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What are interesting projects? They are just examples of things you
can do with your computer to have fun and be more productive. Many of these have been done with our own systems
making life more enjoyable and productive while keeping us connected.
Keeping entertained with digital music and video
Using your PC to be more organized
Many years ago, computers had very little harddrive space, there was no such thing as a CD-ROM, cameras were not
digital, and the internet did not yet exist to the public. Now, you can have a computer with terabytes of harddrive
space, a Dual Layer DVD-ROM drive, high speed internet connectivity, and just about everyone has a digital camera.
Because of these advances, it is now possible to easily enjoy multi-media. We're not just talking about looking at
pictures on your computer, we're talking about watching full screen videos from DVD and the internet or being able
to listen to your entire CD collection anywhere. The PC has helped integrate everything! Let us show you how you
can use your PC and peripherals for total entertainment :
- Video - With the right monitor, your computer can easily be a workstation and a multi-media machine.
You can not only watch TV on your PC with a TV tuner card, you can watch DVD movies and content from the
internet. This can be done while doing any number of things.
If you click this picture,
you will see that we have open a PDF, yahoo mail, AIM, and the show "Apprentice" all visible at the same time.
The reason it's so big is because we're running 1920x1200 resolution.
- Pictures - Many pictures you've taken are in digital format, so you will have a large albums you can
easily look through. This makes it easy to share, easy to edit, and easy to print in any format you wish.
In fact, many of the pictures and logos on this web site were designed on our personal PCs. Nothing fancy,
mostly PhotoShop and freeware producst such as Irfan.
- Audio - MP3s are now everywhere. Are you still shuffling CDs around? Did you know you could probably
fit your entire music collection on one CD ROM? Converting your music to MP3 is suprisingly simple and
allows you to categorize your music. Not only that, but if you are really savvy, you can stream
your music over the internet and listen to it anywhere!
- TiVo - Did you know a TiVo records your shows in digital format and that they are downloadable?
You can actually download the shows you've recorded to your PC and watch it at the same time you are
writing a letter. You can even take videos of shows you've recorded, put them on a memory stick, DVD,
or CD-ROM to be viewed on someone elses PC or DVD player.
- Portability - To bring this all together, there are now devices you can buy to allow you to enjoy
your video, pictures, and music on the go! You've heard of the iPod, but there are other devices such
as the Archos AV 400, iPod Video, and iPod Touch that allows you to watch your recorded TIVO shows or
DVDs on the go. There are also podcasts available that will allow you to listen to many radio shows
that are easily downloadable through Apple's iTunes.
Having a home network has many advantages
Besides doing typical things like a calendar and address book, your PC can be used to organize all sorts of other things.
- How do you handle your budget? With banking statements online, you can now download your statements to
your PC. Alex (the owner of Axion Computing) has spending records all the way back to 1998 in Microsoft's Money.
This has helped him fashion a budget and keep track of all his spending.
- All your documents can be scanned in to your machine and archived. Why dig around looking for tax records from
2004 when you just click over to My Documents/taxes/2004? Scanning in your paperwork is a chore if you've never
done it before, but the trick is to start and not fall behind. It is also useful in case you want to send it to
someone - simply right click the file, "Send to", then "Mail recipient".
- If you learn to oragnize your documents, pictures, movies, etc on our PC, you will find it very easy to find
anything you need right away. Use directory trees when saving your files and be certain you keep it all organized
under My Documents.
How to have a quiet computing experience
Being networked is one of the most important steps for your computing experience. Not only does it allow you to connect
to the internet, but it allows you to connect to other network enabled devices.
- In Alex's household, he has 2 computers, 2 laptops, and a TiVo. All of these devices exist in different parts
of the house making it challenging to network. Ideally, they would all be hardwired to each other, but many times
this is difficult or not possible. Here is a diaghram of his network :
By using a wireless bridge, he is able to get the network to the computers upstairs via a "virtual wire". The
wireless router and hub can also accept machines plugged into them and offer instant network. The entire network
is private and interconnected. The laptops use wireless cards to access the network and internet. By carefully
configuring the wireless router, you can keep access to your network safe.
- Having all machines in the household on a network means they can communicate with each other at high speed.
For example, if you are on your laptop downstairs and need a file off your computer upstairs, you can simply
copy the file over the network. It also means that you don't have "one" machine that has the internet.
- A private network also allows you to attach devices such as a network storage device or a slingbox. The
network storage device could offer (massive) additional disk space to all machines on the network without
having to open your PC. The slingbox is an interesting device that allows you to stream TV over the internet.
And when we say TV, we mean YOUR TV - the slingbox allows you to change the channel at home and watch it over
Many people buy prebuilt machines from Dell or Sony that run very quietly. This is actually designed in by the
manufacturer as they discovered customers do care about sounds levels. However, many of us have machines that are
quite loud either because they were designed that way (maybe to save money) or a fan has started to fail. With
powerful hardware comes a lot of heat and heat is controlled using fans.
Keeping your data safe is important
If you were to open a modern PC, you'd see - a fan on the power supply, a fan on the CPU, a fan on the motherboard,
a fan on the video card, and 2 additional fans in the chassis. If they the setup uses cheap fans or any of them are
failing, the PC can be quite loud. Entire web sites have been made that sell equipment to quiet your PC. By replacing
various parts of you PC with noise friendly pieces, it can be now virtually silent.
If you would like a quieter PC environment, let me know and we can work out a plan.
This is one of those topics no one really thinks about. Do you know anyone that has had their computer crash and
they've lost everything? We know of many, and sometimes the results are devestating. For example, you could have 5+
years worth of digital photos, taxes, email, documents, and other irreplacable files on any of the PCs in your household.
What happens when your harddrive fails (and they DO fail)? There are data recovery services available, but the cost is
astronomical - $5,000+! There are two important steps to ensuring your data is kept safe :
- Power outages are the bane of PCs. A sudden spike or loss of power can damage your PC or the integrity of its
data. One of the easiest solutions to this is a UPS (universal power supply). What this device does is regulate
the power to your machine and provide battery backup when the power goes out. Typically, the battery will hold
for about 5-8 minutes (can be much longer if you buy a more powerful unit). If the power is out longer than that,
the UPS can send a signal to your PC to shutdown properly. The only maintence to worry about is to change the
battery every two years or so.
- Backups...many people don't even bother these days, but they curse like a sailor when they need it and they
don't have it! There are several answers to this problem and none are particularly difficult.
- One of the easiest things you can do is simply burn your data to a CD or DVD. The upside is it's easy and the
backup is permanent (a cared for CD or DVD will last over a decade). The only problem with this solution is that
the data is limited (only ~700MB for a CD, ~4,700MB for a DVD, and ~9,000MB for a DL-DVD) and from one point in time.
- The second solution to backup is to use Windows backup to dump ALL your data to a seperate disk or tape. This
solution is simple and allows you to have multiple backups.
If you read the networking section, you'll see
that being networked allows you to have a network storage device. This means you could backup all your PCs to a
single device. This greatly reduces the chance that you will lose data because it is unlikely that this device
and your PC will fail at the same time.
You could even go one step further and backup each PC to another
machine on the network. It sounds difficult, but once you are setup, you are safe!
We know it seems like a pain to even think about, but it is extremely important to have working backups. As a support company,
we cannot stress this enough!
Any of this sound interesting? Contact us with your needs and we can get started right away!
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