The first thing to say about help for my page is that you won't need any.  Just click the links and off you go. I believe you will find some of the best spots on the net listed on that one page.  Many of them will lead you to thousands, millions more sources. I will use this page to offer some general  help on the computer and the internet.

SEARCH ENGINES

I use four of the most popular search engines,  Google, Bing. AOL and Yahoo.  There are thousands more, local and international.  For more information go to Search engine news.

BUILD YOUR OWN WEB PAGE

Building a web page is a fun recreation, a way to express yourself and a doorway to the world of the Internet.  I recently co-taught a tutorial on building a web page.  This is the page of links I used with the course.

VIRUSES

Face it, there are thousands of viruses out there and if you are going to be online they threaten you. Be armed.  There are a few basic rules.

  1. Get a virus check program and keep it up to date  Macafee is the best.  Symantic, another popular virus protection company has a lot of information on their site.  Here is a list of free anti-virus programs.  I haven't tried them, so I can not recommend them. I use AVG, which is free, I update it regularly and have been satisfied with it.
  2. Don't download anything from anyplace you don't know. This includes suspicious files from friends. They may have been sent by a virus which mails itself out to a person's mailing list. Look at the extensions. .txt, text files are safe. .doc (document files) are generally safe, but if any message asking you to do something unusual comes up, reject it. Beware of files with extensions .exe .bat .dll.  If you do download something run it through your virus check. Avoid downloading programs from person to person sites such as Kazaza. You will be assured of downloading a virus sooner or later and it could be one of a newer kind which your anti virus program misses. They can be very destructive. Stay with well known sites which pre check their files.
  3. Don't erase any file if you don't know what it is.  There is a current scam sent to mailing lists by a virus, which tells you that you have already been struck by a virus and asks you to erase a file in your computer. That file may be very important.  It could be the file in your virus check program which prevents viruses..
  4. Check your operating system and mail server every so often for security updates. In most cases this means going to the Microsoft upgrade site and downloading upgrades. They are usually free.
  5. Don't forward any email you may receive as a virus warning.  It is probably a hoax and may encourage people to erase important files. (See #4)  Check out Virus Myths for more information on these email warnings.
  6. Don't leave your computer connected to the net when you are not using it.
  7. If you are on DSL or cable and leave your computer on, you should use a Firewall.  A firewall is a program which will prevent hackers from getting into your computer. Zonealarm. a highly recommended firewall is free for personal use. You can download it here.
  8. Remember the three basic rules of computing. Backup, Backup, Backup.
  9. P.S  There are also a lot of programs referred to as ad-ware which may find their way into your computer. These send information on your internet habits back to advertisers.  If you would also like to remove these, try the free program Ad-Aware

For more information on Viruses, you might check out Doug Muth's Anti-Virus Resources

What to do if your site gets HIJACKED

That's right, hijacked.  There are browser sites now which automatically put commands in your windows registry giving you a new home page. often a pornographic site.  There are programs which run every time you boot the computer, which offer you a free gift, but actually, they hang up your modem and dial an out of country number for which you will be charged an exorbitant charge and you will be held responsible for the charges.  To deal with some of these problems, read this article in PC World.

BACKUP! BACKUP! BACKUP.......BUT HOW?

Any computer expert will tell you that the most important thing you can do with your computer is to back it up. The question is not whether a hard drive will fail but when it will fail. You have to BACK MATERIAL UP  OR SAY GOODBYE TO IT NOW.  That is easier said than done.  When I got my first computer, the most information I could save would be whatever could be stored on a 5 1/2 inch paper floppy disk.  It was easy then.  Today  my computer contains about 24 gig of information. That is enough to fill 40 CD-ROMS, more than I can possible want to back up.  So what is a person to do?. First let's break down the problem.  There are basically three kinds of files on our computer.

1. Programs that we load including our operating system (Windows probably) Word Processing, Graphics and so forth.
2. Drivers. These are the programs that come with various pieces of hardware and make them work
2. Information that we produce, our personal letters, pictures, music and so forth.

The first two kinds of information come to us on disk either when we buy a piece of equipment or when we purchase a new program. Usually today, these are on CD.  If you have a CD burner, I suggest you make a copy of these CDs and then store the originals away.  Keep the copies in a convenient place and you are always ready to reinstall a program when it has a problem. If you don't have a burner, store these original disks away in a safe place. Know where they are for when you need them.  Remember, that though it may cost you a few bucks, these programs can always be replaced.

