Computer Help


Where and How to Get It

Well there's no denying it - No matter how new or how well maintained our computers are, we all encounter computer problems sooner or later. The good news is that we don't have to face them alone. There are a ton of resources available to walk us through computer issues but it may take a little knowledge in knowing how to access them. This article will show you how.

1. Remember help files. It's funny, but people seem to forget that every computer and every program installed on a computer comes with its own help file. Even the operating system of a computer has a help file and it really should be the first place to look for answers. Help files are designed not only to guide the usage of a computer, they're  also designed to solve problems. Inside a help file, look for a section called, "Troubleshooting" (or something similar) when you need to resolve an issue. This section is reserved for solving problems specific to the software or hardware that you're using.

2. Product websites. If you're having a problem with a piece of software or with a hardware part, try the website of that software's or hardware's manufacturer. Most (if not all) manufacturer's reserve a portion of cyberspace and dedicate it to support the products that they build. Microsoft's help desk is good example.

3. Fan sites. Fan sites probably isn't a good name for this resource, but you can find websites that are dedicated toward supporting the users of a particular software program or piece of hardware. We've called them "fan sites" because the maintainers of these sites have no affiliation with the manufacturers that they support! Call them what you will, but their free help is immeasurable and without it, we wouldn't have some of the wonderful workarounds and unique problem solving techniques that we have today.

4. Usenet newsgroups. Another underused resource on the Internet, Usenet newsgroups have hundreds of discussion groups dedicated to some of the most popular computer systems, operating systems, hardware manufacturers, and individual software programs. Sometimes, the representatives of these companies participate, but most of the time, the support in this group is user to user, which is just as valid because you're
working with a team of experienced people.

5. Support Lines. Another source for help that we shouldn't forget are the support systems of various manufacturers. You can reach these systems by calling the phone number associated with the product that you're having trouble with. Calls may be free (1-800 or 1-877 number), or they may cost a small fee (1-900).

6. PC support groups or user groups are another option for help. These are groups that meet in libraries, computer stores, or other local areas and they discuss all sorts of issues related with a particular product. Even if you aren't experiencing a computer or software problem, user groups are fun to participate in and they can help you network into other interests such as job or teaching opportunities.

7. Surprisingly, you may even get a helping hand from the salespersons at your local computer store. We don't recommend that you make this your first pit stop when you experience a problem, but we don't recommend that you rule this option out altogether either. Computer salespersons are hired for a reason - and that's their knowledge. Often, these kind folks can help you resolve an issue over the phone and prevent you form having to buy a costly solution.

As you can see, help is easy to find - You've just got to know where to look for it. Most of the contacts within these resources are extremely friendly and willing to take the time to walk you through a problem at little to no cost. From online discussion groups to the files on your own computer, help is often just a click away.

Keeping Your Computer Clean


If your computer is used a lot and keep it on for hours at a time it's a good idea to clean it every now and again, one of the main problems is dust. Cleaning out this dust can extend your computers life and make keep it running faster and quieter.

If you have a desktop computer then the main place dust accumulates is around the CPU unit and fan areas. To prevent your processor from over heating there is a fan connected to a heat sink which sits on top of the processor to disperse the heat. This fan blows air down on to the heat sink to cool it down as the heat is passed up from the CPU. Because the fan is constantly blowing air it also blows the dust particles in the air in to the heat sink, over time this can clog up the computers heat sink reducing its effectiveness. Because of the dust your fan may have to blow faster making it louder and more costly to run. Normally you can see if the fan is clogged up simply by opening your computer up and looking at it. If your fans heat sink is really clogged up with dust and dirty looking it is a good idea to give it a clean. When dealing with the inside of your computer or anything electrical ensure the power is turned off and it is unplugged first.

The best way to clean out the insides of your computer is by using a can of compressed air and special nozzle, you can buy these from any good computer store. The spray nozzle is useful for getting in to those tricky places. When spraying the compressed air on to your computer, make sure you don't spray it for to long as condensation may form some drops of water. After blowing away any dust from your computers heat sinks give it a gentle wipe over with an anti-static cloth. You can also use the compressed air to clean your power unit and keyboard.

Cleaning the inside of your computer doesn't take long providing you have the correct equipment, and once done you notice an immediate improvement in your computers performance. The fan wont need to blow as hard so it will be quieter and thanks to the processor running at a cooler temperature your whole computer should generally run faster. I try to clean my computer every 4 or 5 months to keep it running efficiently.



Keywords:
clean,pc,computer,cleaning

Computer Games


     A keyboard, mouse and joystick are all you need to play computer games. You can add headphones and speakers to get sound. You can also go for driving wheels if you are playing racing games. You need the latest version of the Windows operating system to install computer games on your computer. However, game developers are trying to run computer games even on Mac and Linux operation systems. They are coming up with versions compatible with Mac and Linux programs. Before installing computer games on your PC, you have to make sure that your computer fulfills certain requirements to run the games properly. Memory, hard drive space, Internet connection speed, operating system, CPU speed and video card memory – all need to be in proper order so as to facilitate smooth and hassle-free installation of computer games.

     Computer games are available on dedicated game-console platforms, such as the Gamecube, Xbox and PlayStation 2. Nevertheless, the most challenging aspect of computer games is to keep pace with the ever-changing PC hardware market. New CPUs and graphics cards are coming up every day. The initial versions of computer games require minimum hardware requirements. But the updated versions may need a faster processor or improved graphics card. That’s why older PCs can’t run the latest computer games at all. Computer games are trying hard to match you with the always-changing hardware segment.

     Another addition to the computer games is networked multi player systems through Internet or LAN connections. They have become a necessity in racing games and other games that require real-time strategy. Computer has come a long way from the era of Spacewar in 1960, when the games were only text-based. However, with the introduction of the mouse, the text has been replaced with graphics. Computer game developers are always trying to infuse some new features to make the games more sophisticated.


Keywords:
Computer Games, Free Computer Games, Online Computer Games, Kids' Computer Games

Accessorizing Computers (for old Operating System)



What Comes Out of the Box is a Really Just a Starter Kit

Yesterday, we spent about three hours trying to convince a client of ours that brand new computers just don't come equipped with the all things that most computers need in a PC. We tried to convince him that a fully functional computer is one that is personalized with specially selected hardware and software accessories - and that the computer purchased at the store doesn't come with these things. Unfortunately, all of our convincing was to our avail. Our client insisted that he should never need more than what came with his boxed product and that we were just trying "bilk" more money out of him.

As computer consultants, it's our job and mission to make sure our clients are 100% satisfied when they walk out our offices. But our job is unnecessarily made harder when people don't take the time to learn about computer accessories and familiarize themselves with the limitations of store-bought computers. Hopefully by the time you finish reading this article, you'll understand the lesson that we were trying to teach our client: "What comes out of the box is really just a starter kit."

The typical computer package comes with a CPU unit, keyboard, mouse, and speaker set. That may be just fine for some, but most people require more than that especially in today's "connected" society. Today's users require full multimedia capabilities, a wide range of graphics tools, and accommodations for the various portables we now enjoy. These extras aren't included with "what comes out of the box," and the only way to get them is to accessorize.

To illustrate the importance of accessorizing, we like to use the "plain dough" analogy. Let's say that a brand new computer is a batch of plain dough - waiting to be flavored and baked into something useful. If we want to use this dough to make a delicious batch of chocolate chip cookies, we would need to "accessorize" this dough with chocolate chips and a little brown sugar. If we want to use this dough into in a warm loaf of sesame seed bread on the other hand, we'd need to "accessorize" the dough with yeast and sesame seeds.

Like "plain dough," the brand new computer isn't very useful by itself. It needs accessorizing.

Depending on what's needed, accessorizing doesn't need to be expensive.  In fact, you can get away with paying a minimal amount for extra software and hardware if these accessories are for children. It's when these accessories are work requirements or when they're needed to produce works of quality for any other reason that they can become rather expensive. And this expense applies to microphones, digital cameras, PDAs, scanners, video cams, and more.

