Macs are PCs and so are Windows computers. Those are two different kinds. When you buy a computer, you can choose one or the other.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


Geeks need not apply, Part 2:
What everybody is supposed to know

May 13, 2012

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2012, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2012, The Post-Standard

Ever try to join a bunch of friends in a discussion and realize you have no idea what they're talking about? "The positive flow didn't upscale," one of them says. "Maybe it needed more partitioning."

The problem, of course, is jargon. The same thing happens with computers. Let's get the jargon out of the way first.

The thing that does most of the work in your computer is the CPU. It doesn't matter what the letters mean. No one with any self-respect spells them out anyway. The CPU is also "the chip," as in "How fast does the chip in your PC go?"

"Fast" means the speed of operations, that's all. Forget the speed rating of "gigahertz" or, heavens, "gHz." All computers are fast enough for you and me. (Please don't ask me why that giga-something has a big "H" in the middle, or I might have to tell you it stands for a proper name, a guy named Hertz. And no, he didn't rent cars.)

"PC" once meant "personal computer," but these days it just means "computer." Macs are PCs and so are Windows computers. Those are two different kinds. When you buy a computer, you can choose one or the other.

Laptops are large portable computers. Netbooks are just small laptops. iPads are small netbooks without keyboards. (One pops up on the screen when you need it.) All of them have batteries built in. Plug them into a wall outlet to charge them. You can always use them while they're charging, and you can leave them plugged in all the time if you want. Everybody who tells you that's bad for the battery is wrong.

A "browser" is the thing that shows webpages to you. Type a web address into the blank line at the top and press Enter or Return when you want to see that website. "Bookmarks" are copies of webpage addresses. Hint: Click on the leftmost part of a webpage address (in the address line at the top), hold the button down and drag your pointer onto the desktop. Then let go. That creates a bookmark on your desktop. Double click on it to reopen the webpage even when your browser isn't running.

A right click -- clicking the right mouse button instead of the left one -- usually shows you some useful options when you're dealing with webpages. Always try a right click if you're not sure what is going to happen. If you have a Mac, the mouse that came with it has as perfectly good right click even if you can't see a right button; it's hidden. Go to System Preferences and then to the Mouse preferences. Look for a setting that provides a secondary click using the right button.

A "home page" is the webpage your browser shows when you run it. Go to the page you want to use for a home page, then click your browser's Preferences (on a Mac) or Options (on Windows) and look for "Home Page." Then find a clickable thing that says something like "Use current page" and click it.

A "link" tells your browser to show a webpage (or a photo or video, maybe) when you click on it. Links often are colored or underlined, but they can be completely unadorned, too. You can be sure what you're about to click is a link if your mouse pointer changes shape when the pointer is hovering over it.

"Hovering" should remind you of a helicopter. To make your pointer hover, move it to the item in question and keep it there for a second or two.

"Email" used to be an important term but these days you can just say "mail." Chances are your mail program lets you save the addresses of people who write to you. Try right-clicking on the name or address of the person who wrote to you (at the top of the message) and see if it will save the name in your Address Book or Contacts list.

Next: Fee, fi, fo, files!

Last week I asked what's the one button to press when your computer locks up and won't reboot? Answer: The power button. Hold it down for seven seconds to get your computer to reboot.