The third kind of information, that which you produce is different.  If you lose it, it is lost forever. It is that information which you must back up carefully. If you wanted to find the most permanent way to back these files, you would print them out on papyrus.  Obviously this is not feasible.  Actually though, making a hard copy and printing it out, is the best way to be assured that you have a lasting, accessible copy. This method of saving does not work for music and video, so we have to look at other ways. There are many methods of saving material, extra hard drives, tapes, various brands of backup disks, but probably the best and most accessible method is to put material on a CD. A CD can be expected to last a couple of hundred years. Of course, you know you will not have equipment to read a CD in 200 years.  You will have as much chance as I will to read my 5 1/2" floppy disks of only 15 years ago. Be prepared to move important information to new formats as time changes. But for the forseeable near future the CD is the best alternative.

The actual method of backing up is easy.  Whenever you create anything on the computer, be it a letter, picture or PhD Thesis save in your Mydocuments folder in windows. (You may use the sub folders myvideos, mymusic or create your own.)  In other operating systems, have a basic back-up folder in which you save all your original material. Some programs will have to have their options changed so that they are programmed to save in these folders but once everything is saved there, backup becomes simple.  Simply copy your Mydocuments folder to a CD and it is done.  Do this once a week or so,  or whenever you have produced a large body of work.  If you have a read-write CD-ROM, you can copy to a re-readable CD and simply copy over the old files. If you don't, simply make a new CD, date it and recycle the old one. CD's cost about 15 cents as I write, a small price to pay for having your hours of production saved. I suggest that every once in a while you make a second copy of this CD just to be sure.  CD's are quite fragile and a scratch can destroy months of information.  Remember, the question is not, "Will my hard drive go bad?"  it's "When will my hard drive go bad?" Again: Backup, backup backup.  By the way, if you have a rewritable CD, use that feature. It will save CD's and the environment.

TROUBLESHOOTING

 Someday you will turn on your computer and get only the fearsome black screen.

What do you do then?  Here are a few trouble shooting tips.

Make sure you have a boot disk with which to start to computerand keep it handy.. If you have a 3 1/2" drive, I suggest you make a boot disk for that drive.  The boot disk will start to computer and allow you to access the CD driver. (Consult your help file for information on making a boot disk.)  Try it out. Be certain that it can access the CD.

Use the following procedure to solve problems.

1. Operator error: This is the cause of most problems. Check your manual and help file. Be sure you know how to use the program.

2 Reinstall software.  If you have used the program many times, know how to use it and it does not work, reinstall it. That should usually do it.

3. Check for viruses.  If the program still fails, run your update your virus file and run it. See if a virus is the problem.

4. Reinstall your operating system. (Windows)

4. Cables and connections.  Check that all cables and connections are installed and that the cat hasn't pulled something loose.

5. You may have a hardware problem. Try to substitute hardware.  If the modem doesn't work. try another modem if you have one.  That is what the repair person will do.

6. It may be time to go to the repair shop, unless you want to get a book out of the library such as "Upgrading and Repairing PCs" and try to solve the problem yourself.

7. Of course you can always get a new computer.  They are rapidly improving and dropping in price.

 

FREE SOFTWARE YOU MAY NEED

Check out Al's toolbox for a list of software you can get free and which you may need. Pricelessware

COMPUTER HARDWARE HELP

Trishes Hardware Hell will lead you to lots of hardware help sources.  The basic hardware page will help you in buying decisions. Tom's Hardware Page is worth a look.

SOFTWARE HELP

Computer tutorials as its name implies has kinks to dozens of computer tutorials, including hardware, software

University of Illinois at Urbana has a list of computer resources from around the world.

And perhaps someday you will want to build your own PC

Here are some other links for you.

Mike Nichol's PC Fixes  Lots of help files, but more technically oriented.

 Windows Tips and Tricks  Looks pretty good. Lots of detailed suggestions.

Computer Fundamentals  A pretty good introduction.

Keyboard shortcuts

Computer Help Web Ring list about a dozen more sites.

For minor problems, or questions, send me a note. al@alseye.com