Tuesday, September 30, 2014
If you’ve every thought that you were too old to follow your dreams, you might want to reconsider that idea. The same goes for being too young! Age is just a number, it all comes down to how hard you’re willing to work, and whether you are willing to push yourself to achieve your goals.
The infographic below breaks down the ages at which some of the most successful people found their big break. It starts with Michael Dell (of Dell) at age 18 and goes all the way to Charles Flint (of IBM) at age 61. For an interactive look at the infographic, check out the Via link below.
This is especially the case in the world of IT, or in face any field where you have a certain degree of technical expertise on a topic, and you need to help someone who doesn’t. It isn’t easy.
Whether you work at an IT help desk, work the phones at a technology company, or are part of the tech support crew at a college or major corporation – the following are some of the most frequently stated problems from Windows users, and ways that you can help them cure their problem with the least amount of effort.
“My Program is Missing!”The more humorous call is usually the one that comes from the users with the least amount of exposure to the Windows desktop environment.
Problem: The user is convinced that all of the applications they use have disappeared from the computer.
These are typically users who may work on the same computer every day and usually don’t even touch the start menu. Everything they use is configured as shortcuts on their desktop.
When those desktop shortcuts disappear, panic ensues.
Cause: User is logged into a different user account.
Usually, the cause of this event is someone else logging into the PC under a different account. Different accounts have individualized desktops on Windows, so while the computer is logged into that alternate account, all of the desktop shortcuts the user is accustomed to seeing is gone.
Solution: Educate the user about multiple accounts and desktop shortcuts.
This is a good educational opportunity to teach the user how to check to see who is currently logged into the computer, as well as the difference between desktop shortcuts, and actual applications.
Make sure they understand that their own desktop icons will disappear whenever someone else logs into the computer.
“I Can’t Get To My Website!”This issue is most common among older users who are not accustomed to the fact that their web browser has been “remembering” their login details for websites like Gmail and Facebook. Inevitably, the grandchildren come over, use the computer, and log grandma or grandpa out of their favorite websites. The kids leave, and suddenly they can’t log into the sites that used to log in automatically.
Problem: Poor user credential management.
This is a problem for even veteran computer users. The problem is that now browsers and password management applications let us forget our passwords, things go wrong. The password management software gets uninstalled, or a fresh install of Windows erases the history of sites – and all of a sudden you “can’t get to your website” anymore.
Whatever the reason, it’s easy to get into a situation where you depend on technology too much for remembering your passwords.
Cause: User was logged out.
This kind of thing can happen in a corporate environment just as easily as at home. People at work may have internal web pages that auto-log in based on their network ID and password. Every few months, when the user is required to change that network password, sometimes other related services break. When the user can’t access those websites, it isn’t always obvious that it’s related to the account password change.
Solution: Fix auto-login software (e.g. LastPass, 1Password) and educate user about password management.
Obviously, fixing the immediate problem – updating the password in whatever is auto-logging in – is the first priority. However, educating the user about keeping track of where and how their passwords are being used is just as important. A little bit of user education today will avoid countless similar phone calls tomorrow.
“I Can’t Access My Files!”One common issue in a corporate environment is when a certain shortcut to a common data file no longer works. This is often connected to the inability for the user to access a specific shared drive. Most corporate environments have many of these shared drives, causing many shared drive problems.
Problem: User can’t access a file or shortcut path.
Many computer users are very routine-oriented. They come to work, click on the same link on their desktop day after day, which opens a document into which they enter data. Imagine you have routinely done this for 10 to 15 years. When that shortcut no longer works, it’s a complete disaster – or at least, it feels like one.
Cause: Too many to name.
There could be a wide variety of reasons for a broken link to a mounted shared drive. The most common are the following:
- They’re logged into someone else’s account, so the mounted drives are different.
- They’ve lost authentication to access the shared drive, usually due to their domain account expiring.
- They are logged in through VPN at home, and the drive may have a long delay before being fully accessible.
- They accidentally deleted the mounted share.
Solution: Remount the drive.
