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Introduction to computing and terminology
The desktop computer, what makes it tick?
Your computer has individual components that work together, like a team.
These components all handle their own specific tasks and when combined, make up the computer as you know it.
The CPU (central processing unit) handles all of the calculations and is usually the most powerful component in your computer. The HDD (hard disk drive) permanently stores information so you can retrieve it later, while the RAM (random access memory) temporarily stores information for instant access. The GPU (graphics processing unit) turns data into graphics and video, and the sound card processes data and turns it into sound. The PSU (power supply unit) supplies the exact voltage required by all of the components, and the one piece that ties them all together is the Mainboard, also known as “the motherboard”.
Many people confuse memory (RAM) with storage capacity (HDD). If your computer says “disk space running low” or “virtual memory low” many people think they need more RAM. This however, is not the case. First of all, RAM is not a disk. The only disks in your computer are the hard disk drive, CD/DVD-ROM (optical disk drive) and, if you haven’t upgraded in a while, a floppy disk drive.
Note: virtual memory is called virtual, because it is actually storage space reserved on your hard drive that the computer uses as memory for emergency purposes.
Should I leave my computer on, or shut it off? Let’s put this question to rest, once, and for all. It’s really up to you.
Reasons to shut it off:
Cost- An average computer uses approximately the same amount of energy as 10 30-watt light bulbs.
Dust and heat- Dust stresses out the fans inside your computer by slowing them down, and also clogs other components meant to keep the parts inside cool, stable, and long-lasting. By leaving it on constantly, your fans will always be sucking in more dust, hair, dirt, etc.
Reasons to leave it on:
Availability- Your computer will be ready for use at all times.
Automation- Install automatic updates, perform maintenance, and run virus scans at night.
Accessibility- Files you are sharing with others will be available at all times.
Whether you choose to leave it on, or shut it off, there is one thing you can do every six months or so to extend the life of your machine and help keep it quiet.
Clean it. Turn off the computer. Take off the cover (usually 2 screws or a slide-handle), grab a can of compressed air, and blow that dust to kingdom come (hold can upright).
If you use a laptop, I almost always recommend turning it off (especially overnight). This is because laptops tend to overheat, and are much harder to clean. Turning it off when you don’t need it will reduce the stress on its internal components and thus extend the life of your product.
Microsoft Windows takes all of the hard to understand computer lingo (binary code of zeros and ones) and translates it into a graphical user interface (GUI) which is much easier to understand and manipulate. Some also call this the OS, or “Operating System”. The main areas of the interface include:
-The desktop (main workspace area) is a place where you can store shortcuts and files that you need to access regularly or quickly. Anything that resides on the desktop, requires a “double-click” to activate (by default). To create a shortcut to a website on your desktop, all you have to do is right-click in an empty area, then select new->shortcut, and type in the web address you want to link to, including http://, hit next, name it, and hit finish.
-The start menu (bottom-left button and pop-up) contains shortcuts to all of the commonly used functions of your computer. The items listed are usually self-explanatory, and to understand your options, you simply need to explore it. If you see a little arrow, clicking it allows you to “expand” that particular section.
-The taskbar (bottom, width of screen) makes it easy to switch between active tasks (windows, and applications). To pull up a window, simply click on its icon to bring it to the foreground; clicking it again will send it to the background.
-The notification area (within the taskbar, right hand side) is customizable, but almost always contains the time, date, volume control, and security alerts. Clicking the little arrow on the side expands this section. Most people also use the wifi antenna icon to connect to wireless networks. To do this, simply click the icon one time, and select the network you wish to connect to. Select connect, and enter in the WIFI key (password). You will be connected automatically.
-The window controls (upper right hand side of active window) are the three icons that reside on the upper right hand side of any active window.
-The underscore minimizes that particular window into the taskbar
-The square icon either puts the active window into a smaller frame, or maximizes it to full screen
-The X closes the window entirely
Note: You can almost always resize a window that isn’t full screen. Simply place your cursor over the edge of the window frame, hold down the left mouse button and drag it outward or inward. If you do the same in the corner, you can modify the height and width simultaneously.
“My Computer” is a shortcut usually found on the desktop or the start menu. It contains a directory of all of the areas where information is being stored. The icons in the main section of the window represent the different drives installed in your computer. When you double-click the desired location, or drive, it will list the corresponding directory. Anytime you use “My Computer” to browse for files, the window that displays the contents is called Explorer (not to be confused with Internet Explorer). Within Explorer windows you can move files around, delete them, cut or copy and paste, etc.
The Recycle bin stores your deleted files. As a safety mechanism, rather than permanently removing a file when you delete it, it goes to your recycle bin. To recover a file you accidentally deleted, you can open the recycle bin (as with all desktop shortcuts, with a double-click), select the file you want to recover, right click it, and then select “restore”.
The Search function integrated into windows does exactly what it says: Search for files and information. Searching within Windows XP can be done via a start menu shortcut which brings up a “wizard” to help guide you through the process. In newer versions of windows, the search field is already available within the start menu, located at the bottom.
