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Sunday, March 2, 2008

Connecting With People through Computers

Connecting With People Through Computers

Back in the eighties, it wasn't that usual to have a modem in your computer, if you even had one. These days, there are different kinds of modems - cable modems, DSL modems, and dialup modems like I used to have.

Even though dialup modems seem incredibly slow these days, compared to "broadband" connections like DSL and cable, they are amazingly fast compared to the ones you could get back in the 80s.

I remember that when I got my first dialup modem for my first computer. Back then, most computers didn't even have modems; modems have been standard in most computers for years now, but are starting to get phased out because they're so out of date.

The dialup modems you get now, while much much slower than "broadband" (high speed) connections like DSL or cable, are incredibly fast compared to what you could get in the mid '80s.

Back then, the modem in my PC ran at "1200 baud" (as opposed to current dialup modems which are about 50 times faster). Some of my friends had 300 baud modems. They were so slow, that if I went to read an email online, I could actually read faster than the words would appear on the screen, letter by letter, line by line.

Later, when I shelled out over $200 for a whopping 2400 baud modem, I was amazed that the words appeared too fast to read!

Of course, it was still so slow by modern standards, that if I'd tried to download even a picture like you'd find on a website of today - even a very small picture - it could take hours.

And a dialup modem these days costs less than $20.

So times change. Especially when it comes to computers.

Of course, the great thing about that is all the cool stuff you can do now that would've seemed like science fiction back in the '80s.

But really, I think the best thing about the technology we have today is how it can bring people together. These days we think nothing of sending an email across the world and have it arrive in moments. Back in the '80s, it was possible to do that, but it was a lot harder to do, and much more expensive.

And of course most people hadn't even heard of email back then.

One of the best ways people can connect, either for business or with friends or family, is video chats. Video chats have been around for years, but only fairly recently have gotten good enough to be like the video phones on the old Jetsons cartoons.

I moved out to Hawaii in 2001, about five thousand miles from where I grew up, in Ithaca, NY. My parents still live there, and while my brother is a little closer, he's still a long way away in California.

One of the ways we keep in touch is with video chats - if you don't know what I'm talking about, you've probably been in an electronics store where they have a camcorder hooked up to a TV so people can wave at themselves when they come in.

With a good chat program, a good quality web cam, and a fast internet connection, the picture can look almost as good as that.

So it's about the next best thing to actually being with friends or family, when they're a long way away. It's almost like I get to visit with my parents, or hang out with my brother.

Plus in the winter, my parents can point the camera out the window and I can see the snow fall, and I can make them jealous by showing them my view of the sun shining off the deep blue sea.

It also doesn't cost a thing, so if you talk long distance a lot, it can really save a lot of money.

There are a lot of chat programs that let you do free video or audio chats (audio chats are like regular phone calls, and in some cases you can even call from your computer to a regular phone).

You can use programs such as AOL Instant Messenger, Skype, and Yahoo Messenger for audio and/or video chats. There are versions of these programs for both Mac and PC, but the majority of Mac users use iChat AV (which is what I use to talk to my family and friends), which comes on all Macs made in the last few years.

One of the best choices overall, in my opinion, is Skype. While I personally think the program is a bit of a "resource hog" (in other words, it can bog your computer down while it's running) it does let basically any type of computer -- Mac, Windows, or Linux) talk to each other without compatibility problems. Other programs either only work on one type of computer, or don't work as well between computer types.

Skype also has some other nice features, like "Skypeout" that lets you call regular phone numbers, not just other computers running Skype.

But the main thing is, computers give us amazing possibilities to connect with others, more quickly, easily, and inexpensively than ever before.

It's a pretty amazing time we live in.

Until next time, enjoy,

Worth Godwin

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Computer Basics: How To Get better At Computers Without Learning a Thing

I've been giving people computer help for a long time now – over thirteen years as a professional, and for years before that, I was the "computer genius" (their words, not mine) everybody came to when they got stuck.

I've been paying attention to all those people over the years, and I've noticed something; for most people, the biggest problem they have with computers is actually very simple, and it's something they have total control over – their mental attitude.

I consider myself really lucky because I was born at a unique time. I'm just old enough to not only remember the first home computers, but also remember clearly what it was like before anyone had one in their home.

I think I was around ten years old when I first sat down in front of a computer. The first thing I thought was how cool it was, and how much fun I was going to have using it.

I dove right in and started played around with it, just seeing what I could do, and I wasn't intimidated by the fact that I didn't yet understand computer basics.

Back then, I only had a couple of friends with computers (it was still rare in the 80s) – they must have gotten really tired of the way I hogged their computer for hours at a time, every time I came over!

Finally, a few years later, my parents bought me my own computer, and I sat down and taught myself the basics of how to use it.

Now it's really common with people even just a few years older than me to think that they'll never be any good at computers because they didn't grow up with them. They think because they didn't get to learn computer basics as a kid, that it's hopeless.

Even people my age feel that way a lot!

I happened to be lucky enough to go to a junior high school that had two computers (which was a lot at the time!), and was lucky enough to have a couple of friends who owned them too. So I got exposed to them earlier than a lot of people my age.

But think about it: I was I born with some natural talent at computers?

No, of course not.

I didn't know a thing about them back then. And you know what? I made a lot of mistakes when I first learned to use them!

But I learned from those mistakes.

I've thought about this a lot over the years, and really, I think the biggest single advantage I ever had, was that I was able to really imagine all the ways I could have fun using the computer – and because I was just playing around with it, because I was enjoying the process of learning, it made it easy.

I bet there's something in your life you really enjoy a lot. Could be football, basketball, or some other sport; it could be restoring vintage cars, cooking, or collecting stamps.

It could be any of a hundred other things – the number of things people are passionate about is just as many as there are people.

But chances are, there's at least one thing in your life that you get really excited about, and really enjoy. And whatever it is, I bet you know a lot about it, and probably could talk about it for hours.

And I bet you never thought learning about this was something hard or intimidating. And in fact, you probably think it's pretty easy, and fun!

Just imagine for a minute what it'd be like to feel the same way about using a computer.

I know some of you reading this are thinking "yeah, right." But understand, I'm not asking you if you could suddenly find the computer easy. I'm just asking you to just *imagine* what it'd be like if computers were fun and easy for you.

Just pretend.

Because one of the most important things you can learn, that will really help learn computer basics, and even master your computer, is not memorizing technical computer terms like what the difference is between memory and a hard drive (although if you don't know this, you can find a plain English explanation in the computer basics articles section of my web site) or anything else like that.

One of the biggest things you can do to help yourself get better at computers is to simply change the way you feel about them.

And that can be just as easy as using your imagination, and pretending you already find them easy, and that they're fun to use.

Because when you can learn to experience even just a little of what you feel when you're enjoying your favorite hobby, you'll be surprised how much easier it is to skyrocket your computer skills.

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Friday, February 15, 2008

What is RAM, What is a Hard Drive: A Plain English Explanation

When it comes to a computer, there are so many computer terms like RAM, megahertz, gigabytes, etc. that people can find confusing. Having a better understanding of some of these terms can help you feel more comfortable using your computer, and ultimately get more out of it.

A lot of people I talk to seem to be apologetic about their lack of knowledge. It's too bad people feel that way; they really shouldn't. What I tell them is that while they may not know as much as I do about computers, there's nothing wrong with that, and they probably know a lot of other things I don't know much about.

All you need is someone who takes the time to explain things to you in a way that makes sense.

One term many people confuse is memory or RAM, and hard drive storage space. RAM stands for Random Access Memory (don't worry, you don't need to remember that!).

It is a temporary working space the computer uses to get work done, which gets emptied when the computer is turned off.

Think of it like a work bench or table. You have a project you're working on and you do your project on the bench and when you're done, you clear it off.

The hard drive is the main place your computer uses to store information. It looks like a rectangular metal box which contains a non-removable disk (as opposed to something like a CD Drive where you can take the disk out).

It is the disk inside the drive which stores everything on your computer -- every picture, every music file, every email, and every Word document. Not only that, but Windows or Mac OS X, the operating system that makes the computer run.

To continue our analogy, think of it as a set of shelves where you store the tools or materials for your project -- when you want to work on something you choose the things you need from the shelves, put them on the bench and work on the project.

This is like when you run a program; the computer loads the program from the hard drive into memory (the temporary working space).

So the larger the shelves, the more you can store -- i.e. the more programs you can have installed, the more songs or pictures or videos you can save on your computer.

Most people with a computer made in the last few years have far larger hard drives than they'll ever use. Few people ever fill them up, unless they are keeping a lot of large files such as sound files or pictures, or especially video files.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If that's true, video is worth at least a million words, and the files can be that much bigger!

If someone tells you you need more memory, or your computer gives you an error message about being low on memory, this usually means you don't have enough RAM. This can slow your computer down drastically.

Think of the bench idea again: if your bench is very small, you can't fit everything you need on it to get your work done, so you're constantly wasting time moving one piece of the project off the bench to make room for the next piece... if you can really work at all.

Both RAM and hard drive space are measured with the same terms: bytes, kilobytes (KB), megabytes (MB), gigabytes (GB), with newer drives even being measured in terabytes (TB). Since both RAM and hard drives are measured in the same way, this may be one reason people confuse the two terms.

You don't need to understand exactly what those terms mean, but understand that each one is basically a thousand times larger than the one before. So a kilobyte is 1,000 times larger than a byte, a megabyte is 1,000 times larger than a kilobyte, a gigabyte is a thousand times later than that, and so on.

The reason you buy a computer one year that has a lot of RAM, and two or three years go by and suddenly someone tells you you don't have enough memory, is because each year the average size of programs, and the amount of memory they need, gets larger.

It's as if the tools you use on your workbench keep growing every year so you eventually have to get a larger bench.

If your computer seems to be running more slowly recently, or you've been having odd errors, it could be that you need to upgrade your memory. This isn't always the source of these problems, but RAM is very inexpensive these days and adding to what your computer has can add life to your Mac or PC.

Hopefully this clears up the meaning of these basic computer terms for you, and made a lot more sense than it used to! To learn more about RAM and memory, read this related article that explains how RAM affects the speed of a computer, and more.

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

What Is Spyware & Adware and What Is Malware

Has your computer been been running more slowly recently? Has it been crashing? Do you get pop-up ads for no apparent reason?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have fallen victim to malicious types of programs called "malware", a term which includes both adware and spyware.

Adware (advertising software) is a type of program which delivers ads to your computer screen. These adware programs run in the background whenever your computer is on.

This can be annoying because the ads pop up from nowhere, and often contain offensive images, but can also cause conflicts and potentially crash your computer.

There are several ways these programs can get into your system. In some cases you find a shareware program which, for example, delivers up-to-date weather reports to your computer. You download the program and install it, and while it does give you weather reports, it also watches what websites you visit and based on the profile it builds about you delivers targeted ads to your computer screen.

In other cases, the adware program is a completely separate program which is attached to a a program you choose to install. This is almost universally the case with file-trading programs (see my article on file trading risks).

Many adware programs also get installed just by visiting certain websites, as the sites are designed to take advantage of security holes in your web browser, especially those in Internet Explorer.

An even bigger problem is that many of these hidden programs are also spyware — spyware gather information from your computer.

Most commonly they monitor web sites you visit, but some spyware programs are what is known as "keyloggers," which is short for "keystroke loggers." These programs literally record everything you type into your computer, harvesting passwords, credit card numbers, and social security numbers.

This personal information can then be sent off without your knowledge and can be used for identity theft, potentially embarrassing you or even robbing you of thousands of dollars and your good name and credit.

Having spyware on your system is like inviting a stranger into your home and never noticing as he snoops through your drawers, writes down your credit card numbers, and watches your every move.

Most Windows PCs with internet access turn up one or more of these programs lurking unseen. I would personally estimate 80% or more of the Windows machines I look at have adware or spyware installed. According to Symantec, maker of Norton Internet Security, it may be 91% or more. In most cases, the computer users have absolutely no idea their machine is infected.

Fortunately, there are ways to clean up your system if it is infected, and ways to protect yourself from future infections. There are a number of anti-spyware programs out there, but be warned: many of them are scams which actually install more spyware and adware on your system!

Most people find the easiest way to learn how to get more out of their computer and be safe at the same time, is to be shown, step by step, how to do it. Aside from spyware, there are a lot of threats to Windows users that can be very complicated.

But it can be a lot easier than you think with the right help.

My free computer tips email newsletter explains a lot of this in plain English articles, plus when I made my easy computer lesson CDs, I made a big point of including a lot of my quick, easy step by step video lessons on making it easy to protect your computer whether it's a Mac or Windows PC.

Take a look if you feel you need more help.

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

What is Shareware & Freeware - Understanding Different Types of Software

There is a huge variety of software available to run on personal computers, from business applications, to games, to screensavers.

Most people are aware of commercial software — software you buy in a box at a store — but many internet users have also heard of shareware and freeware programs.

Freeware, as the name implies, is software you can use for free. It can usually be copied to anyone as long as it’s not changed.

More common is shareware: software that you can also copy freely, but which comes with a trial period after which you are supposed to either pay for it or stop using it.

Some shareware programs will allow only limited features during the trial period to give you a taste of what you can get for the full price, others give you all features but you must wait through a time-delayed message asking you to register. Many of the full-featured shareware programs stop working if you keep trying to use them afer the trial period.

Commercial software tends to be written by a group of professionals with a lot of testing done before release to ensure quality and compatibility. Shareware and freeware, on the other hand, often tends to be written by one or two people in their spare time to make some extra money, to practice their software writing skills, or even as a way to show their skills off to get a job.

