Josh Thomas’ Top Tips for Technology (And Techies) by Josh Thomas
Now Flip Side I’ve grown up with technology all my life (I’ve literally used computers since before I was old enough to remember using them) and while that is pretty much normal for the generation after our own, I understand that for most of you it’s not a very common experience. Many of us have only begun to take care of a computer or a cellphone in the past few years and even those who have had them longer have many cases of confusion and frustration when dealing with a problem that they’ve never encountered before. I try to keep this in mind when I come across somebody who doesn’t seem to understand technology, after all there is no magic class that teaches you everything you need to know and whenever a new piece of equipment like smart phones hits the market there’s that much more to learn. However, all that being said, I find it inexcusable that as a society we don’t seem to have a grip on some of the most basic problem solving skills, so I’m going to explain to you all how to have a better grip on understanding technology.
Tip #1: Google (Seriously, Google. Not Bing, not Yahoo, Google). There is quite literally no problem you are having that somebody else has not had and solved in the past. Ask yourself what the problem you’re trying to solve is? If an application is crashing whenever you try to take a specific action then Google that; if your game isn’t running because it says it’s missing a .dll then Google it; if anything isn’t working and you can describe what isn’t working then describe it into a Google search. You are almost guaranteed to find somebody on some forum who has experienced the problem and had it solved for them. Read through the thread and find out how.
Tip #2: Don’t say, “my computer died/isn’t working” because if your computer as a whole isn’t working then it’s garbage and there’s nothing that can be done to fix it. When you treat a problem you come across as something vague like “it won’t work” then you’re not going to be able to solve it. What isn’t working? If it’s too slow then maybe it’s your RAM or too many background processes. If it’s not starting up, then you may have something going on with your hard-drive or your CPU. Sometimes computers will give you an error message: read it because it’s trying its best to tell you what went wrong. If you can describe what the problem is then you’re a lot closer to being able to solve it.
Tip #3: Play around with technology. If you refuse to try new things, you won’t learn anything about it. When you find yourself using a new piece of hardware or software, find out what everything does. Explore the options; see what you can customize and what you can create. You’ll naturally make mistakes and some of those mistakes will probably cause some annoying or even fatal problems but even in solving those problems you learn a lot about your computer and how it works. If you’re afraid to do things with technology then you’ll never be able to use it comfortably.
Tip #4: There is a free alternative to most expensive programs. If you can’t afford Microsoft Office then download Open Office for free. If you don’t want to pay for Photoshop then use GIMP. If you wanna build a webpage but don’t wanna buy Dreamweaver then use any of the dozen alternatives. There is a free open source equivalent to most overpriced commercial products and if there isn’t then there are other alternatives that don’t require you to spend so much money.
Tip #5: Computers and the internet will eventually change the way we do every single thing in our lives. Already the way we communicate with each other, the way information is distributed and stored, the way we do our work, and in general the way we view the world around us has been irreversibly altered in this new era: “The Information Age.” All that and we’re only at the beginning. By the end of the century (in other words if you’re a student now, within your lifetime) nationality will pale in comparison to the strength of communities linked by the internet (already groups such as Anonymous serve as examples of this). While many things from the past will never truly die, the arbitrary borders between people and nations will become more and more irrelevant as the internet brings those who are truly akin to each other closer and closer together.
Flip Side, you owe it to yourselves to acclimate to the technology around you. It doesn’t have to be a difficult or painful process and it doesn’t have to be to the extent that someone like me understands it. The price for ignoring this, however, may be finding yourself in a world that has moved far ahead of you. Most of you have probably noticed this in your classes, when professors attempt and fail at some of the most basic technological tasks; the very fact that we still print papers out shows how far behind education is falling. At some point, there will be consequences. Learn how to use technology, Flip Side.