Saturday, May 28, 2011

What are "Operating Systems?" - In Plain English

 What are ‘Operating Systems?’ - In Plain English

Many of you have asked questions about new computers:
·         What should I look for in a new computer?
·         What computer should I buy?
·         PC or Mac?
·         How much memory should I get?
These are excellent questions.  And I will answer them in the near future.  Okay, you ask, "Why not now?"  To answer these questions I have to set some ground work so we are speaking  the same language.  That way, you won't misunderstand what I am saying.  You know tech guys, we are easily misunderstood.  And often, we just speak in a language that no one else understands.  Words like operating systems, data, programs, RAM, are exciting things for tech guys. However, they make most people cry. 
Today, we are going to take the fear and crying out of some words so that we can answer the real questions you have asked.  And don't worry about remembering what I discuss here.  The blog and my Facebook page will be around for a while.  These posts are here for you to read whenever you want.  And you can call or reply if you have any questions.
Let's talk about ‘operating systems’ first.  “Which operating system is the best?” is one of the most controversial questions in the tech world.  Fist fights and broken relationships are the outcomes of conversations between techies on the subject. 
Most of you have heard of PCs and Macs.  These are computer hardware devices that use a particular operating system to make them run.  You have probably heard of Windows (XP, Vista, 7, to name a few).  Windows is the operating system written by Microsoft for use on PCs. When you are using a PC your operating system is most likely a version of Windows.  Like Windows for PCs, OS X (Jaguar, Tiger, Snow Leopard) is written by Apple to make Mac computers run. These are the two most common operating systems. 
There are other operating systems (LINUX, DOS, OS/2, to name a few of the dozens to a hundreds of others) that make the computer run differently.  Without operating systems, you would not be able to use a computer easily.  In fact, modern operating systems are credited with making the PC and Mac easy enough for everybody to use.  You no longer need to know how to program a computer to use it effectively. An operating system does the work for you.
And some of you may ask about your smart phones.  For now, I am going to skip smart phones and their operating systems (iOS, Blackberry, Android, etc) but I will come back to the subject in a later post.  But, for many of you, a smart phone may be a better answer than a computer.
The controversy that causes fights occurs when we try to decide which computer operating system is "better.”  In reality, only you can answer that question depending on what work you use your computer for.  Most people agree that Macs are overall easier to learn and better for creative type of work.  PCs are usually less expensive up front and better for gaming, general, and business use.  However, each situation is different.  I am going to avoid the controversy and leave you to decide which is best for you.  Before you make your final decision give me a call to make sure any extra questions you have are fully answered.  
The next blog entries will talk about other tech stuff, hopefully in plain English, so that we can answer the questions that we started with above.  Until then, I would love to hear from you!
Contact Robert by E-mail or by phone 858-449-1749.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Should I Turn My Computer Off At Night?

This is a very common question.  The answer to the question depends on why you are asking the question.  Let’s first talk about the reasons to ask the question:
·         Some people ask this question because they are concerned with cost of electricity
·         Some people want to know if the computer will last longer if they use it less
·         Some are worried that the computer is more likely to get a virus or spyware if it is left on

Of course, leaving your computer on all the time uses more electricity than turning it off when you are not using it.  So, for conservation of resources, you should turn off your computer when not in use.  But, as with most decisions, there are two sides to the story.  Turning off the computer when you are done with it inconveniences you; you have to wait for the computer to turn on every time you want to use it.  What does this convenience cost you?  With some research, the expected cost to power a computer, monitor, and printer for a full year is about $200.  If you leave the computer on for only eight hours per day, you could expect to save about $130 per year.  Only you can decide if it is worth it to you to turn it off when you are not using it.

Will your computer last longer if you turn it off?  Most studies conducted concerning the longevity of hardware have been inconclusive.  The number of computers that fail sooner and the number of computers that last longer are about the same if you turn off the computer each night.  Meaning that, in general, turning off your computer is not likely to change how long it lasts.  Of course, your mileage may vary.

Is your computer more likely to get a virus or spyware if you leave it on all the time?  If your computer is properly protected with a firewall or router, length of time left on will not impact the number of spyware or virus' it attracts.

But, before you jump to a decision, there is one more thing to consider.  There are many tasks that computers run each night to maintain the system’s health.  Most Anti-virus and Anti-spyware packages are set up to do a preventative scan each night if the computer is on.  If you are using a Windows PC, it checks for updates to Windows during the night.  So for technical reasons, you should leave your computer on overnight on a regular basis.  I recommend that you leave the computer on overnight once per week (different days each week are okay, it is okay to skip a week or two).  Any more than that is up to you.

Contact Robert by E-mail or call me 858-449-1749.