Ever wonder how your political junkie friend can surf the web and glean so much information in a short period of time? Ever wonder how your technically savvy friend never seems to get computer viruses? Ever wonder how you can stop being overwhelmed and run over by data on the information super highway? Let me tell you how to use a computer like a pro.
Side Note: I am assuming that you are running Windows XP or Windows 7 on your computer. I am also assuming that you are updating Windows to the latest Service Packs when they are available. If you are running Vista…upgrade to Windows 7. There is no need to suffer under Vista. If you can’t upgrade to Windows 7, or downgrade to Windows XP, then consider upgrading to Ubuntu Linux.
Also, I recommend that everyone have high speed internet. IMHO, cable internet is the most affordable choice, FIOS is amazing if you can afford it (you can keep Verizon from ripping out your expensive copper phone lines by getting traditional landline service from another telephone company), and $15 DSL from your phone company is a bare minimum. No one should be using dial-up internet anymore. And for G-d’s sake, cancel that AOL account. It is absolutely worthless and a waste of money and marks you as a total n00b and computer retard.
Computer Geeks Use Free Software
Paying for software is for suckers. There are tons of safe and free software applications that do the same job as popular expensive commercial software. For example, most people don’t need Microsoft Office when Oracle’s OpenOffice would suffice. The only time you should pay for software is when a free software solution doesn’t work well for your purposes, or if it required at your workplace, or there is no viable free solution.
Beware of programs that really aren’t free. Many commercial software applications disguise themselves as “freeware” or “shareware”, that are only partially functional, or are burdened with restrictive licenses. Free software doesn’t nag you to upgrade to a paid version or require you to register. Free software liberates its users by allowing modification and distribution by anyone. It also allows scientific peer review of the underlying computer code to protect the user. Proprietary software limits your freedom by only allowing corporate insiders access to the code, so if there is something wrong, like a security problem, you could potentially find out years later. Thus, you should only use proprietary software when absolutely necessary.
Truly free software is known as “open source” and is downloaded from websites like Sourceforge. Free software is usually recommended from a trusted geek or computer magazine or a trusted technology website. Never trust pop-up or banner advertisements on the web, or unsolicited instant messages or emails.
How can you tell if your software is truly free? Look for the words “Public License” or “Open Source” when downloading software. Three of the most common licenses are the GNU General Public License (GPL),the Mozilla Public License, and the MIT license. Most of the software I recommend is Open Source, but occasionally I recommend a freeware commercial software, like Avast! or AdAware when there is no truly free solution.
Before listing my favorite programs, one word of advice. STOP USING INTERNET EXPLORER. Not only is it slow, it is DANGEROUS. Surfing the web with Internet Explorer is like having sex with a hooker without a condom. Seriously. It is a good way how to get a virus.
If you haven’t already, download and install a copy of Firefox. I mean it, do it right now, or don’t bother reading the rest of this blog. And make sure to download the latest versions of Firefox when prompted. Firefox is the safest web browser to use on the internet, since it was built with security in mind.
Also, make sure to browse the web using tabs. It speeds up your surfing experience. Hold down the control key and then left click on a link. [You can also open up a tab by clicking with the scroll button on your mouse.] Note that you stay on the same page. Open up all the links you want to read, then read them. It will save you lots of time, since it allows you to read one web page fully, and then move on to a new one.
After installing the virus software I recommend in the next section, download and install these Add-ons using the Tools—->Add-on menu. Those add-ons which I consider absolutely essential are designated with a **, essential *, and those that are optional are designated with a -.
**Adblock Plus (choose EasyList after restarting the browser)
-Advanced Dork (makes searching google super easy)
-Chatzilla (For chatting on IRC)
**Better Privacy (Deletes really obnoxious Flash based cookies)
*Copy Plain Text (Never worry about pasting 48pt italic fonts when pasting into emails again)
-Delicious Bookmarks (Never have to import your bookmarks again! This add-on works with del.icio.us to help add and recall bookmarks online - I recommend signing up for an account and using the classic mode)
*Download Statusbar (provides a neat little downloading interface without the download window getting in the way of your web browsing.)
