“Get a Personal Trainer for Your Computer!”©

IF IT’S NOT BROKEN, DON’T FIX IT.  Just because HP says there’s a new printer driver or AOL has a new version doesn’t mean that you MUST download it.  It may not even work with your version of Windows.  Or it may be incompatible with other software on your computer.  If there is no current malfunction, just leave it alone! [There’s always an exception - these days, it’s a good idea to upload Adobe and Java updates, as they prevent viruses.]

JACK OF ALL TRADES, MASTER OF NONE.  Just because you can purchase multi-function hardware of software doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.  Usually multi-purpose machines don’t do an outstanding job at anything and are passable at everything.  Think all-in-one printers.  They may be what you need, but maybe not.  Think anti-virus/anti-malware/anti-routkit/firewall suites.  They do lots of things.  Maybe you need all of them, but you probably don’t.  Windows itself is often sufficient.  And it doesn’t mean that any particular program in the software “suite” excels.

DON’T BE A CHUMP.  There’s no free ride.  Even TV, Internet and soon radio won’t be free.  No one really gives anything away.  Free software, for example, always has a cost, even if it’s putting up with the inconvenience (and possibility of malware from) free advertising.  The cost of cheap hardware is usually recovered elsewhere (expensive ink for inexpensive printers, expensive batteries for inexpensive flashlights).  Also, you don’t have a long lost relative in Nigeria who needs your help and will pay you a great return if you just send him some money first.  C’mon, gimme a break already!

THERE IS NO PRIVACY.  Always act like you’re on TV.  Because you are being watched.  Whether it your nosy neighbor, a do-gooder with a cell phone or your friendly democratic government, they are there.  For your protection or not.  So always act with your best behavior.  Contrary to popular belief, there is no U.S. Constitutional right to privacy.

LISTEN TO THE PROS.  If you have a computer problem, just because one of your relatives or an anonymous poster on a blog gives you an answer doesn’t mean it’s correct.  At best it was true for them, at worst it could be damaging information.  It may seem that these people may know more than you, but it takes years of experience to filter out meaningful answers from meaningless blather.  Sure, we look at those posts, but we know when to ignore the proposed solutions.  If you’ve got a big problem, talk to a pro.  Sure, he wants to help, but just because your buddy can turn on a computer doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s qualified to fix it.

YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.  Whether it’s a computer, board or peripheral, there’s always a cheap, usually foreign-made item available for purchase.  It won’t be the industry standard hardware or software, but it will cost less.  In the long run, it’ll cost more.  It may be incompatible with other hardware or software, may not have all of the features you may require or may simply fail sooner.  But be assured there’s a reason it’s less expensive.  You know this.  I know this.  Get real.

READ THE INSTRUCTIONS.  Even pros read them, at least the first time they do something.  Stuff is constantly being slipped in to the EULA, the “next” windows and the install screens.  It’s a shame, but you’ve got to read them.  Otherwise you may install that printer after connecting the USB cable (not a good idea), or you may install toolbars, programs or home pages you don’t want, or may find out about that operating system or program incompatibility only after something else on your computer malfunctions.

WAIT FOR YOUR COMPUTER TO TALK TO YOU: Even though you may think your computer is taking an unusually long time to download, update or install, it’s probably trying to do something.  Wait for a message either telling you that it’s done, or else why it can’t do what you want.  (Even if you don’t understand the message, write it down, then Google it or ask your tech.)  Eventually, you will get some message, even if you wait for hours.  Shutting the computer down before that if you don’t know how to disable the process may completely crash everything in your operating system.

IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED, DON’T KEEP TRYING:  If your download, installation or update doesn’t seem to be happening, hammering away at the download key again and again won’t result in success.  Rather, it will lead to multiple downloads or cause other problems with add-ins or installs.  Find out what the actual problem is, and fix it.