Saturday, February 9, 2013


Tech Republic is a site I follow often. Their '10 things' segment is a favorite of mine. A recent one is 10 Things You Have To Know To Be Computer Literate. Lets take a look at what each really means.

1. Search Engines. Knowing search engines is like saying you know about oil changes. Insofar as someone with low car knowledge can know that an oil change needs to take place once every 3000 miles but someone with moderate knowledge can perform the task if pressed.
It takes more than just know how the ol' Googler works to break from the novice category. Check out Google's own school on how to better perform search.

2. Word Processing. If you don't know how mail merge works, then, yes, you need to learn and no you're not good at Word yet.

3. Spreadsheets. The question you should ask yourself is 'am I inventing the wheel for the first time or has this been done before'. Nested IF statements, pivot tables and sparklines may be a bit on the advanced side of spreadsheet literacy, but you should know that these things exist and plug an existing one from the Internet if needed.

4. Browser Basics. From IE to Netscape to Chrome, you need to know clear browser cache and learn how to manage windows and setup favorites for each. This sounds easy but I've seen so many people never save webpages or constantly retype the same searches. This is a time saver.

5. Virus/Malware scanning. Goes hand in hand with search engine and browser knowledge. The Internet used to be a seedy neighborhood that you went to go shopping for cheap stuff and get the latest copy of The Onion from a street corner.
You can still do those things but there's now a strip mall in the neighborhood with a mall cop. The mall cop knows what stores rip you off and what stores have a lot of thefts and what time to leave the mall because a bunch of kids start wandering in. Talk to the mall cop. Be friends with the mall cop.

6. Common keyboard commands. Hotkeys are the secret handshake of computing. If you know them, you're in the club. Knowing them saves time and enhances your skillset. Learning how they work and making your own is also fun, but start with the basics.

7. Basic hardware terminology. When someone tells me their CPU stopped working or that their mouse doesn't move, I cringe. It tells me that they don't know what their talking about and I'll have to ask 3-10 additional questions to get to what the problem actually is. I'm going to include what the POST process is since it's not the OS that's running the show at that point. Please learn what does what on the inside of a computer.

8. Simple network diagnosis. Guess what? The Internet isn't down. It's not. How about now? Nope. But I closed my browser. And my Chat program isn't working. What if I unplug your computer from its RJ45 port? Nope, it's still not down. What if I switch all the circuit breakers off in the building? Guess what, the Internet still isn't down. It just isn't.

9. How to hook it up. How many wires are needed to hook up a standard desktop PC and get it to be part of the Internet? Time's up. The answer is 5. Mouse, Keyboard, Monitor, Ethernet (if not wireless) and the power cord. Now do you know where they all go?

10. Security/privacy 101. I link this with 1, 4 and 5. You know not to buy a Rolex off of the street and not to hand out your car keys to a friend of a friend. You also know that if it's too good to be true it probably is. There is no safe side of the Internet.