Category: Web

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My 10-Year PC Anniversary

Ten years ago this month, I bought my first home PC from a friend who built them for a living. Months earlier, I had read a story in what was then called Washington Journalism Review about the coming age of digital journalism. Few people had heard of the World Wide Web when the article published, but San Jose Mercury News and other publications had started appearing on America Online and CompuServe.

That first computer was a whooper for its day: 486 processor, 8MB of RAM, 120GB hard drive, and Windows 3.11. The builder included WordPerfect 6, which was so buggy, I picked up the competitive Word 6 upgrade from my local Staples. My current cell phone, which also runs a version of Windows, has more power, storage, and memory than that first PC. 

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One Bad Apple

Apple is expected to launch a new online music service on April 28, 2003, that will work with a new version of the company’s iTunes digital music software. Rumors are buzzing loader than a ruptured hornet’s nest about the service. Most people believe Apple will make the new service available for Macs only. But I can’t imagine Apple CEO Steve Jobs is that dumb. If he’s smart, he’ll release an iTunes version for Windows and make a bold move into the digital media market.

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So, You Need Help?

Good help is hard to find—and that is especially true when it comes to mastering computers. Things eventually go wrong. Where should you turn to solve your problem? Corporations staff a Help Desk to field employee questions or troubleshoot breakdowns. If you work at home—or live in some out-of-the-way place like northern Maine—you probably don’t have that luxury. But you can create your own pseudo Help Desk for handling problems.

Most computer problems are user problems—and there are two basic categories: You don’t know how to make something work or the product is actually broken. Most of the time you simply won’t know what you’re doing—and experience is the only way to learn. Most people think that because computer hardware or software do not work the way they expect, something must be broken. Is it the auto dealer’s problem you bought a new car and don’t know how to drive? It’s not a computer company’s problem you can’t tell a computer from a television, either (though they sure make it hard when turning computers into family entertainment centers). When dealing with any problem, first you have to identify whether you have a real crisis or just don’t understand what you are doing. Most problems will be a lack of training. 

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Farming the Internet

Local dial-up Internet access came to northern Maine in early February—thanks to the state’s oldest service provider, Agate, and the local farmer’s association, Maine Farmer’s Exchange. It’s strange how none of the banks, insurance companies, or other professional organizations could do this. It took farmers’ foresight to get the job done right.

My dilemma—slogging along America Online at 2400 bps or paying heavy long-distance fees—is fairly typical of rural users: the folks who need the information most pay premium for it. I was lucky enough to get on as a tester for AT&T WorldNet; this meant free access. But the network was slow via the 800 number, and I wore down a spot on my desk drumming my fingers waiting for Web pages to load.