MadMod Computing The MadMod Computing Newsletter

December, 2011 - Vol. 2011d

Welcome to this edition of The MadMod Computing Newsletter.   We hope that you enjoy the features of each issue and learn some computing skills along the way. For more topics on other newsletters, check out MadMod Computing Newsletters.

First for Windows users, a reminder to make backups of your important files, and to keep your anti-virus software up-to-date.   Second use a software firewall and/or a router if using broadband.   Last, obtain all the critical Windows updates.

Featured in This Issue
1.     What's with Windows Restore Points?
2.     Should I Hybernate My Computer?
3.     E-Book Hints

1.    What's with Windows Restore Points?
One of the smart features in the Windows computing environment is the concept of Windows Restore Points.  In short they are ways to put the computer back to a time on the calendar when things were okay with Windows and the programs used.  An archived copy of the registry is used.

When things go south on a Windows computer, the first and most important thing to untangle is the Windows registry.  I tell people to think of a 10-story office building with the pipes, electrical lines, phone lines, etc. inside the walls connecting the rooms together and to the utilities.  The Windows registry is kind of like that connecting all the parts of Windows together and giving a central place where configurations are used for almost all of your computer programs.  Programs connect to their resources, allow permissions and fetch even parts of themselves using the registry as a place to get the needed information.

So what happens when Windows has a bad situation: it can't load its resources properly, menus don't work right, applications won't load their files, load times are crazily long, etc.?  For the user, the computer is and appears sick.  A visit to Accessories > System Tools > System Restore is probably needed.  With luck a calendar point is available that is useful and using it puts the computer back to the point it was back then.

Now for some of the things you need to know: 1. viruses and malware can wipe out the restore points making the repair very difficult; 2. programs installed after the calendar date of the restore point will have to be reinstalled.  This applies to updates and patches to them as well; and 3. probably your own files are unaffected by the restore point activities.   Whew!

So now you know an important reason why it's so important to keep your anti-virus program current and to get all the necessary Windows updates.  (Don't forget to also get updates for Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash and Java.)

2.    Should I Hibernate My Computer?
When your computer is put in suspend or sleep mode, the computer isn't off, and the hard disk is not spinning, but memory still has your Windows environment.  Usually a touch of the touchpad, mouse or power button restores things they way they were when you sent the into suspend.  Suspend is great for laptops that need to be carried to another location but with the plan that they will be used again soon.  When carrying a laptop, it's always a good idea for the hard disk drive to spin down and go into a park state.  This is to mitigate damage via shock.

Hybernate is a totally different situation.  The entire environment in memory is copied to the hard disk and the disk is spun down.  For all intents and purposes, the computer is powered down and memory is turned off, but for a tiny wake-up call from the power button.  Instead of powering on Windows completely from a cold start, the hard drive is activated and the hybernated file is reloaded into Windows.  This can take even longer than starting Windows from a completely off condition, but it restores perhaps a dozen open documents that were being worked on.

Unless you need to use hybernate, I would suggest that you should completely disable it in the power settings.  This is because Windows will allocate a large part of the hard drive just for hybernate files and will not shut down until it has attended hybernate first.  Sometimes, recovery from hybernate doesn't work properly anyway.   On some computers it works while on others it doesn't.

My recommendation: suspend a computer if that works for you, but skip hybernate.  I generally leave my computer on during the day and turn it off completely at night.  It's just my preference.

3.    E-Book Hints
By now I'll assume that many of my readers have e-book readers such as Nook, Kindle, etc. You've paid a lot of money for your e-book reader, so don't skimp on making it pay back to you with good usage.  Remarks that follow are intended as suggestions--take them in no particular order at your risk, pleasure or dismissal:

  • Make sure that for your device, you've gone to it's website, created an account with screenname and password and have loaded the relevant credit card info so you can make purchases. (Look into the free books available.  Nook has "Free Fridays.")
  • Understand that your website account library determines what's on your e-book or what's removed.  When you sync the e-book device, it makes a synchronization with what you've authorized at your website account library, so solve problems first at the website, then sync the e-book device.
  • Learn how often your e-book reader needs charging and give it the (over night?) time it needs to get back to about 100%. Don't let it get below 20%.
  • Learn how to connect the cable from your e-book device to your computer so you can move files between the two.
  • When you make an e-book purchase, make sure your e-book device is connected to the Internet so it can get the book you purchased. (It usually syncs automatically.  If it fails to download, check your credit card info at your account.)
  • Turn off the wifi when you're not using it to save battery power.
  • Go online or to the bookstore (Barnes and Noble for the Nook) to find out solutions to common problems.
  • Learn how to set bookmarks and to retrieve a place in a book you set earlier.
  • Learn how to change font sizes, brightness, etc. so it "fits" your eyes.
  • Learn how to navigate all the folders and parts of your e-book reader.
  • Learn how to lend and borrow books to/from another person having the same e-book reader. (For now Kindles and Nooks don't swap files.)
  • Go through the entire settings menu to find out what each feature does.
  • If you've inserted a micro memory card, learn how to access its contents, move files between it and your computer, etc.
  • You actually can store any kind of file on the micro memory card even if the e-book reader can't use it. (Another place to save important files.)
  • Removing a book from your device usually requires removing it from your library at your website account.  Then when you sync, it's removed.
  • Go to the e-book's website to find out how upgrade the operating system.  Upgrades usually improve the user experience with the reader and add new features.  The upgrade is usually worth it and doesn't cost anything.
Of course...ENJOY your e-book reader!  This isn't to infer that you don't need to use "real" books and magazines, or that you're not welcome in a brick and mortar bookstore anymore.

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