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This is my place marker to hold information about computers, which I will try to gear toward novices.
I use the typical Intel-compatible PCs. I know Apple Macintosh systems are available, but there is some software and hardware that I needed that doesn't run on them. I am not against them, I would like to own one but it won't be in the near future, so I can't provide many suggestions on it.
I do suggest avoiding "K-6", "K-6 II" or "K-6 III" based computers. These are the central chips used in some computers. By now it's not much of a problem as they are now considered very old, but if you need to buy an old used computer, I suggest buying a Pentium III or maybe an older K7 (Athlon) based computer. For reasons I can't discern, the K6 series chips simply didn't live up to the hype and don't perform nearly as well as equivalent speed Pentium II and Pentium III chips.
Currently, the absolute minimum computer I suggest buying used is a Pentium III or Athlon based.
Laptop / Notebook Computers
I suggest an Intel Pentium IIIm, Pentium M (Centrino) or AMD XP-M based notebook. Currently, the Athlon64 mobile chip isn't nearly as efficient as I think they should be. I don't think a full blown Pentium 4 is appropriate for a notebook. The reason I say this is that they do not have speed throttling and were not made for power efficiency in mind. Full Pentium 4s only run hot on about an hour on battery, whereas Centrinos should run much cooler and for four hours.
I like to use Mozilla. It is more stable than Internet Explorer and seems to be more secure as well. In many ways it is a little harder to use but so far it doesn't blow up in my face. Unless you volunteer as a tester, do not use "alpha" or "beta" software as those are testing versions of the software. Mozilla Firefox 0.9.3 is the current best version, in my opinion. Look for an extension called adblock, which allows you to slectively block ads based on keywords in the URL, and flashblock, which allow you to avoid playing Flash items unless you specifically request it.
I recommend avoiding using Internet Explorer due to its continued rash of security flaws.
I suggest avoiding Outlook and Outlook Express as much as possible. At least in the past, it has a default setting of decoding and even executing viruses simply by opening an infected email. I strongly suggest avoiding opening attachments whenever possible. I have also seen some HTML emails kill Outlook Express simply by retrieving it from the email server. An alternative is Mozilla's Thunderbird project, currently at version 0.7.3.
If you must run a Windows program, always run an anti-virus program. Trend Micro's PC-Cillin also includes a firewall program too. GrisSoft AVG has served us well. I do not recommend McAfee, Symantec or Norton software, as they have served poorly.
I suggest running firewall software to block unwanted intrusions. Kerio Personal Firewall seems to be pretty good, and Zone Alarm seems to generally serve well, although out of ten installations, I had one that somehow would not allow me to connect my VNC remote administration software, so that one computer is now running Kerio.
Firewalls may seem to be a nuisance to set up because it asks a lot if you want to allow certain programs to run. This is necessary so that you can better control what programs are allowed to use your computer. I hope to add a setup guide.
This is software whose marketing method allows free distribution in the hopes that people that like the software pay for it. If you find a shareware program useful, I suggest registering it.
Spyware is software or other means which uses your computer's resources to tell other people or company about you. A lot of them are relatively benign, but there are some nasty ones out there, where they take a lot of computer resources or dig into your computer like a nasty parasite.
www.lavasoft.nu: This is where to find Ad-aware, which is a good yet fairly simple spyware checking program.
Spybot-Search & Destroy: this is a program that is a little better than Ad-aware in its ability to spot potential spyware, but it's usabiltiy is not as good. This program can even spot problems in computer software if you ask it to, and allow some other forms of maintainance.
Ads are a source of revenue for many sites, so I don't want to completely cut them off. Unfortunately, the have on occasion been bothersome to look at as they flash, blink, wiggle or otherwise completely distracting from the content they allegedly support. On some computers, some ads slow the computer down noticably. If you use Mozilla, you can right click on an ad and and select "Block images from this server", which is the seventh item in the list.
The reason I am against motion ads is that it does not work well when used on sites that have a lot of text - the disparity is too high.
Pop-ups are little programs or program calls that open up a new window. Usually they pop up to show you anoying advertisements. I've used Trend Micro's PC-Cillin. It has a personal firewall feature that blocks things like that.
Also, if you use Mozilla or Netscape Navigator, you should be able to disable pop-ups. In Mozilla, it is in "Edit"->"Preferences", click the plus next to "Advanced", click "Scripts & Plugins", uncheck the box next to "Mail & Newsgroups", and uncheck everything in the box that has the title "Allow scripts to:".
By using Mozilla and its offshoots, I have been able to completely avoid pop-ups, viruses and spyware.
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This page has not been officially reviewed by my web host, and any opinions here are my own unless specifically noted otherwise.
This web page last updated August 22, 2004
This web page was updated April 18, 2003