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The Easy Computer Maintenance Kit

The Easy Computer Maintenance Kit

repair

    Computers can be fickle things. Whether you’re a zealous follower of Getting Things Done methodology or you don’t have any productivity system to speak of, these buggers can get in the way of day-to-day life so often that you might think the modern human spends more time getting technical issues fixed than they spend doing real work and getting things done. I’ve been on caught in situations where I had computer issues on a deadline far too many times, and many of those times, I was completely unprepared. Here’s a list of things I’ve found essential to have ready to go at any moment — things that all too many times, I haven’t had around. Here’s the most basic computer maintenance kit that I think any user should have.

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    1. Comprehensive Screwdriver and Torx Set

    There’s almost never a hardware maintenance, repair or upgrade situation that doesn’t require the use of a screwdriver. A good portion of today’s computers may also require the rarer Torx tool, which is not quite as common, so make sure you have some of those in different sizes. As far as screwdrivers go, you’ll want both standard blade and phillips drivers in a variety of sizes that allow you to quickly deal with both small and large screws.

    2. Soldering Equipment

    Sometimes unscrewing your computer case and jiggling your PCI cards around isn’t enough to fix a problem. You might have to whip out a soldering item and deal with some bad connections. It’s very wise to keep a soldering iron, a roll of solder and desoldering equipment handy at all times. Much of the time, having a soldering iron around means you spend ten minutes repairing a component instead of hours or days in frustration.

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    3. Wire Stripper & Cutter

    In the world of audio engineering, they say that 95% of the time, your technical problems are with faulty cables and wiring, not with the hardware itself. It’s the same when it comes to computers. Make sure you have the tools to deal with bad wiring!

    4. Pliers

    Simply put, you never know when you’ll have to yank something out of some strange crevice.

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    5. Small Handheld Mirror

    If you’re working with a standard tower PC, there are a lot of places in the box that are hard to get a good visual on. Having a small mirror can come in handy when you want to see what’s going on behind your line of sight. Especially useful if you have a large head!

    6. Small Flashlight

    Just like you may need a mirror to see behind obstacles in the cramped compartments of a tower PC, you may need to illuminate your PC’s guts more clearly than your ceiling lights can. Get a small flashlight that is compact enough to get into tight spaces, but not so small that it doesn’t light anything up enough.

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    7. Linux Live CD

    Not all problems are hardware related, of course. One of the most useful tools to keep on hand is a live CD of some sort of Linux distribution. This way, if your Windows, OS X or Linux installation is having issues you can’t fix from inside the system, such as partition table problems on the boot drive, you can take a look and do something about it. One of these CDs and an external hard drive can help you save your data when the drive is on the brink of failing, too.

    8. Maintenance Software CD or Flash Drive

    Load up a CD or a flash drive with maintenance software, such as antivirus, disk checking, various spyware scanners, and so on, and keep in reach of your computer. The best option is to get a cheap flash drive that is dedicated to maintenance and does not get used for data storage or anything else, ever. A bunch of portable apps can be really handy, and if you drop in on a friend with computer issues and have one of these in your bag you can be a real lifesaver. Keep the software up to date.

    9. Spare Hard Disk Caddy

    If you want to take a look at your boot drive in another computer or without the use of a live CD, you’ll need a caddy to whack it in. You could go as far as to have a hard drive loaded up with your operating system of choice and set up for maintenance and troubleshooting situations and keep it in the spare caddy. When your main drive needs looking at, you just swap them around.

    10. A “Super Tool”

    It doesn’t matter which kind of so-called super tool you go for; just having one of these around, even if it’s of the most basic variety, can help out in many situations. These things are handy for computer maintenance and for day-to-day life, so it’s worth getting one no matter what. You can see some of my favorites at the Maker Shed — there are a few varieties to suit your tool-wielding inclinations. These are great for super quick repairs, or “when all else fails” situations.

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    Last Updated on May 14, 2019

    8 Replacements for Google Notebook

    8 Replacements for Google Notebook

    Exploring alternatives to Google Notebook? There are more than a few ‘notebooks’ available online these days, although choosing the right one will likely depend on just what you use Google Notebook for.

    1. Zoho Notebook
      If you want to stick with something as close to Google Notebook as possible, Zoho Notebook may just be your best bet. The user interface has some significant changes, but in general, Zoho Notebook has pretty similar features. There is even a Firefox plugin that allows you to highlight content and drop it into your Notebook. You can go a bit further, though, dropping in any spreadsheets or documents you have in Zoho, as well as some applications and all websites — to the point that you can control a desktop remotely if you pare it with something like Zoho Meeting.
    2. Evernote
      The features that Evernote brings to the table are pretty great. In addition to allowing you to capture parts of a website, Evernote has a desktop search tool mobil versions (iPhone and Windows Mobile). It even has an API, if you’ve got any features in mind not currently available. Evernote offers 40 MB for free accounts — if you’ll need more, the premium version is priced at $5 per month or $45 per year. Encryption, size and whether you’ll see ads seem to be the main differences between the free and premium versions.
    3. Net Notes
      If the major allure for Google Notebooks lays in the Firefox extension, Net Notes might be a good alternative. It’s a Firefox extension that allows you to save notes on websites in your bookmarks. You can toggle the Net Notes sidebar and access your notes as you browse. You can also tag websites. Net Notes works with Mozilla Weave if you need to access your notes from multiple computers.
    4. i-Lighter
      You can highlight and save information from any website while you’re browsing with i-Lighter. You can also add notes to your i-Lighted information, as well as email it or send the information to be posted to your blog or Twitter account. Your notes are saved in a notebook on your computer — but they’re also synchronized to the iLighter website. You can log in to the site from any computer.
    5. Clipmarks
      For those browsers interested in sharing what they find with others, Clipmarks provides a tool to select clips of text, images and video and share them with friends. You can easily syndicate your finds to a whole list of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Digg. You can also easily review your past clips and use them as references through Clipmarks’ website.
    6. UberNote
      If you can think of a way to send notes to UberNote, it can handle it. You can clip material while browsing, email, IM, text message or even visit the UberNote sites to add notes to the information you have saved. You can organize your notes, tag them and even add checkboxes if you want to turn a note into some sort of task list. You can drag and drop information between notes in order to manage them.
    7. iLeonardo
      iLeonardo treats research as a social concern. You can create a notebook on iLeonardo on a particular topic, collecting information online. You can also access other people’s notebooks. It may not necessarily take the place of Google Notebook — I’m pretty sure my notes on some subjects are cryptic — but it’s a pretty cool tool. You can keep notebooks private if you like the interface but don’t want to share a particular project. iLeonardo does allow you to follow fellow notetakers and receive the information they find on a particular topic.
    8. Zotero
      Another Firefox extension, Zotero started life as a citation management tool targeted towards academic researchers. However, it offers notetaking tools, as well as a way to save files to your notebook. If you do a lot of writing in Microsoft Word or Open Office, Zotero might be the tool for you — it’s integrated with both word processing software to allow you to easily move your notes over, as well as several blogging options. Zotero’s interface is also available in more than 30 languages.

    I’ve been relying on Google Notebook as a catch-all for blog post ideas — being able to just highlight information and save it is a great tool for a blogger.

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    In replacing it, though, I’m starting to lean towards Evernote. I’ve found it handles pretty much everything I want, especially with the voice recording feature. I’m planning to keep trying things out for a while yet — I’m sticking with Google Notebook until the Firefox extension quits working — and if you have any recommendations that I missed when I put together this list, I’d love to hear them — just leave a comment!

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