Joe’s Tips for achieving computer Zen

Recently Alex Payne wrote an article titled al3x’s Rules for Computing Happiness, and while we agree on a few things, there are several points that I most certainly do not agree with. As I was reading this article it got me to thinking about a page I had typed up at a previous job with some guidelines about how to not be frustrated with your computer at home. So in a slightly modified form I present to you Joe’s suggestions for achieving Computer Zen:

On choosing the correct OS for your needs:

  1. If you are only going to use your computer for email, web surfing, working with digital pictures, and to fill your iPod; buy a Mac. Just be prepared to spend more for less than you will get with the other options.
  2. If you rail against the man, refuse to pay for software, and want to be able to do anything that is possible with a computer; buy a computer without an OS and load the Linux distribution of your choice on it. Just be prepared to invest an amount of time reading man pages that could be considered the equivalent of earning a Doctorate in Computer Science to get your ultra-cool-high-tech-laser mouse working.
  3. If you want to be able to do most everything that you would need to (special circumstances aside), and do not want to have to learn how to program your computer to use it; buy a Windows computer. Just be prepared to buy some (optional) expensive software, and invest some time cleaning off malware from that late night “accidental” pr0n excursion.

On choosing software:

  1. Carefully evaluate software before you decide to use it. Take the time to set up a VM (that’s virtual machine) and install it there first. If you don’t want to go to the trouble, be prepared to suffer through some odd issues.
  2. Never install cracked software unless you are willing to reinstall your computer (sometimes “free” is not worth the price).
  3. Open source software has come a long way. Investigate your options before choosing to buy software.
  4. Never install iTunes on a Windows machine. There are other options for managing your iPod, and iTunes is a resource hog.

On general computer skills:

  1. Invest some time and really learn how to use and maintain your chosen OS and software. In the grand scheme of things you will save far more time doing it this way, than just going until something breaks and then having to try to figure it out (or having to pay someone to do it for you).
  2. Always back up your data (pictures, important documents, etc.) to something not on your computer. External hard drives are cheap now, as are web based backup solutions. Investigate your options, and choose a solution that is right for you. A good backup will save you hours of headache, and tons of heartache in the event of a data loss.
  3. Rip the Caps Lock key off of your keyboard. In all likelihood the only use you find for it will be to annoy others.

On using the internet:

  1. DO NOT CLICK EVERYTHING YOU SEE! No matter how many times I say this, I guess it takes personal experience to really drive it home. Assume that every popup you see is a trap, and investigate it fully before clicking on it at all. Common traps to avoid: “click here to install missing codec”, “your computer is infected with a virus click here to remove it”, “click here to enter”, (clicking on) “I agree…”.
  2. Do not use Internet Explorer unless the website does not work in anything else. FireFox is cross platform (will work on Windows, Linux, Mac), far safer, and in my opinion a better all around experience.
  3. Google is your friend. need to know how to start Outlook in Safe mode? Search “Start Outlook in Safe Mode” on, and you will find the answer very quickly.
  4. Do not forward rumor email or chain email! If someone sends you an email about business cards being laced with a potent tranquilizer, head over to and check it out for yourself before you decide to tell anyone about it or send it to anyone. Some people just have too much time on their hands, and will mass email anything.
  5. Do not buy perscription meds online unless it is from a pharmacy your doctor recommends. Ask them about it FIRST. Anything that is advertised as “Buy \/i@gr4 herre cheap!!!” is a trap!

As with any Zen dicipline, Computer Zen is a long journey, and you will only get out of it that which you invest into it.



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