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Stuff found here. If someone tells you not to listen to me, double-check. The TIQ, that is. (Tidbit In Question). Ultimately, you should probably listen to the smarter person.

I am usually the smart one (that's what I'm told). Though not the smartest.

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  July 2008
  Selling items online

Provide shipping costs before the sale as often as you possibly can. You could try charging flat amounts or writing a price scale. You will make more sales if customers are not worried about how much you might charge them for shipping. Even if your shipping has to be priced higher than people might expect, they will be much happier if you tell them before they pay.

  June 2008
  Protecting your computer from attack

You might hear about all kinds of security devices and software, but you don't need it all. You need a regularly updated firewall, virus scan, and spyware remover. Many times there are perfectly capable free software products. For the average home user, you won't need fancy equipment. Wireless networks can be protected by using the latest encryption your wireless devices will support (as long as it is more secure than WEP).

The best way to protect your computer, however, is much more simple. The simplest protection is to not access anyone else's recorded CD and DVD discs, floppies, flash drives, and hard drives, and don't connect to a network. In practice that won't be feasible for most users, but you can mitigate your chances of being attacked by watching what files you open, what emails you read, and what you look at on the Internet.

Good security still can be simple.

  May 2008
  Storing software and manuals

What do you do with all of those recorded CDs and software discs?

My previous storage method was to try and keep them near the computer. This does not work when there are so many they are constantly falling over and being knocked over. Not to mention they are hard to find.

A simple solution can present itself. Get a plastic storage bin. You know, those bins you usually pack stuff in and toss down in the basement, in a closet, or in an attic. Stack the discs in there (in cases or sleeves) and place the bin somewhere out of the way (just not in a harsh environment, outside, or in an unconditioned garage or attic). Every manual, stack them in there. You would be surprised how many there are. I will probably still be finding manuals and discs for months.

When you need that software disc, or that old manual, look in the bin. It may not be as pretty as a CD storage rack but it will prevent spills, keep the discs and manuals from getting dirty, and provide a lot of storage space. How often do you gaze into the beautiful face of your Microsoft Office installation discs anyway?

  April 2008
  Backing up your files

Backing up files is really important. Don't rely one one device or program to always work. RAID arrays can fail, CDs can scratch (and it can be a lot worse if the top side is damaged, a deep scratch on the top will cut through the data storage and you will have a nice little acrylic window in your CD), even paper documents can be ruined (by water, fire, animals and pests).

Don't rely on those handy external USB, Firewire, or E-SATA hard disk enclosures to recover data on a drive taken from a failed computer. They may or may not work,especially if the drive is damaged. Back up your computer before a problem, not during or after. The operating system or other software on your computer may also provide a backup mechanism.

You may not be able to protect and back up all your data all the time, but you can take steps to minimize the impact of any problems or failures you may encounter.

  March 2008
  Hard drive space and backing up your files

Monitor your hard drive space. If your drive is more than 70% full, you need to be on the lookout for more storage.

Be sure to clear out unused and duplicate files, but don't delete it until you are absolutely sure it is not a file you need (or one your computer needs, or another program on the computer needs). It is usually best to use the program's uninstall feature or uninstall through the operating system if you can before you just delete files. Be sure about everything, from the tiniest text file to huge images, movies, and program files.

You might think this would be obvious, but I removed a program I didn't need, and then found out it was part of my scanner software. Oops. Back to the tub of recordable media to find the driver disk I go.

  February 2008
  Choosing a hard drive

Home computer users are starting to pay more attention to the hard drives. People don't just want to hear storage capacity anymore; they want more information. Everyday users now think about expansion, storage capacity (which people did before), arrangement of multiple drives (such as in RAID arrays), RPMs, interface speeds, and more.

If you have owned a computer for a few years, it makes judging how much storage space you need easier. Simply check how full your drive is. Include external hard drives in the measurement. If the existing hard drive or drives is/are more than half full, you should probably plan on a drive or drives with at least double the current capacity. If the drive becomes too full, it will impact performance. Also, if you save lots of large files (movies, music, large photos, Adobe file formats) or like to play the latest games you might want to account for more.

