Some Helpful Computer Tips

Don't Turn Your Computer Off

Many people turn their computers off if they're not using them. That's one of the worst things you can do to your computer, and one of the best ways to harm and destroy it. The problem arises not from turning your computer OFF, but from repeatedly turning it ON. If your computer is turned off, its internal parts cool down within minutes. Turning it on sends a hot blast of electrical current rushing through ─ and damaging ─ its delicate circuitry.

Consider the analogy of a simple incandescent light bulb. Turning it on sends a hot blast of electrical current through its fragile filament. Repeated blasts of electricity are responsible for damaging and destroying the filament. Ever notice how frequently light bulbs 'burn out' if you simply flip the switch to turn them on?

The same principle applies to computers (and all electronic devices, including smartphones). Leaving them on keeps their internal parts at a steady temperature. Sure, your electric bill might increase by a few cents. But the upside is that your computer and other devices can last forever and run much smoother, with far fewer problems.

So don't turn your computer off. Simply leave it on or choose its sleep, hibernate, or standby mode. And restart it regularly to help optimize its performance (restarting it doesn't cause the problems associated with turning it off for a few minutes or more, and turning it back on).

 

Use Your Forearms To Give Your Wrists And Hands A Rest

As you're typing on your computer keyboard or using your mouse, are your forearms supported? They should be. The muscles in the forearms are much larger and stronger than those in the wrists, hands, and fingers. One of the main reasons people develop carpal tunnel syndrome and other wrist & hand problems is that they don't make use of the large muscles in their forearms while using their computers.

If you have the space to do so, try resting your forearms on a flat surface while typing and mousing. If you don't have sufficient space for that, try re-positioning your computer and mouse ─ or your chair ─ so that you do. This simple adjustment takes the stress and pressure away from your wrists, hands, and fingers, distributing the load more evenly and appropriately.

How's Your Back?

Seems as though practically everyone who works at a desk or workstation (with or without a computer) has issues with their back. No one tells you why, but the explanation is really quite simple.

 

Sitting in your chair, you lean forward to write, to use your computer, and to do most things at your desk or workstation. By leaning forward, you're curving your back and spine. And therein lies the simple problem that causes millions upon millions of painful and serious back injuries. Your back and spine are designed to be straight, not bent forward and curved. They have inherent flexibility, but they're not intended for this sort of regular, constant, and prolonged improper positioning.

Even chairs that are marketed as "ergonomic" completely fail in this most important regard. By far the most ergonomic seating is provided in personal and mass transit vehicles. Notice that as you're traveling in a car, bus, train, or airplane you naturally lean back in your seat, with your back and spine comfortably straight and fully supported by the back of the seat. You're not leaning forward as you do if you're sitting at a desk or workstation.

What's the solution at work? One is having a desk or workstation that enables you to switch between sitting and standing. Another is to lean back in your chair and work on your lap. You can comfortably write and use your computer keyboard in this position with your back straight and fully supported by the back of your chair.

Be Nice To Your Computer

Many people get upset at their computers. They yell at them, say disparaging things to them, curse at them, and even hit them.

This might sound silly to some, but computers have feelings, too. Just like you. Just like everyone and everything. They don't respond favorably or positively to mistreatment. (Do you? Does anyone or anything?)

Be nice to your computer. Give it words of encouragement. Handle it gently. Treat it the way you like to be treated. The nicer you are to your computer, the smoother it runs and the nicer it is to you. (And do the same for everyone and everything ... kindness and positive energy are good for them and for you.)

 

Some Of The Best Free Software

Many of the best computer programs are free. Here are some of my faves ...

  • Audacity: Simple and precise sound recording & editing

  • Avast: Virus detection & protection

  • Dropbox: Synchronizes files on all your computers and mobile devices

  • FileZilla: Easy and intuitive FTP (file transfer protocol) for your website's file uploads & downloads

  • Glary Utilities: Comprehensive and effective system maintenance & repair

  • Gmail: Google's email is fast, clean, powerful, flexible, versatile, customizable, and secure

  • Google Calendar: Convenient, flexible, shareable online scheduling

  • Google Drive: 15GB of shareable cloud-based storage with unlimited photo storage

  • Malwarebytes: Helps protect against malware (malicious software) that can invade & harm your devices

  • VLC Media Player: For playing all of your audio and video files

... try some of these and see what you think.

Does It Make Sense To Upgrade Or Replace Your Present Computer?

Many of my clients have computers that are a few years young and running a bit slowly or having other issues, and they ask me whether upgrading their present computer or replacing it with a newer one might be an appropriate solution.

The question of whether to upgrade or replace (or do neither) is very much an individual one, and is dependent upon a number of factors. If your budget is such that money isn't an issue, why not purchase a new computer if you're so inclined? Of course, most of us don't have the luxury of simply buying newer computers if the fancy strikes us, so we might wish to make do with what we have, and try to determine whether it can be improved via other means. Which might not be such a bad thing.