Regardless of cost, it's important to understand that accessories can become "necessities," and that the best time to get them is the moment you buy a new computer. Waiting too long to accessorize can cause more problems than necessary because while you wait, manufacturers continuously develop new technologies - technologies that your computer won't be able to accommodate in the future. Once you're ready to accessorize, the new products on the market are too advanced for your computer and they just won't work. This is a typical problem experienced by those who want to use hardware designed for Windows Vista on a Windows XP or Windows 2000 machine.

Introduction to Programming



Controlling Your Computer with a Programming Language

In a previous article, we introduced automating some tasks with MS-DOS batch files. In this article, we're going to introduce programming and describe how it can be used to control the way your computer works. Normally, computer novices aren't interested in controlling the computer. New computer users are typically interested in learning more about how the thing works. However they may be surprised to learn that programming increases computer knowledge as a whole and it can help to diminish the fear associated with using a new computer.

Programming a computer is creating a sequence of instructions that enable the computer to do something.1 The people who program computers (called programmers) use a programming language to communicate with a computer. You might have heard of some of these languages in the past such as Visual Basic, C++, or Fortran. There are hundreds of other programming language and neither one is better than the other. Most of them are capable of performing the same tasks and achieving the same goals. A programmer chooses one language by a simple preference.

Each of these languages differ by the way they communicate with a computer however, and the commands that they follow are very specific. Not a single command of one language can be interchanged with the commands or language of another. But all of them can be used to control a computer.

Now it would be impossible to teach you how to program any language in a single article. But we can still introduce you to some of programming's most basic concepts - starting with the commands we talked about earlier. Commands are the instructions that a computer follows to perform an action. 2 To make them work inside of a program, programmers assign commands to objects like buttons for example.

The commands in a program are pretty useless unless they have some data to act on so programmers either give the programs some data to work with (list of names or numbers for example) or they make the program generate it's own data. Sometimes, the data comes from an outside source like the Internet or the computer that the program runs on. The data that a program receives is called input and data that the program generates is called output.

Other times, the data is unknown. If the program were working with a simple algebra equation like, "x + 5 = y," the variables "x" and "y" would be unknown pieces of data. Or if a program were to calculate a date "x" days from now, the variable "x" would be an unknown piece of data until we tell the program what "x" is. In programming, it's sometimes required to work with unknown pieces of data.

That's when conditions come in handy. Conditions allow a program to perform an action based on the outcome of a previous command.3 Using this type of instruction, we could instruct a program to do one thing if the "x" variable in our latter example turned out to be 7 days, and then do different thing if the variable turned out to be 3 days.

Commands, data, variables, and conditions help build the most simple programs and there are certainly many more components of any programming language. But when they're typed into a programming language and compiled to create a an executable file (a file ending with the .exe extension), they turn into a software application. 

As we mentioned earlier, you can use a programming language to control your computer. By using simple commands, you can program your computer to perform mathematical tasks, fill out web forms, compose an email message and send it off, or any number of other things. If you're interested, you may find Visual Basic is one of the most easiest programming languages to learn. Visual Basic is an object-oriented programming language and it automatically codes much of a program the minute a programmer drags a button onto a screen.

1 Source:  WordWeb Pro 4.51
2 Source: http://www.neobasic.biz/basics.htm
3 Source: http://www.neobasic.biz/basics.htm

Dust Kills



Cleaning the Unit Fan is Essential Computer Care

Between taking care of the household, the kids, the pets, and the district PTA, computer care is probably one of the last things that you think of doing on a regular basis.  Without a regular maintenance schedule however, you could find out (the hard way) that a neglected computer is an energy hog - one that works harder than it needs to and one that could be a financial burden to replace.

Let's talk about maintaining hardware.  So much emphasis is put on maintaining a computer's operating system that we sometimes forget how important it is to maintain a computer's hardware components. Since there can be quite a few components to take care of, let's talk about the most important one.

The most important component of a computer's hardware system is its fan. The fan is located on the computer's CPU unit and when that thing gets clogged with dirt and dust, it can run down a computer faster than you can say, "Something's wrong with my computer and I don't know what it is!" In short, the fan is responsible for keeping a computer's motor cool and this motor is what keeps the computer's hard drive and peripherals functioning the way you need them to, which translates to "fast."

A dirty fan doesn't rotate fast enough to keep that motor cool and a completely clogged fan just stops rotating altogether. This causes the computer's motor to work harder - and a harder working motor can raise the electric bill! Worst case scenario: the motor can overheat and stop working as well. No motor equals no computer.

Keep your computer's fan clean by preventing the fan from getting dirty or dusty in the first place. Use the computer in a dust-free environment and never smoke around it. Nicotine and tar mean certain death when it comes to computer fans, however should you find a need to clean the fan, do so with extreme care.

It's quite easy to cause more damage from cleaning so if you're not comfortable with cleaning your PC yourself, take it to a shop for servicing. Otherwise, you can unplug and disassemble the computer to do it yourself.

You'll need a can of compressed air and an anti-static rag to remove stubborn clumps of dust. Hold the can perfectly vertical and spray the fan being careful not to spray the dust off the fan onto other sensitive parts of the computer like circuit boards or inside the motor casing. Wipe up remaining dust with your anti-static rag and then reassemble the computer.

One thing that you certainly don't want to use to remove computer dust is a vacuum cleaner. Although using a vacuum cleaner seems to make more sense, the strong suction of a vacuum cleaner can actually spark damaging static electricity or dislodge loose cables. You also don't want to use oil-based cleaners. Although Pledge may dust your wooden tables and cabinets to a perfect shine, the oil inside a cleaner like this will erode sensitive computer parts. Stick to a liquid-free dusting method and your dusting routine will be safe enough to repeat as often as you need.

As previously mentioned, preventing dust from entering the computer is extremely important and will reduce the need to open and dust your system in the first place. The severity of outside elements (smoking, humidity, pets, etc.) will ultimately determine how often you'll need to de-dust your machine. But as an average, you shouldn't need to perform this procedure any more than once or twice a year.

The entire exercise should take no more than twenty minutes tops and once complete, you'll immediately see and hear the difference in your machine. The computer's keyboard and mouse will run more smoothly, hardware won't take as long to connect, and the entire machine won't be as loud as one that's corroded with ugly dust bunnies.

Networking Home Computers



Increasing Productivity With the Whole Family

Have you ever thought about networking your computers at home? If you have a small collection of computers around the house (and a small collection of computer users), you can connect each one of those computers to one another and share data, software, and hardware including a single Internet connection. There are many creative uses for home networking, however it's an ideal situation when upgrading each computer to the same capability is financially out of the question. On a home network, each computer has access to the equipment of the better machine in the group as if that equipment were their own.

Connecting computers with either an Ethernet cable or a Wireless connection can create a home network. The easiest and cheapest method uses an Ethernet connection, which requires a series of network cards, a cable for each computer, and a router. The network card is similar to the old modems we used in the past to connect to the Internet, however in a home network, it's used to communicate with every computer that's connected to it.

You'll want to first, select the computers that will connect to each other and then install the network cards inside each of them. Then you'll connect a cable to each computer that will communicate with the server. These cables won't connect to the server directly. Instead, they'll connect to the router. To enable Internet access for each computer, this router will need to connect with a modem of the host machine.

Once the hardware is set up correctly (you'll need to read the instruction manual of your equipment for details), you can then setup the network from Windows on each machine. Within Windows, you can set up a home network similar to the way that you set up an Internet connection. Only this time, you'll set up a LAN (Local Area Network) connection.

Windows should walk you through setting up a LAN after starting the computer and once complete, you can begin to connect one of your machines to the network. You can do this through Internet Explorer by typing in the address and password required to access the router (the address and password required to access the router will be in the router manual).

