Monday, September 9, 2013

How to be a Better Computer User: The One Basic Thing to Do.

The ONE thing to do for you to be a Better Computer User

Hello World! I am on a mission to make YOU a better user of computer and computing devices. For you humans to be smarter, you must be taught.

My first order of business is to address every computer user in the world: there is ONE important thing to do when you own and operate a computer:  Take care of it!

A few of the readers may be rolling their eyes at this point, but I'm telling you, this one BASIC thing goes virtually unpracticed in most of the homes I visit when I address a problem.  A dirty environment leads to inefficient machine operation and leads to faster hardware degradation.

Let's talk hardware in this post. (I'll address software in next week's post).

Hardware Care: 

  • Wash your hands before you use your computer or device.
    • Sticky and dirty fingers lead to sticky and dirty keys and touchscreens. Ew.
    • Helps reduce germ transmission too (I'm not a doctor but I believe the ones on TV)
  • Do your BEST not to eat around your keyboard or device, especially if you're like me w/ a wireless one that you like to use in your lap.  Why?
    • Crumbs will fall in between the keys (if you're using a PC or laptop).  Eventually enough crumbs means enough gunk to keep your keys from operating properly.  There is a board underneath your keys.  The less junk, the better it is for the keys to make contact with the board. 
    • See above bullet item about washing your hands
    • Oh, by the way, no liquids near electronics.  I don't care if your Mary Poppins careful....Mary Poppins probably wouldn't have liquid near her computers either.  A spoonful of liquid makes the computer go down. (See what I did there?)
  • Wipe down your work area the INSTANT you see dust. 
    • Use Pledge or any other cleaner that you like, just keep the dust away from your machines
    • Keeping dust away reduces the amount of dust being breathed in by the fan (ever notice that whirr?) and hence reduces the amount of dust inside the machine (laptop, or otherwise).  The more dust inside the machine, the higher the risk of overheating and your machine shutting down in the middle of something important (or burning out altogether).  
    • On top of that, if you take it to some "geek" PC fix person, they'll say it's a virus and charge you for something that shouldn't have been done. 
    • If you have to use your device in an environment that has yucky residue as part of the environment (like a restaurant or construction worksite), make sure you clean your device.  This leads me to....


Invest in an anti-static electronic cleaner such as: 3M antistatic electronic equipment cleaner ($5 - $8) and a can of compressed air (about the same price if not less) and some shop towels (from any home improvement store)

How to Clean your Keyboard:
Some people have used the dishwasher method.  Uh, overkill and quite derp.  Hold your keyboard upside down or on its side and blast intermittently with the compressed air in between the keys.  Use a slight sweeping motion when you do it so as to ensure the crumbs get out.  This isn't a 100%, but it'll get the majority of it out.

Using the shop towels, spray some of the electronic equipment cleaner on the towel, just enough to make it damp, then quickly wipe the keyboard down (the cleaner can dissipate quickly) making sure you be thorough with keys that are soiled.

How to clean your monitor and your device (tablet, reader, phone, mouse):
Using the shop towels, spray some of the electronic equipment cleaner on the towel, just enough to make it damp, then quickly wipe the device down (the cleaner can dissipate quickly) making sure you are thorough with keys that are soiled.  MAKE SURE THE DEVICE IS OFF so you don't accidentally send a contact some gibberish text, tweet, facebook status, etc.

How to clean your computer vents:
If you have a tower PC - using the shop towels, spray some of the electronic equipment cleaner on the towel, just enough to make it damp, then quickly wipe the vents down.  Do NOT use the air to try to drive it off.  You risk putting more dust INTO the case.  If you have that much dust, you may have to open the case and use the compressed air on the inside of it.  I would NOT recommend doing that though.  Feel free to contact me to have it cleaned or for specific instructions to do so.

If you have a laptop, there usually is a vent that exudes heat.  Feel free to blow air ADJACENT to the opening as much as possible NEVER into the opening.  Also, there usually is an intake vent, WIPE that vent guard down.  Again, if you have excess dust, contact me or you local shop to have it opened and cleaned.