-DownThemAll! (Great download manager and accelerator that allows you to save entire galleries of pictures from websites to your hard drive.)
*ErrorZilla Plus (Gives you a variety of choices when a webpage comes up unavailable)
-Firefusk (When you want to see a series of images like IMG_0001, IMG_0003, but don’t want to type all that crap out in the address bar and just want to see it displayed on a webpage. This is a hack known as fuskering.)
-Flagfox (warns about mismatched international domains and tells you what country the website your visiting is in. Usually its not a problem but sometimes it is a warning that something fishy is going on)
-Gmail Manager (Manage all of your gmail accounts using this extension. It tells you when you have mail, no matter where you are online. What, you don’t have gmail? You’re still using Yahoo and AOL? Seriously…migrate to gmail today. And in your gmail settings, make sure that you choose always use SSL)
-Header Spy (Lets you see what type of server and OS a website is running)
-Page Title Eraser (For when you’re at work and don’t want co-workers to see what website you are browsing in a hidden tab)
-Flashgot (For downloading flash (flv) videos from youtube and other sites)
-Undo Closed Tabs Button (I’m constantly closing tabs before I have finished reading them)
It is vitally important to get rid of Symantec or any commercial virus software. Popular antivirus applications just don’t work! For Windows XP, I recommend downloading and installing both Avast! and Clamwin and run them both at the same time. For Windows 7, download and install Microsoft Security Essentials and Avast!.
Secondly, you need to install spyware protection. Download and install Spybot Search & Destroy, AdAware, and Windows Defender. Run them all at least once a month. If you ever run into serious spyware problems, download Hijack This! and Rootkit Revealer and send the output results to your closest geek friend.
Must Have Free Software Programs
After you’ve installed Firefox and Virus software, you can download these great programs that will help your productivity:
Word Processor/Database/Math/Office Suite:
OpenOffice (by Sun Microsystems)
Pidgin (formally known as Gaim, it allows you to chat on yahoo, aol, jabber, icq, irc all in one messenger)
Meebo (allows you to chat on yahoo, aol, jabber, icq, irc, myspace and facebook, all in one browser based messenger. Use this at work with the https: secure link so that your corporate IT department can’t eavesdrop on your IM conversations.)
Sound Recording and Editing:
EAC Exact Audio Copy for CD burning
D4 I love this utility since it syncs my clock to the exact time.
Bittorrent (Download movies, music, and Linux):
Vuze (formerly know as Azureus)
VideoLan VLC (Plays DVDs too!)
CDBurnerXP Pro (Will burn all sorts of CDs, including ISOs)
Convert Movies so they work on your MP3 player:
Calculus/Algebra solving and graphing:
Secure Data Deletion:
Eraser Absolutely essential for securely deleting data from old hard disks you are tossing into the garbage or for complying with HIPAA or other regulations or disposing of files with trade secret or attorney client protected information which no longer need to be stored. Failing to protect this information from falling into the wrong hands is negligence in my book.
More Smart Web Browsing Tips
Sign up for Pageflakes or Netvibes and add your favorite website’s RSS feeds. RSS feeds are a way to read and to subscribe to all of a webpages content when you aren’t on that webpage. When you see a little orange box on the address bar, that website supports RSS.
Don’t use Google to navigate to websites you already know! If you want to go to Bank of America’s website, don’t type Bank of America into google! Type bankofamerica.com into the address bar directly. The address bar is the top most white space in Firefox. Also, never click in links in e-mails.
Use yubnub.org to do fast searches. It is a command line interface for the world wide web. But typing “wp monkey” is easier and faster than navigating to wikipedia and then finding the search box and typing monkey.
