need to type because they can just talk to their computers." This has been possible for a long time and maybe sometime we will get used to doing it. Until then it really makes a difference in how fast you can get something done if you can type. Here are a few free programs you may want to try:

    Typing Tutor - This one has games

    If you want to pay for a great program my favorite is Mavis Beacon. There are many others. Just do a Google Search!

    Do you know how to use Social Media

    (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, etc...)?

    There is so much to learn in this area. It is like an explosion. The Internet used to be static, meaning that it basically stayed the same. You could not change anything on the Internet. Now everything has changed. You have the power to add, comment, post, and change many parts of the Internet. The most popular is Facebook. Many people have gone to using it as their main way of communicating with other people. There are also many more. I am adding links to many of them. It is not the purpose of this post to explain how to use them all. If you would like me to write specifically about one of them or a part of one of them (more than I have in other posts) please let me know.

    I have run out of time for this posting, so I will have to do the second five in the next post. Let me know what you think I may have missed and what you want to learn about!