If this is your first computer, or you didn't really pay attention to how much storage you used before, or if you have lost many files due to a drive failing, you can still estimate. You should account for at least 10GB for programs (I already have more than this). Find out how much the operating system needs. Then estimate what you need to store. Then add them together and at least double the resulting amount. You may want to multiply it by 4, 5, or even 10 if you create huge numbers of files. Remember, you don't want the drive too full. Another suggestion that may be helpful: find someone that is using their computer like you will be using yours (i.e. lots of music, graphic design, gaming) and ask them what their computer's hard drive capacity is, how full it gets, and if they frequently need to move things off the internal hard drive or drives. This may give you an insight into how much storage space you should plan for.

Two of the most popular are PATA (Parallel ATA, sometimes called IDE) and SATA (Serial ATA). SATA is most popular because it is newer and it has more possibilities for advancement. Current drive support favors SATA and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Read up on both before you choose. If you have an older computer that you are simply increasing storage on, more than likely it will have a PATA hard drive. You don't necessarily have to buy a new computer to increase storage, just make sure you don't remove the drive with the operating system until you are ready to install it on a new drive. Actually, there may be a second connector (either on the existing cable or an additional PATA motherboard connector) for you to connect a second drive, just be aware of the limitations. Be sure to extensively research so that you don't waste money on components you don't need or can't use.

If you care less about speed and more about energy efficiency, choose an energy efficient hard drive. Low RPMs and/or variable speed drives my save you money. High RPM drives are usually geared for performance. If you have multiple hard drives, you may want to dedicate a higher performance drive to hold the operating system, and energy-efficient drives to store large amounts of data. While the energy-efficient drives may individually be slower, placing multiple drives in certain RAID configurations can improve their performance by writing to multiple drives simultaneously. Research to choose the RAID configuration that best satisfies your speed and reliability requirements. It is possible for certain arrays to rebuild data if one drive fails, but this capability does usually make the array slower than it would be in a RAID mode that does not have the capability to rebuild a failed drive's data.

At any rate, research before purchasing is always the best method. Don't let smooth-talking sales staff get in the way of your research and common sense. Even if it would be cool to have more storage than a mid-sized server.

  January 2008
  Choosing a power supply for your computer

Power supplies can be a tricky thing to choose. The first step is to determine how many connectors and of what types you need. Make a list. It is very important to know this.

The next step is to determine how many watts the supply should produce. I have noticed many explain different methods of doing so. The power supply will only draw the wattage in use, but running a power supply considerably under its rated watts will result in inefficient energy use. Your best bet is to research your choices and the other components. Oh, and don't forget to check how efficient the supply is. It is very important to your energy bills to choose a higher efficiency supply.

  December 2007
  I want that in duplicate

Have you ever had a computer crash and lose all your files? Ever accidentally delete a file and not realize it until months later? It doesn't matter if you have lost a file or your whole hard drive's contents, you should really back at least your important files up.

When I say important, I don't mean those humorous e-mails you received. I mean information you would rather not lose, like banking information, contact lists, etc.

A backup could be as simple as an external hard drive or high-capacity storage (optical or magnetic), or as complex as a waterproof, fireproof data vault, or even storage over the Internet. Anything that would cause a problem if its lost is a good candidate for backing up. It is better to start now than to wish you had that one file later.

  November 2007
  The DVD craze

It might be time to consider a DVD-ROM drive, if you don't already have one. Your next computer purchase should include a drive that can at least read DVD and DVD data discs (it would be wise to get one that can record them too). Especially with Blu-ray™ and HD-DVD being out, DVD-ROM discs are going to become more popular (because if nothing else, it is "better" than CD-ROM technology, or at least it will be marketed as such). Some software already comes on DVD-ROM discs, and it will only be a matter of time before some software will be available only on DVD disc. You might also consider a drive that you can record DVD discs on.

Just a friendly reminder: CD and DVD discs will not last forever. It would be best to keep backups of your critical data on both optical and magnetic media (i.e. hard drive, removable disks of varying kinds, possibly even tapes).

