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Welcome to AskLeo! Answercast #159. I’m Leo Notenboom and I’ll be answering questions that people have been asking out at askleo.com.
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Do I even need a computer?
Why do I need a computer? I surf, I shop, I follow auctions, I email and I download photos from my point-and-shoot camera. I have an online bank account, which receives my directly deposited pension check. I also occasionally use Open Office to compose and print a letter. That’s it – no games, no design programs, nothing. I’m a digital Neanderthal who recently started using a tablet. Will a tablet do what I need without the seemingly never-ending hassles of the Windows operating system?
Everything you’ve described can be done on a tablet.
While the demise of the desktop computer has been grossly overstated in my opinion, scenarios like yours are certainly candidates for just using a tablet. I know several people who do. However, it’s my opinion that you may replace the seemingly never ending hassles with Windows with a completely new set of hassles based on whatever tablet technology you pick up.
Tablets will continue to change and be updated. The software on those devices will continue to change and be updated. Most of the hassles people experience with Windows are really nothing more than changes resulting from updates. The same will continue to be true for your tablet as well. It may be at a different rate; it may be more change, or less change, but I don’t want you to think that you’re avoiding one of the most common sources of frustration for people – change.
There’s a strong argument that sticking with the devil you know might be appropriate. By that I mean, that since you have some experience with Windows and know how to make it do certain things, it could be appropriate to stay there. When hassles come up, you probably have a pretty good sense of what to at least try or where to go for help. If you switch to a tablet, realize that you’ll be starting over.
You’ll need to learn the tablet’s way of doing things: be it Apple’s IOS on an iPad or the various Android derivatives. And that, at times, is going to be a bit of a hassle. Finding the appropriate application to do each of the things you want to do will take a little research and patience as well. You might even find the lack of a so-called “real keyboard” a problem. I know I do. Tablets are fantastic data consumption devices but I really can’t see typing lengthy emails or Ask Leo! articles using them.
We also have to talk about security.
Like you, hackers are becoming more and more interested in the potential vulnerabilities that may be present on tablet and mobile platforms, in many ways, we’re still in the early days there. While a number of lessons will have been learned from years of Windows experience, there’s still new ground to explore in mobile platforms both for the hackers as well as the security and anti-malware folks. It’s an exciting world, but do realize that it’s still young in many ways.
Now, I don’t want this all to sound like I’m trying to dissuade you from switching to a tablet. As I said, I know several people who have switched to tablets as their primary computing device. For them, it works great. Though most still keep a desktop or laptop computer around for the few things that are better done with a full screen and mouse and a keyboard.
You may not need a traditional computer to do everything you want to do. Only you can really say. My point here is more that if you take this kind of leap, I want you to know what to expect. And zero future hassles just isn’t one of those things.
Why am I still getting updates for Windows XP?
Here it is many days after the demise of Windows XP support, and I’m still automatically getting updates. I’ve allowed them to be installed and nothing untoward has occurred. Do you have an insights into this?
Yea, I do, actually. Several folks have been surprised to see updates still being delivered to their Windows XP machine. I can think of at least three separate reasons that might be happening and, in fact, will keep on happening.
The first one, of course, is that Internet Explorer was updated at least once recently after support supposedly ended. You may recall that there was a serious bug found in IE shortly after the support date passed. As I thought they might, Microsoft elected to not only fix the bug in IE but make that fix available via a Windows update for Windows XP users as well.
I have no idea whether they will do something like this again. Believe it or not, it was actually controversial in the press. Several pundits felt Microsoft should have held hardline to get more people to abandon XP sooner but Microsoft erred on the side of security and provided the update. Whether they’ll do that again is pretty much anybody’s guess.
Now, if you’re using Microsoft Security Essentials, realize that it gets its database updates via Windows Update. Microsoft committed to keeping that level of update happening well into next year. So this you can certainly expect to continue to see. What’s unclear is if the MSRT, the Malicious Software Removal Tool (part of Microsoft Security software, which is updated roughly once a month) will also be included in future updates for XP. Regardless, you’ll at least see the Microsoft Security Essential updates.
