PC Made EZ Mike Smothers

On a recent Sunday afternoon, while checking out some football sandwiched in between the mandatory first, second and third quarter naps on the sofa, I became acutely aware that the pre-Christmas marketing blitz is in full swing and is designed to convince you that trying to live without a certain product would be a huge, life-altering mistake. This particular Sunday, it seemed the focus was on the latest portable electronic devices to include tablets, laptops and phones.

The newest portable devices are getting smaller and more powerful, and may eventually be easier to use once you have conquered the nuances in Windows 8. When Microsoft launched a new operating system, like Windows 8 recently, retail stores and outlets are no longer able to legally sell a new computer with anything other than the latest and greatest operating system. Early reports from Windows 8 beta testers reveal a longer than expected learning curve for some computer users, but overall, if used with the proper hardware, Windows 8 does many things, and does them well. So what is proper hardware?

Windows 8 was designed to be used in touch-sensitive screens similar to phones and kiosks in the malls. It is icon-based so by tapping an icon on the desktop, you can check your email, surf the Web and do all the other things you have become accustomed to with your old computer. Just know that Microsoft has moved things around to make it easier for you. Gee, guys, thanks. Rest assured you will be able to find tutorials helping you do most anything you want by going to YouTube or Google and performing a search. While Google has been around for a very long time, and is the most widely used search engine, YouTube has become an invaluable resource for step-by-step tutorials and “How-to’s” for anything from fixing a leaky faucet to creating a full-length feature video and publishing it. If you are not currently using YouTube for these purposes, I strongly suggest you give it a try. Most manufacturers utilize YouTube as a self-help portal.

If you are in the market for a desktop this holiday season, there is a very important consideration to keep in mind when choosing what to buy. If you plan on buying a touch-sensitive monitor to take full advantage of Windows 8 new features, you need to first envision your work area. You will have to physically reach up and touch your monitor many times during each session. This may put undue stress on shoulder and arm muscles, and you may find yourself sore at first from these repetitive actions. You can still use your mouse to click on icons on your desktop as you always have, however.

If you are more enticed by the tablets and super portable devices you need to be aware of something that may seem obvious to most people, but may not be to others. These devices access the Internet and email through a Wi-Fi or wireless router, whether that is located in your home, a building, Starbucks, or your wireless phone provider network.

You need one of these devices to send the signal to your tablet in order to be online. Having said that, if you plan to use your tablet outside your home, you will need to contact your cell phone provider or other wireless Wi-Fi provider and make arrangements with them to allow you access to their network.

There are a number of Wi-Fi hotspots available nationwide if you pan to travel. You can find these by searching for “National Wi-Fi Hotspots.” Many cell phone plans come with access, but there is usually an additional cost for these services.

These super portable devices can sell for as low as $249.99, but remember to get the options that will make it easier for you to use and do not get hypnotized by the low price.

Samsung makes a great tablet and there is always the original iPad to consider, but whatever device you choose make sure to allow sufficient time for the learning curve. Windows 8 is not one of those heat and eat-type of operating systems, but in the end it is worth it.


• Mike Smothers is president of Smothers Computer Services, based in Ahwatukee Foothills. Send questions to mike@smotherscomputers.com or call (480) 753-7667.

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