CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Reality Hits: Learning your new PC

by Cathi Schuler

Despite the fact that it's only been a few days since Christmas, I suspect the bloom has just about fallen off the rose by now. Emotions of glee and enthusiasm which greet a new family PC are often replaced with frustration and gnashing of teeth in just a matters of days. Especially when youngsters are clamoring and hounding parents to make their new games or educational programs work, nerves wear thin and tempers flare. "DAAAADY! It won't print!"

Patience is crucial when dealing with this newest family member. Though your new computer may seem friendly, warm and fuzzy upfront it is still an extraordinarily complex piece of machinery that is synchronized so that all it's component parts work in harmony. Every device on your PC has unique settings that enable proper functioning. Any tinkering with these original configurations is guaranteed to cause trouble.

If, for example, no sounds are heard after you've installed some gonzo new game, you might be prompted in the software to change DMA channels or IRQ settings as a means of troubleshooting the problem. "Danger Will Robinson...aliens approaching!"

Unless your absolutely sure of what you're doing, don't fiddle with these settings. Your liable to find your mouse no longer works, or your modem won't connect to the Internet. There is a delicate balance between all your peripheral devices and troubleshooting device driver conflicts can be a nasty business.

Realize at the outset that multimedia games and educational software are some of the most difficult to configure and make work. They are loaded with sounds, graphics and other features which tap your PC's resources to the fullest extent. In addition, many games are still designed for the DOS mode which makes running them through Windows often hit and miss. Read the box carefully and ask questions before you buy new programs to make sure the software will configure easily with your particular operating system.

If you find yourself in unfamiliar territory during your first few computing sessions, get out. Always try first pressing the Escape key (ESC) a few times. It's located in the far upper left corner of your keyboard. The worst that can happen is nothing and at best, you're taken back a few steps. If ESC fails, hunt for a button that reads QUIT, CANCEL or CLOSE and click once with your left mouse button. Don't go clicking wildly on OK, YES or CONTINUE unless you're sure of the consequences.

It's also best to steer clear of well intentioned neighbors or teenage hackers. A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing when it comes to computers. Bite the bullet and call the 800 number for tech support. Waiting times vary by product, but this way you are usually assured good advice from knowledgeable professionals familiar with your equipment and software. You can also check with local vendors as some do offer "house calls" at an hourly rate.

Plan to spend plenty of time researching the various Help menus throughout your computer. Fully detailed printed manuals are becoming scarcer with new PC's and software since the speed at which upgrades occur make it cost ineffective to keep printing new manuals. Therefore manufacturers embed detailed Help functions within the software. Always "take the tour" or explore any "wizards" when these options present themselves.

If you can't find the help you need from the Help menus, it's best to invest in a book of your own. The Dummy series by IDG books is always a great starting place for beginners. More intermediate users will find publications by either Que or Sybex thorough and easy to follow. PC Novice is a terrific magazine for beginners that can be accessed through the Web at http://www.pcnovice.com

Lastly, do explore the various computer classes in the area. You must think of learning as computer as you would a musical instrument or foreign language. A little professional direction can minimize frustration and assist in the learning curve. Children's computer courses are taught locally through the Kid's College at University of the Pacific and the Ed-Venture program at San Joaquin Delta College.

Adults can enroll at courses through the University of the Pacific's Westgate Center, UpGrade Computer Training, New Horizons Learning Centers and San Joaquin Delta College. The UOP Westgate Center is offering a Microsoft Office class beginning January 10th and running on consecutive Fridays for 8 weeks. Classes are ongoing at UpGrade Computer Training and New Horizons.

If this is all new to you, be patient and avoid the temptation to tinker. It's really not broken...you just need to learn to walk before you can run.

Computer Classes Children:

University of the Pacific - Kids College 209-946-2424
San Joaquin Delta College - Ed-Ventures 209-474-5015

Computer Classes Adults:
University of the Pacific - Eberhardt School of Business Westgate Center 209-946-2478
San Joaquin Delta College 209-474-5013 & 209-474-5490
UpGrade Computer Training 951-5000

Feedback? E-Mail cschuler@ceeprompt.com

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