It sounds ridiculously simple, but if you don’t know the path of the deleted link, then you might be out of luck. You might be able to find a coworker who accesses the same file on the user, and then look at their shortcut to see which shared drive it accesses. If the shortcut still exists on the user’s desktop, just right click on it and look at the “Target:” field in the properties.
The standard is to place a “$” at the end of the share name, so in the above example, all you have to do is re-mount the share drive \\server4038\production$, and the link will work again. If the path has a letter instead of a server name, then you’ll have to find another co-worker who accesses the same file, and check their share path to see what server/share is actually mounted.
Once you’ve discovered the name of the share, it’s just a matter of re-mounting it from File Explorer. Just right click on “Computer” and select “Map network drive…”
Then just map the correct path to match the path of the shortcut on the user’s desktop.
Mounting a missing or broken share would be one of the easiest fixes here. You may run into difficulties when it comes to permission issues, where the user no longer has access to the share. In that case, you’ll have to follow whatever your company policies are for requesting access (or re-requesting access) to a company shared drive. However, if the user is complaining about not being able to access some files, the lost or missing network share is a good first place to look.
“I Can’t Access Anything!!!”There is nothing worse than getting that phonecall in the middle of the night from someone who claims that every single server in the company is down. Once you get over the panic, start thinking logically. How likely is that scenario?
Problem: The key phrase from the user here is “I can’t access anything.”
Even more telling is if they say they can’t access the Internet. In fact, if they can’t get to any of their network shares, trying to visit a website with the browser is a good quick test to check if they’re having an overall network problem on the computer side of things, and not a problem with the company’s servers.
Cause: Nine times out of ten, it’ll be a network issue.
And what’s the first thing to check when that happens? You guessed it, the network cable.
Solution: Plug the network cable back in.
It sounds insanely simple, but after spending several decades in the tech field, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you how many times the phrase, “I can’t access anything!” ended with the user slapping themselves upside the head after they realized they accidentally kicked the network cable out of the computer.
Thankfully, as more of the world migrates over to wireless devices, this is becoming less of a problem. Of course, now there’s the issue where the user accidentally knocks the laptop “wireless” switch into the “off” position…
“My Screen Is All Blue!”Problem: Blue Screen of Death.
Hearing a user say “my screen is all blue” is a nightmare scenario for an IT technician. You may hope against all odds that maybe someone visited fakeBSOD.com and pressed F11, but the odds aren’t good.
Cause: Surprisingly not just a Windows XP or a Windows 7 thing.
The blue screen of death can strike Windows 8 users as well, but have no fear, it’s not as scary as it appears. If you’re a seasoned IT technician, then you know that there’s often a recently installed driver or application that led to this issue. Interrogating… I mean “nicely” asking the user what was recently installed on the computer will turn up a treasure trove of information that should help you find the culprit.
Solution: At the very least, ask the user for the error code that’s displayed on the screen then check recently installed software, drivers or updates.
You may consider making use of Chris’s Windows 8 blue screen troubleshooting guide, or any of our other articles on troubleshooting the blue screen of death. The odds are good that you can reboot the PC into safe mode, uninstall the offending driver or app, and all will be right with the world again.
Do you have some experience in the world of IT? Any favorite “user lingo” that always sets off red flags? Let’s discuss and reminisce in the comments section below!
More and more drivers are starting to mount their Android device on their dashboard or windscreen. This might be for convenience in making and receiving calls (hands-free, of course, otherwise you’re breaking laws in most countries) or even as a means of playing music through your car stereo.
An increasingly popular use for an Android smartphone is as a digital dashboard, or even for diagnosing faults and monitoring performance.
But what of safety? Are these apps and tools safe to use while driving, and if not, are there any methods of keeping your phone as an integral part of your journey without touching it?
Voice ControlPerhaps the most obvious method of control that doesn’t involve tapping away at your Android device display is voice control, something that is included with the most recent versions of Google operating system in the shape of Google Now.
While useful most of the time, Google Now might not suit you in the car if you’re driving solo. Occasionally there is need to interact with your fingers, which completely defeats the object and can get you arrested and fined on the spot.
