General Question

flo's avatar

Do you have any little known advice for a new computer owner?

Asked by flo (11538points) January 24th, 2011

Perhaps something that would help them avoid a problem that you encountered. For example, one of the laptops would delete everything from the harddrive, when you only highlight/select one item. There is no way of knowing that it would do that. So the advice would be: You have to do the deleting from the ‘panel’ instead of the…I don’t know what it is called.

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21 Answers

the100thmonkey's avatar

> Take the advice of your nerdier friends seriously.

> Don’t underestimate the power of curiosity.

> Ask yourself “why?”

I know the last item is really vague, but it works at every level – from the day-to-day browsing experience (“Why should I click that link?”) to your friends sending you out of character messages on MSN, to Xorg throwing a hissy-fit when you install a new graphics card.

koanhead's avatar

If I could only offer one piece of advice to all new computer owners it would be this:
Be aware that your computer’s operating software is designed to accomodate more than one user. When you log in to the computer the first time, you are identified to the computer as a special user called “root” or “Administrator” or similar. This “super-user” has special privileges that can break your computer if used improperly, so the first thing you need to do is to create a normal user ID for yourself and log out.
Too many people operate as the super-user all the time, and many many computer and security problems come from this. Don’t do it. Also, don’t give your password to anyone, ever, for any reason. If you want to let someone else use your computer, create a user account for them. It’s easy, and will save you tons of potential grief and heartache.

john65pennington's avatar

Keep the food in the kichen and away from your keyboard. A spilled Coke or milk can shorten out a keyboard in short time. Also, turn your computer off at night at bedtime. This will save you about $5.00 a month on your electricity and your computer will last longer.

jerv's avatar

I think that RTFM covers a lot of ground, so if I had to give just one bit of advice, that would be it.

I have been into computers for over 30 years and whenever I get a new toy, I almost always find stuff I would not figure out on my own if I didn’t RTFM. I honestly believe that at least half of all computer problems and I am seriously low-balling that estimate would be solved, prevented if more people would take the time to RTFM.

jazzticity's avatar

Storage is cheap. Hard drives become larger, faster, cooler (well, that way too, but I meant in terms of energy usage), and cheaper almost by the month. But they DON’T become more reliable. You must back up your data. Here’s how to do it.

Make sure your computer has at least two hard drives. If you can’t add one yourself (trust me, you can), then have a store do it. Then, keep your main hard drive clean and free of stored files. It will run faster that way. Your second hard drive is for your files. If you have a third, back them up again on that. If not, get a bunch of flash drives. (They’re cheap too.) And back up your files again. Or, burn discs if you prefer. When it’s time for a new computer, your data will be safe and you’ll know where it is.

You might also consider external hard drives for data storage, but keep in mind that USB is somewhat slower than SATA (internal) connections.

gailcalled's avatar

@jerv? Manual? Manual? You mean that cheap, 5×5 thing entitled “Everything Mac”?

Buttonstc's avatar

Yea, I think that every Mac owner should spend the extra few bucks for one of David Pogue’s books.

“OS X The Missing Manual” for starters and there are others for iPhone and iTunes, iPods as well. Best money ever spent. The guy really knows how to make things accessible for average folks.

torchingigloos's avatar

Educate yourself! People who create malicious software and do malicious things to you/your computer do it based on your ignorance. Google anything and everything you ever have a question about and browse through more than just the first two or three advertised results. The more you know…

LostInParadise's avatar

Get a backup device. You never know when your computer is going to stop working. They are not built for longevity.

gailcalled's avatar

@Buttonstc: Is there a Pogue one for OS 10.6.6?

robmandu's avatar

0. I have no idea whatsoever about your example where “some laptops” will “delete everything” when you have only “one item” selected. I’ve been working with computers since 1980, had my share of unexpected erasures, but nothing like that.

1. There’s a place for everything. Put everything in its place. No, that’s not the Desktop.

2. Seconding @LostInParadise. A hard drive is a mechanical device and it’s a matter of when not if it will fail. Make regular backups. And keep a copy offsite – away from home – as well.

3. If a web site pops up a message suggesting that 1) your machine is infected/slow and/or 2) for you to install some nifty software, close the message, and be happy you didn’t load crapware on your PC.

flo's avatar

Thank you all. Very nice.
@robmandu I will take a few weeks, but I will get back to you re. the example I gave.

jerv's avatar

@robmandu Great call on #3. So many people get scammed and/or infected that way.
You would think it’d be common sense to only buy software (antivirus or otherwise) from reputable sources. I mean, most people would not buy a “Rolex” from some guy standing on the street in a trench coat, yet these same people will buy the computer equivalent of snake oil?!
Oddly enough, many of these same people do not trust Firefox or other free software like Avast! and Avira.

