2003-09-26 / Columnists


By L. Robinson
WaveTech By L. Robinson

A life long resident of the Rockaways, most of Robinson’s contact with anything even remotely related to computers in his youth came from playing arcade games at Pinky’s Fascination!

After being introduced to computers when Intel was still calling processors things like 386 & 486, instead of Pentium, he found out that he had a natural gift for mucking around on the inside of a PC and nine out of ten times he could fix whatever ailed the machine!

While searching for a patch on the ‘net to download for someone’s machine he had just repaired, Robinson soon discovered that it was more fun making tourist attractions for the world wide web than just being a tourist on the internet. So for the last few years he has been offering his services as a freelance web designer and graphic artist under the name of XTC-Media.

You know, in many ways a PC is like a car…

It’s a major household purchase for a lot of families.

It’s something that you take your time to shop around for.

It needs regular care and attention to keep it running smoothly.

If you have teenagers in your house sometimes it’s better to get them their own.

When you have it running at peak efficiency you can’t help but to show it off.

And, when it breaks down, you wonder how you ever got along without it.

So, how do you keep your PC tuned and ready just like it was when you parked it on its desk for the first time? Well, just like a car, your PC needs regular tune-ups! But before you run out to your local computer parts store, remember ‘all the basic tools that you need to tune up your PC’ are right at your fingertips!’

After you get your PC unpacked, everything plugged in and the family gathered around to watch as you press the ignition (start button) for he first time you more than likely are going to sign up for internet service with the internet server provider (ISP) of your choice. Now, most people, if this is their first PC, will settle in for a marathon session of web surfing. Stop!!!

Step 1) Your first stop on the web should be to Windows update. That is, of course, assuming you are running a Windows operating system like 85% of the rest of the free world!

When your PC was built at the factory a lot went on while it sat on the shelf waiting for you to find it a new home. Drivers for the hardware in your system may have been updated. Patches and fixes to your operating system may have been added and some Microsoft programs that may have come pre-installed might have had an update or two. Not to mention fixes for certain vulnerabilities in your Windows OS! (As a side note, you might want to stop by your PC manufacturer’s site to see if they have any updates for your system).

Now that you have that done, you can more than likely surf just a wee bit safer! But you know what? Just to make your life a little bit easier and since you’re online anyway… Why not pick up a couple of system tools to help keep that engine purring!

Ok, you’ve got the update thing out the way. But the reality is that software patches/updates and hardware drivers are always changing. So you should check for updates on a regular basis. Now this in itself can be a tedious chore but you can make it simpler!

One way is to have a program do the groundwork for you. Yeah, you may already have Windows update manager running in the background but there is a program that I have come across that makes the task of updating your system as easy as signing on to the internet! The name of this little piece of freeware (for consumers only, there is a fee for businesses and organizations) is BigFix and you can find it at http://www.bigfix.com The wonderful thing is that it not only will update Windows as soon as you sign on to the internet, but it will also search for any updates for antivirus software and even updates for any games you may have installed! I have found BigFix to be one of the most useful pieces of software on the internet to help keep your machine running smoothly.

Step 2) Now that your machine has been around for a week or two and is no longer a novelty (see — the new car smell is gone). You may notice that it’s missing some of that punch. She is taking longer than usual to boot (start up). She ‘hangs’ (freezes up) on certain programs and you hate to say it... but she just is not that fun to drive anymore.

Well, before you give up on your machine let me share a secret! Your processor is important. Intel has spent millions of dollars to remind you of this fact. But one of the single most important things in your machine as far as speed is concerned is your RAM (random access memory). What is your RAM? ‘RAM is memory that can be read from or written to by a computer or other devices. Information stored in RAM is lost when the computer is turned off’. In plain English, RAM is the ‘gas’ that allows your PC to run all the wonderful programs that either you installed or those that came with your machine. Basically, the more RAM you have the better!

After booting up your PC, your RAM is divvied up to the OS (operating system) and then to any other programs you may be using. After a while you will notice your machine becoming a little sluggish. In the past, the advice was to save everything and reboot! But believe it or not, there is a way that you can give your PC that just booted feel without restarting it! In essence, freeing up your RAM without turning your machine off! Just surf on over to http://www.memturbo.com and pick up this cool piece of shareware called MemTurbo (you get a 30 day free trial).

With just a click of the mouse, you can free up vital RAM on your machine to make it respond quicker without rebooting!

It’s also great for when you have to multi-task! Or you can just set it up to free up your RAM at certain intervals!

After about a week, you will probably wonder why vendors don’t install this little program in all of their machines!

So, now that you’re ripping and roaring up and down the information highway, I hope you found this column helpful! Check back next week and I promise to have some more little hints to help you keep your machine purring just like the first day you got it!

For questions about this column, please write info@xtc-media.com.

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