Other Things To Make Your IT Life Easier


This is another section of generally common-sense, generally well known techniques and strategies.  But there are bound to be a few that you’ve never thought of or considered.  We’ll do this one by you reading silently through the list, and coming up with the ones you think are most important, and/or ones you don’t totally agree with for one reason or another.


***With each of these from Day 4, a lot is hopefully "old hat" for most of you, so I'll put at the beginning the absolute "Top" point or two that should be highlighted.***

Battery Management @

*Top Point: To prevent battery horror stories, if you have a MacBook/MacBook Pro, drain the battery completely once in a while.*

·      Most non lithium-ion batteries for IT devices should be “conditioned” when you first start using them; this means to fully charge and fully drain them at least three times at the beginning of usage. Though Apple, at their website, states: "Current Apple portable computer batteries are pre-calibrated and do not require the calibration procedure".

·      Once in regular use, you should fully re-charge and fully drain laptop etc. batteries once every 2-3 weeks.

·  But don't allow it to fully drain too often; on a regular basis you shouldn't let it get down below 10%.

·      Once fully charged, don't leave the power source plugged in. If it's always plugged in, it can't drain, which it needs to do to continue funcitoning properly.

·      And try not to let batteries go un-used for extended periods of time.


Battery Managment Suggestions Directly from Apple

Here's what Apple says - and uncharacteristicall, in this case, just to be sure, I have copied and pasted (and slightly edited) directly from the Apple Site:

With a little bit of care, you can maximize the battery life (i.e. the time your battery will run before it must be recharged) and lifespan of your notebook's battery. Most importantly, use your Apple notebook in its comfort zone for temperature (See “Notebook Temperate Zone”). Don’t leave it locked in a hot trunk during the summer.

Your New Notebook

Your new Apple notebook features advanced battery chemistry that greatly extends the battery’s lifespan. The built-in battery of your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air is designed to deliver up to 1000 full charge and discharge cycles before it reaches 80 percent of its original capacity. In addition, Adaptive Charging reduces the wear and tear on the battery giving it a lifespan of up to 5 years. Be sure to fully charge your portable when you plug it in for the first time, and then run Software Update to ensure you have the latest software. Apple periodically releases updates that may improve battery performance.

Standard Maintenance

For proper maintenance of a lithium-based battery, it’s important to keep the electrons in it moving occasionally. Apple does not recommend leaving your portable plugged in all the time. An ideal use would be a commuter who uses her notebook on the train, then plugs it in at the office to charge. This keeps the battery juices flowing. If on the other hand, you use a desktop computer at work, and save a notebook for infrequent travel, Apple recommends charging and discharging its battery at least once per month. When your battery no longer holds sufficient charge to meet your needs, you may choose to replace it. If your notebook came with a built-in battery, you should have the battery replaced only by an Apple Authorized Service Provider.

Notebook Temperate Zone.

Your Apple notebook works best from 10° to 35°C. Keeping your Mac as near room temperature as possible (22°C) is ideal.

Long-Term Storage

If you don’t plan on using your notebook for more than six months, Apple recommends that you store the battery with a 50% charge. If you store a battery when it’s fully discharged, it could fall into a deep discharge state, which renders it incapable of holding any charge. Conversely, if you store it fully charged for an extended period of time, the battery may experience some loss of battery capacity, meaning it will have a shorter life. Be sure to store your notebook and battery at the proper temperature. (See “Notebook Temperate Zone.”)

Optimal Setting

You can choose to use your Apple notebook in a way that maximizes its battery life.


Password Management @

*"Top Point" The biggest thing is to make sure you have a secure password: 8 characters, including just one number and a symbol, and a capital would be very secure. The other thing is to come up with a trick to relate and remember all your passwords.*


One way or the other you need to put thought into how you manage your passwords. 

To give you an idea of the benefits of adding upper case, numbers, and symbols to your password, look at the charts at this link: http://www.lockdown.co.uk/?pg=combi



Anti Spam Techniques @

*"Top Point": If you have spam problems, the one thing not to do is respond to spam. When you do this, it confirms to the robot computer sending out spam that your e-mail address is indeed a real one.*


Around 80% of the billions of e-mails sent every day are spam. And so the “war on spam” continues with both sides “attacking” and “counter-attacking”.  It’s a fluid situation, and the following points may or may not apply to you.  But it is likely that a combination of the following may help to reduce spam, if/when you experience a spam problem.  A lot of this advice is based on the fact that as with brute force cracking of passwords, many spam robot computers generate all the most possible combinations of letters for e-mail addresses, and send them out looking for responses, which will confirm that a particular e-mail address is actually real.