A newer computer can have the same issues as your present computer, or other issues of its own. It can run slowly, can contract viruses and other malicious software, can have other hardware and software problems, and can have all of the same types of issues that your present computer might have. In fact, many newer computers have more difficulties than those they replace. Keep in mind that with computers ─ as with all things ─ "new" and "newer" are not synonyms for "better".

Upgrading your present computer with additional RAM (random access memory), a higher-capacity hard disk drive (HDD) or solid state drive (SSD), etc. often results in a significant improvement in the computer's performance and behavior. Of these, the most cost-effective is a RAM upgrade. Providing your computer's operating system and other software with more memory (or "space") in which to work can greatly improve computer performance. RAM is inexpensive to purchase and easy to install.

In many cases, upgrading isn't necessary. Computer performance can often be improved simply by running good diagnostic & maintenance software, which can help detect and correct problems. Some of the best diagnostic & maintenance software is free ... I recommend the free version of Glary Utilities. Another handy tool for improving your PC's performance and behavior is Windows System Restore, which allows you to safely and easily return your Windows operating system and programs to a previous configuration ... this utility is also free, as it's included with Windows. If you use a Mac, you can make use of its free macOS Recovery utility, which is included with macOS.

You might wish to consider some of these options before rushing out to purchase that shiny newer computer.

Syncing Outlook

Seems as though practically everyone wants to synchronize Microsoft Outlook with their email, calendar, and contacts. And they think it should be easy to do (and they're right ... it should be easy). But unless you use Microsoft Exchange Server, which is quite expensive, syncing Outlook can be very problematical (and even syncing using Exchange Server has its issues).

 

To synchronize properly, there are bazillions of settings that must be precisely correct, including incoming and outgoing mail servers, port numbers, security settings ... the list goes on. These settings are subject to many variables, and are not always readily available. And even if every setting is perfect, syncing still might not work properly.

It shouldn't be that difficult. But typically there are multiple companies involved, each with its own preferences, priorities, and protocols. They could choose to work together, but of course that's too simple and obvious a solution.

If you must (or prefer to) use Outlook, please understand that synchronization issues commonly occur, and that it's not necessarily your fault, or your computer's fault, or anybody's fault (well, except maybe Microsoft's). In some instances the problems can be easy to resolve, while in others they can be quite difficult. Many devices and accounts simply won't permit you to synchronize with Outlook.

 

If you're open to other solutions for synchronizing your email, calendar, and contacts, consider Google's Gmail and the Google Calendar. For offline email and calendar access, Google provides Offline Gmail & Calendar, providing you with full access even if you're not connected to the Internet. On a Mac, the Apple iCal syncs flawlessly with the Google Calendar. These products work beautifully, you can share calendars and schedules with others and do many of the things you can do using Outlook. And oh, yes ... they're free and easy! For businesses, Google's G Suite is a terrific and affordable all-in-one solution.

Android Phone or iPhone?

In choosing a smartphone (also referred to as a cell phone or mobile phone), your two choices are Android phones and iPhones. Android is simply the name of Google's mobile operating system, whereas iPhones use Apple's mobile operating system, called iOS. Android phones are available from numerous brands, including Google, HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Nokia, OnePlus, Samsung, Sony, TCL, and Xiaomi, among others. iPhones are available only from Apple.

So which to choose, and why? I prefer Android phones for multiple reasons, including the wide variety of brands, models, features, and prices from which to select. I also prefer Google's Android mobile operating system over Apple's iOS mobile operating system for its flexibility and customizability. Even so, iPhones are also excellent, albeit typically more expensive than most Android phones.

Perhaps the biggest selling (read: "marketing") point for smartphones is the quality ─ and quantity ─ of their built-in cameras. In my opinion, choosing a phone based on its camera(s) is misguided. All smartphones are capable of taking excellent photos, especially if you adjust their settings for your needs and preferences. More appropriate considerations should include price, call clarity, display quality, battery performance, and whether the phone supports 5G cellular networks if that's important to you. And even though Android phones have far more available apps than do iPhones, both have millions of available apps, many of which are excellent, and most of which are free.

Helpful Computer Tips

A Word Of Caution About Electromagnetic Radiation

Just like computers and tablets (such as Apple's iPad and Samsung's Galaxy Tab), smartphones emit potentially harmful electromagnetic radiation (EMR). Keep your computers, monitors, smartphones, and tablets as far away from your head and body as you comfortably can. If you're speaking to or through your device, don't hold it close to your head. Instead, use wired earbuds that have a built-in microphone (they're readily available and very inexpensive), or use the device's speakerphone.

The reason I specifically mention ─ and recommend ─ using wired earbuds is because Bluetooth headsets (including Plantronics, Jabra, Apple AirPods, and all others) ─ which are very popular because they're wireless ─ also emit EMR. Wired earbuds don't emit EMR, they're less expensive, more comfortable, and provide clearer communication than wireless headsets, and they don't use batteries or any power source, so there's no charging required.

The same EMR concerns apply to the wireless signals produced by your Wi-Fi router. If you choose to use such a device at your home or place of business, try keeping it as far away from you as reasonably possible, and consider enclosing it inside a shielding product.

Some Helpful Computer Tips