Tools of the trade – Curiosity

February 19th, 2006

Every skill requires some kinds of tools. Troubleshooting is no exception. You may be surprised that you probably already have all the tools you need. To start, you need to be genuinely curious. And just why is that important? Curiosity is the easiest way to inspire yourself to learn. If you are truly curious, you will be driven to search for answers, you won’t just give up when things get difficult.

How do you develop curiosity? While the answer may be different for each person, the basic principle of “practice makes perfect” can bring it out of you. Practice as you would practice any skill. Remember back to your days of piano lessons, or typing class, riding a bike or driving lessons. Feel free to insert any appropriate skill in place of those I just mentioned. Were you any good at first? Of course, not. Same with curiosity. You have to keep at it, until the act of being curious becomes a part of your nature.
Have you ever noticed how easy it seems for children to learn? Language, crawling, walking? Yet it is so difficult for adults to learn a new skill. Why is that? I have a theory . The main reason adults don’t learn as fast as children is because we lose our curiosity. To infants and children, the entire world is new and exciting, just waiting to be taken in. Adults? Been there, done that. We lose our sense of wonder, of adventure. When was the last time you looked at a learning task as exciting? If you do not see learning to troubleshoot as interesting or exciting, and if you have no curiosity to find out what’s going on under the hood (so to speak), fixing your computer yourself will be just another chore, boring and stupid. And why do something boring and stupid if you can pay someone else to do it? Well, if you have that attitude, why did you buy this e-book? Reading this e-book will be sheer drudgery. I mean it. You will hate what you are doing, in any aspect of life, if you lose your sense of curiosity and wonder.
So, practice asking questions, either to yourself or to others. Ask how things work? Ask why somethingwas designed the way it was. Practice critically looking at the world around you. Do not accept everything as it is. And when you have asked these questions, go on the adventure of finding the answers. The internet is a wonderful resource of knowledge, and can be very handy. However, do not overlook other sources of knowledge. Books, educational shows on TV, working professionals.

That last suggestion may sound odd, but have you ever had someone ask you how to do something? Sure, it can be a little annoying if you just settled in to your couch to watch your favorite show, but on the other hand, wasn’t it just a little satisfying to have someone consider you an expert? Do not be annoying, of course, but ask your friends. Most of what I learned about computers was from experts who got paid to fix computers. Tap into their brains and watch them, if they are willing. You will learn a great deal that reading alone cannot teach you.

Are you feeling curious yet? I hope so. I hope you are curious about the rest of this book. I hope you are curious about whether I’ll actually get to talking directly about computers in this chapter. We’ll get there. Remember, there are still other important tools with which you should equip yourself. We still have a ways to go before we get to the actual computer in front of you.


February 11th, 2006

I know,  you are thinking, “Just what does attitude really have to do with computers?”  Well, I’ll tell you.  While in college, I worked part time in the English department as a computer technician. Although I was far from experienced, I knew enough to solve basic problems.  For a while, I was the only person they had and my boss relied on me.  Often, I would be called to a professor’s office and told, “My computer doesn’t work.  Fix it.”

What do you do when your computer stops working?

These guys had it easy.  All they had to do was ask for help and I would come running.  I would sit down, do some diagnostics and figure out what was going on.  Once I knew where the problem was, I would fix it and allow these educated men and women resume their work.  I became a personal hero to some, because they were absolutely helpless without me.  A handful of them were embarrassed that they really had no clue how to do anything but turn on their computers and open their word processor.  I didn’t judge them.  Hey! They all had PhD’s, had obviously accomplished something with their lives.  No one can know and do everything.

While fixing, I would talk to these men and women, get to know them. It became a quest for me to spread a little knowledge. Rather than just fix the problem and go, I made sure that the professor was right there, watching me work.  I spent a little extra time explaining what I was doing. I gave them a little crash course in troubleshooting, right there. Of course, it still amazed me.  Here I was, a twenty-something kid teaching PhD’s how to fix their computers.
Through this, I learned that no matter how much education you have, your beliefs can still keep you from accomplishing your goals.  If you believe something is too hard, too scary, too complex, you might as well just pay for someone else to do it, because you are never going to get it done.