Connected to the network, each computer can send files back and forth, open programs on a remote computer, play the sound files and videos located on another computer, and share a single Internet account to browse the web, download files, or chat with someone in an entirely different country.  If a single printer is available on only one computer in the network, every connected PC can send documents to it and print them out. Kids will enjoy the ability to play multi-player games and adults will enjoy the ability to blast a single message to everyone at once or maintain a group schedule.

Since we're describing a home network that will connect to the Internet, you're strongly advised to install a protective firewall program to thwart Internet viruses, worms, or other damaging spyware code. Firewalls prevent - but they don't repair. Only anti-virus and anti-spyware programs can reverse damage. So you should install a firewall on the computer that grants access to the computer, and then install an anti-virus and anti-spyware program on each of the remaining computers in the network.

If you have files that shouldn't be shared (bank statements, credit card information, etc.), you can restrict their access in one of several ways. You can put them in a new folder and then remove the "read" permissions for that folder. Or you can specify who can (and who cannot) access specific files with a password from within Windows Control Panel.

Programs Included With a New Computer



Are they good enough to stand on their own?

The Windows operating systems already comes with a useful collection of pre-installed programs and even some games. But one of the first things that people do is download a butt-load of new programs as soon as a brand new system is plugged in the wall and connected to the Internet. This article looks at some of the programs that are included with most new systems and then asks the reader to consider if they're sufficient.

NotePad and WordPad. All Windows systems include the two text editors, "NotePad," and "WordPad." Notepad is a plain text editor while WordPad is a rich text editor. Both files are capable of opening plain text, however WordPad can open Windows Write files (an earlier version of WordPad) as well as rich text files. WordPad can also save documents as plain text, rich text, and MS Word documents. So with WordPad having the ability to read and create rich text; embed objects (sound, pictures, and video); and manipulate fonts, we have to wonder if other word processors, which do the same thing, are really necessary. Although WordPad is certainly no match for Microsoft Word's internal spell and grammar checker or Word's Internet linking capabilities, we believe it's a great introduction to word processing in general for computer novices.

Address Book. There are hoards of advanced contact database programs floating around the Internet and on store shelves, but Windows provides a completely competent contact database of its own simply known as "Address Book." This small compact utility allows users to organize contacts by name, location, group, or number and it give users ample space to fully describe each. Compared to Microsoft's Access database program, its user-friendly Address Book is a Godsend to new computer users.

Calculator. Calculator has been a Windows accessory even from its first debut in Windows 1.0. For the life of us, we can't figure out why anyone other than a rocket scientist would want to install a different version than this free one that comes pre-installed. Windows calculator has two interfaces: an easy one, and a scientific one. So perhaps a rocket scientist could fare well with Windows Calculator after all!

Paint. Windows' Paint program allows users to make changes to existing graphics, or create brand new ones at no additional cost. Interestingly, we can count at least ten different graphics packages that are more popular and widely used than this free one. While it doesn't offer as many editing tools, it does provide the essentials and it can open/save graphics in .bmp, .gif, and.jpg format (the latter two being the most commonly format used for Internet eye candy).

Media Player. Real Player and QuickTime are the first programs we think of when we think about multimedia. But Windows Media Player, also free and pre-installed, does a fine job at transmitting Internet-bound sound and video. With this application, you can easily listen to .wav files, .midi files, and even tune into a little Internet radio if you like.

System Tools. Although there are too many to list here, Windows provides more than a handful of useful utilities that will monitor system resources, organize files, repair damaged disks, and more. Yet and still, you can easily find similar tools for sale at computer outlets and download libraries.

What's going on here?

The truth of the matter is that the programs pre-installed are great tools for the beginning computer user. At some point down the road, usage will dictate a need for more powerful applications. We may need a word processor that can convert a document into an HTML page or PDF document. We may need a calculator that solves geometric problems. Or we may need a multimedia tool that lets us create our own videos as well as watch them. These capabilities aren't included with new systems, but there's no reason why we can't exploit the tools that we're given to their fullest.

Customizing Your Computer with Preferences



Making Your Computer Work with You - Not Against You

Although you did not design or build your computer, you can turn it into a device that responds to your way of using it as if you were its original engineer or programmer. This is because the computer is a mere platform - a blank canvas, if you will - waiting for you to direct its operation or paint the picture of the perfect machine. All this is possible from making just a few changes in your computer's current configuration.

Your computer's main configurations are housed in Windows Control Panel. Within this small section of Windows, you can make some major changes from the way that your computer looks to the way that your computer responds to the people who use it. But your specifications don't just apply to Windows, they also apply to the many software programs that are installed onto the computer (not to mention that many software programs can be further customized through their own configurations). We aren't going to cover them all, but we will introduce some of the most popular so that you can get a feel of the control over your system that these configurations give you.

Users. Before we get into the individual settings, it's important that you understand that each set of configurations you make is specific to the users that sit down in front of a computer. Changes made to a system by one person will differ from the changes made by another. Enabled by a username and password, individual desktop settings (icons, background picture, and other settings) are available after logging onto Windows.

Display Properties. Through Display Properties, a user can change the background of the Windows Desktop, add a screensaver, change the overall color scheme and fonts of Windows, and adjust a computer's color depth and/or resolution (screen area). Not just a bunch of preference settings, display properties help individuals who have to deal with visual problems.

Accessibility Options. Speaking of visual problems, another setting that's useful is accessibility options. This setting allows people with disabilities to use a computer that accommodates vision and hearing problems.

Keyboard and Mouse Options. The keyboard and mouse controls give users the option of speeding up or slowing down the movements of both of these peripherals. For those entering the United States from a foreign country, users will appreciate how Windows grants use of keyboard layouts native to their original language. Other uses will appreciate the different selection of cursors and the ability to add additional ones.

Passwords. Since the computer in use may be shared with others, Passwords gives the almighty administrator the means to determine whether all users will share the same preferences and desktop settings or if users can customize preferences and desktop settings. 

Regional Settings. Things get really personal in Regional Settings - as this configuration makes changes according to a user's location and language. Options available can accommodate a person's preference for the display of numbers, currency, time, and date format.

Sounds Properties. Multimedia fans can create a rich PC environment filled with sound through this setting. Sounds can be assigned to numerous events and they don't even need to be the default sounds installed by Windows. Users can download sounds from the Internet or create their own sounds with a microphone.

Dialing Properties. Even the way a user connects to the Internet can be customized. Through Dialing Properties, users can determine how a phone and modem dials into an Internet service provider.

From just these basic configuration options, you can create your own experience with a computer each time you sit down in front of one. Customizing your PC is what makes using a computer truly unique and enjoyable, so have fun and build a situation at home or a work in which you'll love to work with everyday. Should you feel a little nervous about it at first, remember that your computer's original configuration can be saved to a back up file should you ever want to restore it to the same state that it was in when you first bought it.

Protecting Children Online



Steps Toward Making Your Computer "Weirdo-Proof"

It's an unfortunate fact of reality, but children are the most victimized computer users on the Internet today. The good news is that there are some practical steps you can take to protect your children from sexual predators, hackers, and other seedy individuals who want to cause harm. This article will describe a few of them.

The first step in protecting your children at the computer is to prevent their access to  passwords. This will keep them from sharing passwords with others and inadvertently enabling hacking into your system. If you think about it, there's no reason why a five, seven, or even twelve year old needs to know the passwords to sensitive areas on the computer unless you've given them permission! In fact, children don't need to know the password used to access the Internet either. It may be a hassle to type it in each time they want to get online, but it's better to know the times that they connect than to have them sneak online without your permission and knowledge of their activities.

The second step towards protecting your children online is using the computer together. Siting next to your child while he or she peruses the Internet, you can guide him or her to make safe and intelligent decisions. You can approve websites and bookmark them together. You can monitor the conversations your children have with their friends and teach them appropriate online behavior at the same time. You can make recommendations and create a private time for quality time as well.