Because of these factors, there is a large difference in quality from one program to another, which sometimes means they can cause problems on your system if your download and install them, especially screensavers and programs that are always running in the background.

Downloading, as you may know, is the process of copying a file from a different computer to yours over a network.

It is always important to scan any software you download for viruses — some copies of legitimate programs can be infected by viruses, and creators of viruses sometimes disguise their malicious programs as useful ones.

You also should scan programs to make sure they aren't adware or spyware. If you're not aware of adware and spyware programs, they are malicious programs which can cause problems as serious as viruses and worms. I suggest you read my article on adware and spyware which is elsewhere on this site.

There are, however, some very high quality programs available for download. These include, among many many others, WinZip, Stuffit Expander, GraphicConverter, Apple's iTunes (which runs on both Macs and PCs) and Ad-Aware (a spyware & adware removal tool).

If you're looking for software to download, you can find different programs, rated by other computer users on Shareware.com and Versiontracker.com, and other sites. �

For help on downloading and installing programs, plus tips on avoiding installing risky software, take a look at my basic computer lesson CDs for Windows and Mac.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

How Does Wifi Work - Wireless Internet Access Comparision & Security Explained

Not too long ago, most people hadn't heard of wireless Internet access, but these days, it's commonplace.

There are two basic types of wireless Internet connections. The first is through a cell phone network, which is used by a growing number of people for browsing the web and checking email through smart phones and PDA devices such as a Blackberry or an iPhone.

This works pretty much anywhere you get cell reception.

If you're using a computer to browse the web or check your email, it's more common to use a Wi-Fi connection -- what most people think of as wireless internet.

It basically works like a portable phone in your home. You have the cradle that you plug into the phone line, and the handset works anywhere within range of the radio signal it's sending.

This is exactly how a wireless router works -- the router is hooked up to an internet connection, and broadcasts the signal to a wireless card in your computer (or sometimes a little device you plug into the computer).

So the router is like the portable phone's cradle, and the wireless card is like the handset.

Does that make sense?

There are a lot of advantages to using wireless internet. Using wireless internet lets you put your computer in a different room of the house from where the internet connection is, or roam from room to room if you have a laptop. It also lets you have more than one computer share the internet connection.

And of course, if you have a laptop, you can take it with you during the day or on a trip, and can find a lot of places where you can use the internet, often for free.

But there are some risks to using wireless internet. Using wireless internet can open your computer up to a lot of possible risks.

Whenever you connect to a router, either through wires or wirelessly, you are connecting to a network, which is then connected to the internet (which is just a very very big network).

With a wired network, if someone wants to join the network, they have to plug in. With wireless networks, unless the network is protected by security, anybody nearby can connect.

From time to time, I use a program to "sniff" out unprotected networks. There are many programs like this that anyone with a little knowledge can download for free. I simply drive around town with my laptop in the passenger seat running the program, and it constantly looks for any open networks.

When my computer finds one, it beeps at me and I can get instantly in with a couple of clicks.

This is something called "Wardriving" and people do it all the time. Most are doing it just to check their email quickly while on the road without having to pay at an internet cafe, but some are doing it for more sinister purposes.

Leaving your network open is just as dangerous as keeping filing cabinets full of personal or business information sitting open on the street next to a sign reading: “Take what you want.”

With a traditional wired network, a person needs to physically plug in a cable inside your home or office to get into your network. With a wireless network, unless it’s protected, anyone within range can get into your network with a click of a mouse. Once they’re in they could:

  • Use your internet connection for free

  • Look at the contents of your hard drive and read, change, or delete email, pictures, Word documents and other personal files, business information, and confidential client information including social security numbers, credit card numbers, etc.

  • Use the information collected about you or your customers for identity theft. This could cost you thousands of dollars in lost credit and time rebuilding your name, or thousands more if a customer sues you for giving out their information

  • Send spam (junk email) to thousands or millions of people while making it seem to come from you

  • Take control of your network, locking you out of it and the internet (both email and web pages)

  • Install a virus, worm, or a backdoor program giving them control of your computer

  • Do illegal music trading over the internet, drastically slowing down your connection and making it look like you are the file trader. The recording industry is currently suing file traders for an average of $3,000 per lawsuit

  • View porn sites, including potentially child porn, which could get you arrested if it's traced back to your network.

You must realize by now how important it is to act now to protect your network. If you don’t you risk losing your name, your reputation, and even thousands of dollars. Fact is, if you have a wireless router (most routers sold these days are wireless even if you aren't using them wirelessly) and you just plugged it in and started using it then 99% likely you are not safe.

Your home or office wireless network should always have "encryption" turned on, which is like a home security system that only gives access to someone with the right password. They're not impossible to break into, but they make it too hard for most people.

If you use your laptop in a public network like at an internet cafe or other public wireless hotspot (whether or not you have to pay to use it), you run many of the same risks, especially if you don't have a firewall turned on, aren't using good enough (or any) antivirus software, and more.

Understanding all the important factors in protecting your computer's security is absolutely critical these days. Most people using computers are in danger without even knowing it. Make sure to educate yourself and keep yourself safe.

One way to do that is to subscribe to my free computer tips newsletter, or go one step better and learn from my easy computer tutorial CDs that show you step by step the basics of using your computer and keeping it secure from a variety of threats.

Labels: , , , , ,

Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Computer Maintenance Tips To Avoid Problems

Computers can develop problems for a variety of reasons, and it can sometimes be hard to isolate the cause.

Problems come in two general types: hardware and software. Hardware refers to a physical part of your computer, including the keyboard, the hard drive, and the motherboard. Software refers to programs and documents stored on your computer, including the operating system (such as Windows or the Mac OS), Microsoft Word documents, images, etc.

Software problems can be caused by a variety of things, including a hard drive that is beginning to fail, power fluctuations that happen while files are being saved, viruses, or from not shutting your computer down properly.

Hardware problems can’t be caused by software; they tend to happen over time, or because of something like power fluctuations, or excessive heat or moisture. It’s essential to protect your machine with a surge suppressor, or better yet, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS).

A surge suppressor protects your computer and peripherals from a sudden surge in electricity, sometimes caused by an electrical storm, or because of fluctuations in voltage from the power grid.

These power surges can come through either your power or your phone outlets, so if you have your computer connected to the phone line (if you use dial-up internet access for example), any surge suppressor you use should protect both power and phone lines. There are also surge suppressors which protect your cable line instead of the phone line, for those who use cable internet access like Time Warner's RoadRunner.

If you live on the Big Island of Hawaii like I do, you know we experience a lot of brownouts, and even complete blackouts are common in a lot of areas.

While a surge suppressor is a must-have no matter where you live, it's better to use a UPS (which stands for Uninterruptible Power Supply, and has nothing to do with the shipping company) to protect your computer if you live in a place with unstable power like we have here.

A UPS contains both a surge suppressor and a large backup battery that immediately takes over if the power level drops. This protects the computer from the damage done by brownouts and can even keep your computer running for up to 20 minutes if the power goes out completely, allowing you to save your work and shut down safely.

This 20 minutes can make the difference between losing hours, days, or even months of work (if the computer turns off while you're working on a project, you can lose not just what you're working on now, but everything in the file).

If you live near the ocean or in a very humid area, rust and corrosion are a very big problem; keeping your computer in an air conditioned room will help.

Regardless of where you live and whether or not you have a surge suppressor or UPS, you should make regular backups of your important files onto disks that aren't damaged by moisture, such as CDs and DVDs.

Floppy disks and Zip disks, on the other hand, are both made of similar materials to videotapes, all of which can be ruined by mold. If you have important files on floppy or Zip disk, you should look into transferring the files to CD or DVD.

In the mean time, keeping the disks in a sealed tupperware container with desiccant packs (the same stuff that comes in vitamin bottles) can help keep them working longer.

Symptoms of a sick computer can range from occasional crashes or slow operation, to a computer that won’t turn on. The thing is, a hardware problem can start out very minor, but can get worse over time.

A common mistake people make is ignoring or overlooking problems until they get too big to fix — in the case of a bad hard drive, this can mean you can lose all of your files. This is why it’s so crucial to back your files up regularly.

Don't make the mistake so many people do: make a habit of backing up regularly before you lose important files. So many people learn the hard way; I hate having to tell people that all of their many hours of work are completely lost.

I know what it's like to lose files, too -- I'm not just a computer guy, I'm also a writer. Most of my early writing is lost forever because I didn't back up my first computer many years ago (hey, everybody was a rookie once!).

Don't let this happen to you with the valuable pictures, music, letters, emails, schoolwork, customer files, or whatever other irreplaceable files you may have on your computer.

Labels: , , , , ,

Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Friday, January 25, 2008

10 Good Tips About How To Use The Internet Safely part 4

10 Good Tips About How To Use The Internet Safely part 4

In this article I'll continue with tip #7, which really is two good tips in one:

Internet Safety Tip #7) Use a strong password, and don't use the same one for everything

This is classic blunder I see people making over and over again: they use a really simple password, and they use the same password for everything.

Passwords are like keys: they unlock your email, your bank account, your computers' files, etc. just the same way a key unlocks your post office box, your home, etc.

Would you use the same key to lock your home, your car, your post office box, a safety deposit box, and everything else you need to lock up to keep safe or private? I would hope not.

Yet this is exactly what people do every day with their passwords. Don't make this mistake yourself, because obviously, if someone gets just one of your passwords, they have the key to your entire electronic life -- which can be a lot these days!

The other part of this is choosing *strong* passwords.

What do I mean by that?

A weak password is a regular word that can be found in the dictionary, your name, your phone number, your child or pet's name, and so on.

I remember one time about 11 or 12 years ago I was working on a laptop at the computer store where I worked.

I turned it on, and the owner had wisely set a password that made it impossible to even start the computer up without it.

I turned the laptop on and was surprised to find a screen with the owner's name and address printed on it (so it could be returned if lost) and right below this I was supposed to type in a password.

I was surprised because password locking your computer wasn't very common back then, and the owner hadn't bothered to tell me that there was a password on the computer when she brought it in, so I figured I was going to have to call her up and maybe play phone tag to try to get the password.

On a hunch, I typed in the first thing that came to mind -- her name, which as you recall, was printed right there on the screen.

Guess what? I got right in. My very first guess, and I had complete access to her computer!

Of course, I'm honest and was trying to help her with her computer, so no harm done in this case, but I hope you can see how it could've been a big problem for her if her laptop had been stolen and someone wanted to steal her personal information off it.

A strong password is nothing like a regular word; it should be at *least* six "characters" long, and should be not just letters but a mix of letters and numbers. And even better, it should have other symbols mixed in, and should be a mix of capital and lower case letters.

So "1ye6Ab9uua4b" is a very strong password, while "janet" is not.

Now if you're thinking "well, who would try to guess my password? Why would they target me?" then you're making another common mistake.

These days, computer attacks aren't (usually) targeted -- criminals use computer programs, sometimes running on dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of computers under their control to try to break into thousands or even tens of thousands of computers or more, all at the same time.

Imagine a burglar who could make a thousand copies of himself and try to break into every house in a town at once. All it needs is one unlocked door or one with a flimsy lock (bad password) and it's all over for the victim.

So protect yourself at home and on the Internet with a strong password, and use a different one for everything.

If you have to, keep a cheat sheet with your passwords, but don't leave it taped to your monitor or "hidden" under the keyboard, especially if people can get into the room where the computer is.

Now these tips go beyond the Internet, really, since it's now common to have passwords for our computers (although most people make the mistake of never setting a password for their computer in the first place!)

I go into the importance of a password on my "5 Common and Costly Computer Mistakes and How to Avoid Making Them Yourself" CD which comes free as one of the amazing ** 10 free bonus CDs ** (an $885.41 value) that I throw in for FREE when you order my easy video computer training CDs off my website right now.

Another one of the CDs you'll get shows you step-by-step how to add a password to your computer to keep your privacy and important files safe. You'd be surprised how many computers I see get messed up by guests just trying to be "helpful", let alone what could happen if someone was trying to snoop around on purpose.

Protect yourself, learn computer basics, and make the computer easier and more fun at the same time by ordering my easy lesson CDs before the price goes up in early February.

You can do this by going to my website. Just click on to

http://www.worthgodwin.com/windows-computer-how-to-training/

If you have a Windows PC (Dell, HP, Sony, etc.).
Or Apple Mac users (owners of an iMac, iBook, MacBook, etc.) go to:

http://www.worthgodwin.com/apple-mac-os-x-how-to-training/


I'll continue with more of the 10 tips about how to use the Internet safely in a separate article.

until next time, enjoy,

Worth Godwin

P.S. Remember, you'll get 8 easy CDs, plus another TEN (10) free bonus CDs if you go and place an order right now. And the price goes up soon!

The links to my site again are...

Windows PC users (Dell, HP, Sony, etc.) go to:

http://www.worthgodwin.com/windows-computer-how-to-training/

or Apple Mac users (owners of an iMac, iBook, MacBook, etc.) go to:

http://www.worthgodwin.com/apple-mac-os-x-how-to-training/

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

10 Good Tips About How To Use The Internet Safely part 3

10 Good Tips About How To Use The Internet Safely part 3

This article continues my list of 10 good tips about how to use the Internet safely.

In the previous article, I talked about the importance of having a good firewall installed, as well as the right antivirus program (and to make sure that it's "activated" and actually protecting your computer).

So let's go on to the next item in our list:


Tip #5) Don't install software at random, especially if it's advertised in a pop-up ad

This is an important one.

It's a pretty common experience for people to be browsing around when a window pops up out of nowhere inviting you to install a piece of software. You might also see a similar ad that appears as a banner on a webpage.

There are a lot of variations, but the general gist is that they try to entice you into downloading and installing some program that you really shouldn't be installing.