An alternative to Google Now as an Android voice control tool in your car is utter!, a free voice command tool that is currently in beta but which has a superior set of tools. It achieves its lofty aims by not bothering with the virtual assistant nonsense of Google Now/Siri/Cortana and instead focuses on getting things done.
Better still, utter! has offline voice recognition and a choice of three methods to get its attention, including a wave.
Gesture ControlWaving is another safe method of interacting with your car-mounted Android device while the engine is running, and is something that you can do without taking your eye off the road. As long as you know where the phone is, simply raising your hand in its direction should be enough to prompt an action.
We’ve seen that utter! can be activated with a wave, but another tool that is worth considering is Air Gesture Control, which can be used to interact with various apps that you might have running, from media players to those requiring data connection and GPS.
Use of the app is simple: place your hand in front of your Android device, close enough for the proximity sensor to detect your presence, and this will enable or disable the chosen feature. Air Gesture Control offers three methods of interaction: hovering, waving once and waving twice.
If you’re using your Android smartphone or tablet as a media player or need GPS support for your maps, Air Gesture Control is a good choice and runs in the background alongside other car-focused apps.
Gesture control for Android isn’t limited to the car, and there are several gesture-based app launchers available that you might be interested in.
Switch Your Android Carputer On And OffProlonged use of your Android smartphone as a driving companion will probably lead to the battery draining quicker than usual thanks to needing the display switched on permanently or the requirement for GPS and mobile Internet for satnav functions.
This means that you’ll probably use the car charger connection regularly, and with Autosleeper Auto power ON-OFF you can ensure that your device is charged and the screen switched on when you start the car ignition.
A free tool, Autosleeper Auto power ON-OFF will switch your smartphone or tablet to standby when you turn off the engine, and switch it back on when you start the car. You’ll never need to take your Android device out of standby five minutes into your journey because you forgot before you set off!
This is particularly ideal for anyone who has permanently installed an Android carputer in their car, although if you use your smartphone you may prefer to take it with you when you leave the car.
Stay Safe Driving: Stay Awake!So far we’ve looked at apps that stay away from physical interaction with your phone, but Stay Awake is a little different. This app demands that you touch your display for safety purposes — indeed, it could potentially save your life.
The idea of the app is simple: when activated, it will request that you press the display to prove you are awake, a request that is accompanied by a very loud alert.
Designed to stop drivers falling asleep on the road (and as a safety note from MakeUseOf, please take regular breaks when driving), Stay Awake is sufficiently annoying as to return your heavy eyes to the road or convince you to pull-in and take a long break.
Drive Safely With Android And These AppsWith these apps installed you can hopefully become a safer user of your Android device while driving. But they’re not a complete solution. From time to time, you might be forced to interact with your phone more than is safe and legal.
Should such situations arise regularly, it might be a good idea to setup your dashboard mounted smartphone in such a way that a passenger is able to access it. As long as they are familiar with the OS and the app that they should be using, this is ultimately the safest option.
What do you think? Have you found other apps that aid safe use of your Android device while driving? Share them with links to Google Play below. Source: www.makeuseof.com
Attention span is a fleeting thing. One minute you’re engrossed in writing a post for MakeUseOf.com about focus, and the next… hey is that penguin?
Joking aside, the ability to focus is important. If you can’t maintain your attention span, you’re going to have a hard time getting your work done. This fun flowchart below will test the limits of your attention span, and it might just make you chuckle at the same time. Let us know in the comments how well you did.
via College Humor
Click To Enlarge
Monday, September 29, 2014
Being Part of the World’s Biggest OS Userbase
Despite the rise in popularity of Mac systems over the past decade or so, the Mac OS still can’t compete with the ubiquitous nature of Windows. While this might seem like more of an advantage for Microsoft than you, there is something to be said for being part of such a huge crowd.
For one, you can be quite confident that if you’re having a problem, someone somewhere has had it before and found a fix that you can use too. With less Mac users out there, the likelihood of that happening dwindles. This isn’t an exact science, but it’s something that you’ll undoubtedly find to happen in practice — the fact of the matter is, more users means a greater shared knowledge of the OS between them.