Helpful and Useful Websites
Now that you have the tools and knowledge about how to use the web, you need some websites to go to! Add these to your RSS reader, or just visit them the old fashioned way.
http://www.cnn.com - http://www.northjersey.com - http://www.nytimes.com - http://news.google.com/?topic=n - http://www.baristanet.com
http://www.bbc.co.uk - http://www.cbc.ca - http://www.rferl.org - http://www.janes.com - http://news.google.com/?topic=w
http://www.memeorandum.com - http://www.dailykos.com - http://www.politickernj.com - http://www.slate.com - http://www.factcheck.org - http://www.fivethirtyeight.com - http://www.field-negro.blogspot.com
http://finance.google.com - http://news.google.com/?topic=b - http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com
Bizarre and Interesting News:
http://www.reddit.com and http://www.digg.com
http://www.michaelyon-online.com - http://www.michaeltotten.com
http://www.scienceblogs.com/denialism - http://www.scienceblogs.com/insolence - http://badidea.wordpress.com
http://archaeoporn.wordpress.com - http://www.sciencedaily.com - http://arxivblog.com - http://focus.aps.org - http://www.epiwonk.com
Technology and Computers:
http://www.techmeme.com - http://www.slashdot.org - http://feeds.ziffdavis.com/ziffdavis/pcmag/dvorak - http://www.tuxmachines.org - http://www.maximumpc.com - http://linuxhaters.blogspot.com - http://www.distrowatch.com
What is That Linux Thing I See You Using At Starbucks?
If you’ve ever run into me at Starbucks*, or on the bus to NYC, or at the library, you’ve seen me working on a very tiny 2lb laptop called the Asus Eee PC. Instead of running Windows XP or Vista, it runs an advanced cutting edge operating system called Linux, which is very much like MacOS X. Except that it is free and open source and runs on whatever software you want it to. I run a custom version of Linux called eeebuntu on my laptop.
For hard-core geeks, and even casual computer users, Linux is a viable option instead of using Windows. I highly recommend downloading and burning an Ubuntu Live CD. Once you have burned it to CD, restart your computer and the computer will automatically boot into Ubuntu, so that you can try it out, without installing it to your hard drive and potentially harming your computer. After a test run, you can install it by following the directions here. If running a live CD makes you nervous, you could always install Virtual Box and run Linux virtually under Windows by following these easy directions.
One of the neat things about Linux is the much hated and maligned command line. Yea, having to type ‘sudo apt-get install gimp’ is annoying just to install an image manipulation program, but graphical install tools make the Linux experience easy and enjoyable. But every once in a while the command line is amazing, like when you just want to read the news, and ignore the pictures, because your internet connection is slow. Browsing the web in only text by typing ‘w3m http://www.cnn.com’ is a refreshing way to browse the web.
By following my computer and websurfing advice, I hope that you will have a much better computer and internet experience. Of course, my tips and tricks might not work for you, but you won’t know until you try!
If you enjoyed reading my guide, or if it helped you, or if you think it needs improvement, or if you have a suggestion…or if you just want to say hi, let me know in the comments!
Remember, I won’t know that you read my guide unless you say hello! Plus, it will stroke my already over inflated ego. Help a guy out here!
Important Legal Warnings and Disclaimers
Remember, these instructions are AS IS, and I don’t guarantee or warrant that the results will work or that they won’t fry your computer. Use these instructions AT YOUR OWN RISK. ALL EXPRESS AND IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FOR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE HEREBY DISCLAIMED. I accept no liability for any direct, special, indirect or consequential damages, or any other damages of whatsoever kind resulting from whatever cause through the use of any information obtained either directly or indirectly from this website. Your sole remedy is to discontinue using this website.
This post to tumblr is released under the GNU Free Documentation License
*Hat tip to Bruce F. who I met at the Upper Montclair Starbucks today who inspired me to write this blog entry. This entry started off as an e-mail list of interesting websites…but turned into a guide that I wanted all of my friends, relatives and acquaintances to read. Thanks for the inspiration.