One very common way of doing this is by either immediately warning you that your computer is infected with something, or by asking you if you want a free scan, and then saying the computer is infected.

Either way, they try to dupe you into installing software. The software you install is usually some form of "malware" (a general term that includes malicious software like spyware and adware) designed to steal information off your computer, or to hijack your computer in some way.

In other cases it may not infect your computer per se, but it claims the computer is infected and says the only way to clean it up is by paying for the program.

This used to be something that was only a worry for Windows users, but as I was writing this I learned that people have just started seeing similar popup ads for a program called MacSweeper, which works just like the programs I just described.

This would make the very first program like this for the Mac, and unfortunately, I'm sure it won't be the last.

So generally distrust anything that tries to get you to install a program, especially if it's in a popup ad, or any ad on a "questionable" site such as adult sites, sites for downloading movies or music illegally, etc.

If you see something that seems like it might be legit, remember you can always type in the exact name into Google or another search engine and see what the results are. Chances are, if it's a shady program, you'll see lots of pages warning you about it!


Tip #6) Use a router, don't just connect directly to cable or DSL

This one's pretty simple. If you're on a "broadband" (fast) connection to the Internet, like DSL or cable, then you should avoid plugging your computer directly into the cable modem or DSL modem.

Instead, you want to get a router.

A router is a device that is designed to plug into your Internet connection and share it among one or more computers. A variety of companies make them, including Apple, Netgear, and Linksys.

If you're concerned about wireless security and one of your neighbors or someone parked on the street trying to get into your computer, you can always buy a non-wireless router.

The reason it's a good idea to get a router is because all routers contain a hardware firewall (as opposed to the software firewall I mentioned in the previous article in this series).

This adds an extra layer of protection between your computer and the Internet, which keeps it safer.

If you do get one of the wireless routers, which are more common these days, then do make sure you turn on the wireless security -- without it, anyone within range can use your Internet connection and often can even get into your files!

Most routers these days come with software that helps you turn on this security, but if you need to, get help from someone who knows what they're doing to set it up right.

If you're on the Big Island, feel free to contact me and set up an appointment for me to come out and set yours up for you and give your computer a checkup to make sure you're safe.
I'll continue with more of the 10 tips about how to use the Internet safely in a separate article.

until next time, enjoy,

Worth Godwin

P.S. As you may know, I've put together a special package of *18* of my easy lesson CDs -- with a value of over $1,593.74! -- for a very low price that will be going up soon.

This bundle of CDs is absolutely the easiest and most affordable way to learn to make your computer safer and easier, and to help you feel more confident and natural using your Apple Mac or Windows PC.

Just go now to one of the following addresses, depending on whether you use a Apple Mac or a Windows PC.

Windows PC users (Dell, HP, Sony, etc.) go to:

http://www.worthgodwin.com/windows-computer-how-to-training/

or Apple Mac users (owners of an iMac, iBook, MacBook, etc.) go to:

http://www.worthgodwin.com/apple-mac-os-x-how-to-training/

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

10 Good Tips About How To Use The Internet Safely part 2

10 Good Tips About How To Use The Internet Safely part 2

This article continues my list of 10 good tips about how to use the Internet safely.

In part one of 10 Good Tips About How To Use The Internet Safely, I talked about the importance of using the right web browser, and how important it is to have the latest security updates or "patches". Let's go on to the next item in our list:

Tip #3) Have a good firewall program & make sure it's on

A firewall program (not to be confused with firewire) is a protective program that guards your computer from threats either on the Internet, or from other computers on the same network (including a wired or wireless home network, one at work, or a public wireless network like you might find at an airport or a cafe).

While this has improved some with Windows Vista, Windows XP does not have a very good built-in firewall, so it's important to use a good one that not only protects from threats outside of your computer, but also from rogue programs like aware, spyware, and viruses that may already be on your computer.

Norton Internet Security, McAfee Internet Security, and Kaspersky Internet Security all have the "active" type of firewall that protects you both ways. A free alternative that does a good job is ZoneAlarm.

Personally, because of the limitations of McAfee and Norton, I don't really recommend using them (more on that in a minute) -- Kaspersky is one of the best choices out there for protecting your computer on the Internet.

Any of these firewall programs should alert you if they're not turned on correctly, and you can check to make sure it says it's protecting you by double-clicking the icon on the system tray to the left on the clock.

Apple Mac users have (currently) a lot less to worry about from Internet threats, due to their excellent built-in security, but they should still be using a firewall program.
The firewall program built into Mac OS X works well to protect you, but needs to be turned on.

If you have OS 10.4 (Tiger) or earlier, you can check to see if your firewall is on by going into your System Preferences (always available in the Apple Menu, and often available on the Dock). Then click on Sharing, then click Firewall.

If you have OS 10.5 (Leopard) you'll find the firewall has moved to Security in System Preferences.

It should tell you if the firewall is on if you look at this window; if not, click the button labeled Start, and you're protected.


Tip #4) Have the right antivirus program & Make sure your AV program is active & up-to-date

Here's a big one for Windows users that isn't currently as important for Apple Mac users.

There are known to be over *100,000* viruses & worms for Windows PCs, and only 1 known virus for Macs (and the Mac virus is more of a "test" and turned out not to spread).

Most of the 100,000-plus viruses and worms for Windows are not currently "in the wild", but it still gives you an idea of how much more at risk Windows users are for these things, so it's absolutely critical to have an effective antivirus program protecting your computer.

Note I said *effective* antivirus program -- I chose my words carefully there, since studies have shown the top 3 *most-used* (again, note my choice of words there) antivirus programs actually have an up to 80% *failure* rate at detecting and removing the latest threats!

I personally recommend using Kaspersky Antivirus (or better yet, Kaspersky Internet Security, which has a good firewall program in it too). Kaspersky has been shown to have an over 96% success rate at finding and removing viruses.

There is no 100% guarantee, but it's pretty darn close.

I'll continue with more of the 10 tips about how to use the Internet safely in a separate article.

If you'd like to *see* step-by-step how to protect yourself by doing the things I talk about in this article, plus get dozens and dozens of more quick, easy lessons that make your computer safer and easier to use, then you might want to click one of the links below to find out more...

All you have to do is click one of the following links, depending on whether you use a Apple Mac or a Windows PC.

Windows PC users (Dell, HP, Sony, etc.) click this link to get easy Windows computer lessons

and Apple Mac users (owners of an iMac, iBook, MacBook, etc.) click this link to get easy Apple Mac computer lessons

until next time, enjoy,

Worth Godwin

P.S. Those links again are:

Windows PC users (Dell, HP, Sony, etc.) click this link to get easy Windows computer lessons

and Apple Mac users (owners of an iMac, iBook, MacBook, etc.) click this link to get easy Apple Mac computer lessons

Labels: ,

Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Study reveals more than half of computer users who think they are protected against online threats are dead wrong

Back in December, Verizon published a study they'd had done, surveying how protected people thought they were on the Internet, versus how well protected they actually were.

The results were disturbing -- it seems 92% of people thought they were safe, but in fact, 59% were actually vulnerable to a variety of threats!

Now understand something -- a lot of people have a very narrow view of "safe" and "not safe" and tend to think that if they don't order stuff online, that they're OK no matter what.

This is not the case.

First off, ordering from a reputable website is not really very risky in itself -- in fact, there's a very valid argument for the idea that it's actually a lot *safer* than ordering from an 800 number, or handing your credit card over to a server at a restaurant!

Why is that? Well, in the examples of a restaurant or an 800 number, you're usually giving your credit card number over to someone you don't know, who could easily write the number down and use it for themselves.

I've also heard of more than one case where someone working at a restaurant used their cell phone camera to take a quick picture of the front of a card to steal the number!

But of course, when you're ordering from a website, in most cases no person ever even *sees* your credit card number, and I've never heard of a greedy or dishonest machine.

So the risks they were talking about in the study really have very little to do with ordering stuff off the Web.

One of the biggest problems reported in the study is that a *lot* of people either have no antivirus software on their computer, or it's there, but no longer working.

You see, many computers come with a "trial version" of a program that works for 3 months, then if you don't pay to activate it, it stops protecting you. Or people buy the protection once, then it runs out after a year, and again they're not protected.

If you've listened to my special report audio CD "5 Common & Costly Computer Mistakes and How To Avoid Making Them Yourself" then you know all about this.

If you don't have this CD, it comes for free as one of the *eight free bonus easy computer lesson CDs* you can get for just the price of a single visit from a consultant (but only if you take advantage of my special offer before the end of January 5th).

What you also know if you've listened to my "5 Mistakes" special report, which they didn't even mention in this study, is that the antivirus programs most people are using have an up to 80% *failure rate* at detecting and removing the latest viruses and worms!

So even if you *do* have current antivirus software (such as McAfee, Trend Micro, or Norton) then you're *not* really that well protected from viruses and worms!

Again, if you've listened to my "5 Mistakes" special report, you know this, and know I recommend a very good program called Kaspersky to use instead.

Now Mac users have a lot less to worry about, at least at this point, when it comes to threats like viruses and worms, but there are still a lot of potential threats out there that can affect your computer, your privacy, and your security if you don't know about them no matter whether you use one of Apple's Macs, or a Windows PC.

A few of the ways your computer might not be as secure as it should be include:
- not having your computer (Apple Mac or Windows PC) firewall program turned on (not to mention using the *right* firewall program),
- not getting your security updates done
- not backing up your computer correctly
- having your account settings wrong
- and a lot more than I can cover in this email, or in a dozen more like it

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, well if that's true, then a video (movie) is worth a million. That's why I created my easy video computer training CDs -- with the video lessons, I can *show* you the steps and make it easy to follow in a way that's just not possible by email or in a book!

As you might know, I'm running a special for the next few days to celebrate the New Year (not to mention the anniversary of my computer lesson CDs, which I started a second business and began developing 2 years ago this month)

If you want to easily make your computer safer and easier to use, then you really should stop by my website and at least see what I'm offering here.

And remember, like all of my CDs, they come with a full 1-year, 12 month, 365 day no-hassle money back guarantee: return them any time in that year for a full refund. You sure won't get that if you hire a consultant!

All you have to do is go to one of the following addresses, depending on whether you use a Apple Mac or a Windows PC.

Windows PC users (Dell, HP, Sony, etc.) click this link to get easy Windows computer lessons

and Apple Mac users (owners of an iMac, iBook, MacBook, etc.) click this link to get easy Apple Mac computer lessons

before the price goes back up!

You'll be glad you did.

Worth Godwin

P.S. Remember, this special price and special package of CDs are only available to get so much for so little for a couple more days!

P.P.S. Those addresses again are:

Windows PC users (Dell, HP, Sony, etc.) click this link to get easy Windows computer lessons

and Apple Mac users (owners of an iMac, iBook, MacBook, etc.) click this link to get easy Apple Mac computer lessons

Labels: , , , ,

Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Monday, December 31, 2007

How to choose when buying a computer - is asking "what is the most popular computer" the right question?

How to choose when buying a computer - is asking "what is the most popular computer" the right question?

(Note: this article was written and sent out to subscribers to my free computer lessons email newsletter on December 12th, 2007)

Around this time of year, it's common for people to be looking into buying a new computer as a gift or to replace the aging one they're using.

I thought I'd write an article to give a few tips on how to chose when buying a computer.

First off, I've found that a lot of people start thinking about this by asking "what is the most popular computer?" and letting the answer to that decide the question for them. Well, this isn't necessarily the best idea.

Just because something is popular doesn't necessarily mean it's the best -- for example, fast food restaurants are popular places to go, but I think we all know they don't serve the best food in the world.

Here's the thing to remember when thinking about how to chose when buying a computer -- you should generally avoid the big brand names.

Yes, this might surprise you, but in my opinion, it's usually not a good idea to buy from one of the big brand name companies (there's one exception that I'll get to in a minute).

Here's why: dollar for dollar, you're generally going to get a worse deal than if you go with a reputable "generic" or "white box" store.

A lot of people have low price as the first thing on their list when they're trying to figure out how to chose when buying a computer. So they go with a cheap brand name and spend a few hundred dollars on it, and they think they're getting a good deal.

But what they don't realize is that it's common for a lot of the big brand companies to sell very out-of-date computers in their lower price ranges, and from what I've heard, they also often sell computers with parts they know are bad!

I'm not kidding about this -- most of the big computer companies out there, when they sell their least expensive computers, are trying to unload old inventory that's been collecting dust on their shelves for a long time.

They sell it to you as if it's new, and maybe it is in the sense of never purchased before, but it's hardly new in terms of the technology.

And the more disturbing part of this is that from what I've heard, those computers often have parts in them that are *known* to be bad parts!

You see, when a chip manufacturer like Intel makes a computer processor (the "brain" of the computer), they test it to make sure it works.

Makes sense, right?

But inevitably, many of them fail these tests. Now you'd think these bad parts would be thrown away, but no -- from what I've heard, what happens is they still sell them to the big computer companies at a discount, and those companies put them into their computers anyway.

What you can do with a bad processor a lot of the time is set it to run slower, and while it may not be running at full speed, it works well enough to pass the tests.

But the parts are still bad! Sure, they may work OK for a while (maybe just long enough to make it through the warranty period) but they have more little "glitches" and end up breaking down sooner.

So if you can find a reputable local company that sells computers they assemble themselves, you'll get a well built computer for a lot less because you're not paying for the brand name.

I can't help you find a local store like that everywhere, but those of you reading this who live here on the Big Island of Hawaii can go to Falcon Computers in Kona or Falcon Computers in Waimea.

A family-owned store like that is the only place I'd buy a Windows PC, personally.

