Cleaning the Unit Fan is Essential Computer Care
n taking care of the household, the kids, the pets, and the district PTA, computer care is probably one of the last things that you think of doing on a regular basis. Without a regular maintenance schedule however, you could find out (the hard way) that a neglected computer is an energy hog – one that works harder than it needs to and one that could be a financial burden to replace.
Let’s talk about maintaining hardware. So much emphasis is put on maintaining a computer’s operating system that we sometimes forget how important it is to maintain a computer’s hardware components. Since there can be quite a few components to take care of, let’s talk about the most important one.
The most important component of a computer’s hardware system is its fan. The fan is located on the computer’s CPU unit and when that thing gets clogged with dirt and dust, it can run down a computer faster than you can say, “Something’s wrong with my computer and I don’t know what it is!” In short, the fan is responsible for keeping a computer’s motor cool and this motor is what keeps the computer’s hard drive and peripherals functioning the way you need them to, which translates to “fast.”
A dirty fan doesn’t rotate fast enough to keep that motor cool and a completely clogged fan just stops rotating altogether. This causes the computer’s motor to work harder – and a harder working motor can raise the electric bill! Worst case scenario: the motor can overheat and stop working as well. No motor equals no computer.
Keep your computer’s fan clean by preventing the fan from getting dirty or dusty in the first place. Use the computer in a dust-free environment and never smoke around it. Nicotine and tar mean certain death when it comes to computer fans, however should you find a need to clean the fan, do so with extreme care.
It’s quite easy to cause more damage from cleaning so if you’re not comfortable with cleaning your PC yourself, take it to a shop for servicing. Otherwise, you can unplug and disassemble the computer to do it yourself.
You’ll need a can of compressed air and an anti-static rag to remove stubborn clumps of dust. Hold the can perfectly vertical and spray the fan being careful not to spray the dust off the fan onto other sensitive parts of the computer like circuit boards or inside the motor casing. Wipe up remaining dust with your anti-static rag and then reassemble the computer.
One thing that you certainly don’t want to use to remove computer dust is a vacuum cleaner. Although using a vacuum cleaner seems to make more sense, the strong suction of a vacuum cleaner can actually spark damaging static electricity or dislodge loose cables. You also don’t want to use oil-based cleaners. Although Pledge may dust your wooden tables and cabinets to a perfect shine, the oil inside a cleaner like this will erode sensitive computer parts. Stick to a liquid-free dusting method and your dusting routine will be safe enough to repeat as often as you need.
As previously mentioned, preventing dust from entering the computer is extremely important and will reduce the need to open and dust your system in the first place. The severity of outside elements (smoking, humidity, pets, etc.) will ultimately determine how often you’ll need to de-dust your machine. But as an average, you shouldn’t need to perform this procedure any more than once or twice a year.
The entire exercise should take no more than twenty minutes tops and once complete, you’ll immediately see and hear the difference in your machine. The computer’s keyboard and mouse will run more smoothly, hardware won’t take as long to connect, and the entire machine won’t be as loud as one that’s corroded with ugly dust bunnies.
Programs Included With a New Computer
Are they good enough to stand on their own?
The Windows operating systems already comes with a useful collection of pre-installed programs and even some games. But one of the first things that people do is download a butt-load of new programs as soon as a brand new system is plugged in the wall and connected to the Internet. This article looks at some of the programs that are included with most new systems and then asks the reader to consider if they’re sufficient.
NotePad and WordPad. All Windows systems include the two text editors, “NotePad,” and “WordPad.” Notepad is a plain text editor while WordPad is a rich text editor. Both files are capable of opening plain text, however WordPad can open Windows Write files (an earlier version of WordPad) as well as rich text files. WordPad can also save documents as plain text, rich text, and MS Word documents. So with WordPad having the ability to read and create rich text; embed objects (sound, pictures, and video); and manipulate fonts, we have to wonder if other word processors, which do the same thing, are really necessary. Although WordPad is certainly no match for Microsoft Word’s internal spell and grammar checker or Word’s Internet linking capabilities, we believe it’s a great introduction to word processing in general for computer novices.
Address Book. There are hoards of advanced contact database programs floating around the Internet and on store shelves, but Windows provides a completely competent contact database of its own simply known as “Address Book.” This small compact utility allows users to organize contacts by name, location, group, or number and it give users ample space to fully describe each. Compared to Microsoft’s Access database program, its user-friendly Address Book is a Godsend to new computer users.
Calculator. Calculator has been a Windows accessory even from its first debut in Windows 1.0. For the life of us, we can’t figure out why anyone other than a rocket scientist would want to install a different version than this free one that comes pre-installed. Windows calculator has two interfaces: an easy one, and a scientific one. So perhaps a rocket scientist could fare well with Windows Calculator after all!
Paint. Windows’ Paint program allows users to make changes to existing graphics, or create brand new ones at no additional cost. Interestingly, we can count at least ten different graphics packages that are more popular and widely used than this free one. While it doesn’t offer as many editing tools, it does provide the essentials and it can open/save graphics in .bmp, .gif, and.jpg format (the latter two being the most commonly format used for Internet eye candy).
Media Player. Real Player and QuickTime are the first programs we think of when we think about multimedia. But Windows Media Player, also free and pre-installed, does a fine job at transmitting Internet-bound sound and video. With this application, you can easily listen to .wav files, .midi files, and even tune into a little Internet radio if you like.
