With the new year comes the new semester, and for many people these both bring new resolutions. Whether it's to exercise more, eat healthier, get more sleep or do better in school, we all have some things in mind that we'd like to change this new year. That's what New Year's resolutions are all about -- a time to reflect on the past year and look ahead to the new one, a time to set goals and improve. Here are a few resolutions that will help keep your computer -- and your frustration level -- in much better shape this coming year:
1. Have a good anti-virus software program on your computer and keep it updated. There are several options to choose from; Norton Anti-Virus and McAfee VirusScan are the two most popular programs. If you don't have anti-virus software already, Utah State has an agreement which provides McAfee VirusScan free to anyone connecting to the USU network, whether on campus or for those that dial in from off campus. You can download McAfee at http://mcafee.usu.edu. No matter which program you have, the most important thing is to have the latest updates installed, to keep ahead of new viruses which are discovered almost daily. Set it to run in the background, always monitoring for viruses.
2. Stay on top of current software updates. For Windows users, this means running the Windows Update feature regularly and installing the Automatic Updates as they are released. These updates can make a significant difference in the stability and security of your computer. You can access this feature from the top of your "Start" menu or from the "Tools" menu in Internet Explorer. Windows Update will scan your computer and give you information about which updates or Service Packs you can install. It is recommended that you install all Critical Updates and other updates that are suggested.
3. Be aware of the dangers of file-sharing programs and penalties for sharing copyrighted material. File sharing has become a common practice for many computer users. With the help of Morpheus, Kazza, BearShare, and other programs, users can download almost any song, movie, or piece of software available. Beware. Like everything else in life, nothing is really free. Use of file sharing increases the risk for spreading computer viruses, could open up your computer to hackers, and in most cases, violates copyright laws. No matter how you may feel about it ethically, know that file sharing of copyrighted material on the Utah State network is being enforced more now than ever before. Anyone caught sharing copyrighted works (music, movies, or software) could be in jeopardy of losing his network connection or facing disciplinary action.
4. Just say no to "forwards" or chain letters. Chances are, you've seen them before: e-mails that offer a free $50 gift certificate to Applebee's or other free merchandise for forwarding an e-mail to at least 10 people. Or there are those e-mails that offer sympathy or support for a certain cause, again asking you to "pass this along to everyone you know" or to "keep the chain unbroken." Not only are these hoaxes or messages containing false information, they add to the levels of unwanted e-mail from spammers and advertisers that clog up your inbox. When tempted to send one along, do everyone a favor and "just say no."
5. If you need help, just ask. Finally, if you're having computer trouble or have computer-related questions, call the Help Desk. USU provides friendly and knowledgeable computer consultants who are able to answer your questions via phone and e-mail as well as provide computer repair and other maintenance for you computer. What many people don't know is that the Help Desk also provides free computer repair to students, faculty and staff for most minor problems. The Help Desk can be reached by calling 797-4358 or online at http://helpdesk.usu.edu.
As with all of your other resolutions, these are only as good as your will to stick with them. Good computing habits will benefit you year round and may even help you keep another resolution -- to keep from throwing your computer out the window when you're frustrated with it.
By Rob Burton, a junior majoring in business information technology and education. Comments can be sent to email@example.com.
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