So earlier I mentioned there was an exception among the big brand names -- if you've been reading my newsletter for a while, or know me, you might have already guessed which one it is -- Apple.

Apple is the only big brand name computer I personally would buy (I'm writing this on a MacBook Pro). I do this partially because I've used a lot of different types of computers over the years, and really don't enjoy using Windows much.

But I also do this because Apple doesn't deliberately put bad processors in their computers, or try to sell out-of-date computers as new. Some people complain that Apple's Macs are overpriced, but that's actually not the case -- when compared apples to apples (excuse the pun) they tend to be in the same price range as a Dell or HP of the same general specs.

So bottom line is, here's how to chose when you're buying a computer: if you want to stick with Windows, then support a local business and go to a good store that puts your computer together for you from parts.

And make sure you ask them to put Windows XP on it, not Windows Vista (for reasons I've covered in a previous 3-part article about the problems with Windows Vista).

Or get away from Windows and switch to a Mac.

Either way, you're getting a better deal.

Hope that makes sense and helps with your decisions on how to chose when buying a computer.

Until next time, enjoy,

Worth Godwin

P.S. And if you're looking to learn to use your computer -- new or old -- you should take a look at my easy video computer lessons for Apple Mac or for Windows. They come on CD, are quick and easy to use, and come with a full 1-year iron-clad money back guarantee.

More information is available by clicking one of the following links:

If you have an Apple Mac computer (iMac, iBook, MacBook, etc.) then click this link to get easy Mac lessons

or if you have a Windows PC, then click this link to get easy Windows computer lessons

Labels: , , , , ,

Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Happy New Years from Worth Godwin

As I write this, it's around 1pm on New Year's Eve, which is around 6pm on the East coast of the US, and for our neighbors across the pond it's just past 12am New Year's Day.

New Years when we all find ourselves looking back at the year and years behind us, and look forward to what comes in the future.

As for myself, I'm putting a long long year of working many 12-15 hour days building up my easy video computer training CDs business up from scratch, armed with not a lot more than sweat and determination to make something of the business.

I've never been much of one for New Year's resolutions, but we all have goals for the coming year. My own goal is to really make a big success of my business -- some people might want this to live a lavish lifestyle, full of flashy cars and McMansions, but my motivation is a little different.

I was fortunate enough to have grown up living way out in the country in Upstate New York on a big 70-acre farm my parents bought for a song in the 1970s. It was full of fields, acres of woods, a pond and a stream, and big open skies.

I miss the times I spent walking through the woods for hours as a child, silent except for the sound of chipmunks and squirrels in the fallen leaves, or the occasional deer fleeing from my quiet footsteps.

Now I live in Hawaii, and while it is warm all year round, there are no deer, and I live on a little half acre of land.

This may sound funny coming from someone who spends so much time working with technology and computers, but I miss living where I can step out my door and go for a long walk in the woods and escape the modern world.

My real goal for starting this business, beyond helping people get past being stuck with computers and helping them feel more confident and comfortable, is to make enough money to buy a big property out here in the islands.

Unlike a lot of people with their eye on buying lots of vacant land, I don't want to develop it and put up yet another resort or subdivision to try to make a bundle at the cost of nature and the island I live on.

What I want to do in 2008, more than almost anything, is to buy a large property out in the country. A large property either already filled with old-growth native forest, or one where I can begin replanting trees to bring back the original forest and the native animals that depend on it.

Beyond that, I plan to put a conservation easement on it -- this would legally block development on the property, even if I sell it, so it remains protected and undeveloped nature for many many years to come.

Whatever your goals are for the coming year, I wish you well on them.

If one of your goals is to get better at computers, to become more confident and skilled with them, then maybe we can help each other reach our goals together.

To kick off the new year, I'm slashing prices on my easy computer lesson CDs for the first few days of 2008. I've put together a huge jumbo pack of 16 easy CDs at a steep discount off the regular price, and a *tiny fraction* of the cost of hiring a computer consultant like myself to teach it all.

You'll get CDs packed full of dozens and dozens of quick, easy lessons on topics ranging from safe & easy web browsing, email, working with photos, Windows and Mac computer basics, and a lot more. All guaranteed to make you feel more confident than before, or your money back.

To take advantage of the special New Year's savings, just hop over to my website to read more. Just remember, the savings end January 4th, so get there before it's too late!

If you have a Windows PC (Dell, HP, etc.) click the link:

Easy Windows computer basics

or if you have an Apple Mac (iMac, iBook, Powerbook, MacBook, etc.) click the link:

Easy Apple Mac computer basics

you'll be happy you did.

Have an amazing New Year!

Enjoy,

Worth Godwin

P.S. Remember, this only lasts for a few days, so click over there now before it's too late. The links again are:

If you have a Windows PC (Dell, HP, etc.) click the link:

Easy computer lessons for Windows

or if you have an Apple Mac (iMac, iBook, Powerbook, MacBook, etc.) click the link:

Easy computer lessons for Apple Mac

Labels: , , ,

Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Sunday, November 11, 2007

What is a definition of the World Wide Web & who started the phrase World Wide Web

What is a definition of the World Wide Web & who started the phrase World Wide Web

In this article I'm going to address two related questions I've gotten: "what is a definition of the world wide web" and "who started the phrase world wide web".

First off, let me give you a definition of the World Wide Web -- which these days is usually just called The Web.

The Web is made up of millions and millions of pages of information that are linked together across the globe.

When you look at a web page, which you're probably doing right now (unless you're reading this in my free computer email newsletter and not on my archive of my computer articles or on one of the free article sites I've submitted the article to) you'll find that the page has "links" that you click on to take you to different pages.

If you could see a picture of all of the web pages on the Internet, you could imagine that it might look like a spider web, with many strands connecting one point to another.

This is just how a guy named Tim Berners-Lee imagined it when he came up with the phrase World Wide Web. The links are the strands, and the web pages are the points where the strands come together.

Tim Berners-Lee, with help from a man named Robert Cailliau, created the Web based on something called "hypertext".

Hypertext was an idea where you could have "hyperlinks" (which we now just call "links") that would allow you to read information and easily move between related topics.

So if you were reading about, for example, the first printing press, the Gutenberg Bible would probably be mentioned because it's one of the best-known books to be printed on the first printing presses.

With hypertext, when you saw the words Gutenberg Bible, they would be a link to an article that would go into more detail about that book.

Berners-Lee wanted to bring this idea to the Internet, allowing people to "browse" around, using these links to move from one place to another.

Before this, you had to go to a specific address, then go to another specific address, and not browse the way we are used to today.

And as you've probably guessed by now, Berners-Lee was the person who started the phrase World Wide Web in the first place.

So another way to explain what is a definition of the World Wide Web is a way of looking at the Internet as a series of "pages" of information -- words, pictures, sounds, or video -- that link from one to another to another, forming a giant "web" of information that covers and connects the world.

One more point, to clarify a common misunderstanding. The Web is *part* of the Internet, just like email is *part* of the Internet -- a lot of people think the Internet is exactly the same thing as the Web, and that email is somehow completely separate from the Internet. This is not the case.

I have another article, available by clicking the following link which explains the computer terms Internet and email, if you need more help with those computer terms.

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
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How RAM affects the speed of a computer & the advantage of having enough computer RAM.

How RAM affects the speed of a computer & the advantage of having enough computer RAM.

In this article I'm going to talk about RAM, also known as computer memory; how RAM affects the speed of a computer, and what exactly is the advantage of having enough computer RAM.

A lot of people don't really understand what RAM is, which is nothing to feel bad about, since it's rare to hear a really easy, understandable explanation.

I have a very simple way of explaining the computer term memory that will make sense to anybody, no matter how little you may understand computers.

By the end of this explanation, you'll understand what computer RAM is and you'll also understand how RAM affects the speed of a computer and just exactly what is the advantage of having enough computer RAM.

First off, just in case you didn't know, RAM stands for Random Access Memory. It's not important to remember that, just understand that the computer terms RAM or memory mean the same thing: the temporary working area in a computer.

It's temporary because when you turn off the computer, everything in RAM vanishes instantly. This is unlike a hard drive, or "flash memory", both of which store whatever is on them even when the computer is off.

Just for the sake of clarity, "flash memory" and "memory" (i.e. RAM) are not the same thing, so when you hear someone talking about memory --assuming they're using the term correctly -- they're probably not talking about flash memory (which is like the card in a digital camera, or in the smaller iPods, thumb drives, etc.).

So best way to think of computer RAM is this: think of RAM like a table, or work bench.

If you're working on a project -- it could be a student studying for a class, it could be a carpenter working on a bench, or almost any project -- you need a space to work on the project, like the space on a table, or on a workbench.

You take out all of your materials (books, or carpenter's tools, or whatever), and you spread them out on your work space. You work on the project, and when you're done, you put everything away again.

This is exactly how a computer's RAM works -- you open a program like your email program, Word, or whatever, and it loads this into the RAM. When you're done, you close the program, and the computer takes the program out of memory (out of the computer RAM) and stores it back on the hard drive.

So if you think of RAM like this, you can start to see how RAM affects the speed of the computer, and you can begin to understand the advantage of having enough computer RAM.

Not sure where I'm going with this yet? That's OK. We're almost there.

Imagine you have a work bench, or a table that you're sitting at trying to do a project on, and the table or bench is only a foot across. Wouldn't be very easy to get much work done, would it?

You'd end up wasting a lot of time trying to make room by moving stuff onto the bench, then moving it back off again to make room for the next thing you needed, right?

It's just like that with computer RAM: if your computer doesn't have enough RAM, it doesn't have enough space to work with, and so it's constantly forced to move stuff on and off the "bench" to get things done.

So there's a big advantage to having enough computer RAM: it gives your computer enough "room" to get the work done. The more RAM you have, the more "space on the bench", and the more efficiently the computer can work. The less "space on the bench" the more time it wastes just trying to work without any elbow room.

Does that make sense?

So now you can understand how RAM affects the speed of a computer, and understand exactly what the advantage of having enough computer memory is.

One last thing -- to find out how much RAM your computer has, here are the basic steps:

  • Mac OS - Go to the Apple Menu, and click "About This Mac" and you'll get a window with some information about your Mac, including how much memory or RAM you have
  • Windows XP - right-click on the My Computer icon (on your desktop or in the Start Menu) and click Properties in that menu and you'll get a window with the amount of memory or RAM in your PC
  • Windows Vista -- same steps as XP, except the My Computer icon is now just titled Computer.

If you enjoyed this explanation of computer terms, you'll find more like it in my free computer tips newsletter, and also on my easy computer lesson CDs for Apple Mac and Windows computers.

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Play movies on Apple computer - tips for how to play movies on Macs.

Play movies on Apple computer - tips for how to play movies on Macs.

I got a question where someone asked me how to "play movies on Apple computer". [sic] The answer to this depends on what you mean by playing movies.

The reason I'm mentioning this is because the person who asked just said they wanted to know "how to play movies on Apple computer" and didn't mention if they meant a DVD movie, a movie they'd downloaded off the Internet, or a video file (or movie) on a web page. Depending on which they meant, the answer is a little different.

First off, let's assume that when they said "play movies on Apple computer" that they meant a DVD movie.

Well, that's a very simple answer: any Mac (Apple computers are called Macs, with specific models like iMac, MacBook, etc.) made in the last several years can play DVDs. 99% of the time, just pop the DVD in the drive, and DVD Player will open automatically and start playing the movie.

Worst case scenario, you'll need to open your hard drive, then open the Applications folder, then look for the file DVD Player, and double-click it, and the movie will play. It's very rare for you to have to do anything more than pop the DVD in the drive.

So another possible meaning for "play movies on Apple computer" would be a movie you've downloaded off the Internet. There's a lot of different types of video files (video just means moving pictures, just like a movie) that are sent by email, or that can be downloaded off a web site.

If you want to play a movie or TV show you've bought from the iTunes Store, iTunes itself will play the movie using Quicktime. Quicktime is a program made by Apple for both their own Apple Mac computers, as well as for Windows PCs, and it comes automatically with iTunes.

Quicktime can play a lot of different types of video files, so it's one way to play movies on Apple computer. If you've got a movie file that you got by email, or that you saved from a website, Quicktime will probably play it, and it is already installed on every computer made by Apple.

There are exceptions, so if you can't play a video file (movie) when you double-click it, and Quicktime gives you an error message, then another option is the free VLC Player.

VLC Player is a free program that lets you watch movies on Macs, and works with just about any type of movie you can get off the Internet. Personally it's my favorite way to play movies on Apple computers.

Lastly, if the person who asked how to "play movies on Apple computer" was talking about playing the movie on a web page, then again, Quicktime will work for a lot of these movies, and VLC might do the trick too (although I've had problems in the past getting it to play movies that are "embedded" in web pages).

One of the most popular ways to put videos onto web pages is in Flash format. Flash Player is free, and comes already installed on most computers. This is one of the reasons I decided to use it for my easy video computer lessons for Mac and Windows computers.

I have instructions on how to install the Flash Player on my website at: www.WorthGodwin.com/flash/

You can also find out more information about my easy video computer lessons on the main page of my site.

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

How to Determine Your iBook's Hard Drive Size, or the Hard Drive Size of Any Apple Mac

I got a question recently about how to determine your iBook's hard drive size.

It's very easy to determine your iBook's hard drive size, and the same steps work for any Mac (Apple computer including iBook, Powerbook, iMac, MacBook, etc.).

First off, the hard drive size is usually printed on the computer somewhere -- where this label is varies from computer to computer -- in the case of an iBook you can usually find the label with the hard drive size and other information underneath the keyboard.

