Productivity 201: The Basics Of Computers

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Productivity 105: How Creativity Works

A computer is a powerful tool

  • Computers are the world’s fastest idiots; they do exactly what you tell them to do, even if you don’t know what you’re doing
    • They do exactly what logical statements they’re given, and any error is simply either the fault of a programmer or a user
    • On occasion, a programmer will find a way to maliciously change the commands the computer receives, and that’s called a virus
  • They are made up of:
    • An input (touchscreen or mouse & keyboard typically)
    • The processing parts inside that perform calculations
    • An output (typically a screen or printer)
  • Computers are not magic, they just follow instructions
  • Every time you touch the screen or click the mouse, you are giving the computer another command
  • There are many things that are computers that have computers in them
    • Calculators
    • Digital watches
    • Many household appliances, including microwaves, refrigerators, washing machines and coffee machines
    • Radios
    • Anything that isn’t purely mechanical and automates something or has an electronic display

Using a touch screen

  • The computer mouse is slowly going out of style
    • In most modern screens, touching the screen creates an electrical circuit from the current flowing through your body into the screen’s conductive glass
  • When you tap the screen, you’re giving it a new command
    • Touching for less than a second in one spot is called a “tap”
    • Touching for more than one second in one spot is called a “long press”
    • Touching and moving immediately is called a “swipe”
  • Most of the menu options are made to not be visible on the screen with touch screens
    • Long press on icons (the images on the screen) to find extra menus
    • Swipe your finger towards and away from all four edges of the screen to see if it does anything

Navigating a computer

  • Whenever you open a file from the Internet, always save it to somewhere familiar you can find your way to again, such as the Desktop
    • After you’ve saved the file, move it to a folder where you want it to stay in
  • Unless you are inside the program files specifically, 99% of the time you can delete whatever is on your Desktop without any problems
    • If you are unsure, then make a folder called Unused Desktop Icons and put them all there
  • Whenever you install new programs, you are the one who should be initiating it
    • Pay close attention to what you are downloading, since many “Download Now” buttons on many sites are actually advertisements for unrelated software
      • Rule of Thumb: if you see more than one Download button, look at the file name of what you are downloading to confirm what it is
    • Always select “custom installation”, since many “standard installations” actually install many harmful softwares
    • If there is an unsolicited Internet message that says you have viruses or it can make your computer go faster, close them ASAP
    • Don’t install any of the “helpful” web browser toolbars from Ask, Yahoo, etc., they are worthless
    • Most of your problems can be resolved simply by running Windows Update
      • Programs like “registry cleaners” are much riskier to use than helpful
      • “system scanners” are mostly meant to exploit money from unsuspecting users
      • Many of the “updates” are unnecessary, and updating software once a year is probably all that you will ever need

Most of the times you think you’ve gotten a virus, you really haven’t

  • To be safest from viruses, simply back up your data on a regular basis
  • Simply restarting the computer will fix the problem 90% of the time
  • If your computer is running slow, it’s likely that it’s actually your anti-virus causing the problem
    • As ironic as it sounds, anti-virus software will slow down computers to annoyingly slow speeds
    • Also, anti-virus software is most of the time full of security vulnerabilities, meaning it’s actually safer to not have anti-virus
      • The best anti-virus software for Windows is the one Microsoft has built into its framework, no extra installation necessary
  • The best thing to do if you have gotten a virus is just to use the computer’s system recovery feature to turn back time on the PC to an earlier date
    • Most viruses you will ever get will be from you opening something that was seemingly sent from someone you trusted
    • Many scams are pretend websites of banks and other financial institutions that look very close to the actual website
    • If you ever receive an alert saying something to the effect of YOUR COMPUTER IS INFECTED from a software you’re unfamiliar with, don’t click on it!
    • Pay attention to which software is providing the alerts your computer is using
  • In general, only take action to resolve a problem if you know exactly what you are doing, since doing nothing will not damage the computer any further
    • If the computer has frozen up on some other process, it is better to wait for it to finish than to click randomly or tap the screen all over
  • As a safety precaution, add a fake email address into your contacts list
    • If a hacker gets your email and sends out spam, you will know immediately from an Undeliverable Report email

A more legitimate risk than a conventional virus is phishing, where someone is trying to steal personal data

  • There are many types of phishing
    • Standard phishing targets anyone who is willing to give their information, and is sent out to many emails at once
    • Spear phishing targets specific people with that person’s personal information to imply that the email was intended for them
    • CEO fraud is using emails from a company’s CEO to imply that the email needs to be opened
    • Government phishing is the same as CEO fraud, but with seemingly official government emails
    • Clone phishing copies a legitimate message with an attachment and sends an identical one with a fake virus attachment
    • Cloud phishing is similar to clone phishing, but through using an online storage service with a link to download the file
  • There are some simple safe ways to protect your privacy and data
    • If you use another computer that isn’t your own, log out of everything you’ve logged into
    • Use secure passwords that you can remember, especially for your email
      • A password allows information to be decrypted, which means someone can look at the information
        • If you want to be extra safe, find out how to encrypt any information on your own
      • Most websites will send a password reset link to your email inbox if you select the “Forgot your password?” link
      • Write down your password somewhere
        • Don’t let the Internet browser store your passwords, since it makes them easier to steal
        • Use a password-protected spreadsheet or use a password management software like LastPass
      • Have a standardized password that you can remember that has the following
        1. At least 10 characters
        2. 1 capital letter
        3. 1 lowercase letter
        4. 1 punctuation mark
        5. NOT “password”, “passcode”, “123456”, your name or your birthdate
        6. The easiest version of this is a full sentence or a memory aide such as an abbreviation
    • If you are ever on a public Wi-Fi network, all of your information that you transfer is highly unsafe
      • Instead, tether your laptop through your phone’s Internet or use a VPN
    • Keep your important and unimportant activities separate
      • The device for managing highly sensitive financial information shouldn’t be the same one for browsing Internet articles and playing games on your free time
    • Don’t open an email that you don’t trust and never download or run anything that you can’t 100% guarantee is safe
    • Avoid posting your email in frequent places all over the Internet that a spammer can find with a computer program
  • Use The No More Ransom Project to get rid of software that is trying to extort you to pay for them to remove their software

There are a few maintenance tasks every computer user must do

  • Pay attention to pop-up messages in the bottom right corner of the screen (or in the pull-down drawer from the top on a touchscreen), they usually mean something
  • Google research what you don’t know, there are thousands of people who have had your problem and hundreds of people who have solved it
    • Usually just ask the question straight into Google’s text box
  • Keep in touch with someone who is more skilled than you in computers, even the most brilliant computer scientists have to get help when they’re stuck!
    • Find out what program and version you’re using by looking in the “About” section
      • Find “About” in the pull-down menu labeled Help or with a wrench or with 3 horizontal lines
Next: Productivity 211: Shortcuts That Work Almost Anywhere