Am I the real John Hodgman?

You really do need a book for initial setup and configuration of Windows XP.

In one of the new Mac vs. PC commercials from Apple, the PC guy, John Hodgman, has written two books. The first one is about buying a new computer, the point being there are so many choices in the Windows world that it's confusing and intimidating. Fine. The second one, though, is called "I just bought a computer. Now what?" That really hit home.

Back in 2003, I created a class called "So you bought a new computer. Now what?", that I taught a number of times both for a PC user group and at the Continuing Education division of a couple colleges.

The class was needed because a new Windows XP computer ships in, what I consider, a disgraceful condition, even to this day.

A huge number of default settings are poorly chosen. Lots of needed software is missing. For example, I consider Firefox, Thunderbird, a decent firewall, and antimalware software, necessities. Also missing is software that makes living with Windows so much easier, such as, Process Explorer, IrfanView, and Startup Control Panel.

Any new computer, regardless of the operating system, is going to ship with old software. In the Windows world, the preinstalled copies of popular software such as Flash, Adobe Acrobat Reader, and Java are guaranteed to be outdated and thus pose security risks. And, it should go without saying, that bug fixes need to be applied to the operating system. New Windows XP computers are typically missing a huge number of patches.

In keeping with my defensive computing bent, the class started with inventory checking (why does that 40 gigabyte drive have only 34 gigabytes of total space?) and hardware diagnostics. The handout, also an original creation, was about 100 pages and the class took so long, the allotted time was never sufficient. All this without spending much time on removing some of the useless software that typically comes preinstalled.

The Mac vs. PC commercials are funny (at least to me) because they contain more than a grain of truth. Many Windows XP users really do need a lot of assistance with initial setup and configuration.

I must be the real John Hodgman.

Or is he the fake Michael Horowitz?


P.S. "Now what" is the title of the ad. It is available from Apple, but only in QuickTime format. My next posting will be on the dangers of QuickTime. It is also available at YouTube.

This is not a commercial for my New Computer class. It hasn't been updated for Vista, so I haven't taught it in a while. In previous postings, I explained why I think XP remains the better choice for Windows users.

See a summary of all my Defensive Computing postings.

About the author

    Michael Horowitz wrote his first computer program in 1973 and has been a computer nerd ever since. He spent more than 20 years working in an IBM mainframe (MVS) environment. He has worked in the research and development group of a large Wall Street financial company, and has been a technical writer for a mainframe software company.

    He teaches a large range of self-developed classes, the underlying theme being Defensive Computing. Michael is an independent computer consultant, working with small businesses and the self-employed. He can be heard weekly on The Personal Computer Show on WBAI.

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