System Tools. Although there are too many to list here, Windows provides more than a handful of useful utilities that will monitor system resources, organize files, repair damaged disks, and more. Yet and still, you can easily find similar tools for sale at computer outlets and download libraries.
What’s going on here?
The truth of the matter is that the programs pre-installed are great tools for the beginning computer user. At some point down the road, usage will dictate a need for more powerful applications. We may need a word processor that can convert a document into an HTML page or PDF document. We may need a calculator that solves geometric problems. Or we may need a multimedia tool that lets us create our own videos as well as watch them. These capabilities aren’t included with new systems, but there’s no reason why we can’t exploit the tools that we’re given to their fullest.
Introduction to Programming
Controlling Your Computer with a Programming Language
In a previous article, we introduced automating some tasks with MS-DOS batch files. In this article, we’re going to introduce programming and describe how it can be used to control the way your computer works. Normally, computer novices aren’t interested in controlling the computer. New computer users are typically interested in learning more about how the thing works. However they may be surprised to learn that programming increases computer knowledge as a whole and it can help to diminish the fear associated with using a new computer.
Programming a computer is creating a sequence of instructions that enable the computer to do something. The people who program computers (called programmers) use a programming language to communicate with a computer. You might have heard of some of these languages in the past such as Visual Basic, C++, or Fortran. There are hundreds of other programming language and neither one is better than the other. Most of them are capable of performing the same tasks and achieving the same goals. A programmer chooses one language by a simple preference.
Each of these languages differ by the way they communicate with a computer however, and the commands that they follow are very specific. Not a single command of one language can be interchanged with the commands or language of another. But all of them can be used to control a computer.
Now it would be impossible to teach you how to program any language in a single article. But we can still introduce you to some of programming’s most basic concepts – starting with the commands we talked about earlier. Commands are the instructions that a computer follows to perform an action.  To make them work inside of a program, programmers assign commands to objects like buttons for example.
The commands in a program are pretty useless unless they have some data to act on so programmers either give the programs some data to work with (list of names or numbers for example) or they make the program generate it’s own data. Sometimes, the data comes from an outside source like the Internet or the computer that the program runs on. The data that a program receives is called input and data that the program generates is called output.
Other times, the data is unknown. If the program were working with a simple algebra equation like, “x + 5 = y,” the variables “x” and “y” would be unknown pieces of data. Or if a program were to calculate a date “x” days from now, the variable “x” would be an unknown piece of data until we tell the program what “x” is. In programming, it’s sometimes required to work with unknown pieces of data.
That’s when conditions come in handy. Conditions allow a program to perform an action based on the outcome of a previous command. Using this type of instruction, we could instruct a program to do one thing if the “x” variable in our latter example turned out to be 7 days, and then do different thing if the variable turned out to be 3 days.
Commands, data, variables, and conditions help build the most simple programs and there are certainly many more components of any programming language. But when they’re typed into a programming language and compiled to create a an executable file (a file ending with the .exe extension), they turn into a software application.
As we mentioned earlier, you can use a programming language to control your computer. By using simple commands, you can program your computer to perform mathematical tasks, fill out web forms, compose an email message and send it off, or any number of other things. If you’re interested, you may find Visual Basic is one of the most easiest programming languages to learn. Visual Basic is an object-oriented programming language and it automatically codes much of a program the minute a programmer drags a button onto a screen.
Computer Training Class
So you want to learn about some aspect of computers, and are looking into taking a computer training class? Well, there are a variety of computer training classes available these days, so finding the right class for your level of experience is very important. Most people who are simply looking into taking a class to better their personal knowledge of computers or perhaps looking for better skills to develop their career can be well suited through the courses offered at local junior colleges in their area. In this article we will examine what types of computer training classes are usually available for the various levels of computer initiate.
For those who are a complete novice, a basics in computing is highly recommended. In this computer training class you will learn how a computer works, the history of computing, computer configurations, etc. A basic class is just what it says – the basics. From keyboarding, using the mouse, different types of computers, operating systems, etc., it is the beginner’s place to start when learning about computers and computing. Some basic computer training classes also offer information on the basics of networking, from network printing using the LAN or local area network, to the use of a WAN or wide area network, such as the Internet. If you have the option to take such a class and you are a novice to computers, this is highly recommended. The information can be invaluable in everyday troubleshooting situations when you are looking to save the high dollar service fees of on-site technicians.
For the intermediate computer user, there are a variety of computer training classes that are available. On subject ranging from the internal workings of the computer and upgrading various components to building a system from scratch, there is a lot to learn at this level. Perhaps you know about the internal workings of a computer, but don’t know much about how software works and runs.
At this stage you can also take a computer training class covering the basics of programming. While there are a variety of languages available today to program in, it is highly recommended that you learn C# (pronounced C sharp). It is on the cutting edge of programming and is a new object oriented language developed by Microsoft based on the older C and C+ programming languages. Perhaps you are more of a rogue, however, and are more interested in going against the flow of ‘big brother’ and ‘big business’. Another highly recommended computer training class would be in the programming language of PERL (Practical Extraction and Reporting Language). This language is used to create CGI (Common Gateway Interface) programs that are in high demand and use on the web today.
For the advanced user, you will find there is always something to learn in a computer training class. Maybe you are very experienced in programming, hardware configuration, operating systems, upgrades, troubleshooting, etc. Depending on your level of expertise, you might consider taking a course of action to get your certification in a various field of computer knowledge. Not only will this improve your resume and look good as far as expanding your career horizons, you will gain a great feeling of accomplishment when you complete the computer training class needed for certification.