Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Computer Adoptions

Plugging in...

Where do the unwanted, soon-to-be homeless computers go? Some go to the electronics graveyard, but some still have plenty of life ahead, if someone would only give them time, and a home.

If the computers are in the path of the Tutor and the Tutor's clients, they get a once-over for potential continued usability. If they are deemed adoptable, they are re-furbished and given away, free of charge. If they are not worthy, they are recycled by environmentally friendly recyclers.

In the past four years, the Tutor has had the opportunity to re-furbish 14 computers, both desktop and laptop, and placed them in "good homes".

Where did those 14 computers go?

2 computers are now working for a non-profit company
3 computers are now working for a startup restaurant
2 computers are now working for people 82 and 91 years young
1 computer is working for a recently laid-off school teacher
1 computer is working for a single mother with terminally ill children
2 computers were placed with a retired gentleman
1 computer replaced one that "drowned" in the recent March MA storms
2 computers are working as test machines for software and education

Each re-furbished computer takes 5-6 hours of work before it's ready for a new home. Without being technically boring, once done, it resembles a new computer, but with old parts, all previous information securely removed.

The Tutor can discern the age and usefulness of an older computer in minutes. Got one? Let's have a look, you could easily make someone's day with this gesture. Although the computer donors are always anonymous, every computer that is placed, is received with open arms and a gigantic smile.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, do you have a spare computer to donate, and is it turned on?


Saturday, April 17, 2010

You KNOW you're on a Computer

Plugging in...

When the error message looks like Greek
When the mouse won’t move a hair
When the document you’ve been typing
Hits the road, and disappears
You KNOW you’re on a computer.

When iTunes up and eats your song
When your camera won’t behave
When the DVD won’t play one track
You feel like a computer slave
You KNOW you’re on a computer.

When the internet says: page not found
When the xbox won’t let you play
When the wireless router blinks in vain
It may be time to call it a day
You KNOW you’re on a computer.

When Excel barks “THIS IS WRONG”
When PowerPoint slides look grim
When Access claims your entire day
Your hopes of success look dim
You KNOW you’re on a computer.

When viruses and malware attack your work
When your computer slows to a stop
When nothing works but swearing out loud
You want to hit the computer with a mop
You KNOW you’re on a computer.

When you forget to plug a cable in
When the printer won’t print the work
When the paper’s put in upside down
You may feel like a great big jerk
You KNOW you’re on a computer.

Smile. This too shall pass!

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is your sense of humor intact, and is it turned on?


A Time-Consuming Endeavor

Plugging in...

Why does it take so long to set up a new computer for someone? Someone that has used one in the past? Can't one just take it out of the box and plug it in?

YES and NO.

YES, one can unpackage and plug it in, answer a few questions and voila, new computer will operate.

NO, it won't look like the old one because over time, the user has changed many things on that computer, and the changes didn't occur all in one day. Changes such as colors, internet favorites and homepage, desktop shortcuts, email settings, the user's files, camera software, iTunes and music, wireless settings, printer installations, adobe reader (and other helper programs) smart phone syncing, and software installs, to name a few.

Depending on how long it's been since a new computer was purchased, one has the added challenge of perhaps the familiar programs of yore won't run under the new "boss" ie operating system (Windows on PCs, OS on Macs). Worse yet, some of the software doesn't exist anymore.

When budgeting for the new purchase, unless one knows how to do ALL the above, allow for 4-6 hours of technical assistance from a pro, um, a Computor Tutor.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, and is it turned on?


Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Service Pack Shuffle

Plugging in...

Keeping current is the rage. Change is good. Change drives us crazy. But in order to keep safe and secure while working on a computer, one must "keep up" with the free Service Packs. They include BIG changes to Windows, the software that manages your personal computer. (The MAC has a manager, too, referred to as OS, followed by numbers. They have patches and upgrades as well.)

A recent client was infected with a piece of malware (software that kept falsely announcing in annoying POP UP windows the computer had myriad infections; it wouldn't let the owner use the computer). The Tutor whisked away the infection (how? trade secret!) and decided to add another layer of protection, a free Firewall called Zone Alarm. After downloading Zone Alarm, the Zone Alarm program notified the Tutor via a pop up that their product required SP1 on Windows Vista in order to run. The Tutor quickly checked what version of Windows the computer was running and found that it was missing both SP1 and SP2, released in 2008, and 2009. And... most importantly, THIS was why the pesky malware found a way inside the computer. Sort of like the rains the North East was pummeled with - protection is key to fending off the elements, nature or man-made.

Windows XP users must be running Service Pack 3.
Windows Vista users must be running Service Pack 2.

To find out your version of Windows, RIGHT click on the My Computer icon. Left click on Properties. Read the information under System. If you have a Service Pack, it will say SP1, 2 or 3. If you are missing any of the Service Packs, use your favorite search engine and search for:

"Download SP1" +Vista (or whichever one your computer requires).
"Download SP3" +XP (or whichever one your computer requires).

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is it UP TO DATE with patches and Service Packs, and is it turned on?