High-tech resolutions for 2005

Published: Monday, January 3, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 2, 2005 at 11:53 p.m.
It's the New Year, and once again many of us are resetting goals for the months ahead. Getting things done better in the New Year can apply to high-tech as well. Here are some of my best suggestions for those inclined to make resolutions for the coming year.
  • Regular PC Updates & Maintenance - It's amazing to me how few computers I see are really optimized for best performance. I've said here before that computers need maintenance much like cars, and the amount of viruses, adware, spyware and other junk waiting to clog up your computer has become an epidemic. Good free programs exist to deal with viruses (www.grisoft.com), adware (www.lavasoftusa. com), and spyware (www.safer-networking.org). Download and update these programs and your computer will be back on its way to better health. Windows users should also be sure to run Disk Cleanup and Disk Defragmenter (see Windows Help) once a week to clean out old files that are no longer needed and improve hard drive performance.
  • Computers For The Kids - If you haven't heard me before, I'll say it again; I believe there should be a separate computer for kids in the house. Children are learning to use computers in ways few parents can match, and the use of computers will only continue to expand in the coming years. A child that's been properly trained to use the Internet has a huge advantage on his peers that have no, or limited, Web access. It's also the responsibility of parents to monitor a child's Internet usage, but a parent poking their head in the door to ask what their children are doing with their PC on a regular basis is the best way to ensure safe surfing. Parental control software can be another help as well.
  • Home Networks - Tied in with the above two items is a need for a home network with a high-speed Web connection. It's becoming easier and less expensive every year to get high-speed Web service and set up a viable home network. Major Internet providers and retailers can help you set up a network. You can hire a consultant, or do it yourself. Once you get a home network up and running, you'll likely be amazed you ever lived without it.
  • Computer Training - Now that you've gone off and bought yourself a new computer, make sure to get your skills updated to match your new hardware. Take a class online or off, buy a computer training program, or hire a personal trainer to visit your home or office and help you get the most out of your computing experience. Having great hardware and not knowing how to use it well is like driving a Ferrari at 20 mph. A little training goes a long way.
  • Surround Sound - Be it for computer gaming or television, a major part of the "experience" of surround sound is the audio, even with a high-definition monitor. Surprisingly good PC surround speakers from companies like Creative (www.creative.com) and Logitech (www.logitech.com) are available for less than $100. Home theater surround systems have also come down dramatically in price for acceptable performance.
  • Data Backups - One of the most often forgotten and easiest things to do with a computer is backup your critical data. Zip drives, CD-RW's and USB thumb drives, among others, all provide volumes of storage in almost no space with little expense. Taking a few minutes to save data can save months of reconstructing after a computer crash.
    Tom Meek is a computer and media consultant whose column appears on Mondays in WorkLife. He can be reached at webgator@bellsouth.net or via www.tvccs.com. His columns also are available at www.gainesvillesun.com.
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