From Screeching Dot-Matrix Printers To The Gateways Of The World

It is hard for me to think of the time before computers entered our household. I don’t remember my childhood or youth without all the electronics. I must say the house was pretty lively. Sometimes you would think of it more of an office setting. It was common some mornings to wake up to the sounds of a paper shredder, or an automatic paper tri-folder.  Or the best one: that annoying screeching sound of the old dot-matrix printer. Listening to that sound these days would probably drive someone insane. I don’t think we were a normal family though.

I remember playing the classical games on my Commodore 64: Bubble Bobble, Jumpman, Dig Dug, and Choplifter! Eventually, the Commodore had to go away to make room for Windows! Windows 95 was the first OS I can remember having from then. But the Commodore was the first computer I had. It makes sense to me why I have this thing for computers and electronics. I was surrounded by it at a young age. There were times when I would go to my friend’s house and it would make me feel uncomfortable because it was so… silent, and… electronic-less. I was freaking weird, I know. But that was when I knew how much I enjoyed being around it. I was a nerd then as well, but I still played with dirt. And I ate just about as much dirt as all the other kids during those times. These were the times though, long ago but not forgotten.

Now we live in different in a different time. Let me switch thoughts here and take a different track. Up until now I have been talking about personal computers. Those blocks of steel that sit on or below your desk. A typical desktop computer or laptop. But what is a computer in general? According to definition, a computer is:

“An electronic device which is capable of receiving information (data) in a particular form and of performing a sequence of operations in accordance with a predetermined but variable set of procedural instructions (program) to produce a result in the form of information or signals.”

Basically, an electronic device that can be given information as input, and in return, changes it to give you an output based on a set of instructions or program. Your cellphone is a computer. The GPS in your car is also a computer. Raspberry Pi and Arduino? They are both microcomputers. I like to think that computers are a gateway. A gateway to – just about anywhere and everywhere! Whatever you wish to accomplish, you can do so through the use of a computer (or your mind, if you are a genius). There is no true limit. And if there were a limit, then it would be your mind.

We have made major technological advances. We are able to build robots that move like us. Or cars that drive like us (or way better, depending on the person). We can program robots that interact with other robots. We can make electronics act, and do, practically anything that humans can do. And we can make them perform better than us. If that isn’t enough, think of the countless electronic sensors that help us with our daily lives. All through the use of small computers.

When asked if I am more introverted or extroverted, I would like to think that I am both. Do I necessarily prefer to deal with the outer world through the use of a computer? Not necessarily. I live a normal life not glued to a computer. But… I could. Anyone could! Why? Because it is absolutely possible! With the IoT (Internet of Things) growing, all of your small and large devices will be able to communicate with each other, which in turn will communicate information to you, making the way you live a little easier (hopefully at least). That’s the goal anyway.

Should we be scared in thinking that robots could take over our lives? I am a person who believes in hard work, physically and mentally. I grew up in a world where if you wanted something than you had to put in the effort to get it, instead of having it given to you. I still believe in this way now. On the other hand, I think it is incredible how we can build robots that can manipulate the same actions as humans, allowing them to do work for us. They think for themselves and I just find that fascinating. But they can’t repair themselves, and they can’t re-program themselves either. At least not yet. So in that aspect, there will always be a human work force because computers are still not perfect. And the human mind is still (and will always be) much smarter and more complex than any computer.

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The Linux Mint Experience

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So I am writing this new blog entry using LibreOffice 5. I didn’t have to pay for it, nor do I have a limited trial version. Not only that, I am also using LibreOffice from a newly installed “distro, Linux Mint.  It didn’t take me long to install Mint after writing my last blog entry about the operating system. I guess curiosity got to me. I installed Mint from bootable USB (and used Rufus to make the USB). My installation experience went rather smoothly. The only issue I had was selecting my time zone. I live near Vienna, and trying to select it for my time zone just wasn’t working for me. It wouldn’t even recognize Vienna. So I defaulted to Rome, which lies in the same zone. I don’t remember having that problem in other versions of Linux.

I installed Mint version 18 (codenamed ‘Sarah’) on an older laptop (which is perfectly acceptable for Linux). My processor is an Intel Pentium 2.16GHz dual-core. And I was originally running only 1GB of RAM when I installed Linux. In my last entry I wrote about the system requirements for Linux Mint. I mentioned that Linux requires only 512MB of RAM, and roughly 700MHz. After using Mint for just 30 minutes, I thought these figures might be a little downplayed. Linux states that for a comfortable experience you should install at least 1GB of RAM. Well, I think even that figure is a little low. With 1GB, I felt the OS was a little choppy. I could see the delay time when trying to pick my time zone. And there was even a big delay when only typing. It was definitely getting on my nerves having to sit there and wait for what I typed to even display on the screen before I could do anything. I cannot imagine what the delay would have been with only 512MB. I don’t even want to imagine that. The next day I found a 1GB stick lying around and quickly swapped it out with one of the 512MB sticks. I now run 1.4GB of RAM, and that extra bit actually helps dramatically, believe it or not. I still see a little choppiness on the log in screen when the background transitions to different pictures, but I can live with that.

