It's time to devise some PC users' resolutions


January 04, 1993|By PETER H. LEWIS

Whereas the new year is at hand, and;

Whereas it is the habit of many people to resolve to do things better in the coming year, and;

Whereas people who use personal computers seem to be more susceptible to frustration and aggravation than others,

Therefore I devise and share a few of my New Year's Personal Computer Resolutions, Version 1.8.

Resolution 1.0: Never to buy Version 1.0 of anything ever again. This applies mainly to software. The true pessimists, who prefer to be called realists, insist that it is folly to buy any version of software that ends in a zero, like 1.0, 2.0.

Zeros indicate a major revision of the software, and in the current competitive climate software companies have been known to rush products to market before they are thoroughly tested for bugs. Some despicable companies, in fact, use paying customers for bug testing, offering a reward to the first person to find an "undocumented feature." That is why software eventually comes out as Version 1.1.

Resolution 2.0: Not to be the first one on my block to buy the hardware equivalent of Version 1.0. Hardware is trickier because computer makers do not use a numbering scheme. But new hardware has bugs, too, and it usually takes a few months for the manufacturers to hear from customers and to correct mistakes.

Resolution 3.0: To recycle space on my hard disk. There are files xTC on my hard disk that have not seen the glow of electricity in years, yet they continue to take up precious space. I will transfer these archival files to floppy disks, making two copies, and I will label the disks clearly. I will also prune older versions of software.

The task is made difficult by the DOS file-naming system, which limits names to eight characters plus a three-character extension, like NEWYEARS.DOC. So, the first step is to install a utility program like XTree, Norton Utilities or PC Tools that will allow me to see the contents of a file without loading it into memory and then delete or copy the file with a click of the mouse.

Resolution 4.0: To back up my hard disk more often than once a year. The first step is to pretend that the Ghost of Hard Disks Future has come to me in the night and has shown me the smoldering box that once held all my data. I then trick myself into believing that I have until midnight to save anything on the disk worth saving. It is surprising how gullible to autosuggestion I have become, but I am grateful for it.

Resolution 5.0: To take better care of my computer. I will carefully open its case and, using a can of compressed air purchased from a photo supply store, blow out the cobwebs and the dust bunnies that can cause overheating. I will clean the screen, shake the crumbs from the keyboard, uncover the ventilation slots that have been buried by avalanches of paper and install a screen saver and a good surge suppressor.

Resolution 6.0: To do something to help a local school or nonprofit organization with its technology needs. It may be to donate a piece of software, or to talk to a class about computers or to volunteer time to help in a computer lab. If I have both patience and expertise in computers, maybe I can relieve a teacher who needs the time to work directly with more students. I might also be lucky enough to help someone with a computer problem. More likely, I will come across a fourth-grader who can explain the mysterious WIN.INI files of Microsoft Windows to me.

Resolution 7.0: To try not to be annoyed when things go wrong with the computer, because things will always go wrong.

(Peter Lewis works out of the New York Times' Austin, Texas, bureau: [512] 328-8258.)

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