Sunday, June 17, 2001

Tech tips

Simple steps can make computing easier

By Rhonda Abrams
Gannett News Service

        Technology: can't live with it; can't live without it. I'm waiting for the day when using any technological device is as easy as plugging in a toaster. Until then, here's “Rhonda's Clip-and-Save-Column on Easy Tech Tips.”

        • Get Ziploc bags. Every time I get a new piece of hardware or software, I put all the cords, disks, plugs, etc. in a bag and mark and date the bag with a permanent marker. I keep all my Ziploc bags in a big filing box. I can find the right cord for the right piece of equipment in an instant.

        • Make a warranty notebook. At the same time I put the cords and disks away, I put the warranties, installation guides and manuals in a wide three-ring notebook. Once again, I can instantly find anything I need for any piece of equipment.

        • Label everything. Keep a roll of tape and a permanent marker handy. Label every cord running into each electrical outlet, power strip, hub, telephone jack, etc. You think you'll remember what is connected to what, but you won't.

        • Keep receipts. My sister likes to tape receipts to the bottom of equipment. I don't. (File them with your tax receipts.) But keep them in case something goes wrong.

        • Look for simple solutions. Check to see if the power switch is turned on, the plug is in, you're connected to the right socket, etc.

        • Get a fast-speed connection to the Internet. Once you're used to always on, always fast, you'll wonder how you lived without it. Get a backup connection (perhaps a free one, like Juno) for down times and travel.

        • Learn how to access your e-mail from the road, from the Web or from a local-access number. Look for local-access numbers before you leave home to avoid long-distance charges.

        • Learn how to set up an auto response to your e-mail when you're away.

        • Don't believe the manufacturer when it says “self-install.” If it's critical to your business, hire a professional.

        • Keep your software updated. You may be having trouble on some Web sites or with some hardware because you're using older versions of software. Go to and download a program that will automatically search your computer. (Full disclosure: My friend Nate Saal invented it. It's now owned by cnet.)

        • Use the appropriate technology. Just because you can do something electronically doesn't mean you should. I particularly like the big Rolodex file that you can slip business cards into. Very user-friendly!

        • Buy a CD-R or CD-RW drive, a compact disc recorder/rewritable burner to back up all your files on your hard drive.

        • Buy the extended tech support for critical software, especially the first year you use it.

        • Use your laptop as your main computer and have two docking ports — one at home, one at the office — two monitors and two keyboards.

        • Get stuff just because it's cool. You'll enjoy it more and you'll use it more and be more productive. So won't someone — please — send me a really cool, big, flat-screen monitor?

        Rhonda Abrams is the author of The Successful Business Plan: Secrets and Strategies and Wear Clean Underwear: Business Wisdom from Mom. For free business tips, register at or write Ms. Abrams at 555 Bryant St, No. 180, Palo Alto, CA 94301.



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