Computer Magazines Yield Useful Data

Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D.

The National Psychologist

May/June 1998


Last month I had to fly six hours across the country on business. Luckily, the airline had a ready stock of recent computer magazines that kept me busy. Here's some interesting things I learned.

PC Computing Magazine says that the Hewlett-Packard Desk Jet 722C printer (street price $350) is an excellent choice for a color printer. I agree! My experience with several HP products is that they are reliable and telephone support is excellent.

PC World rated budget desktop computers ($2,000 - $2,500) and concluded that mail order companies Gateway 2000 (800-846-2000) and Dell (800-388-8542) have the best combination of features, price and support. My personal feeling is that if you are already experienced at setting up a computer and you are purchasing another one as an upgrade, mail order houses offer excellent deals.

Another option for those upgrading to a new computer is to have a custom PC built for you by a reputable shop in your local area. Nonetheless, first-time buyers are best advised to purchase a name brand computer from a nationwide store that guarantees its products. If you are uneasy about setting up your computer take advantage of the offer most stores make to set it up for you, usually for less than $80. Use a credit card for your purchase in case you run into any problems and need the credit card company to intervene.

PC World studied national computer repair shops (CompUSA, Radio Shack, Best Buy and Computer City) and found dismal results. The magazine's investigators sabotaged a fleet of computers with diagnosable problems and took them in for repair. They were dismayed to discover that only 45% of the problems were correctly discovered. In the majority of the cases, many unneeded repairs were performed costing hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars. Their recommendation is the same as mine: Ask around and find a reputable local repair shop. Get a written estimate (and a second opinion if costly repairs are indicated) and require the shop to get your approval for each repair rather than authorizing a blanket repair cost.

PC World also rated programs to create web pages and recommended that beginners try either Front Page Express or Netscape Composer, which are both free and come with Internet Explorer and Netscape Communicator, respectively, or similar programs that are now part of MS Word 97 or Lotus WordPro 97. Sounds good to me! I've tried Netscape Composer and it is fine for setting up a solid, basic, no frills web site.

Yahoo Internet Life Magazine told me that San Francisco is the most wired city (26.3% of its residents are online) followed by Washington, DC (26.2%), Austin (24.4%), Seattle (23%), Denver (19.9%), San Diego (19.7%), New York (19.7%), Atlanta (18.7%), Chicago (17.7%) and Philadelphia (17.1%). Their survey also showed that more than half of PC owners are not online yet. Our most recent studies of psychologists in California show that 82% use a computer for their practices and 36% are online. This means that more psychologists are online than the national average (about 20% of the American public are online), but it also means that over half of the computer using psychologists are still not online.

The same magazine also recommended downloading Real Player 5.0 (www.real.com). Real Player is called a "plug-in" that allows you to listen to sounds and see video on the World Wide Web. Downloading a program is relatively straightforward. When you see a link that says DOWNLOAD click on it and your browser (most likely Netscape Navigator, Internet Explorer or America Online's browser) will then ask where (what folder on your computer) you want to put the downloaded file. Write down the name of the file and the folder you put it in -- you'll need this information later. Real Player takes about 15-30 minutes to download with a 28.8 modem (faster during non-peak hours). Once you have downloaded the file, find its folder using Windows Explorer and double click its name. Windows will take over and do the rest. Once you have downloaded Real Player, Yahoo Internet Life recommends going to npr.org to listen to public radio broadcasts or www.audionet.com to choose from over 250 radio stations that broadcast on the net. If you are downloading a "plug-in" it will be automatically linked to your browser to do its job in the background. If you are downloading a program, Windows will create a program group. To find the program, click the START button and then click PROGRAMS. Now, locate the program's name and click it to start running the program. Many additional programs are available without charge on the web. Try www.filez.com to see how you can benefit.

Other magazines like PC World, Computer Life, Family PC and Internet World also told me about some interesting opportunities:

Clean Sweep 3.0 by Quarterdeck is a real bargain at $60 to help get rid of unused or duplicate files, clean out files left over from old programs and clean up web "debris" (graphics, cookies and more). I've tried Clean Sweep and it is easy to use and very effective at cleaning up your computer's hard drive.

Norton Anti-Virus 4.0 (Symantec - $50 street price) is an excellent tool for keeping your computer virus free. If you surf the web and download software, this is a must and the best on the market in survey after survey.

If you are tired of waiting for web pages to slowly unfold on your screen there is hope in the near future. Many major cable companies are now installing special cable lines that can hook up with a cable modem and make those pages fly. You'll never wait more than a few seconds for a web page and even larger programs that may take hours to download on a regular modem arrive in under a minute. The extra speed comes with additional cost since you have to buy the modem and pay approximately a $40 monthly charge. If you are interested, contact your local cable company.

Do you send and receive e-mail from people outside the United States? If so, comprende.globalink.com will translate from English to French, Portuguese, German, Italian or Spanish and back again.

Having trouble finding a phone number or e-mail address? Try www.infospace.com.

I hope that some of these "tidbits" are helpful in making technology work for you. Reading the computer magazines sure made the airplane flight seem tolerable, although it didnít improve the food. As computer magazine reading for beginners I highly recommend Yahoo Internet Life and Internet World. For intermediate and more advanced users, PC World and PC Computing contained many worthwhile tips and product reviews.

As a new feature of this column I plan to answer technology questions each month. E-mail me your questions at rosen@technostress.com, call me at 310-243-3477 or write me c/o Byte Back, 956 Town & Country Road, Orange, CA 92868. Ask away!

Copyright, 1997, The National Psychologist. Reprinted with permission. The National Psychologist is a privately-owned bimonthly newspaper which may be purchased for $30 a year. Write or call: TNP, 6100 Channingway Blvd., Suite 303, Columbus, OH 43232; telephone: 614.861.1999 or fax with Visa or MC to 614.861.1996.