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Original MacThere has been a lot of commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Mac computer this past week.  Desktop computing has experienced incredible changes since the world grabbed its first glimpse of Apple’s vision for what personal computing could be.  Here we are in 2014 and other than the power connection, there is nothing physically the same in today’s Mac as there was in the 1984 original.  Has your desktop computing environment kept pace with the advancements in technology?  This article will identify five key aspects of modern computing to consider adopting for your desktop…

A great view – the primary way that you interact with your computer is not the keyboard or mouse, it is through the screen.  Computer monitors have seen the greatest change in the last three decades, moving from grainy TVs and black and white monitors to 100-pound desk crushers to today’s ultra-thin, inexpensive energy-sipping flatscreens.  A 27-inch CRT from 1999 could cost you $2000 and take up 3 square feet of your desk.  Today you can purchase a 27-inch flatscreen for less than $300 that has twice the resolution, 1/8 the energy consumption and fits in 1/3 of a square foot on your desk. Recommendation – It is likely that the majority of your work is performed on your computer, with key actions like email communication and the tracking of information in spreadsheets.  Just like having a physical desk that is of adequate size to place your documents on and to hold your keyboard, mouse and monitor, it is equally important and effective to have adequate computing ‘desktop’ space.  People who have invested in two or more monitors for their desktop computer have quickly discovered the transforming productivity capability that having more than one screen to reference gives them.  Two monitors is most often the sweet-spot for productivity improvement for the investment cost, though for some users three or four monitors can return great value.

Horsepower – The speed and capability of the typical desktop computer is about 20 times greater in 2014 than it was in 1984.  We now regularly watch videos, clip and copy multi-megabyte photos for inclusion in our emails and presentations while streaming music for our office to enjoy while occasionally checking the sports scores over the web.  Each of these will have their own window and can sit ‘idle’ in the background without really impacting the performance of our computer.  Step back ten years and the ability to do as much certainly didn’t exist.  Twenty years ago the Internet was not a part of many people’s lives and digital cameras were equally rare and outrageously expensive.  How old is your desktop computer?  Can it easily do all that you demand of it?  If it is struggling to smoothly stream a video while you type in an email window, then maybe it is time to consider upgrading it.  Recommendation– If you’re still using Windows XP, then it certainly is time to replace the OS as in April 2014 it will become the greatest security risk of the last decade.  There are other inexpensive, but highly rewarding updates that you can do to your PC to give it new life. This includes replacing the hard drive with a Solid State Drive and maximizing your RAM.  Good PC hygine practices such as keeping all software up to date, installing all security patches and following a regular hard drive defragmentation regime will also help to maximize your desktop’s useful lifespan.

Clickety-Clack – Next to your monitor, the keyboard is the primary way that you interact with your desktop computer.  There is a very wide variety of computer keyboards on the market, some declare themselves to be ergonomic while others chase after a minimalist design.  What is best is completely a personal preference.  Even the layout of a “QWERTY” keyboard isn’t consistent, as the location and shape of certain keys can appear on opposite ends of different models.  There are also silent, almost flat and noisy full-button-travel mechanical keyboards, and one shouldn’t ignore the growing selection of gamer-oriented keyboards as well.  Recommendation – A keyboard is the most personal part of a PC, you spend hundreds or thousands of hours a year using it so investing a few hours in making sure that your keyboard is right for you will have an incredible productivity and health payback.  The most important aspect to get right is to ensure that your keyboard is in a comfortable location that does not cause pain or injury to your fingers, hands, wrists, arms, shoulders or back is of critical importance.  Next, be sure that you like the feel of how the keyboard operates, you shouldn’t get fatigued using your keyboard.  Be sure to consider the ancillary features and buttons on the keyboard, if there are programmable keys, consider creating frequently used shortcut or key combinations for these custom keys, you’ll save a lot of time.  If you make use of more than one keyboard throughout the day it will be of greater productivity if they both share an identical key location layout.  In the end, the selection of the ‘right’ keyboard is a personal one – there is no one right or best keyboard on the market, rather there are hundreds to choose from that offer an incredible variety of layouts, features and shapes and hopefully at least one of these will be the one for you.

Getting There and Back – Thirty years ago computer networks were almost exclusively limited to the connections between mainframes and their dumb terminals.  Personal computer-based networks were virtually unheard of and certainly not like the inexpensive plug-and-play features that we enjoy today.  Networks are what facilitate your connection to the Internet, shared documents on other computers or on a server and the ability to send a fax or print a document from a shared printer or Multi-function device.  The great thing is that networks have generally become so common and function so seamlessly that they’ve almost become invisible.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  Is your network safe?  Is it functioning as well as it can?  Are the capabilities that are going unused? Recommendation – Networks are one of the most common ways for computer systems to be hacked.  Either through access to a physical connector or via a wireless WiFi connection, a neglected network can set you up as a hacking target.  Remember the caveat; The most effective hack is the one that is never detected.  Take time to make sure that your wired and wireless network is secure.  If you’re not sure how to be certain, get in touch with singlePOINT, we can both help and guide your efforts. When it comes to using the right gear, security is your number one consideration, after that, it is all about speed.  For physical cable connections, Gigabit (1,000,000,000 bits/second) Ethernet is now the most common connection speed sold in computers, so any new networking hardware that you purchase should support this speed.  For wireless connections, 802.11ac WiFi is the current standard and it provides a fantastic speed improvement over its predecessors with backwards compatibility.

Seeing what you got – Automated printing systems have existed far longer than computers, and even over the short history of the Personal Computer there has been an incredible evolution in printing technology, from barely legible heat transfer printing on silver coloured paper to colour laser printers that you can print to over the Internet from your phone and a whole lot in between.  One of the enduring themes over the last decade is the proliferation of almost-free printers that require the purchase of incredibly expensive ink.  Recommendation – Printed documents can create a lasting image in the eyes of those you wish to share your message with.  What you print will likely be the most enduring physical artifact to come from your computing system, so investing in quality will never be a bad idea.  A quality colour laser printer from HP or Samsung is an excellent way to begin.  Consider purchasing a duplex-capable printer as a way to automatically print on both sides of your paper.  You may also consider finding a model with either a Ethernet cable connector or WiFi capability so that it can be shared across your network in a reliable and secure manner.

Ron McMahon About Ron McMahon
singlePOINT is your source for independent, professional IT analysis, advice and services. With over 30 years of IT industry experience in support of both small and Fortune-500 clients, we know what to look for and have the experience that your organization can benefit from.

Ron McMahon

singlePOINT is your source for independent, professional IT analysis, advice and services. With over 30 years of IT industry experience in support of both small and Fortune-500 clients, we know what to look for and have the experience that your organization can benefit from.

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