Every computer user should have a basic understanding of the 'Error Message'. The man that got his first computer with AOL spent most of his afternoon running down his driveway when the computer kept announcing that, 'You've got mail'. It took almost as long as the user who spent hours looking for the 'Any' key when the message said "Press Any Key To Continue". All this time could have been saved by requiring new computer users to take a short course in computer messages.
Understanding the error messages is almost as important as learning to communicate with the technical people. An important time saving tip for computer users would be to invest in a tech support to English dictionary. Learning the basic lingo of the geek squad would be invaluable in improving communications (Strange user requests, 2006). Users may tend to interpret tech support literally and confuse the meaning of everyday words such as 'frozen', 'mouse', or 'boot'. Who knows what 'LAN', 'OS', or 'USB' stands for A quick reference card placed near the computer screen could help the user decode the special language of tech support.
Reducing calls to tech support could also be accomplished by giving computer users a basic course in hooking up a computer and eliminating static electricity. If a keyboard does not respond, there is some likelihood that the cable has come disconnected. The simplest and most common cables are the power cord, mouse, LAN cable, and keyboard. It would be a simple task to check these before using the scarce resources of tech support. In addition, static electricity has been cited a primary cause of computer lockup or failure (Miastkowski, 2002). A few minutes of instruction on reducing the risk of static could potentially save thousands of dollars worth of computing equipment.
While some computer knowledge will save time and money, there are other things that a user should know to keep their information secure. Using passwords on key information is mandatory, but is of little use if the password is given out to fellow employees or friends. In addition, the password should be something that is not easily deciphered. It is also critical to know what to put a password on. Network users will often be unaware that many of their personal files may be accessed by any user on the network. Users should have an understanding of how a basic network operates and where the information is stored. This would help users understand just how vulnerable their private information can be on a network.
Simple passwords and a basic understanding of computer networks can eliminate the threat from prying eyes. However, it can do little to dissuade the dangers posed by the malicious hacker. Users need to be fully aware of the threat posed by viruses, spyware, and other forms of 'mal-ware'. Security software needs to be installed and updated regularly. Out of date security software is vulnerable to attacks from the latest version of a virus. Users also must be sure that the software is active and the firewall is turned on. Hackers that take advantage of systems that are not running security software can do irreparable harm to an individual or a corporation.
In conclusion, the tips listed for basic computer skills may seem blatantly obvious to any intermediate level user.