Productivity 201: The Basics Of Computers

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Productivity 105: How Creativity Works

All computers have three main parts

An input (typically a touchscreen or mouse)

The processing parts inside that perform and store calculations (usually memory and a CPU)

An output (typically a screen or printer)

Computers are so prevalent that we don’t often pay attention to the computers we own

Every modern television, radio phone, fax machine, security system, and watch contains a computer

Most household appliances like microwaves, refrigerators, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and coffee machines use computers to function

Computers also control alarm clocks, pacemakers,  air conditioning units, and motor vehicles

Raspberry Pi and Arduino sell affordably priced fully-functioning computers designed for various projects

Computers are the world’s fastest idiots

Computers do what you tell them to do with full precision

  • Most computer failures are from user error
  • Algorithms are adding steps to let the computer “learn”, but they are still instructions from a programmer
  • Occasionally, the computer receives maliciously inputted commands, commonly known as a virus

Every button press, screen touch or mouse click gives the computer another order

If the device is becoming unresponsive, adding more commands makes the problem worse

Touchscreens are convenient but have implied commands worth knowing

  • The screen determines commands by how long you press and how much you move your finger
    • Touching for less than a second in one spot is a “tap”
    • Touching for more than one second in one spot is a “long press”
    • Touching and moving immediately within one second is a “swipe”
    • Swipes can include multiple fingers
  • Touch screens hide most menu options
    • Long press on the screen elements to find extra menus
    • Swipe your finger from each edge to locate “pull-out” menus
    • Swipe your finger toward all four edges of the screen to navigate to other screens

Avoid losing track of important files

Always safe files from the internet somewhere you can quickly locate again, such as the Desktop

  • If you intend to continue using the file, move it to a permanent folder in your organization system

Most people know very little about how computer viruses work

Viruses are malicious lines of computer code designed to affect the user adversely

A virus can only harm a computer if it’s run with permission from the computer to modify what it’s programmed to change

Most viruses try to stay undetected

The most common type of virus, called phishing, tries to steal personal data

There are many types of phishing attacks

Standard phishing sends out many emails at once to hit anyone willing to give their information

Spear phishing uses a specific person’s personal information to imply that the email was intended for them

CEO fraud and government phishing use a company CEO’s email address or official-looking email to imply the email must be opened

Clone phishing copies a legitimate message with an attachment and sends an identical one with a fake virus attachment

Cloud phishing sends a link to a cloud service to download a seemingly legitimate file

Avoiding viruses isn’t particularly difficult

Most viruses come from opening something that seemingly came from someone you trusted

Many scams are fake bank websites and other financial institutions that look very close to the actual website

If you ever receive an alert from unfamiliar software saying YOUR COMPUTER IS INFECTED, don’t click on it

Whenever you install new programs, stay in full control of the process

Watch what you’re downloading

  • Many “Download Now” buttons on websites are advertisements for unrelated software
  • 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” install harmful software

  • All of the “helpful” web browser toolbars from Ask, Yahoo, etc. are worthless

If you see an unsolicited Internet message that says you have viruses or that you should scan your computer go faster, close them ASAP or avoid clicking on them

Your computer can stay perfectly up-to-date by running Windows Update

Programs like “registry cleaners” are more risky than helpful, since the registry never actually needs “cleaning”

“System scanners” are usually designed to exploit money from unsuspecting users

Most of the proposed “updates” are completely unnecessary

Frequently and routinely back up your data

There are numerous free online cloud backup services, and they all serve equally well

Keep your System Restore feature on, even if it takes up space on your computer

Protect your privacy and data

If you use another computer that isn’t your own, log out of everything

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 with offline software
    • Your email is your most important password because most websites will send a password reset link to your email inbox
  • 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
  • Make an easy-to-remember standardized password with the following
    1. At least ten characters
    2. One capital letter
    3. One lowercase letter
    4. One 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 paid VPN

Keep essential and nonessential 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 frequently all over the Internet where a spammer software can pick it up

Add a fake email address to your contacts list

  • If a hacker gets your email and sends out spam, you will know immediately from an Undeliverable Report email sent back to you

Ironically, a computer is often slowed down drastically by anti-virus software

Anti-virus software can scan every single process and action a computer makes to bring the computer’s speed down to an irritatingly slow pace

Anti-virus programs (especially free software) are often full of security vulnerabilities that make them more unsafe than not having them

  • The best anti-virus software for Windows is the one Microsoft has built into its framework, no extra installation necessary

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

95% of all computer issues have several general solutions

  1. Fully power off the computer and then restart it
    • 90% of computer tech support will tell callers this before even considering another option
  2. Check for low memory space, then delete enough data to have at least 5% free
  3. Reinstall the software or the hardware driver (instructions to run hardware)

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)

  • Those messages usually mean something important

There are thousands of people who have had your problem and hundreds of people who have solved it

  • Researching online will usually give the answer you need
  • Find out what program and version you’re using by looking in the “About” section
  • If you can’t seem to find the right answer, add “solved” to your web search

Keep in touch with someone who is more skilled than you in computers

  • Even the most brilliant computer scientists need help when they’re stuck

Sometimes you can’t avoid a virus

Immediately use the computer’s system recovery feature to turn back time on the PC to an earlier date

Only take action to resolve a problem if you know what you’re doing, since doing nothing will not damage the computer any further

  • Unplug the computer’s power source if it seems to continue performing tasks without your input
  • If possible, try to disconnect the computer from the internet to avoid any malicious data transfer

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

As a worst-case scenario, wipe the hard drive clean or get a new computer

  • If you frequently back everything to a cloud service, you may only lose a few hours of work
Next: Productivity 211: Near-Universal Computer Shortcuts