PC users guide: General Computer Information
Personal Computer tips for new user. Advice on equipmet, upgrages, memory. Introduction to terms and problems.
In the office and the home, computer networking seems to be moving the way television sets and microwave ovens did many years ago. A recent survey conducted by a leading IT magazine in South Africa revealed that 92 % of the sample owned at least one computer at home, 78 % had internet access and nearly 30 % are networked. This may seem a small number of networks in the home, but this number is growing rapidly.
Networking need not benefit only large corporations, the home user can find that networking has endless possibilities, from sharing printers to Internet access and software. Before we look at networking, we need to look inside the computer and become familiar with crucial components that make your computer functional.
Once the computer user becomes familiar with the basics of their computer, they can confidently troubleshoot and repair minor glitches and eventually set up their own network in their home.
Overview of the Computer Case and its Contents
The case contains the essentials of the computer. It offers vital protection and cooling while providing an organised layout for the components. Let's take a look at some of the parts inside this case.
The System Board
The system board is where the processor, cache, video card and other devices would plug into. We will look at each of these at a later stage, but first we will delve into the brain of the system board; the Chip set. The chipset and the system board control the processor's access to memory and the flow of data to and from devices. The chipset also determines certain features the PC can support. These features include the type of processor, memory and system bus you can use in your PC.
The System Bus
The system Bus consists of electrical channels through which the various parts of the computer communicate. You can easily recognise the bus. The are sets of slots that cards plug into. A video Card would receive information from the processor through the system bus. The processor then saves this data onto the hard drive.
A very important aspect of the bus is its architecture. This will greatly impact on the performance of the computer and will affect the choice of video card and other devices.
It may seem pointless to mention, but power if obviously an important consideration in any computer. The power supply can be found inside the casing. The power supply is always situated in a position to allow for the connection of the external power leads. The external power supply is transformed into four DC voltages that the PC can use. The four DC volages are +5, -5, +12 and
First we will take a brief look at the heart of every system; the motherboard. This is the heart and brain of every computer, whether it is a Mac or IBM Compatible.
A motherboard is the large printed circuit board in your computer. It serves as the backbone of the computer. Peripheral hardware (add- ons i.e. printers, keyboard, mouse, etc?) is connected to the motherboard. The motherboard contains the Central Processing Unit, known as the CPU. All your memory is held here along with interrupts, addresses, ports, and DMA Channels and the data bus. These we will discuss in detail in the following series. These terms may seem a little daunted right now, but they will soon become familiar to you.
First and most important is the CPU. This is the BRAIN of the computer. We have all heard of the INTEL Processor. These processors range from 8086 & 8088 (earlier types) to the latest PENTIUM PRO, PENTIUM I, II & III and more recently, the 1 GHz. The computer uses these processors perform/run programmes.
Other processors are AMD and Cyrix. AMD has taken INTEL on in a big way lately. These processors offer the same performance at a better price, but are not 100% compatible with all software and devices.
When choosing the right processor for your home system, you need to consider what it is the computer's main function. You may looking for an home/office computer for running the household accounts and writing documents, the kids want something to run the latest multimedia game, and mom wants to retouch old photographs. The basic rule of thumb is that the AMD processors are mainly suited for high-end graphics and multimedia, great for games. The INTEL is for general computer use. Remember though, that using programs like Adobe Photo Shop and other image edited programs, you will need a very large hard drive with lots of RAM. These programs use up a great deal of memory. We will look at memory a little later.
In order to execute a program, the CPU must be able to quickly perform various functions like Reading and writing information into the computers memory and recognising commands, which it carries out, directing the operation of other parts of the computer.
Speed is a crucial factor with all CPU's. The CPU's speed is measured in terms of MEGAHERTZ (MHz). 1MHz = 1,000,000 cycles per second. The typical speeds range from 16MHz (older machines) to 300 MHz and more recently 1 GHz (gega hertz). These speeds are called CLOCK SPEEDS. An internal timing clock controls the speed. Some instructions can take more than one clock cycle to complete. Therefore; the actual work a processor can perform is measured in MIPS (Millions of Instructions Per Second)
To the end user, the most noticeable difference between the different processors is the speed at which the computer performs tasks.
Newer and faster processors are being developed at an alarming rate. Electronic technology is growing so fast that the latest processors will become old news within a year. Not all computers need the latest processor. Most applications can run on the earlier types, but there are people who try to do the impossible and run Windows using a 386 (old, very old). It may work but you can go make a martini while waiting for you command/ request to be executed. Windows 95, Windows NT , and later versions demand a lot of system resources. A 386 with 4MB of RAM simply will not do. Unless you want to go have a beer at the pub while waiting for your computer to wake-up.
