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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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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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