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The Demon in Your Computer

Some folks are convinced that there's an evil demon hiding in their computer, making decisions on its own and fighting against them every step of the way.

Probably not true. Computers are just not that smart.

What's probably true is that the user (yes, that's you) either got sloppy or didn't learn how to use the equipment correctly in the first place. The machine is just as smart (or stupid) as a tape recorder hooked up to a bunch of light switches. It only does what it is told to do.
Full disclosure: I'm lazy too. When I first began using the software for this blog, I didn't really learn it, so several things I did took four or five steps every time instead of the one neat step the company provided. And there are a lot of times when I get angry when I mis-type instructions and don't get what I expected.

Defeating the Demon

You have some time this summer, and you will be using the computer a LOT in the Fall, so spend some time learning. If we were at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, at least some of our time would be dedicated to the care and use of a quill pen. It is just one of the tools. Here the tool is a computer.

1. Learn the stuff

If terms such as "Drag and Drop" mystify you, search Google (How to Drag and Drop, for example). There are YouTube videos for everything, and you can learn the little details of computer use very quickly that way. Don't forget to practice your new skills.

For more complex tasks such as using Microsoft Word or setting up file folders on your computer, there are both tutorial websites and YouTube videos.
Quick hint: If you are just trying to learn one specific feature of the program, search for it by name. That way you don't need to wade through a whole website.

And don't overlook the possibility of getting a basic book such as one from the "For Dummies" series to help you. (Yes, I have a copy of HTML, XHTML, & CSS for Dummies on my bookshelf.)

2. Get precise

Computers are getting better at second-guessing you, but they are still very limited. Learn to type exactly what you mean (and look at it again before you use it). If you are trying to get to our college website and you type Ashland.com instead of Ashland.edu, you end up with the Ashland chemical company. The demon didn't send you there; you got there on your own. If you type Ashalnd.edu, you get "Server not found." Still your fault. Learn to type accurately.

By the way, the same is true when you are typing your paper. One of the most common errors in papers (I always get two or three of these in every stack) is to put in defiantly when you mean definitely. (Click the words to see how different the definitions are!) Students who make this error probably typed something very far off (perhaps "dafanately") and simply took the first choice offered by the spelling checker without thinking too hard.

3. Kill the virus

This is one area in which there really is a demon in the computer. If yours keeps popping up invitations to play poker or keeps showing you pornographic images (with a suggestion to give them money to see more), you probably have a virus. Some viruses just crash things a lot, while others keep trying to extract money from you.

Most casual users don't have the skills to clean viruses out, so I suggest paying a good repair place to fix things. (Don't complain about the cost. You got yourself into this situation by following that suspicious link and clicking that tempting download. Or at least by plugging your friend's flash drive into your computer to share a file or two.)

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