Bits and Bytes
We are not talking about cocktail snacks!
All the information travelling across the motherboard is represented digitally (0 or 1). These ones and zeros are referred to as BINARY NUMBERS.
Go to your start menu. Chose PROGRAMS, then ACCESSORY, and open your CALCULATOR.
Type this number in: 10
Then click on BIN on the left hand side of the calculator. You will see the number 10 change to 1010 . This is BINARY.
The number 1010 represents 10 in binary. 10 is a decimal number.
Letters and numbers all have a binary equivalent.
The 1's and 0's (binary digits) are simply called BITS. When a computer processes 1's and 0's, however, it does so in BYTES, which are groups of 8 bits. The typical computer today has over 8 million bytes of memory, we use a more simple form of metric terms to describe quantities of memory storage:
A BYTE = 8 BITS / A KILOBYTE = 1024 BYTES / A MEGABYTE = 1,048,576 BYTES / A GIGABYTE = 1,073,741,824 BYTES.
You don't have to remember the actual figures, only that one gigabyte can handle a lot more memory than a megabyte A Kilobyte byte can handle less and so on until you get to the baby; one bit. When you see that a computer has 16 MB; then you know it can handle 16 Megabytes of memory before it tells you to fog off.
Bits and Bytes are also a very important consideration in networking. The number of bits per second travelling across a network can seriously affect the performance of your network. This applies to the largest of all networks; the Internet.
RAM and ROM
ROM stands for Read-Only-Access and RAM stands for Random-Access-Memory. The microprocessor can read and write information to and from the RAM during operation. The most significant difference between RAM and ROM is that RAM looses all its information when the computer looses power. In a computer the ROM is referred to as the BIOS (Basic-Input/Output System). When a machine is first started up, the microprocessor first looks for the BIOS. The BIOS runs some standard tests. These tests are called the POST (power up self-test).
Next, the BIOS goes to fetch the BOOT SECTOR. The boot sector is then stored in the RAM after it is read off the hard drive. With the boot sector safely stored in the RAM, the microprocessor can now begin executing the boot sector's instructions from there. Ultimately from here the operating system is loaded and executed. This must all happen before you are able to operate your computer. Amazing isn't it?
The Hard Drive
Before we begin looking at how to set up a simple network, there are just a few more very important components to look at. The computer is made up on many different components and each can have a whole chapter dedicated to them. But we are only going to look at the most important for now. The next crucial component of any computer is the hard drive, also sometimes referred to as the hard disk.
Hard Disks have an important function, they store changing digital information in a relatively permanent form, making it possible for the computer to retain information even when the power is off. This information can be easily retrieved from the hard drive. Hard disks use a magnetic recording technique that can be easily erased and rewritten. A typical computer will have a hard disk with the capacity to store up to 8 gigabytes of information. This information is stored on the hard drive in files. A file is a collection of bytes. When a program is executed, the computer sends a request to the hard drive to retrieve the bytes. These bytes are then sent to the CPU one at a time.
The number of bytes per second the hard drive can deliver to the CPU can be a measure of the performance of your hard drive. A rate between 5 and 40 megabytes per second can be considered the norm. Another way to measure the hard drive's performance would be to look at how long it takes for the CPU to receive the first byte of data after it has requested the file. 10 to 20 milliseconds are common. Remember to always look at the capacity of the hard drive when you decide to upgrade. It will mean the difference between functional and frustrating.
An important consideration when buying new components for your computer is compatibility. Always check the Hardware Compatibly List supplied with your hardware and software before going to the store. Mistakes can prove costly.
Types of Small Appliances
Here at More Kitchen Appliances we understand that people today are always on the go and using the right small appliances can make a big difference in more ways than one. Save yourself time and energy by making food preparation quick, easy and fun. We have created this informative buying guide to explain the functions and features of each appliance in depth. Use this helpful guide to find appliances that will meet your needs and beat your expectations.
The two types of blenders are standard bar blenders and immersion blenders. Standard bar blenders have the ability to crush ice and they are great for making icy drinks. Immersion Blenders are hand held and go directly into the container where the contents are being prepared. Immersion blenders can be used to blend ingredients or puree food. They are great for blending soups, egg whites, stirring powdered drinks,chopping nuts and more! When purchasing a blender there are a few specific things you should look for to ensure that you are getting a high quality product for a reasonable price.