Finally, Windows Update or more correctly, Microsoft Update, can be enabled to update more than just Windows itself. Essentially, the mechanism is extended to cover the other Microsoft software like perhaps Microsoft Office. Depending on your version of that software, it may still be supported and as a result, those kind of updates will continue to be provided.
Microsoft Update is really just Windows Update checking for more software so it will come through the same interface that you are used to seeing. Those updates will continue, until support for whatever that product is ends.
Now I don’t believe there’s really any reason to be concerned at all. The update channel, the source of the updates, the technology used, is very secure. I’m not in the least bit concerned about an unexpected update somehow being malicious in nature. My advice remains to keep it all as up to date as possible. And that does include taking whatever updates are offered via Windows or Microsoft Update.
Why won’t my computer return from standby?
Leo, I’ve got a constant frustration that when I wake my computer after a sleep period, sometimes it comes up fine, other times it cannot reestablish internet connections or just doesn’t come back up and I end up having to reboot. I’ve learned to shut down the internet before I sleep. That relieves some of the problems but I can’t figure out why at times it just doesn’t come up – a dark screen and no blinking light activity.
You know, you’d think after all this time that standby would be a lot more reliable. Sadly, in many cases, it just isn’t. I’ll explain why that is, what I do and what steps you might take.
Standby is actually kind of special. When you put your computer into standby mode, it’s turned off – but not really. Certain parts of the system actually remain powered or partially powered. RAM is the obvious example because it’s given enough power so that it doesn’t lose whatever is kept in it.
Similarly, some hardware devices on your computer also need to handle standby a little differently than a complete shutdown. They need to, perhaps, put themselves into a low power state that can be recovered from and turned on again quickly. The result is that almost every device needs to at least know about standby and almost every device on your system needs to do something different when it’s told that the system is about to standby – or when it recovers.
Now, PCs and Windows are awesome in that you can get machines and hardware from hundreds of different manufacturers. The problem though is that you can also have machines with hundreds of thousands of different combinations of hardware in them. And each and every one of the drivers for each possible piece of hardware needs to A) play well with all of the others, of course and B) handle standby appropriately as it does so.
The fundamental problem with standby, in my opinion, is that the drivers for some of the hardware still aren’t handling the special nature of standby properly in 100% of the cases.
So, what do I do? Well, I gave up. I never use standby on a PC. Never. Part of that I realize is kind of training by my history. Things used to be much worse than they are now, and I learned early on it hurts when I do this so don’t do this.
That has lasted to this day. Standby hurt, so I never used it. Things have certainly gotten a lot better so perhaps my fear of standby is unwarranted, or at least the magnitude might be, but I still regularly hear stories like yours that make me wonder.
I’ll either use hibernate, or I simply shut the machine down completely.
If you want to try and get standby to work reliably, I suggest two things: 1) Check for BIOS updates from your system’s manufacturer. Much of the power management in a PC is actually performed at the BIOS level and as a result, it’s heavily involved in standby. 2) Look for updated drivers for relevant hardware components.
In your case, I’d start with a network interface. Check with the manufacturer for updated network drivers. Other hardware that can quickly come into play includes video drivers so updating those is also a good place to start.
Now, for the record, I do use standby pretty constantly on my Mac laptop. But when you think about it, it kind of makes sense that it would be more stable in this regard. You don’t have the option with a Mac of installing all sorts of different hardware that has to learn to deal with everything. Instead you have a single vendor with a very small set of hardware options. As a result, the software doesn’t have to deal with nearly as many variations and can be more stable.
What’s the best anti-virus?
What’s the best anti-virus program? There’s been so much talk on just how each one works and which has the best protection; it’s really hard to decide which one to choose. One day you might read a review that says one thing and the next day says another so it really gets quite confusing.
It’s all about opinion so let me tell you mine. There is no best anti-virus tool. None. There are several good ones, but none are perfect. And in fact, one that works well for your friend may not work at all for you.
There are several problems at play here that make this an almost impossible question to answer.
For one thing, as I said, there is no perfect anti-virus tool. There just isn’t. There is no tool that will catch absolutely every virus. The best you can hope for is one that will catch most -and even “most” is kind of up for debate.
