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Keep Calm and Enjoy Your Computer

Why keep calm?

Because if you are reading this you probably have no reason to fear. In fact you may not have had any reason to fear in the first place. That is, unless you have teenagers, as I do. Then there's always reason to fear. But I really don't want to go there now.

The things that create fear in people about computers, viruses, spyware, adware, hackers, these happen to people who don't know about them. Once you know that clicking on an attachment from someone you don't know can download a computer virus, you don't do it. And anyway, you have antivirus software that protects you.

Once you know that clicking on random free things on Internet sites can download unwanted programs onto your computer, you don't do that. You may have never done that, even if you had not been told about it.

I only have to clean up a computer once. After that the family knows what's causing the mess and they don't do it. Their children know too. You do have to make sure your children's friends know the rules. My computer tips sheet makes it pretty clear. Print that out and tape it on the wall above your computer. If you have friends who use your computer let them know the rules. I had one client who kept her computer clean only to have an old college buddy visit and mess it up in about fifteen minutes. But after that it never happened again.

Don't worry about spam. It doesn't matter than someone occasionally tries to sell you an island in the Caribbean for 19.99 plus tax, because you aren't buying. Spam used to be really annoying. Now we have spam blockers. And spam's slowing down now that there are laws against it. Just delete it if it finds its way past your spam blocker. I've been using my email id on the Internet for going on ten years now. I get a couple of thousand spam messages a month. If you look at my article called 'Email Strategies' you'll see how I take care of it.

When I run Ad-Aware or Spybot I hardly ever catch anything. It's almost disappointing. My son is very knowledgeable about the dangers of the Internet - perhaps because he sometimes helps me clean computers. I used to get two or three viruses every time I ran my virus checker. They always came from online games my son played on the Internet. But most computer viruses don't really do anything. Teenage kids in Bulgaria turn them out by the dozens just to say they did it. It keeps them off the streets and out of trouble. Anyway, I can't remember the last time my anti-virus software found a virus.

Computers are the most annoying things in the world. But they're wonderful too. I remind my clients that computers are imperfect beings - just like us. They mess up. Most of the mess-ups can be taken care of by merely turning the computer off and then turning it back on again. Any problem that can be resolved by turning your computer off and back on again is not really a problem. It's that simple. If an error happens over and over again and stops you from doing something critical, then you have to figure out what's wrong. (And if you do use your computer for critical work, writing, finances, you must back up your data. But that's another lesson for another time.) Otherwise don't even think about it. Don't obsess about informational or error messages that don't make any sense. Computer makers enjoy putting out senseless messages that tell you things you don't really need to know. They think they're performing a public service.

The first thing I used to teach my students at SeniorNet was how to stand up and get a cup of coffee. And remember, a watched download never boils, it just raises your anxiety level.

Look away,
    or pray.

And that's all I have to say.

Alan L. Silverman
Computing Solutions
Stone Ridge, NY 12484
Copyright 2005
May be distributed for non-commercial purposes with attribution to author.

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