Just gently pull the two sliding tabs on the top edge of the keyboard towards you while gently pulling upwards, and the keyboard should lift up. Underneath, you'll find the serial number and other information about your iBook.

So that's one way how to determine your iBook's hard drive size.

On other Mac models this information is printed on the base of the computer, or sometimes in other places.

In all cases, the size printed on the computer may be out of date if you've ever had your computer's hard drive upgraded, so let's talk about another way how to determine your iBook's hard drive size.

This way doesn't involve lifting up the keyboard (which some people are not comfortable doing) and it doesn't involve flipping the computer upside down like you have to do to read the label on many iMacs.

On any Mac you can easily find out the hard drive size, plus how much free space you have, by clicking once on the hard drive icon on your desktop.

On most Macs, the hard drive is called Macintosh HD, but some people rename it. In most cases, it's a rectangular metallic icon, which you'll usually find sitting on the upper right-hand corner of your desktop.

So click the drive once, which will highlight the drive. Then go to the File menu on the menu bar at the top of the screen.

In the file menu, you'll see a menu option called Get Info. Click the Get Info menu option in the File menu, and a new window will open with a lot of detailed information about the hard drive.

What you want to look for is "capacity" which is the full size of the hard drive, usually measured in GB, or Gigabytes, on a modern computer. Underneath capacity you will see more information about how much space is available, and how much is used.

As a side note, it is normal for all computers -- iBooks, iMacs or any other type of Apple Macintosh computer, as well as Windows PCs of any brand name -- to show fewer gigabytes or megabytes than what is listed on the label on the computer, on the sales receipt, or elsewhere.

For example, if you have a 60 gigabyte hard drive, it is normal for it to appear to be 55gb or so.

A simple way to think about this is like the foundation of a house: when you have just the foundation, it may have 1400 square feet, but once you've built the walls, etc. the real square feet will be less. This is because the walls take up some of that space. It works kind of the same way with a hard drive.

So again, one way how to determine your iBook's hard drive size, or the hard drive size of any Apple Mac computer is to click on the drive (once) and then click Get Info in the File menu.

If you want to see this done, which can be a lot easier than reading about it, you might want to read about my simple system to easily learn Mac basics.

One of the CDs that comes free with my system has Mac Basics, including a video that shows you exact step-by-step instructions on how to determine your iBook's hard drive size, or determine the hard drive size of any Mac, just like I've outlined in this article.

More information can be found at www.WorthGodwin.com.

Click here to find out more about my easy system to learn Mac basics.

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Monday, October 29, 2007

Computer terms explained: Understanding what a "OS" or "Operating System" is

OK, in this article I'm going to help you finally make sense of what for most people is one of the most confusing and least understood computer terms around: "operating system", or "OS".

This is actually a pretty easy idea to get when it's explained right.

Now an operating system, or OS, is a type of software.

To recap my explanation from my last newsletter article:

"Software" is all of the parts of the computer that you can't really see or touch. Software would include things like Microsoft Word, your email program, Windows or the Mac OS, plus all of your personal files like letters, photos, music, and more.

One way to think about it is like this: hardware is like your brain, the physical part of your body, while software is like your mind or your thoughts -- the non-physical part of yourself.

Software runs on hardware, just like your thoughts "run on" your brain.

Make sense? So let's get to the OS specifically.

First off, let me give a couple of examples: the two best known operating systems right now are Windows, and Mac OS X (pronounced "Oh Ess Ten" -- as in the Roman numeral ten).

Windows XP and Windows Vista are a couple different versions of the Windows operating system. While Mac OS 10.4 (also called "Tiger") and the brand new Mac OS 10.5 (or "Leopard") are two different versions of Mac OS X.

So what *is* an OS?

Think of it this way: when a baby is born, they have the instinct to eat, breathe, and so on, and also the instinct to watch, listen, and absorb what's going on around them.

In time, a young child learns to talk and walk by learning from others, and as they get older, they also learn more fundamental skills like reading and writing, hand-eye coordination, and so on.

So in other words, they go from being able to do not a lot except eat, sleep, and fill diapers, to physical and mental maturity where they have all the general skills they need to learn more specific skills like driving a car, playing a sport like football, writing a paper for school, working a job, etc.

In many ways, when you turn a computer on, it's just like a newborn baby. It has the ability to turn on, and show an image on the screen, but that's about it.

The only other thing it can do is look at the hard drive, and if there is an operating system installed on it, the computer knows to start running the OS.

That process is called "booting", which is what happens between when you turn the computer on, and when you can actually start using it.

And the best way to think about it is that it's just like a child being born and growing up: the operating system contains the "life experiences" and lessons that give a child all the basic skills like walking, talking, reading, writing, and so on, that make everything else possible.

So in a sense, it's like your computer is born and "grows up" in the space of 30 seconds to a minute or so (or longer for some computers) that it takes to "boot" the operating system.

So in other words, the operating system is like those basic skills we all have and learned as children. More specifically, it's the software on the computer that creates the desktop, the icons on it, moves the little mouse pointer around on the screen when you move your mouse around, lets you view files and open, lets you type, and so on.

Without it, you couldn't do anything with the computer but turn it on and see an error message like "non system disk or disk error" on a Windows PC, or a flashing question mark on a Mac.

So even though a lot of people don't really understand what an OS is, or what it does, you couldn't use your computer without it.

Hope that makes sense.

Until next time, enjoy,

Worth Godwin

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Monday, October 22, 2007

Understanding the Computer Term: A Driver

In this issue of my computer tips newsletter, I'm going to explain a computer term that, like so many computer terms, isn't very well understood by most people. And in many cases, isn't understood at all.

Of course, as always, remember that's not a criticism -- if you didn't understand what a driver was before this, it's just because it was never explained to you the right way before.

Let's see what I can do to fix that.

A driver is a special type of software that's needed to get different pieces of hardware to work right with your computer.

Didn't make sense yet? Bear with me.

First off, just to make sure we're all on the same page, let me briefly explain the difference between the two basic computer terms "hardware" and "software".

It's actually pretty simple -- "hardware" refers to all of the physical pieces of equipment, like your mouse, your computer's screen (or monitor), the hard drive, etc.

"Software" is all of the parts of the computer that you can't really see or touch. Software would include things like Microsoft Word, your email program, Windows or the Mac OS, plus all of your personal files like letters, photos, music, and more.

One way to think about it is like this: hardware is like your brain, the physical part of your body, while software is like your mind or your thoughts -- the non-physical part of yourself.

Software runs on hardware, just like your thoughts "run on" your brain.

Make sense?

Now let's talk more specifically about drivers. Here's the easy way to think about the computer term driver:

Imagine that every piece of hardware, including your printer, your mouse, and so on, speaks a different language. So one speaks French, another one speaks Italian, another one Cantonese, and so on.

So when you plug in a new printer and turns it on, your computer says "hi" and the printer answers in a foreign language the computer doesn't understand.

So it needs an interpreter.

And when I say interpreter, I mean just like in the real world, like if a foreign diplomat comes to the country but doesn't speak the local language. They need an interpreter to help them communicate with the locals.

That, basically speaking, is what a driver is -- an interpreter that helps your computer talk to a specific piece of equipment. And you need a different interpreter for each piece of equipment (or each general type) that you hook up to the computer.

Make sense?

Now in some cases, the driver may be "preinstalled" on your computer (in other words, the computer already has the interpreter ready and waiting in case it's needed) and in other cases, it needs to either be installed from a CD, or downloaded off the Internet, and then installed on the computer.

But either way, the computer needs that driver before it can talk to the printer or whatever other type of device you may have hooked up to the computer.

Hope that makes sense.

Until next time, enjoy,

Worth Godwin

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Problems ejecting CDs because of not closing a program the right way

I got a question from Scott, who recently joined my Gold Club. He wrote:

> Hi Worth I got the CDs today. I listened to part of
> one of them, and now Im having a problem ejecting the
> disc. A window keeps popping up stating " being used".
> How do i eject It?
>
> Thanks Scott

OK, this is a problem people run into occasionally, but it's nothing big.

The problem is that you haven't completely closed out of whatever program you're using to listen to, or watch, the CDs.

This applies to any CD you might use on your computer, not just my CDs, but we'll use mine as an example since that's what Scott is asking about.

You can almost think of it as if you're trying to move a rug. If you're still standing on the rug, it's "in use" so you can't move it. If you step off the rug (and move any furniture off it, etc.) it is no longer in use, so you can move it.

So you need to make sure you completely exit out or quit out (same thing) of the program before trying to eject the disk.

If you were listening to one of the audio CDs that comes with the Gold Club, it may have opened up in iTunes, or maybe a different program, depending on what you're using on your computer.

In Scott's case, it would almost definitely be iTunes, since he's using a Mac.

On the other hand, if you're watching one of my video lesson CDs, like the "Sampler CD" that also comes as part of the $47 package, then it would have opened up in a web browser.

On a Mac that's usually Safari, on a Windows PC that's Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox most commonly. (As a side note, I'll just repeat that if you're running Windows and you're using Internet Explorer (the blue E) then you should stop using that and switch to Firefox since Explorer is very insecure and can cause many problems for you)

Whatever the case is, the problem is caused because you didn't completely exit or "quit out" of the program.

On a Windows PC you can exit out of programs 99% of the time by closing all of the open windows from that program.

On a Mac, on the other hand, closing the window might not close the program. I see a lot of people do this -- they click the red X button in the corner of the window and it closes the window, but leaves Safari (or whatever program) open and running.

What you want to do is Quit out of the program by going to the application menu (the menu that has the name of the program, like Safari, iTunes, etc.) and go to the bottom option in that menu: Quit.

This closes the program completely, so it's not taking up memory and not "holding on to" the CD.

Once you're out of the program, you should be able to eject the CD normally.

I cover the right way to close programs in one of the easy video computer lessons on the computer basics video lesson CDs that come with the bundle of easy video computer training CDs available on my site.

Until next time, enjoy,

Worth Godwin

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Computer Security Tip: Is Your Computer A Zombie?

A virus with more power than all of the greatest supercomputers in the world put together, and it could be on your computer now

Here's a scary thought.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article about the "Storm Worm" that has been flooding everybody's inboxes with fake "ecard" and "greeting card" messages that try to lure you to a malicious website so it can infect your computer.

Well the problem is far worse than I ever imagined.

According to recent reports, the Storm Worm is currently infecting as many as TEN MILLION computers around the world.

These computers are infected so that they can be slaved together into what is called a "zombie net". If this makes you picture a scene from a horror movie, with thousands of the living dead shuffling after a helpless victim, in a way, you're not far off.

Zombie nets, also known as "botnets" are computers just like any other, but they've been infected with a virus that makes the computers remote controlled by some unknown person or group of people.

In most cases, these zombies can be infected without the computer's user having any idea it's happening, and the computer can remain infected for weeks or months!

And yes, if you are using Windows, it's very possible your computer could be infected right now and you'd have no idea.

If you're using a Mac (Apple), since there are currently NO worms or viruses that infect the Mac OS, you're safe. But you should keep reading because I'm about to reveal a tip that can help protect you in the future if there ever is a virus or worm for Mac.

The tip I'm going to share in a moment also can help protect Windows AND Mac users from common scam emails like phishing scams.

So these Zombie Nets are used by criminals to launch attacks on web sites, steal information, and other criminal activity.

So yes, that means that if your PC is infected, you are (in a way) aiding in committing crimes. Fortunately, you're not going to be arrested, but you should do what you can to protect yourself anyway.

The more we fight back against these criminals, the safer we all are!

The way it stands, whoever is behind the Storm Worm -- and authorities don't know who it is, or if they do, they're not letting on -- has a vast army of computers at their command. The army is so powerful, that as I mentioned before, they can out-think the world's greatest supercomputers!

The way that the Storm Worm emails try to trick you into infecting your computer keeps changing -- they're doing this to make it hard for people like me to tip you off and protect you.

The most recent ways they've been luring people in is by claiming that there is a video of you on YouTube.com, or by sending out fake "registration details" emails.

The registration details welcome you as a new member of a service you've never heard of or signed up for, and want you to log in and update your login information.

This is very similar to the common "phishing scams" which try to trick you into giving away personal information through fake emails from places like eBay, PayPal, or others. The only difference is they're trying to get a program (virus or worm) onto your computer instead of getting you to type in personal information like passwords or social security numbers.

Here's a tip to recognize most or all of these scam emails and Storm Worm emails.

Take a look at the bottom edge of the window you're reading this article in (this should work for those of you reading this in a regular email program or if you're reading it on a web page). You should see an area (probably just a solid color with no information in it right now) called the "status bar".

If the window just stops with no bottom border a few millimeters tall, then look in the View menu above and look for a menu option called status bar. If it's not checked, click on it to activate the status bar. If you accidentally turn it off, just go back to the View menu and click the option again.

Now that it's turned on (if it wasn't already) take a look at it again and put your mouse pointer over the following link:

http://www.worthgodwin.com/

You should see the address http://www.worthgodwin.com/
appear on the status bar. It matches what the address above says, because this is a legitimate email.

(Note: if you're a Mac user running the Mac OS X Mail program -- the one with the postage stamp icon -- then this may not show up on a status bar, but a little "tool tip" that appears hovering over the link itself)

A scam email or Storm Worm email would normally show a weird address on the status bar that just has numbers in it, like 27.98.143.21 or something like that. Numbers separated by dots.

When you see something like that, where the status bar shows just a bunch of numbers instead of a real address, 99% of the time you should avoid clicking on the link.

until next time, stay safe, have fun, and enjoy,

Worth Godwin

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Tips for Switching Internet Service Providers - Keeping bookmarks, address books, and saved emails

This article is a follow-up to my last article, where I talked about choosing the right ISP (Internet Service Provider). I had planned to get this out sooner, but my schedule has conspired against me with far too many nights working until 2am.