I think that pretty much covers it.  A lot of people fail to realize the important of environment when it comes to computers.  We often just focus on the work we are doing on the input (screen and keyboards and mouse) and the information we are getting from the output (screen) and not realizing that these are just as much manual tools as a power saw or drill.

As you can see, caring for your device helps provide longevity and value.  Of course, if you have a replacement program, you may think why bother?  Think of how much time you spend going back to replace your device if it does get damaged frequently? It all adds up.

So thank you for stopping by fellow computer users.  Stop by next week for software care: tricks and tips on how to keep the software as effective as (nearly) the first day you bought it.

Be well. Do good work and remember: GIGO.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Seniors and PCs (or we used to KILL mice in my day)

Welcome one and all to Good bits and What Bytes, a blog about tech and life...and just how practical one or the other is for one and the other.

Let me preface this post by saying for part-time work, I help senior citizens get around their computer system.  One of the senior citizens is my dad.  He always wanted a computer for the longest time and had always asked me to help him get one or help him around one when he got it so he can get on "this internet thing".  I may misquote him, but I do it for illustration.  He asked what he needed so I told him everything that he needed.  Three times over the course of a month. 

So, a few years ago, my sister (bless her heart) got my dad an iPad. He's gotten quite proficient at it.  He uses it for what I call computer-scrapbooking: when somebody uses their device for nothing but recording memories.  He's quite adept at it and is able to actually e-mail his videos and pics to all of his family members.  But let there be a network problem, and it's all over. 

One time while I was visiting, a Verizon tech (not really a tech if you ask me, just somebody with a really heavy tool belt, glasses and a proficient skill of nodding and speaking bs) had come to the house to help them with their wireless (my dad had called them the week before this visit).  The tech basically said he had to call the home office to get it fixed.  Huh?  (My dad runs DSL.  I'm begging he gets cable soon.)  You can't fix it?  Nothing in your toolbelt buddy?  It was going to cost my dad extra, but my dad was happy to reset the router about twice a day to avoid the extra cost.  So Verizon sucks.  That wasn't my point, my point was that he had ANOTHER tech come by when I wasn't there (he has no choice being he lives 5 hrs away from me) to get the network fixed again.  He couldn't get back into his e-mail, or connect to the network or anything.  So he called me:

Dad: "Hello, son?"
(He always asks that even thoughm 1. the only son he has and 2. It's my number and nobody answers it but me)
Me: "Hi Dad.  What's up?"
Dad: "I can't get my e-mail. The tech guy came by and gave me a new internet and everything and it shows I'm connected but I don't think I'm connected."
Me: "Open up Safari."
Dad: "How do I get to Safari?"
Me (perplexed because he's opened Safari before): "Look for the thing that looks like a compass and tap on it."
Dad: "That thing?" (as if I could see it.)
Me: "Does it look like a compass?"
Dad: "Yes"
Me: "Tap it"
Dad: "OK, it's saying that there's an error connecting to the network."
Me: "OK, go to  your settings."
Dad: "I'm already there"
Me (perplexed at his proficiency all of a sudden): "Ok, what does it read."
Dad: "WiFi is off."
Me: "Slide it on."
Dad: "Just slide it?"
Me (perplexed because he's done this before too): "Yes."

Needless to say, we went back and forth on what to do and he eventually had to reset his e-mail password because he couldn't remember it (because everybody in my family who are NOT techies set up everything with completely different passwords which he has written down in random places around the house).  He's now up and running. 

Lesson #1: If you have a family member who is tech prone and understands the user experience, let THEM handle things.

So he's back in happy user mode and I'm happy he's happy because he shares the best memories.

Another senior citizen I help is completely boggled by the idea that a cellphone can take a picture, send it to her e-mail and she can send it somewhere to get it printed!  For recent generations, this isn't completely mind boggling, but to the non-tech senior citizen it is both enriching and amazing.  She still hasn't grasped the idea and can't retain much on how to save attachments, but that comes with practice.  Her computer is a much older computer and I asked her if she'd like one with the ergonomic accommodations of helping her get around.  She said "Honestly, I'm thinking of getting a tablet."

