a chain is as strong as its links

Computer fitness

looking after your investment


insurance for your computer

Despite all the 'user-friendly' modifications in recent years, if you have had a computer, you have learnt to be careful, often because you (like anybody else) have made a mistake, or something has simply gone wrong.

You know now that you must check the manual for any details you're not sure about, like how to clean your computer, change the ink in the printer, plug everything in properly.

You may have learnt the hard way to keep food and drink away from your computer (one classic is the full cup of coffee spilled over the keyboard -- there are lots of good stories and we've all done something silly at least once), keep magnets away from your floppy disks, and keep children away from anything -- well, away from anything you don't want played with.

Young children need careful supervision with computers.
Older children need definite rules and limits.

When my youngest was two, she rearranged my system configuration.
Don't ask me how -- I don't know. More about kids in later articles.

Anywhere, but particularly where you may experience power 'flicks'; or failures, you need to protect your expensive computer and its 'peripherals' (CD-ROM, printer etc) by making sure all these delicate bits of electronic machinery are plugged into a good-quality surgebuster plugboard.

This should protect all your computer equipment from sudden changes in the power flow, short of a lightning strike somewhere on the power line... always have your computer equipment turned off and preferably unplugged during a thunderstorm.

For further Acts of God, well, see 'children' later on.


computer health

Computers can get sick. If one program 'conflicts' with another, you will have trouble making the computer do what you want.

It is literally confused by two different programs. For example:

"Hey, you, computer, when you do *that* you have to keep *this* open AND closed at the same time."
What??? Aaaaaarrrgghhhhh!!! which usually comes out politely as "Error" or if the computer is past speech at this point, as a 'freeze'. The computer simply passes out. My youngest interprets this as "Mum, Elsie's got a headache again!"

Software (programs) conflicts (not working together) are a bummer.
The best insurance against software conflicts is only to load the programs you really need.

Don't be tempted by one-off screen-savers, little gadget-programs, or collectors' mania that results in your disk being crammed with anything and everything that 'might' work.

The less extra stuff there is on your computer, the easier it is to track down what isn't working.

Also, like you, your computer brain works better when it has some space for thinking and storing things.

Look after it and don't overload it. (This works well for people too ;-)


lean, mean and clean

Safeguard your computer by keeping it ''lean, mean and clean'.

Not too many programs, not too much work at once, and while you can try out programs and 'demos', you can transfer files between work and home, and you can swap disks with other people, make sure your computer wears a condom.

You should have an up-to-date virus-scanning program (like viruses which attack people, new computer viruses develop and change) and scan every new program before using it.

If someone else has used your disk, scan it.
As my mother always said, "You don't know where it's been!"

'Disinfectant' for Macintosh

'Virus Scan' for Windows

Without going into too much detail, viruses are directions given to your computer.

They are written deliberately to cause problems on your computer, and they can be built into anything that contains instructions: an executable 'program', an application, and any file that contains 'macros' or 'scripts'.

Since 'bad' macros and scripts are not easily detected, it is simple insurance not to open a strange file with a macro, or run any strange script, unless you really need it, and even then it would be a good idea to have it checked out by someone who can read the directions it gives.


stepping out on the Internet

So what about the Internet? Well, we may not have hooked up to the modem (and the rest of the world) yet, but we've already covered a good proportion of all 'Internet' problems.

The Internet, for you, starts with your computer.
If you're not looking after your computer, if it's not working well, you are not going anywhere.

Also, you need some specific Internet software, and it may take a while to find the programs that suit you and your computer best (not necessarily the biggest or most expensive).

But to start with, it's important that you understand how the bare-bones programs you need for your Internet connection are 'set up' on your computer.

Ask lots of questions. Read Help files.

You will often have to recheck your settings, just like checking the fuel, oil and air in your car.

Make a careful note of what you need to check before trying to connect.

Mine starts with
"make sure everything is turned on and plugged into itself and each other"
but I'm sure you know what I mean.

A lot of Internet connection problems come from being in a hurry and not checking things properly.

After all, you're going somewhere, aren't you?
Let's not leave the keys behind or the back door unlocked.



next article: Is the Internet safe?

back to 'Look Here First'

made with a Macintosh