Second, different anti-virus tools are written in different ways and actually impact different systems differently. One, for example, might use a lot of memory but if you have a lot of RAM it might be an awesome anti-virus tool. If you don’t have a lot of RAM, well perhaps it will slow your system to a crawl.
And of course, what it means to have a lot RAM will vary from machine to machine since different machines will have different amounts of software installed on them. It will also vary from anti-virus tool to anti-virus tool. And of course the issue may not be RAM. Perhaps there’s some other aspect of your system that different tools exercise differently – like perhaps the disk, the CPU or perhaps even the network connection. As a result, different people with different machines will have different experiences even with the exact same anti-virus tool.
It actually gets even weirder.
There’s no agreement on what is and is not a virus. Oh, sure, the big, hairy obvious ones are … well, obvious. But how about Foistware? Spyware? Toolbars? Things that perhaps you even asked for. Different programs will make different choices; choices that some people think are better than others. Choices that other people think are absolute nonsense. Choices that make labeling “the best” almost impossible.
So, knowing that there is no best anti-virus, what’s a poor user to do?
The single most important thing you can do is just realize that your anti-virus tool cannot do everything. It cannot protect you from everything. Even if it is this so-called mythical “best”.
Anti-virus tools are, and have always been, a part of a much larger picture. That picture includes, yes, a good anti-virus tool; a good anti-spyware tool; a firewall; keeping your software (all of it) as up to date as possible; securing your router and other hardware and above all, behaving safely. There is no security tool that will save you from the actions that you are determined to take.
And lastly, I will refer you to my article, “What security software do you recommend?” for some specific programs to consider.
How can I manage a lot of scanned documents?
Managing scanned documents. I’ve been using Visionere scanners and Paperport since version 1, and ever since Nuance took over the software, well, it’s been a disaster. Version 11 crashes multiple times for no apparent reason. The worst part is that I can’t find any comparable program to replace it that can do everything it can do. I end up living with it but it’s really frustrating. What do you do?
My document management approach has actually changed over the years. I used to, very carefully and manually, scan documents, name files, put them in organized folders and so on. I don’t do anything like that anymore.
I’ve talked, before, about how I strive to be as paperless as possible. I get documents electronically wherever possible. Bills and receipts and much more come to me in the form of bits rather than on sheets of paper.
One of the biggest reasons that I do this is that I can do something with bits much more easily than I can with paper. I can back them up. With paper, unless you burn more paper with a copy machine, you have exactly and only one copy. With electronic documents, you can have as many copies as you care to create.
I think for most of my electronic documents, about half a dozen machines and something like three or four states would all have to implode simultaneously for me to actually lose something – and those include not just my machines but some that are owned by some pretty large companies.
So, what do I do when I actually get paper? Needless to say, I scan it but it’s how I scan and how I manage my documents after that where things get kind of interesting.
I have a Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner. It’s an older model, but it has worked solidly for several years and it has been worth every penny I paid for it. You can drop a multi-page document into its feeder, push a button and it’ll proceed to scan both sides of the entire document with actually pretty amazing speed.
Once it’s done so, I typically shred the actual paper document for security. My thinking is that the recycle bin on my street is a lot less secure than my electronic document management techniques.
When a document is scanned by my ScanSnap, it automatically runs OCR. Optical Character Recognition. Remember, a scan of a document is really just a picture of that document. There’s no text associated with it that a computer can use. OCR is actually a separate process where the computer looks at the picture and tries to determine what the actual text is on that page.
The document with the text is then stored.
Now, I store almost all of my documents in Evernote, and yes, for security, of course, it has two-factor authentication enabled. I’ve stopped trying to name or file any of the scanned documents in Evernote beyond a rudimentary scanned documents folder. So how do I find anything? Well, I use search first, and it’s awesome. That’s why the documents are OCRd in the first place. It allows me to search for the term I think the document I’m looking for contains.
Evernote search is blazingly fast and I quickly cut the list of hundreds or thousands of documents down to just a few or even just one. If there are more than one then a quick visual scan and I’ve got exactly what I’m looking for.
