August 2007


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Archive for August 19th, 2007

A little education is in order

Posted in Life on August 19th, 2007

There has been much ranting on a number of boards I read recently regarding the sad state of general intelligence in the world today and specifically about the lack of general knowledge people have about their computers. Computers seem to be the one thing in this modern society that the general populace feels they have no need to know the operation of.

No employer will hand you the keys to a company vehicle before first making sure that you A) have a Driver’s License and B) have or have had auto insurance. Not so with computers – they will ask if you know what you are doing, but will generally offer some very quick training if not. That’s it – there is no test to make sure you actually know what the computer IS before they set you loose on one. Arguably, the computer has the larger potential for costing the company money, yet there is no standard of knowledge required before issuing you one.

This amazes me.

Having watched heads of IT try to turn on a computer by repeatedly stabbing the power button on the monitor, however, you’d think I was beyond amazement, but there ya have it.

Anyway, I’m going to try to put an end to the ignorance in whatever small way I can. So without further ado, I bring you…

Wolfe’s Guide To Computer Operation 101 – Hardware

1) This is a monitor:


A monitor does one thing: it displays the image generated by the computer. It may be a CRT and be big and bulky, or it may use LCD technology making it slim and flat.

It is NOT the computer itself.

2) This is a computer:

Tower computer

Note that it has a CD drive in the front of it – as a general rule, if it is bigger than a copy of Harry Potter and has a CD tray, and is not a DVD player for your home, then it is a computer.

This is the part that actually does all of the work. While it may have a dial-up modem built into it, it is still not a modem, it just uses one.

There are many brands of computers available on the market today from companies like Dell, Gateway, HP, and Compaq. If you buy a computer from one of these brands, it will be running a Microsoft Windows Operating System unless you tell them otherwise. They make it very hard to tell them otherwise, so you can pretty much take it for granted that you are running Windows.

3) There are several versions of Microsoft Windows (or just Windows) available. The one you will most likely encounter in the business environment is Windows XP Pro. At home, you will find Windows XP Home or Media Center Edition, or Windows Vista. It is possible to find Vista in the business, but most companies were smart enough to avoid it thus far.

You should too.

If you are not sure which version of Windows you have, reboot the computer and watch the monitor. A big logo should appear on the screen before it gets to the Desktop telling you which version you have.

4) These are dial-up modems:

Internal modem, rear view

External modem

In older systems, you plug the phone line into this device to gain access to the Internet. If you have a modem, you must also have an account with an ISP. You gain access to the Internet by first having the computer tell the dial-up modem to call the ISP and log in. Once that is done, you may launch a Web Browser to view web pages in.

5) This is a network cable:

Ethernet cable

More specifically this is an Ethernet cable, but calling it a network cable will suffice. It looks very much like a phone cable on steroids – it is generally thicker, and has more pins than a phone cable. It will not fit into a dial-up modem like the ones pictured above. This is how most modern computers get connected to networks and from there to the Internet.

If you use one of these, your Internet connection will likely be always on, meaning you do not have to dial the ISP first – you just launch a Web Browser.

6) It is the Internet, not the Intarwebs, nor is it Internets (plural). These other two expressions are only allowed on LOLcat images.

7) This is a LOLcat site:

I Can Has Cheezeburger

LOLcats are pictures of cats with funny captions that make us laugh. If you don’t get this, I don’t want to know you, for you are obviously a lower form of life.

8) To view a website full of LOLcats images, you will need a Web Browser. There are a number of different browsers available, but the one you will most likely encounter is called Internet Explorer. It is the big blue “e” icon on the Desktop.

If you call Tech Support, they may ask you to go to a specific website. This is done by typing the address of the website into the Address Bar of the browser. If you look at your screen right now, you will see a place that says “…” – that is the Address Bar. If you click the mouse in that area, you can delete whatever is there and type in something new. When you are done typing, pressing the “Enter” key on the keyboard will take you to the address you just typed.

This will do for the 101 course. Next, in the 102 course, you will find some tips for what to do when something doesn’t work.