Buttonstc's avatar


If you go to and in the search bar at top left, input Pogue, snow leopard, it gives an extremely detailed listing of EVERYTHING the book covers. Most other sites just give a brief blurb, but this listing is exhaustive.

The date published is Oct, 2009 so this is his most recent afaik.

He usually stays on top of most of the major changes. Snow Leopard is 10.6 so that’s about as up to date thus far.

There is another Snow Leopard book of his published two months later but much of it is geared to Windows users switching to a Mac so I doubt that there’s any new info in it from the Oct. edition.

If you want to check on any subsequent updated editions, you can drop in to his publisher’s site

He usually does some second, third, etc editions to some of his books dependent upon how much has changed. He is rather the gold standard for the Missing Manuals of all things Mac.

His most recent book is one for iPod published Dec. 2010 so he’s quite busy and prolific.

I’m not sure, but I think that Oreilly has some type of notification system if you’d care to fork over your email addy.

Buttonstc's avatar


gailcalled's avatar

@Buttonstc: Thanks for the info. I had checked on Amazon. Perhaps I’ll buy a used Snow Leopard.

flo's avatar

Re. starting to itemize things with the number 0, as you did above, would you point me to the source?
Whoever can answer it actually.

jerv's avatar

@flo In the C programming language (one of the more common languages), arrays start with position 0, not 1. There are other things in programming that start at 0 instead of 1 as well, so some computer g33ks start their lists with item 0 instead of 1.

It is hard to point out a source as it is one of those things that just happens. It’s kind of like asking why some people are left-handed. And it is possible that @robmandu had a different source/reason for starting with 0 than I would.

Little tip though; asking a smart-assed programmer for a source is a bad idea. You might get a response like this:

print ”\n”;
#defining two arrays
#assigning refrences of those two arrays to two variables
#defining a multi dimesional array
#printing values from the array
foreach $val (@multi)
print ”$val->[$i]\t”;
print ”\n”;
(...and many more lines)

I am not so sure about the new generation, but the older hackers tend to have a sense of humor, often one with references that the younger ones don’t get. What I posted abouve is source; that is Source Code, more specifically, “Multi Dimensional Array Program Code in Perl”. I could’ve also posted the HTML source code for this web page, but I figured I’d do something else.

gailcalled's avatar

@jerv: I laughed hard enough so that I fell off the chair.

So translate that for non-hackers, please.

jerv's avatar

@gailcalled Which part? I am not always good at translating, nor am I adept at the sort of introspection required to explain who/how I am well enough to even notice many of the differences between myself and others. That includes explaining geeky quirks, programming, and other things that I do intuitively. (You should see the look on my bosses face whenever I solve a math problem in my head!)

I can direct you to The Jargon File to try and explain a few things. There are Koans and a portrait of J. Random Hacker that may help you figure it out. Here is an excerpt from the weaknesses of the Hacker personality that might give you a little insight as to why I can’t fully explain it myself.

“Hackers have relatively little ability to identify emotionally with other people. This may be because hackers generally aren’t much like ‘other people’. Unsurprisingly, hackers also tend towards self-absorption, intellectual arrogance, and impatience with people and tasks perceived to be wasting their time.

As cynical as hackers sometimes wax about the amount of idiocy in the world, they tend by reflex to assume that everyone is as rational, ‘cool’, and imaginative as they consider themselves. This bias often contributes to weakness in communication skills. Hackers tend to be especially poor at confrontation and negotiation….

…some hacker traits coincide with indicators for non-hyperactive ADD and AS — the status of caffeine as a hacker beverage of choice may be connected to the fact that it bonds to the same neural receptors as Ritalin, the drug most commonly prescribed for ADD. It is probably true that boosters of both would find a rather higher rate of clinical ADD among hackers than the supposedly mainstream-normal 3–5% (AS is rarer at 0.4–0.5%).”

As for translating the source code, it is “one of those things that must be done”. The comment lines pretty much say it all; that is the entire purpose of comment lines. If that doesn’t make as much sense to you as it does to me then I can’t explain it better until you grok the Jargon File.

In fact, I recommend that more people read and grok the Jargon File.

flo's avatar

I was trying to learn the significance of it for the average person.

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