So, if you've read my last article and decided you want to switch to a different type of ISP, from dialup to DSL for example, or you're switching for other reasons, you might wonder how do you make the transition smoothly?

How do you let people know what your new address is, what happens to your bookmarks (also known as favorites), and your list of contacts in your email address book?

For most of these, there's not a lot to worry about.

Let's start with your bookmarks or favorites. To keep things simple, from now on I'll just use the term bookmarks; just understand that if you're more familiar with the term favorites, it means the same thing.

Bookmarks are, of course, pretty much what they sound like -- a way to mark a web page so you can get back to it in the future. You can add or get back to bookmarks by going to the bookmarks menu in Mozilla Firefox or Apple's Safari, or to the Favorites menu in Internet Explorer.

Most people, no matter what kind of Internet connection you have, have their bookmarks stored right on their computer, in the menu I just mentioned.

So it really doesn't matter if you switch to a different ISP -- they stay in the same place, so there's nothing you really need to do.

If you use AOL, on the other hand, things are a little different. AOL has always used non-standard ways of doing things, and unfortunately the bookmarks are no different.

This is partially because instead of just using a regular web browser (like Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, or Apple's Safari) AOL uses it's own self-contained system.

But it's also because they don't give you a way to "export" the bookmarks to use elsewhere. These are a couple of the reasons I really don't like AOL and always suggest people use something else.

While checking my facts before writing this article, I found that AOL does not appear to give you any way to easily move your bookmarks to another program.

The one way I can think of that doesn't involve messing around with folders and files that the average computer user probably shouldn't fool with is to copy and paste the web addresses into the new web browser, then bookmark it from there. Kind of tedious and time consuming, but better than nothing.

If you're not familiar with copying and pasting, I have a detailed article on it on my website. You can click here to read the article on easy editing tips.

I also *show* you how to copy and paste on one of the video lessons on my "Sampler CD" that comes with my Gold Club membership as part of the intro $47 package.

More info on that is on my website at:

http://www.WorthGodwin.com

So what about keeping email addresses and any saved emails when you change ISPs?

Well, the answer here is pretty much the same. Changing ISPs doesn't really have any effect on the information stored on your computer, including saved emails and address book information.

Once again, AOL lets you import (bring in) address book information from many sources, but gives you no way to export it (take it out).

The exception to all of this (except for the AOL part) is if you're using "webmail" -- where you are going to a web page to read your email instead of using Outlook, Thunderbird, or OS X Mail.

In this case, your email and address book are stored somewhere else. So if the webmail is something your ISP provides (like webmail.verizon.net if you use Verizon just for example) then they're the ones storing your info, not you.

One way to work around these issues where your email addresses are being "held hostage" is to copy and paste the email addresses into the new program you're using out of AOL or your webmail page as the case may be.

Another option is to send an email to everybody in your address book, including your new email address, announcing what your new address is. If you do that, you'll get a copy of the email, and in many email programs it is pretty simple to add addresses out of an email by simply right-clicking on the address (or control-click for Mac users) and then clicking add address from the menu that appears.

The problem with this is that a lot of people -- myself included -- consider this to be something of an invasion of privacy, since you're sharing the email addresses of everybody you know with everybody else you know.

People do this all the time, actually, when they forward emails. This is really bad "netiquette" (Internet etiquette), which is why you should use the "BCC" (Blind Carbon Copy) option whenever sending out mass emails. It hides all of the recipients, keeping their privacy (and helping prevent the spread of viruses, worms, and spam!).

And for those "hostage" emails -- the important ones can be forwarded to your new address. Not a perfect solution, but it does do the job.

Also, if you're just switching from one web browser to another (Internet Explorer to Firefox or Safari for example), or switching from one email program to another (Outlook to Thunderbird on the Windows side, out Entourage to OS X Mail on the Mac side) these programs will usually ask you if you want to move over your old information automatically, including bookmarks, emails, and address books.

well, that covers that pretty thoroughly. Until next time,

Worth Godwin

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Thursday, August 30, 2007

8 Reasons Why It's Not Your Fault If You Feel Like A 
Computer Dummy, 6 Secrets That Skyrocket Your Skills

If you're like a lot of people, you feel confused by computers and wish you had more confidence and skill.

You know you're not as good as you want to be, and you end up frustrated by them a lot.

Maybe you feel like you're missing out on something that other people enjoy, and wish you could learn the basics of computers so you can join in but you aren't sure about what you're doing.

If any of this seems familiar to you, then it's important to realize that you're not alone -- a lot of people feel this way about computers.

You also need to understand it's not your fault.

I've been helping people with their computer challenges for a long time, and I've spent years researching exactly what causes people to get stuck, and what makes them feel frustrated and confused.

I've discovered there are 8 main reasons why most people fail when they try to learn computer basics and get better at computers -- and none of those reasons are your fault at all!

If you have always felt like a dummy, it's because the game has been rigged against you -- the traditional ways people try to learn computers are almost designed to make you fail!

Here are 4 of the common experiences people have when they try to
learn the basics of computers:


  1. You try to learn from someone you know like a neighbor, family member, or someone else who may seem like they understand computers, but who in reality doesn't really know that much and ends up passing on misinformation, misunderstanding, and bad habits.

    It's like a 16-year-old trying to get someone a few months older to teach them how to drive: not a good idea.

  2. You sign up for classes, but end up feeling frustrated and like you've wasted your hard-earned money because the teacher goes at the pace of the fastest student, and you end up like most of the other students: left out and left behind.

  3. You hire a computer consultant who probably knows what they're talking about, but while they understand computers, they don't understand the first thing about teaching.

    They talk in confusing technical terms that they can't or won't explain clearly, and often get impatient or annoyed with you when you don't get it.

  4. Because of the expense, you only hire a consultant once in a while, and when you do, you want to cover a bunch of stuff in one long lesson to save money on repeat trips.

    But you end up wasting your money because you tried cramming in too much at once, so most of it goes in one ear and out the other.


Here are a few important things to understand about how people's mind work and how we learn that is critical to remember when learning any skill, including computers:

  1. When we learn a skill -- reading, writing, using computer, or anything else -- we have to start off focusing on the little details, or little steps, and work up from there: letters before words, words before sentences, paragraphs before pages.

    Most professional computer trainers are way up at a level where they see the big picture and have trouble thinking back to when they focused on the little steps
    .

    Because of this, they have trouble explaining to you and don't really understand why you don't get it.

  2. Scientific studies have shown people need to learn in short lessons of half an hour or less, with a break between lessons.

    When most classes or lessons from consultants run an hour or two long, is it any surprise you forget it all?

    Obviously, when you're working around somebody else's schedule, and you're paying by the minute (plus travel time in a lot of cases) it seems to make more economic sense to have a single long lesson that lasts an hour or two, instead of several short lessons.

    But in reality, you end up wasting money on those lessons that go on for more than half an hour, since you end up forgetting a lot of what you're taught!

    An unfortunate catch 22.

  3. Repetition builds skill: nobody learns a skill in just one lesson. But because of the cost and today's busy schedule, almost nobody ever gets computer lessons more than once in a blue moon, so they end up stuck in a frustrated rut.

    Know how to ride a bike?

    I bet if you do, then you had to practice a while before you got good at it.

    At first it was a struggle to keep upright, but you kept doing it. Eventually, you could ride around like a pro without even thinking about it. Maybe even with no hands!

    And the nice thing about learning computers is -- no skinned knees!

  4. Focus on one subject, and only go off on side topics if it directly relates and helps understanding of the main thing you're trying to learn about.

    Jumping around to a bunch of different things in one lesson is no way to learn.


    True, some people are what I like to call "non-linear learners" (think ADD) and they want to jump around a lot or they get bored.

    But even hyperactive people (I'm one of them) really learn best with short, focused lessons, and the *choice* to be able to jump from one topic to another -- as long as each short lesson is complete and not a jumbled mess.

These are a few of the things I discovered were holding people back from the confidence and skill that they deserved.

These understandings I gained from my years of studying this problem did lead me to a solution.

Over the more than twelve years that I've been a computer coach, I -- through a lot of hard work on my part, and a lot of thought and care -- figured out how to explain things in plain English.

I use metaphors and analogies, relating the complex and normally confusing terms to everyday, understandable objects like a table, a rug, a car. Things that you can relate to and that make sense to anybody, even a so-called "computer dummy".

I also learned how to bring things down to your level of understanding -- helping you grasp what I'm talking about, even if you're a beginner and still focused on the tiny details -- all without talking down to you.

But because of the limitations of teaching as a consultant -- the expense, the busy schedule, the need to have long lessons, and everything else I've just talked about -- I still couldn't help people get really comfortable with computers and advance the way I wanted them to.

So what I came up with is a new system: short, easy computer lessons (for both Macs and Windows computers) where you get to pop a CD into your computer and sit back and watch and learn more easily than you ever thought possible.

The lessons are short, focused on one topic, in plain English, and so easy to fit into even the busiest of schedules, since you get to learn at your own pace on your own terms, for a fraction of the cost of classes or a consultant.

And I even back it all up with a complete, no hassle, no arguments full one year iron-clad money-back guarantee.

If you try them out and they're not for you, no hard feelings. Just return them within the YEAR (no pointless "ten day trial" like some places) and I'll happily give you your money back, including shipping!

And remember, they're all broken down into simple, short, easy lessons that you can just sit back and watch, that makes computers as easy as the click of a mouse.

All you need to do is click here to get easy computer lessons for Mac or Windows (you chose which you want after clicking the link).

It's really easy, it's fun, and you get a whole year to try it out risk free. So all you have to lose is your frustration and confusion around computers.

And give up calling yourself a "computer dummy"!

You'll be glad you did.

Worth Godwin

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Easy Editing Tips and More Computer Basics That Make Life Easier

Computer users have a wide range of experience and levels of understanding of their computers. The great majority of users have just learned the most basic features of a few of the thousands of programs out there. It really can be a help for you to learn computer basics that you may haver been taught.

But that’s nothing to be ashamed of — even the most advanced computer user was at that level at some point, myself included. Even if you’re just using your computer for word processing, learning a few simple skills can make your life a lot easier.

  • First and foremost: save often! If you type a long letter, or make a lot of changes to whatever you're working on, and the power goes out or something else happens, you could lose everything you haven't saved!

    Just imagine how upset you would be if you'd worked on something for half an hour, an hour, or longer, and *poof* it vanished. Just going to the File menu and clicking save can help you avoid losing all that work.

  • If you're working on a large project — such as a story or essay, where you write multiple drafts — periodically use the "save as" option from the File menu to save your file with a new name.

    That way if the third draft had something good you deleted in the fourth draft, you can bring it back for the fifth.

    For example, if you're working on a file called My Letter.doc and you've made a lot of changes since your last save, go to "save as..." from the File menu, and change the name to My Letter2.doc. This way, you have both versions.

  • Remember you can click anywhere in the document with your mouse and make changes wherever you place the cursor (the blinking vertical line which indicates where what you type next will appear).

    So if you realize you’ve made a mistake two lines back, just click where you want to make the change instead of deleting everything back to the mistake, then retyping it all. When you’re done, just click at the bottom and pick up where you left off.

  • Cutting and pasting: If you want to move a word, a sentence, a paragraph, or even a page of text, you can cut it and paste it someplace else in the document.

    To do this, just highlight the section of text you want by dragging your mouse (click and hold the left button, then drag) across the text. You’ll see a highlight appear where you drag. Let go of the mouse button then go to the edit menu.

    In the edit menu you can select "copy" to make a copy of the text, or "cut" to remove the text that is highlighted. Then go to the part of the document where you want to move or copy the text and click there so the cursor appears where you want your text to appear.

    Go back to the edit menu and select paste. Your text will appear where you clicked.

    You can use this to move text around in a document, or copy and paste it into an other document or even an email, and vice versa. Copying and pasting also can work with graphics or even files and folders in some situations.

  • Undo: if you make a mistake the "undo" option in the Edit menu will allow you to undo the last thing you did. Accidentally highlighted and deleted a paragraph in that letter? Just undo before you type anything else and it comes right back.

  • Learn the common keyboard shortcuts which work in most applications:
    On Windows PCs, the common keyboard shortcuts include: CTRL-S to save, CTRL-C to copy, CTRL-X to cut, CTRL-V to paste. ALT-F4 will close a window or program (or prompt you to shut down Windows if you are not in a program).

    On a Macintosh computer, common keyboard shortcuts include: Command-S to save, Command-C to copy, Command-X to cut, Command-V to paste. Command-W will close a window, and Command-Q will quit the program you're in. The Command key is the one next to the space bar that has the Apple logo on it.

    In all cases, these key combinations are done as follows: hold down CTRL (or Command), type the other key, and release both. Just like using the shift key to type a capital letter. On both Macs and PCs, these and additional shortcuts are typically printed in the menus next to the option.
These are just a few computer basics that can really make your life easer!

Of course, there's a big difference between reading about something, and seeing it in action -- being able to watch something done really makes new skills a lot easier to get. This is one of the reasons I put together my easy computer lesson CDs where you get video lesson CDs for Mac or Windows delivered to your door, packed with short, easy lessons on a lot of different topics.

On the "Sampler CD" (one of the CDs I include when you order), you get a video lesson where you get to watch exactly how to cut, copy, and paste right on your screen while you hear me describing how it all works with step-by-step instructions in plain English.

I also cover lots of other easy computer basics like this that makes your life easier.

Try it out -- I give you a full one year 365 day money back guarantee, so it's risk free!

