Relative Support

I guess like most people who “know computers”, I get alot of questions from relatives and other people about what I recommend for this or that. Sometimes this is hard since what I do for myself isn’t necessarily what I would recommend for someone else. Other times the questions come down to issues of money and I really don’t feel good about making those choices for the other person. Regardless, this post is a list of some of my standard recommendations so that I have them all in one place to point people to.

This isn’t the list of things I think are the BEST. Its just the list of the things I recommend as being the least likely to cause you hassle later which I think means you are less likely to call me with more questions. I don’t really mind helping most people really, its one of the few things I can actually do to help people and I always learn something new about how crazy difficult PCs actually are to use. If you want to go a different way thats fine. Working on your PC is a great hobby for alot of people, this list is for people who just want thier computer to work.

This is not a list for gamers, or people who do video editing. Its for the average person who uses thier computer for things like email, keeping thier digital photos, and some web surfing.

If instead you view the computer as a hobby in itself then feel free to build your own machine from scratch, run linux, and hack your router firmware. When you are done getting all that to work, you won’t need my help anymore.

What PC should I Buy?

DELL. Just go to thier website and purchase something that’s in the ball park of what you want to spend. The rest is pretty much non important.

If you aren’t going to be playing video games, consider a laptop, you’ll pay a little more but you will get more use out of it.

If you want to get a Mac, go for it. They are cool and I don’t know much about them so I won’t be able to help you if it gets screwed up.

Do I need to get Microsoft Office?

No. But if you are worried about MSFT’s stock price and you should be if you own it, then feel free to send them some more money. OpenOffice is NOT as good as MS Office but its good enough and Its what I have on all my PCs. If your work requires you to use Office for some crazy reason then have them pay for your copy.

What should I do about Internet Security?

A very complicated question with few satisfying answers but the most important thing is this:

If you have a broadband connection DO NOT have your PC connected directly to the Cable or DSL modem.

Always have some kind of router preferably a linksys between your PC and the Internet. This will do more to protect you than any firewall that you are likely to use.

Make sure your OS is configured to automatically install updates.

But don’t I need AntiVirus Software?

Honestly, I don’t use any. If you feel like you want to you can get Avg for free. Other companies exist that will take you money if you prefer that route.

What about SpyWare?

Spyware is mostly a problem resulting from the kinds of sites you visit. You should hang out in a better neighborhood. I have used adAware with some success but I have also seen PC’s so bad you had to just start over.

What about Internet Explorer isn’t it bad?

I used to really push people to use Firefox and I still do, but even though it may get me kicked out of the cool computer people club, I think IE7 is probably just fine for most people.

Is shopping online safe?

It is as safe as driving to the store. Even if you think you are a good driver don’t forget I might be on the road at the same time you are.

Should I worry about my kids an the Internet?

Yes, but if you are Scared about it then you need to learn more about the internet or about your kids. I don’t really accept advice on how to deal with my kids and I wouldn’t pretend to give other people advice about thiers but here’s a few things to know, none of which I necessarily advocate.

  • MySpace is not as scary as the news would have you think.
  • That linksys router I mentioned above can control the access to the internet for specific computers at specific times
  • There are ways to spy on your kids PC use. And ways for them to get around it
  • If Predators can use the internet/mySpace to spy on your kids, then so can you.
  • Internet Porn is a lot more than just photos of naked people or sex.

What should I use for Email?

Just sign up for a Gmail account and use that. There’s no point it dealing with Outlook or other kinds of local mail for most people. Some other email rules to remember:

  • Don’t use your work email as your personal email.
  • Don’t use the email address from your ISP etc.
  • Have a second email you use just to give out online. It will fill up with spam but it will keep that out of your real email.

What should I do to organize my photos?

Use Picasa from Google. Its free and its basically as good as or better than the other options. It has easy publishing to the web for free as well.

Where should I buy accessories etc?

In summary:

If any of my 1o-20 readers  reads all the way to the bottom and has other questions of this sort, ask away in the in comments!. Maybe I’ll be able to make up a good answer. If you want to debate any of my suggestions feel free I’m happy to explain myself, but I’m unlikely to get drawn into a debate about Dell vs. HP or Gmail vs. Yahoo Mail  etc.







One response to “Relative Support”

  1. Toria Avatar

    Yes, I’d agree with all of your suggestions. The only thing I’d do differently, is get a custom made machine from a local PC dealer. That way, if it breaks/needs help, you just unplug it, and take it to them. Supporting local business, and he’s there if you need an mouse (or whatever) in an emergency. 🙂

    Also, just do your homework about Microsoft Vista. Do you “really” need it? Or would Windows XP be “just as good” and safer, due to the fact that it’s a relatively tested OS. Some reports I’ve been reading are saying that between now and the end of the year will be rocky for Vista users because of the fact that there won’t be any service packs ready until then. And believe me this: hackers will be going after it with everything they’ve got.

    Bottom line is these are great suggestions! I’m happy with my 3 yr. old machine with XP installed, and yes use Firefox, and GMail, and Thunderbird for personal email. I also play Uru Live which is a great game! 🙂

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