The third step involves blocking access to inappropriate areas altogether. You and your children may not always agree about what's appropriate, but as a guardian, you're in control and you're ultimately responsible for their safety. Take the time to investigate software tools that put you in control and allow you to block access to certain websites. If you use an online service like AOL (America Online), you can use its internal Parental Control settings to block access to various chatrooms and websites. You could even block instant messaging and email from anyone who isn't a fellow AOL user.

Other tools available online operate similar to the way that AOL's Parental Control settings work, however no collection of tools could replace the reinforcement of mom and dad. Never let your children speak with strangers and never leave them alone at the computer unattended. Children just don't have the experience that adults have and they don't have the skills required to handle inappropriate conversations, emails, or images found online.

NOTE: Some of these tools include kid-specific web browsers that will visit pre-approved websites. Others include browser plug-ins that won't allow access to online areas that contain forbidden keywords.

Another step requires teaching your children to never ever volunteer personal information. Under no circumstances, should children give their personal names, home addresses, phone numbers, or school information to anyone over the Internet regardless of the situation.  In the even this information is required to enter a contest of some sort, be sure that you're the one who makes the decision to supply it and that you're the one who does it.

Performing all of these steps won't be easy. However you can help minimize resistance to your monitoring efforts by explaining why you're taking these precautions. Smaller children will probably enjoy the time you spend together at the computer, but older children and pre-teens may resent it. To help build a case for your concern, you might want to show your older children a few news stories that exemplify the dangers that unsupervised children are exposed to. The newspaper is unfortunately full of examples but with your help, we can reduce them world-wide.

Open Source Software



If you've spent any lengthy amount of time on the Internet, you've probably heard of open source software but might not have fully understood what it is and why it even exists.  This article will describe this recent phenomenon and describe some of its benefits for the software using community.

In a nutshell, open source software is software made by everyone - for everyone. The hopes behind its development is that through its open access, it will evolve into something that represents the true desires of computer users. Through a wide network of user involvement, the software in question is enhanced and debugged without costs or administrative politics.

Traditionally, software is developed behind closed doors. A team of professional coders build it but the community at large isn't part of its conception. It's costly to produce and as you can probably guess, that cost is passed on to the end user: the consumer. Open source software on the other hand is free. Free to download, free to install, free to use, free to modify, and free to share.

Started over twenty years ago, it's a phenomenon that is gaining in both popularity and exposure. In its first conception, open source gave birth to the World Wide Web as we know it today. The Internet as a whole is the result of free permission to access the web, use the web, contribute to the web, and share the web with others. But it certainly hasn't stopped there. In the not too distant past, Netscape converted its once commercial version of its Navigator web browser to open source. And today, open source is venturing into the commercial realm as well.

At first thought, the idea of open source may sound just plain crazy to those who earn a living from software development. But the facts point to a different prediction. Open source software puts companies in a terrific position to re-brand and re-position themselves in a market that they may have not been able to reach before. In the business world, open source is all about image and when consumers witness corporations contributing (instead of selling) to the buying public, they gain big favor in the eyes of their users (plus tremendous opportunities to sell other items).

Inviting the public inside a product's development builds community and trust. It also sets the platform for increased reliability. Fans of open source programs are adamant about reliable software and highly criticize commercialized versions for being buggy and error-prone. Avid fans even proclaim commercialism is the cause of shoddy software.

Another benefit that open source brings to light is the speed at which its products are developed, enhanced, supported and distributed. This is because the people who regularly contribute to an open source product do so for unmotivated reasons (other than perhaps to feed the ego.) They're highly talented, they're available, and they care. Bringing money into any project can almost mean instant death. It can kill motivation, desire, and a true willingness to create a good product. In a commercial setting, participants work for a paycheck rather than for the product. And this is what puts open source projects far ahead of its monetized competition.

As a software user, this means you can contribute to an open source project as well, and help to develop it into a product that reflects your direct preferences. You aren't "stuck" using open source software the way you would be stuck using an expensive word processor or database. You have the same access to open source software as its programmers have and in essence, you are your own customer!

Perhaps at this point you're wondering where you can get in on this wonderful opportunity. There are plenty of open source opportunities sprinkled across the Internet and they can be easily found though any search engine. Google "open source project" and you'll be sure to find more resources than you can shake a stick at!

Viruses


What They Are And One Reason Why People Make Them

Over recent years, computers have become synonymous with viruses and viruses don't show any signs of disappearing any time soon. In recent news, LiveScience.com reported that "Before the month is even done, April has set a record for virus e-mails."1 In the past, we would be comfortable in telling new computer users not to worry about viruses and that catching a computer virus is rare. Today, that would be some of the worst advice we could give anyone. As reported in countless news reports, computer viruses are rampant and they're extremely worrisome. This article will describe what viruses are and then point you in the direction of some rather unique protection and prevention.

In short, a computer virus is a software program designed to destroy or steal data. It attacks computers via distribution - often unknowingly - through email attachments, software downloads, and even some types of advanced web scripting. Viruses that destroy data are known as Trojan horses, viruses that explode their attacks are called bombs, and viruses that duplicate themselves are called worms. Some viruses are a combination of each, however they can be further identified according to where they're located on a computer.

A virus originating from the boot sector of a computer is a boot-sector virus and this nasty devil does its dirty work the moment a computer is turned on. A virus that attaches itself to (infects) other programs is a file virus and activates the moment that an infected program starts. File viruses may also be referred to as parasitic viruses, however should a virus work from both the boot-sector and from an infected program, the virus is then known as a multipartite virus.

Why viruses exist remains a mystery, however we had privy access to the mind behind a virus programmer who explained his motivation behind his destructive inclinations. Apparently, this person had a deep grudge against a popular online service which shall remain unnamed. In this hacker's mind, the online service failed to do a quality job in protecting children from online smut and as retaliation, he created and distributed a virus to as many file libraries of this service as he could. His intentions were to disable the computers of the online service's users so much that they wouldn't be able to connect for days. In his mind, the loss of connection meant loss of revenue for the online service.

Although the malicious code that this person generated may have worked for a small percentage of users, sufficed to say, the online service continued on and still exists today. Despite his motivation or intention, his efforts were null.

We wouldn't be surprised to learn if other motivations behind spreading viruses were similar to this person's, but that doesn't justify the damage that viruses do. Innocent people become pawns for the evil plans of others who've convinced themselves they're doing the "right" thing.

To protect a computer from getting a virus, or clean a virus from a computer system once infected requires the use of an antivirus utility. But may be something else we can do. Perhaps we could make an effort to educate the people who want put viruses into the public about ways to display dissatisfaction with a service or product that don't involve harming innocent parties. In doing so, we just might reduce the number of virus news stories and protect our own investments at the same time.

Smartphones



What's the craze all about?

If you haven't heard of smartphones, we'd like to learn where you've been hiding all this time. Smartphones have been all over the news and chances are, you do know what they are - only you know them under a different name. Smartphones are mobile phones with computer like capabilities.

What's that? Aha! Yes, you've not only heard of them, you've probably seen them as well.  Packed with Internet access, email capabilities, address books, and a whole lot more, cell phones have come a long way since their first debut. But be careful not to confuse these newest toys with sandbox devices.

Sandbox devices are tools that come pre-loaded with things like calendars, calculators, and a notepad. What differentiates them from smartphones is that users can add (download and install) additional programs to smartphones and they seemingly become mini portable computers for the people who use them. That - and the ability to edit the content that sits on them - is what makes these phones "smart." 

Some of the more popular brand names include the Blackberry, PalmSource, Nokia, and Windows CE. Yet the craze is extending to even some off-brand company names. Today, it's hard to find a cell phone that doesn't offer some sort of "smart" technology because it's in such a high demand. The convenience of having information at our immediate access is phenomenal - so much so that thousands of programmers have jumped on the opportunity to build unique applications specific to these small machines.

As a result, you can find tons of games, databases, GPA systems, weather reporting programs, and even small encyclopedias on these things - each accessible not at the click of a mouse - but at a few presses of a free thumb. Of course a mini keyboard is available for the text-messaging fan or for the poor fellow who can't seem to get away from the office. In the latter case, don't be surprised if you find the entire Microsoft Office suite displayed within a screen no bigger than a matchbook.