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Friday, August 17, 2007

Why you're taking a gamble when you ignore error messages and odd computer behavior

A lot of people take big risks with their computers without even knowing it every day.

In a sense they're playing with fire.

Let me give you some advice that I hope you take to heart: if you start getting unusual error messages on your computer, don't ignore them.

Especially pay attention if you keep getting them frequently or regularly.

Also pay attention to other unusual behavior, like it shutting off or restarting suddenly, or odd noises -- especially clicking or ticking types of noises coming from inside the computer.

Let me tell you a story about a client of mine -- a vet office here on the island -- who made this mistake.

They'd been a client of mine for a couple of years or more, and a while ago I'd set them up with a system (the same one I recommend on my "5 Computer Mistakes" CD that you can get for free from my web site or as part of my soon-to-expire $27 deal) to back up their computer.

They were backing up regularly, just like I tell people to, so you'd think they'd be protected. But unfortunately they ignored a problem to the point where it even defeated the backup system I'd set up for them.

They kept getting weird error messages when they opened certain programs. It happened every single time, for weeks on end, but they never let me know about it or did anything about it at all.

Eventually, it got worse, and they finally called me up and one Monday I drove up to help them out, not realizing the full extent of the problem over the phone.

I ended up spending three hours up there working on it, ran out of time, and had to leave with the system -- one that was absolutely critical to their business -- "mostly" working. Which was the best I could do because of how bad the problem had gotten and because I'd run out of time.

So I went back on Thursday, the next time I was able to open up in my schedule.

I ended up there for another SIX hours, plus my travel time.

It basically took TWELVE HOURS -- at $75 an hour -- to get everything completely cleaned up.

And even though I hate laying blame, I had to tell them it was pretty much their fault because they'd ignored the problem for so long -- the problem was a bad hard drive that corrupted many files, plus several side issues that weren't directly related to the bad hard drive.

You see, if hadn't ignored the error messages they were getting, and had gotten their system looked at right away, the files wouldn't have been corrupted.

If they'd gotten their system looked at fairly quickly -- even not right away -- they wouldn't have backed up all of their files, including the corrupted ones, onto their backup hard drive, destroying all the good copies that were there.

If I had been able to go and look at the computer and use a good backup copy to "restore" from, I would've been there about an hour or an hour and a half or so, and then they would've been all set.

So if your computer is acting up, giving you weird error messages, running really slowly -- and it happened suddenly, or it gradually started to happen, get it looked at before it's too late.

It's a gamble you don't want to take.

until next time,

Worth Godwin

P.S. Something that's *not* a gamble is taking advantage of my offer to get $525.00 worth of easy computer lessons for just $27... if you act right away.

It's not a gamble because I've put a year and a half of hard work (plus over a dozen years' teaching experience) into making my system really work, and really easy. And I've backed it up with a full one-year guarantee, so you can only win if you grab it before the price goes up.

I'm also going to be including lessons in my Gold Club monthly CDs (2 months, or 4 Gold Club CDs are included in the $27) that make it easy for you to "troubleshoot" common problems. So you can avoid sitting forever on hold to find out it was something you could've fixed in 5 minutes if you'd known how, or know if it really is time to take the computer into the shop for a repair.

So go and read more, check out the testimonials, see all the details of what you'll get by going now to:

www.WorthGodwin.com

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hurricane blues - using a UPS to protect your system during storms and more

Note: I wrote this for my email newsletter August 13th, 2007, the day before posting it here.

As I write this, it's a bright and sunny day outside, with nothing to hint at the fact that we're under a hurricane advisory. Hurricane Flossie is bearing down on us and could hit tomorrow or Wednesday, so people are scurrying around all over the island stocking up on bottled water, food and other supplies.

But there's one thing they should have that most of them probably haven't thought of.

It's called a UPS -- not to be confused with the shipping company of the same name -- which stands for "Uninterruptible Power Supply", and it's an important thing to have to protect your computer even if you're not being threatened by a hurricane.

Let me explain what a UPS is, and what it does.

First off, let me back up a step and make sure you know what a surge suppressor is, since the two things are related.

A surge suppressor is a power strip with a bunch of power sockets in it that is designed to "take the bullet" for your computer if there is a "power surge".

In other words, the electricity that comes into your house is supposed to be at a certain level. Sometimes, like if there is a lightning strike, or the power goes out (like a blackout) and comes back on again, there is a "surge" of power.

Imagine a huge wave coming in on a beach -- normally the waves are within a certain level, and so are safe. But if a huge wave comes in (like a tsunami or tidal wave maybe, but not necessarily that big even) it can be dangerous.

So if a big surge of power comes up the line for whatever reason, if you don't have a surge suppressor to "suppress" the extra power, it can fry your computer's circuits -- or a TV or any electronic device for that matter.

So it's absolutely essential to at least have one of those to protect your computer and other electronics. And when you buy one, remember that power surges can come up phone lines and even cable lines (like if you have Roadrunner or other cable internet) and fry your machine that way. So when shopping for a suppressor, get one that covers everything.

So a UPS is like a surge suppressor, but it does even more to protect your computer.

A UPS basically is a big surge suppressor that has a battery inside it.

Because of this, if the power goes out, an alarm goes off (in case you didn't notice the lights go out, or it's daytime) and you have several minutes to save what you're doing and shut down the computer safely.

Every UPS is labeled with a number measured in VA -- the higher the number, the longer the power lasts. I suggest getting one that is at least 650VA.

The other benefit a lot of people don't know about that you get from having a UPS is that if you live in an area (like here on the Big Island) where the power grid is, shall we say, less than reliable, you get protection from brownouts.

Brownouts are when the power level falls but doesn't go away, so it's one step below a blackout. This can often happen without the lights dimming or anything visible happening. But it can still hurt your computer if this keeps happening.

Getting a UPS will protect you from the gradual damage done by brownouts, which you can think of as hurting your computer (or TV, etc.) the way that erosion gradually wears away at a beach.

So if you have a UPS you're protected both ways. For $100 or less, that's a good buy.

Oh, and one last thought -- another nice benefit of having one or more UPSes in your house is if the power goes out, you can plug a light into it and not have to sit in the dark!

This works best with fluorescent bulbs, of course. Since they use so much less electricity than an old fashioned "incandescent" bulb, the battery in the UPS lasts a lot longer.

A lot of times, if your TV and cable box (or cable modem for that matter, if you use cable internet) is hooked into a UPS too, the cable still works in a power outage -- so you get TV to entertain you, or maybe even the Internet!

So get a UPS or two to protect your electronics, and maybe even give you something to do on a dark night when the power's out.

until next time,

Worth Godwin

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Sunday, August 12, 2007

What A Firewall is and Why You Must Use One

As you may know, a firewall is a protective barrier for your computer, which acts to shield it from threats on your local network and the internet. It's kind of like a security system for your house. Where I live in Hawaii, many of us leave our doors unlocked all the time, and never have a problem.

Unfortunately this is a really bad idea on the internet – when your computer is online (which if you have high speed internet like DSL or cable, is all the time) it's as if the entire world is next door to your "house," so unfortunately you have to act as if your neighbors are all criminals, since someone in Nigeria can get to your computer just as easily as someone in Captain Cook, Hawaii.

Your network or internet connection (an internet connection is also a type of network connection, it just connects you to the world instead of one or more computers in your home or office) is actually split up into what are called "ports" -- imagine a house with many many windows, some open, some closed -- many ports have a specific purpose, like port 25 which is usually used for sending email.

What a firewall does is seal off all the ports that aren't needed, just leaving open the ports you need to send and receive email, browse the web, and so on.

If the other ports are left open, that increases the ways a person or a program (such as a worm) can just stroll right in, just like if you leave the doors or windows open in your house.

If you have a router (which is a device used to share a DSL or cable connection with more than one computer, or to make your internet connection wireless) then there should be a firewall in the router. This is what's known as a hardware firewall (since it's part of a piece of equipment), as opposed to a software firewall, which is a program on your computer.

Some people assume that having a router with a firewall is enough to protect your computer, but while it will help, you really need to have a software firewall too.

Windows XP & Vista, as well as Mac OS 10.2 and higher both have a software firewall built into them. Earlier versions of Windows and the Mac OS do not. If you have Windows XP with service pack 2 installed, or Windows Vista, then the firewall is almost definitely on.


Different kinds of software firewalls.

There are two general types of software firewall: you can think of them as "active" and "passive" firewalls.

In other words, a passive firewall just sort of sits there, and blocks the needed ports to keep things out and that's about it. An active firewall on the other hand, does the same thing, but also sort of sits up and pays attention to what's going on inside your computer, and gives you control over what programs can get out.

So if you have a piece of spyware on your computer that's trying to "phone home" to report in on what information it's collected about you, the active firewall can block it to protect you. And the byproduct of this is you're safer.

Both the Windows XP and Mac OS X firewalls are passive.

This is a lot less of a risk for the Mac, since there are no malicious programs infecting those systems (at time I'm recording this, there are a small number of programs like this written for Mac, but they're not circulating or infecting computers). You definitely need a firewall on a Mac to protect from outside attacks, but a passive one, at least for now, is enough.

On a Windows machine, a passive firewall is not enough, since there are thousands of malicious programs including worms, trojans, and spyware which, if they're on your computer, will try to sneak information out of your computer.

So if you're just using a passive firewall like the Windows firewall, you can fall victim of so-called malware without even realizing it.

You see, what happens is this; a piece of malware will get onto your system and usually does one of three things: either it invites more malware in, opens a "back door" for someone to come in and snoop around, or it collects information about you and sends it out to persons unknown.

An active firewall will let you control what programs can get out to the internet, not just what can get in, which is very important.

To go back to our security system metaphor, if you have a passive firewall it's kind of like locking your doors and windows -- it does make it much harder for someone to break into your house or office from outside.

Unfortunately, the thieves are really smart, so they sneak someone inside when you're not paying attention and that person hides himself somewhere and then opens a door or window to let his buddies in, or rifles through your belongings and hands them through the window to someone outside.

If you have an active firewall, it's like a security guard is constantly patrolling inside the building, and only allows you or people you trust to use the doors and windows. If a stranger has gotten in, he's held until you can decide if he's OK or not, or his hands are tied so he can't steal anything.

Does that make sense?

So what do you need to do?

Well, if you're running any computer, you absolutely must have a firewall or you run the risk of someone hacking into your computer, or allowing a malicious program in. Macs are safe enough with a passive firewall, but because of the thousands of worms, viruses, spyware, etc. a Windows machine is still very vulnerable without an active firewall.
Link
Windows users have a lot of options, like buying Norton Internet Security, (which includes not just Norton Antivirus but also Norton Personal Firewall), or using Zone Lab's ZoneAlarm.

One option I recommend is ZoneAlarm – even the free version is a really great product, and can protect your computer very well.

A better option is Kaspersky Internet Security, which aside from being arguably the very best antivirus programs around, also has a good firewall program built in.

Do not rely on the Windows firewall as it does not give you enough protection. Keep in mind active firewall programs do need some configuration to block and allow the right programs.

The firewall program usually asks you if you want to allow or block a program (and you can usually allow it or block it once or always) the first time a program tries to connect to the internet.

If it's something like Outlook, Firefox, or any other legit program that needs to connect to the internet, you want to allow it. If you're not sure if a program is legit, the firewall usually tells you the name of the program it's asking you about, so you can type it into Google and look it up.

Chances are, if you see a lot of search results talking about viruses or adware, then you should probably block it and try to get it cleaned up.

Setting the firewall program up the right way can be a little tricky, especially for a lot of more basic computer users, which is why I make it easy in my video course on easy and safe internet. I show you how to install the free version of Zonealarm, and exactly how to use it, step by step.

Mac users who want a little more security than the built-in
OS X firewall program provides, can check out a program called Little Snitch. This is an active firewall program, like Zonealarm. The demo version of Little Snitch is a free download, which works on a trial basis.

Using a firewall is a vital part of keeping your computer, and all the files on it, secure. Don't make the mistake of running your computer without one.

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

A Simple Secret To Improving Your Basic Computer Skills (or If You Dig Yourself a Hole, Bring a Ladder)

Once upon a time, many years ago, I didn't know a thing about computers. People who know me, and especially my clients, often have trouble believing this.

But it's true; I wasn't born with some built-in ability to use computers. I started off as a complete novice, and had to learn as I went along.

In this article I'm going to explain something that I was very lucky to figure out on my own, way back when, that helped blast my computer skills into the stratosphere compared to where I started.

But first I want to tell you about a client of mine named Peter.

One day I was at Peter's office, helping him with a problem he'd had with his laptop. Peter has a problem which is very common – his computer skills never improve because he's afraid that if he tries something new, he's going to break his computer or mess things up somehow.

Maybe you've felt this way too.

So I was talking to him, and was telling him about when I first started driving.

When I first got my beginners permit, I wasn't very confident about what I was doing, and would get nervous when a car passed on my left, then a mailbox would be coming up on my right, so I ended up swerving, just a little, back and forth in the lane.

It probably looked pretty funny.

Of course, I didn't have to do this -- there was lots of space on both sides, and I wasn't going to be hit by anything.

All I had to do was just relax and drive instead of worrying about what might go wrong.

I've met a lot of people over the years who use their computers the way I used to drive back when I first started. And unfortunately, while I quickly got over this with driving, a lot of people never get past this problem with their computer.

The thing is, once I stopped worrying about something going wrong, and just relaxed and drove (while still, of course, paying attention to what was going on) I got a lot better at driving.

Turns out that Peter was kind of the opposite from me when he first drove. He actually "borrowed" his dad's car when he was just fourteen years old, and drove to a friend's house!

