Web Informant #357, 28 January 2004: Test your computing IQ

It is midterm week for my local high school, and to mark the occasion, I thought I would put together a short quiz to see how your computing IQ fares against that of the average teenager these days. No, I won't bother grading your answers; this is on the honor system.
I thought about these questions while I have been traveling around the area, helping people with their computing problems since the holiday break. What I have found is that families are more and more in need of readily available IT support as their home networks become more complex. In one home I visited (and I was there for the better part of a day), they had five computers, each running a different operating system (including one Mac), and stretching back to Windows 95. One PC was so far gone that we had to take it down to the bare metal and rebuild it from scratch. In another home, the parents were trying to convince their 11-year old that an HP was a better buy than a Dell. Since when did our kids become brand specifiers? Another home needed an upgraded Mac OS to run a digital camera. I'm not even counting all the work that I had to do to upgrade some pieces of my own home network.
Yes, these are different and difficult times. Of course, you could just take the easy way out and delegate all of the IT support to your teenage children. If you don't have any of your own, I am sure your neighbors do and wouldn't mind their kids getting paid a few bucks to help get your systems reconfigured. And one of these days I intend to start a business hiring kids and farming them out for this purpose, provided I can run within the child welfare laws. The best kids I have found are 14-16 year old boys. Once they get older, they get too involved in other things usually.
But all this begs the point that our home PCs have been far too complex. Most adults are OK at turning the machine on and doing simple tasks like collecting email and writing documents -- anything more than that is time to call in the kid. So let's see how you stack up.

1.                What are the steps you need to take to upgrade your PC's firmware?

2.                Do you have a firewall/router on your home network or personal firewall software on your computers? Bonus points: have you ever upgraded this firmware?

3.                Are you sure your anti-virus definitions are up to date on your entire collection of home PCs? Did you check this within the last week?

4.                Do you know how to share files and printers on your home network?

5.                Can you successfully attach a Word document to your email, and successfully detach one that is sent to you?

6.                Do you know how to change your displayed name on the header of your email messages?

7.                Can you retrieve your email messages over a Web-based client remotely from the machine that you usually use at home or at work? If you can, do you know how to do it?

8.                Can you password-protect one of your Word documents?

9.                Can you add comments to a Word document and share them with a co-worker so that both of you can see them?

10.            Can you successfully synchronize your Palm PDA between two different PCs? Bonus points for being able to synchronize your contacts with a third program, such as ACT, Outlook, or Notes.

11.            Can you add additional software programs to your Palm?

12.            Can you rip several of your music CDs onto your computer and burn selected tracks onto a new "mix" CD?

13.            Do you pay your bills online and check the balances of your accounts? Bonus points if you also use the Web-based tax preparation software too.

14.            When you need to lookup a word in a dictionary, find a phone number, get directions on a map, check a train timetable or a movie listing, do you first go to the Web or a paper-based resource?

15.            Do you have more than 25 people on your Instant Messaging buddy list? Bonus points if you use IM at both work and home.

16.            Do you know what FTP means and how to move files between your computer and a Web server?

17.            What is the port to block for AOL IM traffic? If you know the port number, do you know how to do this on your home network?

18.            Have you ever downloaded a ring tone for your cell phone? Have you ever used your phone to send an email, an IM or to view a Web page?

19.            Have you ever used an online service to print your digital photos?

20.            Have you ever connected to a wireless network at a Starbucks or someone else's home?   


While there's no grade on this, you probably have some sense of where you fall on the continuum. Are you a remedial student? Take heart. Your neighborhood kid will get you up to speed in a few short days. Maybe a week if you're over 35.


Entire contents copyright 2004 by David Strom, Inc. 

David Strom, dstrom@cmp.com, +1 (516) 562-7151

Port Washington NY 11050

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