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Tech Savvy for Sept. 24, 2009

by Dan Harper

    Last time we talked about getting things done with the aid of, and sometimes in spite of, a computer.  Now let′s cover some things you can do to prevent issues and solve problems.

    Back up your data.  Big word for save it somewhere else too.  USB flash drives, also called thumb drives, are cheap and simple to use.  Just copy those irreplaceable documents, family recipes, pictures, etc to it. Now if the computer is lost, stolen, eats your homework, or dies an untimely death, your information is safe and can be restored.

    Thumb drives are available in Pueblo, but you can pick up some real bargains (under $10) online at Amazon (www.amazon.com) or Newegg (www.newegg.com).

    Keep your cords neat.  I have mentioned it before as a safety issue, but tripping over a cord can be expensive too.  With any luck, cords we trip on will just pop out of the connector, but that accident may bring your entire computer system crashing to the floor or rip the connector right out of the computer.  Keeping the cords neat and out of the way keeps everyone happier.

    Nylon zip ties are cheap and easy to use. They are available at any hardware store.  For a more permanent solution in a home, wire molding fastens to the wall with double-sided tape or screws.  It′s fast, easy, and looks good.  To keep a larger number of wires tidy (like those behind a desk), I use a wire duct with slots in the side and a snap-on cover called Panduit. It′s available at Pueblo Wintronics.

    Dust.  It′s everywhere around here.  I can dust off my computer and printer, but in a day or two it′s time to do it all over again.  In case you don′t have enough dust in your house, pet dander (a perennial issue around my house) and food particles fill the same niche.  The problem is that these can prevent keyboards from working, wear moving parts like hinges and fans, and can act like an insulator, keeping the heat baking the computer.

    Dusting the old fashioned way is fine for large flat surfaces, but getting in all the little nooks and crannies in our modern electronics is nearly impossible without compressed air.  You can buy “canned air” from Walmart in the electronics and photography section.

    Fingerprints. Yeah, it′s picky, but how many times have you pointed to something on the screen and made contact with the surface?  You may not notice now, but in a day or two some dust will be able to cling to the vertical surface of your screen.  Eventually you won′t be able to see as well as you did before, and this time it′s not your eyes.

    Windex wipes are pre-moistened disposable cloths that you can clean your screen with.  I use them first on my glasses, and if that doesn′t help, on my screen.  Once that is cleaned, I use the remainder to polish my desk, remove stubborn gunk from the keyboard, and wipe down the computer′s case.