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The Tech Report

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.

Tech Talk with Greg Bailey

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Thanksgiving is coming soon, and with it comes what is most likely the best day of the year to buy electronics: Black Friday. With midnight or early morning sales that are beyond incredible, if you intend to buy any sort of electronics in the coming months, Black Friday is almost certainly the time to do it. For the next two or three weeks, this series is going to give a few tips for computer related purchases during the holiday season.

Laptops sell like hotcakes during these sales. If you look at any Black Friday ad involving electronics you are sure to find all sorts of amazing deals. However, if you don’t know what the technical specifications of a laptop mean, shopping for the right one can be daunting.

One of the most important things to know when buying a laptop is that the terms “Netbook” and “Notebook” are not referring to the same thing.

A “Notebook” is just another term for a laptop computer, while a “Netbook” is a smaller and simpler laptop. Netbooks are used almost solely for browsing the Internet. While they can run other programs, Netbooks are not as powerful as traditional laptops, nor do they have as much memory.

Because of this, they are significantly cheaper than a normal laptop computer.

Netbooks, and laptops like them, make it a very bad idea to simply buy the cheapest laptop you can find when shopping. If all you need in a laptop is something that you can check your e-mail and other websites on, then a Netbook is perfect, but keep in mind a Netbook just won’t give as much performance as a normal laptop. If you’re looking for something that works about as well as a desktop, a Netbook is definitely not what you’re looking for.

While shopping, you’ll see ads that list system features, along with what they can be expected to do. If you’re shopping for something more powerful than a Netbook, like a gaming or media center laptop, look for an ad that lists those features. Don’t just look at the price and get the cheapest laptop because unless you’re looking for something simple like a Netbook, you are probably going to be disappointed in what you bought.

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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Although some people are used to dealing with a never-ending stream of computer troubles, for the most part they are relatively stable machines.

Any complications you might have are for the most part minor, and while in some cases they may not be easily fixed, the computer is still usable. Sometimes, however, there can be much larger complications which can result in partial or complete loss of data. There is a simple way to minimize the negative effects of this scenario, simply keep backups.

Let me say this right off the bat: you should always have a backup of any important files. If losing a file would cause you a great deal of inconvenience, there is no reason to take the risk of a single copy of that file being lost. A backup is not the file on the same computer the original file is on with a different name. All this will accomplish is that you will lose two files instead of one if you lose the data on that computer (if you have multiple hard drives this isn’t as much as an issue, but there’s still a possibility something could happen to the computer as a whole instead of just the hard drive).

Instead of keeping the backup file in the same space as the original, put the file onto a CD or flash drive. As long as you take proper care of the storage item, there is almost no chance of losing the information stored on it. With this, if you lose the original file on your computer for whatever reason, you can just put the storage item into your computer and get the backup file. Make sure that whatever caused you to lose the original data is fixed, or you might end up having to do this a second time, or the storage item might even be corrupted.

Alternatively, you can host any important files online. There are various services online that allow users free file storage (there are size limits, but for text documents or pictures there shouldn't be a problem). Some of them, such as Dropbox, offer additional services such as detecting changes made to your original file and saving them to the backup stored online, as well as a revision history that lets you access any previous versions of the file. Simply e-mailing the file to yourself and saving the email will ensure that a backup of the file exists somewhere you can easily access it.

So what should you backup?

Obviously, important files are first priority, but I would recommend backing up anything that you would miss if it were gone.

For the most part, programs on your computer can be reinstalled, so losing them isn’t as big a crisis as losing your photo album. It’s all about making your worst-case scenario as bearable as possible. Instead of being out of luck should you lose the entirety of your data, do everything you can to make it just an inconvenience instead of a catastrophe.

This article is part of a series devoted to Internet security, and learning how to keep you and your information safe. 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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Two weeks ago I talked about how to make sure your e-mails get to the exact people you want to receive them, and today I’m going to touch on that subject once again. Specifically, I’m going to talk about key features that are often misused, along with a few words on e-mail etiquette.

Mass e-mails are a common occurrence, it is regular for a group of people to communicate through one e-mail sent to all members of the group.

However, after receiving a large mass e-mail with several names in the CC: field, you may have to send a reply back to the person who sent the e-mail in the first place. When doing this, there are two options, “Reply” and “Reply All”. It is important to chose the correct option.

“Reply” does just what it sounds like, it will send a reply to only the person who sent the e-mail to you in the first place, AKA the person in the “From:” field of the e-mail you are replying to. If you only want this person to see the e-mail, and not all of the other people who were in the CC: field of the original email, use Reply.

Reply All”, on the other hand, is the opposite. If you use Reply All, your reply will be sent to not just the original sender of the e-mail, but also every single address in the CC: field of the e-mail being replied to (If the original e-mail had names in the BCC: field, Reply All will not send the e-mail to them, since you don’t know the addresses). More often than not, this is not intended. Make sure that when replying to a mass email, you chose the proper option between Reply and Reply All, depending on who you want to receive the reply.

On the subject of mass e-mail, I’d like to mention one of the messages that everyone hates getting: chain letters. For those who have never heard of them, a chain letter is an e-mail that requests to be forwarded to everyone you know. Typically, they will promise something positive or threaten something negative based on whether or not you forward it to your contacts.

Normally the actual content of the chain letter is meaningless, it can be something like an urban legend or a list of random facts or a political statement. The point is, you should not forward these under any circumstances.

Not forwarding chain letters isn’t a security issue as much as a courtesy issue. Nobody likes an Inbox cluttered with spam and other nonsense. By forwarding the chain letter you are just contributing to that clutter, and doing it to your friends and family.

The real power of chain letters is that even if only a few people continue to forward them, they will continue to propagate. Do what you can on your end, and delete chain letters as soon as you get them.

This article is part of a series devoted to Internet security, and learning how to keep you and your information safe. 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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