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The Tech Report

Tech Talk with Greg Bailey

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Some of us who have been using the Internet for a long time will remember AOL, one of the first paid Internet services. It was beyond huge in its day, but as the Internet developed and it became possible to buy faster and cheaper connections, AOL has taken a severe dive in subscribers.

A good deal of the current AOL subscribers only remain so because they are not aware of the superior options they have for both Internet connection purposes and e-mail accounts. Many of these subscribers continue to pay because they believe they will lose access to their AOL e-mail account if they don’t keep paying the subscription.

To make things completely clear, not only is there a difference between having an @aol e-mail address and paying for AOL’s Internet service, you do not have to pay AOL a dime to create and keep an @aol e-mail address.

To some this may sound obvious, but as of right now literally millions of people are still paying for AOL’s service when they already have a better connection through their phone or cable providers. If you are one of the people still paying for an AOL subscription, I urge you to make sure that you actually need it. If you already have a cable or DSL plan that gives you Internet access, then you can almost certainly do away with an AOL subscription.

And if the only reason you’re paying for an AOL subscription is to check email while using your better connection for browsing, you definitely don’t need the subscription.

The process of signing into an AOL account without using their client is actually very simple. Go to www.aol.com, click the Sign In button in the top right corner, put in your information and you have access.

Everything you can do through the AOL paid client can be done on their website, so the client, as well as the subscription, is only useful if you don’t have access to a better Internet connection. Don’t pay for something that you don’t need.

Any questions, requests for clarifications, or comments can be sent to gregbailey9@ gmail.com.

Greg Bailey is a Computer Science major at UCR.

Tech Talk with Greg Bailey

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In older articles, I’ve mentioned the alternative Internet browsers Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. Today I thought I’d talk about why you might want to use one of these browsers, or a completely different browser all together.

Worldwide, Internet Explorer is easily the most used Internet browser, mainly due to availability. On every new PC it already comes pre-installed, meaning most people begin their Internet experience with Internet Explorer and never even consider a different browser. Recently however, Internet’s Explorer’s dominance has been challenged by Firefox. While IE will likely continue to hold on to the top position in the forseeable future because of dominant user shares in countries like South Korea and especially China, Firefox is and will continue to make gains globally. The other browser I mentioned, Google Chrome, has been on an even swifter rise in popularity in the past two years. Released in 2008, Chrome is a simple and easy browser to use, which may have had something to use with the swift growth of it’s usage share.

So why should you switch to them? One of the best reasons is customization ability. Both Firefox and Chrome supports user created and approved add-ons or extensions which are made to make your browsing experience more enjoyable. The most popular extensions for both browsers tend to make small but useful changes like making text links clickable instead of having to copy and paste them into an address bar.

Another reason to consider switching is security. Of the three browsers I’ve spoken of, Internet Explorer is widely considered to be the least secure of the three. To this day, several versions of Internet Explorer, not only older versions but the most recent, have many unaddressed security concerns of various severity. What may be cause for even greater concern is that while IE does fix the major security concerns, their response time in such a problem is abysmal. They can take months, while Firefox and Chrome have been shown to take days.

The biggest reason people prefer alternate browsers though is speed. Firefox and Chrome are both provably faster at loading web pages than IE. Chrome, in fact, is built around being simple, fast, and lightweight (doesn’t use as much memory as other browsers, Firefox is a notorious memory hog). No one likes waiting around for a web page to load, so even if you think you’re satisfied with the speed of whatever you are using now, don’t be afraid to try a different browser and see if you like it better. Most modern browsers have a way to transfer settings and favorites between browsers, so switching is as fast as installing the browser and making a few clicks.

Regardless of whether you decide to change browsers or not, it is extremely important that you keep your browser updated! This is especially important if you are using Internet Explorer, although it applies to any browser. Keeping your Internet browser updated is another simple way to reduce security vulnerability, and it will definitely give you a smoother browsing experience.

Any questions, requests for clarifications, or comments can be sent to gregbailey9@ gmail.com. Greg Bailey is a Computer Science major at UCR.

Tech Talk with Greg Bailey

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It’s the holidays, and with the season of giving comes a possibility of new electronics, or more specifically a new computer. Getting a new computer is always nice since computers age much more quickly than almost anything else (ten years or older is beyond ancient in computer terms). Having a faster machine with more space is incredibly helpful for any user.

At the same time, there may be a little apprehension about starting from scratch with a new computer. It can be a bit of a hassle to set it up; but even more important is that many people have their current computer set up exactly how they like it. They don’t want to change how their computer works, even if that change will also make it run better.

I’m going to talk about some methods to ease the transition shock when it comes to setting up a new computer. Often a complete transfer of everything on the old computer isn’t necessary. You should have all the CDs or keys that were used to install programs on the old computer, reinstalling them on the new computer works just as well as transferring all the files. In many cases this will be a requirement, especially if the new computer has a different operating system. This can take a bit of time, especially if the program requires an online installation as opposed to an installation from a CD, but a fresh install is never a bad idea.

Some programs will have specific settings or files that don’t come with installation. The most common one would be Internet browser settings. If a browser is installed on a new computer, it won’t have your Favorite websites, saved passwords, and other similar information. If you’ve spent time building these things up and have gotten used to having them, losing all of it can be unacceptable. Luckily, most, if not all, browsers have a way for the user to create a file that has all of these settings saved (this is typically called Exporting). This option is typically found in the Favorites area; if you can’t find it, or are having trouble, a quick Google search should provide easy instructions. Other programs might have a similar way to export your settings.

