Build your skills with computers

posted by on 31st March 2007, at 9:24pm

In life, some people are better at some things than others: sport, school, all kinds of things. This is the case with computers. Some people are simply better at using computers than others, and being one of them, I find it an incredibly useful skill (if for nothing more than circumventing school blocks to access YouTube and RSBANDB in my free periods).

This is a small guide I have thrown together designed to “kick-start” your journey from a mere computer user to someone who can help others with computers. Someone who can program and code and actually make a Myspace page look good (*gasp* – yes, it is actually possible!). And also, someone who can get their computer to work how they want it to.

1. Learn the ins and outs of Windows XP.

As the world’s most popular operating system (OS), it’s always a good thing to know everything you can about Windows XP (and in the future, Windows Vista). By doing this, you will only be able to push your own computer to the limit, and you’ll be able to help out 90% of the world’s computer users should they ever need your help.

It is also exceptionally useful to know exactly how to use MS Office, especially Office 2003. Office 2007 is very different from other versions, and hasn’t been widely adopted yet. Office 2003 is quite similar to Office XP and Office 2000, so it’s probably a good idea to learn how to use that first.

This step can be one of the longest. Learning all those little things about Windows can take a while; it takes a bit of poking around. The control panel is a good place to learn a multitude of things about Windows, although can result in some rather bad things happening (I deleted my user account when I was about 9…). Even after using Windows XP since near its release and Office 2000-2003, I am still learning, and finding the odd gem every now and then.

2. Learn HTML.

And possibly CSS and XHTML too. If you like learning, HTML is the first step on your way to programming and coding. While HTML is not a programming language in itself, it helps build pathways between being someone who has no idea how a computer works to someone who could potentially make their own operating system.

HTML is a markup language. In other words, it is a language you use to display things, not actually process things. Specifically, it is the markup language used to make websites. Click view -> source in most web browsers, and you can see an example of some HTML source. While you can’t make a game with HTML, do not feel discouraged by this; HTML is incredibly useful to know if you ever need to make a website.

3. Stop using Internet Explorer now.

Just because it is the world’s most popular web browser does not mean it is any good. There are many other free alternatives that are not only more secure (and you have to admit, IE has a pretty terrible security track record), but faster, filled with more features, and supportive of web standards.

In general, those who know more about computers are more likely to use another browser. Those who know a lot about computers like speed, security, and the absolute best they can get. That just doesnt exist in IE. Opera and Firefox are definitely better alternatives.

4. Use a different Operating System for a few days.

Most of you know how to use Windows. Some of you will know how to use it pretty well, too. But what happens when you go and use a different OS? I know some people who say something like “Aah I dont like it!” then desperately try to find another computer with Windows. The same problem also arises with web browsers– some people refuse to use Firefox or Operate because they’re used to something else, like IE.

This is not a good thing.

Being good at using computers requires you to be able to think on your feet in order to learn. Another OS can help you be able to improvise knowledge for other circumstances. When you come across something you’re not entirely sure about, instead of running away to hide in a corner, you’ll tackle the problem head-on. With that process, you’ll learn even more, and become even better at using computers. If you like the new OS, you could always set up a dual-boot setup with Ubuntu, or you could buy a Mac.

5. Upgrade your RAM by yourself.

Upgrading your RAM is one of the simplest and risk-free upgrades you can do to your computer, as well as one of the most useful. That first computer upgrade can help you on your way to making your own computer, fixing that old piece of junk Windows 98 box you have sitting in your garage, or maybe something slightly more risky like overclocking. Being able to manipulate a computer’s hardware to your will can be more potent than changing the software, and can make a drastic improvement.

After that, the possibilities are endless. Learn to program, make a website, anything you like! But, one of the most important things to remember is that you must never stop learning. It is through learning that people become better and better at using computers. If you don’t continue learning, your knowledge will eventually become useless. Just because you know every little detail about Windows 98 doesn’t mean you’re a whiz with Windows 2000, XP, or Vista– you have to develop your knowledge all the time.

This article is filed under Tech. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.