Hi everyone, I’m back with the Modern Nerd. This week I don’t have any special direction to point you in, but I want to talk about how to gain experience with computers. I learned how to fix the craziest problems with computers by stumbling through them, but that is the best way to learn how to fix things. I’ll show you a few techniques for helping your Google searches out, and how to troubleshoot like a pro.
Let Me Google That for You…
It’s a bit of a stretch to just say “go forth and do”, but most of your problems can be cut into reasonable chunks by a search engine and some common sense. Your problem isn’t original. There are probably hundreds of people who have a similar combination of hardware and software having an issue just like yours. So looking for solutions posted to tech forums or on hardware manufacturers’ sites is a great starting point. If you word out your searches correctly you’ll be halfway there.
Keywords are… the key. If you can’t get a program to run, search your operating system and the name of the software. If a program is crashing, search the program’s name and what you were doing when it was crashing, or what form the crash takes. If your computer has specific symptoms, that is helpful to take note of. When you start your search, pay attention to the auto fill options that pop up as you type. If your search closely matches a search done by a lot of other people, it will give you the option to go there.
Don’t Be Afraid to Try Things
There are a lot of different techniques for problem solving, but as you would probably expect, only a few correct solutions to the problem that you may be having. And as the cartoons will tell us, pressing the red button sometimes gets an anvil dropped on your head. So let’s look at ways that we can first do no (more) harm.
Some folders in your system should not be touched unless you are absolutely certain you know what you are doing. System files that get changed by accident could cause your computer to stop booting up properly. There are plenty of safeguards in place to ask for Administrator access when changing these, so pay attention a little bit more when your computer asks “Are You Sure?”
You can also make a system restore point before you go messing around with things if you want to be doubly sure that nothing you do will become permanent. If a program stops working or something disappears you can always restore your system to its earlier state.
Trying new solutions should always be part of the learning process, so as the title says, don’t be afraid to try things. Stumbling onto a solution happens more in the tech industry than experts would probably care to admit. Just steer clear of files that are needed by your operating system, and you shouldn’t have a problem. Besides, you’ve been backing up your documents to a safe location anyway right? Right? …moving on.
Search Smarter with Boolean Logic
Search engines work on specially designed methods for finding what you are looking for called algorithms. They have gotten very smart over the last decade, but let’s look at a way we can make them even smarter.
Boolean is a term for a logic system that is built into most search engines, returning answers as either true or false. We can input special operators into them to make our searches more exact. Searching for something in quotes will match the exact phrase, whereas without it will find the words in any order. Searching for two things with the word AND will find where the two things are together specifically. The case is important here, because the all capitals it tells your search to use the Boolean term. Similarly, the word NOT can be used to exclude a term, or to be more specific search for cases specifically without that term. OR can be used to specify that you don’t care which pops up as long as one of your terms returns a result. Using a colon “:” will allow you to specify a subject matter for your search. Some words are so common that they are by default excluded from searches, such as and, I, then, if, etc. Using quotations can ensure they are part of your search.
This is built into most popular search engines today. Google has even gone so far as to include a few easter egg algorithms into their site. For example, try Googling “Do a barrel roll” or “zerg rush.” Fun and games aside, I hope that you have some new tricks for making your search engines more powerful.
Did You Restart Your Computer?
There is one way to get better with computers, and that is to try new things and gain experience. It’s not really as scary as you might think and you can’t screw things up worse if you’re paying attention to what you are doing. Since the technology is so prevalent in our lives, you can only benefit from improving your skills. Take a crack at fixing that thing yourself, and you’ll discover you might be making a mountain out of a molehill. See you next time, and as always thanks for reading.