Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Three things you are doing wrong on your computer

If you do not know what your Windows registry does specifically, please raise your hand.

If you cannot use your windows command line to format a thumb drive, please raise your hand.

If you do not know how your computer actually works, please raise your hand.

This post isn't about any of these things... this post is about the things average users are doing wrong.

The first step in correcting the things that slow down a computer is to stop the user from causing the issues in the first place. So called "id-10t" or "id-107" or "PICNIC" errors.

Please continue reading for three things that will speed up almost any slow windows computer.

Antivirus Software

    Almost all of the issues that you have with your computer are caused by you and the choices you have made. There are a very few instances where a malicious program has been sneakily installed to your machine. Let me start by saying that hackers basically can't do any of the stuff that you think they can do. Hacking is slow and boring and mostly fruitless. There is no magic set of commands that a person can type into a computer that will let them control your laptop from afar. There is no way that they can hack into your computer and steal your bank info. A criminal could however try to extract that information from the data stream as it passes between you and the banking website. This is why you should be using https encrypted connections to sites whenever you are transmitting sensitive data.

    Since computer viruses must be installed like any other program, more important than antivirus software is having the ability to recognize the bad and the good. For a little more than a decade now, I have been without any type of antivirus software. In that time I have run into a very small handful of issues. Perhaps three or four times where the antivirus MIGHT have helped. So again, it is important to recognize the threats rather than to install a program that completely takes over your system.

    You would never wear anti-crocodile armor that weighed 300 pounds around Los Angeles. Why? Because you have the ability as a human to detect the likelihood of threats like crocodiles. You know with nearly 100% certainty that you will never be attacked by a crocodile in LA. The armor is just a waste of money that is going to make you slow, uncomfortable, and way too hot.

    Perhaps a less silly metaphor; before opening your front door you look through the peep hole to asses the visitor. You don't hire TSA agents to pat down and x-ray every single visitor who comes to your door. [Or maybe your do... but you probably don't keep many friends.]

    The internet is no different, and anti-virus software is no less silly.
    There are many, many ways to avoid malicious software. The most effective of which is to simply be aware of your surroundings.

    [caveat: there are a few of you out there in Cheetos and Mt. Dew land who are turning red in the face and muttering at the computer screen right now. You want so badly to tell me I'm wrong. You want it so, so bad...]

    Duplicate Applications

    There are so many examples of this that I don't really know where to start.

    [I'm looking at you dell wireless assistant, linksys wireless assistant, d-link wireless assistant, and windows wireless assistant all runing at the same time guy!!!]

    In the real world there are some occasions where duplicates are nice: duplicate photo prints, duplicate meatball subs, duplicate $50 bills in your wallet. In computer space this is a bad thing. In computer space everything that exists is using up finite resources and slowing down your computer. [As we all know, slow computers lead to homicidal rage and impotence.]

    Regarding the wireless network managers that come on driver disks for network cards; F*** that S***! Microsoft has spent seventeen years, paid thousands of programmers, who dedicated what is probably a million plus man hours to hammering out the kinks in the windows network management software. It works well.
    Linksys et al had one team of software engineers spend two weeks designing a crap interface just so that they could provide something on their disk. Why!?! Because idiots like stuff...

    You don't want that sort of thing installed on your system.

    Another notorious duplicate is photo managers. I constantly see people running Kodak easy something or other photo importer, while also using a program like picasa. Picasa is where they do all of their photo management, but they still load the huge bulky Kodak software at boot.

    This category of wrongness includes: printer managers, antivirus software, sound managers, graphics managers (excluding those who have sli/crossfire setups), photo import managers, etc, etc, etc...

    The point is this. Just because some new accessory came with a program that you can install does not mean that you should install it. This type of software is usually just a default app that the company feels obligated to provide with your new device.


    Organization may seem unimportant at first glance. Whenever I suggest that people adopt a simple organizational system to make computer maintenance less work, I usually hear something like...

    "What difference does an organized computer make? Your should organize your face to make room for my fist, because I'm 'bout to punch your mouth all the way to shutupville!"

    As coherent as that argument is, I still try to suggest that people adopt an organizational system. When I say organization I mean two things.
    1. Organized so that you can find your shit when you need it.
      1. Everything old and new should have a home.
    2. Backed up or easily backed up in case a reformat is necessary.
      1. Cloud, eHDD, NAS
      2. All your shit in folders so that you can take it in one go.
    One of the fastest and easiest ways to start doing this is to use a free cloud service:
    • Dropbox [Personal favorite]
    • Microsoft Skydrive
    • Google Drive
    • Ubuntu 1
    • {Insert something expensive from Apple here}
    By simply getting into the habit of putting all of your files into a Dropbox synchronized folder, you never have to worry about losing data.

    [When your (kid/nephew/grandson/homeless guy's dog) tells you that you need to wipe out the entire computer and re-install Windows you can breathe easy and not worry about losing all of your pictures and documents because they are all saved to the cloud. All you have to do is re-install Dropbox on the new computer, and BAM! all your shit automatically goes back to the way you love.]

    Let me demonstrate how I organize my user file:
    (on linux the users are in computer>home>username)
    (on Windows the users are in C:/Users/username)

    • Computer
      • home
        • matthew
          • Dropbox
            • Documents
            • Pictures
              • Camera Uploads (auto sync on connect)
              • iPhone 4s
              • iPhone 3g
              • Wallpapers
            • Backup
              • Device #
                • XML files
            • School
              • Biology 101
                • syllabus.pdf
              • Math 10b
                • practice test.pdf
              • English
                • TermPaperDraft.docx
          • Downloads
            • Temporary storage for downloaded files
    This may be a confusing tree to look at for those unaccustomed to thinking this way. Just look at it for a few moments. Each branch is a folder inside the parent folder all the way down to the file level. As you can see, my computer is storing almost nothing on the actual hard drive. Everything inside the Dropbox folder is automatically saved online. That means 99.99% of my files are recoverable in the even of a crash, system restore, or when I buy a new computer. The only files I lose are the ones located in the downloads folder, and these are almost always temporary files like program installers or some such.

    For long term storage everything goes onto my NAS file server. You might use an external HDD instead of a NAS, but the idea is the same. When your computer breaks down, all you have to worry about is fixing the computer. No stress over lost data required!


    If you or a loved one are suffering from any of these symptoms, please call us* immediately!

    *by "us" I mean, your computer savvy relative... I know you have one... Not the one who plays a lot of xbox, you want the one who has the custom gaming rig. You want the one who has never said, "Your computer is slow, you should buy a new one." You want the nerdy one who's room is full of discarded computers decades past their prime... that's the guy for you. That guy will help you out!

    1 comment:

    1. Great article. Very true. My mom is always complaining that her work computer is slow, I go over and take a look and there are documents and video files on the desktop. I recently formatted her 3 year old laptop and stumbled apon your article on Linux distros for old computers and netbooks. I installed Mint MATE and now it is wizzing away and no longer takes 10 minutes before the hour glass goes away and the computer can actually be used. One thing I saw that you didn't mention about a windows machine is that is needs to be defregged. Even a windows update fragments the HDD.


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