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Afraid of Your Computer?

“I’m not smart enough.”

“I never touch the thing!  My wife’s the only one who uses it at our house.”

“I’m afraid I will do something wrong and royally mess it up.”

“I just don’t feel comfortable.”

“I only do things I know how to do – like checking my email and getting on Facebook.  I never venture out beyond that.”

I hear these statements almost every day from clients who come into my office.

It saddens me.

Computers are tremendous tools and the Internet is a vast resource, bringing the entire world to our fingertips.  Yet, many computer owners suffer by self-imposed limitations that prevent them from enjoying their benefits.

For example, did you know that by using one certain web browser and making one minor setting change, you can search the web using only your voice?  Yep, you can!

Granted, computers and the Internet can be time-sucking distractions.  But the positives far outweigh the negatives.

If given the opportunity, I know many hesitant computer users – maybe even yourself – would jump at the chance to become a more knowledgeable PC user.

I’m frequently asked, “Scott, do you ever teach any computer classes?” Or do you come to people’s homes to provide training?”  Of course, my answer is “Yes” to both questions.

Other organizations in our community, like the Princeton Public Library and Fort Branch Library, offer very useful, small-group computer classes.  Local community colleges sometimes offer non-credit computer classes throughout the year, too.

Classroom settings are great, especially because you get hands-on learning with a live instructor to help if you get stuck.  It’s also very affordable.

But these courses are typically very general in nature so that they appeal to a wide audience.  Often times, you may not learn exactly what it is you wanted to learn.

One-on-one computer training is next best way to learn how to use your computer.  Such training is custom-tailored to your specific needs.  You can ask specific questions and often times work on your own computer, instead of a computer in a lab.

But one-on-one computer training can be costly.  And if you don’t take detailed notes or master the task during the training session, you may not retain much of what you learned; thus, basically wasting your money.

YouTube videos are another resource available on the Internet for learning how to use your computer.  300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube EVERY MINUTE!  This means that almost every topic imaginable can be found on YouTube.

But therein lies a problem.  With such a vast library of videos, it’s hard to easily and quickly find a video specifically answering your question.

Once you do find videos related to your topic search, it’s impossible to know if the video contains correct or accurate information.  I can shoot a video in my kitchen telling you how to bake a cake and upload it to YouTube.  But I wouldn’t suggest following my recipe because your cake won’t be worth eating!  But you won’t know that until you try it.

I wouldn’t suggest taking such a risk with your computer – following directions from a random unknown person who happened to post a video on YouTube.  It could potentially damage your computer and cause all kinds of problems.

So what should you do if you want to break out of your chains and become a knowledge PC user?

Obviously, computer classes and one-on-one instruction are excellent ways to learn.

But I recently found a great website that combines the power of individual instruction with the methodology of YouTube.

Get Computer SmartIt’s called Get Computer Smart (conveniently found at www.GetComputerSmart.com).

This website offers short, very easy to follow videos showing you step-by-step how to perform specific tasks on your computer.  Everything from how to block unwanted Facebook game requests to removing viruses from your computer and more.

Because it’s video-based, you can stop, start, and even repeat videos as many times as you want until you master what you’re wanting to learn.   It’s just like having a teacher sitting right next to you showing you how to do something – without the cost.

I’d encourage you to at least check it out.  It’s one of the best resources I’ve come across in a long time that’s easy for hesitant computer users to use.

No matter how you do it – stop underestimating yourself and stop being scared of a machine!

 

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Adapt or Get Left Behind: Tech Predictions for 2015

“Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road,” writes author Stewart Brand about advances in technology.

Does it ever stop?  I’m often asked by clients and others who feel overwhelmed by the rapid changes.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t.  We have to learn to adapt or run the risk of getting left behind.

20152015 promises to be another year of trends and changes.  Here are a few of what I and other technology experts believe will happen in the next twelve months.

An Increase in Viruses and Security Breaches

2014 proved to be a profitable year for scammers and hackers, raking in billions of dollars using stolen credit card numbers, identity theft, and a myriad of other methods.

Many people (including some who read this column) got duped by phone call scams from callers purporting to be from Microsoft, warning that the recipient’s PC was infected with a virus or experiencing problems.

Companies large and small suffered serious breaches of security affecting millions of everyday consumers like you and I.   These attacks pose threats of the safety of our personal information, health records, and our finances.

(Side note:  Attacks on major corporations like Target, Home Depot and Sony make the news headlines, but I bet you didn’t know that as of December 23, 2014, there were 761 breaches exposing over 83 million individuals’ personal information.  The full 183-page report can be viewed at: http://www.idtheftcenter.org/images/breach/ITRC_Breach_Report_2014.pdf)

Multiple strains of the Cryptovirus took hostage of hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide – including many in the tri-state area, encrypting the personal files and pictures stored on their hard drives, never to be recovered.

These threats to personal computers, mobile devices and major networks will continue to increase in 2015.  Security experts will seek to find effective ways to bolster defenses, but it will come with a cost.

Tech Becomes Wearable

Did you make a New Year’s Resolution to get in shape in 2015?  If so, many new gadgets that can be worn on your body will make tracking your progress much easier.

The most famous and widely anticipated device is the Apple Watch, which is slated to be released sometime this year.  Marketing on Apple’s website for the watch reads, “Fitness doesn’t just mean running, biking, or working out in a gym.  It’s also about being active throughout the day.  So Apple Watch measures all the ways you move, such as walking the dog, taking the stairs, or lifting your kids.  Apple Watch even keeps track of when you stand up.”

Of course, other tech manufacturers will have their unique gadgets at different – and probably cheaper – price points to help you get and stay healthy.

Alternative Payment Methods

2014 began the war between two major players in offering convenient mobile wallet solutions, allowing consumers to pay for purchases by simply swiping their smart phones at the cash register.  This makes sense, doesn’t it?  Nearly everyone you see has a phone glued to the palm of their hand!

Apple, with its Apple Pay wallet, is going head-to-head against Walmart and other big name retailers, with their CurrentC wallet.

Who will win this battle?  No one knows for sure, but it’s guaranteed to be a great fight.  Neither one wants to let the other play in the arena; each wants to have a monopoly.

Of course, security will be at the forefront of everyone’s minds when it comes to personal credit card and payment information.   Unfortunately CurrentC already suffered a data breach before it was even officially launched.

In 2015, tech will continue to permeate almost every facet of our lives.  While technology can be a great thing, we must heed the words of U.S. Army Field Commander Omar Bradley: “If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner.”