©Jerry Stern 2003, All Rights Reserved.
As seen in ASPects, May 2003

Thou shalt not place a computer on the floor. The floor is where the cat lives. Also the dog, the vacuum cleaner (also known as Sir Slam-A-Bot), and the notorious dust bunnies tribe.

Thou shalt not turn off a Windows-based computer by flipping off the power strip. The normal shut-down process (click Start, choose Shut down…) puts away all the open files. Weren’t you taught to clean your desk? No? How about your plate? Put your stuff away now–don’t make me come up there!

Thou shalt not fiddle with the control panel until after you’ve made a total system backup on some kind of storage device that you can remove from the computer. If you don’t know how to make a full backup, you aren’t allowed to touch the control panel, the network server, the hub, the switch, the cable modem, or anything else that you think has magic bits inside.

Thou shalt not forget to update your antivirus software at least once a week. The viruses, worms, trojan horses, and other assorted nasties are all watching, waiting, and ready to pounce. Some want to take over your world, and email themselves around the world, all on your credit card numbers.

Thou shalt not use the CD-ROM drive as a cup holder. Or drop crumbs into the keyboard. Your computer doesn’t eat the kind of food you eat. It wants food that doesn’t include your major food groups of salt, grease, and potatoes.

Thou shalt not fail to update the security patches on any computer connected to the outside world. If you live in a vacuum, this does not apply, but then, your computer’s cooling fans won’t work very well without air, anyway.

Thou shalt not fail to install a firewall. This does not involve actual flames, unless, of course, you have also chosen to install a high-end building defense system. A firewall keeps out some kinds of advertising attacks, many types of virus and worm attacks, and keeps your computer from being turned into a zombie that spends its time wandering the internet trying to attack other computers, and teaching them to eat brains.

Thou shalt not upgrade any hardware or software without expecting to upgrade all your hardware and software. Any upgrade can turn your super-duper-hyper-box into a slug, or make your printer spit envelopes at the ceiling, and the cascade effect has destroyed entire corporations. There’s a new version of Super-Widg-O-Matic? Neato. Don’t buy it or install it, even if it’s free, until it’s at least 6 months since the last time a patch for it was released, that the new features will actually do something useful for you, and you’re sure, very, very sure, that it can speak the quaint antique dialect of “8-year-old gadget.”

Thou shalt not overclock a computer unless you know how to rebuild one from a pile of melted fans, and have already created a full system backup. If you don’t know what overclocking is, you will continue not to know, and you didn’t hear about it from me.

Thou shalt not tweak a working computer. It’s teasing. It’s nasty. You want another 1% of performance? OK, here’s how you do it–take the time you would have spent fiddling about with the drivers that already work just fine, and use it to read a book on time management.

Jerry Stern is the editor of ASPects, the author of Graphcat and FileTiger, runs Science Translations, and is online at www.pc410.com.