I really like the layout of everything so far. It definitely takes more of a Windows approach with the Menu button (or Start button) and taskbar across the bottom of the screen. I would say Windows 10, to be more specific. That is a major plus for those migrating from Windows. As far as applications go, I haven’t used anything other than Firefox and LibreOffice which haven’t given me any issues. Windows usually comes pre-installed with useless applications that you end up deleting because they just waste valuable disk space. With Linux, I see more system utilities, graphics programs, and a couple multimedia programs that could prove more useful. It doesn’t seem clustered though! And they are sorted nicely in the Menu by type! This saves time of having to hunt! It feels clean because everything is very well organized. System updates seem pretty simple with the notifications. Although the Update Manager can be a little scary with the varied level of updates. Which makes me think, do I proceed with level 5 updates? They look rather intimidating.

Overall I really enjoy Linux Mint and definitely see myself using it more often. I’m looking forward to discovering everything it has to offer. Just need to get more accustomed to it first because, you know… that whole learning curve and all. 🙂

System Security Updates – Are They Really Necess… – Stop. Update Your Computer!

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I come across an article every now and then asking if it really is necessary to update your system… and I can’t help but shake my head in rather disbelief. I mean – really? I stopped reading said articles because I want to forget how uninformed some people can be at times and then wish to pass their ignorance on to others. I don’t know if it is laziness or ignorance honestly. Updating your system is not as dangerous or much of an inconvenience like it has been in the past. And yes, you are only risking the life of your system, as well as endangering your own security if you are one who likes to ignore updates.

Notice how I am not referring to one particular operating system here. Usually this discussion revolves around Windows 7… or 8… and now 10. Here I am talking about all systems – including your precious MacBook that you think is indestructible with its alien technology. Stop thinking that way because it’s a myth. I mean the part about Macbooks being indestructible is a myth. Alien technology is clearly a thing, but anyway. robot-707219_1280Security risks (malware, spy-ware, viruses, etc.) are not nearly as common with Apple products or even Linux for that matter when both compared to Windows. This does not mean you should ignore system updates because it still happens.

I’m sorry? What was that? Listen, you have the time, you really do. Just save your work and take the measly five minutes out of your busy day that is takes to update.

Stop complaining. Stop the excuses. Stop procrastinating.

Stop…

There are good reasons why you should keep your system updated. And in all reality, you should keep ALL of your software updated. Anti-virus programs, anti-malware programs, OS updates, you name it! We are all victims of seeing a notification for an update, and then pressing the “Remind me in 4 hours” procrastinator button. I admit, I have done it before. Some moments are just an inconvenience to update. But hours should not become days, or even weeks!

We live in a completely new world. Everything is connected to everything. Meaning, everyone is connected to everyone. I’m going to stop you from thinking only about yourself for a minute. I don’t even know you, but apparently your system is so unstable that it became a virus fest. binary-1414319_1920

Linking mad cow to everything you send out over the Internet, I somehow came within arm’s length of your misfortune. All because you wanted to be an independent wizard and muck the system. Luckily, my computer blocked your electro-bola because I’m smart and follow up on updates. But your lonesome soul and BFF Fidgety Francis who took your brave advice and refused updates as well decided to open up the Love Letter attachment and now the two of you are on your way to repeating the next mass virus like the My Doom worm of 2004.

I went down a different path there and I’m sorry, but things like this can happen. There are lots of reasons to stay updated, but here I cover the absolute most important.

New Viruses Every Day

According to CNN Money, as of 2015 there were almost 1 million new malware threats added to the Internet – daily. That is actually pretty scary, since a lot of malware tactics are intended to steal and/or distribute your personal information. And these were the numbers almost two years ago… in an ever-growing technological era. Hm.

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Better Performance

Sometimes programs just clash with others. And the operating system in general can often have its moments. Computers are not bug proof, and that is another reason why there are system updates – to fix these issues that suddenly come up and to help keep your operating system running smooth and hassle free.

And then you have those poor souls who never update. This brings me to…

Becoming Overwhelmed At the Wrong Time!

There was a time when a computer was our only gateway to the world. Now we have cell phones and tablets that practically do the same thing as our laptop or desktop. A lot of people who primarily used their laptop or desktop for everything now use their cell phone or tablet, and only turn the laptop or desktop on when they need it, such as to print something for example. And this will be the case for months! This might not seem like a big deal, but I think it is.

Your laptop, for example, is not receiving updates while it is off. It isn’t receiving anything. And you keep that laptop in the corner collecting dust until months later when you need to print something really important. Time isn’t on your side so you are rushing! You turn it on and once it connects to the Internet all of your programs automatically look for updates, as intended. Most likely there are updates for everything and the data starts flowing – bogging down your system resources. Pop-ups all over the place telling you to update this, and update that. And in the background, Windows update (for example) is downloading about 150 updates as well! All you want to do is print a document but you can’t because your printing software is also out of date. Tablets and phones are great, people, but try to keep those desktops and laptops updated as much as you can. It will only benefit you in the long run.

The main point to all this jabbering is security. There are a lot of people out there who care about your information in all the wrong ways. Updates not only help against hackers, but also help with system stability. Your information is vital. Treat it that way. Keep up with the updates before the day comes when it’s too late to react.