Possible Alternatives: The closed nature of the Apple ecosystem allows them to offer their own first-party methods of troubleshooting your device. Whether you sign up for AppleCare or take your problem to one of the experts at an in-store Genius Bar, there’s a culpability to Apple products that Windows machines don’t have.
Using the Programs That You’re Familiar With
While you’re more likely to be able to find a Mac alternative to many of the most popular Windows programs today than you would have been in the past, most are still not a perfect replacement. For instance, while broadly used email client Outlook is available for the Mac, the most recent version you’ll have access to is from the Office 11 suite and is showing its age somewhat. Even with the patches that have been supplied since its release to improve the capabilities of its sync functionality, it’s not a full replacement for the version you’ll be used to from Windows. The same can be said for other programs that many use regularly, for instance the popular image editing tool Paint.NET.
There are also programs that appeal to a more niche audience, but prove to be vital for the users that they cater to. Quicken is widely regarded as the premier choice in terms of money management software, but if you’re looking to switch from the PC version to the one released for the Mac, you might well be disappointed.
Quicken Mac 2007 has been much maligned by users looking for an equivalent to the Windows version for its lack of features, and early response to the recently-released Quicken for Mac 2015 seems to be undecided on whether it’s a true step forward. What’s clear is that Windows users making the switch to Mac can’t be completely sure that the OS X versions of their favorite programs will offer the experience that they’ve grown accustomed to.
Possible Alternatives: If you can work around their limitations, then you might well find that the Mac versions of the programs you use on a daily basis work for you. If not, you might want to check out Mailbox instead of Outlook, GIMP in lieu of Paint.NET and Mint to replace Quicken — but all of the above have compromises attached.
Using Your PC as a Robust Gaming Platform
While the outlook for gamers wanting to use their Mac to play the latest releases is better than it was a few years ago, it’s still not on a par with the PC scene. Valve’s Steam service has certainly played a major role in growing the Mac as a platform for gaming and encouraging developers to port their games across from Windows, but for the most part you’ll be looking at the very biggest releases and small independent games, and missing out on most things in the middle.
One of the greatest strengths of PC gaming is the sheer breadth of titles available to you, and that’s something that you won’t have access to with only a proportion of new releases being made available for Macs. Not to mention, if you’re planning on going back and revisiting titles from the past, you’ll likely be disappointed; while now there is something of a movement to release games on the Mac, this wasn’t so commonplace even just five years ago.
Possible Alternatives: Looking to the independent scene can be a good source of Mac-compatible games, produced by some of the most exciting studios working today. There’s also the option of looking into Wine as a means of running Windows games on a Mac; the process of doing so can sometimes be quite complex, but it’s very useful once you’ve got your head round it.
Being Given the Freedom to Upgrade Your Hardware
This is one for the desktop crowd rather than most laptop users, but one of the most overlooked features of a Windows PC is the freedom that you have to customize your rig with the components of your choosing. Say you want to swap out your hard drive for something a little bit bigger, or upgrade your graphics card to something top of the line — being given this sort of control over the innards of your machine allows you to keep it current without simply buying a new one.
Of course, the Apple system of simply having a few models to choose from can save a lot of headaches when comparing specs and parts, but it’s at the cost of having a real grasp of what’s going into your computer and what it’s doing for you. As well as being a cost-effective method of buying a high-spec machine, building your own computer can be rather rewarding, if you approach it with the right sort of planning and caution. If you’re looking to even open up your Apple computer to do your own repairs, you’ll have to buy a special screwdriver to remove their proprietary pentalobe screws.
Being able to open up your computer and get your hands dirty is not for everyone — and, in fact, some will much prefer the simplicity of buying an Apple machine — but for the more technical sort, it’s a prime reason to stick with a Windows PC.
Possible Alternatives: If you want to have this sort of freedom while sticking with a Mac OS, your best bet is to go the whole hog and perform an install of the OS itself onto a build of your own. However, this is easier said than done and not really a job for anyone who’s not completely adroit with this sort of endeavour.
Have another Windows feature that you miss as a Mac user? Or did you switch the other way and find yourself missing a Mac feature on your PC? Let us know in the comments section below.
Image Credits: Man working with computer Via Shutterstock Source: www.makeuseof.com
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