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On 9/17/09, newsletter (#4) was published with a different introduction. It was promptly "banned" by the Constant Contact system for a "terms of service violation" and my account threatened with termination.

I am including the offending copy in the archive and I invite you to make up your own mind about the whole thing. 
Click Here for the full copy re-submitted for your consideration.


ComputeThisOnline.com Newsletter 2
Of Google and Netbooks

It always amazes me how fast computers evolve.

I can remember quite clearly how things were in the 1990s, the hardware we had to work with, how expensive things were and (since we didn't have anything to compare it to) we liked it.

I remember buying my first 1-gigabyte hard drive for about $300, and having to figure out in my head that 1,024 megabytes was actually 1 gigabyte. I remember thinking, "I'll never use that much space."

Well, it's 2009 already, more than halfway through no less. The y2k crisis is a distant memory and the hardware we have to work with today (stuff that we take for granted) could be right out of the science fiction from the 80s and 90s.

Two-gigabyte USB thumb drives are commonly found in supermarkets for $10 to $20 and that amazes me. Supermarkets!

And let me say a few words about Google. It is true the general populace really takes for granted the technology we have at our fingertips today and Google is a perfect example:

To illustrate, I use the example of ancient cultures.

Way back when, in ancient times, they had "oracles" they would go to for answers. These were specially picked people who would hide behind a rock and people would walk for miles through snow, uphill, both ways, to ask them a question.

And whatever the answer was, that was that. Right or wrong, they would take the answer they got from the oracle back to their village and that answer would affect the lives of everyone.

Fast-forward to the present and walk into most households, and you will likely find one (or more) computers hooked up to the Internet and Google is just few keystrokes away.

Like the ancient oracles of old, Google is there to answer your questions. Ask it anything. Not just computer questions but anything.

Go ahead, give it a try...

Continue Reading >>>>

If you want to find out how many times an African swallow beats it's wings just ask. I typed in "how many times does an African swallow beat its wings?" and Google returned more than 150,000 answers.

Now, keep in mind that just because these are the answers Google returned, that doesn't mean they are correct and accurate (any more than the ancient oracles answers are correct and accurate), but now I know 150,000 times more about the question than I did before I asked Google. And I didn't have to walk umpteen miles barefoot in the snow to ask the question.

And people take this for granted. It doesn't even cross most people's minds to even ask Google when they have a question.

Sure, it's available, but there are not a lot of people out there who grasp all the things behind the scenes that have to work just right in order for things such as Google to work. It's just there and when people remember they use it.

Another modern marvel that simply amazes me are the "net books" we are starting to see more and more of.

Net books are little laptops that are a fraction of the size of regular laptops and what makes them amazing to me is the price.

It's not that I'm amazed they can make a full-blown computer as small as they do, it's that they are selling for about $298 and you don't even have to look hard to find one.

Sure, small notebooks have been around for a long time, but the rule of thumb has been the smaller it is, the more expensive it is.

With these new net books, it seems like that trend is reversing. I recently was fortunate enough to pick up an Aspire One.

It's a net book with 1-gig of ram and a 130 gigabyte hard drive and it runs Windows XP..

It's got a built-in Web cam and wireless access. About the only thing it's missing is a CD or DVD drive but that's OK, I use the drive on another machine on my home network when I need to install software or burn a disk, so that's really not a problem.

I used to wheel my laptop around in one of those laptop bags with wheels, but now my net book is so small it fits in a little bag. I love it. It's cheap, easy to carry and now I can have Google anywhere I can pick up a signal.

I'm sure the ancients would be jealous!

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ComputeThisOnline.com Newsletter 2
Just the Fax...

One of the nice things about today's computers is that they can actually cut down on the amount of office equipment you need cluttering up your work area.

I am sometimes surprised when I walk into a home or small office to find a computer with fax modem, scanner and printer installed, as well as other "stand alone" office machines, such fax machines and copiers.

Most often, I find out that people have no idea the computer is capable of operating as a fax machine or (with a scanner attached) as a copier, let alone how to work it.

Today's computer systems are typically all-in-one machines. This means they already have most of those capabilities built in.

For instance, the Microsoft fax program comes imbedded in Windows. If you have a "fax modem" and a phone line (most modern systems do), then you already have the capabilities to send and receive faxes. It doesn't take much to set it up so that it works properly and can eliminate the need for an expensive "stand alone" fax machine.

Continue Reading >>>>

Rather than spending money on a fax machine, it would be better to invest that money into a scanner (if your computer does not already have one). This way you are not limited to faxing only documents produced by your computer. You can, for example, scan a newspaper article and fax it with just a click of a mouse button.

Scanners are more useful than just a way to get documents into your computer for faxing. You can scan photographs or mementos and store them on disk, or even e-mail them to family across the globe. Fax machines just don't have the versatility of a computer with a scanner.