Is this a phase? That's highly doubtful. The market for these devices extends from the highly technical and professional all the way to the pre-teen socialite. The product crosses all demographics and thanks to decreasing costs - it sees no economic boundaries as well. The Wikipedia encyclopedia claims that "Out of 1 billion camera phones to be shipped in 2008, Smartphones, the higher end of the market with full email support, will represent about 10% of the market or about 100 million units."

But what is it that makes smartphones so appealing? As mentioned, smartphones give us the ability to not only carry our data around with us where ever we go, it also gives us the ability to edit that data any place - any time. In today's "reality" based generation, we're always looking for the opportunity to capture and relive a moment. And we want to share that moment with others. At best, smart phones give us the opportunity to express ourselves impromptu with entertaining results.

Attempting to do the same with a bulky desktop computer or laptop is to cumbersome. Even some of the smallest peripherals (digicams, digital cameras, etc.) don't give us the same opportunities that smart phones do. Being able to carry around a device for communication, creation, recording, and editing simply compliments the need for today's generation to do more and then do it, faster!

Computer Security



In Today's Society, Protecting Your Computer Is A Requirement

Advances in computer technology is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it affords us quick and easy access to numerous conveniences such as bank statements, favorite shopping centers, school and health records, and more. On the other hand, it can also grant the same access to those who aren't supposed to get it. Although it's a rare occurrence, hacking has become the biggest criminal nuisance in computer history.

Make no bones about it. There's nothing innocent or cute about the hacker. Today's hackers aren't the pimply-faced teen rebels that you might be thinking of. Instead, this generation of hackers are grown individuals who are more than likely earning a living by stealing the identities of innocent, law abiding individuals and then selling those identities to others who want to slip by the system. And the only protection against these seedy people is prevention.

Computer security couldn't be more important than it is today and that's why we've taken the time to introduce it to you.  You can reduce the probability of experiencing identity theft by making your computer as hacker-proof as possible. All that's needed is a little software and a lot of common sense.

1. Install an anti-virus/anti-spyware program. Anti-virus/anti-spyware software will stop malicious code from downloading and installing onto your computer while you peruse the Internet. Known as viruses, worms, or spyware, this malicious code can destroy important files and render your computer good for only one thing: sending sensitive data back to the server of an identity thief.

2. Don't store sensitive data on your computer in the first place. Should your computer get infected with a virus, worm, or piece of spyware, you can thwart the individuals responsible by not storing your personal information on your PC so that when and if your computer does send back data - it won't be anything valuable. Hackers look for things like full names, social security numbers, phone numbers, home addresses, work-related information, and credit card numbers. If these things aren't saved onto a computer, there's nothing critical to worry about other than restoring your computer to a non-virus condition.

3. Don't open files without scanning them with an anti-virus/anti-spyware program. In the past, the warning was to avoid opening files from people that you don't know. Today it's really not safe to open files from anyone (without scanning the files) because that's how viruses get spread - through files - even by mistake. So even though your co-worker may have emailed a funny video, it's no more safe to open than a video downloaded from a complete stranger. Be safe and scan each and every file you download from the Internet or receive through email regardless of where it came from.

4. Create a barrier between your computer and prying eyes. Anti-virus/anti-spyware programs are only effective after the effect. But you can prevent identity theft from occurring by installing a firewall. A firewall is software that checks all data entering and exiting a computer and it then blocks that which doesn't meet specified security criteria (user-defined rules).1

5. Don't click on website links in spam messages. In an effort to obtain personal information, some spammers will send email that asks you to click on a link. The email messages are often disguised as important messages from well-known online establishments, and they often try to scare their readers into clicking links with threats of closing an account of some sort. Sometimes the links are harmless and attempt to con the reader into volunteering personal information (credit card number), but other times the links attempt to download harmful software onto a computer.

Your best protection against computer crimes is your own knowledge. Hopefully the suggestions above will prompt you into taking appropriate action and into protecting your computer with the suggested tools. In doing so, you'll not only protect yourself, you'll prevent the spread of these malicious activities and protect others at the same time.

Cheap and Fast Software




An Introduction to Shareware

Visit any computer store today and you'll find what seems like miles and miles of software on sale. Certainly enticing buys, there are a few problems with buying software off the shelves. On the shelf, software - otherwise known as "commercial software" - can be expensive, and incompatible, and outdated when compared to what's available online. Fortunately, there's an alternative to commercial software and although it isn't new, it's one of the most under-exploited opportunities in the computer industry.

We're talking about shareware - software that you can try before buying.

Shareware has a long history and was rather popular in the days where BBS (bulletin board systems) reigned the online industry. It hasn't gone anywhere, but its competition with commercial software is fierce - so fierce that it tends to fall on the back burner among new computer users. This is unfortunate because shareware has so many advantages over commercial software.

One of those advantages is its cost. On the whole, shareware is generally cheaper than commercial software. But don't misinterpret the cost. With shareware, cheap does not equal low-quality and there are plenty of examples that prove shareware often outperforms the quality of commercial software time and time again. How much savings are we talking about? You could purchase a quality word processor, spreadsheet, database program, or system utility anywhere from a mere $15 to under a hundred. This is almost unheard of in stores like Best Buy, Circuit City, or Egghead, yet the shareware programs offered within this price range rival even Microsoft's Office suite.

Another advantage that shareware has over commercial software is its compatibility. We're not saying that shareware is compatible with all operating systems. What we're saying is that since we can try shareware before paying for it, we can determine if the software is completely compatible with our systems first. In other words, we can discover whether the software performs the way we want them to and should anyone try to do the same with commercial software, they'll be in for a big disappointment.

Commercial software policy doesn't even allow for returns, let alone "borrowing" them to try them.

The last advantage that shareware has over commercial software (but certainly not the least) is its applicability. Plain and simple, shareware is the best bet when you want to keep on top of the latest release of a particular program. Sure, computer stores do their best to keep their inventory up to date, but when you can download version 5.6042 of a shareware program as opposed to buying a commercial 3.0 version from the local computer shop, there's just no comparison.

Which brings up our next point. Just where does one get shareware? Shareware is all over the Internet and it's really hard not to bump into it. The most popular places to find shareware is within thousands of download libraries, however the companies (and even independent programmers behind shareware) are increasingly offering shareware from their own websites. A simple Google or Yahoo search for a particular type of program will yield all sorts of results that point you toward items that you can try before you buy.

Be aware however, that because shareware is not commercial software, you may not experience a full program the way you would if you bought the software out of a box. Shareware may or may not be limited - meaning that some functions may not be available to you until the program is paid for. These limitations are often small and don't interfere with the way its full version operations. They're really just implemented as a way to prompt payment. Remember that shareware is not freeware. You shouldn't try to use shareware as commercial software without paying for it.

About the only thing that's similar between shareware and commercial software is the way in which they may be bought. With a credit card, you can be the new owner of your own software within minutes.

Becoming a Video Game Expert You've Got The Skills, So Why Not?


If you find yourself playing video games day-in and day-out, you might be a prime candidate for establishing yourself as a gaming expert. All you need is a good knowledge of a wide range of games and gaming systems, and of course, a lot of patience. The rewards are phenomenal and in the end, you'll be a better person for it.

So what is an expert anyway? Just what is it that qualifies anyone to be an expert on anything? Since there aren't any colleges that offer degrees in this genre, we can qualify any gamer as an expert who has the qualities described above. So if you have the knowledge or ability to play a game skillfully - and you enjoy solving problems, you could probably claim the rights to an expert status.

Just be sure that you ensure your own growth in the gaming industry. Part of being an expert is admitting that there's always more to learn and in the gaming industry, this should never be a hard thing to pull off. By exposing yourself to new games and new game systems, you can turn every opportunity to play with one into an opportunity to learn more than what you already know. In doing so, you'll learn tons of new strategies and widen your resourcefulness as a point of help to others.

