Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Reboot - How to avoid goofing 1 - Computer

There haven't been any posts over the holidays, but I've been busy doing things, and this blog unfortunately took low priority, however, now that term is nearly starting again, I find myself with renewed interest, and a concept for another series of posts.

Consider these short guides on life, how to get the most out of things, and, as the title implies, how to avoid epic fail.

The issues are going to be as follows:
1 - Computers, the software you need
2 - Video games, consoles and PC, things to play now, things to watch out for
3 - Cooking, general things you should and shouldn't be doing in a kitchen
4 - Sports and diet, how to not die
5 - anything else I think of...

So, without further ado:

How to avoid goofing 1 - Your computer and you, use protection

First things first, you get a new laptop/desktop, you open the box, it looks all cool and fresh, and you wonder where to begin. Well, power cable in, charge that battery, then boot up, and you're met with some horrific thing which may have once been a desktop, but is covered in 10 different apps that the manufacturer really thought you needed, but don't.

So piece of advice number 1, open control panel, find add remove programs, remove anything you don't need. If you don't know what it is, google it (using the default browser for now), if it sounds like something you're not going to use, then remove it.

Now some pieces of software may be needed to support things like fingerprint scanners, so if something stops working, then reinstall the last one you removed.
Once you're done, reboot.

Next, check for driver updates using windows update, and then using Device doctor.
It's the best driver finder I have used so far, and its free, what more do you want.

Now you have blank slate to start on, lets identify what we need:
  • Antivirus, very important
  • Web browser and associated, no one uses internet explorer, for lots of good reasons
  • Speed and stability, this covers quite a few things
  • Productivity tools, for whatever you're going to be doing with your new thing
Most important things are higher up the list, so lets start with the antivirus.

I have tested maybe 7 or 8 different antiviruses on systems running XP, vista and 7, and so I know from first hand experience which ones work well, and which ones will leave you with holes in your armor.

First off, you need Spybot S&D, install it, run it, and run immunisation, don't install the "tea timer" system settings protection, it only serves to annoy. You need to run this again every now and then, once a week or so is good.
Now you need the software which is going to actively protect your system, and you need to choose from 3 options:
  1. AVG Free, fast and powerful, a strong reccomendation
  2. Avast Free, maybe slightly faster, but can be more confusing to use
  3. ESET Nod 32, in excess of £20 per year, but the best available
Either of the first two options will keep you safe, but if you're going to pay for antivirus, don't bother with the premium versions of either of those products, if you want to spend money for that extra piece of mind, ESET is the only one worth buying.
So why do I recommend these 3? They all have the following key features:
  • Fast scans, you don't want to use any more time than you have to
  • Low overheads, your antivirus is always running in the background, so it shouldn't eat into your processing power
  • High detection rates, you don't want it missing things
  • Ease of use, they are ranked in order of ease of use, so if that's the main factor you need, choose AVG
There's no more to say on that really, apart from be sensible, if you're trying to view a video, and you click on it, and it says "video.exe" don't run it.

Web browsers, options are:
  1. Firefox
  2. Google Chrome
  3. Opera
Firefox is fast and sleek, and oh so customisable, does everything you want, won't complain, I would very much suggest using this one.
Chrome is in theory (slightly) faster and is simpler to use, also, it runs every tab in a new task, so if one tab crashes, you don't need to close the whole browser. But I found no speed increase, and in benchmarks on my system, it was slower on the whole.
Opera is nice, it looks nice, it feels nice, but unfortunately, it is the least supported of the browsers, and some sites just won't work, maybe in future, this will be the browser to watch.

Now to go with that, you need the basic internet tools, for watching videos and doing other stuff, you need all of these:
Just install them all, you will need them at some point.

Now, if you're using firefox, you need addons, I use Adblock Plus, Web Of Trust, Video Download Helper, Download Statusbar and Search Preview, check them out in the addons browser.

Speed and stability next, tricks to keep your computer running as fast as it should, all the time and long into the future.

Tip #1 - Disable windows indexing, right click on your drive in my computer, and find the button which says enable indexing, and disable it, the speed benefits to searching with this enabled are minimal, having said that, if you lose stuff all the time, leave it on.

Tip #2 - Buy Tuneup utilities, no, seriously, you need it, it does everything for you, all you have to do is install it, configure the maintenance to happen on a schedule, disable the defrag, and it will keep most things in check, removing broken things in the registry, removing broken shortcuts, and keeping your disk space available for important files.
It also has tweaks and suggestions which it makes when you first install it, listen to it!

Tip #3 - Ditch the windows file transfer, its slower than we want it, and has no support for verification of important files. Use Teracopy, and let it do all the work, your life will be easier.

Tip #4 - One last one, defrag, and often. Now I told you to disable the tuneup defrag, and this is because, despite the virtues of the rest of the program, the defrag leaves something to be desired. Instead, my favourite is Defraggler, but if you need something with more functionality, try Smart defrag. Either way, do it once a month, or just set a schedule, and forget about it.

Lastly, if you send files by e-mail lots, or you upload files to file hosting sites, you will be using compression. "Lol I know what that is, .zip right?", nope, .zip is the worst compression you can get apart from uncompressed, so you should be using 7-zip, it can uncompress anything you will come across in normal life, and makes .7z archives, which have the best compression you can get from any software which is not in beta (see KGB Archiver).

And so we come to our final category, which is very specific to the individual, so it will be hard for me to make a lot of general suggestions.

However, there are things that you will likely need to do at some point, retouch a photo, edit some video, rip the audio track from a video and write a document.
To do all this, you will need the following:
  • Avidemux, for video editing and audio extraction, it can also convert between hundred of formats of video and audio
  • Open office or Microsoft office, one is free and confusing, the other is expensive and sleek, your choice
  • GIMP or Photoshop, both are confusing, GIMP slightly less so, but if you need raw power and have money to burn, Photoshop may be the choice, or for a more casual user, try Ashampoo Photo Commander, cheaper than photoshop, and very easy to use, but not very versatile.
  • Foxit Reader, DO NOT use adobe reader, it sucks, period, if you need to read pdfs, which we all do, use this, and your processor will thank you.
  • Able batch converter, use this to resize, rename and retouch photos en-masse, it is very varied in what it can do, and it will make life a whole lot easier.
And thus ends my epic post about how to computer, follow these rules, and your life will be better on your computer, and you won't encounter the age old problem of "my computer isn't as fast as it used to be".

Final thing, no matter what anyone tells you on the internet, deleting SYSTEM32 will not make your computer faster, and will break everything, like dividing by 0, don't do it.

EDIT - Matt C has just linked me to this nifty little thing, which can install most of these for you, highly recommended as it will save you lots of time!