Exported files like the ones described above, along with personal files, must all be transferred from the old computer to the new, and there are a few different ways to do this. If the files don’t take up that much memory, putting them on something like a CD or flash drive is the easiest way to transfer the files. It’s also possible to put the files online on the old computer, and download them with the new one. However, when the files that need to be transferred start taking up a lot of memory (something like a medium to large photo album), these methods will be harder to use since they come with a set maximum size. Multiple transfers can be done, but that is tedious and can become messy.

When files that take up a larger amount of memory than portable devices or free online services can handle need to be transferred, there are still some other options. If possible, getting both of the computers on the same local network allows for easy transfer (though it can take time).

Alternatively, use of an external hard drive can make the smaller transfers described above, or even a full transfer, quick and easy.

Those are the basics for getting important files and settings information from an old computer to a new one, next week we will look at ways to do the same, except with a full transfer instead of a partial one.

Any questions, requests for clarifications, or comments can be sent to gregbailey9@ gmail.com. Greg Bailey is a Computer Science major at UCR.

Tech Talk with Greg Bailey

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Keeping the files and storage on your computer reasonably clean and free of clutter is important, but what can be just as important is keeping the actual computer hardware clean. Proper maintenance of computer parts is often neglected by users both experienced and inexperienced alike.

Keeping a clean system isn’t something that should be ignored, it takes little effort and keeps the computer running smoothly.

A word of caution however: never spray any computer part with any sort of liquid.

Instead of that, lightly spray a towel or cloth with the liquid instead. Don’t make the cloth too wet; computers and excess water don’t mix. Also, when liquid is involved, make sure that anything you are cleaning is turned off and unplugged.

The easiest thing you can do is to simply clean off all the dust that may have gathered on the computer. Dust can gather surprisingly quickly, especially when the machine is in an enclosed or semi-enclosed area. The dust can be gotten rid of in any typical way (although be aware that if you intend to clean the inside of the computer, using a vacuum cleaner causes unwanted static).

Personally, I just use a cloth to clean off any dust I find on the computer. Pay particular attention to any areas with a fan, keeping the ventilation areas cleared of dirt and dust is important. Do the same for the monitor, printer, keyboard, mouse, and any other peripheral you might have.

Making sure that your keyboard is clean is not only good for the keyboard itself, but also your health.

The keyboard and mouse are by far the most touched parts of a computer, neglecting to clean something that you spend so much time touching is not a good idea. More detailed and thorough ways to clean these peripherals can be found online, but simply wiping them down with a disinfectant wipe is always a good idea. While monitors don’t tend to be touched, a similar wipe down with proper cleaning fluid (or water in a pinch) will serve fine. Remember to make sure that they are unplugged from the computer and turned off, and also to never spray any liquid directly on any part of the computer, just spray the liquid on a cloth.

There isn’t enough space in this article to go into enough detail on how to fully clean a computer; in order to get more thorough instructions I would recommend looking up information for yourself online on how to clean different parts of the computer. For the most part, keeping your computer clean is a simple, easy, and useful process. It is an excellent habit to get into, as doing so will help your computer continue to run smoothly as time goes on.

Any questions, requests for clarifications, or comments can be sent to gregbailey9@ gmail.com. Greg Bailey is a Computer Science major at UCR.

Tech Talk with Greg Bailey

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Typing etiquette is a bit of a complicated issue, mainly because there are so many different situations where you might be typing a message to someone else. While there are some constants, there are just as many things that only apply in certain scenarios. Sometimes a message that looks like a text is good enough and sometimes you need to type normally. But there are a few rules that are mostly universal.

One of the most common breaches of typing etiquette is typing in all capital letters (caps) at all times.

This is not appropriate in almost every setting regardless of formality of the situation, familiarity of the people you are communicating with, or medium of communication. Typing a word in all caps is a way to emphasize -- typing everything in all caps is the equivalent of shouting constantly in real life.

All caps lettering can be used for certain headlines or words that are meant to be eye-catching, but as a means for communication, typing in all caps should always be avoided.

Grammar and spelling rules tend to fluctuate depending on where people communicate online. When sending an e-mail, it’s best to type normally. If you are on a message board or forum, the same applies. In the above cases, no one will jump down your throat for making a mistake or two, but a well typed out message will typically be better received than one that isn’t.

Different website communities have different standards however, looking at some messages posted by other people will give a better idea of what level of discourse is expected.

For something like an instant message service or a chat room, accuracy tends to be much less of an issue. Most Internet users treat these systems as a way to quickly communicate with others. Things like a period at the end of a sentence or capitalizing an i that is by itself serve purposes grammatically, but don’t really help in understanding a chat message Spelling also, while important, probably doesn't make or break understanding of what someone is trying to say.

This isn’t to say that you should intentionally dumb down your typing while in a more casual setting, but that the most important aspect of typing in pure Internet chat is readability, not technical correctness. In fact, being too loose with what you type can make what someone types much harder to read. Chat abbreviations can be useful, but when they are combined with shoddy grammar and spelling people have to waste time trying to decipher what was written.

Any questions, requests for clarifications, or comments can be sent to gregbailey9@ gmail.com. Greg Bailey is a Computer Science major at UCR.

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