You could also make multiple efforts to collaborate with others involved with video games. Get off the game and get out into the public so that you can network and discuss your discoveries with others. Networking gives you the wonderful opportunities to share or swap secrets, teach others, and learn a little something new at the same time.  And the relationships that you build as a result are simply invaluable. There's probably no other way you could gain access to little known gaming secrets than to network among the best gamers around.

If you're completely dedicated toward becoming a gaming expert, consider taking some classes in game programming. Seek out and apprenticeship and find training programs that are offered in both your local area and the gaming industry as a whole. This is an excellent way to learn everything anyone would ever want to know about gaming, and its a good entrance into the gaming industry if you aren't too crazy about making a commitment to a full time gaming career.

You could also subscribe to gaming magazines, participate in online discussion boards, or sign up for book clubs that focus on gaming material.

Take note that your status as a gaming expert may not always be appreciated. Strong criticisms - whether right or wrong - come with the glory of being perceived as the "answer to everything." As an example, you may be rejected for an opportunity that you feel you're perfect for, or you may experience the spew of a less-than-experienced heckler. The first rule of thumb is to not take rejection or spew personally. People may be jealous of your position, or they may want to test you just to see how much you really do (or don't) know. The reasons behind these reactions to your assistance don't really matter as long as you're confident about the quality and value behind your help. A true expert looks past these things and they constantly look for ways to improve themselves.

Computer Help Where and How to Get It




Well there's no denying it - No matter how new or how well maintained our computers are, we all encounter computer problems sooner or later. The good news is that we don't have to face them alone. There are a ton of resources available to walk us through computer issues but it may take a little knowledge in knowing how to access them. This article will show you how.

1. Remember help files. It's funny, but people seem to forget that every computer and every program installed on a computer comes with its own help file. Even the operating system of a computer has a help file and it really should be the first place to look for answers. Help files are designed not only to guide the usage of a computer, they're  also designed to solve problems. Inside a help file, look for a section called, "Troubleshooting" (or something similar) when you need to resolve an issue. This section is reserved for solving problems specific to the software or hardware that you're using.

2. Product websites. If you're having a problem with a piece of software or with a hardware part, try the website of that software's or hardware's manufacturer. Most (if not all) manufacturer's reserve a portion of cyberspace and dedicate it to support the products that they build. Microsoft's help desk is good example.

3. Fan sites. Fan sites probably isn't a good name for this resource, but you can find websites that are dedicated toward supporting the users of a particular software program or piece of hardware. We've called them "fan sites" because the maintainers of these sites have no affiliation with the manufacturers that they support! Call them what you will, but their free help is immeasurable and without it, we wouldn't have some of the wonderful workarounds and unique problem solving techniques that we have today.

4. Usenet newsgroups. Another underused resource on the Internet, Usenet newsgroups have hundreds of discussion groups dedicated to some of the most popular computer systems, operating systems, hardware manufacturers, and individual software programs. Sometimes, the representatives of these companies participate, but most of the time, the support in this group is user to user, which is just as valid because you're
working with a team of experienced people.

5. Support Lines. Another source for help that we shouldn't forget are the support systems of various manufacturers. You can reach these systems by calling the phone number associated with the product that you're having trouble with. Calls may be free (1-800 or 1-877 number), or they may cost a small fee (1-900).

6. PC support groups or user groups are another option for help. These are groups that meet in libraries, computer stores, or other local areas and they discuss all sorts of issues related with a particular product. Even if you aren't experiencing a computer or software problem, user groups are fun to participate in and they can help you network into other interests such as job or teaching opportunities.

7. Surprisingly, you may even get a helping hand from the salespersons at your local computer store. We don't recommend that you make this your first pit stop when you experience a problem, but we don't recommend that you rule this option out altogether either. Computer salespersons are hired for a reason - and that's their knowledge. Often, these kind folks can help you resolve an issue over the phone and prevent you form having to buy a costly solution.

As you can see, help is easy to find - You've just got to know where to look for it. Most of the contacts within these resources are extremely friendly and willing to take the time to walk you through a problem at little to no cost. From online discussion groups to the files on your own computer, help is often just a click away.

Computer Repair Business

Everyone wants to work from home these days. Who wants to commute to an office and sit in a cubicle when you can be just as productive in your own home wearing what you like without having anyone looking over your shoulder?

Whether it’s in business for yourself or over a high speed connection to the office – work at home is hot – and that’s a lot of work to be had for you as an IT entrepreneur.

But before choosing a logo for your Superfixit5000 van it’s important to get down to some fundamentals and proper planning (the logo bit does come – all in good time). Like any other business a proper plan, some research and the ticking of a few key boxes are what will get your venture off the ground and flying high. Here are just a few:

1.    Know your market – home users (duh!), but seriously. Who are they? What do they do? The corporate employees will have their own remote support so you’ll be targeting the entrepreneurial types (like you) and recreational computer users.

2.    Know what to expect from them – what problems will they typically encounter? What should you get up to speed on so you can diagnose and fix their issues quickly and efficiently? More often than not it will be spyware related – expect to see a lot of that.

3.    Know your competition – Who is doing the same, how are they doing it, how much do they charge, what services do they provide and how do they advertise? Do they have special promotions or bundles?

4.    Professionalism is everything – you need professional looking work orders, invoices, website, business cards and flyers that make people take you seriously.

5.    Have a strong brand – Now it’s time for the logo! Have a consistent brand that identifies you, sticks in people’s minds and differentiates from the competition.

6.    Get connected – who can help you build and grow your computer repair business? Where are the best suppliers, can you outsource and project manage the services you don’t provide yourself? Can you quickly refer people to non competing complimentary businesses to fulfil their needs and charge referral/finders fees?

7.    Plan for growth – do this from the beginning. A business plan is a must and you need to be prepared to deal with having to get help when there’s too much work and budgeting to cover quiet periods. Having a growth and investment strategy is what will take your business to the next level and ensure you never have to take orders from anyone else ever again.

Home users and small businesses are in dire need of friendly capable computer professionals to see to their IT needs. To really get the most out of all the potential business you need to put on your entrepreneur cap and think in terms of opportunity – at every opportunity.

When you’re in someone’s home or office looking at their computer problems you’re more than just a fix it person. They’re going to ask you for advice on their IT strategy and will expect you to have answers. Even if they don’t ask, you are guaranteed to see disasters waiting to happen and potential improvements – so think like a consultant and don’t be afraid to make recommendations.

The success of your enterprise will hinge largely on people’s perception of you and how you run your operation. Word of mouth advertising and recommendation is your bread and butter. Go out of your way to overdeliver and meet their needs (including the ones they don’t know about) with a well thought out professional service.

To do that you need a plan and a roadmap – invest the time early to build a solidly founded home computer repair business and you’ll never have to work for anyone else again.

10 Simple Reasons To Remove Spyware From Your Computer



Is your computer been running slower than normal? Are you worried someone may be able to access your computer and steal your private information and use it against you? If so, these are feelings I have shared with you in the past.

Some time back, my 3-year old computer was running so slow that I had to buy a new computer. Or at least I thought I needed a new computer. Then within a matter of weeks of surfing on the Internet, my new computer was also running so slowly. In addition, some programs did not run well on my computer, and I did not recognize some of the programs that were running on my computer. That scared me most. Were these programs that were tracking my keystrokes on my computer or programs I just not remember installing? I knew I had to find a answer and solution fast.

The truth is, we can all put up with a slow computer, but very few of us would want others to have access to the information on our computers, but that is exactly what can happen when spyware or malware is loaded on our computers without our knowledge.

According to Spyware Nuker’s web site, “Spyware applications are programs and files that hide on your PC's hard drive without your direct knowledge. These programs allow hackers and advertising companies to track your every move, both online and even when you work offline. They can track the websites you visit, the items that you buy online, the emails you send and receive, your Instant Message dialog, and worst of all they can even record your credit card number, personal identification numbers, and all of your passwords. If you use dial-up to connect to the Internet then spyware can be used to bill 900 numbers to your phone bill. This is just a short list of the harm that spyware can cause.”