The Control panel is a place where you can customize nearly every feature of Microsoft Windows.
The shortcut to it resides in the start menu.
-Adjust the appearance of the GUI
-Change the desktop wallpaper
-Modify the size of text for easier reading (appearance & personalization -> display -> change to 125% -> apply), or for windows xp, (display -> appearance -> font size -> large -> apply)
-Uninstall unwanted programs
-Change / Create user accounts and passwords
-Change your mouse pointer and double-click speed
-Change when your screen and/or computer goes to sleep
Do not be afraid of the control panel. It is completely safe to browse through, and it never hurts to know what your options are. Just be thoughtful when changing things around.
The left and right mouse buttons both have different functions. The left button has one purpose, to select whatever you demand. The right button accesses options for that particular area.
In most cases, you only have to single-click something with the left mouse button to execute it, but when you’re working on your desktop or within “My Computer”, single-clicking selects, double-clicking executes.
Keyboard shortcuts can really come in handy and save you some time.
Let’s split them into 3 categories: Selecting, Moving, and Program functions.
The trick to selecting multiple items lies with the SHIFT and CTRL keys.
Let’s say you want to copy or move 20 files to a flash drive so that a friend or client can work with them.
Start off by selecting the first item you want to work with (single-click). Now hold the SHIFT key and select the last file. All files in between will be highlighted. That’s how you select a group. This same strategy and all of these keyboard shortcuts we are discussing will work in most word-processing and office programs as well. Okay, now that we have a group selected, let’s say we don’t want file “a, b, or c”. To remove certain items from the group, hold the CTRL key down, and select the files you don’t want included. Another scenario: you only need a couple files, but there are several files listed in between. To select only the files you want, hold the CTRL key down and select them.
CTRL+C copies the data to your “clipboard”.
CTRL+X cuts the data from the location and places it in your clipboard.
CTRL+V pastes the content from the clipboard to wherever you select.
CTRL+S saves the file you’re working with.
CTRL+N creates a new document or instance of whatever you’re working with.
CTRL+W closes the window or active document.
CTRL+Z undoes the last action
Tip: Try hovering your mouse pointer over an icon. This will bring up what is called a “tool-tip”.
This can be very helpful when learning a new program. Sometimes it will even list the key combination to execute that particular function.
Web browser interface
Web browsers come in many different flavors. The one we are going to discuss today is Internet Explorer. If you are running windows XP (find out by pressing these keys: WIN+PAUSE) you are most likely running Internet Explorer version 8 or 7. If you are running a newer operating system, then you are (most likely) running a newer web browser such as Internet explorer 9. The reason I bring this up is that when Microsoft made the change to IE9 (Internet Explorer 9), the interface changed quite a bit. We will learn how to customize IE9 so that it more closely resembles IE8.
Changing the way IE looks can affect your productivity quite a bit. For example, some people like their favorites to be visible at all times, while others do not. The menu bar is disabled by default in newer versions of Internet Explorer, but we can re-enable it to access all sorts of options.
To re-enable the menu bar and other items such as the favorites bar, right-click in the empty space next to the “new tab” button. A prompt will appear which will allow you to show or hide different toolbars. Let’s enable 3 popular ones most people want or are familiar with by clicking on the following: the menu bar, favorites bar, and command bar. If you are using an older computer with windows xp, chances are you will already have these enabled.
Now that we have the standard look, let’s select “view” from the menu bar.
To increase the size of text simply select “text size” and pick one that works for you.
To enable a “side-mounted” favorites window, select “explorer bars” and select “favorites”.
Another thing we can do to visually enhance our web browsing experience is zoom in or out. The easiest way in my opinion is to hold down CTRL, and then press the + or – keys (+ zooms in, - zooms out).
Some newer sites don’t display properly when viewed with older versions of internet explorer. In many cases, this has to do with compatibility view. To ensure that all sites display properly, compatibility view should be disabled by default. To make sure it is, select “tools”, “compatibility view settings”. This will bring up the menu to turn off this feature. Deselect any checkboxes you see selected, then remove any websites listed in the large box by highlighting them and clicking “remove”. To apply these changes, hit “close”. The website window should refresh itself automatically. If it does not, simply close and re-open your internet browser.
Sites such as Zipform Online require that you do not have a pop-up blocker running; however, it’s generally a good idea to leave this on. I will show you how to do this properly in a moment. If you ever come to a site and click on a link and nothing happens or appears, it can be your pop-up blocker getting in the way. A quick way to test this is to manually disable it: Hold the CTRL key down while you click on the link and don’t let it go for about 5 seconds. If the window or whatever you are trying to view appears after doing that, you know the pop-up blocker was at fault. Now let’s set up your pop-up blocker so that Zipforms passes through undetected (use this method to fix other sites as well).
Select “tools”, “pop-up blocker”, “pop-up blocker settings”. At the top of this window you will see an area where you can enter in a web address that you want to “allow”. For Zipforms, type in “zipformonline.com”, and hit “add”. That’s all! It’s that easy. Now hit “close”, and you’re good to go.