Bar blenders should have anywhere between 3 & 16 speeds, 3 speeds is adequate & anything over 12 may be too many
An ice crushing setting is an added bonus
Power should range between 300-500 watts
Containers should hold between 5-8 cups(40 - 64 ounces)
Glass containers are heavier & more stable then plastic, glass is also easier to clean
Plastic containers may shake during use, they can scratch and they may start to absorb the smell of whatever is inside
Stainless steel containers look great but keep in mind that they prevent you from seeing the material inside
Cleaning Tip: Blenders with a permanently attached blades, touch pad controls and a wide mouth are the easiest to clean.
There are two different types of mixers, hand mixers and stand mixers. Both have similar functions but should be used for different things. A hand mixer is hand held, has less power than a stand mixer and should be used to whip cream or egg whites, mix cake batter, mash potatoes and other things of that nature. Stand mixers should be used for mixing, beating,whipping & kneading. However both have similar functions and it is important to make sure you are using the right one for the job. Some things to consider:
Three well differentiated speeds are sufficient for hand mixers
Slow speeds prevent splattering & are important when adding dry ingredients without creating a mess, the slower the lowest speed the better
Most stand mixers have heads that tilt up, take that into account if you are planning to use the mixer on a counter below a cupboard
Stand mixers should have about five different speeds
Mixing bowl should hold around 4 quarts
The amount of flour or dough a stand mixer can handle is a good way to tell how powerful the machine is
10 - 20 cups of flour are necessary to knead bread dough
Cleaning Tip: Hand mixers that have wire beaters without a center metal post (found on traditional-style beaters) are easier to clean
Toasters and Toaster Ovens
If you are looking to simply toast bread then a basic toaster is all you need. On the other hand, if you are looking to cook frozen food, broil, bake and toast then a toaster oven is what you should look into. If you plan on doing a lot of broiling you should consider a unit that uses convection cooking because it speeds up the cooking process. Keep in mind that these appliances are usually kept on top of the counter so style, color and size should be factored in. The features that every toaster/toaster oven should be equipped with are as follows:
Darkness control so you can cook to your liking
A bread lift to raise the items high above the slots
Cool touch exterior so you do not burn yourself on the outside of the unit
The most common finishes are chrome, copper & brushed metal
Convection cooking & infrared heat considerably speed up the cooking process
Toaster ovens take approximately 4-6 minutes to toast
Toasters take about 2-3 minutes
Cleaning Tip: A crumb try that slides out as opposed to one that is attached and porcelain or nonstick interiors are the easiest to clean
There are many advantages to owning your own juicer. Fresh juice tastes better and is more nutritious for you because the juice is not pasteurized. With a juicer you control how much sugar to add to your creations. The two most common juicers are a citrus juicer and a juice extractor, both are efficient. If you love citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits & limes then a citrus juicer is perfect for you. A citrus juicer is an electric appliance that removes juice from citrus fruit. The juice is removed by pressing a halved citrus fruit onto the machine's cone. Juice extractors are motorized units that use sharp teeth to grate fruits & vegetables into juice & pulp separating the liquids from the solids. You can place entire fruits and vegetables into the machine, although in the case of citrus, the peel must be removed first. To make sure you are getting the right juicer for your needs consider the following:
Juicers should accommodate different circumferences so you can juice a wide variety of fruits
Look at horsepower & revolutions per minute(RPMs)because in order to make a quart of liquid you will need about 3 lbs of fruit and you do not want your juicer's motor to slow down when you put fruit inside
Juicers are likely to be kept on your countertop so take size and style into account before making your decision
For the most convenient juicing, the extractors need enough clearance on the top so that you can insert ingredients
Cleaning Tip: It is recommend to clean immediately after use, with hot water & soap. Some units or parts of units are dishwasher safe but make sure you check with the manufacturer first! The juicing screen which separates the juice from the pulp is probably going to be the most difficult part to clean, try using a toothbrush, nail brush, or vegetable brush to clean it.
Food Processors are used to chop and slice vegetables for soup or stews, they can shred cheese, mix ingredients and some units are able to knead dough. There are many different sizes, styles and functions of food processors. If you are looking for something mid-sized then a 7 cup unit would be sufficient for you, however if you planning on cooking for larger crowds then you should look for a model that can handle between 11-14 cups. Before purchasing a food processor make sure you know what you are paying for and keep the following characteristics in mind when shopping:
The larger the model the more expensive and heavier it will be
Consider counter space & storage space
Check the feed tube size, if the feed tube has a large width it makes less work for you since you will not have to do much cutting
Expensive units usually have more features and accessories & are quieter
Cleaning Tip: The easiest Food Processors to clean are the ones with touch-pad controls & a smooth base
Before you purchase a coffee maker know all of the options available to ensure that you are making a wise choice. First think about how many cups of coffee you drink a day and how many times you refill your cup. Manual drip coffee makers are the most popular, they are convenient and brew fast, they should heat water between 195