  October 2007
  The new Microsoft Office®

Make sure you pay attention to the new MS Office® documents you create. Although the new Office can handle older file formats (via "Compatibility Mode") the new format for Microsoft adds an x to the file extensions. The new programs, for instance, create .docx files in Word. A .docx file is by default NOT compatible with any previous MS Word programs. I believe this extends to the other suite programs as well.

Watch for the "x" !

Note: Microsoft, MS Office, Microsoft Office, MS Word and the like are property of the Microsoft corporation. This is so I don't get sued.

  September 2007
  a reminder about your rabbit ears

All U.S. Analog Broadcast television will shut down February 17, 2009. Any television that does not have a digital tuner will need a converter box. Digital tuners are supposed to be in all television reception devices as of March 1, 2007, or the device should contain a consumer alert notifying the purchaser of the device.

Cable and satellite providers will not be affected by this shutdown (though cable providers may convert to only digital signals at some point).

Visit for more information.

  August 2007
  professional certifications

Can professional certifications help?

If nothing else, the mere frantic studying for that eventful test or tests can reward the certification-seeker with additional knowledge. As far as the electronics, computers, and telecommunications industries are concerned, appropriate certifications can be an excellent tool. These certifications can improve knowledge, salary, job offers, and even self-esteem (now everyone else knows you know).

Now you just can't go out and pick anything. For instance, some person claiming to be the 2534th Pakistani-Nigerian Quasi-Official Computer Certificate Knowledge Bureau is probably not legitimate. However, many certifications are legitimate. Microsoft offers certifications, as does Novell. Comp TIA also offers certifications that are independent of any product. Cisco also has their Networking Academy and certifications. Manufacturer certifications are many times helpful, and Comp TIA and Cisco certifications are widely known in the IT and networking fields.

Do be forewarned however that many of these certifications require you to choose a local testing center and study on your own time. They can range widely in price, from a few hundred dollars or less to thousands, when you also take study materials into consideration. Colleges may also offer a course or set of courses designed to prepare you for a specific certification.

  July 2007
  trying something different: software

Many times people just go for the standard operating systems and the standard office suites. It can be rewarding to increase your computer knowledge by trying something different. Some Linux version operating systems can be had for free, as well as some office suites.

The UNIX and Linux operating systems are not as popular as Microsoft yet, but that doesn't mean you won't encounter them. There is a noticeable demand for Linux for certain business uses. And if you know what you are doing, you can even modify portions of it yourself (something you probably shouldn't try with Microsoft Windows).

At any rate, even Apple users trying Windows and Windows users trying an Apple can help prevent being tied down to a specific manufacturer or type of computer.

It can also benefit to try out different imaging and movie-editing software as well, though this will get expensive quickly.

  June 2007
  making the most of your electronics purchasing money

When purchasing electronics, computers, components, and software, you should try to select the best purchase, and not based on company advertisements.

Many sites provide a reviewing service, such as newegg and Sites like also provide a comparison service to find the best new and used prices in their list of retailers. Computer and electronics magazines and their web sites may also have independent reviews. You might even read comments about a product or 'ask around' at sites such as AfterDawn. Finally, don't forget that manufacturers may have e-mail help and chat systems that allow you to clear up those sometimes foggy and vague descriptions (if you choose to converse via a chat session ask for a transcript to be e-mailed to you). Also, confirm there is a support system in place for the product before you buy. Don't find out in a few months that there is no one to ask about a problem with your purchased item.

Remember, if the product sounds much too inexpensive, it probably is not as good as it looks on paper. Most components cannot be bleeding-edge design and the cheapest to manufacture. Also, realize that you will probably have to compromise. If the item is a 'jack-of-all-trades' (if it can do 'practically anything') it will most of the time be 'a master of none' (it won't do any one thing particularly well). Also, never pick anything just because it has a bunch of 'goodies' added to it. If you aren't going to use them, don't let them influence your purchase.