He dove right in and just did it, and probably really enjoyed himself...

...right up until the moment the cop pulled him over!

His attitude was great, and made it a heck of a lot easier for him to drive (even without lessons) than it was for me at first when I started to drive. If he'd just balanced that out by being a little more careful (or maybe waiting until he had his license!) he might not have gotten into trouble.

The attitude Peter had when he was a teenager about driving a car is the attitude I had about using a computer when I first sat down in front of one. I dove right in and just played around with it to see where I could go with it. And just by having that mental attitude, it made it a lot easier to learn computer basics, and improve from there.

But there was something else I did.

When I was exploring somewhere new with my computer, trying something I hadn't done before, I paid attention to what I was doing. I made a point of remembering how to get back to where I was, and what I did, so I could go back and fix it if it caused a problem.

So for example if I wanted to change a setting in a program, or try doing something new in a program, I first made sure I had some idea what would happen when I did it.

If I had no idea, I either looked it up, or left it alone.

If I did have some idea what I was doing, then I'd try it and see what happened, but would make sure I knew exactly what I'd clicked, and where it was so I could reverse it if I didn't like what happened.

And I'd only change one thing at a time, so if something went wrong, I knew what caused it.

The way I like to put it is "if you dig yourself a hole, bring a ladder."

Remembering this tip, and remembering to have the right attitude when it comes to computers will do a lot to help you feel more confident and empowered with the computer than you used to think you could.

So don't be afraid to try new things – just make sure you bring a ladder when you do!

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Email Hoaxes May Have You Fooled

I recently got an email from a client who forwarded a message on to me and I don't know how many other people. The subject was:

"Fwd: PLEEEEEEASE REEEEEAD! IT WAS ON GOOD MORNING AMERICA TODAYSHOW"

In the message it talked about how Bill Gates was testing out a new "email tracking program" and that he wanted you to forward the message on to as many people as you could, supposedly to keep people from switching away from using Internet Explorer (which is a very good idea by the way -- and is something I talk about on my special report "5 Common Computer Mistakes and How to Avoid Making Them Yourself" -- but how forwarding the email to a bunch of people would stop people from doing this is beyond me).

In exchange for forwarding the email, Bill would supposedly send you up to $245 for every person you sent it to, and even pay you for the people that it got sent to after that!

It sounds nice, and the email throws around a lot of important sounding names like Bill Gates & Microsoft, AOL, and others, and talks about how "my brother's girlfriend" got a check, and other details that are there to help convince people.

But of course, it's all a big hoax.

If you sit down with a calculator, it's pretty easy to figure it out. Let's say you forward the email to 10 people. That'd give you $2,450. So far, that sounds pretty believable. After all, Bill Gates is one of the richest people in the world.

But if those people each sent it to 10 more people, that would be 100 more people Bill would have to pay $245 for. So now the total is something like $245,000. But hey, Bill can still afford that!

But if those 100 people then sent it on to another 10 people each. That's another 1,000 new people Bill would have to shell out $245 each for. So suddenly the total is (I think -- this is a lot of zeros and my calculator is starting to smoke) $245,000,000! Even Bill Gates would have to think about it before writing a check that big, at least when he's not really getting anything out of it.

And if that 1,000 people each sent it to another ten, well, the number is too big to fit on my calculator's screen. And it's more money than even Bill Gates has, and we all know he's a billionaire!

So applying a little common sense to these things can go a long way to keep you from getting fooled. Of course, there's no real risk in the Bill Gates hoax, or any of the dozens of variations that have floated around the Internet since 1997 when a bored college student dreamed up the original.

But the same tactics are used by scammers out to get your money, like the Nigerian 419 scams or phishing scams, which have cost a lot of people a hell of a lot of money. Those scams come through email too, and are a lot worse than the harmless prank I just told you about.

So protect yourself with a little knowledge, and stay safe. My articles will help with that, plus the valuable info you can find at www.WorthGodwin.com

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Why you should avoid Windows Vista like the plague (at least for now) Part 3

In this three-part article I will talk about three big reasons you should avoid "upgrading" to Windows Vista, at least for now. This is part three of three.


I've been talking in the first two parts of this series of three article about reasons you want to avoid getting the new Windows Vista. I called it a real turkey, and gave you two good reasons you shouldn't use it.

In this last in this series of articles, I'm going to give you a third reason that I don't think you should bother getting Vista, at least for a while.

Reason #3:

All the new features are old features stolen from Mac OS X, and not very well.

Microsoft has a history of stealing ideas and presenting them as their own -- all of the basic ideas behind Windows (having information displayed in one or more windows, having a desktop, having a recycle bin or trash can, using a mouse, etc.) were directly taken from the Mac after Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (the co-founders of Apple) invited Bill Gates over to show off their new type of computer.

Bill took notes and ran back to Microsoft to copy it, and he's been doing it ever since.

The new version of Windows -- Windows Vista -- was supposed to come out years ago, but it got delayed and delayed, and finally was released around the beginning of 2007.

Back in 2004, Apple announced the then-new version of Mac OS X, OS 10.4 or "Tiger" (the "X" in Mac OS X is a Roman numeral 10, not a letter X by the way) at their developers conference.

Early in 2007, some internal emails were leaked from inside Microsoft that revealed that when one high-up employee from Microsoft was at the 2004 Apple Developers Conference, he was taking notes (just like Bill did all those years ago) and he confessed Microsoft had to take a lot of features of OS X from Apple to put into Vista.

He was also worried they wouldn't be able to do those features as well.

When Vista finally came out (two and a half years later) I remember watching the promotional video that showed off all of the supposedly new features of Vista.

Every single one was clearly a knock-off of features in the 2004 version of Mac OS X, and in my opinion, not very good knock-offs.

In fact, the Microsoft employee who wrote those leaked emails is on record saying that he'd use a Mac himself if he didn't work for Microsoft.

So why pay for recycled "new features" when they won't really do that much to improve your computer (and as I mentioned in an earlier email, are likely to slow it down) -- it doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

I won't deny that I like Macs better than PCs too -- and unlike a lot of people who are big supporters of one and bash the other, I am very familiar with both types of computer, and realize that neither type is perfect -- and I honestly think that 99% of the time, you're better off using a Mac than a Windows PC.

So if you're going to get a new computer, which you're better off doing if you're getting Vista, why not get the real deal instead of the pale imitation?

Just my opinion.

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Why you should avoid Windows Vista like the plague (at least for now) Part 2

In this three-part article I will talk about three big reasons you should avoid "upgrading" to Windows Vista, at least for now. This is part two of three.


In the first part of this article, I told you the first of three reasons I don't think you should be getting the new Windows Vista, and why you should stick to Windows XP or Mac OS X.

In this article, I'm going to continue with the second reason that, at least for now, Vista is a turkey and you should avoid getting it.

Reason #2:

Not all of your old equipment will work because of "driver issues".

A "driver" is a piece of software that lets your computer work with the devices you have connected (outside or inside) the computer. Think of it like each part of the computer, or each device hooked up to it (like a printer, or a digital camera, etc.) talks a different language. The driver is like an interpreter that translates the language the device talks into the language Windows talks.

The same thing applies if you have a Mac -- it needs drivers to "talk" to printers and other devices. Without the right driver, the Mac has no idea how to talk to the printer, scanner, or whatever kind of device you might have hooked up to it. One big difference between Macs and Windows is that in a *lot* of cases (not all, but a lot) you don't need to jump through a lot of hoops to get a new device to work. You plug it in and it just works. But it still needs the driver for this to happen, it just is built in for most printers, mice, etc.

But back to Vista.

The drivers that used to work for Windows XP don't work for Vista, so every company out there that makes computer equipment has to make brand new drivers to work with Vista, and until they do, their equipment won't talk to Vista.

Now by the time I'm writing this (August of 2007), a LOT more drivers are available, unlike a few months ago when Vista first came out. But still, there are many thousands of devices that aren't "compatible" with Vista (in other words, there is no driver for them).

And the companies that make different computer parts and devices may not bother to ever write drivers for their older equipment -- even things just a couple of years old -- because this way they can sell you a new printer, or scanner, or whatever.

So even if you buy a new computer, the devices you had hooked up to it might not work anymore, and if you try to save money and just upgrade your current computer, parts inside the computer might not work right, or at all.

And if this happens, there's not a lot you can do about it.

I'll talk about the third reason I don't think you should get Vista in the third and final segment of this article.


Oh, and one last thing -- Mac users reading this, remember that if you have a Mac that was made in 2006 or later -- an "Intel Mac" of some kind -- you *can* run Windows too, and all of this information applies to a Mac running Windows just as much as any other computer running Windows.

But fortunately, most of you won't ever need to run Windows, so you can stick to the more familiar (not to mention safer and easier) Mac OS X that you're used to. But if you do have a need to run Windows, this is important to know.

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

The Hidden Dangers In Keeping Old Computers For Too Long

You know how they say dog years are like 7 people years?

Well, with computers it's more like 15 to 20 computer years for every real year, thanks to something called "Moore's Law."

I won't go into a lot of technical detail about what Moore's Law is, but to boil it down it means basically that stuff in computers roughly doubles every 18 months.

So in other words, about every 18 months, the average hard drive (storage space) size will approximately double.

About every 18 months processor (computer brain) speeds will roughly double.

About every 18 months RAM size (temporary working space like a tabletop or work bench) will roughly double.

And so on. peace of mind

What this means for you is that while your computer isn't obsolete in a year and a half, it's definitely not cutting edge anymore, even if you got a high end model.

But that doesn't mean you need to throw it away or anything.

BUT, the thing you should remember is that while 5 years doesn't seem like a long time to us, it's 75 to 100 years for your computer.

And just like a 100 year old person can't be expected to be as physically active as a 17 year old, we can't expect our 5 year old computers to be able to handle all the modern programs.

This is one reason I mentioned in a recent email that you shouldn't try to put the new Windows Vista on an older PC -- it just can't handle it!

But there's a different problem, too, that a lot of people don't think of.

Not only does the hardware (physical parts of the computer) change radically in a few years time in terms of "strength" and speed, companies come up with new *types* of hardware that the old computers may not be able to even understand or be able to talk to.

This doesn't happen as quickly as the "every 18 months" Moore's Law that I mentioned earlier, but the bottom line is that if you keep your computer for too long, you can run into problems when the inevitable time comes to upgrade to a new machine.

Here's why.

I had a client named Dorothy several years ago who had an old Mac (what I'm talking about applies to both Windows PCs and Macs). This was around 2003 or so, and her Mac dated from the mid 1990s.

I don't remember the problem I fixed, but I told her at the time that she should replace the computer immediately because she was playing with fire trying to keep an old computer like that running.

She ignored my advice, and lived to regret it.

A year or two later, she called me asking me for my help because her old Mac had died and she had all her files on it and she wanted me to move everything over to a newer computer.

When it turned out that the computer didn't even turn on, I had to tell her that there was nothing I could do, at least not without it costing her several hundred dollars in parts and my time, and it wasn't a guarantee.

The problem was, the type of hard drive (remember, that's where all the files that she wanted are stored) wasn't being made any more, and I'd long ago had all of my old equipment that could read the old drive type break down and I'd had no reason to replace it.

Now if she'd been backing up her files, she would have been better off -- you know this if you've gotten my "5 Common & Costly Computer Mistakes" CD which comes for free with the amazing deal I'm offering on my website right now -- but she didn't.

Now we might have been able to do something if we'd hunted around on eBay for a really old computer, and shelled out a few hundred for it, plus a lot of my billable time.

Or if she'd just listened to me in the first place.

Hopefully you'll heed my advice: don't keep your computer for more than six years or so, and *please* back up your files, or one day you will be sorry, just like Dorothy was.

So keep reading my articles so you can keep up to speed yourself. And if you haven't already, rush over to my website and take advantage of the amazing opportunity I'm offering. One of the first disks you'll get will show you exactly how to back up your important files to protect yourself.

And the price will be going up sharply in a few days!

until next time,

Worth Godwin

P.S. Remember, when it comes to computers, what you don't know *can* hurt you, so keep reading my emails. Also, if you haven't tried out my easy video computer lessons for Mac or Windows you really should take a look. You get plain English lessons that are easy to follow, and each lesson is short enough to fit into even a busy schedule, and they all come with a full guarantee. The video lessons let you see every step, every click of the mouse, while you hear me explaining every step in plain English.

I've got a pretty incredible deal going on right now, which you better take a look at before I change my mind. Find out more on my website.
Just go to: www.WorthGodwin.com

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Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.

 

Finally going to start adding my computer lesson articles to the blog

Well, it's been a very busy few weeks, even more busy than average for the last year and a half has been for me -- and I've been pretty busy starting up my new computer training business from scratch.

In the last week I've shut off the phone and been literally getting up, starting my breakfast and coffee in the kitchen, checking my email and tech news sites I have to check daily to keep on top of everything, then sitting down to eat. As soon as I'm done I've been getting back in front of my MacBook Pro and working straight through until 1 or 2AM, only stopping to make food and eat it.

But I've gotten a lot done, catching up with my computer newsletter, and more. So I've got a chance to start adding some of my backlog of articles here.

Right now, I'm off to write a new article on the dangers of keeping old computers for too long, then I'll be back to start adding articles here.

I'm sure you wanted to know that. ;)

Labels: , ,

Worth Godwin has been giving people computer help
professionally for over a decade and a half, and as a hobby for years
before that. In the last few years he has focussed on his easy,
plain English approach to help people learn computer basics.

Join Worth's free computer tips newsletter now and get easy to follow emails that give computer tips, make sense of
basic computer terms, and deliver free, Plain English
easy audio and video lessons right to your inbox.