Trouble-shooting Steps When a Problem

*Top Point/s: You should avoid doing the most extreme solutions. Hard shutting down your computer, and force quitting applications are not good for your computer. Yes, there are times you need to do them, and they don't seem to do any harm, but over time using these techniques will cause your computer problems. *

When you have a problem with your computer, or with an application on your computer, you need to approach it with the least invasive measures first, before getting to more drastic measures. This is because the more drastic measures are not good for your computer, and should only be useed if there is no gentler way to fix things. The perfect analogy here is how you treat youself when there is a problem. If you have a bit of a cough, you first try vitamin C, lots of rest and plenty of water. If that doesn't work, you try taking some off-the-shelf medicine. And only if these measures don't work do you start tatking an antibiotic.


As an alternative to the "Tier 1, Tier 2" approach below, which lists all of the possible trouble-shooting steps, I'll first list here the 7 steps I most often take in the lab when there is a problem. This will not be the complete list as seen below, but it is a good summary:


Summary of Trouble-shooting Steps I Most Often Take in the Lab


Most often when there is a problem with an application on one of the computers in the lab, I:

1. Quit the application and re-launch it.

2. If it not responding or not quitting, I wait at least a couple of minutes. Sometimes this is enough for it to start working again.

3. If it still won't quit after a few minutes of waiting, only then do I use Force Quit.

4. If after re-launching it, it still isn't working right, I will trash the preferences. (To do so, in the Finder, hold alt as you select the Go menu item. Select Library and then get into Preferences, and trash whichever file there seems to be for that app. - don't worry, it won't harm anyhing; it will just mean the application goes back to the way it was when you installed it, without any preferences you customized.)

5. Then, if the application still isn't working right, I re-start the computer.

6. If still not working right, I check for up-dates.

7. If still not working, usually the next thing I do is Repair Disk Permissions (from Disk Utility).

8. Then if still not working right, I un-install, and re-install the application.

9. And finally, if still not working, I do overall computer maintainence by way of a File Check and Rebuild the Directory, using the Disk Warrior start-up disk.

***Do note that it could be argued that the preferred order would be slightly different than what is listed above - for example, re-starting the computer before trashing preferences. But the honest reason why I do things in the order above is that I do the quicker things first.


Complete Trouble-shooting Steps, in 2 Tiers


Tier 1: IN THIS ORDER, these are @ things you can and should do every time there is a problem, :

  1. If the mouse does not move, indicating a possible freeze, first check cable connections. In the lab, most of the time that the mouse pointer does not move, it’s simply a cable that’s either become detached, or is not properly plugged in.  So always check connections first before doing anything more drastic. @

  2. (In the process of doing all of this, try to isolate the problem; is it a particular application, or is it the operating system?  If you can tell, skip the steps below that don’t apply. @)

  3. Quit and re-launch the application that you were in when the problem occurred.  And if you are not using the other applications that are in memory, you should quit them too.

  4. Force-quit/Ctrl-alt-delete only if normal quitting did not work, And on a Mac, if there is the spinning beach ball of doom, wait a couple of minutes; often it's just a matter of waiting long enough. And only complete the force quit if the "not responding" is in red, not when it's still grey. @

  5. If when you re-launch the app that was giving you a problem, it still doesn't work, restart the computer. @

  6. And if that doesn't work, check on the Internet for updates to the application that was giving you problems.  @

  7. Mac: If you still have the problem, delete the preferences file for the application you think is giving you the problem. Up to Mac OS 10.6, Snow Leopard, you can find the Preferences file either in the home folder/Library/Preferences, or in the root folder of the hard drive/Library Preferences. @@
    From Mac OS 10.7 Lion, on, these folders are hidden, so you have to, in the Finder, go Go, Connect to Folder, and then type ~/Library, and/or ~/Users/yourUserName/Library. @@@

  8. And as a last resort, in "Tier 1" things that everyone can do, you can hard shut down your computer if it is totally frozen. You do this by holding down the power button for about ten seconds. But do realize that this is not good for the computer, so only do it when you have no choice. @


Tier 1 Summary: Check cables --> Re-launch app. --> re-start computer --> check for updates --> trash the preferences

(The main point with these is they are all easy, and none of them can do any harm.)


Tier 2: These are more “geeky” @@ & @@@ things that will work, but which you may be timid to perform, and so would rather have someone else more tech-savy do. Some of them are either Mac specific, or Windows specific, which is indicated in bold. But they are still listed in overall order of invasiveness.

  1. Mac: Repair Disk Permissions, which you do in the First Aid tab of the Disk Utility app. @@

  2. Mac: get into Time Machine and restore the applicaiton or file that was giving you problems to an earlier time. But choose the "Keep both" option just in case. @@

  3. Both: run a registry checking utility, like DiskWarrior for a Mac, or Norton Disk Doctor etc. for Windows. @@

  4. Both: Uninstall the entire application giving you problems and reinstall it all over again. In Windows, use the Uninstall control panel. For Mac, look for an uninstall app in the specific application's folder. If there is none, it's not so easy to get rid of all associated files, so use an app like App Cleaner to do so. @@

  5. Windows: only if you recently installed the software, and you know what drivers were installed, try rolling back the drivers of the application that gave you problems, plus drivers of any other applications you recently installed.  Go Control Panel, System, Hardware, Device Manager, right-click open properties, click on the Drivers tab, and un-install. @@@