If your computer has a scanner and a printer, you have a means of making copies. Depending on the quality of your printer, you can produce some high- quality copies without the need for an expensive copier.

On the plus side, you can make high-resolution color copies for a fraction of the cost of getting color copies done at a print shop. On the down side, printers are often slow (sometimes excruciatingly slow) and not suitable for large jobs. For bulk jobs, a copier still wins, but for an occasional copy or three you don't need a separate copier.

Receiving a fax on a computer with a properly configured fax program is a piece of cake. You can set it up to "auto receive" (this makes the computer answer the phone and receive the fax without human supervision) and just let it collect faxes as they come in, or you can use the "manual receive" option.

The "manual receive" option works like this: You hear the phone ring and you know you're supposed to be getting an important fax. You stare at your computer as the phone rings, trying to remember how to get the computer to answer the phone. You click the Windows "start" button in a desperate attempt to find the fax program and just as you get the fax program running and find the "manual receive now?" button, the phone stops ringing. You set the fax program to "auto receive" and call your fax sender to tell them to try again. Piece of cake!

Sending a fax is even easier. The computer treats the fax program as if it were a printer. For example, say you just typed a letter and you want to fax it to your Aunt Edna in Tacoma. In essence, you want to use her fax machine in Tacoma as a printer. If you click the "file" pull-down menu (on most Windows based word processor programs) and then click "printer setup."

From here you can direct the computer to print the document onto either your regular printer, or the fax program. Select the fax program and click "OK".

Now, from the word processor program, click the "print" button. This sends the document to the fax program (you will have to enter a phone number for Aunt Edna's fax machine). The fax program then transmits the document to Tacoma and uses Aunt Edna's fax machine as a printer. Easy as pie!.

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MyinLife
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ComputeThisOnline.com Newsletter 2
Should I upgrade to Windows 7 when it
comes out next month?

Every time a new operating system gets released, we go through the same process, and the questions don't seem to change much. The most often asked question seems to be, "Should I upgrade now?"

My answer at this point is to wait.

In the mid 1990s, Microsoft went from Windows 3.1 (a graphical "shell" that sat on top of the real operating system at that time, DOS) to Windows 95, and people asked the same thing.

Then again, in the late 1990s, we went from Windows 95 to Windows 98 and got flooded with the same question.

Shortly after that we went from Windows 98 to Windows ME (remember that one?) and the pattern repeated itself.

Next came Windows 2000, Windows XP, Vista and now, finally, Windows 7 is set to release in October.

It seems people always want to jump on the band - wagon and upgrade as soon as a new operating system is released.

My answer is always the same:

Continue Reading >>>>

 "No, not yet. Wait a bit."

So why is that?

My reasoning lies in the fact that when these new operating systems are released, they are not quite finished yet. We need to give it some time for them to work out the bugs.

Let me explain.

Whenever a new operating system is released, it has gone through extensive testing at Microsoft and for all intents and purposes, is finished.

The problem is, it's pretty much impossible to test a program as big as an operating system in every conceivable configuration with every piece of hardware out there and make sure it's able to manage every piece of software people are liable to try to run.

So, what do they do?

They get the new software running as best they can and then make it available to the public.

Then, over the course of the next year or so, they take all of the most commonly reported problems and release patches or "service packs" that fix whatever issues they were able to figure out.

The process continues with users reporting problems (minor glitches all the way up to serious show-stopping errors) and engineers correcting the problems and publishing the fixes in additional service packs and updates.

The first people who run the new operating system get to be the guinea pigs and that's just how it's always been.

With that in mind, the next question I am usually asked is when to upgrade.

I advise people to give it at least a year or more after the release. Let someone else do the testing, especially if you rely on your machine to get your work done.

The last thing I want to do is get interrupted by unexpected errors that no one has an answer for yet while trying to get some work done.

By giving it a year or so, you give the engineers time to stabilize the software and, hopefully, correct most of the major errors that made it out in the initial release.

Another thing to consider is that the current stable operating system (in this case XP - don't even ask me about Vista!) has already gone through this refining process and is usually pretty rock solid by now.

That's an important consideration to keep in mind, especially if you use your machine for important tasks.

Does this mean I don't recommend anyone switch to the new operating system at this time?

No, we need someone to run the system or how will they ever work out all of the bugs?

If you are a casual computer user and are not relying on your machine for important "critical" tasks, or if you can afford to risk rendering your machine unusable for a bit, while you trouble - shoot and correct some weird problem no one has seen before, then go for it.

Someone has to do it, right?
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Sean@ComputeThisOnline.com
PrePaid Legal
www.MySpace.com/Mouse_Whisperer
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Compute This... weekly in the Home Town News
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I prefer Windows XP




or Vista if that's what you got...



Or, for the brave, how about Windows 7?



and AVG Free for your antivirus


MyinLife
Return to the ComputeThisOnline.com homepage
ComputeThisOnline
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