I'm thinking that may be a good idea. 

If you have any questions regarding ANYTHING regarding technology, give me an e-mail at and I'll do my best to point you in the right direction.

Logging's me, eggBrain.

Monday, July 25, 2011

I am testing speech enabled text areas

I WAS testing speech enabled text areas from but it didn't work in this particular window, just my title and labels.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

New tech ventures

Thinking of new tech ventures.  Trying to make some extra cash, just don't know how to go about it.  I'm at a loss, and running out of time. 

No excuses, of course.  Just gotta get on it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Part time extremes

As a working manager of a restaurant change full-time and doing computer work part-time, you begin to realize just how your limits are stretched.

I used to do the computer work full-time and the restaurant part-time, but it's amazing how things change.  That being said, I lost a significant amount of clients in a way that was unplanned and it hurt my ego and my wallet.  From that experience alone, I have the top three mistakes I made running a self-employed business (unranked).:

1.  Lack of communication
I hardly talked to my clients when the transition began from full-time to part-time.  I barely notified any of them when I was late on any of my tasks.  I was blatantly, in my own face, going against my own principles and practices when I first started as a self-employed computer business and I did nothing to stop myself because I was afraid what I would hear from my clients. 

Lesson:  Communication is key in any relationship and success.

2.  Killing my own integrity
By not communicating to any of my clients, I killed my own integrity, not just with them, but with anybody they may interact with concerning my quality of work.    Not only that, in the self-perceived desperation of trying to help everyone all the time, sometimes my projects would be out of the scope of my own experience, which then would take the project beyond the time constraints.  Had I been straightforward with myself, I'd probably have more successes.

Lesson:  Don't overpromise and under deliver.  Promise what you can do, be honest with yourself as to what you can't.

3.  Failure to respond to changing times
Businesses evolve even though they've been around for years.  Technology evolves too.  I failed to find new technology to apply to the clients' needs or supposed needs.  I did not keep things fresh. 

Lesson:  Keep in touch with your clients and see what they may want.  Coach them to start thinking of evolving their business.

When I ponder this, I realize the ONE thing that was the overriding factor in it all:  Fear.  Fear of strategizing a withdrawal from some of my clients and fear that financially things would fall apart if I did lose any.  That alone ruined a lot of relationships in the long run.

I have been able to revive a few and I've grown passionate about their operations and honest about mine.

I have faith I can keep this up and faith that I can avoid the mistakes I've made in the past.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Troubleshooting an AirPort Extreme

No matter what anybody sets, reset it hard and let the configuration control take care of it.  I browsed so many sites and everything from PPPoE came up to having to put in the MAC Address in Vista to blah blah blah blah blah.

Why do people make things so complicated?  So Apple actually had a straightforward document.  But it seems that a lot of people run into quirky things with some Mac products.

Guess Mac isn't so "stable".

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Systematic Behavior

When nothing seems to be going right, it's hard to find the root cause of it all.  If you've been reading my past few posts, I've spent the better part of this past week (and note, I haven't written since) dealing with a rootkit on a client's machine.  It is finally cleaned and I'm happy. 

Unfortunately, along with that, comes the death of a wireless adapter or at least the ability of it maintaining a connection.  It's a USB Wireless Adapter from Dynex (G) that's on my desktop .  I've reinstalled the drivers but I still have a few things to try.  I know the dropped connection is solely with the desktop laptop is still connected and other people using the network have no problems with the connection.

That being said, it's ironic how systematic behavior of certain items can be expected in the computer world.  We all just want it to work and that would be nice.  Unfortunately, every system has its flaws.  Every thing on a computer has an instruction to follow.  What's instructing my wireless to disconnect?  Not sure, but I'll find out.

I've learned that I've taken things for granted on systems.  Systems follow instructions, take input and have a consequence of an action or output.  At the same time, there are error systems in place to help handle those, and frankly, I'm that system.

So here is to systematic behavior:  May you always be there to help out with systematic behavior.