  6. Windows: first try to roll back your system to a previously stable point.  Go Start, Accessories, System Tools, System Restore.  @@@

  7. Windows: If all else fails, you can back-up important files, and re-install Windows, but I’d suggest having a technician look at it first - see “Solutions 2. Finding Help”, which follows. (Though it could be argued that this is not a bad thing to do every couple of years anyway, if you can afford the time and hassle.)  @@@

  8. Mac: If all else fails, and you use Time Machine, restore the hard drive to a previous state. You do this by inserting the OS X install CD, and choosing Utilities - Install from Time Machine backkup. @@@

  9. Mac: If all else fails, and you do not have Time Machine set up, re-install the Mac OS, with the install CD, but choose the option where you don't overwrite the user data and applications. @@@

  10. If that still doesn’t work (or at any stage above), or you don't feel compfortable doing some of it, get help – see the section below, Getting Help.


Data Recovery

One way to recover lost, damaged, or deleted files is to use Time Machine or some other form of backup recovery. In fact you can restore an entire system back to the way it was with Time Machine. You just insert the OS X install CD/DVD, start the computer up from it by holding the C key down, and then go into Utilities and choose Restore from Time Machine. Then you just pick the date in time when you think things were working fine.

Even without Time Machine, if you accidentally move files to the trash and then empty the trash the normal way - rather than the "Secure Empty Trash" option, you may be able to recover the files yourself with an app such as Data Recovery 3. If that doesn't work, it is always possible to send your hard drive away to get data recovered, but it is very expensive to do this.


Getting Help

*Top Point: Think of everyone you know, friends, acquaintances and relatives; one of them is bound to be a computer geek. This is your best place for you to look for support; usually these kinds of individuals like helping people with their computers.
Also, you'd be interested to know that with on-line or 1-800 phone support, the computer geek you know, or any support technician can take over your computer and fix it from anywhere in the world.*


Uncle Bob or Your Friendly Neighborhood Comptuer Geek@

Back when I was a little kid, there was a regular feature on Sesame Street that got you to learn about people in your neighborhood. Well, not only is a cable guy now a person in your neigborhood, but "a computer geek's a person in your neighborhood; he's a person that you meet, when you're walking down the street, he's a person that you meet each day....". So why not go to him/her when you have a problem with your compter that you can't fix yourself. And the great thing is that you don't even have to physically go to them, you just have to let them remotely control your comptuer.

The TeamViewer app that I showed you in class works great. You download TeamViewer, your computer geek relative/friend/neighbor downloads it, you let him/her know your id and TeamViewer password, and then they can take over the controls of your computer. Obiously the only important piece of advice here is to make sure you trust the person you choose to help you in this way. Another similar app that I use for remotely accessing another computer is LogMeIn.

Local Support Technicians/Shops @

Here in Prague there is an increasing number of people and shops you can turn to for service.  Phoning up or taking your computer to the shop where you bought it is always a good option if you bought it here.  If you brought your computer from another country, try taking it to a store with the same product; for example the Sony store for a Sony product.  Or there may be a certified/recommended dealer in Prague that is mentioned in the support material included with your purchase. 




Support Plans @

Often there is a support plan you can subscribe to at the time of purchase.  For example, this is the case with Apple products – it’s called the AppleCare Protection Plan, and extends the default free on-line support to a longer period of time. This changes from time to time, but it has typically be the complimentary 3 months bumped up to 3 years at a cost of around $250 USD.  This is quite pricey, but if you’re a novice computer user, it can make all the difference.  See your own computer’s support material and/or company web site. 


You should note that with such plans, the service person will likely be able to connect to your computer remotely and do the fixes live over the Internet.  This can be very convenient, both for the technician and for you.


Free On-line Support @@@

There are many websites that offer free advice that you may like to check out.  And they may offer the option of taking over your computer remotely to perform a fix. 


Examples of Mac Support Sites:

            http://discussions.info.aple.com  Straight from Apple

            www.macfixit.com                   Good Mac articles and forums

            www.macosxhints.com            More Geeky Mac advise



Paid On-line Support @@

If you don't have a support plan, don't want to mess around yourself, and you don't have a computer geek friend or relative who would just love to remote control your computer to fix it, then you could pay for remote control support from a number of reliable providers around the Internet. PC Magazine used to do a yearly survey of paid on-line tech support, and here's a link to the latest I can find. Just the way that you can allow a friend to take over your computer remotely, these service geeks will do the same and try to fix your computer live while you watch from the comfort of your own place.



Other Great IT Websites @@

A couple of other websites that you may find helpful in your quest to get your computer running as well as you can are cnet.com and zdnet.com  Cnet.com is a great site for getting reviews and comparing prices for all sorts of software and hardware.  And zdnet.com is a great all-purpose tech site, with the latest in news and reviews, though it’s geared more toward techie folks.