Computers?  If you see them as the enemy, as a mystery box that can’t be controlled, as a thing only experts can use, you will always be a computer dummy.  To be a good troubleshooter, you have to believe you can do it. This is not some touchy-feely garbage. One secret to any accomplishment is to have a clear vision of what you want to do.  Picturing yourself as fully capable to handle computer problems is an important step toward actually doing it. Without this vision, this attitude, the rest of this book will be a waste of your time.

There are many books on changing yourself through affirmations, visualization and so forth.  I just want you to believe in yourself. You are a capable person.  You have gotten this far in life successfully. Any mistakes you have made are just practice.  Everything you  set your mind to, you accomplish. If you believe these things, you can persist long enough to do anything. You will stop trying and startactively doing.
Remember what Yoda once said to Luke Skywalker, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” Trying implies failure. You are not a failure unless you believe you are.

What to expect

February 10th, 2006

My intention is to help you learn about computers without overwhelming with too much information. As such, this book is not going to go into advanced computer techniques. I promise I will not use any highly technical mumbo jumbo or arcane acronyms, unless I fully explain them. This ebook will enable you to take care of basic problems and perform basic maintenance. It will help you overcome any fears you may have of computers. I hope to demystify this whole computer deal in plain words.  And finally, because the world of technology and computers is so wide so quickly changing, we will talk about when is the best time to turn over your computer to an expert.

So, take a look at the index to get an idea of what we will be covering. Feel free to jump around as needed, or read this book all the way through. As long as you are getting the information you need, there is no wrong way to do it.

Intro to “The Basics of Computer Troubleshooting”

February 6th, 2006

As you look at the title of this e-book, what does it make you think? Does it conjure up nightmares of projects lost to computer error?  Do your eyes glaze over at the thought of spending time figuring out anything “technical” about your personal computer? Did you know your attitude is one of the greatest keys to troubleshooting? With the right attitude, you can learn the things you need to know, can have the patience needed, to always find the right resources, no matter what happens.
People have called the personal computer an appliance.  I consider this a misnomer. Let us compare computers to toasters. Obviously, there are some major differences.  for one thing, a toaster normally does one thing, hopefully well: make toast. If it breaks, it is not that expensive to replace and not too complicated to repair.

On the other hand, a personal computer is far more complex and flexible. We, as computer users, make much tougher, more complicated demands on these machines than we do our toasters.  We use our computers as a communication centers, with email and internet phone calls.  We use our computers for entertainment, playing games or watching DVD’s, for instance.  We use them to learn about the world around us, surfing the World Wide Web. We even expect our computers to be photo processing and publishing centers, using photo editing software or word processors.  And I have barely scratched the surface.

These devices can do a lot, but many things can go wrong. In fact, it is not a matter of if something will go wrong with your computer. It is a matter of what you will do when it happens. Sure, a PC technician can save your bacon, but consider the following: do you really want to pay a guy anywhere from $50 to $100 or even more an hour to do something you could do yourself? Did you read that right? Yes.  You can do some basic things yourself and save a lot of headaches and money.

A computer is an investment, like a car. Both require regular maintenance, both can be souped up and upgraded. Both can crash and burn with disastrous results. However, with a little proactive care, both can give you quality service for as long as you need them.
So, if you have ever had a computer program crash at the worst possible time (and who hasn’t?), or if you view the personal computer as a great mystery, this ebook is for you. If you want to stop feeling helpless when your computer misbehaves, this ebook is for you. And lastly, if you are tired of asking your 10-year-old to helping you out, this ebook is for you.

Don’t be concerned about memorizing steps or knowing arcane bits of technobabble.  We will go nice and easy through these concepts.  Just remember one thing: the key to good troubleshooting begins with an attitude.


February 6th, 2006

To start off, this is to let anyone viewing this blog to know what I’m up to here. My intent is to write an e-book, a little at a time, through this blog.  The topic is basic troubleshooting.  I must stress the word Basic.  This is not for someone who rebuilds their own computer, but for the new person who just got their first computer three months ago and something went wrong.

As I write, feel free to comment, add suggestions, etc.