The web site also provides statistics that show spyware is a huge problem effecting many people. "27.3 million Americans have been victims of identity theft in the last five years, including 9.91 million people or 4.6% of the population in the last year alone."

In addition, it is very easy for your computer to become infected with spyware as "The majority of all downloadable games, music, screensavers, etc., can infect your computer with SpyWare or AdWare. Most people do not know that after simply clicking on a random "pop up" ad, their computers may have been infected with SpyWare or AdWare."

No matter how we get spyware, here are 10 very real reasons you don’t want spyware on your computer.

1. Your computer may start running slower
2. Some programs on your computer will not run correctly
3. You may not recognize programs that are now on your computer because they may have been installed there by a spyware related web site or program you loaded on your computer.

In addition, you might be worried that:

4. Someone might be able to read your e-mails
5. Someone might be able to access your e-mail list
6. Someone might be able to see you track the keystrokes you type
7. Someone might be able to access your credit card information on your pc
8. Someone might be able to access your passwords list on your computer
9. Someone might be able to steal your social security number
10. Someone might be able to track all the web sites you visit

As I mentioned, most of these programs get on your computer with out you even knowing, but another frustrating part is I recognized a few of these programs because I remember installing AND uninstalling them! So now I know that when we install some of these handy little utilities to track passwords online or programs to help with e-mail or keep track of the weather, even if we uninstall them, they may not be gone from our computers. They are still in our computers, waiting to spy on us, at the least.

A great way to find and remove spyware is to run a spyware detector and remover. Most spyware detection and removal software today offers a free scan to verify that you do or do not have spyware on your computer.

Computer Desks - How To Make The Most Of Your Workspace


Home computer desks come in a range of styles and sizes, so think carefully before buying to make sure you buy one that meets your needs.  Before you buy a new computer desk, consider what you use your computer for and how much storage space you'll need.  For instance, do you just use it occasionally for surfing the net and sending emails?  Or will you be working from there and doing lots of paperwork?  Another important factor to think about is where your new desk is going to go, and how much space is available in your home office. 

The most common style of computer desk is designed to fit against a wall.  These types of desk usually have lots of divided storage space, such as shelves for your CPU, monitor and printer.  Many come with extra shelving for books, and drawers for pens and other accessories.  Corner computer desks are a space-saving alternative, designed to fit snugly into a spare corner of a room.  L shaped desks are also useful for making optimal use of a small-sized space.  They have more work surface than a standard desk, and are ideal for dividing a room to create a separate working area.

A U shaped computer desk is a practical solution if you're looking for lots of storage space to organize your work.  Children's computer desks are other options to consider, if you have kids or teenagers that need somewhere to study or to play games.  If you're likely to spend any length of time sitting at your desk, it's worth buying a specially-designed ergonomic computer chair that can be adjusted to correctly support your back and encourage a good sitting position.  If you're after a desk that's easy to move around, then a mobile computer cart on wheels could be the answer.  Or perhaps you'd like to be able to hide away your workstation when it's not is use, in which case a computer armorer that blends in with your decor is a possible solution.

Whatever you're looking for, there's so much choice available these days that you're sure to find a desk that suits your needs and budget.  Not only is a computer desk functional, it can look stylish too.  Finishes include wood, laminates, plastic and metal, so there's something to fit in with all styles of furniture and decor.

Computer Consulting Time Constraints


Do a Time Study

Really looking at where you spend most of your time and figure out if there are some things that you're doing that you can afford to delegate (or automate or eliminate).

For instance, if you're sitting there building PCs and putting in motherboards and power supplies 10 hours a week, that's something you can delegate.  If you're sitting and minding the retail traffic in a retail computer store and you have someone else who can do that for a day a week, that is something you can delegate, too.

Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

Think about what you can safely delegate based on the staff that you already have. Then you can free yourself up for a day to a day-and-a-half a week to start working on actively cultivating B2B computer consulting clients.

What to Do With the Extra Time

This delegation can free up some time to go out to networking events, planning, marketing campaigns, going out on sales call and making follow-up phone calls.

The Bottom Line about Computer Consulting Time Restraints

Unfortunately, if you're already working a ton of hours, you somehow just need to find the time.  Think through your time management challenges.  Look at where you really spend the bulk of your time every week and figure out if there are a few things that you can delegate to free up some time for the marketing. Really plan how you're going to develop this part of your consulting business.

Computer Backup


It's happened to most of us; we've lost a document or a folder because there was no computer backup. Whether you lost a few lines you were typing because of power failure or your entire system crashed, computer backup is the only way to prevent such mishaps from destroying your files. Computer backup can be basic or sophisticated, costly or simply the price of your average floppy disk. Depending on your needs and the importance of your files, you will need a computer backup system that reflects your budget and your lifestyle.

Many computer users prefer to keep it simple and back up their data with a floppy disk or by copying and pasting documents. This is the most basic form of computer backup, but it is not satisfactory for everyone. Floppy disks often wear out, and you can have files stored on floppy disks for years that might be not perform if they are stored on old disks. On the other hand, if you use your files quite frequently, your floppy disk could wear out, which creates another problem for your floppy disk storage. If you simply store your document elsewhere on your computer, it might not survive a complete computer crash, although minor annoyances should not interfere with your files. Because of problems with viruses, computer crashes are becoming a more frequent occurrence for many PC users, and therefore, computer backup software is the best option for many consumers.

There are many files that are worth the time and investment involved in obtaining good computer backup software. Examples of such files are:

· Bank records
· Personal documents
· Digital photos
· Address books
· Software downloads
· Special projects

The best computer backup software not only creates a copy of your documents automatically, but it uses encryption algorithms to protect your information from unauthorized access and spyware. Your filename will also be encrypted to protect against intrusions. Most computer backup software is quite user friendly, and new files can be added instantly at the click of a mouse.

In addition to many great features, most computer backup software will enable you to:

· Create new backup programs
· Select files and folders for backup
· Define compression settings
· Choose target of backup
· Store backup info in various locations

The best computer backup programs are not rigid, but allow the user the flexibility to choose where and how their files will be stored. You can choose to have everything copied automatically, or specify which files you wish to have a backup. If you have a large volume of material to store, you can select compression settings, which will minimize the size of your documents and will enable you to store more information. You can also choose where you want your backup information to be stored, and you can place the data in various locations automatically, for instance, in your hard drive, USB stick, Network folder, CD, DVD and Remote FTP Server. You can also create a simultaneous backup communication between a remote FTP server and local storage devices.

Your computer backup software should provide easy user interface, the option to store your data in multiple versions and the capability to restore your files to their original folders. Most programs have a very easy to use help menu, and many have service lines to help customers who wish to communicate with an assistant. You can also obtain special features for your computer backup software, such as a disaster recovery CD or DVD, which will get your computer back up and running after a crash. You can have peer to peer backups for extra protection and virus scanning capabilities that will safeguard your valuable files against tampering.

Computer backup software varies in prices, and it is worthwhile to invest in the best program you can afford, especially if your business depends on valuable files. Don't let an unexpected computer crash destroy your valuable data, but invest in computer backup software today.

A Few Common Computer Errors


Computer errors can pop up when least expected, they can cause the entire system to suddenly shut down, and they can inadvertently corrupt data to the point where it can't be deciphered. Although they can't always be avoided, it's important to remember that computer errors can be corrected. The key is to understand what computer errors are, understand what they mean when they show up, and understand how to minimize their occurrence in the first place.

Basically, computer errors are the result of a number of things that may or may not have anything to do with the way the computer is used. They "operate" whenever there's a conflict among commands. Remember that computers essentially run off of a series of commands and it's usually a smooth process. But when one command conflicts with another command - or when one command asks for a process or information that isn't available, the computer returns results that aren't useable. That's an error.