If you would like to clean out temporary files, internet history or other information, you can access the related options by clicking on “tools”, “delete browsing history”. If you would like your computer to remember your usernames and passwords but delete other information, select all boxes EXCEPT “form information”, and “stored passwords” followed by “delete browsing history”.
Safe methods for using your computer and the internet
Anybody that has used a computer more than a handful of times should know the following phrase: “A java update is available”. Ring a bell? You know that message isn’t just there to annoy you... it has a purpose too!
How about the similar pop-up for adobe reader or flash player or Microsoft Windows? Well, here’s why they beg for your attention.
Developers such as Apple, Microsoft, Adobe and Oracle (java) are huge targets for hackers. If a hacker can breach the security of an application they develop, the hacker(s) can then use that exploit against millions of computers, simply because nearly every single computer in existence uses their software.
When the software manufacturer discovers they have been hacked, they work overtime coming up with a fix for that particular issue and release an update. Now, it may make sense to you why even though you may be running great antivirus software, a virus or hacker can still compromise your system. So do the update, and don’t delay. The longer you wait, the more vulnerable you become.
Could you imagine walking down the street if it were like the internet? It would be a terrible, yet exciting place. Everywhere you go, businesses and people would be watching you, collecting every detail about you on paper. If your shoes look worn, some guy would write that down, and then sell it to a shoe salesman. Unfortunately, the shoe salesman just happens to be a crook who later attempts to mug you. If your hair needs a cut, chances are there will be a man waiting with scissors who can butcher it for free. Around every corner, crooks and criminals are waiting for just one moment of vulnerability, for you to make one bad move. Thankfully, you carry around some mace, a Taser gun, and wear a bullet-proof vest.
The internet isn’t much different than the above scenario. When you visit it, be aware of the climate.
That being said, below are a few pointers to help you practice safe surfing.
-Use an antivirus, and perform regular updates and full scans with it at least once a month
-A good antivirus will keep you safe from 90-plus percent of attacks
-Avoid going to sites you’ve never heard of or sites that seem gimmicky
-If a website says you need to install something in order to view content or use their services, don’t (unless it’s YouTube, or another big-name like Best Buy, etc.)
-Don’t click on links within “fishy” emails
-Work at home, best-kept secrets, free stuff, and other too good to be true themed sites are bad 99% of the time
-Bad sites can have code injected into them which will infect you just by visiting the site
-Don’t open PDF’s that came from an unknown source
-Check the spelling when you type in www.example.com. Many times malicious sites will be www.exmaple.com or something else, either designed to trick you or take advantage of the fact that you just misspelled something
-Avoid installing Facebook apps
-Avoid coupon and rebate related sites
-Avoid computer tune-up, registry repair sites and software
-Roll your mouse over a link and let it sit there for a couple seconds to see where it will take you
-All viruses need to be ran or executed in order to become maliciously active, so be cautious of what you install (or run) on your computer and scan the downloaded file(s) first with your antivirus
Those tips should help you out quite a bit, and combined with updating your software (java, etc.) and a good antivirus, you will be safe from most common threats.
The best and easiest way to update everything (except windows) is to run the “ninite” program. With simply 2 clicks, you can install updates for Flash player, Silverlight, Java, Air, Reader, and .NET framework.
Click this link: http://ninite.com/.net-air-flash-flashie-java-reader-silverlight/ninite.exe and save the file to your desktop.
Now run the file. When it says “finished”, close the window. It’s that easy. If you do this every month you will keep your computer up to date and stay safe from most threats.
If you have to install a piece of software, instead of just blindly clicking “next, next, next, next” keep an eye out for the check-boxes. Many times a manufacturer will package other software with their product, and you end up with it, unless you deselect the check-boxes, so pay close attention when installing anything on your computer.
Finding a good, free antivirus can be quite a task since there are so many available. Luckily for you, I have done this research and tested most of them out. There are 3 out there that I highly recommend.
I will list and rate them on 3 categories from a scale of 1 to 10: Ease of use, Effectiveness, and Efficiency.
#1: Microsoft Security Essentials- Ease of use: 10, Effectiveness: 8, Efficiency: 9
#2: Avira- Ease of use: 7, Effectiveness: 10, Efficiency: 10
#3: Avast!- Ease of use: 8, Effectiveness: 9, Efficiency: 8
Avira and Avast! offer the best protection in this category, (better than most paid AV’s) but you’ll see an advertisement from them almost every day. If you want simple, good protection, go with Security Essentials.
Links to download:
Security Essentials: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/products/security-essentials/download
note: uninstall your current antivirus before installing a new one.
Perhaps you want the very best protection available, and you don’t mind paying around $50-$100 for it. Well, there’s good news. Kaspersky internet security combines an effective set of features while being very efficient, and it can be picked up at your local Best Buy or Staples.
Most other suites consume a lot of memory and may slow down your computer. If you are concerned with this, download one of the antiviruses previously mentioned.
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