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Computer Speak - "Default"

posted Feb 4, 2010, 4:18 PM by Onno Benschop

The English language is a curious beast, add to that the vernacular used by computer people and you get confused very quickly. In the real world away from computers, the word "default" has connotations of unpaid bank loans and other things with failure of duty - nothing particularly good.

In a weird sort of way, computer people co-opted the term to indicate what happens when you "fail to choose an option". Said in another way, "the default option is that one that happens if you don't select one".

Imagine that your computer is asking you a question: "Are you sure that you want to remove all the files from your computer?" and the answers you can give are "Yes" and "No".

If you just hit the "Enter-key" on the keyboard, the computer would need to choose a "default", that is, figure out what the best response would be if you just banged the key. In this case "No" would be a solid choice and it would be likely outlined with a thicker border around the button on the screen. It's the default answer for this question.

Of course if the question was: "Do you want to save this file before you quit? (Yes) or (No)", the default would be Yes.

Next time you see "default" on your computer, you'll know it's not talking about bank loans or anything "bad".

Broadband Internet - huh?

posted Feb 4, 2010, 4:17 PM by Onno Benschop

The term "Broadband" refers to Internet connectivity that is faster than dial-up. There are many forms of Broadband; ADSL, Cable, ISDN and Satellite are common household forms.

Generally, Broadband is "always on"; there is no dialling, no engaged signal or extra costs associated with each time you connect. You can generally make and receive phone calls while you're on the 'net, so you won't need two phone lines.

If you want ADSL Internet, your local telephone exchange must be enabled for ADSL, but you may not be able to take advantage of it. A few limitations exist, the main one is a distance of up to 4km from the exchange (as the wire runs, not as the crow flies).

ISDN is available only in limited locations but for the rest of us, not all is lost. There is Government HiBIS funding available for those who cannot use ADSL.

Satellite connectivity can be expensive to purchase and costly to run. HiBIS pays for hardware and installation and subsidises the monthly usage charge.

HiBIS funding is sorted out by your chosen provider, rather than requiring you to apply in triplicate.

Broadband is a useful tool and it may help you.

When do you upgrade your computer?

posted Feb 4, 2010, 4:17 PM by Onno Benschop

Spending money on a computer is not like spending money on a car. Generally you don't put a larger engine in your car, put more doors in or make it into a ute on the weekends, but that is exactly what you can do with a computer.

In computing, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." is very, very true. When you start to spend money on one thing, pretty soon you spend money on other things and before you know it you bought a new computer.

If the computer you own is a few years old and runs Windows 98, then installing a CD burner is fine, and perhaps adding some memory or a bigger hard-drive is a solid investment, but installing Windows XP for example, is often asking for trouble.

When a computer is first bought, it comes with all manner of software appropriate to that computer. Over time more software becomes available and some of it is useful to you.

The problem is one of upgrade fever. If you always need the latest software, then you will likely need the latest hardware to match. If you bought a beefy machine when you started, you can extend the range of software that you can install, but the moment you install new applications, the more you are making your machine obsolete.

Think twice before installing the latest program.

The Anti-Virus Merry-go-round

posted Feb 4, 2010, 4:16 PM by Onno Benschop

You installed the latest Anti-Virus software and checked your computer. Nothing detected, you're safe - right? Inoculating against the measles at best protects you from the measles, but not anything else. Anti-Virus software is the same.

The software checked your computer and found no sign of any virus, but it can only check for what it knows about. Anti-Virus makers know this and update their data files regularly. Many Anti-Virus vendors require you to pay up to keep getting updates. No update, no protection.

Some Anti-Virus software is so intrusive that it barely justifies its existence when it slows your machine to a complete crawl with all its options. Even running these programmes on the latest hardware can make you want to pull your hair out.
Free alternatives exist.

One to look at is AVG, visit and download AVG-Free Edition. Keep it up to date. Keep updating until it tells you that it is up to date - this goes for all Anti-Virus software!

Final tip, in Outlook and Outlook Express, turn off the preview pane - not just hide it(!), because just clicking on an email (to delete it) will open a message and possibly infect your computer. You can do this in the View Menu - Layout/Pane.

Dealing with junk e-mail or spam

posted Feb 4, 2010, 4:14 PM by Onno Benschop

It may surprise, but you are not alone in receipt of e-mail from people you've never heard of. Estimates are that 80% of current e-mail across the 'net is spam and virus e-mail.

First things first; replying to spam is a recipe for more junk. Unscrupulous operators use your reply as confirmation of a valid address. Secondly, this is not strictly true for Australian originated spam, because it is now illegal - you can find detailed information and advice at: The Australian Communications and Media Authority

What else can you do?

You can filter much of the junk, but you run a (slight) risk of filtering a legitimate message because none of the software currently available is one hundred percent accurate - most doesn't come close to 80%.

Protect your address like a credit card number. Use caution when using your address on web- sites or sending jokes to your friends, who in turn may forward it on. At some stage all those addresses end up in a database ready for use.

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