But note my overall process: Insert the paper into the scanner; push a button; that’s all I need to do. Everything that happens after that is completely automatic until of course, I need to find a document. Then I just perform a quick search and have what I need.
Now, it gets even better. Evernote has, of course, a mobile app. That means two things. 1) Wherever I go, I have almost immediate access to all of my documents in my collection and 2) I can add documents quickly and easily wherever I am.
How? By taking a picture. Like I said, a scan is nothing more than a picture of a document. My phone has a camera so, for example, I take pictures of receipts at restaurants rather than carting home the paper slip. That picture goes directly into Evernote. Evernote even does OCR on uploaded pictures this way so I can easily find them later with a search. Honestly, the only time I ever have trouble finding documents these days is when they pre-date my switch to Evernote a few years ago. Then I have to go back to searching my old collection of folders and files.
Will my old CRT work with a new computer?
I have a Compaq Presario that I purchased new in 2006, which came preloaded with Windows XP. Due to the loss of support for Windows XP, I’m looking to purchase a new computer but with limited funds available at the moment. My question is this; if I do purchase a new CPU from HP will my current CRT type monitor still be able to work with a newer computer?
First of all, be aware the term “CPU” actually refers to only one chip that’s inside the box. We typically refer to that box that I think that you call CPU as “the computer” and the external monitor, “the monitor”.
Will they old monitor work? Well, quite probably. It’s not an unreasonable scenario at all.
I’ll review what you need to look for and what you might be missing out on.
The biggest issue you’ll actually find is the connector. Your CRT most likely has a VGA-style connect to take a VGA analog signal. Newer computers may not have such a beast. Most will have, at a minimum, the newer DVI digital connector for the digital interface.
Some may even have an HDMI interface, which is actually the digital TV interface we’re using these days, but which also works really well for computer screens.
You’ll need to find some kind of adapter. Exactly what adapter you’ll need will depend on the video card in your new machine. If you can, confirm before buying that the video output will be capable of producing VGA. In that case, the computer might actually already come with the small adapter that you need. Connect the adapter to the computer; the cable to the adapter and you could be good to go.
If the computer cannot output VGA signals, then things get interesting.
You can look for a DVI-to-VGA conversion device, but at that point, you know, it might just be cheaper to bite the bullet and get a new monitor. But before you do that, you know, check your TV. Besides taking HDMI, many newer TVs also often support DVI directly. So what I’m saying here is that if you can use your TV as a computer monitor, you may already have everything you need.
And for the record, it’s also possible that and older CRT actually has a DVI connector, which would make all of this moot, of course. It would just work with your new computer. I just don’t know how common that is. DVI connections became more popular with the digital signals and newer computers.
Now, we also have to talk a little bit about screen resolution. That CRT that you have will have a maximum resolution of some sort – 1024 x 768 is one of the old common ones but it could be as low as 800 x 600. That’s something I think you need to check on. Windows, and perhaps more importantly, many applications are now assuming a larger screen resolution or they’re at least optimized for these larger resolutions.
For one example, I’ve had one of my virtual machine copies of Windows 8 configured to run as a 1280 x 720 resolution. That’s the equivalent of HD 720p on most televisions and actually not a bad resolution to work in at all. However, there are apps – specifically a few Windows 8 tiled apps that simply will not run because the vertical resolution, that 720, it’s too small. So they need something like 768 or better to even come up. So you might want to confirm that your old CRT will be capable of supporting those applications before you make the jump.
That’s it for another week. If you have a question about your computer the internet, technology, head on out to askleo.com to search for an answer or to ask your question. You might hear it answered here on one of my future weekly Ask Leo! Answercasts.
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Speaking of backing up, please do it. Seriously, just do it. I plug this every week because it’s so important. Nothing can save you from almost any computer disaster, like a proper and recent backup.
Finally, I do have to let you know that all of my answers, are based on my own personal experience and should be used entirely at your own risk. I just don’t know you, your abilities, or the specifics of your machine and those f details can make all the difference in the world.
The Ask Leo! Answercast is a production of Ask Leo! and is copyright 2014. Thanks for listening. I’m Leo Notenboom and I’ll be back soon with another Ask Leo! Answercast.