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Practical Computer Advice
from Martin Kadansky
Volume 1 Issue 7 December 2007
In This Issue
End of year advice on protecting your computer and other devices
Contest: Send me your most horrible/most wonderful backup story
Summary of recent newsletter issues
I Recommend...
As the end of the year approaches, here are a few ideas I hope you find useful.
End of year advice on protecting your computer and other devices

End of year computer ideas
  • Surge suppressors protect your computer and other equipment from power surges, but you may not realize that they slowly wear out over time as they protect you from little surges. You should replace the average surge protector every 3-4 years. If you can't remember when you bought your current surge protector(s), you're probably overdue! And, as you put the new one into service, take a magic marker and write on it "Replace me in <month> <year>," picking a date that's 3-4 years from now.
  • If you haven't already set up a regular backup system, make it a priority to start soon. If you already have a backup system, check to make sure that it's working, and that it's backing up all of your data, especially if your computer habits have changed in the past year. (See my previous newsletter, "What's the single best way to protect my computer?" http://www.kadansky.com/files/newsletters/2007_12_19.html)
  • Don't leave your laptop, cell phone, Palm Pilot, etc. in your car in the extreme cold. It's 17 degrees Fahrenheit outside right now as I write this, cold enough to damage almost any type of portable equipment and their batteries. (See my previous newsletter, "Hot Summer Tips: Don't Leave It in Your Car!" http://www.kadansky.com/files/newsletters/2007_08_01.html)
  • As you donate unused clothes and toys to worthy causes this holiday season, consider the same for your old computers and electronic devices. Here's what I do: If it works, I try to find a person or organization that will use it. If it doesn't work, I try to give it to a repair person for spare parts. If it's too old or worn out for even a repair person to be interested, I dispose of it responsibly by calling my local Town Clerk or Department of Public Works and asking what I should do with each component (monitor, system unit, printer, etc.). This is important since computers, monitors (CRTs as well as LCDs), and other equipment may contain materials such as mercury, lead, and cadmium and may need to be treated as hazardous waste.
End of year non-computer ideas
If you run your own business, here are two things you should write down as you turn in on December 31st:
  • The mileage reading on your car's odometer, which will help establish how many miles you drove during the year, and
  • Your receivables--who owes you money and how much.
Your accountant will appreciate it!

Where to go from here
  • If you're not sure what kind of surge protector to get, what to do about your backup, or what to do with old equipment, drop me a line and I'll tell you what I think is appropriate for your particular situation.
  • If you want to donate and get a tax deduction, try a google search for "donate computer boston"--change "computer" to something else (e.g., "printer") if appropriate, change "boston" to your town or region.
  • If you don't want or need a tax deduction, check out http://www.craigslist.org (post your message in the "free" section under "for sale"), http://www.freecycle.org (organized into Yahoo groups by town or region, so you'll have to create a Yahoo id to participate), or google "give away computer boston" or "give away books boston" etc.
  • To learn more about responsibly disposing of computer equipment and other electronics, visit http://earth911.org, google "dispose computer boston," or call your local Town Clerk or DPW.
If you know someone else who might find this helpful, please feel free to forward it to them.
If you have any comments about this article, send me a reply!
If you have a topic that you'd like me to write about, I'd love to hear about it!
Contest: Send me your most horrible/most wonderful backup story

Don't miss out on this new contest! I want to hear your most horrible backup disaster stories, and your most heartwarming disaster-avoided stories! For example:
  • Horror story: "I was just putting the finishing touches on the only copy of my thesis when I heard this grinding noise...."
  • Disaster-avoided story: "The nuns at the orphanage had finally started to use their backup system. The very next day lightning struck...."
I'll also accept stories that happened to someone you know.

Entries must be submitted by Saturday January 5, 2008. The winner will arbitrarily be determined by the effect your story has on me and on a select group of friends, which will probably depend on the amount of fruitcake and fresh cider we've had over Christmas while watching re-runs of Blake's 7. The winner will receive a pair of 1 gigabyte flash drives (a $23-30 retail value) along with a handwritten note encouraging their use for alternating backup or other productive purposes, and will be announced in the January issue of my newsletter.
Summary of recent newsletter issues

12/19/2007 What's the single best way to protect my computer?

11/28/2007 Using the same password for everything is ok, right?

10/19/2007 Passwords, passwords, passwords! How can I keep track of them all?

09/19/2007 After you delete something, is it really gone?

08/01/2007 Hot Summer Tips: Don't Leave It in Your Car!

07/10/2007 How You Can Deal With All Your Piled-up Email
I Recommend...

In this section of my newsletter I will sometimes recommend trusted colleagues and other times I'll suggest useful products and software. Today's recommendation is:


I call this web site "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's got the cheapest price of all?" They keep track of thousands of computer-related, software, and consumer electronics products from lots of online vendors, along with their current prices.

The most efficient way to use this site is when you know the exact model number of the item you're looking for--just enter it in the Search box at the top of the page and click Go. If they keep track of that product you'll land on a page listing the vendors that they know are carrying it and the current prices. Enter your Zip code and it will even show you the "Total price" (price + shipping).

Alternatively, you can enter keywords describing what you're looking for, or browse the numerous categories listed. They've also got reviews and ratings on some of the products as well.

Just remember that:
If you're comfortable shopping online, this site can help steer you toward the best prices. Similar web sites include http://www.nextag.com, http://www.froogle.com, and http://www.epinions.com, among many others.
How to contact me:
email: martin@kadansky.com
phone: (617) 484-6657
web: http://www.kadansky.com

On a regular basis I write about real issues faced by typical computer users. To subscribe to this newsletter, please send an email to martin@kadansky.com and I'll add you to the list, or visit http://www.kadansky.com/newsletter

Did you miss a previous issue? You can find it in my newsletter archive: http://www.kadansky.com/newsletter

Your privacy is important to me. I do not share my newsletter mailing list with anyone else, nor do I rent it out.

Copyright (C) 2007 Kadansky Consulting, Inc. All rights reserved.

I love helping people learn how to use their computers better! Like a "computer driving instructor," I work 1-on-1 with small business owners and individuals to help them find a more productive and successful relationship with their computers and other high-tech gadgets.

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