A prime example of this kind of error is when users attempt to use software that isn't applicable for their system. Almost all software accompanies a list of system requirements which dictates what a computer needs to have in order for the software to work properly. To minimize errors of this sort, always verify that your computer has the required components. A project management program that you're interested in may require a specific operating system, like Windows XP for example. And although this program may install just fine on a Windows 98 machine, it will generate a multitude of errors once its started.

Insufficient memory will cause errors as well. That's why software programs include minimum memory requirements. A program that needs 14MB of memory will generate errors on a computer that only has 4MB of memory if it runs at all. The same goes for disk space, monitor color depth and resolution. In these situations, problems occur the moment that a piece of software attempts to access the things (hardware, memory, space, resolution, etc.) that it cannot find.

Because some programs share common files, errors can also occur when these shared files are not up to date. For instance, let's say that Program A is already installed on a computer and it's working just fine. Then let's say that the user of that computer downloads and installs Program B. Program B uses a file that Program A installed much earlier, but when Program B is run, errors popup. Those errors are the result of Program B attempting to use an outdated (shared) file that was installed by Program A. In order to fix that problem, the user would have to download an updated version of the shared file (which to say the least - is not an easy thing to find or do).

Sometimes, errors occur because a system doesn't have the required drivers or the drivers that are on the system are the incorrect version. Both errors in these cases can be resolved by updating the computer on a regular basis. Microsoft provides a section on its website that can automatically update a computer online and it does this at no cost in an effort to reduce errors like this. Always try to keep your computer updated so that should a program share a file, it will share a file that has been updated on hundreds of thousands of computers, like yours.

This article doesn't even begin to cover the entire gamut of computer errors - but additional information regarding how to get help with a computer issue (including computer errors) can be found in our article titled, "Computer Help" no matter what the problem is.

6 Steps You Can Take To Speed Up Your Computer’s Performance



We live in a fast paced world and we’re always looking for the fastest way to get things done. We barely have time to wait for our burger at the local fast food restaurant, our coffee to brew, our microwave popcorn to pop, so who has time to wait around for a slow computer?

Barring adding more RAM to your computer, there are 6 steps you can take to speed up your computer’s performance. Most of these steps will allow you to speed up your computer, free of charge since they are applications already installed on your computer.

One of the first steps you should take is to empty the Recycle Bin. It’s easy to do. Just point your cursor to the Recycle Bin icon on your desktop, right-click, and choose “Empty Recycle Bin.”

Next, open up your Internet Explorer, go to Tools, Internet Options. Click on “Delete Cookies,” then on “Delete Files.” In the window that appears, check “Delete all offline content” and click OK. Once that’s done, click OK to close the Internet Options window, and close your Internet Explorer.

Those two are steps are the quickest, and simplest ones so that’s why we got them out of the way first. Next, we’ll be conducting a Disk Cleanup. To do this, click on Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Disk Cleanup. The disk cleanup function will now begin calculating how much space you will be able to free up. Once it finishes, it’ll give you a list of files to delete. It should already have some files checked, but you can go through the list and check off all the files you want to delete, then click OK.

Now it’s time to do a disk defragmentation. This can be a long process so you should probably set this up during a time when you’ve got other things going on. For example, set it up, then go watch your favorite TV show, or go mow the lawn, or go workout. You get the idea. To begin go to Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Disk Defragmenter. Click Analyze. If you’re lucky, you’ll get the “You do not need to defragment this volume” call-out, but more than likely, you’ll have to click on “Defragment.” If so, click on it, go do something else and come back in an hour or two.

Once that’s done, it’s time to run a spyware scan. Most people don’t realize how easy it is to get infected with spyware, so running periodic scans is highly recommended. You can use any anti-spyware program you choose. Just be aware that no one program gets rid of everything. To play it safe, you should run at least three different programs. You might be surprised by what they find. You may have had spyware running on your computer and not even know it. Once the scans are complete, and all that spyware is taken care of, it’s time for the last step.

This last step is to run an anti-virus scan. Hopefully you have an anti-virus program installed on your computer. If not, I highly recommend you get one as soon as possible. Once the anti-virus program is set, go ahead and run it. This could take anywhere from 20 minutes to a couple hours depending on how many files you have on your hard drive so once again, set it, and then go do something else. Come back in about an hour.

Once all the steps are complete. Restart your computer and you’ll be surprised at how completely nimble it now feels. It’s a good idea to follow these 6 steps at least once per week (some steps you can even set up to be done automatically). By doing this, you will keep your computer performing almost like it did when you first bought it.

5 Steps To Staying In Shape At Your Computer




Have you ever sat at your computer for hours at a time? I mean hours and hours at a time. Have you skipped lunch? Have you eaten at your desk? How productive are you with no break at all? Have you ever felt fatigued after working all day?

Most people work at their computers 8 to 10 hours a day. That is 40 to 50 hours a week. People work harder and harder. They think they are productive with working straight all day long. Some people feel that they get more done. However, our bodies are designed to move. The long hours on your computer causes your muscles to stiffen. Your body becomes fatigued. Your productivity therefore starts to go down the drain.

What can you do to energize your body? What can you do to be more productive? Here are 5 steps in staying in shape at your computer.

1. Stretch your body. Stand up, raise your hands above your head and reach for the ceiling. Hold this stretch for 5 seconds. Then repeat it 3 more times.

2. Shoulder rolls. To loosen those tight, stiff shoulders, stand up and bring one arm backwards then the other arm. Repeat 5 times.

3. How about your neck? Sit up straight and hold your head high. Relax your neck. Gently touch your right ear to your right shoulder. Hold for 5 seconds. Then touch your left ear to your left shoulder. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat this 3 times.

4. You only have one back. Take care of it. Stretch your back while you are sitting in your chair. Slowly bend your upper part of your body between your knees. Hold for 5 seconds and sit up. Repeat this 3 more times.

5. Breathe, Breathe, Breathe. Take a few slow and deep breathes in and out.

By staying in shape means moving your body. You will get your blood flowing. You will clear your mind and get more done. Take a break once in the morning and once in the afternoon. It is your choice. Choose to become more productive.

Choosing the Best Audio Player Software for Your Computer



Audio player software is used to play back sound recordings in one of the many formats available for computers today. It can also play back music CDs. There is audio player software that is native to the computer’s operating system (Windows, Macintosh, and Linux) and there are web-based audio players. This article discusses the local computer audio players.

Advantages of computer audio player software

The main advantage of a computer audio player is that you can play your audio CDs and there is no longer any need to have a separate CD player. However the capabilities of the computer audio player go beyond just playing traditional music CDs. You can also play sound clips in one of the many audio formats found in the information technology industry today. The MP3 format is a standard whereby a high rate of compression can be achieved on sound files allowing the ability to store large numbers of them on hard disk. Another advantage is when the computer audio player has ripping capability you can extract a sample clip from the sound track for internet posting or emailing. Audio players in the form of portable MP3 players like Apple’s iPod are extremely advantageous due to their long battery life and capability to be carried practically anywhere.

Choosing and using a computer audio player

Windows comes with Windows Media Player already installed. Realplayer is a free download as well. There are other free products such as Winamp (Windows only). One important feature you want to look for when choosing an audio player beyond what is packaged with your operating system is the sound filtering capabilities. It should at least have a graphic equalizer where you can adjust for poor quality sound files. Look for other features like the ability to rip sound tracks and change the skins of the computer audio player.

The demand for the computer audio player

Demand is driven by price and the free audio players like Windows Media Player will remain popular when it comes to playing audio on the computer. Where people are spending more of their money is on the portable MP3 players like Apple’s iPod. Apple makes a free computer audio player for the computer called iTunes and it is used to organize play lists and transfer sound files to the iPod player. Typically, you download iTunes and install it on your computer and then you have an integrated environment to import different types of Podcasts and audio for exporting to the iPod player itself. Plus iTunes can be used as a standalone computer audio player. But more and more you will see the demand for mobile computer audio players to increase because of their convenience and portability.