  May 2007
  Revisiting purchasing a computer: expansion cards

You should always pay close attention to the type(s) and numbers of expansion card slots in your computer's motherboard or system board (whichever you prefer). Common types include PCI,PCI x1, PCI x16, and the older but still used AGP. Sometimes PCI slots may be listed as PCI-E (which is PCI Express, usually either x1 or x16 if the Express is included in the name). PCI x1 slots are the shortest PCI slots, a slot listed as only PCI is longer, and x16 is the longest. AGP slots are also long and have a different configuration.

These expansion slots are very important, even if you are buying an assembled system. If anything ever happens to your computer, you will need to know what type(s) of expansion cards it has. Purchasing a new modem, for example, will be difficult without knowing what types of slots you have.

Not knowing what types of expansion card slots you have can also prevent you from adding functionality to a computer. If you want a better graphics card, or if you just want one, you need to know this information. It can also be a problem to find out that you have no available expansion card slots.

Finally, if you are building your own computer, be sure that the system board you choose has the same number of expansion card slots as the case (some call it a chassis) you intend on using. Even matching form factors does not always guarantee that there will be the same number of expansion card slots.

  April 2007
  Remember, there are no "internet police" !

I would like to remind everyone that Wikipedia is user-edited. The information may or may not be correct. You can use it as a jumping off point, but I would not use it as an end reference.

I am also recommending that you only write a new entry for Wikipedia if you intend on fighting for it. People are very easily angered, and even if you have information from documented, reliable, written sources, you may still find that a person does not believe you. I know of one person in particular that is praised for their "policing" of Wikipedia. I have reviewed what they have done and they appear to target entries they simply don't like, and also personally pride themselves on the number of entries they start and don't finish (which I thought was a big no-no in Wikipedia).

In short, only those who are diligent in confirming information should use this resource. Who said something to the effect of: a single person is generally good and truthful, but people as a group are unreliable and will lie, cheat, and steal. Take this as a precaution for all information on the web. Remember, there are no "internet police." Surf wisely, surf safe.

  March 2007
  Selecting a Processor

Many people purchase the newest, best computer parts or whole computers without thinking about what would be best.

For instance, dual-core processors are all the rage. However, you do not necessarily need a quad-core processor. Also, you can find cheaper dual core processors than the Core 2 line from Intel and its equivalent at AMD. I recently saw an ad for a 3+GHz dual core Pentium D processor (Presler 945), and it was considerably cheaper than many other dual cores, if you can install it yourself.

You probably can install or upgrade many components of a computer yourself, as long as you follow valid instructions. Think about it. If a factory worker can install them all day one after another, you could probably do it too (just plan for a computer upgrade day).

Don't forget to compare the AMD and Intel processors as well, as each has its own uses.

  February 2007
  Selecting RAM

Some web sites provide a service that will determine the type of RAM your system needs and the maximum amount you can install. I recommend asking for this information (or checking the manual) from the manufacturer of the computer or motherboard. You should always verify before you buy.

A quick guide for current RAM needs based on current applications and usage:

1 GB - for basic to low intermediate users, primarily office applications and low-end image editing

2 GB - suitable for most users and can handle most image editors and illustration tools (such as Photoshop and Illustrator), as well as computer games (not at the same time!)

4 GB - a good minimum for video editing and heavy game use, necessary for what some term 'power users.'

When purchasing a computer or building yourself it is a very good idea to confirm that you can upgrade many components. Otherwise, you may have to continually purchase new whole systems.

  January 2007
  purchasing software

When purchasing software for your computer, I would not recommend ordering over the phone.

Sales staff members are not interested in answering your questions truthfully. They are interested in selling the product.

No company is immune to this problem, including software manufacturers. Your best bet is to try and find the information yourself, otherwise you may end up with a product that has not enough or too many features.

Case in point: Adobe Systems Incorporated sales staff members do not know the difference between the Standard and Premium Creative Suite 2 packages. I was sold the Premium edition, though I thought I was purchasing the Standard. When I called back, the salesperson sold me the Standard because "the only difference is Standard doesn't come with Dreamweaver", which I have.

It turns out the Standard edition Acrobat has problems. I wanted Acrobat. Needless to say, I could have gotten a better result by just ordering online. I only ordered over the phone because I had questions and it was convenient to do it all at the same time. Now I know.

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updated on 07/09/2009 4:52 CST
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